Great Songs In No Particular Order
WC Clark This is maybe my favorite modern blues singer and guitarist. He has a lot of CDs out, and he's got a great big soulful, friendly voice. He's from Texas, and has been living in Austin for a long time, as far as I can tell. Never discovered particularly but so many singers never were.
Ernie K-Doe So many great New Orleans songs, but I particularly like this one. Is there music which combines humor, hipness, and musicality more entertainingly than New Orleans music? I'll have to think about that more. In any case, New Orleans R & B = party.
Eric Donaldson One of my all-time favorite reggae songs from the 70's. Eric sings in a different style from most reggae singers. I think it used to be called "festival" style but I don't know if it has a name anymore. The style was probably dated when he first started singing in it, and he didn't abandon it probably because it's such an innocent and bubbly style. It would fall into the "lover's rock" category lyrically. Very sweet and melodic, and the guy is in love.
Johnny Clarke One of my favorite reggae voices. We're kind of completists with Johnny Clarke, though I'm sure we're missing classic LPs. I love this unhurried, particularly beautiful song carried by the backing style of the Roots Radics, who took over the Jamaican scene in the early 80's with their liquid sound.
Patsy Montana The greatest singing yodelling fiddling woman in the world of country music. Patsy Cline was the greatest woman country singer, but Patsy Montana came over 20 years earlier, and she created her own classic music which will carry you off into an age with more open and wilder space.
Jasbir Jassi Bhangra is one of our favorite music styles because it sounds like no other style and really does evoke party time in India, which must be the most interesting country on Earth. Bhangra hasn't changed much in twenty years, and apparently sticks pretty closely to the melodies and rhythms of Punjabi folk songs. Indians get together in US to dance to bhangra, usually in college environments, I think, but otherwise you never hear about bhangra in this country. (In London, it's different of course. And Vancouver is another bhangra hotbed.)
T-Bone Walker The incredible blues guitarist from the 40's who influenced everyone but no one can duplicate. Great clean touch and melodies and phrasing on the guitar which most people never tire of because it sounds like T-Bone's having so much fun playing it. This song is all guitar, and though he sings well, it's his guitar which I always wish there were more of on any track.
Oumou Sangare Mali is another country where music is fantastic, and almost everything which comes from there evokes the feeling of the desert, even with a powerful rhythm driving it along as in this song. From Spain (flamenco) down through most of north Africa so many singers have so much power and a big Arabic influence in their melodies.
Lynn Hope Saxophonist from the 50's who no one really listens to today, and is largely unheard of, but I found this bootleg copy of an American LP from the 50's in a Jamaican record store in Florida in the early 80's, and it was clear that LP that Jamaicans, including members of the Skatalites were greatly influenced by Lynn. This is my favorite track.
Stochelo Rosenberg One of the modern followers of Django Reinhardt who grew up with his music in the gypsy culture, and whose ease of playing at rapid speeds is mind-blowing. He also records as the leader of the Rosenberg Trio, and his "Live at the North Sea Jazz Festival 1993" LP is probably his best overall.
Ambassadeurs International Salif Keita was singing with this group when this recording was made in the 70's, and so many classic songs came from that group. Again, because it's from Mali, it's going to be cosmic with everything clean and driving and passionate.
Shadow The greatest calypso/soca guy to my taste. He put out about 25-30 LPs/CDs over 34+ years and written so many great songs. Often he is giving great philosophic advice but he also spends some time talking about his relationships with women and alludes to being kidnapped by aliens a lot. But the various beats he's come up with, combined with his generally inspirational and funny lyrics and his loveable voice, put him in my all time top five artists with Bob Marley. And Franco. I'll have to think about who else I want to put in the other two spots. James Brown would be a strong candidate. Bob Dylan could be the token white guy. Thomas Mapfumo. Arsenio Rodriguez. Louis Armstrong. I think five is too few. I'll work on a top 50 instead. But what I'm saying is that my life has been a lot richer because of Shadow, so I want everyone else to appreciate him.
