Got the Feeling

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JEFF BECK GROUP: “Got the Feeling” Play this track

In the world of Jeff Beck fans, Truth and Blow by Blow are the universal keystones. To a much smaller cadre of fans, Rough and Ready completes the pyramid. As Beck’s first album following the departure of Rod Stewart, it presents him in his R&B/funk mode. Rough and Ready introduces Max Middleton, who followed Nicky Hopkins and preceded Jan Hammer as Jeff’s keyboard foil. Middleton, who also played on Blow by Blow, became the composer that Jeff needed to take his instrumental flight. In this episode of NHT, I present three of my favorite Rough and Ready songs, starting with “Got the Feeling,” and later “Situation” and “New Ways/Train Train.” It’s a given that Jeff Beck throws fresh light on the blues. Here he does the same for funky rhythm parts and rhythmic riffs that are just as strong as the melody. Like Sly and the Family Stone, this is funky music that rocks as much as it grooves. – John Stix

JOE WALSH: “A Life of Illusion” Play this track

This song is one of those that’ll catch your ear on first listen. The tune’s hooks and oddball instrumental bent bely the fact it’s a Joe Walsh track circa 1981. Lots of weirded-out guitar but no solos. Of course the lyrics certainly smack of the Walsh’s … um … unique sense of humor but the music is unlike anything he’s ever proffered before … or since, really. Which is fine. A hard one to describe accurately. Listen and you’ll fall in love with it. – Rock Stamberg

One thing I notice about “A Life of Illusion” and all Joe Walsh’s music is that every aspect has room to breathe. Walsh is one of the finest guitarists, singers and composers in rock music. He’s got fame, money, he’s a member of The Eagles and he’s had several hits (“Rocky Mountain Way,” “Life’s Been Good,” et. al). Yet he’s rarely included as one of rock’s first-tier players, composers or performers. And Walsh doesn’t care. Why should he? He does everything however he wants to. If you’re interested in memorable guitar hooks, instantly recognizable singing and songs that speak to real people, visit Joe Walsh and your life will be good too. – JS

BEN KWELLER: “Falling” Play this track

What a talent. Ben Kweller went to school on the classic pop/rock songwriting craft of the ’60s and ’70s and it shows: The man knows how to construct a song, and this is one of his best and most popular recordings. From his Sha Sha album, this is a real doozy. Even more immediate in a live setting, this track should prompt aficionados to go to a BK show when he comes around again. This is the first of three songs I’ve chosen for this episode. Ben Kweller is the real thing, plus he’s one hell of a musician. – RS

TODD RUNDGREN: “Chain Letter” Play this track

I don’t know how I’d overlooked this distinctively alluring track for so long as I’m a huge Todd Rundgren fan from way back. But I rediscovered it anew a few years ago and it’s been a constant aural pal of mine ever since. Great hooks, melodic twists and turns, an unusual lyrical bent and a fantastic performance make this essential listening for all music aficionados. Oh, and Rundgren’s fine songwriting, storytelling, Philly-tinged soulful vocal chops and musicianship are all on display on this one. – RS

I don’t know why I’m consistently surprised that we keep playing songs by artists we both love. Since it’s partly my podcast I pick songs I love and want to share. Todd Rundgren, Joe Walsh, Little Feat … none of these choices should surprise NHT listeners by now. Again, I’m not a lyrics-first guy except when it comes to Todd Rundgren. Rock and I could have picked any song from Runt. The Ballad of Todd Rundgren as it is one of his best albums. Imagination, message and musical hooks are all delivered in equal measure. Does anyone have a problem with that? I think not. – JS

JEFF BECK GROUP: “Situation” Play this track

The second of John’s three song choices found on Jeff Beck Group’s spectacularly pliable Rough and Ready album from 1971. Maddeningly perfect.– RS

