Getting Better

Getting Better

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Beatles: “Getting Better – Vocals Only” Play this track

No matter how you slice ‘em up and whittle ‘em down, every aspect of The Beatles’ strengths always shone through. Such a great lyric, by the way. —Rock Stamberg

This track sounds so good, so full, so complete and so acapella. Some songs on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band get a lot of attention and others don’t. When this one comes up it’s always a treat and this version is a surprise treat. I’ve never heard the whistle (at 00:47) before. Mostly I’m reminded The Beatles were an extraordinary vocal pop group. Oh, those harmonies. Are you smiling yet? —John Stix

Vulfpeck: “Lonely Town (Feat. Theo Katzman)” Play this track

This song is oh so Nilsson. And it contains one of my favorite opening lyrics: “I’m the Mayor of Lonely Town, population one.” -JS

Vulfpeck: “Fugue State” Play this track

I can’t explain why I find this instrumental so evocative and alluring, I just do. Maybe it’s the descending keyboard riff. —RS
A modern version of Stuff meets Bach. In other words, a melodic groove that’s easy to follow. —JS

The Doors & The Temptations: “Break on Through To The Funky Side” Play this track

A surprise mashup that makes absolute sense. Yes, that’s Angus Young doing the guitar solo. Don’t think about it, just enjoy. —JS

Mark Knopfler: “Romeo & Juliet” Play this track

One of Dire Straits’ finest stripped down to bare bones and still saying it all. -JS

First, what a great song. Mark Knopfler’s bare-bones approach confirms it. A beauty. —RS

Raspberries: “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” Play this track

I bought the 45 upon hearing it on WNEW-FM back in 1974. Just a great record, from performance to production and on down. —RS

Heretofore I successfully ignored The Raspberries. My bad. This is a pop confection to be savored. Like say, any good 10CC tune. Say thank you to Rock. “Thank you, Rock.” Oh, and dig the Brian Wilson-like fake fade out. -JS

Robben Ford: “Talk to Your Daughter” Play this track

This is the title track from Robben’s debut album on a major label. I love a swinging shuffle with impeccable blues guitar. It’s shirt tails in playing a la any Steely Dan guitar solo. Robben’s tone is round and smooth, like Miles Davis’ trumpet. The vocabulary is familiar, but the phrasing is filled with surprises. I’ve put this tune on tons of mixed tapes, discs and now NHT. It’s part of my go-to for grooving in the car. -JS

Traffic: “Gimme Some Lovin’” Play this track

I know it’s only Winwood and Capaldi, but this percussion-heavy live version is hot. An obvious closing song. But I keep asking myself when is Carlos stepping in? -JS

Phish: “Glide” Play this track

From their major record company debut, A PICTURE OF NECTAR, this catchy ditty caught my ear on first listen. I find Trey Anastasio’s acoustic guitar parts on this to be irresistible ear candy. —RS

Charles Bradley: “Changes (Black Sabbath cover)” Play this track

This Black Sabbath ballad, originally found on their Vol. 4 album, is imbued with all heart and all soul by late singer Charles Bradley. While the gospel roots were written into the original, Bradley brings it to another level. But let’s give Black Sabbath credit; the sentiment and soul of the song came from these masters of metal. -JS

Pete Townshend/ The Who: “Who Are You (Guitar Only)” Play this track

This settles it once and for all: Pete Townshend is as masterful a guitarist as he is a composer. His playing is literally kaleidoscopic in nature. Slashing, raw and rhythmic, this is guitar as a weapon, a melodic device and a composer’s tool. In the end it’s just breathtaking. -JS

Wow. Isolating Pete Townshend’s guitar is kinda illuminating. The power here is palpable. —RS

Jeff Beck: “People Get Ready (Live)” Play this track

There are so many wonderful versions of Jeff playing this tune. I selected this one from a 2004 concert he performed in Italy. Jeff’s relaxed approach and the extra piano time – not often afforded – are notable. -JS

Jeff Beck playing “People Get Ready” is always a beautiful experience. —RS

Chuck Leavell: “Jessica (Solo Piano)” Play this track

Chuck Leavell’s piano solo in Dickey Bett’s Allman Brothers Band composition “Jessica” is as indelible and as permanent as Chuck Berry’s opening to “Johnny B. Goode’ or say, the guitar solo in “Hotel California.” If you are going to play “Jessica” you must play that piano solo as it was recorded, as in note-for-note. Chuck went on to be indispensable to the Allmans and later the Rolling Stones. -JS

Chuck Leavell has contributed to so many great songs. This was the first one most of us ever heard. —RS

Dickey Betts & Great Southern: “Rave On” Play this track

If you wondered what a Dickey Betts instrumental would sound like as a solo artist, wonder no more. -JS

Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi: “Midnight in Harlem (Live)” Play this track

Channeling the spirit of Delaney and Bonnie and Mad Dogs and Englishmen, the Tedeschi/Trucks Band presents soulful vocals, ragged harmonies, and the jamming spirit of the Allman Brothers Band. This ballad, cinematic in its tone, turns a stadium into a small club. Derek Trucks whips out one of his patented whispers to a scream slide solo that will leave you breathless. It is for good reason that this tune rarely leaves their set list. -JS

Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood: “Glad” Play this track

I bet you thought “Glad” didn’t need a guitar solo. It didn’t, until now. I heard this tune as a natural segue from “Midnight in Harlem.” The Clapton/Winwood concert album recorded at Madison Square Garden is one of the finest collaborative recordings we have. It’s the sound of Blind Faith that never materialized with the original band. There’s a respect for each other and a willingness to go to the edge to find out what’s there. -JS

The entire Clapton/Winwood LIVE AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN album is excellent and worth seeking out. Just do it! —RS

Grateful Dead: “Terrapin Part One” Play this track

Now hear this. —RS

I’m not an organic fan of the GD, but this epic is worth your 17 minutes, or we wouldn’t have put it on. Be like me, be surprised and enjoy. -JS