Now I’m just tempting fate: The Awesome Mix Vol. 5

Last week I was unsure if I should tempt fate and the Rocky curse and attempt a 5th volume of the Awesome Mix. If you every really doubted that it would happen then you probably don’t know me very well, mainly because I don’t really have anything better to do and I just really enjoy it. You can read the ground rules for the mixes and revisit the previous editions here and here.

Everything I Do Goin’ Be Funky – Don Covay

God I love this song. Bringing the funk early and often in this edition.

Gimmie Some Lovin’ – Spencer Davis Group

I loved this song growing up, and then at some point it was in a commercial or movie (or maybe both, can’t remember) and it became ubiquitous and I got SOOOOO sick of hearing it. Thankfully after a few decades of avoiding it, I can once again appreciate it for all of its goodness.

Garden Party – Ricky Nelson

I loved this song for years before I realized who sang it. You can usually win your share of bar bets before somebody gets to Ricky Nelson.

In the Midnight Hour – Wilson Pickett

Those horns.

Generals and Majors – XTC

Andy Partridge is one of the great song writers ever. And one of the best twitter follows you can imagine when he’s in the mood.

Up on Cripple Creek – The Band

Just a classic tune.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours) – Stevie Wonder

I’ve said it before, but I’ll take Stevie’s 70s output up against anybody’s in the history of music. Maybe even the Beatles when the moon is right. We shall not speak of the anything done after then though.

Girl From the North Country – Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash

Unlikely duet partners, but it works so well.

End Side A *flip the tape*

Stay With Me – Faces

Note for note this is one of the best pure rock n’ roll songs ever.

Up on the Roof – The Drifters

So much goodness in this tune.

Jump Into the Fire – Harry Nilsson

Harry’s one of the best pop songwriters from any era. Period.

Some Kind of Wonderful – The Soul Brothers Six

The Grand Funk Railroad version is better known, but I think this original crushes it like a grape.

Someday, Someway – Marshall Crenshaw

Pure guitar pop perfection. I’ve been trying to fit this one in from the beginning.

Starman – David Bowie

In retrospect, how did this song not appear on the original? Then again, Bowie has a lot of pretty amazing songs with similar themes.

The Unguarded Moment – The Church

There was a time when this song appeared on basically any mix tape of CD that I made. Time to revive that tradition.

All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople

Closing the side out with style.

As always, here it is for your listening and/or subscribing pleasure.

Cheers.

 

Yet Another One: The Awesome Mix Vol. 4

Are you tired of this yet? Never let it be said that I won’t completely beat a dead horse until it is ground into a fine powder and scattered to the wind. This is the fourth in the Awesome Mix series – you can catch up on Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 here to get the back story and ground rules. Since this is Vol. 4 that means we have reached the Rocky IV stage of the Awesome Mix sequels, so imagine a couple of montages where I’m putting together this mix in a barren Siberian landscape, all while staring at and brooding over a well worn photo of Dolph Lundgren. That’s probably a more entertaining image than me sitting at my desk with LoFro beadhead, drinking coffee and watching some footie.

I’m not going to lie to you though, much like Rocky avenging the death of Apollo Creed, climbing Siberian mountains with nothing more than a pair of workboots and some rabbit fur gloves, and ending the Cold War in the same 90 minute movie – Rocky IV is the pinnacle of Rocky movies, there is no debate about this – I think Vol. 4 is the best so far in the series, mainly because the songs flow and mix together so well. Plus, LOOKING GLASS. Enough said. (Remember, this mix is best enjoyed with around 5 to 6 seconds of cross fade, and an awful lot of embarrassing, off key singing in your car right in front of your kids’ friends. Also, please note that no horses nor Russian boxers were harmed in any way during the making of this mix or writing of this piece.)

Get Ready – The Temptations

A powerhouse tune to open things up. I’m kind of stunned that it took this long for the Temps to make an Awesome Mix appearance to be honest.

Cinnamon Girl – Neil Young

Just an unforgettable riff, and it bridges the gap so well from the Temps to…

Hold Tight – Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich

This is a great tune, but one that had faded from my consciousness until Tarantino used it so awesomely in Death Proof.

