Music you haven’t heard (but should)

Could'a, should'a, been hits...

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Abstract

These could have been USA hits, but weren’t.
Everyone’s taste in music is different, but if you like unique-but-pleasing melodies (like Paul Simon, for example) you might find some new favorites in this list.

Shortcut (to knowing if you will like any of this music)
The music described below is a subset of material that I treasure because it enriches my life. For me, music isn’t for dancing to, for background noise, an expression of mood, it isn’t lyrics that speak to me, it isn’t a statement of hatred masking insecurities or a childhood of hurt or emptiness or being born to the “wrong” culture. To me, music makes my ears happy by being both unique and pleasant. These are the same two qualities that most songs must have to become popular with the general public and obtain “hit” status. There *is* some variability in the concept of “pleasant”, but there is also a broad constituency. The ability to compose and perform this aural ambrosia is rare and fleeting, even Paul Simon has some duds. You can skim through this article and try to get a “feel” as to whether it is worth your time to click on some links and sample these selections. OR you can click on this link to a sample mp3 containing about 25 brief cuts which will play (or download for playback if you prefer) and you can decide if we share any tastes and continue on to the rest of this article. Here is a second one and a third one. If you do listen to the above links of samples, please note how the melody of each selection is both UNIQUE and PLEASANT.

If you like a significant number of these songs, please leave a comment and I want a peek at *your* playlists!

NOTE: the links on this page DO NOT open in new windows, so use the appropriate technique for your browser to open them in new windows or tabs, to avoid having to use the BACK button all the time, if you drift off on a tangent..

Off the beaten path

You won’t find these on the mainstream playlists, but they ARE relatively popular.

coming…

Ben Folds    Rent A Cop;

Lily Allen    Alfie; LDN; Not Big; Smile

Nelly Furtado    Baby Girl; Turn Off The Light

Lorraine Feather:
A great singer/writer in a jazzy/lounge style

Colin Hay:

The lead singer from Men at Work, twice featured on Scrubs

    • Waiting For My Real Life To Begin (sample)

Ben Folds:
(sometimes “The Ben Folds Five”)
Despite being a Wm Shatner collaborator, he’s really good (honest).

Lilly Allen:
This Brit  packages dark lyrics in amazingly cheerful melodies


Tegan and Sara:
These young Canadian sisters have a punk/folk style with lots of creativity

Note: Tegan and Sara’s video for “I Hear Noises” contained many references to the movie “Phantom of the Paradise”, whose soundtrack is featured below.

A little more off the beaten path

Lenka    The Show
Anjulie    Boom

Amanda Jenssen    Do you love me; Amarula Tree; Unchain My Heart
Bitter Sweet    The Bomb
Fol Chen    Cable TV
Kristin Andreassen    Crayola
Melody Gardot    Worrisome Heart
Metric    Raw Sugar
Panic Ensemble    Spring In Your Heart


Way off the beaten path

You won’t find these anywhere, except my playlists. They were on the internet once, but not now.

Nobody Likes Kenny:
Pretty good for a group no one knew existed

  • Insane With You
  • Electricity
Forever Green:
Tree huggers and bongo drums

  • Visions
  • Ocean Song
  • Wild And Green


International One Hit Wonders

You haven’t heard them, cuz their only hits weren’t played in the US of A.

Las Ketchup:

Plastic Bertrand:


More than just International One Hit Wonders

Oh sure, you remember their one transatlantic hit, but have you listened to the whole album?

Peter Schilling:
German Famous for Major Tom (Coming Home) (video) a rework of David Bowie’s Space Oddity
You can hear most of these on my “Error in the system” playlist.

  • Error in the System album
  • …Dann Trügt Der Schein (sample)
  • Only Dreams
  • Die Wüste Lebt (sample)
  • Lifetime Guarantee (English version) / Fast Alles Konstruiert (German version) (sample)
  • Error In The System (English version) / Fehler Im System (German version) (sample)
  • Major Tom (Coming Home) (sample) (sample or buy from Amazon)
  • Major Tom, Pt. 2 (sample)
  • (Let’s Play) U.S.A. (English version) (sample) / U.S.A. (German version) (sample)
  • The Noah Plan (complete song) (sample)
  • Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht (“Silent Night, Holy Night”)

Nena:
German famous for “99 Red Balloons” (English version), but the whole album is superb.
You can hear most of these on my “Nena” playlist.


You’ve heard *OF* them, but you haven’t really *heard* them

These have all had more than one hit, but have at least one good song that you probably haven’t heard

10cc:
Can’t believe I just discovered their “non-hits”. Their hits were from the more “accessible” Gouldman/Stewart collaborations (one was even after Godley and Creme left the group). The Godley/Creme collaborations were more artsy, but still quite pleasing, and definitely unique.

  • Windows In The Jungle album

Seals and Crofts:

Yeah, I know, their hits were funky (but I like them alright), however their first two albums were good bluegrass. (reviews) You can hear these songs on my playlist.

