Guitar and Pen

The Who’s Guitar and Pen hails from their 1978 Who Are You album, the last one with Keith Moon on drums.

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The Who: “Guitar And Pen” Play this track

When I first filled my iPod, I avoided the obvious versions of the obvious songs. No “Purple Haze,” “Light My Fire,” or “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” I even started a folder called Familiar Flag in Foreign Places. It housed great songs by classic artists that never get attention. One of the first songs in this folder was “Guitar and Pen.” It’s got all the hooks and sounds of a classic Who song, it just never got the airplay – until now. —John Stix

“Guitar and Pen” is a quintessential Who track, even though it’s not famous and it came at the end of the Keith Moon era. Pete Townshend’s composing and arranging talents shine brightly — as does his crackling guitar. This song’s sort of like a journey. —Rock Stamberg

The Beach Boys: “Heroes and Villains (A Cappella)” Play this track

Rock and I often say that a great song can be boiled down to just a guitar (or piano) and voice. This must be even greater than great, because all the elements of the tune can be gleaned from just the voices alone. —JS

What is left to say about Brian Wilson’s harmonization genius, which runs wild here. You can really hear what unbelievable vocalists The Beach Boys were (are). They serve him well here. —RS

Todd Rundgren & Jeff Baxter: “Something To Fall Back On” Play this track

Todd has tried his songs as lounge singles (please don’t go there), as fully orchestrated renditions, and in this case, he gives his master vocal over to guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter who reshapes the song into pure pop with cool guitar. A most worthy reinvention indeed. —JS

If you like this song, check out Todd’s original a cappella version on his album called … A Cappella. -RS

Allen Toussaint: “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” Play this track

The original tune, by Vince Guaraldi (composer of the Peanuts tv specials) made it to 22 on the Billboard charts in 1963. Allen covers it as originally played. My favorite cover is on the James Gang second album. Check out “The Bomber.” No matter who plays it, there is a “Peanuts” vibe that warms the heart. This is an unexpected treat that Rock found. —JS

This always gets me. Every time. -RS

The Doobie Brothers: “You’re Made That Way” Play this track

Kicking off the album Living On the Fault Line, is a classic Fender Rhodes sound, a gospel funk feel and one of the best Michael McDonald vocals. This is exactly the kind of song that made him one of the most popular singers of the 70s. There were no hits from this album, which made it a music geeks treasure. There were a ton of great songs on here, they just didn’t get played on the radio. So what, this is how legends are born. —JS

Y’know, to hell with terms like “Yacht Rock” and whatever. Lol. I dig old school Michael McDonald. And this is a really good song. -RS

Sly & The Family Stone: “Everyday People” Play this track

One of the great message songs of all time. Why? Because it delivers the “talk” nestled in killer hooks, groove, vocal melodies, and instrumentation. —JS

Everyday People is an awesome song. One for the ages. One World indeed. -RS

Bee Gees: “Jive Talkin” Play this track

This is undeniably cool, as are many Bee Gees songs. These guys knew how to write songs and make ‘em as funky – yes, funky – as they pleased. The Bee Gees are so underrated. This is a hot little number. -RS

Yes: “Roundabout” Play this track

If there is one song to define Prog-rock music, this is it. Sophisticated vocals and instrumental parts intertwine to make a musical stew that enthralls the listener for over eight minutes. This is music that does truly dance and sing. —JS

Firstly, I really love Yes. Roundabout is actually the first song of theirs I heard. I was intrigued and later, hooked. Chris Squire’s bass playing! Chris Squire’s trademark Rickenbacker bass sound! Oh my gawd. -RS

Vulfpeck, Bernard Purdie & Cory Henry: “VULF TWO Super Groove” Play this track

This is still the most used track I put on any mixed disc. Some band member(s) of the band Vulfpeck put these two disparate recordings together. First, we have drum god Bernard Purdie. He has been king of the groove for artists like Aretha Franklin, Jeff Beck and Steely Dan. Here he is giving a clinic and telling the story of how he developed his signature beats. The second part of the mashup is an organ shout by Cory Henry. He was a featured band member of Snarky Puppy and currently leads his own band, The Funk Apostles. While he is an overall keyboard master, this piece shows off why he is my favorite organ player. These two different pieces of music played simultaneously amounts to some serious funk and a lot of joy. As Roland Kirk would say, “Bright Moments.” —JS

Vulfpeck and their friends always conjure some serious stuff. -RS

Little Feat: “Mercenary Territory” Play this track

After the Vulfpeck mashup, the next song called for some serious musical interplay, groove and soul. Is there another band so equipped than Little Feat? If so, you must let me know. —JS

What he said. I love me some Little Feat, anytime, anywhere, any anything. -RS

Bob Marley & The Wailers: “No Woman, No Cry (Live)” Play this track

This is an “Oh Yeah” live album. Name me some of the great live albums? You get The Allman Brothers Band at the Fillmore, The Who’s Live at Leeds, and The Band’s Rock of Ages. And if you forget to mention Bob Marley and The Wailers’ Live and someone else brings it up, you say, “Oh Yeah.” This is a prayer in a song. —JS

Majestic. Ethereal. Beautiful. -RS

Paul Simon: “American Tune” Play this track

One of Paul’s best, and to think it started out as a writing assignment. Paul turned a Bach Choral into an iconic American Tune. This would have made a great S&G song. —JS

Simply put, this is the one. Forget the overstuffed studio take, go instead for this solo live performance from 1974’s Live Rhymin’. Better yet, check out the whole album. You’ll thank me, I promise. -RS

Richard Tee: “Happy Birthday” Play this track

This solo piano version of the birthday classic now joins the ranks of The Beatles’ and Stevie Wonder’s birthday tunes for celebrating your big day. —JS

Jethro Tull: “The Whistler (2003 Remastered Version” Play this track

Another from my Familiar Flags folder. When was the last time you discovered a new Jethro Tull classic. Well, listen to this. —JS

Jethro Tull often gets short shrift. While I am definitely not a flute lover, I still like much of their music and always get each new record, hoping for a late-period gem. Anyway, this is a song I really like. -RS

The Beatles: “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” Play this track

How good were The Beatles as a band? This good! —JS

Just riveting. The power of those four guys together in one room is incredible. This is an amazing listen to The Beatles putting out musically. Each one of them shines throughout. Just listen. Bliss. -RS