Our Lips Are Sealed – The Go-Gos

If you are a male between the ages of 38-48, you probably had a massive crush on Belinda Carlisle at some point during the 80s *raises hand, nods*

Sister Golden Hair – America

You can’t fight singing this when it comes on. You can try, but you will lose.

Hold On! I’m Coming – Sam and Dave

Just love this transition. Savor it.

Brandy – Looking Glass

“The sailors say Brandy/You’re a fine girl/What a goooood wiiiiiiiifffffeeee you would be.” Perhaps the finest karaoke/sing in the car song ever.

Manic Monday – The Bangles

Taking the foot off the gas just slightly as Side A winds down.

Planet Claire – The B-52s

Closing out the side with the Bs at their goofy, weirdo best.

*Flip the tape*

Hot Blooded – Foreigner

Lou Gramm’s killer vocals and the mother of all power chords.

Hard to Handle – Otis Reading

Whenever I play this song I always enjoy seeing the inevitable “Hey?!!!” moment when people realize that the Black Crows didn’t write this one.

Athena – The Who

A sneaky great early 80s gem from The Who.

Two Tickets to Paradise – Eddie Money

I’m doling out pretty much nothing but killer riffs today.

Rich Girl – Hall and Oates

The Hall and Oates resurgence is kind of inexplicable when you stop and think about it, but there’s no denying this is a great, great song.

Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield

There is nothing inexplicable, however, about Dusty. One of the absolute true greats.

Beginning to See the Light – The Velvet Underground

I’m also a bit stunned that the VU haven’t shown up before, but I guess I did have Lou make an appearance on Vol. 3.

Goodbye Girl – Squeeze

Another transition that I’m really proud of, so let me bask in this one for a sec…Okay, I’m good. Go about your business.

Radio, Radio – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Closing the tape out with one of my favorite songs of all time.

As always, the mix is here for your listening/subscribing pleasure.

Now, I just need to decide if I’m going to tempt fate and risk putting out a Vol. 5. We all know what happened with Rocky flew to close to the sun with Tommy Morrison.

Cheers.

I Told You There Was More: The Awesome Mix Vol. 3

Remember last week when I said I had enough songs in mind for multiple volumes of the Awesome Mix? I wasn’t lying. I had enough in my initial list for about five volumes, but it was just a matter of figuring out how those songs best fit together to create something cohesive. For example, Satellite of Love by Lou Reed seemed kind of a slam dunk choice for a mix that might have featured in Guardians of the Galaxy, but I had to cut it because it just didn’t fit into the flow anywhere. This time around it did.

So, without further ado here’s the next edition. Same ground rules as last time: the songs had to be available at the time the Awesome Mix Vol.2 was given (which my always attentive to detail fan boy friends pointed out was actually 1988 not 1984), they have to fit on a standard 60 minutes cassette tape, they had to flow well together with abot 6 seconds of cross fade, they had to be awesome, and perhaps most importantly, they had to be available on Spotify (still steaming about being denied some Lou Gramm goodness.)

See No Evil – Television

The lead track from one of my favorite albums ever. Kicking things off strong.

Life During Wartime – Talking Heads

Following up with my favorite Talking Heads song ever. Also TH seems like a decidedly Peter Quill-ish band.

Carefree Highway – Gordon Lightfoot

Taking the foot off the gas a bit. I genuinely love this song, even though others tried to talk me into the droning monotony of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which I would have done if my intention was to get you to fall asleep or shut down your computer/ipod/other digital device in disgust.

Here I Am (Come and Take Me) – Al Green

Fills the Let’s Get It On “get sanctified through sensuality” role from the Vol.2 mix quite nicely. Preach on, Rev. Al.

Smokin’ in the Boys Room – Brownsville Station

No stinkin’ Motly Crue version needed. This song rocks.

Wrong ‘Em Boyo – The Clash

You listen to London Calling and it’s as if Joe Strummer was taunting the world. Any genre The Clash wanted to try, they could end up with a great song.

Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)

Love the original, but The Stones give it a bit more blues and elevate it to Awesome Mix status. Also leads quite nicely into…

Satellite of Love – Lou Reed

Happy to find a home for Lou closing out Side A.