      • Seals and Crofts album   [buy from Amazon]
        • See My Life (sample)
        • Sea Of Consciousness (sample)
        • Seldom’s Sister (sample)
        • Not Be Found (sample)
        • Birthday of My Thoughts (sample)
        • In Tune (sample)
        • Cows Of Gladness (sample)
        • Earth (sample)
        • Seven Valley (sample)
        • Jekyll And Hyde (sample)
        • Ashes In The Snow (sample)
        • See My Life (Reprise) (sample)

The Motels:
Hits included Suddenly Last Summer (sample) (video) and Only the Lonely (sample) (video). While some of songs are a little barren in the verses, there’s always a good UPM* payload in the choruses.  (*UPM = “unique, pleasing melody”)

  • No Vacancy album
    • Apocalypso (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Icy Red (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Danger (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Celia (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Shame (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • So L.A. (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Total Control (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Take The L (sample) (video last part) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Trust Me (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Remember The Nights (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Little Robbers (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Annie Told Me (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Whose Problem? (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • Mission Of Mercy (sample) (video 2nd half) (sample or buy from Amazon)
    • He Hit Me (And It Felt Just Like A Kiss) (sample) (video) (sample or buy from Amazon)

The Waitresses:
Hits included Wasn’t Tommorow Wonderful? and I Know What Boys Like
Another ex
ample of how being really good, transends genre.

  • Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? album

Donna Lewis:
She’s had lots of hits (I Love You Always Forever), but this one didn’t make it across the ocean



obscure A Capella

There are probably lots more of these out there somewhere…


The Wailin’ Jennys:
I discovered them on the Prairie Home Companion. Don’t care much for their non- a capella work, though.
You can hear all these songs here.

Lotus:
This was a good group I first heard in concert, they were out of Moscow, Idaho.
You can hear all these songs here.

      • The Dance Goes On album
        • Sparkling Gold
        • On Children
        • Working In Corners
        • Bamboo
        • Testimony
        • More Than Words
        • Big Yellow Taxi
        • Angel From Montgomery
        • Days Of White Dresses
        • Lollipop
        • Loving On The Outside
        • Bad For Me
        • I’m White
        • God’s Gift To Women
        • Song For The Earth’s Children
        • Take Me Back On Hills I Love
        • Bridges

Mockingbird:
This is the successor to Lotus, one member continued on with new singers.
You can hear all these songs here.

      • Drenched album
        •  Rosehip November
        •  I Will
        •  Everything Possible
        • Corn Rigs
        • I Did Not Hear Them Go
        • Simple Gifts
        • Drenched
        • Come Softly To Me
        • Sh Boom



Soundtracks

Only one, but it needed its own category

Phantom of the Paradise
This low budget, campy and maudlin Paul Williams movie didn’t do as well as Rocky Horror Picture Show, even in the cult circuit, but had much better songs.
Phantom of the Paradise was a 1974 horror-thriller musical farce film written and directed by Brian De Palma (
Carrie, The Untouchables, The Bonfire of the Vanities, Mission: Impossible, etc). The story combines portions of Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Faust. The film was marketed with the tagline “He sold his soul for rock n’ roll”, and then with “He’s been maimed and framed, beaten, robbed and mutilated. But they still can’t keep him from the woman he loves.” Initially a box office failure and panned by most critics, it has since gained a cult following. I think that despite it’s poor “production values” and acting, it captures a dreamlike quality that doesn’t care about continuity. The visual surprises and the outstanding music make it a treat for the (old) soul.

You can hear all these songs here.

You can view a trailer that should have been here.
For more about the film, see the WikiPedia article and this site.
The songs below are not listed in order of appearance, but in order of how much I like them.

    • Old Souls (sung by Jessica Harper) (video)
    • Phantom’s Theme (Beauty & The Beast) (sung by Paul Williams) (video)
    • Special To Me (sung by Jessica Harper) (video)
    • Faust (sung by Bill Finley) (video)
    • Hell Of It – Paul Williams (video)
    • Somebody Super Like You (Beef Construction Song) (sung by Harold Oblong, The Undeads) (video)
    • Life At Last – (sung by Ray Kennedy) (see video above, 2nd half)
    • Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye (sung by Archie Hahn, Juicy Fruits) (video)
    • Upholstry (sung by Jeffrey Comanor, Beach Bums) (video, first part)

Trivia: Peter Boyle was supposed to play Beef (who performs in a Frankenstein-like musical number), but was still busy filming Young Frankenstein. Jessica Harper beat out Linda Ronstadt for the Phoenix part. It was one of her first films. Sha Na Na was originally cast to play the bands “The Juicy Fruits/Undeads”, but couldn’t agree on who would get the best part. Several of the cast members were originally cast for roles that someone else played. Sissy Spacek’s SO was production designer and she was “set dresser”. Mostly shot in LA, but also in NY and Dallas. Dallas contributed the Majestic Theater for interior shots of the Paradise, the Old Courthouse for Swan’s mansion and the Zales (now the Mobil Oil) building for Death Records’ building. The latter was also used in Logan’s Run.

The principal theme of the film is how commercial interests suck the life out of art and their creators, which brings us to…


Christian

Back when contemporary Christian music (Jesus Movement) was new, and still had melodies, and before the secular music industry took over.


