Song: John & Yoko
Artist: Rokia Traore, Mali
Album: Rhythms del Mundo, 2012
Notes: West African singer with a remarkable tribute to John and Yoko with specific reference to those tragic events in New York on December 8th, 1980. It's from a fascinating new various artists World Music album which features 'Africa Remixes' of several nuggets including others by the likes of R.E.M, Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beyonce and Eminem. Sales benefit the Artist Project Earth charity which helps to mitigate the impacts of drought and climate change.
Song: #9 Dream
Artist: John Lennon, England
Album: Walls And Bridges, 1974
Notes: The second single off the album, recorded following his break-up from Yoko and his famous 'lost weekend' in Los Angeles. He began work on the album in June 1974 following his return to New York City. His then-girlfriend May Pang helped out on backing vocals, singing the nonsensical phrase 'Ah! b'wakawa pouss, pouss'.
Song: Black Hole
Artist: Edith Backlund, Sweden
Notes: The 30-year-old Swede began her recording career with the 2005 EP 'Waste Another Day', followed by her debut album Merely Daydreamsin 2006. The driving, catchy 'Black Hole' leads off her newest album. More from Edith at www.edithbacklund.se.
Song: Whisper Low
Artist: Adam Agin, Nashville, TN
Notes: Another melancholic delight, the second single from his new album. It took the native of Indiana nearly four years to release the follow-up to his 'Foundation' EP debut, but it was worth the wait.
Song: New Amsterdam
Artist: Elvis Costello, England
Album: Get Happy, 1980
Notes: Taken from Elvis' fourth LP, a collaboration with the Attractions recorded in Holland, the song was the one solo track and recorded in London, with Elvis playing all the instruments - guitar, vibes, fretless bass and synth. In his words it was 'recorded in a fifteen quid-an-hour demo studio (back when fifteen pounds was a lot of money I can tell you)'.
Artist: Jules Larson, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Let's Stay Young, 2012
Notes: This indie rock artist has come a long way since deciding to take the solo route in 2009. Her songs have been featured in TV shows such as 'Pretty Little Liars', 'Castle' and 'Grey's Anatom'y, various ad campaigns, and most recently in the film 'The Lucky One'
Song: Summer Girl
Artist: Family Of The Year, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Songbook, 2009
Notes: Taken from the their debut EP 'Where's The Sun' in 2009, before finding its way on to their first album, this wouldn't sound out of place on Crosby, Stills & Nash's first album, with a dash of Beach Boys thrown in for good measure. The gorgeous harmonies wash over a simple piano part, broken up by a guitar bridge.
Artist: Robbie Williams, England
Album: Greatest Hits, 2004
Notes: One of England's biggest solo stars and a former member of boy-band supreme Take That, he still means little over here. This anthemic ballad also appeared on the 'Bridget Jones - The Edge of Reason' soundtrack. Mention should be made of the sumptuous production by Stephen Duffy, who fronts his own band, the always-interesting Lilac Time.
Artist: Pocket Size, England
Album: 100% Human, 1999
Notes: The short-lived British synth duo of Liz Overs and Darren Pearson - who were formerly known as The Hip Troop and latterly called themselves Baby Jupiter. They only cut one album, and then just disappeared, but this peppy number showed what they were capable of.
Artist: R.E.M., Athens, GA
Notes: Their final single and the leadoff track to their career-spanning compilation. Filled with delightful musical references - a touch of Duane Eddy guitar and a Burt Bacharach flute break, as well as a gorgeous string section and Jacknife Lee's first-rate production, it's hard to believe it failed to chart anywhere - except believe it or not, in Venezuela.
Song: Start To Begin
Artist: The Brevet, Irvine, CA
Album: Battle Of The Heart, 2012
Notes: Led by a driving drum pattern from David Aguiar and a powerhouse vocal from Aric Damm, this first single comes from their soon-to-be released debut album. They describe their music as 'a unique one of kind sound that serves to be the soundtrack of your life'. More on the group at www.thebrevet.com.
Song: Hounds Of Love
Artist: Kate Bush, England
Album: Hounds Of Love, 1985
Notes: The title track from her dynamic fifth album from 1985 and the first she recorded at her home studio. In 2004, Q magazine voted the song Number in its all-time greatest British songs. In a career spanning 35 years, she has lost none of her relevance, with her newest album '50 Words For Snow', winning the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Best Album earlier in the year.
