Etubom Rex Williams & His Nigerian Artists - You Are My Heart [1973]

This is one of those songs that, if we're chatting when it comes on, you'll never have my full attention during because part of me will be dancing down some imaginary beach. The bass and rhythm guitar set a relaxed pastoral groove, with the drums and percussion injecting some funky energy into the mix. All of which sets a fantastic bed for the lead guitar's wandering exploration and Rex Williams' soulful vocals & trumpet blasts. Enough chitchat, back to my beach.

Taja Sevelle - Love Is Contagious (Ben Liebrand Remix) [1988]

There are few faster ways to my heart than a big, bubbly bassline, the dumber the better, and this one is a beautiful fool. Functionally, adding a bit of goofiness to the groove of a track serves as an excellent icebreaker. It's hard to stand against the wall, arms crossed, when a song has already told you that it will be bouncing around like an idiot for the next several minutes without an ounce of judgement in its body.

Where the original was a breezy ballad of 80's soul, Ben Liebrand transforms it into a sun-kissed floor-filler without ever leaving the fingerprints of his tinkering. It's hard to believe this version was an afterthought and that's much to his credit.

*Starts a bit into the song so you don't get bored with the drum intro for the DJs

Dickie Landry - Fifteen Saxophones [1977]

So it turns out one saxophonist and a tape delay unit can build a whole world. A member of the avant-garde music scene that found a home at New York's The Kitchen in the seventies, Richard "Dickie" Landry is perhaps best known for his contributions The Phillip Glass Ensemble, which included performances on Einstein on the Beach Music in Twelve Pieces. Here, he creates a masterwork of minimalism and drone that's hypnotically tense, piloting us high above an alien landscape. At any moment, it feels like there a hundred different sound waves running into each other all around you, and, to be honest, I guess there are.

Porgy & The Monarchs - If It's For Real Baby [1965]

A real contender for my favorite recording of all time, this soul masterpiece takes a macro lens to the brief moment of uncanny disbelief at the beginning of heartbreak and projects it into an epic that manages to be baroque, funky, and psychedelic all at once. Every aspect of it is a dynamic triumph, from songwriting, to production, to performance, to the mixing and engineering, that never settles for repeating the perfection its already achieved, always preferring to push further.

From the first notes, the song excels, patiently building from a brooding rhythm built of deeply layered bass, piano, and drums, before adding a pensive and fragile lead vocal that fills in the untapped mids and highs accompanied with an atmospheric vibraphone low in the mix. Soon the backing vocals come in to increase the sense of neurosis as the song amps up to its chorus which simply erupts with an orchestral sweep of horns, strings, and timpani drums to reveal the song's sudden vision of a world without the love that was expected. You can practically hear the relationship's future disintegrate through sizzling cymbals.

When we get back to the verse, the orchestra augments the previous verse's instrumentation giving it a distinct feel from the first. The strings repeatedly surge without quite breaking, like the stubborn truth the singer desperately wants to ignore while the backing vocals betray an increasing sense of depression. It's an arrangement where every move is beautiful in isolation but absolutely breathtaking int he context of the whole; every decision purposeful and ascendant.

Yet, somehow, the song still manages to find further inspiration, presenting an excellent bridge that moves the tone temporarily from full-bodied despondence to panicked reckoning before fading out on the repeated chorus; the camera zooming out from someone who may never truly reach acceptance.

That all of this comes from the b-side of a single from a basically unknown group just makes you wonder what else is out there on dust covered vinyl.

Ashra - Oasis [1979]

Few pieces of music so quickly immerse me in blissful relaxation. Growing up, the sound of an electric guitar always seemed to be one of rebellion and confrontation, but here Manuel Göttsching uses the instrument's ability to soar and harmonize to show how much room for excitement there is within a state of inner peace. Such a clean and delicate beauty that never fails to float me down deep in my soul.

*I do wish that wasn't the album cover

Family Fodder - Savoir Faire [1980]

A fearless, propulsive, and genuinely fun blast of new wave punk, "Savoir Faire" is an exhilarating sort of madness; like going moon-eyed over a lovely bull while it's trying to buck you. The song burns through so many great ideas, but never feels like it labors over perfecting them, trusting instead that they'll come up with something new to add in just a second. There's no time for self-doubt because there's just so damn much in the world to explore.