Yep, I know this column has been gone for a long time. A combination of laziness and sickness has prevented me from doing this for about 6 weeks, but I am back with a new sense of purpose. Plus, I wiped out my entire iTunes and started from scratch this weekend. I had my iTunes connected to my external hard drive, on which I have the vast majority of my music. I eventually realized that I was wearing out the “skip” button, because songs kept coming up that I either did not recognize or didn’t care to listen to. So I figured it was better to back up the good files onto my actual computer and sync my iPod to that. That way, I didn’t have to flip through the 10 crappy tracks on Rod Stewart’s “Blondes Have More Fun” (for example) to get to “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (OK, I didn’t say it was the best example). So this week I’ve only got about 2,000 tracks to choose from, and all of them should be quite familiar to me, so I don’t have to worry about bullshitting my way through this column. Not that I’ve done that before or anything. So away we go…

Track 1: “Stuck with You” by Huey Lewis & the News (from “Fore, 1986)

So, what should I talk about here? Should I discuss the fact that “Stuck” was the second of Huey & the News’ three #1 hits? Should I talk about the cool video? Should I talk about Huey Lewis’s legendary endowment? (apparently the news was in his pants). How about none of the above? I think these guys get shafted-they were one of the better singles acts of the Eighties, and for some reason, they always remind me of summer. Maybe it’s the fact that all their videos seemed to be set at the damn beach. If you’ve ever seen these guys tackle the national anthem at a sporting event, you know that they’re no joke vocally, either. So, give it up for Huey. He deserves your props.

Track 2: “The Look of Love” by ABC (from “The Lexicon of Love, 1982)

Ah, a classic from the glory days of British pop. There was a 2-year span when we got the best of Duran Duran, Culture Club, Yaz, Soft Cell, The Human League, Spandau Ballet, Heaven 17 and these guys-all more or less blue-eyed soul acts, and all hit at virtually the same time, thanks to MTV. It was an explosion of hairspray and makeup and accents. Martin Fry’s delivery on this song is very much in line with the hyper-dramatic flair many of these bands here. If you believe those VH-1 pop culture specials, apparently the spoken part of this song was suggested by David Bowie. Interesting, eh?

“If you judge a book by the cover, then you judge the look by the lover”…truer words were never said.

Lordy, is this video gay.

Track 3: “Water Runs Dry” by Boyz II Men (from “II”, 1994)

Remember when Boyz II Men were all over the place? They were at #1 on the charts seemingly every week, were winning every award in creation, and seemed to be unstoppable? This was probably their finest moment of that era, although they had bigger hits. I love the airy harmonies and the acoustic instrumentation. This is actually one of Babyface’s better written songs, and it doesn’t sound (much) like every other ‘Face song in existence.

That Motown covers album restored BIIM’s luster a little bit. I’d love to see them come back with some new material.

Track 4: “Change Your World” by Anthony Hamilton (from “Ain’t Nobody Worryin'”, 2005)

There was a point in time when I was jocking Anthony Hamilton HARD. I’ve had the extreme privilege of seeing this guy in concert twice, and believe me when I tell you he puts just about every other male R&B singer out there to shame. Not only can he sing his ass off, but he brings a gospel-like fervor to his stage performance. He catches the Spirit for sure. This track is from the album before his most recent one, and it’s a beautiful, old-school styled ballad. Nice to know they still make songs like this these days.

Anthony Hamilton – Change Your World – Anthony Hamilton

Track 5: “Break My Heart” by Common (from “Finding Forever”, 2007)

How did Common fall off so hard in just a couple of years? Success didn’t agree with the dude. After he broke through, he officially began to suck, and that’s a shame, because for a long time Common was one of the hottest emcees out. This smoothed-out song is much better from a musical standpoint than it is lyrically. The first verse is almost embarrassing. Although nowhere near as embarrassing as 90% of the material on “Universal Mind Control”, his latest piece of shit album.

Break My Heart – Common

Track 6: “Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes (from the “Shaft” soundtrack, 1971)

OK, now what the hell am I supposed to say about this? Do I make a joke about “They say that cat Mike…he’s a bad mutha-SHUT YO’ MOUTH! Well, I’m talkin’ about Mike. Well we can dig it”? Nope, because that would be lame. Ah, here’s something. There was this album cover from the Seventies, I’m not sure which one it was, but I know for a fact that it was Isaac Hayes. I used to be scared of it. I was a pretty jumpy kid. Prince’s “Dirty Mind” cover scared me too. And that was BEFORE I heard the music in between the covers.

Go ‘head, Jesse. And what the fuck is Ike wearing?

Track 7: “Frontin'” by Jamie Cullum (by “Twentysomething”, 2004)

Yup, this is a cocktail jazz remake of the Pharrell/Jay-Z song that was huge five or six summers ago. This song actually lends itself well to the jazz arrangement. I like Cullum, he’s pretty cheeky. If you’re gonna do that kind of music, you might as well bring something different to the table, right? He hasn’t put out an album in a while, I wonder what happened to him.

Here’s an interesting fact. Jamie’s the guy that got me into Jeff Buckley. I’d actually had a copy of “Grace” for years, but never really got into it until Jamie covered “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over”. Then I went back to “Grace” and finally heard what everyone else had heard ten years before. Hey, we can’t be on time for everything, right?

I would LOVE to see this kid live. Maybe an Anthony Hamilton/Jamie Cullum double bill? I’d probably be the only person in the audience for both sets-ha!!