The world doesn’t need another greatest hits album — we’ve already got three goddamn Essential REO Speedwagon collections, and enough bargain-basement repackaged crap to fill truck stop carousels from coast to coast. That’s why, instead of an artist’s very best, we’re bringing you their very guest tracks: Five killer cameo appearances on other artists’ albums. This week, it’s the busiest brass attack in rock ‘n’ roll — the Tower of Power horn section!
Little Feat, “Old Folks Boogie” (from Waiting for Columbus)
I wouldn’t say Columbus earns its status as one of the best (and only truly worthwhile) live albums of the rock era because Little Feat invited the ToP horns to join them on stage…but it certainly didn’t hurt, especially on this loose ‘n’ greasy take on a favorite from 1977’s Time Loves a Hero. The band wasted the horns on a few songs (notably “Dixie Chicken,” where you hardly notice them). They weren’t wasted here.
Big Brother and the Holding Company, “Funkie Jim” (from Be a Brother)
Big Brother and the Holding Company’s first post-Janis record didn’t set the world on fire (and neither, for that matter, have any of their others), but it boasts plenty of pleasantly low-key funk, and the brass-laced “Funkie Jim” is a personal favorite. For a band that’s a household name for classic rock lovers, they’ve always been fairly underrated, and here’s a little funkie proof.
John Lee Hooker, “Make It Funky” (from Free Beer and Chicken)
Hooker recorded about a million albums, so it’s understandable that some of them would fall through the cracks, but I’m still a little pissed that this terrific 1974 effort has been so widely forgotten; not only does it feature a number of appearances by the Tower of Power horns, but it offers a thicker, funkier, and altogether stranger take on the legendary bluesman’s sound than pretty much anything else in his catalog. It isn’t available digitally (an ABC release, it’s collecting dust somewhere in the Universal vaults), but you can find a copy if you search a little.
Fishbone, “Let the Good Times Roll” (from The Mask: Music from the Motion Picture)
It isn’t really representative of the Fishbone sound, of course, but it’s one of the more radio-friendly things the band’s ever done, and a pretty solid latter-day take on the song to boot. Not that I’d advocate buying the Mask soundtrack to get it, you understand…
Phish, “Julius” (from Hoist)
Who says dirty hippies can’t get funky when they feel like it? One of a pair of tracks from Hoist that feature the ToP horns, “Julius” represents Phish at their punchiest; it’s a highlight from an album that found the band reaching out to unexpected guests (Alison Krauss, Bela Fleck, Jonathan Frakes) while polishing their pop hooks for a set of (mostly) streamlined rock ‘n’ roll. Break out the granola.
- The Very Guest Of… David Byrne (popdose.com)