The Multiverse Theory has nothing to do with lengthy poetry. Also known as "eternal inflation" -- a concept to which all payers of college tuition can relate -- it suggests that our universe is but a nano-particle in an infinitely vast megacosm. If this is correct, then somewhere out there may be an Amerika identical to ours except for one thing: Great records that never made the pop charts on our shores -- whether due to a twist of fate or a lack of payola -- comprise the smash hits and timeless classics in that far-off realm.
In Part 1, we traveled to a galaxy in which Judee Sill, Graham Parker, Jackie Deshannon and Bessie Banks were the brightest stars. In another corner of space-time, these are the golden oldies:
1. Jesse Winchester, Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding If you're looking for an echo, you can't beat this 2009 paean to the past by the man whose 1970 Yankee Lady album was one of the best of that decade. And while you're at it, check out this Winchester heartrender.
2. The Move, Chinatown Too bad the word "awesome" is so overused -- it personifies this British Invasion band. There's greatness here and here, but Chinatown -- from the opening drums on -- packs the universal punch of a Number 1 single.
3. Shaver, Yesterday Tomorrow Was Today In 1996, outlaw country legend Billy Joe Shaver joined with his son Eddy -- an amazing guitarist who died at 38 of a heroin overdose four years later -- for this jewel, whose title alone recommends it for immortality. (As long as we're talking parallel universes, I pray there's one in which I write a country song called If I Was Having Second Thoughts, You'd Be The First to Know and George Jones records it.)
4. Drive By Truckers, Carl Perkins' Cadillac This 2004 cut pays fitting tribute to Sun Records founder Sam Philips, weaving a story that evokes the magic of the nascent days of rock and roll. The unparalleled-in-any-universe cast of characters includes Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and, of course, The King himself.
5. Paul Siebel, Bride 1945, Another extraordinary 1970 album -- Paul Siebel's Woodsmoke and Oranges -- produced the classic Louise, made popular by Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt and Leo Kottke, and the lesser known Bride 45, a bleak, haunting appraisal of post-War emptiness.
6. Jimmy Webb, Crying In My Sleep One of the greatest songwriters of the past half century -- By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Didn't We and so many more -- can sing too, as evidenced by this ironic yet heartfelt lyric. A&R whiz Gregg Geller tried to get Allan Clarke to record it after Clarke returned to the Hollies, but it didn't work out -- not in this universe, anyhow. Webb's version deserved the Top 10 -- Clarke's could have been a Number 1 for the ages. Here's Art Garfunkel's take.
7. Kirsty MacColl, There's a Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis
Another masterful title. MacColl -- who died tragically in 2000 and was the daughter of Ewan First Time Ever I Saw Your Face MacColl and Peggy Seeger (yes, of those Seegers) -- delivers a hilarious, rockin' early-'80s sendup of male vanity. Demonstrating the universality of good Elvis-related material, Norway's Elisabeth Andreasson covered the song in Swedish. Try singing along to Killen ner' på Konsum svär att han är Elvis.
8. Colorblind James Experience, Considering A Move To Memphis Reaching across the cosmos, Elvis continues to play an outsized role in our parallel universe. On this 1987 ditty, the late Chuck Cuminale -- aka Colorblind James -- and his band create a jaunty groove as the quirky artist contemplates Memphianhood and Graceland with a deadpan delivery that makes you wonder if he really cares.
9. Cake, Frank Sinatra Ol' Blue Eyes makes but a cameo appearance in this 1996 sleeper, the catchiest song ever about dismembered constellations. Could the "ancient radiation" of which they speak be the first cause of all universes?
10. Dion, Written On The Subway Wall Dion is that rarity among seminal rock and rollers who's continued to produce wondrous new music ever since he and the Belmonts first scored with I Wonder Why more than forty years ago. 1989's Written On The Subway Wall tells us "you can't go back" even as he takes us there.
Bonus track: The Records, Starry Eyes This celestial cut did make the U.S. charts, but never cracked the top 40. I've listened so many times, an MRI would undoubtedly reveal it's taken up permanent residence in my brain. Irresistible!
Next time -- The flip side: Appalling charttoppers.
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