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15 Great Songs About Happiness And Good Times - Part Two

9. Stevie Wonder - 'For Once In My Life'

Although some philosophers or psychologists  may criticise Stevie Wonder's idea of happiness, or at least that he sings about here, as being too dependent on that which is outside himself (i.e. "love" and "someone who needs" him) , he has plenty to say about his inner life as well as other people and perhaps other external things, making his conception of the good life far less shallow than those of many, and arguably very substantial. The classic from the film The Pursuit of Happyness [sic.] gives us the golden soundbite, "For once in my life I can go where life leads me" as well as a backdrop of typically grand Motown-grade soul.
10. Nirvana - 'Lithium'

This song's musings on the state of happiness go far beyond the opening lines "I'm so happy cause today I found my friends / They're in my head", but that quotation sets the tone pretty well, at least until the unstable, crashing-through-the-ceiling freakout of a chorus comes in. And lets not forget the lines either side of the refrains, "I'm not gonna crack". Lithium may be the name of a mood-stabilising drug (also sung about by Evanescence) but arguably this song is anything but tranquil. It remains essential listening like so many other tracks from Nevermind and Nirvana's eponymous greatest hits record. 

11. The Velvet Underground - 'We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together'

Lou Reed, the man behind 'Perfect Day' and the classic solo album Transformer, would have made his name with Velvet Underground first, had anyone paid significant attention when he was in the band, and the rapid-fire guitar rhythms provide evidence of his guitar prowess even in such a supposed anti-rock outfit that some would argue actually exemplifies that which it ostensibly hated: the spirit of rock 'n' roll. While many of its more blissful numbers are slower, this song which appears on the brilliant three-disc set The Complete Matrix Tapes and elsewhere creates a more frantic, foot-tapping kind of emotional high.

12. Queen - 'Don't Stop Me Now'

Possibly the greatest ever song that screams the word 'happiness' as loud as the squealings of Brian May's overdrive-laden guitar solo, few vocalists this side of Freddie Mercury could have turned in such a grandiose performance, one arguably as good as the band's earlier masterwork 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Despite an arguably questionable comparison of the ecstatic lyricist to "an atom bomb", this is still a bona-fide classic. Its overall mood and message shows happiness in two extremes: bursts of power which threaten to overwhelm, and the more sedate but equally blissful up-in-the-heavens kind of joy.   

13. Chic - 'Good Times'

Chic describes its title subject as "a new state of mind" which was arguably the antithesis of the "stress and strife" spoken of in reggae, punk, and metal during that decade and others, trouble to which Chic's lyrics called for an end. The song was sampled liberally for the equally joyous 'Rappers Delight' by hip-hop group The Sugarhill Gang. Quotations like "why hesitate?" and "Don't be a drag, participate!" are a call to action (or, perhaps more accurately the dancefloor), while this is just one track on which lead guitarist Nile Rogers made his name, laying the foundation for his reprised role as funk guitarist extraordinaire on Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky' in 2013.

14. R.E.M. - 'Shiny Happy People'

This R.E.M. hit featuring the B-52s' Kate Pierson on vocals alongside lead singer Michael Stipe and usual backing singer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Mills has been said to be about propaganda. Indeed many posters have featured 'shiny, happy people' and many lines in this song evoke an idea of a nation joined together in harmony where "there's no time to cry" and in which "tomorrow shines". One could say that this is about as happy as it gets lyrically, a view that the musical backing does little to undermine. However, some would say  behind the apparent joy lies a sinister reality. Indeed one can think of several, hardly idyllic societies which have put out propaganda idealising their part of the world with their posters and other media full of imagery like that employed here by R.E.M.

