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A Progressive Points The Way: The Mike Nessing Playlist

There are too types of serious rock fans in this world: the progressives and the anti-progressives. Mike Nessing is the former, I am the latter. But he makes a damn good case for the sharper ear having more fun. The thing is, if you can’t hear, if you don’t have the gift of analyzing complex music as you hear it you are not going to enjoy it. Nessing has such educated tastes in music I was expecting Sondheim’s “Passion” to show up any moment. This is completely apparent in his Frank Sinatra choice. To my mind Sinatra reached the zenith of his art in 54, 55 – stuff like “In The Wee Small Hours Of the Morning” and “Only the Lonely”… but really everything he did at Capitol. Certainly, despite a “Very good Year” here and a “Summer Wind” there the “Reprise” years were iffy and by the “Duets” stuff you were looking at the death of his recording career (still awesome live of course…). But maybe I was wrong.
Echo Valley 2-6809 – The Partridge Family
A Famous Myth – The Carnival
David Cassidy was the Miley Cyrus of the early 70s and, con jobs notwithstanding, they are both essentially actors with studio pros behind them. Pure pop hit single confections like “I Woke Up In Love This Morning” and “I Think I Love You” gave way to Richard Carpenter type mellow rock songs such as “Echo Valley 2-6809. We can’t do this kind of thing today -we are both too innocent and not innocent enough. When we want to be manipulated we want it to be the fake sincerity of Cyrus not the real fakeness of Cassidy. At first I thought this was ye olde English folk band but actually it is a highly sharp soul. Nessing’s taste for highly arranged soft pop mirrors my taste for the Carpenters and Bacharah/David and this 69 easy listening band (doing a cover of a song I can’t remember from the movie “Midnight Cowboy”). It’s sorta like an acid flashback of a lazy Sunday afternoon in the early 70s -in the flashback the carnival is what would be playing in the background.
Tin Soldier – the Small Faces
Afterglow – the Small Faces
Wouldn’t it be nice to get on with my neighbours? This was a great band and “Itchycoo Park” and “Lazy Sunday” and these two, especially “Tin Soldier,” are just the best of England’s Mod rock scene. On “Tin Soldier” that’s Pat Arnold singing back up and the song is a sizzling match of mod (the mods were all soul boys with style to burn) and psychedelia -though recorded in 67it lead the way directly to hard rock soul band Humble Pie (with pretty boy Peter Frampton -more alive then he would be later). Here are the Small faces singles -it is mind boggling. As good as the faces were they didn’t pull off a string of singles this great, it is mind boggling:
Watcha Gonna Do About It
I’ve got Mine
Hey Girl
All Or Nothing
My Mind’s Eye
I Can’t make It
So far so awesome, right…. Six of these were smashes in England but now watch this…
Here Comes The Nice
Itchycoo Park
Tin Soldier
Lazy Sunday
The Universal
That’s a string of hits equal to anything the Kinks, the Who, the Beatles or Stones, were up to in the late 60s. The problem with the Small Faces was they could never sustain it over an album but they are the Jam of the 60s invasion -too English for the US.
A House Is Not A Motel – Love
Odorono – The Who
I’m a Boy – the Who
Of all the 60s British invasion bands I love, I love the Who the least. Townsend never twigged his true gift. He was a mod and a maker of three minute pop songs and he excelled at that. On “The Who Sells Out” it was “I Can See For Miles” not “Odorono“. Of these two songs, “I’m a Boy” – a song of sexual confusion that doubles (despite itself) as a call for equality between the sexes is much better than the better than the rest of the album “Odorono“. According to Wikipedia, my old pal Meltzer dubbed the album “A House Is Not A Motel” comes from “Forever Changes” “post-doper word contraction cuteness”. Take out the word “post” and he might have a point. This is one of those albums I should know but I don’t and this song has the best guitar solo (it sounds acoustic) imaginable. Arthur Lee was unimaginably brilliant, like an intoxicated hippie on the steps of Armageddon and I had the chance to see him several times and blew him off. It’s like a nuggets type garage psychedelic rock group with their guitars plugged replacing their dopamine. This is a great song and you should listen to it.
What’s Now Is Now – Frank Sinatra
I’ve got a two word explanation for what Sinatra was doing on the album on “Watertown“: Bob Gaudio. Gaudio is the brains behind the voice the behind the Four Seasons and one of the great pop songwriters, producers, artists, you name it of the period. Valli is the face but Gaudio was the everything else. It seems Sinatra wanted to make himself relevant again and Gaudio instead of doing what he should have done, viz. written him the best songs he was capable of, came up with this song suite of intensely crafted and badly worded soul bring chuggachugs. It is the embodiment of a badly missed opportunity and intensely depressing. Gaudio, along with Bacharah, Goffin/King, Neil Diamond, was a tin pan alley alumni, feeling his way through to self expression and he made a mistake these cats made over and over and over again. He mistook self-indulgence for self-expression : this is a sad, sad song. Wonderfully sung of course, putting the lie to my earlier comment that all his best SINGING was in the 50s.
That’s The Way It’s Gonna Be – Lee Mallory
There Is Nothing More To Say-The Millenium
Lee Mallory’s band The Millenium sound like the blueprint for Belle and Sebastian (not to mention the Shins) and yet another band I’d never heard of before. It’s a sort of ultra modern (weird since it’s from 68). The Lee Mallory track is a lo-fi cover of a Phil Ochs and Bob Gibson song! I love them both.
Mike Nessing has exquisite taste in music, he is like a connoisseur of sound. Like his blog he is constantly somewhere else from where you expect him to be and because of that his taste leads him onto trails an old populist like me never finds. A great experience listening to this m(mostly) incredible songs. here is his entire playlist (I only reviewed half):
1) Tin Soldier-Small Faces
2) A House Is Not A Motel–Love
3) Odorono-The Who
4) Place To Be – Nick Drake
5) Leave Her-Tommy Roe
6) Now That Everything’s Been Said-Spring
7) Echo Valley 2-6809-The Partridge Family
8) Supernaut-Black Sabbath
9) That’s When Your Heartaches Begin-The Soft Boys
10) What’s Now Is Now-Frank Sinatra
11) Simple Sister-Procol Harum
12) That’s The Way It’s Gonna Be-Lee Mallory
13) I’m A Boy-The Who
14) Fireball-Deep Purple
15) Baby Please Don’t Go-The Ballroom
16) There Is Nothing More To Say-The Millenium
17) Forget All About It-Nazz
18) The 24th Hour-Ray Price
19) Afterglow-The Small Faces
20) A Famous Myth-The Carnival
21) The End-Linda Ball

Finally, my sincere thanks to Mike. One of the most original thinkers it has been my pleasure to run into in a long time…

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