Song: Mr. Rock n Roll
Artist: Amy MacDonald, Scotland
Album: This Is The Life, 2007
Notes: Somehow never a hit Stateside,the superb rollicking debut single by a talented Scottish lass who wrote this percolating nugget when she was just 18. MacDonald hails from Bishopbriggs, a wee town in the Scottish highlands, and has had a couple of sterling follow-up folk-pop/rock albums since her booming maiden CD, but has remained quiet of late. For some inexplicable reason BBC Television used this terrific rumbler for its Olympics China coverage back in 2008. More at amymacdonald.co.uk.
Song: The Old Magician
Artist: Prefab Sprout, England
Album: Crimson/Red, 2014
Notes: Lord have mercy and be kind, when our faculties unwind' - superior lyrics, extraordinary subject matter, a predictably strong melody and a sublime harmonica bridge. The refined art and craft of singer-songwriter Paddy McAloon - celebrating three decades of largely overlooked top notch fare. Following a four-year hiatus, McAloon returned last year (under the band name) with a stunning new collection, which he dedicated to his wife and daughters. It seems health issues have put McAloon back into hibernation, hopefully only temporarily. No-one else weaves lyrics and instrumentation in quite the same fashion.
Song: On The Radio
Artist: Andy Stochansky, Canada
Album: Not Available
Notes: A top-drawer number that ironically has never been heard on the radio - other than on 'L&F'. Stochansky is a singer-songwriter long based in Los Angeles, but started out as a drummer in his native Canada. His solo debut came in 1996, followed by a further three albums over the next decade, since when there has been nothing. No longer interested in pursuing a career as a performer, he contines to write terrific songs, some of which have been recorded by the likes of The Goo Goo Dolls, Matthew Perryman Jones and Vanessa Amorosi. If you want to hear more by Andy check out his House of Andy setup on the excellent Soundcloud streaming service.
Song: To Protect
Artist: Mackintosh Braun, Portland, OR
Album: Where Are We, 2010
Notes: A drop-dead catchy chorus, funky electro backbeat, wave after wave of melodic synth magic on a terrific lost gem by a Portland, Oregon-based synth pop-rock duo comprising Ian Mackintosh and Ben Braun. They issued a stunning debut album five years ago titled 'Where We Are', which was chock full of melodic chestnuts. As Mackintosh explained at the time - 'We both wanted to create something exciting and innovative, but something that's also familia'. They're currently polishing off their third long player. More at mackintoshbraun.com.
Song: Ain't No Love
Artist: David Gray, England
Album: Life In Slow Motion, 2005
Notes: A heartbroken diamond from a decade ago on a CD inspired by a couple of Icelandic acts, Sigur Ros and Bjork - indeed its cover photo was taken in the Arctic. The British singer-songwriter is now nine albums deep into his studio canon with only the seminal 'White Ladder' widely purchased, but dozens of fine lost snowflakes can be found on the other eight. His most recent effort, 'Mutineers', was released last year and he followed up with a new single, 'Snow In Vegas', a duet with LeAnn Rimes. He's just wrapped up a US tour, performing two dates at the Hollywood Bowl with Amos Lee and accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. More at davidgray.com.
Song: Ain't You Tired
Artist: Thomas Newman, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: Of the dozens of superb soundtracks created by Thomas Newman over the past 30 years, it's simply impossible to choose just one theme as the so-called best, so this is merely one highlight from his extraordinary catalog: some bittersweet, uncomplicated genius from the 2011 movie, 'The Help'. It says much for the times in which we live that although nominated for an Oscar on ten occasions, he has never won. Similarly his cousin Randy was nominated 13 times before finally nabbing a trophy for 'Monsters Inc.' (arguably one of his weakest works).
Song: Lover Lover Lover
Artist: Races, Van Nuys, CA
Album: Year Of The Witch, 2012
Notes: This was such a strong start to their young career back in 2012 by a band from Van Nuys in California with a fabulous catchy burst of no-nonsense alternative rock. It was the bonus cut on their debut set 'Year of the Witch' which you can still stream in its entirety on the Soundcloud platform at soundcloud.com/races. Now trimmed to a quintet from its six-piece beginnings, formed by the disillusioned, then 23-year old, Wade Ryff in 2009. More at racestheband.com.