Song: Better Than Gold
Artist: Kevin Daniel, Los Angeles, CA
Album: All The Wiser (EP), 2011
Notes: Growing up in a small Midwest town, the piano-playing singer/songwriter followed his muse to Boston with a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music, followed by a soul-searching sojourn to Australia. A still-promising young singer/songwriter, he's been a recording artist for about three years and has penned for the likes of the brilliant Angel Taylor and Five For Fighting. More on him at kevindanielmusic.com.
Song: Just A Smile
Artist: Pilot, Scotland
Album: A's B's & Rarities, 2005
Notes: Comprising David Paton, Ian Bairnson, Billy Lyall and Stuart Tosh, they had a brief moment in the spotlight in the mid '70s. They were produced by Alan Parsons, who in turn recruited all but Lyall for his Alan Parsons Project. Paton then went on to work for Elton John, while Bairnson's guitar work can be heard on Kate Bush's 'Wuthering Heights'.
Song: Inside This Song
Artist: Liz Longley, Philadelphia, PA
Album: Inside This Song, 2012
Notes: The title cut from her exceptional and highly-recommended album. She is yet another graduate from the Berklee School of Music, recently moved from Philadelphia to Nashville and has shared the staged with Nanci Griffith, Shawn Colvin and Amos Lee among others. She's currently working on her fourth full-length album due in the spring.
Song: American Tune
Artist: Paul Simon, Newark, NJ
Album: Live Rhymin' Simon, 1973
Notes: Originally recorded for his 1973 opus 'There Goes Rhymin' Simon' but nailed on stage in New York the following year. Interestingly, the tune is based on Hans Leo Hassler's 16th century melody 'Mein Gmuth Ist Mir Verwirret', which in turn was borrowed by Johann Sebastian Bach for a chorale in the 'St. Matthew's Passion'.
Song: Just Say Yes
Artist: Snow Patrol, Scotland
Album: Up To Now, 2009
Notes: Lead singer Gary Lightbody actually wrote the tune for Gwen Stefani who rather surprisingly turned it down so it ended up being the band's lead single from their compilation album. They lensed a wonderful spacey, dreamy companion video filmed in an inflatable dome in Poland - well worth a gander.
Song: Everyone's Got Something
Artist: Perrin Lamb, Nashville, TN
Album: Back To You, 2012
Notes: After three EPs recorded over a period of five years, the Mississippi-born Perrin singer/songwriter finally releases an album, albeit with seven tracks, including this gentle guitar-backed ballad. As he says about himself, he doesn't live in 'an old, romantic run-down farmhouse by the abandoned train depot, or a stark, concrete loft where the model next door peers forlornly at him through the curtains'. He lives like the rest of us and jots down lyrics at the kitchen table while arguing with his toddler to finish her vegetables.
Song: I'd Be An Angel
Artist: Randy Crawford, Macon, GA
Notes: A lost soul sapphire, written by German composers Astrid North and Jens Krause, who provides the keyboard part on the track, from a sadly-unappreciated talent here in this country. Her canon of work, which includes 'Almaz', 'Now We May Begin', 'One Day I'll Fly Away' and 'Tender Falls The Rain', warrants far more success.
Song: She Saw The World
Artist: Blue Nile, Scotland
Album: High, 2004
Notes: Firmly fronted by their distinctive vocalist and songwriter Paul Buchanan, who is one of the most talented and enigmatic characters in rock music. After four albums in 28 years, he finally released his stunning solo debut album 'Mid Air' earlier this year. Find out more at paulbuchanan.com
Song: Fascinating Rhythm
Artist: Bassomatic, England
Notes: Brilliantly fusing funk, electronica beats, hip-hop, pop and rock and sampling Tommy Roe's 'Dizzy' and Jimi Hendrix's 'Fire' amongst others, this was one of the earliest efforts from British electronic whiz William Orbit, a remixer and producer who's worked with the likes of Madonna, Prince, the Cure and Sting.
Artist: Glen Phillips, Santa Barbara, CA
Album: Winter Pays For Summer, 2005
Notes: A solo artist since 1998 when his former band Toad The Wet Sprocket split up, he's recorded four full-length studio albums to date, though his live schedule took a pause in 2008 after he badly damaged his left arm in an accident.