Willie Nelson Great country music usually needed pedal steel and fiddles to drive things along, but Willie Nelson's beautiful songs and voice work in all kinds of arrangements, and perhaps in particular in this simple mostly bass-and-drums one with faint background singers humming along in the next room.
Angelo DeBarre & Ludovic Beier A French gypsy guitarist, and I guess Ludovic is French, too, but I don't know if he was originally a gypsy or just a prodigy of the accordion. There is some incredible technique going on when these two start flying.
Franco I mentioned Franco when talking about Shadow above, so here's just one of hundreds of compositions by the great Congolese bandleader. Dance music which goes straight to the heart. So much beauty, melody, and feeling from a relaxed and powerful band. This combination of tight harmony vocals, singing guitar lines, swinging horns, and a bubbling rhythm section is just one variation from the wonderful world of Congolese/Zairean music. Franco left so much great music, and someday the world will discover it, and he will be appreciated. Regrettably, so many African kids are growing up imitating modern American rappers rather than playing guitars. It's going to be a loss to world if the territory Franco and other African giants opened up is abandoned, but it's a familiar story all over the world
Son Palanque I wasn't aware until I discovered "champeta" music that there is an area of Colombia which for years fell under the spell of a radio station which broadcast primarily African music. So the music from this area has guitarists not playing Latin music or Andean music, but in African styles with flowing guitar lines, but also music like this, which doesn't fall into any category but which is just great driving dance music which could go on for hours. (There are no flowing guitar lines in this particular song, though; mostly just big rubber-band bass together with drumming and vocals.)
Bobby Rush I love this song! Incredibly funky! The keyboard backing is a big part of it, but Bobby's voice is going to be funkier than any instrument. As for the lyrics...well, they create suspense. (It's very much worth checking Bobby out in the DVD Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues - "The Road to Memphis" as it really takes you into the life of a modern southern R &B/bluesman on the road in the early 21st century. The picture on the right is of Bobby at Bumbershoot in 2004. Dive into it if you want to hear the original version from 1982.)
Chaka Demus & Pliers Such a great combination of styles. They've had so many great songs. This one is a little more obscure than some. A particularly melodic version of a song by Southern soul singer Frederick Knight (which is only available as a single as far as I know, and not since the 70's).
Cesaria Evora Great to see her appreciated by the world, and put the spotlight on music from the Cabo Verde, and that tradition which sounds like it developed over centuries of playing guitars, pianos, and drums around living rooms in a family environment (but with slave trading going on, and a penal colony nearby to wash everything with sadness). Why does so much great music come from relatively small islands? That's a subject for a book. Anyway, pretty much everything Cesaria chooses to sing is of a high standard, or maybe just singing anything with her incredible voice and feeling puts it to that level.
Coaty de Oliveira Brazilian music comes in a lot of varieties. This is sort of a Forro style, but there's really nothing quite like it. An instrumental.
Dama Madagascar is another country with most of the population musicians apparently. This is just one more experiment from that country. They love stringed instruments, and the rhythms of that country are unlike those of any other, though this song doesn't reveal that so much. More tropical beauty...
DD Abdi Nour Alaleh Somalia has so much great music!!! It's amazing that it has remained outside the radar of the world music crowd. has heard of it. And Eritrea is neglected even more than Somalia. This track was song in Somalia by someone from Eritrea. There is a huge amount of Somalia music posted on websites, which is a good thing because it's pretty much impossible to find it in stores. We have about 15 Somalia CDs and they all came from a Somalia gift shop next to a Somalia chicken restaurant in south Seattle. And they are nearly all CD-R copies. I'll put more Somali music up here before long. (The photo on the left comes from an old postcard which reads "Youth - The Flower of Tomorrow".)
Delroy Wilson 2 In my top three living reggae singers. You've heard this Burt Bacharach song, I'm sure, but not in this version.
Delroy Wilson 1 This is a fantastic version of this song, which was pretty good the way Fleetwood Mac recorded it, as Christine Perfect McVie has about as soulful as voice as any white pop singer has ever had. But Delroy makes it better, as always.