*Flip the tape*

The Mighty Quinn – Manfred Mann

A Dylan song done so many ways, but I dig the MM version most of all.

Rehumanize Yourself – The Police

Man, The Police have a ridiculous number of great songs. The UK’s answer to Prince in that regard.

Ride On – Parliment

Strap in and let the P-Funk do it’s work. Kind of amazed they didn’t end up on Vol. 1 when I think about it.

Strip – Adam Ant

You can’t deny the power of Adam Ant. Just don’t try to fight it. Come to think of it, Adam Ant is actually the most Peter Quill-ish artist I can think of.

Toys in the Attic – Aerosmith

Much like Stevie Wonder, their later musical sins can’t overshadow their 70s greatness.

Save It For Later – The English Beat

It’s physically impossible to sit still while this song is on. FACT.

The Ghost in You – Psychedelic Furs

A personal favorite. Always thought the Furs should have been bigger than they were.

I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) – Stevie Wonder

You can make the argument that this song should close out every mix ever made and I wouldn’t argue the point with you.

Here it is in handy Spotify form for your listening/subscribing pleasure.

Cheers.

What’s on your “Awesome Mix Vol. 2?”

Without a doubt, one of the things that makes Guardians of the Galaxy so great is the prominent role that Peter Quill’s “Awesome Mix Vol. 1″ mix tape plays in the film (spoiler-free mini review: GotG is a ton of fun. Possibly the best Marvel film yet and the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. Highly recommend it.) I had a lot of fun the past couple of days (on a side note, I am easily entertained) imaging what is or should be on Vol. 2, so as is my habit I fired up Spotify and crafted a playlist to satisfy that curiosity. I actually ended up with enough songs to make several volumes, but cut it down to just 16 for this post. Here are the loose rules I followed:

  • This is supposed to be a mix tape with a side A and B, so I picked the length of my old favorite Maxell cassette and limited it to 60 minutes, and each side has to come in under 30
  • Peter gets the tape in 1984, so I tried to pick songs that were available at that time. I failed, but had good reasons to break those rules when i did
  • Since there’s two beginnings and ends on a cassette, the first and last songs on each side have to be killer tracks. This is very important
  • No worries about hipster cred here – the only requirement from a song standpoint is awesomeness
  • Mix tapes are best constructed so that songs flow from one to another with a bit of cross fade (I prefer around 6 seconds) so a lot of thought needs to go into the flow and song selection. It’s not a matter of just picking 16 great songs. You need the correct pacing and sequencing, just like when a band makes a great album or set list. you don’t want to know how difficult it was to make a cassette tape do this properly back in the day, but it’s a few simple clicks in Spotify or iTunes these days

(Editor’s Note: I’m writing this post under protest because any tape called the “Awesome Mix” needs to have Lou Gramm’s Midnight Blue and that song is only available on Spotify in horribly cheesy karaoke format. That’s a massive fail on Spotify’s part. It doesn’t meet the timeline requirements but that does not matter. It’s inherent awesomeness is timeless.)

Ok, here’s what I came up with after much deliberation. Consider this your liner notes insert.

Side A

Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye

A serious heavy hitter right out of the gate. The very definition of capital “A” Awesome.

Teenage Kicks – The Undertones

The great DJ John Peel once famously rated this song 28 stars out of 5. He was not wrong. It’s two and half minutes of pop perfection.

Love Is All Around – The Troggs

It’s really hard to believe that the same guys who wrote “Wild Thing” wrote one of the prettiest pop songs ever.

Hey Ladies – The Beastie Boys

This is the first exception to the timeline, but it’s totally worth it to hear the transition from the previous song to this to the next track…

Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin’ – Journey

A powerhouse of a song to complete that transition trifecta.

The Killing Moon – Echo and the Bunnyman

This is the most epic pop song of the 80’s that’s not Ceremony by New Order. Released in Jan 1984 so it sneaks into the timeline just under the wire and gives a nice tonal shift.

She’s a Beauty – The Tubes

This one builds up nicely to pick the pace back up heading into the end of side A. I watched this video obsessively back in the Friday Night Videos/MTV glory days.

September Girls – Big Star

Closing out Side A with an all-timer.