Song: I'm Through
Artist: Ingrid Michaelson, Staten Island, NY
Album: Human Again, 2012
Notes: Michaelson has been one of L&F's favorite artists over the years, with half a dozen superlative tracks, including two featuring Trent Dabbs and A Great Big World, on her 'Human Again' opus alone. Opening with a stark string quartet, which leads into a beautiful vocal performance backed by a simple piano part, this heartbreaking, melodic masterclass with wrenching, spare purity is stunning in its simplicity. She sadly recently separated from her husband Greg Laswell. More at ingridmichaelson.com.
Song: Maple Tree
Artist: Angel Taylor, Sylmar, CA
Album: Love Travels, 2009
Notes: The vocal bridge on this lost pearl is actually too good. When L&F started 199 shows ago, a different song from her remarkable debut album was played for the first 14 weeks. One of most underrated young female singer-songwriters out there, she's a 22-year-old songstress based in Los Angeles with just a couple of EPs and one album to date. Her long-gestating sophomore set should emerge by year's end. No website, but some information at facebook.com/angeltaylor.
Song: Waiting For A Train
Artist: Flash & The Pan, Australia
Album: Headlines, 1982
Notes: Aussie-based synth pop duo comprising Dutchman Harry Vanda, born with the delightful name of Johannes Hendrikus Jacob van den Berg, and Scottish-born George Young, who started out as members of The Easybeats in the 1960s, writing their best known hit 'Friday On My Mind.' In a parallel production career, they produced many of the AC/DC's biggest hits (George is the older brother of band members Angus and Malcolm Young). They also wrote the worldwide smash 'Love Is In The Air' by John Paul Young (no relation). The pair was deservedly inducted in the ARIA Hall of Fame in its inaugural year in 1988.
Artist: Emeli Sande, Scotland
Album: Our Version Of Events, 2012
Notes: Yet another sterling delicacy from an L&F favorite, born of an English mother and a Zambian father but raised in Scotland, and featured on her ridiculously strong maiden album. Anyone who has either of Adele's first two long-players would be well advised to pick up this record. The comparisons with Adele are self-evident: she too writes all her own material straight from the heart, they're both in their mid-20s, both are strident, strong role models - and both share the same first name: Emeli's real first name is also Adele. She deservedly won two BRIT awards in 2013 and upon receiving her trophy for Best British Album, said: 'This was an album I wrote because I didn't have the confidence to sing these things in person, and for me, to have so many people to connect with this album and find strength in these words makes me feel incredible and doesn't make me feel as lonely.'
Song: Every Time It Rains
Artist: Randy Newman, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Bad Love, 1999
Notes: An artist who been nominated and awarded multiple times for Grammys, Emmys, Oscars, Golden Globes and goodness knows what else and yet half a century on still writes some of the most literate and searching music of any composer. Going back to his wonderful 'Just One Smile', a hit for Gene Pitney in 1966, his catalog of songs seems never-ending. Everyone probably has their own favorite, but this song from his first album in almost a decade is about as good as it gets - and to think Michael Jackson rejected it. Newman's own take on the song is that he wouldn't be surprised if it was 'the easiest to take for people who've never heard me before'. He's currently working on 'Toy Story 4' which is due in theaters in 2017.
Artist: Kate Earl, Chugiak, AK
Album: Kate Earl, 2009
Notes: Originally from Alaska but with a fascinating family lineage - she's part Welsh, part Filipino, part Dutch - she took up the piano at the age of four but only got to the guitar at seventeen. She's released three albums to date, which are all worth a listen. Her most recent EP 'Ransom', funded through PledgeMusic and partly recorded in Jamaica, was released last year. Both her website and facebook links are broken, so her whereabouts are somewhat of a mystery, although a recent sighting has her living in London.
Song: Never Stop Loving You
Artist: Graphite Man, Nashville, TN
Album: Not available
Notes: This delightful confection is deceptively simple and an ace offering by the multi-faceted Music City tunesmith Kyle Rictor, who is one-half of the L&F-featured Rictor combo with his wife Kelsey and also a leading light in General Ghost, now ghost-writing under the name Graphite Man. You can stream this exquisite gem again on his Soundcloud page (https://soundcloud.com/graphite-man/never-stop-loving-you) - and keep up with all things Rictor at rictormusic.com.
