Welcome back to the much belated installment of our sporadically released Cannabis Cuts commentated playlist, a tribute and appreciation of the symbiotic relationship between music and Mary Jane. A few weeks back, we had the opportunity to go on a six hour road trip to the Sierra National Forest with a few friends and we each made our own respective hour-and-a-half playlists to help pass some time and share some new finds and old favorites on the drive (we at CC don’t condone driving under the influence, but we certainly don’t discourage getting a little toasty as a passenger to enjoy the scenery). We both picked 10 highlights from each of our respective playlists to share and enhance your next road trip. This is a glimpse into our car packed to the brim with luggage, this is Culture Blender’s road trip special:
“Melbourne,” Phonography, R. Stevie Moore (1976)
KG: Lo-fi home recording pioneer R. Stevie Moore is no stranger to the weird side of music. His 1976 debut album Phonography is a grab bag of different genres and music styles that reminds me of a super tangled up slinky still able to droop down a staircase, somehow it just… works? For Moore, no sound is off limits. One song will feature a gentle Beach Boys-esque vocal harmony with soft guitar instrumentals and easy listening vibes, while the next will be a punk sounding tune with lyrics that loudly plead “I wish I could sing” to the listener. All the while being recorded on dinky equipment away from the expensive luxuries of a proper recording studio. “Melbourne,” the intro to Phonography and my roadtrip playlist, is a wonky instrumental that sets the mood for the entire album with its distorted guitar and bouncy keyboard. Moore’s music would go on to be largely influential with many lo-fi bedroom pop artists (who are part of a strange incel collective, more on that later) such as Ariel Pink and Gary Wilson.
“Never Want to See You Low,” Pains of Love, Twilight (1986)
KG: Staying in the realm of lo-fidelity, Twilight is the musical identity of talented multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Lawrence Ross. Relying heavily on synthesizers and a saxophone, Twilight records stand out for their innovative combination of dance-y tones and funk vocals in an 80’s camouflage. Pains of Love gained notoriety among vinyl collectors for its rarity due to budget limitations that allowed only a handful of records to be pressed. In 2010, after two decades of total obscurity, Pains of Love was finally reissued for vinyl enthusiasts to collect and added to Spotify for music lovers to devour. I’m gonna have to credit the one and only Nardwuar for exposing me to this record via a previously referenced interview with Tyler, The Creator that I really enjoy. Is Nard the most interesting man in music? How does one become the Human Serviette? Doot Doola Doot Doo…
MC: Don’t know what else to say about this other other than it’s a Grade-A bop! I can definitely see where this would be a crate diggers dream. Spotify clearly has to work out a way to better support artists, but holy shit is the streaming age the golden age for music consumers when this kind of content is a click away.
“The Golden Rod,” Everybody Loves The Sunshine, Roy Ayers Ubiquity (1976)
KG: You’ve reached that part of the road trip where everyone in the car has acquainted themselves with each other. Conversations about what’s going on in the news or why Young Thug is the greatest artist of this generation have died down, replaced by the budding excitement of travel. Staring out the window of a car while on a scenic portion of a drive is one of the highlights of any roadtrip, and nothing could improve that experience more than listening to a song that sounds straight out of a 70’s James Bond movie (I’ll admit, having a box of extra cheesy Cheez-its can also vastly improve your drive). “The Golden Rod” is a jazz song dipped into a giant vat of R&B sauce with a hint of that breezy cool psychedelic sound of the 70’s to spice it up. Roy Ayers scintillating vibraphone skills are about as interesting as any lead instrument I have ever heard. He commands the attention of the listener by juxtaposing that spirited vibraphone playing with warm synth tones and groovy congo drums to create a sweet daydream-like sound palette. If you’ve ever heard your parents reminisce about the cooler-than-thou nature of the 70’s, this and Roy Ayers in general are what they’re referring to.
MC: First and foremost I’d like to state that Cheez-Its are simply the greatest snack food of all time. I enter an out of body trance and my stomach turns into a bottomless pit when I have those delectable cheesy orange squares in front of me. Also this song is pretty damn good, the run that Ayers goes on in his vibraphone solo locked me straight into a trance the first time I heard it. Is Roy Ayer’s to the vibes, what Cheez-Its is to snack foods?