You can hear many of these songs here.

Keith Green:
Youngest artist to sign with ASCAP (age 11, in 1965), Keith was supposed to be a teen idol. Keith became a Christian and turned his talents to his new faith.
You can hear many of these songs here.

  • For Him Who Has Ears To Hear album
    • Your Love Broke Through () (video)
    • You Put This Love In My Heart () (video)
    • When I Hear The Praises Start () (video) (video)
    • I Can’t Believe It!
    • Because Of You
    • He’ll Take Care Of The Rest (video)
    • No One Believes In Me Anymore (video)
    • Song To My Parents (I Only Want To See You There)
    • Trials Turned To Gold
    • Easter Song (video) (video)

Randy Stonehill:
Another of the “founders of contemporary Christian music” (with Keith Green and Phil Keagy).

You can hear many of these songs here.

  • Welcome To Paradise album
    • King Of Hearts
    • Keep Me Runnin’ (video)
    • The Winner (High Card)
    • Lung Cancer
    • Puppet Strings
    • First Prayer
    • I’ve Got News For You
    • Song For Sarah
    • Christmas Song For All Year ‘Round
    • Good News

2nd Chapter of Acts:
A brother/sisters act from the early 70’s

You can hear many of these songs here.

Matthew Ward:
The male member of 2nd Chapter of Acts did some solo work.

You can hear most of these songs here.

  • Toward Eternity album
    • Toward Eternity
    • It’s All Right
    • Soft Spot
    • Noah’s Song
    • Til’ the Walls Fall Down
    • Gotta Do Better Than This
    • Your Love Came Over Me
    • Hold On
    • Angels Unaware
    • Summer Snow
    • Vineyard

The Imperials:
Originally a Southern Gospel group, their brief foray into contemporary music was their best work. The members have changed greatly over the years.

You can hear many of these songs here.

  • Sail On album (not their first CCM/Jesus Movement album but this first one on the Dayspring/Word label is their best.
    • Sail On
    • Water Grave (video)
    • Bread Upon The Water (video) (video by a different group)
    • He’s Everything To Me (here’s a video of a pretty good song by the new crop)

Lamb:
I was a volunteer “roadie” for one performance of this amazing “Jews for Jesus” duo. Man could they play!
You can hear many of these songs here.

  • Lamb album
    • Come Back, Come Back
    • Yeshua, Hope Of Israel
    • Clay
    • Clap Your Hands
    • Engraved Invitation
    • Shuvee
    • Comfort Ye My People
    • Baruch Hashem
    • The Sacrifice Lamb
    • The Least I Could Do


Humor

OK, so the first one’s not music. You’ve still never heard these (but you should).


The Firesign Theatre:

A combination of silliness and clever wordplays charactized these recordings, weaving threads of bizarre associations through radio plays, advertisements and other radio/TV “programming”.

You can hear clips here.
 

  • How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All album
    • The Further Adventures of Nick Danger

  • The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra
    • Side 1 – London
  1. “Chapter 1 – Not Quite The Solution He Expected”
  2. “Chapter 2 – An Outrageously Disgusting Disguise”
  3. “Chapter 3 – Where There’s Smoke, There’s Work”

    • Side 2 – Chicago

  1. “Chapter 4 – Where Did Jonas Go When The Lights Went Out?”
  2. “Chapter 5 – Pickles Down The Rat Hole!”
  3. “Chapter 6 – The Electrician Exposes Himself!”
PDQ Bach:
P. D. Q. Bach is a fictional composer invented by musical satirist “Professor” Peter Schickele. In a running gag that Schickele has used in a four-decade-long career, he performs “discovered” works of this forgotten member of the Bach family. Schickele’s music combines parodies of musicological scholarship, the conventions of Baroque and classical music, and elements of slapstick comedy.

This is a farcical, tongue-in-cheek presentation of the world of classical music. Built around the premise that Bach had a prolific but bizarre relative (PDQ) who also composed music, “Prof. Peter Schickele” airs programs from the hay loft studio at the “University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople”. These include classical music versions of Monday Night NFL (composers against the orchestras), game shows (“What’s My Melodic Line?”), etc.

You can hear clips here.
 
  • The Wurst of PDQ Bach album
    • Concerto for Horn and Hardart, S. 27 (P.D.Q. Bach)
    • Cantata: Iphigenia in Brooklyn, S. 53162 (P.D.Q. Bach)
    • Schleptet in E flat major (P.D.Q. Bach)
    • Eine Kleine Nichtmusik (Prof. Schickele)
    • New Horizon’s in Music Appreciation: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
    • What’s My Melodic Line?
    • Madrigal “My bonnie lass she smelleth” from The Triumphs of Thusnelda (P.D.Q. Bach)
    • “Unbegun” Symphony (Prof. Schickele)
    • Half-Act Opera: The Stoned Guest, excerpts (P.D.Q. Bach)
    • Fugue in C Minor, from the “Toot” Suite for calliope four hands, S. 212° (P.D.Q. Bach)
    • Oratorio: “The Seasonings”, S. 1 1/2 tsp. (P.D.Q. Bach)