Doris Troy Many groups and people have song this song, but this is the original version, and it's a great version, and Doris Troy will live forever through this version.
Ini Kamoze I think this reggae song falls into its own category. It's dancehall, I guess, but I wish other reggae people had mined more in this area, as I think Mr. Kamose was onto something here.
Rockin' Sidney He did this song all by himself, and it's obvious that it's simple and rudimentary, but it is nonetheless such a loveable song that everyone with a simple heart from the age of 2 through 102 is going to fall for it, (and want to do their own version, if they are a musician).
Murray Lehrer & His Orchestra Klezmer music is very popular, and understandably. This is basically the same thing: a Jewish dance band from the 60's playing a freilach, and just blistering along with Dixieland overtones. Dance, dance, dance!!
OV Wright Up in the pinnacle area of the pyramid of great soulful black American singers. I think it's impossible to rate anyone above him. He sang about 20 classic songs which no one should be without. This is one of them, and it's hard to find it anywhere, as it's never been released on a single.
Shade Sheist This is a song we heard a lot in LA once on 105.9 FM, and I eventually tracked it down on a Disco 45. It has since come out as a CD. We listen to a lot of hip hop in this house, though most of what I listen to is older stuff. Alex listens to everything. So anyway, this is simply a good song.
Snowman This is an example of the kind of hip hop Alex and Sophie grew up on. I still like this style with all the rhythm popping out of it in every direction better than the modern style which went so heavily in the gangsta direction. I am glad there is a lot of great hip hop which can be dug out and appreciated.
Jaojoby This is more of the Madagascar popular style that I really like which is known as salegy. Jaojoby is one of musicians at the heart of this genre. Madagascar music always sounds intimate, and seems like was recorded in a small room. Very gentle attack. Do you ever watch World Link TV on cable/satellite? On that channel there is often shown a great BBC documentary about Hanitra Rasoanaivo of the group Tarika Sammy, returning to life in Madagascar which reveals so much atmosphere about the culture of this unusual island.
Timbalada Brazilians have a lot of fun with percussion instruments. Batucada is the name of the style, and it's very popular in America in various cities, so I'm sure you're familiar with the larger samba street marching genre. This band is supposed to be particularly great live, and they have a live album, but I've not heard it.
Real Sounds of Africa This was theme song for our soccer team during the 90's. I think you don't need to know anything about soccer to love the song, but understanding the lyrics does amplify the appreciation. It's just a tribute to the excitement the band is feeling about the upcoming 1990 World Cup in Italy, and the stars of the day.
Paul Nabor Paranda is a pretty obscure Central American style which is dying out. But luckily some of the longtime performers got together for a 15 track CD to preserve it before they vanished. This is part of the Garifuna culture which also had produced another musical style known as punta, which is not well known outside of Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize.
Charlie Rodriguez y Ray Reyes Afro-Cuban music... There's so much at such a high standard. It's easy to see how people could stay immersed in that world for their lifetimes and be content. There is a particular label (SAR) and set of musicians who started to extend album tracks with long piano or tres (or flute if it's charanga style) solos in each one. This was done because the person who was bankrolling the sessions was from West Africa where songs can go on for hours. I love nearly everything I've found on the SAR label, and this is a typical track from that era featuring the great tres player Charlie Rodriguez playing with Ray Reyes singing.
Orquestra Sangazuza Sao Tome and Principe are two islands sort in the right angle of the west side of the continent in the Gulf of Guinee. The music is such beautiful island music with a fantastically adorable keyboard sound running through it, and phenomenal vocals. In other words, pretty normal African music. Africa really does make the most cosmic music on the planet, and it's scary to think that all the regional styles are starting to die out due to the absorption of youth into American music, offering them hope of a better life by identifying with it. Fortunately, someone recorded this style back in the early 80's.