“One Hundred Ways,” The Dude, Quincy Jones (1981)
KG: To be completely honest, the opening scene of Austin Powers in Goldmember is the first place I ever heard the name Quincy Jones. And with that movie being a staple of my childhood (Other classics my dad insisted be etched into my mind forever: Groundhog Day, Spaceballs, When Harry Met Sally, and Meet the Parents), I had a vague idea that Quincy Jones was a lofty figure in music. I came to learn that Jones is legendary for his work as a producer, most notably teaming up with Michael Jackson to create some of the greatest pop recordings of all time in Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad. What I didn’t know until very recently was the vast collection of gems from Jones’ solo work, highlighted by his 1981 album The Dude. Utilizing a bevy of studio musicians and guest vocalists to bring his artful arrangements to life, Jones expertly blurs the lines between disco, jazz, R&B, and soul. “One Hundred Ways” is the critically acclaimed debut for First Team All-Schmaltzy singer James Ingram, whose voice pairs well with instrumentals that bring to mind a high quality day-spa (credit Max on that label). The “moment” of this song takes place between 2:54 and 3:14, a hypnotic synth riff that will be stuck in your head all day. Speaking of which…
“Rhymes Like Dimes,” Operation: Doomsday, MF DOOM (1999)
KG: “Rhymes Like Dimes,” a self-produced song by legendary New York/British rapper and famed supervillain MF DOOM, isolates that spicy synth riff from “One Hundred Ways” and turns it into the basis of one of the finest tracks in his discography. DOOM is not here to make up false statements about his clout, the amount of intricate rhyme schemes on this song mean he is pushing dimebags of weed in a hurry. “Gentleman who lent a pen to a friend who write with him / Never seen that shit again but he’s still my dunny / The only thing that come between us is krill and money” is no joke in terms of lyrical talent. I love when rappers like DOOM and Earl Sweatshirt flex their immense vocabularies in a verse, effortlessly stacking complex rhymes over a series of bars that seem almost impossible to fully map out. It reminds me of revisiting clips of the Dodgers – Astros World Series from a few years ago and intently listening for even the slightest trash can banging sound that would assist Jose Altuve and Co. in stealing a championship from my beloved Boys in Blue. Just like identifying DOOM’s perfectly crafted syntax over a superb beat, those trash can bangs were clear as day once you concentrated. Let’s just get this out of the way, Fuck The Astros.
MC: This has to be one of the funnest beats of any rap song, and I’ve got to imaging sampling Quincy Jones (an OG God-level producer) is a surefire way to have some success as a producer yourself. Lyrically, this is vintage DOOM with the type of bars that should land him in any hip-hop head’s favorite MCs. As far as baseball goes, I can’t say I have the strongest knowledge of the sport, but with the current baseball headlines involving the sport’s archaic “unwritten rules,” it seems like there’s some modernization that needs to take place. Maybe ditch the 3-0 count thing and just stick to this one: don’t cheat. Fuck the Astros.
“Dinorah, Dinorah,” Give Me the Night, George Benson (1980)
KG: Man oh man can George Benson play the guitar. His 1980 album Give Me the Night, produced by Quincy Jones, controversially received mixed reviews from Jazz-focused outlets that felt it had taken a step towards pop music in contrast to his prior releases. And in all honesty, they were right. Does that make this any less of a song though? No. Benson cultivates a garden of sounds that are all sprouting at the same exact time. Rhythmic easy-listening drums, faint scat singing and a high pitch disco-esque synthesizer blend together as the perfect backdrop for Benson’s innovative lead guitar.
“Love Your Life,” Soul Searching, Average White Band (1976)
KG: Average White Music Blog writer Kevin Gordon wants to let you in on a little secret. One of the best ways to find great music, specifically older soul/funk/jazz, is by using a resource like whosampled to see what the originating song used in a sample is. It’s especially useful in the context of hip hop, due to many of the samples for beats coming from older, lesser known music that is more recognizable via the sample than the original song. “Love Your Life” is a prime example of this as the next song in this playlist will demonstrate. Cheekily named Average White Band hails from Dundee, Scotland and made a name for themselves as an opening act for Eric Clapton in the early 70’s. Don’t let their humorous title fool you though, this six piece blue-eyed soul/funk group can hold their own with the best of the era. This track is covered in head bobbing, wonky bass lines that keep the listener engaged throughout. A catchy horn section near the end is the most memorable bit, making you feel like you’re slowly cruising the crowded streets of Manhattan in a low-rider Cadillac.
