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For my few living, devoted family members and friends, thanks for your encouragement and criticism of the prior must-have song list. Here’s my new batch of essentials:
“Maybe Tomorrow” by Stereophonics (You Gotta Go There To Come Back)
Hell, who hasn’t woken up in a place they ought not to; or been out too late in unexpected, borderline, life-threatening venues; or simply not sure what the next day might bring? Well, singer and guitarist Kelly Jones’ soulful hangover-sounding moan hits the mood perfectly with some unruly Jay-Hawksian guitar and killer Merry-Clayton-like background vocals. This is a must for your next long night out.
“Angels” by Robert Randolph & the Family Band (Colorblind)
A straight-ahead blues and slide-based love-song romp from sacred steel guitarist Robert Randolph. Great rhythmic slide riff that starts off the song and persists throughout. I like my blues and slide playing over a killer melody, and it's all here. Play it loud.
“Rise Up With Fists” by Jenny Lewis (Rabbit Fur Coat)
Such a pretty song about such bad people. Jenny Lewis is definitely angry about somebody -- yet her backing band the Watson Twins soften the blow.
“Dear Mama” by Tupac (Me Against the World)
Well it was just Mother’s Day, and Tupac celebrated his quite well on his 1995 single. A bunch of years ago I did a documentary on Tupac only to learn he was a closet Shakespeare and Don Mclean fan (yeah that’s right), and it all makes sense after you listen to this. If you don’t know already, Tupac was one of the finest street poets of our time – a great chronicler of his struggles – and gone way too soon.
“Leather Jacket” by Mick Taylor (Mick Taylor)
He just played some shows in New York after a hundred years away. “All your leather jackets and your faded jeans/ All you have left of your rock 'n' roll dreams.” I think this line was a knock on Mick Taylor's former bandmates in the Rolling Stones, but who cares? If you can pick up from “Time Waits for No One,” as he does here, it’s all good.
“Midnight In Harlem” by Tedeschi/Trucks Band (Revelator)
So Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes brought back The Brothers, and Susan Tedeschi sorta took the Bonnie Raitt mantle of a rootsy bluesy growl. Here they just make each other better. Best ballad I’ve heard in last couple of years -- and it comes with a Hammond B3.
“Sundrunk Angels” by Old Californio (Sundrunk Angels)
Think I found this one in a review in Q magazine -- strange to find a modern '70s-esque Laurel Canyon folk band with a touch of My Morning Jacket thrown on top in a foreign rag. Anyway, a great Sunday summer morning vibe.
Van Toffler is President of MTV’s Music & Logo Group. He’s a fan of sugary cereal, a good tequila and watching TV late at night, without the audio. You can listen to all of his picks via Spotify, below.