Side B

Blinded By The Light – Bruce Springsteen

Rewarding you for getting up and flipping the tape with a dose of crazy rhyming dictionary Boss. His only #1 song to date, only it was the Manfred Man’s version that hit the top. The original crushes it like a grape.

Raspberry Beret – Prince

Our second timeline violation, since it didn’t come out until a year later, but I’d like to think that there was a demo floating around that made it onto the mix. Another one I chose just for the transition. Plus, it’s an awesome song. “Because awesome” is always a valid reason.

All Day and All of the Night – The Kinks

Again, love that transition from the previous track and contrast of styles.

I Want You To Want Me – Cheap Trick

After Midnight Blue, this was the first song that came to mind for the mix. So good.

Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys

I’ve loved this song since I was a wee lad. It’s so good I can even forgive them for Kokomo.

In a Big Country – Big Country

Another video that I remember watching obsessively back in the day. Remember them riding around on the ATVs sporting all of that flannel? On second thought most of you probably don’t.

ABC – Jackson 5

My favorite part of Vol. 1 was the J5, and they get an encore with another track on Vol. 2

I’ve Done Everything for You – Rick Springfield

You can try and deny the awesomeness of the Side B closing track, but you would be very, very wrong.

Here it is in handy playlist form.

So what did I miss? What would be on your Vol. 2?

Cheers.

UPDATE: So, I learned for about the 400th time that you can’t mention something comic/fantasy/scifi related without first checking every minute detail of what you are saying for accuracy, even if your unintentional misstatements do not impact your end game, which in this case was to make a playlist. First off, looks like he got the mix tape in 1988, not 1984, so Prince is safe, leaving only the BB to violate the timeline. Even though this extended my window by a few years, I don’t think I would have changed anything. Second, yes, we did here a song from Vol. 2, but I kinda ignored that since the premise was “What’s on your awesome mix…” I thought that was obvious enough but apparently that caused heartburn for certain Hobbit-like creatures. That would also explain why I took the liberty of expanding beyond Peter’s mom’s taste in music. Anyway, I hope these grievous errors did not impact your ability to enjoy something fun. – JLo

 

Why do so many people hate greatness?

Hey, would you look at that? A new post. After writing myself silly for a month during the World Cup, I took a few weeks off from writing so I could do things like ride my bike occasionally, see my kids, and go back to taking regular showers. Well 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. I’ll let you guess which one of those things didn’t happen (here’s a hint – I smell as fresh and clean as fresh cut grass on a summer’s day.)

During that time, unless you were living under a rock, you probably heard the news about LeBron James’ decision to return to Cleveland, even if you do not normally follow the sports news. Despite all of my profuse pimping out of soccer lately, my first and best sporting love has always been basketball. It was the sport I played first, played competitively the longest and with the highest skill, and is one of the few that I retain some modicum of skill at these days. (For example unlike say, David Ortiz, my ability to hit a baseball very, very far did not drastically improve after the age of 32. *Cough* suspicious *Cough*)

Basketball and soccer, when played well and at a high level, have a lot of similarities, namely the importance of fluidity, motion, and vision. The greats see the game steps ahead of their opponents and even their teammates, allowing them to anticipate where an opposing defense is vulnerable and attack those vulnerabilities. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had that kind of vision, as do Andre Pirlo and Lionel Messi. It’s a rare gift, one that even some of the greatest players lack. Kobe Bryant is a great player by any definition, but I’m not sure you’d ever call him a great team player, and given the choice there are other players of lesser skill that I’d rather watch. I enjoy team greatness, including the Spurs near flawless performance in the Finals last year. (Spoiler alert, it’s why I pretty much can’t stand college basketball these days. The talent level is abysmal and the great players don’t stay long enough to develop any chemistry.)