“Check the Rhime,” The Low End Theory, A Tribe Called Quest (1991)
KG: Right on cue, “Check the Rhime” is A Tribe Called Quest’s masterful repurposing of that blaring horn section from “Love Your Life” into a hip hop beat that screams East Coast style. Coming out of the opening horns section, the beat drops straight into a punchy bass that allows Q-Tip and Phife Dawg to spit bars on bars in a call-and-response approach that wasn’t yet popular at the time. Speaking of Phife Dawg (RIP legend), this song has to go down as one of the best of his career. The entirety of his solo second verse needs to be cast into giant letters the size of the Hollywood sign and hung at Mount Rushmore instead of the faces of past imperialists, I mean Presidents. That’s a conversation for another day though. “You on point Tip? (All the time, Phife!)”
MC: The bass on this track is headbob-inducing, and the flows by Phife and Tip are vintage. It takes me straight back to the summer that I worked surf lessons and had this album on loop nonstop going to and from work. So what if I was being ripped off working egregious hours as an independent contractor by my QAnon obsessed boss? After a long day of pushing Arizona tourists into waves and fielding complaints from Encinitas helicopter mom’s in trucker hats, it all went to the wayside when Tribe started bumping on the stereo. Electric relaxation.
“Running Away,” Lifeline, Roy Ayers Ubiquity (1977)
KG: The second inclusion from Roy Ayers Ubiquity on this playlist sounds a bit different from the first, noticeably lacking the stellar vibraphone found on their other tracks. But this song makes up for it by being a dancefloor packing club-banger that is itching to be made into a house remix. Bumping conga drums cover the entire track, begging the listener to even attempt to sit still while it’s playing (spoiler: they won’t be able to). A psychedelic distorted bass is flanged throughout the song along with a consortium of vocalists layering their voices atop a bath of other sounds. This song is the seven-layer cake of music and it tastes great.
“Groovy Girls Make Love At The Beach,” You Think You Really Know Me, Gary Wilson (1977)
KG: We’ve made it! The final song in my portion of the road trip playlist is brought to you by eclectic as fuck experimental artist and incel collective “leader,” Gary Wilson. Wilson followed up on R. Stevie Moore’s DIY recording sound with his own self-produced bedroom album, You Think You Really Know Me, and honestly created a collection of music that is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before… for the better and worse. Let’s start it off with the worse, or better yet, downright creepy. Wilson’s song “Cindy” is a synth-y early new wave cut that details Gary’s juvenile lust to walk a girl named Cindy home late at night (from who knows where) and make out with her. Seriously. Interspersed throughout the song are moments where Gary shouts “woo!” in a high pitched voice that quickly became one of my favorite things to sing whenever listening to a Gary track. Another song, the aptly named “Chromium Bitch,” is an awesome electric keyboard and synthesizer tune that is well ahead of its time due to its experimental sound. But again, Gary’s lyrics raise a few eyebrows for any listener with a sense of normalcy as he loudly croons “I wanna make you my Chromium Bitch, my bitch!” Whatever that means. That brings us to our piece de resistance, “Groovy Girls Make Love At The Beach.” Lively drums and a bouncy keyboard bring life to this track, making room for a buzzing synth that steals the show. Gary is at his most charming here, describing the end of a long week with unmatched questionability and vague meaning. “Every single Friday night / I said she’s out of reach, out of reach (woo!) / When I want to take her in my arms, she’s never there.” I’m gonna leave this one with a woo and call it a night. Woo!!!!
MC: My love for this song might be the single greatest point of contention between my girlfriend and I. The moment she hears the opening bars of this song’s intro, I’m generally promptly greeted with a stern “TURN GARY OFF!” So naturally, throwing this song on when I commandeer the aux is quickly turning into one of my favorite bits. Wilson’s voice has the giddy excitement of a grown man living in his parent’s basement who thinks he struck gold by writing a top 10 hit and it’s absolutely infectious. Lyrically it might sound like Gary’s never been around either a girl or a beach and that’s just part of the charm. Wooooo!!!!
“Theme from the Godfather,” Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up, Professionals (2006)
MC: Full disclosure, I have absolutely no idea what year this song came out or really anything about the group Professionals. This track is featured on a compilation of obscure Belize music, but it came to my attention when I heard it for the first time courtesy of “Flat Tummy Tea,” off Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s excellent 2019 project Bandana. All I know is it’s one radical reinterpretation of the theme song to arguably the greatest movie of all-time. The Belize group takes the classical Italian stylings of the original, and gives it a heavy dose of psychedelic guitar tones, surging keyboard work, triumphant horns, and a funky bassline to boot. Whoever they may be, the Professionals serve up a track that you can’t refuse.
