Maria McKee
There is a line in a poem that asks what "jewelled with such eyes the great goshawk's head?" One just needs to look into the hypnotic green eyes of singer-songwriter Maria McKee to have that question flash into one's consciousness. There is a wild, feral quality in her appearance, and even her guitar work has been labelled as feral by some observers. McKee was founder and lead singer for the cowpunk band Lone Justice, and later cowrote and sang Show Me Heaven that featured in the film Days of Thunder. She went solo, and has delivered album after album of wonderful, idiosyncratic songs, that, for no reason that makes any sense to me, never clicked with a larger audience, unlike, say, PJ Harvey, a equally-gifted near-contemporary, equally idiosyncratic. I personally place five women uppermost in my pantheon of exceptional female rock artists: Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, and Maria McKee. Here McKee sings one of her very best: Life is Sweet.

Billy Idol
On another thread I remarked that I am someone of simple tastes in rock and pop. Billy Idol perfectly fulfills the requirement for simplicity. His musical moment was the 1980s, when, with one of the tightest bands around, fronted by whiplash guitarist Steve Stevens, Idol owned the MTV and dance scenes. His music is pure surface--a shining, dense, shimmering, impenetrable metallic carapace. White Wedding was Idol's signature song. As the Rough Guide to Rock phrases it, "...Idol pioneered a seamless marriage of techno and metal. 'White Wedding' (1982) was a quintessential example, with Idol's vocals oscillating between purrs and roars, while synths and guitar riffs rose and fell from the pulsing bassline." I am a big fan, though nowhere near as enthusiastic as one woman seen in one of Idol's concert videos--she wears a large hand-lettered sign saying "Billy Idol, You Make Me Come!" Everybody loves a blonde, and you will too.

Talking Heads
A truly unique and special band, Talking Heads had their very own distinctive sound, immediately identifiable--the kind of idiosyncratic hallmarks that tell us right away that we are hearing a Bob Dylan, a Jimi Hendrix, Rush, Yes, Led Zep. Talking Heads' use of non-standard rhythms and strange instrumentations, and the theatrics and antics of lead singer David Byrne were wonderfully captured in their great concert film, Stop Making Sense. Here are Talking Heads doing Slippery People from that performance. Just try to keep still, I dare you!

Bruce Springsteen (with Tom Morello)
Everybody knows who's The Boss. Bruce Springsteen is yet another of the multitude of famous, important, gifted, or notorious people that my small province of Nova Caesarea has unleashed upon a poor and needy world. His concerts are vast mass gatherings of the Faithful, and he never lets them down, offering musical catharsis so intense that fans come back over and over again. Our former provincial Governor, Chris Christie, boasts of having been to over 100 such events, if memory serves, and probably counts as the high point of his life his mutual embrace with The Boss, who whispered in his ear, "I think we're supposed to be friends now". Springsteen owns the genre of Anthemic Rock, and deservedly so--nobody comes close to his record of songs with the anthemic power such as displayed here: The Ghost of Tom Joad. Tom Morello is a perfect partner.

Luther Allison (with A Guest)
One thought, one association, leads to another. An SM post on Joan Osborne and her fantastic album Relish, brought up again in my mind Osborne's vocal rajo or voz afilla that she shared with Janis Joplin, a distinctive raspy, gravelly voice that many flamenco singers of yore possessed in abundance. Then I remembered that I had described Joplin's version of Ball and Chain as being essentially a flamenco siguiriya, an expression of grief and pain rare in its intensity of expression in "popular" music of the West. But closest to flamenco song are The Blues, and there we can expect to find utterances now and again of equal pathos and power. One such is here: Bluesman Luther Allison sings of his partner's alcohol addiction in a Blues siguiriya as moving as anything from Andalusia: Cherry Red Wine, aka Watching You. Jonny Lang sings a fine shorter version of this on one of his albums, but here is the real deal.