Uncovered: 22 musical gems
Everyone has a favourite song that no one else seems to have heard of. A selection of modern music luminaries reveal theirs
Friday 11 January 2008
Paul Smith, Maximo Park
Arthur Russell 'A Little Lost' and 'You And Me Both'
Arthur Russell gifted the music world untold overlooked innovations, from the foundations of house music to the kind of amorphous, avant-acoustic songcraft currently being explored by Richard Youngs. The romantic in me chooses the soothing cello-led "A Little Lost", but in terms of musical importance, "You And Me Both" is otherworldly, incredibly intimate and genuinely funky. The people currently raving (correctly) about LCD Soundsystem should rewind about 20 years and check out the source.
Tom Smith, Editors
Manic Street Preachers 'Kevin Carter'
When the Manic Street Preachers came back, with Everything Must Go, out of such difficult circumstances [the disappearance of band member Richey Edwards], "A Design for Life" was the pivotal song of the 1990s – everyone remembers it from that decade – but "Kevin Carter" existed in its shadow and I always thought it was much better, more interesting and fascinating, musically and lyrically. It's the best Manic Street Preachers song, and there are a lot of theirs to choose from.
Billy Bragg, singer
Little Feat 'Long Distance Love'
First of all this is a great love song. Little Feat aren't known for their love songs. They're known for their southern soulful boogie stuff. It's just this beautiful song about someone hanging on the end of the telephone line and Lowell George, who wrote the song and sings it, has such a resignation in his voice, which is then underscored by the beautiful guitar slide solo he plays in the middle of it. And it has the weirdest time signature to it, too, which makes it very hard to play. You never see it on compilations. It's a great shame. Not only is it a great song, but it got me into Little Feat, who are one of the great bands people tend to have forgotten about.
Tim Burgess, The Charlatans
Wire 'I Am the Fly'
As a song it still stands up today. It came out as a single in the mid- to late-Seventies and at the time it didn't sell any records at all. It's very overlooked. I would play it to anybody. It's very funny, but highly intelligent and that's something not many people can do. It's very artistic which is to their credit.
Steve Lamacq, BBC6 Music Presenter
The Prisoners 'Whenever I'm Gone'
The Prisoners were an amazing, slightly curmudgeonly band who came out of the Medway scene in the Eighties, and this was their only big crack at the charts. It is a fantastic, infuriated pop song about being in love with someone, but also finding them unbearably frustrating to be with. With the big heavy Hammond, background brass and the poignant, slightly cynical lyrics it brilliantly communicates feelings of power and sensitivity, anger and loss.
Dizzee Rascal, rapper
The Rakes '22 Grand Job'
It sums it up, doesn't it? It's something to aspire to: "22 grand job/ In the City it's alright". I like the video. It should have been No1. There was a Lethal Bizzle remix and that was good. It's uptempo, it's happy sounding. It's got some claps in it. It's a song you can party to, isn't it?
Andy Gill, chief rock critic for 'The Independent'
Sly & The Family Stone 'Can't Strain My Brain'
Most accounts of Sly's career dismiss everything after Fresh, but Small Talk contains several undervalued gems of which the deceptively underpowered "Can't Strain My Brain", a return of sorts to the enigmatic torpor of "There's A Riot Goin' On", is the most intriguing. It's like a case of musical onomatopoeia, the enervated sound offering a perfect representation of the track title, from the opening bars in which the bass and organ stumble wearily into the song, to Sly's languid, laid-back vocal – all brilliantly cemented together by the counterpoint horn arrangement, so exhausted it can barely summon up the energy to trot alongside the groove. Sadly, Sly bore out his own claim: his once formidable brain would never again be strained to create anything half as good.
Chris Difford, Squeeze
The Bench Connection 'Young at Last'
When I first got sent this song I fell asleep and woke up in such a good mood I played it again, and again. The words attract me, I'm like a moth at their flame. Songs and music used to be like this in the good old days but now it's all passing me by – X-Factor, my arse. This song is so beautiful and melodic it holds me in its arms at every groove. Now the music industry is almost over and there will be a flood, no more record shops in the High Street, no more singles to collect, and first in the ark will be the Bench Connection with this, and me of course with my Tardis of romanticism.
Guy Garvey, Elbow
I Am Kloot 'Titanic'
I think I Am Kloot have been overlooked by the British media. They're doing really well in mainland Europe. They headline German festivals. This song in particular is one of 100 examples of John Bramwell's raw, natural songwriting talent, which should have universal appeal.