KG: This is the reimagining of a classic theme song that I didn’t know I needed until I heard it. The original has that ominous gangster vibe to it that commands respect from the room, and most importantly Don Coreleone, while this version is oozing in psych-y guitar and sounds that bring to mind a much more tripped out version of our favorite mobsters. Max and I did some fishing not too long ago as part of our camping trip up to the Sierra National Forest, wherein I asserted not to worry about dinner that night because I would be catching a fish for our group to eat. Let me be frank in saying we didn’t even get a nibble the entire time. We were not sleeping with the fishes that night, that’s for sure.
“Be Thankful for What You Got,” Reel to Reel, Love (1974)
MC: Some folks prefer their road trips to be speed-driven rides through the gates of hell “Born to Be Wild,” style. On the flip-side, I find taking it easy and enjoying the scenery is much more my cup of tea for long-distance trips and few songs accommodate that kicked-back and cruise-worthy feeling quite like Love’s cover of this William DeVaughn soul classic. The highlight track from the last album released by Arthur Lee’s seminal Los Angeles psychedelic group Love, which featured a more funk and soul oriented sound than its predecessors. While the sound of the track is a far cry from the psychedelic folk style of their 1967 magnum opus, Forever Changes, it rides a funky groove from start to finish and features a hook that’s as smooth as they come. It’s the type of timeless track that damn near everyone can appreciate; and if your road trip company can’t enjoy, it might be in your best interest to just pull over, drop them off on the side of the highway, and keep the vibe alive.
KG: I was forced to sit in the back middle seat for the majority of our road trip last month. While many people would sulk at the idea of having to sit bitch seat for such a long ride, I for one struggle due to my wide-set hips and tendency to play jello at any opportunity when making a turn, I tried to make the best of it by being as obnoxious as possible. People don’t realize the power the middle seat-sitter wields in a packed car. You can land jokes with the people sitting next to you fairly easily (If you’re doing it right, they won’t have the option to tune out) and, with only a slight rise of the voice, can command attention from those lucky ass front seat passengers as well. If you’re annoyi…ahem…entertaining enough to the rest of the car, they may let you trade seats! Otherwise they’ll probably just pull over, drop you off on the side of the highway, and keep the vibe alive.
“When The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game,” Garcia (Compliments), Jerry Garcia (1974)
MC: Originally penned by Smokey Robinson, this track showcases a warm, pop-driven side of Garcia that is largely absent from his landmark work with the Grateful Dead. Garcia forgoes his usual improvisational Americana inclinations and just digs into the song’s simple but brilliant melody with that sweetly vulnerable voice of his. The guitar work that is featured throughout this track is subtly jazzy and the percussion is sparse yet funky. It’s an unexpectedly concise pop nugget from a man who’s musical reputation does not generally evoke the word “concise,” and demonstrates just how versatile a musician and interpreter Garcia was.
“Silver Trembling Hands,” Embryonic, The Flaming Lips (2009)
MC: The wonderfully weird sound of the late-career Flaming Lips at their most unhinged, this track takes the Pixies “quiet-loud-quiet” dynamics and switches it to “frantic-blissful-frantic.” Between shrieking monkey noises and a fuzzed-out, pulsating bassline on the verses of this track, the Lips craft a claustrophobic soundscape that strikingly evokes a gorilla chasing you through a labyrinth while you’re on a head full of acid (can’t say it’s happened to me, but if it did I’d imagine it would sound like this). As bizarre and freaked-out as I might have made those verses just sound, they have an enhancing effect in making the chorus sound like pure psychedelic bliss. Listen to the chorus once and you’ll immediately understand why it’s being highlighted in a playlist called Cannabis Cuts. It’s an easy showcase for what made The Flaming Lips one of the most inventive psychedelic groups of the 2000s.
KG: As someone who is intrigued by the idea of playing tag with a gorilla while on acid, I definitely understand where the connection you’re making comes from. Portions of this song where it’s just the drums and wonky bass make it feel like you’re sprinting through an echoing cavern, every step vibrating through the entire corridor. No other band so closely presents moments of psychedelic bliss and unhinged chaos like the Lips do. It’s a testament to their ability to get very weird, very quickly.
“Black Butter, Past,” Wake Up…It’s Tomorrow, Strawberry Alarm Clock (1968)
MC: I had always thought of Strawberry Alarm Clock as a bit of a late 60s novelty act based off of their outlandish name and the fact that I thought they were purely a one-hit wonder with “Incense and Peppermints” (a great but also outlandish song in its own right). However, after enough recommendations from some highly trusted fellow music nerds I dug into their discography and found that the Glendale group created a wealth of fantastic psychedelic pop music during their existence. This song stood out as a highlight based on the strength of its incredible keyboard that ensues right when the song slows down after the guitar solo. It’s a track that swings with a profoundly jazzy influence, but couldn’t be mistaken for anything but psychedelic rock music.