Song: Further Away
Artist: Ben Howard, England
Album: Every Kingdom, 2011
Notes: A singer/songwriter from the west county of Devon in England and signed to the Island label, where other folk luminaries Nick Drake and John Martyn also found a home. His album was nominated for the 2012 Mercury Prize.
Song: Love At First Sight
Artist: Gist, England
Album: Embrace The Herd, 1983
Notes: A completely unknown little gem from a short-lived indie combo from England formed by Stuart Moxham who previously fronted the rather cool Young Marble Giants. The group was around just long enough to record one album and to see this song become a French hit for Etienne Daho translated as 'Paris, Le Flore'.
Song: You've Got Me
Artist: Jillian Edwards, Dallas, TX
Album: Headfirst, 2011
Notes: Relocated to Nashville after she graduated from Baylor in May of last year after recording an EP while at college, she released her first album late last year, featuring this delight and its exquisite harmonizing vocal bridge.
Song: To Ohio
Artist: Low Anthem, Providence, RI
Notes: Lovely rootsy, rustic authentic Americana from a quartet formed in 2006 by Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky. Their simple but well-textured song construction and execution rarely miss.
Artist: Gabrielle Aplin, England
Notes: A promising new English folk popster just turned 20, her full-length maiden album isn't scheduled to emerge until early in 2013, but at the moment she's the odds-on favorite to snare the Christmas Number One in the UK with her version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'The Power Of Love'. More on Gabrielle at www.gabrielleaplin.co.uk.
Song: In The End
Artist: Royal Concept, Sweden
Album: The Royal Concept (EP), 2012
Notes: A mighty slice of anthemic melodic modern rock from another fascinating Scandinavian combo. They've just released their freshman offering, on which this electro belter can be found. They're a tight foursome led by singer/guitarist, David Larson.
Song: Baby I Can't Please You
Artist: Sam Phillips, Glendale, CA
Album: Martinis And Bikinis, 1994
Notes: This veteran singer/songwriter, now in her 50s, has cut more than a dozen albums in a career spanning almost 30 years from her debut 'Beyond Saturday Night', released under her real name Leslie Phillips. Like most of her work, this track is produced by uber-producer and former husband, T-Bone Burnette.
Artist: Accents, Simsbury, CT
Album: Growth And Squalor, 2012
Notes: The plaintive acoustic-guitar led song featuring the voice of TJ Foster, now based in Albany, New York. Beautiful harmony work by his bandmate Benjamin Hemingway on one of several terrific tracks from their album.
Song: It'll Do
Artist: Rachael Yamagata, Arlington, VA
Album: Heavyweight, 2012
Notes: From the opening cascading piano chords, this ultimate ballad detailing the compromise of an everyday love, someone resigned to the middle ground, a relationship devoid of romance or passion - the normalcy of a realistic acceptance of how things are - no princes, no castles, no horses, no fairytales - just a modest bond that will do for now. The standout pearl on her recent EP.
Song: Rapture Riders
Artist: Blondie Vs. Doors, New York, NY & Los Angeles, CA
Notes: Mashed together by British specialist remixer Mark Vidler, this convergence of two giants met with the approval of both bands, even appearing on Blondie's 2005 album 'Greatest Hits - Sight + Sound', as well as topping Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart in 2006.
Song: Amber's Song
Artist: Davy Knowles & Back Door, Isle Of Man
Album: Coming Up For Air, 2009
Notes: Better known as a sort of Celtic blues rocker who first picked up the guitar at the age of 11 when he learned to play Dire Straits' seminal 'Sultans Of Swing' by ear, and further influenced by the music of Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher and Robert Johnson. He formed his Back Door backing group in 2005 and has established a strong niche following over here. This track was produced by Peter Frampton, himself no slouch in the guitar department.
Song: I Need A Dollar
Artist: Aloe Blacc, Orange County, CA
Album: Good Things, 2010
Notes: A lovely vintage groove and a super old-school folk soul feel to a song recorded in 2010 for his sophomore album. Despite being used as the opening track to the HBO series How To Make It In America, it did nothing over here, which must be frustrating for the young man, whose real name is Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III.
Song: Here Comes The Sun
Artist: James Taylor/Beatles, Boston, MA
Notes: George Harrison's wonderful song, covered here by cellist Yo-Yo Ma for his 2008 Christmas album 'Songs Of Joy & Peace', with former Apple recording artist and national treasure adding his distinctive tones, and offering it on his latest seasonal offering seguing into the original, written in the garden of Eric Clapton's house Hurtwood.