Conor McNicholas, editor of 'NME'
Mumm-Ra 'Light Up This Room'
I put this band on the opening slot of the NME Awards Tour last year and they did a brilliant job but the whole thing never quite took off. However, this track of unrequited love from their album shows them at their best. It starts achingly tenderly and acoustic, but explodes into huge pomp with big strings. I still listen to it now and at the right moment it still brings me close to tears. Just beautiful and just what music should be about. Go download it!
Lauren Laverne, broadcaster
Beach Boys 'Feel Flows'
Carl Wilson wrote this after Brian [Wilson] withdrew and they needed some more songs for the album. The recording is way ahead of its time – they use synthesisers and a gorgeous effect on Carl's vocal. It's blissful and uplifting. Anyone who only knows the Beach Boys through Pet Sounds should download it – their record collection is naked without it.
Tim Vigon, manager of The View
Ann Peebles 'One Way Street'
This is so good I can't understand why it's not a soul standard. Peebles is a fantastic soul singer from St Louis who was on Hi Records at the same time as Al Green in the Seventies, and wrote a couple of songs that were made hits by other people, but her own records, also produced by Willie Mitchell, sound great as well. The Tindersticks used to play this in their live set, which is where I first heard it. Beautiful stuff.
Pete Paphides, chief Rock Critic for 'The Times'
Mark Eitzel 'Love's Humming'
This is the last song on an album Eitzel made with a group of Greek folk musicians. It's an English version of a song by Manolis Famellos about the capacity of love to throw life off course. The recording has a lovely, surging quality about it – a rapture in its purest sense. Eitzel sounds outside himself in a way he rarely does elsewhere in his work. Of 8,000 songs on my iTunes this is the most played.
Phil Alexander, editor of 'Mojo'
Crabby Appleton 'Go Back'
"Go Back" was released in 1970 on the Elektra label and was a minor hit in the States. It's an unbelievable slice of sun-kissed Californian pop music of the highest order – late period Beatles, The Hollies and Spirit – slightly English sounding with a Californian feel. It's taking that Beatles sense of melody one step further.And the band's name is fantastic.
Neil McCormick, pop Critic for 'The daily Telegraph'
Hawksley Workman 'We Will Still Need a Song'
Hawksley Workman has produced a huge body of great work. This is a rambunctious, anthemic song about the joy of pop music. In it he talks about how the poets have let us down, so it falls to songwriters to meet people's need for words they can unite around. It is catchy, uplifting and quietly outrageous, and it disappeared into the ether without leaving so much as a ripple.
Eric Pulido, Midlake
The Band 'Whispering Pines'
If ever there was a tragic soul manifested in a vocal performance, this is the song. I remember the first time I heard this song [in the light of the tragic story of Richard Manuel's demise]. It absolutely broke my heart. The raw and delicate nature of the recording evokes something so honest and beautiful.
Alex James, Blur
Eddie Cochran 'Come On Everybody'
Because he was the daddy of the Rolling Stones. [It's either that or] Roy Orbison's "Crying"; he really influenced The Beatles, and although he gets a lot of credit it's not as much as he deserves. But it has got to be "Come on Everybody".
Dev Hynes, Lightspeed Champion
Neil Young 'Touch the Night'
This is from an album that a lot of people try to forget exists. It's my favourite album, called Landing on Water – it's late Eighties, quite synth-y, huge stadium drum sounds, echoey, with a gospel choir. It's such an amazing song. When people listen to Neil Young they don't want to hear synthesisers. People ignore it because they can't get over how he's chosen to show the song. But it's a great song regardless.
Emma Pollock, singer
New Order '1963'
I was a massive fan of this when I was at high school. The lyrics are from the point of view of a woman who has been murdered by her husband with a gun. But it's a ridiculous theory – that JFK wanted to have Jackie Kennedy shot so he could continue with Marilyn Monroe...
Stephanie Dosen, singer-songwriter
Olivia Newton-John 'Magic'
I'm calling this song underrated because it cannot be found on iTunes UK. I'm trying to imagine the curious world in which the movie/record Xanadu didn't happen... or at least achieve full bloom!
Thomas Fagerlund, The Kissaway Trail
Neil Young 'Philadelphia'
In my opinion this is simply the most beautiful song Young has ever written. The piano is so simple, his voice sounds amazing and the lyrics just go straight through your heart. If you cannot feel this song then you are not human.
Josh Grier, Tapes 'n Tapes
Dr Dog 'Worst Trip'
Dr Dog put out one of my favourite records in 2007, We All Belong. The duelling guitars on "Worst Trip" are pure gold. Not only does their record rule, but they're amazing live. Let it be known, I love Dr Dog!
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