Ive spent the past two days seriously rocking out to the two-disc set Theme Time Radio Hour: With Your Host Bob Dylan, a collection of pop songs with fascinating written introductory material from Dylan. The variety of genres spanned here is amazing, from old reggae to swing to coutnry and western to the White Stripes, and Dylan mixes in rare finds with classics to make a collection that might as well be called "Pop: this is that it's all about" — 50 incredibly catchy, funny, songs that use a deceptive accessibility to convey all kinds of messages.
Though many are just plain fun — and amazing. I love Paul Chaplain and His Emeralds's cover of "Shortnin' Bread" — if you've heard The Cramps version of this, now you know where they got it, a raunchy, rockabilly version with a mad drummer and a crisp, clapped Bo Diddley beat that makes it just rock. Other standouts are Betty Hall Jones's "Buddy, Stay Off the Wine" (imagine Anita O'Day attaining Mae West's cynicism and then singing lyrics by Gilbert and Sullivan); Slim Gaillard's "How High the Moon" (an arrangement so gonzo it might have originated with the Marx Brothers); The Sons of the Pioneers' "Cool Water" (not the version I knew — a much more upbeat arrangement that makes you want to clap along), two back-to-back covers of "Pistol Packin' Mama" that show just how wide the distance between interpretations can be; and dozens of others.
It's like hitting shuffle on Bob Dylan's MP3 player and hitting the sweetest run of tappin' tracks serendipity has to offer.