As much as I enjoy life’s little pleasures, like a delicious meal, a walk in the sunshine, or an afternoon with video games, when life reals feel like it’s going to shit, music is my one true respite. Nothing helps me pull myself out of the muck like a favorite tune or maybe seventy. And honestly, my life lately has been pretty damn mucky. I feel like there’s little to be excited about these days, and though I pull myself out of bed every goddamn day to face the world, I would much, much rather not on most mornings. (Okay, maybe coffee is up there on the “like” scale, too, as getting out of bed also means coffee, and that’s a good thing.) But when I heard that one of my all-time favorite bands — Huey Lewis and the News — had a brand new album on the way, well shit…how could I not be happy about that?
That album, Weather, released last Friday — it’s the band’s first album in ten years. And if you’ve been following general music news, you may already have seen Mr. Lewis and the aforementioned News on various shows promoting it; as well, discussing Lewis’s tragic and recent loss of hearing, and why it’s been ten years (longer really) since we’ve heard any new music from them. Well, the anticipation of Weather has had me on a Huey Lewis and the News streak for couple weeks now, and I swear that it’s honestly been helping me and my addled brain. I’ve been a fan of the band since the first time I heard them “Workin’ for a Livin'” on the radio way back in middle school. Before I lost all my cassette tapes in the Great Tape Meltdown of 2003, Huey Lewis and the News was the one band for which I had every single one of their albums. (In fact, the only reason I’ve not yet picked up Weather is because it reminded me that I should really get back on the train with culling together another HL&tN collection on CD, or MP3, or something. I have a few of their outings on my iPod, but not all of them anymore.) The bottom line is that while I like a lot of music, I love Huey Lewis and the News. And over my years with them, I’ve learned to love even their quirky stuff (“Bobo Tempo”) and less favorites (most of Soulsville). They have a bluesy, heartfelt, upbeat, fun, and sincere rock and roll sound that’s utterly timeless. It’s a sound that just make me feel good inside, which is something I truly need right now. If you might need that two, here are my favorite HL&tN tracks – one from each of their nine studio albums – and let me know your favs, too.
“Who Cares?” – Huey Lewis and the News (1980)
Off their debut album, which actually sounds a little new wav-y compared to later albums, “Who Cares?” is just the weirdest and most delightful song. It’s the one I remember most from this album because it almost sounds punk, but, like, punk that’s somehow okay with a deep base line, a mad guitar solo, a synthesizer, a harmonica. It really shouldn’t make any sense, and it a way it doesn’t…but it also does.
“Workin’ for a Livin'” – Picture This (1982)
Yeah, I can’t not include the song that started it all. This video was also my visual introduction to the band, so…pretty much love at first sight, and all that nonsense. I’m almost certain that if I hadn’t discovered HL&tN, I probably would have gone down a musical path that included the like of The Stray Cats, Adam Ant, Steve Miller, most guitar-driven rock. Perish the thought!
“Finally Found a Home” – Sports (1983)
I think that for most HL&tN fans, Sports counts as a singular masterpiece of sound. It’s what really foisted the band onto the masses who, like me, devoured Top 40 radio. But of all its chart-topping hits, “Finally Found a Home” is my favorite. It’s unabashedly poppy, while embracing a steady rock vibe. Plus, there’s something I really like about its lyrics – that sense of finding a place where you belong. It’s happy and heartening.
“Naturally” – Fore! (1986)
While I’m as much of a sucker for the band’s rock/pop radio tunes, I’m far more drawn to the group’s a capella outings, like here with them covering “Naturally.” The vocal wizardry comes close to the also-amazing cover of “But It’s Alright” that they do on a later album, but in this song, the band’s sound is simply brilliant.
“Slammin'” – Small World (1988)
I’m not much of a music snob, but I think I’m allowed to say that HL&tN’s 1988 album Small World, is only okay. But that’s just my opinion. It’s enjoyable, surely, with some solid, fun songs. But when I first listened to the album as a whole, I just fell in love with this instrumental, an original instrumental, no less. Infinitely listenable; slammin’ and jammin’!
“Couple Days Off” – Hard at Play (1991)
A goddamn toe-tapping and relatable delight, if you ask me. After the lightly experimental Small World, I was so very happy to hear HL&tN take it back to true and tested rock-N-roll with this single. I mean, that wailing guitar? That mean harmonica? That simple anthem? They all come together magically, and the band still somehow managed to sound timeless. There’s nothing typically 90s-sounding here.
“Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash” – Four Chords & Several Years Ago (1994)
Four Chords & Several Years Ago was, I think, the first cover album I ever bought, and it’s one of the few I still have. (P. S. This is my absolute favorite records to put on when I’m doing mundane chores around the house.) It’s hard to choose the best of the best among the band’s many covers of classic R&B tunes here, but “You’re Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash” stand out as fun, raucous, and I love the Big Band sounds it invokes. It’s also perfect for your next karaoke stand, just FYI.
“So Little Kindness” – Plan B (2001)
I have to admit that when the band’s eighth album was released, it was a mildly hard sell for me. Though I still regularly listened to my compendium of HL&tN cassettes, the music was was into buying at the time was a far cry from carefree, bluesy rock. Only a chance hearing of the tonally great and rhythmically wonderful “So Little Kindness” made me want to see out Plan B. And I’m so glad I did. This particular song rounds out a very underrated album.
“Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You” – Soulsville (2010)
I feel compelled to include the original song here, because it’s amazing. HL&tN’s version is really pretty great on what’s otherwise not-my-favorite-HL&tN album.
Needless to say that this point, I really need to get on re-making my Huey Lewis and the News collection, as well as picking up Weather. Priorities, priorities.