All of this brings me back to LeBron. He’s one of the most singularly gifted athletes I’ve ever seen, and most certainly possesses the kind of gifts I’ve been describing. Possesses them in abundance, even, and does so inside the body of a power forward. He is an elite defender at four positions, and is more then competent and strong enough to guard the center position as needed. At 6’9″ and 270 pounds (though not anymore apparently) he was the primary ball handler for the Heat for four seasons and is such a sublime passer that perimeter shooters line up to take multimillion dollar pay cuts to play with him, knowing that he will find them in open spots. He can score the ball from perimeter, has a more than respectable intermediate range jump shot, can dominate the post when he chooses to, take bigger defenders off the dribble with ridiculous ease, finish at the rim with contact, and is practically unstoppable on a fast break. Oh yeah, he’s one of the most efficient scorers in history under 7′ tall and is an above average rebounder who if he tried to could likely average double figures in that category without much thought. He is the closest thing to a perfect basketball player as has every been created.

So I just have one question: Why do so many people seem to hate the guy?

Usually people point to the “decision,” where he announced that on national TV that he was leaving Cleveland and “taking his talents to South Beach,” which was an admittedly douche-y way to go about things. I won’t argue that, but he did manage to raise a boatload of cash for the Boys and Girls Club in the process, as well as giving the world one of the great all-purpose euphemisms of all time. (Think about it. The next time you are late for an appointment or event and somebody asks you what you were doing, just say “Oh, I was taking my talents to South Beach” and leave it at that. Then watch the looks you will get. Totally worth it.) And, on the scale of bad behavior for professional athletes, making a bad decision about how to announce your free agency choice is pretty tame. It’s pretty tame even for a nun or children’s entertainer when you stop and think about it. Let’s have some perspective, shall we?

Anyway, any complaint about abandoning his home state of Ohio and how he handled his business then has to completely wiped out by the manner in which he announced his return. Seriously, read this letter and try to find something wrong: it’s passionate, mature, heartfelt, determined, and full of joy at the prospect of bringing something great to the people of Cleveland (well, as great as a sports championship can be). First time I read it, I was almost ready to move to Cleveland, and I can say without hesitation that the worst year of my life was spent living in the state of Ohio and I vowed to never, ever go back.

What makes the news of LeBron’s return even more enticing is the seemingly inevitable prospect that Kevin Love will be joining him shortly in Cleveland. Not since Larry Bird briefly teamed with Bill Walton have two such skilled passers and perfect complimentary pieces teamed together, and I’m completely giddy at the prospect since both LeBron and Love  are in their primes, whereas Walton was a shell of himself by ’86 due to injury and the two could only show brief glimpses of the potential of their partnership. Love gives LeBron a legitimate post threat, insatiable rebounder, and one of the great outlet passers ever to play the game, allowing LeBron to play his natural position on the wing, where he can overpower or shoot/pass over smaller defenders, blow past bigger ones, dominate the passing lanes, get out on the receiving end of one of those Love outlet passes on the break, and just create general chaos and mayhem for opponents at both ends. Oh, did I mention Love shoots nearly 40% from 3-point range? Don’t think you won’t see this scenario below about 1000 times next year:

Love grabs a defensive rebound in traffic and immediately fires a perfect outlet pass, hitting LeBron in stride at half court. LeBron drives towards the basket and draws multiple defenders to him, while the others scrambling to cover Mike Miller spotting up in the opposite corner and Kyrie Irving, who is streaking toward the basket. LeBron stops, fakes to the cutting Irving, and swings the ball back to the top of the key to the trailing Love, who takes and makes the wide open 3-pointer.

No, is Cleveland going to be a truly great team? I don’t know. Irving will definitely have to adjust to playing off the ball more and Cleveland will need to find at least another defensive stopper not named LeBron. (Shawn Marion would be a good start.) Regardless though, the team will be immensely fun to watch, have a great mix of young and veteran players, and constitute the most talented team and one best-suited to his talents that LeBron has ever played with before, the Heat championship teams included.

So, do yourself a favor. Stop worrying about how much publicity he gets, or who he plays with or doesn’t (I don’t remember anybody complaining about the Lakers having Magic and Kareem and Worthy and the Celtics getting Bird and McHale and DJ or the Sixers having Dr. J and Moses and Mo Cheeks on the same teams back in the day. Negotiating the NBA’s rules to create cap the cap space and stockpile tradable assets needed to sign players – at the critical moments when those players are available, this is key – is every much as legitimate and skillful as developing a team through the draft. Cut to Knicks fans, nodding). Just watch the games, enjoy the skill set, and learn to recognize and appreciate true greatness when you see it.

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