15. James Brown And The Famous Flames - 'I Got You (I Feel Good)'
That which Presley suggested was arguably made more explicit by Brown with his screams and grunts. Also in Brown's arsenal were even better dance moves and much better music that blurred the line between rhythm-and-blues and a new kind of music, funk. Although Brown did not have the nicest upbringing if his biopic Get On Up's portrayal of his early life is anything like reality, he certainly knew how to make a song not just pleasant (like, say, 'Unchained Melody' by The Righteous Brothers) but oozing with pleasures some would call forbidden. Only Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson can legitimately contend for the title often given to James Brown: The Godfather of Soul, and this song is evidence supporting the argument that Brown deserves that song as much as, or more than, those two.


Fantastic Negrito, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

  • Published in Live

Fantastic Negrito

Fantastic Negrito’s Friday night performance at Glasgow’s prestigious Royal Concert Hall began in the same celebratory manner that the last two years has offered up for the artist whose real name is Xavier Dphrepaulezz. Dressed to impress in his Hamilton grey tartan trews and waistcoat and joined on stage only by keyboardist LJ Holoman for tonight’s show, as the lights dim and illuminate the duo, it’s apparent that it’s going to be an intimate affair.

It’s therefore fitting that he also shares with us the darkest moment of his life just before his set opener. Having spent almost 4 months in a coma after a serious car accident, the first words he heard spoken when he awoke from it were that of his Mother which inspired Xavier to return to the music business and write ‘Night Has Turned To Day’.

Despite the omission of the full band Xavier and LJ manage to get the crowd - who are predominantly here to see the headliner Chris Cornell - on their side immediately with his hand claps, repetition of the opening line and a discharge of sheer soul that a lot of modern black roots music fails to find.

It’s a track that is a pivotal point in his past as is the follow up ‘An Honest Man’. Having once cut a shady figure on the streets of Oakland in his younger years, he dedicates it to the brotherhood of men in the crowd, to join in his repentance as he later admits that he is a "self recovering narcissist".

It’s quite the haunting sound as bass walks on his guitar throughout the song are embellished with low hums and LJ’s piano creates an overall gothic-blues atmospheric nature to it. With the crowd firmly on his side by this point Fantastic Negrito decides to up the ante once more and takes the opportunity to have the crowd eating from the palm of his hand.

Announcing that he’s about to perform a remake of Lead Belly’s ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’ with added verses, it quietly falls on deaf ears to the largely grungy demographic who then let out a huge cheer as they recognise it from Nirvana’s MTV unplugged set. 

As someone who has a new-found lease on life and is also known in his close quarters as the patron saint of second chances, Xavier never misses a heartbeat to try and inspire those around him. Twenty years ago, he had signed a multi-million pound record deal and was on the same roster as Prince whom he paid homage to. “Another crazy brother who learnt to take chances” and telling the crowd that “everyone in this room is an artist, it’s our time, go home and create, the world needs you”.

What no-one could expect was that what had forgone was a warm up for the undoubted moments of the evening. The unreleased ‘Rant Rushmore’ received a standing ovation from a crowd that had been in their seats throughout. It’s a song that levels itself to find the next great place to go. It has a soul-funk verse before transposing to some of the most melodic gospel we’ve heard that culminates into a blues rock middle 8. One can only hope that it will appear on his forthcoming album Last Days Of Oakland released in early June.

With the job almost done it was time to close out with ‘Lost In A Crowd’, a track that beat 7000 entries in NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. With so many entries you could imagine that it might have been a close affair but NPR put that correct when they told us that it was “the clear winner”. The extended jam over Xavier’s ad-libbing showed why LJ Holoman had played with the likes Dr. Dre, Joss Stone and Nas

Fantastic Negrito is neither lost in that company, exuding elegance, craftsmanship and showmanship that sets him apart from his other contemporaries. The endorsement from Chris Cornell speaks for itself. The slight surprise was maybe the omission of his two lead singles from the forthcoming album, but having to spoke with him after the show; he told us the decision was simply down to not having the full band with him. After treating me to a few acapella lines from the tracks, he shared that he expects to be back with the full band in September. That will whet the appetite for the hundreds of new fans that he made that night.

Last Days Of Oakland is available from amazon & iTunes.

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