Now Hear This: Episode 6

Note: The “Play this track” cues below may be off by several seconds on mobile devices.

Song Notes:

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND: “10th Avenue Freeze-Out (Ballad Version)” Play this track
Bruce Springsteen has always been at ease changing up the recorded version of a song for the stage. It’s a Dylanesque trait that has served him well. I spent months searching for his live ballad version of “For You.” And man is that good. But this masterful remake of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” is hands-down my favorite Springsteen track that has yet to be officially released. The original is a great “strut rocking song.” This ballad spotlights the power of the lyric, the image of the night. It’s absolutely cinematic. —John Stix

XTC: “Then She Appeared” Play this track
This is from 1992’s Nonsuch album, XTC’s final project with multi-instrumentalist Dave Gregory aboard, and, boy oh boy, does he bring the perfect amount of musical frosting to this song. Along with his lyrical guitar licks, check out his deft calliope keyboard as the song takes flight. —Rock Stamberg

DEEP PURPLE: “Love Don’t Mean a Thing” Play this track
Would you have known this was Deep Purple if we hadn’t told you? Do you believe me now that I have? A forgotten album track from Deep Purple’s 1974 album Stormbringer, their last with guitarist Ritchie Blackmore until their 1984 reunion with the so-called Mark II version of the band. —RS

FLEETWOOD MAC: “Oh Well (Part 1)” Play this track
Peter Green is THE under-appreciated guitarist from the British Blues invasion of the 1960’s. This song, “Oh Well (Part 1),” has one of the great guitar riffs of all time, right up there with “Whole Lotta Love” and “Day Tripper.” Don’t think about it, just rock out. —JS

I think you should think about it and rock out. —RS

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL: “Commotion” Play this track
The first time I heard this song was from guitarist Marc Bonilla. He recorded it for his EE Ticket album I co-produced for the Guitar Recordings label, which eventually came out on Warner Bros. Records. So my first taste was an instrumental version. I thought, what a freight train of a song. What a ride. Then I heard the CCR version and thought the same thing. How cool is it when a rock tune works equally well as an instrumental and a vocal. If you want to ride this train further, go to Spotify and check out Marc’s take. —JS

Commotion indeed. Sounds like they drank some coffee to get this one to tremble like it does. Rock ’n roll, folks. —RS

LEE MICHAELS: “Do You Know What I Mean” Play this track
Anyone remember this? Keyboards, vocal, drums, and funk — period. No guitar, no bass. It reminds me of the holiday season when it was a hit, but I won’t say which one. Google it. —RS

MIKE MCGEAR: “Leave It” Play this track
Mike McGear’s given name is Michael McCartney. Paul McCartney wrote, produced, plays, and sings on McGear, the 1974 album he also used as a training ground for his then-latest version of Wings. And this album was recorded immediately after Band on the Run, McCartney’s watershed album. This wonderfully catchy track emphasizes Mike’s vocal chops and absurdist lyrical bent perfectly. —RS

NRBQ: “Howard Johnson’s Got His Ho-Jo Workin’” Play this track
I know by now you would think Rock picked this song, but this time it was me. It was a good segue and I love the silliness of the lyric. I think this is a one-time occurrence where Muddy Waters and Howard Johnson’s restaurants will be mated together in a song. This is a perfect example of why we do Now Hear This. —JS

Yep, John picked it. What a steamroller it is, too. Early NRBQ. —RS

EDGAR WINTER’S WHITE TRASH: “Keep Playin’ That Rock and Roll” Play this track
This whole album is one of the great underrated LPs of the early 1970s. Gospel-inspired rock, blues rock tinged with jazz, and two powerhouse vocalists (Edgar and Jerry LaCroix) were the basic ingredients of this jazz rock classic. Then there were first-rate songs. Edgar Winter’s White Trash rocks, it’s soulful and it’s commercial. “Keep Playin’ That Rock and Roll” is hands-down one of the best biographical songs ever recorded. I put it right up there with Chicago’s “Introduction.” The story goes that Edgar Winter asked his new record label if they’d let him make a record just for music’s sake (his debut album, Entrance) if he would then write and record a more commercially oriented record for them (Edgar Winter’s White Trash). Columbia Records made good on the deal and so did Edgar Winter. —JS

Let it be known many of Edgar Winter’s subsequent LPs are also excellent, including White Trash’s excellent live album Roadwork, The Edgar Winter Group’s eponymous debut album and its follow-up, Shock Treatment. His later works are quite good as well. Viva Edgar Winter. —RS

RANDY NEWMAN: “Shame” Play this track
A personal letter to a young lady friend, set to music. “It’s a gun I need.” —RS

FACES: “You’re So Rude” Play this track
I love this song. Ronnie Lane’s tale of sneaking around is lyrical and fun. Faces’ rocking performance, especially a pre-Rolling Stones Ronnie Wood’s guitar playing, keeps pushing the groove as Ronnie sets up the blame game. Riotous. —RS

CRAZY JOE AND THE VARIABLE SPEED BAND: “Eugene” Play this track
“Eugene” is … unique. And undeniable. Yes, KISS’ Ace Frehley was behind this 1981 masterpiece where diverse cultures merge. —RS

VAN MORRISON: “The Eternal Kansas City” Play this track
What we have here is one of my favorite Van Morrison songs. It starts with the best fade-in in rock history. Has there ever been a finer or more polite question posed 12 times in a row to start a song? Are we going to debate it? Good. Now we have Van swinging and singing about music itself. Can anyone do that better? Do you want to debate that? Good. Then we have the best “huh” on record at 3:15, right after he sings “and the city is eternal.” If you’re a fan of swinging up-tempo Van Morrison with horns, and you haven’t heard this before, happy birthday. This is our gift to you. —JS

I’ll take a humbler approach here. I agree with John — the intro is always stunning (you’ve gotta wait for it) yet may be maddening to the unindoctrinated. Van sneaks up on you and makes you listen. —RS

THE BEATLES: “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” Play this track
OMG, the brilliance. My first-ever favorite Beatles track. The gulping, galloping rhythm. The sax section playing a perfect counterpoint arrangement. THE SOUND. Thank you once again George Martin. —RS

KEB MO’: “Life Is Beautiful” Play this track
I’m more of a music guy. I rarely get hit by lyrics the first time I hear a song. Not this time. I was sucked in with the joy of these lyrics. The acoustic folk bed that supports them and the Taj Mahal-like delivery of the melody all conspired to tear me up with a smile. I have put this song on every mixtape CD I’ve handed out to any kind of loved one. If I put together a mix of songs that I wanted to share with the world, this would definitely be on it. Welcome to my world. —JS

STEVIE WONDER: “Ngiculela – Es Una Historia – I Am Singing” Play this track
They (do you know who “they” are?) say music is the universal language. Here is proof “they” are right. I have no idea what Stevie Wonder is singing about at the start of this song. But it fills me with joy, and I find myself smiling. I don’t wonder what he is singing, I just go with it and I’m glad to be there. Then he switches to words I know and I’m in the same place. If music is going to bring us to a better place, then we might as well start here. —JS

Songs in the Key of Life is a masterpiece that just keeps on giving. —RS

THE KINKS: “Days” Play this track
Perfection? It’s stupefying how many diverse, catchy, sophisticated songs Ray Davies has written and continues to write. He is honestly one of the world’s greatest creative talents and performers and one day everybody will realize this truth. —RS