Paul Gilbert: my top 5 not-so-guilty pleasures of all time
"I still remember the first few records that I bought. Some were at the urging of my uncle, who played guitar and insisted that I listen to Jimi Hendrix, the MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges. Others were at the urging of the television set, which convinced me that the Osmond Brothers were the most exciting band possible.
"There was the radio, which turned me on to Led Zeppelin (even better than The Osmonds) and all of those great '70s 'AM Gold' hits. There was also my parents' collection of Beatles, Stones, Animals, Who and classical albums… and blues! My dad would always play Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and BB King around the house, with plenty of live Leon Russell and J. Geils as well. And finally, when I started joining bands, there were the musicians, invariably older than me, who turned me on to bands like Rush, ELP and Utopia.
“When I moved to LA, I discovered some great used record stores. I would buy a huge pile of vinyl for the price of dinner at Sizzler and then come home and make cassette compilations of my favorite new discoveries. Nowadays, my wife exposes me to all kinds of interesting music – Bulgarian Voice and Melody Gardot among them.
“And so, without further ago, here are my Top 5 Not-So Guilty Pleasures, i.e., un-guitar records. Let’s start with the obvious!”
Georgie Fame – The Seventh Son (1969)
“This is one of those albums where every song is great. I can listen to it over and over – and I do. I discovered the title track on YouTube, in a video from 1969 where a troupe of hippie dancing girls are doing some wild moves to match the 7/8 groove of the song.
“On top of that, Georgie is wearing some kind of striped Moroccan bathrobe, in bare feet, twirling a mysterious object in the air and, of course, singing and dancing along.
“It’s a great video, and it inspired me to hunt down the complete album. It’s really one of the best records of 1969, with all kinds of different styles and instruments mixed together, and Georgie Fame inventing Austin Powers in front of your eyes. Did I mention the tunes? The style caught my attention, but the music really held it.”
The Osmonds – Phase III (1971)
“Sure, everybody knows about Crazy Horses, an awesome record from the early ‘70s when boy bands played heavy metal on real instruments. I wore that record out when I was five, but I needed more Osmond Brother rock, so I headed to the dime store (which also sold electric guitars for $35 – too expensive for me at the time) and bought a copy of Phase III.
“There was instant gratification in opening track, Down By The Lazy River, because it was the theme song to the Saturday morning Osmonds cartoon. But there were other rockers like My Drum (which I covered on my Burning Organ album) and greasy funk like Business.
“This was before Donny overshadowed the brothers and when Merrill was still doing most of the lead singing. Do not underestimate Merrill Osmond in 1971.”
Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – It Might As Well Be Swing (1964)
“I was 19, when John, now Juan, Alderete turned me on to this album, while we were recording the first Racer X album. This was the most metal time of my life. I was listening to Accept, Loudness, Yngwie and Queensryche, and although I had heard the famous names Frank Sinatra and Count Basie before, I just assumed that this was old people’s music and something I would never dig.
“That illusion died in about three seconds upon hearing – believe it or not – the version of Hello Dolly on this record. I know it seems impossible, but Frank and the Count somehow made the song almost completely un-cheesy, or perhaps they swung it so hard that the cheese became a non-issue.
“Then there are the songs that are un-cheesy to begin with – and swung equally as hard. My favorite is I Believe In You – the chords, the swing, the lyrics, the voice, the horns and that Basie piano ending are like some kind of big band steamroller. How about the last chord? I had to sit down and figure that thing out. It’s a dominant chord with a b5 in the middle and a 9th on top.
“Lots of people talk about the Live At The Sands record, but this is the one for me.”
Utopia – Oblivion (1984)
“I’m usually unsuccessful when I try to get people to listen to Todd Rundgren, but that won’t stop me from trying. I think everyone should love him! I could recommend his solo albums – Hermit Of Mink Hollow, The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, Something/Anything? and Nearly Human are all favorites of mine. But I also love Todd’s experiment in band democracy, which is, of course, Utopia.
“Kasim Sulton is the McCartney to Todd’s Lennon, and together they write and sing some stunning pop music. Oops! Wrong Planet was the first album that got me hooked, but in the end, I think I spent more time listening to Oblivion. It features the song Cry Baby, which I’ve read was inspired by Def Leppard’s Photograph. It might take a minute to get used to the ‘80s production, which was ahead of its time… at the time. But just listen to those harmonies!”
Enuff Z'Nuff – Strength (1991)
“Imagine if John Lennon were alive and well and had been writing an album's worth of songs every year since 1989. It’s easy if you try. Seriously, this record, the one before it, and all the Enuff Z'Nuff albums after it, have some of my favorite pop songs of all time.
“The problem is that many of them are produced as heavy metal records. The big fuzzy guitars and bombastic snare drum do their best to cover up the chord changes and melodies, but if you listen carefully, there is beauty underneath all the chaos.
“The trick is to play these songs on an acoustic guitar or piano. Hollywood Ya, Baby Loves You and Blue Island are some of my favorites. Donnie Vie and the band finally started to figure out what kind of production best suits their songs, so the more recent Enuff Z’Nuff albums are a bit more listenable from the outset.
“But the songs on Strength are so good that I have to choose it for this list. If you’re anywhere near a computer (and I assume you are since you're reading this), get on YouTube right now and search for two Enuff Z’Nuff songs, How Are You and Freak. Donnie is pure emotion, his voice is so great, and you have all the right chords underneath. His music runs through my head daily.”