“Only a Shadow,” Midnight Cleaners, The Cleaners From Venus (1982)
MC: This track has been easily one of my most-played discoveries of 2020, largely due to that infectious earworm of a guitar riff that hooks you right out the gate. The song is three-and-a-half minutes of lo-fi power pop perfection crafted by English DIY legend Martin Newell under the guise of his The Cleaners From Venus project. Like many of Kevin’s “incel collective” favorites, Newell circumvented traditional label releases and self-released dozens of full-length projects via cassette throughout his career – all of which have been made substantially more accessible in the streaming age. In addition to his prolific career as a lo-fi pop artist, Newell has also authored books, poetry, and written weekly columns…talk about a Renaissance man.
KG: The funny thing about these DIY home-recording artists is that their productions often sound fantastic for the low grade equipment they are using. It begs the question of whether their music would be great if they had the opportunity to record in a high quality studio or does the novelty of an unpolished sound make the songs they create appealing? Regardless, it seems like this guy has a lot more going for him than our incel collective friends. I’m not sure if a written weekly column with GARY (Wilson) sounds intriguing or terrifying.
“Three Imaginary Boys,” Three Imaginary Boys, The Cure (1979)
MC: The title track of The Cure’s debut is a shadowy post-punk song that manages to also feel sneakily psychedelic despite its sparse arrangement. Even at just 20 years old, Robert Smith’s knack for pop songcraft grounds the song in accessibility despite its mysterious, echo-laden atmosphere complete with a droning guitar solo. Smith and The Cure would go on to make considerably more ambitious songs and albums, but this track along with the rest of their debut exemplified how completely original of a sound they had from the get-go. The bass is springy, the drums and guitar are tight, Smith’s croon is utterly unique and exhilarating, and the group delivers another fantastic pop song draped in their own eerie brand of post-punk.
KG: Interesting to note that this is the only album in The Cure’s discography that they are not listed as one of the primary producers and have gone on the record saying they had little to no creative control with how the album would sound. Maybe a poor choice from music label Fiction, seeing as The Cure would go on to create a unique sound all to themselves on future records. What we can appreciate is the shimmering songwriting talent of Robert Smith already exposing itself to the world.
“I Found a Reason,” Loaded, The Velvet Underground (1970)
MC: It’s pretty mind boggling that a band that made some of the most intentionally noisey and abrasive music of its era like The Velvet Underground was just as capable of making stunningly gorgeous tracks like this one. Loaded is a start-to-finish perfect rock album, but the harmonies that buoy this track sung by Lou Reed and bassist Doug Yule make for easily the album’s most tender moment. Lyrically it’s a remarkably simple love song, but the track’s instrumental and vocal arrangement result in a deeply-moving yet understated powerhouse of a pop ballad. It seems outrageous that commercial success evaded a group as consistently talented and brilliant as The Velvet Underground for their whole career, but like all great art their music remains just as potent today as it did 50 years ago – there’s just a lot more people listening in now.
“Cortez the Killer,” Zuma, Neil Young (1975)
MC: If you’re cultured, a long road trip is always the perfect opportunity to break out and appreciate some lengthier epics, and this classic Neil Young and Crazy Horse slow-burner never fails on the open road. Neil gives an absolutely inspired, distorted guitar performance that lives up to his “Godfather of Grunge” nickname. His historical lyrics depicting the idyllic life of the Aztecs with human sacrifices and no war definitely take some liberties, but his main depiction of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés as a man who began the death of a native empire is dead on. Regardless of the history, this song is always a reminder of the range of emotion that the guitar is capable of playing despite Neil’s typically uncomplicated approach. It’s a seven-and-a-half minute reminder of why Young was arguably the most brilliant songwriter of the 70s.
“It Hurts to Be Alone,” The Wailing Wailers, The Wailers (1965)
MC: While the music that Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and Bob Marley would go on to create together as The Wailers undeniably would surpass this, there’s something truly special and raw about their earliest recordings like this one. This one has more in common with soul than ska, and the vocal performances from the young trio are rich with emotion. The jazzy guitar soloing that shows up all over this track is equally as soulful and dynamic. It’s drenched in an intangible sort of nostalgic quality that makes it the perfect closing credits song for good times shared with good people.