Friday, January 11, 2019

Return of Weekend Listomania: Special Dave "Baby" Cortez Lives! Edition

[I first posted this in 2008, back when this blog and the world were young. As is my wont, I have re-written parts of it and deleted/added a couple of the entries, just so you don't think I'm the slacker I actually am. Enjoy! -- S.S.]

So -- here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:


And by "best" we mean the most melodic, the most effective, or the most inventive. It can be a solo, an entire part as played through the length of a song, or simply a riff -- whatever gets you off.

And just to belabor the obvious, we said "organ." No pianos, clavinets or synths need apply. You heard me. And in the interests of common sense, I do hope you'll have the good breeding not to nominate anything by Yes.

Okay, that said, here's my totally top of my head Top Thirteen, with credits for the fine folks who actually play the organ parts appended.

13. The Young Rascals -- Good Lovin' (Felix Cavaliere)

The first rock organ solo I ever learned how to play. And still the most fun.

12. Janis Ian -- Society's Child (can't find the musician credits for this track -- anybody have the CD?)

"That arrogant organ." -- Leonard Bernstein.

11. Booker T. and the MGs -- Time is Tight (Booker T. Jones)

Get me drunk and I'll actually claim that this is one of the best short pieces of instrumental music, in any genre, written in the second half of the 20th century.

10. The Beatles -- We Can Work It Out (John Lennon)

That's John on harmonium, of course, which is a primitive form of pump organ so don't give me any crap. In any case, this may be the most perfect early Beatle record, largely due to those organ swells adding color and texture during the verses. And the out of nowhere liturgical riff at the end, of course.

9. A tie:

The Animals -- Boom Boom (Alan Price)

The Alan Price Set -- I Put a Spell On You (Alan Price, natch)

Price is kind of a household name in England; in this country, alas, less so. But if there was a more soulful keyboard guy and singer tossed up on the shores of the British Invasion, I can't think of him.

8. Spencer Davis Group -- I'm a Man (Stevie Winwood)

Well, maybe Stevie.

7. Brinsley Schwarz -- Surrender to the Rhythm (Bob Andrews)

This clip simply slays me. Astoundingly lyrical organ work; the young Nick Lowe wrote the damn thing and is trying hard to be the focus of attention here, but Andrews absolutely steals it.

6. Another tie --

? and the Mysterians -- 96 Tears (Frank Rodriguez)


Sir Douglas Quintet -- She's About a Mover (Augie Meyers)

Genuis simplicity or moronic mindlessness? YOU make the call!! Seriously -- the cheesy 60s organ sound that pretty much defines pop retro begins here.

5. Another tie --

Bob Dylan -- Like a Rolling Stone (Al Kooper)


Elvis Costello and the Attractions -- Pump It Up (Steve Nieve)

Kooper invents the quicksilver 60s folk rock keyboard sound in the former, Nieve updates it for the immediate post-punk era in the latter.

4. The Zombies -- Time of the Season (Rod Argent)

Argent's playing here is dazzling, of course, but the decision to overdub a second solo on top of the first one on the fadeout was sheer genius.

3. Procol Harum -- Pilgrim's Progress (Matthew Fischer)

Like "Layla," this is a song with a lengthy, seemingly unrelated instrumental coda appended from out of the blue. Unlike "Layla," this one has no guitar histrionics whatsoever, and yet it's just as gorgeous. Remarkable.

2. Alabama 3 -- Woke Up This Morning (Orlando Harrison)

This is possibly the simplest organ lick ever recorded -- really, I could teach my cat to play it in five minutes -- and yet damned if it doesn't work in the context of the everything but the kitchen sink stuff these guys surround it with.

And the number one coolest, it's not even a contest for crissakes, organ grinding on a pop/rock record of all time is indisputably ---

1. Oh crap, it's another tie!!!

The Band -- Chest Fever (Garth Hudson)


The Call -- The Walls Came Down (Garth Hudson)

The Mad Professor at his maddest and grandest. And it is perhaps no accident that both these songs, as lyrically different as they are, have magnificently primal hard rock riffs at their core.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?


Squints said...

I like the bit in the break of "I Got The Blues" on Sticky Fingers.

The Clash used to use "Time Is Tight" as a sound check. All guitars, though, I think.

Sadly, Wookiiepedia sheds no light on who played on "Society's Child."

cthulhu said...

I still think that the organ solo that Steve Winwood played on Traffic's "Every Mother's Son" is as good as any that I've heard. He uses every trick that the mighty B-3 + Leslie combination has to give, and it all comes together magnificently.

MJConroy said...

Good list, Steve.
I'll add Percy Sledge - "When a Man Loves a Woman" with the great Spooner Oldham on organ.
Listen to it and imagine it without the organ.

MJConroy said...

Organist on "Society's Child" was Artie Butler:

Anonymous said...

hate to be a category killer, but this is my wheelhouse:

Lee Michaels - the "Tell Me How You Feel" medley
Brian Auger & Trinity - half of "Streetnoise" qualifies, but go with Indian Rope Man or I Got Life
Deep Purple - Hush
Buffalo Springfield - Special Care
Humble Pie - Hot 'n Nasty (also Steve Stills)
Quicksilver - Edward the Mad Shirt Grinder
Carmel - More More More
Everything but the Girl - Frost and Fire

steve simels said...

MJConroy -- thanks for solving the mystery.

FD13NYC said...

Speaking of Argent, Hold Your Head Up.

pete said...

Mike Finnegan on Hendrix's "Rainy Day."

Shriner said...

The Keyboard riff on "I'm A Believer" hits the right spot.

Billy B said...

And in the interests of common sense, I do hope you'll have the good breeding not to nominate anything by Yes.

Good breeding, my @$$.


Anonymous said...

Al Kooper played on that Dylan tune? Gee, he's never mentioned it......

Blue Ash Fan said...

What? No Ian McLagan? How about "Flying?"

Goomba said...

Nick Lowe, "Half a Boy and Half a Man"

ESciGuy said...


I wholeheartedly agree about Alan Price's soulfulness on the keys, but can't say the same about his singing. Now, if you meant Eric instead, that's another matter ... And though it's overfamiliar, it's hard to top Price's playing on "House of the Rising Sun".

I'll also cast a vote for "Hush".

Lee said...

That soulful keyboard player singer you can't think of is Georgie Fame.

wayne fraizer said...

Can't go wrong with RED RIVER ROCK - Johnny and the Hurricanes

jackd said...

Not to really argue over best Steve Nieve organ riff, but I am also partial to the version of "Miracle Man" on the Live Stiffs album, which I prefer to the slower studio version on My Aim is True.