Nico Saquito A oldtime Cuban guitarist who specialized in guarachas, but is playing a guajiro here. This is also from the early 80's. I think the sadness mixed in there is due to the Spanish influence because you hear the same sound in flamenco. But maybe it came from the Moors and went down through the Sahara at the same time, and was carried over by slaves. In any case, there was a lot of sadness passing over the Atlantic for many centuries, and it adds a lot to Cuban music.
Hank Williams Here's a guy who wrote many songs which will never die. Honky-tonk was the high point of country music as far as I'm concerned, and Hank Williams was the father of it. What a classic song to justify hitting the road!!
Annie Ross She was better with Lambert and Hendricks, I know, but this song is still very interesting, as the frame of mind in the US in the early 50's are definitely evoked in it. Singing like a horn in front of a great swinging band.
Errol Garner Errol Garner had his own style which doesn't sound like anyone else. He was self-taught, and just did his own thing on the piano, and reached a lot of people. I don't know how much credibility he had in the jazz community, but he came up with some fascinating stuff and this version of "Caravan" is packed with energy and a lot of fascinating passages.
Herbie Nichols The two jazz pianists I have the greatest affinity for at this time are Herbie Nichols and Thelonius Monk. Herbie didn't record that much before dying, but it's all good. This song is my favorite, though. Maybe it stands out for me because it's so danceable, and I obviously like dance music. But there's a lot of beauty here, mixed in with some real sadness.
Robson Banda & New Black Eagles I seem to want to rate entire countries for their music, and Zimbabwe certainly ranks in my top ten in the world. Sometimes it's at the top because all those percolating melodies really lift up the spirit unlike anything else. Guitars interlock all over Africa, but in Zimbabwe they percolate so cheerfully and approachably. Robson Banda was a fantastic singer, and gave quite a few great songs to us before dying a few years ago. Another AIDs casualty, I think, like so many great Africans.
Mbilia Bel with Tabu Ley Rochereau So many great Congolese songs. For me, this one is near the very top of all songs I've ever heard in any genre. So much beautiful melody coming from so many different directions, particularly from Mbilia Bel's voice, and with the tightest, most propulsive rhythm section to match it. It starts at a great comfortable speed: when it hits the sebene and goes up a gear, and from that point on, with horns punching in behind Mbilia and Tabu Ley joining in, and the guitars bubbling beneath it, you want it to go on hours, and luckily it can if you have set your audio player on repeat.
Orchestra Makassy Each country has its own style, and Tanzania's is another powerful one. Yes, the Congolese style has influenced it, because a lot of Congolese musicians have worked in Tanzania, but the Tanzanians have their own idea of how to propel things both vocally, and through their guitars and unusual horn arrangements. This band was recorded particularly well. This was one of the best Tanzanian bands, but there are quite a few of them who will end up on this page, I hope.
Salah Abd Alghafour Iraq's pop music is largely unknown in the West. Well, actually just about all Middle Eastern and/or Arabic music is unknown in the West. This is one style.
Fred Fisher One example of Afrobeat, (though maybe Fred wouldn't want be classified). Fela started Afrobeat sound with a lot of influence from James Brown, but also from Geraldo Pino of Sierra Leone who was successfully bringing James Brown back to Africa. (And when James Brown eventually visited Africa he borrowed back from Fela!) Afrobeat is pretty much the most obviously funky music in Africa, and lately there have been a lot of CD releases showing the variety of funk styles in Western Africa centered in Nigeria but with a lot of Ghana examples, and there's a lot of Afrobeat on them. But for every track like this one from Fred Fisher, there are probably another ten which we'll never hear which are probably similarly fascinating. I believe that Fred's from Nigeria.
Fajardo y su Charanga This is some of the charanga style music I mentioned. Fajardo, the bandleader and flautist, put out a lot of LPs, and this song came from one I bought on eBay for a few dollars. No solos, just a lot of melody and rhythm. There are a lot of phenomenal Afro-Cuban pianists and percussionists, and they were often uncredited back then, so I don't know who in particular who this pianist is, but I never get tired of listening to his role in this short song. I would love to find a better copy on a CD without ticks and pops, but I've been unable to locate it.
Heera More bhangra.