JOE COCKER: “Shocked” Play this track

From Joe Cocker’s excellent yet under-appreciated Sheffield Steel album from 1982, this crazily controlled reggae/rock studio performance is like nothing Cocker’s ever released. His only album on Island Records was recorded at music impresario and album producer Chris Blackwell’s famed Compass Point studios in the Bahamas. The set’s career-high songwriting selections inspired and challenged Compass Point’s house musicians, including the wildly gifted songwriter/instrumentalist Barry Reynolds. The set’s R&B/rock bent is grounded by reggae stalwarts Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest reggae rhythm section ever. Their trademark beats coalesce seamlessly throughout. A lost gem if there ever was one. – RS

BEN KWELLER: “Gossip” Play this track

Simply put, my favorite BK track ever. As of today anyway. And that’s saying something. For me, there are echoes in the chord progressions, vocal melodies and production that hark back to George Harrison’s epic solo debut All Things Must Pass. I can’t explain why the track’s vibe triggers this deja vu connection for me. Maybe it’s a primal thing or perhaps the record’s production values. Maybe it’s down to BK’s stellar vocal arrangement along with evocative harmony parts … or maybe it’s none of those things. Yet I consistently/instinctively plug into something specifically unique that presents itself when I play this track. Anyone else? – RS

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD: “Rock ‘N Roll Soul” Play this track

One of my all-time prized Grand Funk tracks, which buoyed ’72’s transitional Phoenix album. I go nuts every time I delight in Mark Farner’s understated, chugging, chicka chicka chicka rhythm guitar flourish near the song’s beginning. It slays me every time. Blink and you’ll miss it, but for me it’s often the little things that grab me and give a song its spark. – RS

JEFF BECK GROUP: “New Ways / Train Train” Play this track

The third track from Rough and Ready. John really knows how to pick ’em, doesn’t he? – RS

PETRA HADEN: “Rael” Play this track

Petra Haden, daughter of the great jazz bassist Charlie Haden, is a wonderfully imaginative vocalist who is known for creating a cappella versions of popular songs. Her album-length version of The Who’s The Who Sells Out is a perfect example of her technique. I took a portion of the song “Rael” because just as in The Who’s original version, Pete Townshend’s composition foreshadows the “Underture” from the band’s Tommy album. The next track in this podcast is “Eyesight to the Blind (The Hawker)” from Tommy because it works so well following this song. – JS

THE WHO: “Eyesight to the Blind” Play this track

I increasingly appreciate Tommy every time I play it. Its elements seem to blossom more with every spin. Talk about a grower. Somehow Tommy never gets played out like so many other classic rock monuments do. – RS

BEN KWELLER: “Wasted and Ready” Play this track

BK’s punk-rock-via-Beatles sensibilities and gonzo guitar playing are equal parts vicious and virtuoso. This is the non-hit Weezer might wish they had. Blistering and bountiful. – RS

ERIC CLAPTON: “I Shot the Sheriff” Play this track

This recording is from the 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas. I was there. I took my buddy Pat Sbarra for his 50th birthday. One of the organizers came to New York looking for talent. I suggested John Mayer and pointed them in the right direction. I don’t know if that’s why Mayer appeared at the show, but Pat and I were John’s guests for the festival. There were a couple of highlights, and one was just how “on” Clapton was for his set on the main stage. As this version of “I Shot The Sheriff” was happening I knew it was a hot one, laser focused, subtle and simmering. You’re hearing it just as I did and now you know what I mean. – JS

This is certainly a special performance and Clapton covers all the bases musically and vocally. He commandingly shifts between restraint and fury with unexpected ease. A master in full flower. Again. – RS

PHISH: “Free Bird” Play this track

This is truly something else. Who else but Phish could pull off an a cappella version of the Lynyrd Skynyrd staple recast in a barbershop-quartet bent … with all the original recording’s dueling guitar parts intact. Remember, this is a vocals-only performance and every note is covered. This complex arrangement is not a toss-off. Such histrionic perfection is both astounding and hilarious. – RS