Song: Mind Made Up
Artist: Jillian Edwards, Dallas, TX
Album: Headfirst [EP], 2011
Notes: Dripping with quality, songwriting and execution of the highest order, from a Texan singer-songwriter who relocated to Nashville after she graduated from Baylor in May of 2011. She released her debut album 'Daydream' back in 2013 and has seen several placements of her songs on TV shows and has just released a new single, 'I Go On'. Check her out at jillianedwards.com, where she writes of her first music video - 'It's just a song. But I really do hope, in even the smallness of this song, that it adds some brightness to your day'.
Song: The Downtown Lights
Artist: Blue Nile, Scotland
Album: Hats, 1989
Notes: Sparkling, hypnotic, conversely downbeat and upbeat, simultaneously discordant and yet highly melodic, at once peaceful and yet desperate, a shimmering gem. There's been so much largely unheralded superior music made by this group, showcasing the songwriting chops and distinctive vocal class of mainman Paul Buchanan. He's an enigmatic chap, happily flying under the radar. He formed Blue Nile in 1981 with childhood friend Robert Bell in his native Scotland, but seriously takes his time recording new material. He's only released four Blue Nile albums and one solo collection (the magnificent 'Mid Air' in 2012 from which L&F played five of the tracks) over more than three decades - though each of them worth their weight in platinum. Much loved among his contemporaries, notably Joni Mitchell, who's a big fan. More at paulbuchanan.com.
Artist: James Taylor, Boston, MA
Album: Gorilla, 1975
Notes: The perfect marriage of almost filmic lyrics and sweet simple melodies on a lonesome lost sapphire from his underrated 1975 album, 'Gorilla'. For all his hits and iconic popularity, this extraordinary ballad remains unknown and under-cherished. He's been touring most years, gently rolling out his immaculate catalog to longtime fans - but if you haven't heard them take note that he recently issued his first collection of new compositions in 13 years called 'Before This World' which he recorded in a barn on his home in western Massachusetts - and which, astonishingly, became his first ever #1 album on the Billboard chart. More at jamestaylor.com.
Song: Swimming In Your Ocean
Artist: Crash Test Dummies, Canada
Album: God Shuffled His Feet, 1994
Notes: A lost corker by a band featuring the bizarre and utterly original deep bass-baritone lead vocal of Brad Roberts and best remembered for their big hit 'Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm' in 1994. Roberts now resides in Manhattan, and has a fun tumblr page with some wacky photos taken outside his apartment in Soho - crashtestdummies.tumblr.com. The band is still going strong after 25 years, albeit with only Roberts and Ellen Reid from its original line-up, releasing a new studio album, 'Oooh La! La!,' in 2010 and a compilation of unreleased demos, 'Demo-litions,' in 2011.
Artist: Sinead O'Connor, Ireland
Notes: It's been so lonely without you here, like a bird without a song, nothing can stop these lonely tears from falling. Tell me baby where did I go wrong, I could put my arms around every boy I see, but they'd only remind me of you. I went to the doctor and guess what he told me, he said girl you better try to have fun, no matter what you do, but he's a fool.' A woman frozen in heartache, unable to move on from the devastating loss of her dearest love, nothing else matters, nothing can be replaced, nothing to take away the blues - a profoundly authentic soul-wrenching vocal from another world, a different league, one of the truly great live performances. The emotion pouring out of her vocals on the single note she holds in the extended bridge is perhaps the most breathless, mournful, pleading wail in rock music history. This rare live version of what was an unknown Prince song before O'Connor made it her own, cannot be bought, downloaded or pirated for love or money - it's from an old 1991 UK CD single - and is L&F's second saddest lost song of all-time.
Song: Into The Fire
Artist: Thirteen Senses, England
Album: Falls In The Dark, 2003
Notes: Over the years L&F has also spun 'Call Someone' and 'The Salt Wound Routine' from a band that emerged as part of same Brit-Pop movement which spawned Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol. They've been around for more than a decade, releasing four sensational albums over that time - all of them bizarrely overlooked by nearly everyone. They've just uploaded two cracking archive recordings at Soundcloud - soundcloud.com/thirteensenses/a-new-kind-of-light and soundcloud.com/thirteensenses/heal-to-let-it-go. More at thirteensenses.com.