Hey, everybody. My name is Dan Ubick, but I go by Connie Price when I spin records or get behind the drum kit. Call me Dan or call me Connie (short for Constantine, my middle name). I’m a music producer, musician, and record collector from California.
I’m on a mission to share the songs that catch my ear every month on the Soul Picnic Playlist. Think of them as flavorful dishes from the kitchen’s of my favorite musical chefs. I love all kinds of music regardless of genre or era but, full disclosure, I do have an ongoing love affair with the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by tons of talented people who are as obsessed with music as I am. They constantly turn me on to songs that make me think, How have I never heard this before?! I created Soul Picnic so I could pass my own discoveries on to you. I hope you find a new favorite here, and it makes you smile, feel understood, or keeps you positive.
So pop on some headphones, wire yourself into a good set of speakers, and go hunt down the original copies on vinyl from your local record store for the full effect. These tracks all deserve it. Bon appétit!
Levon Helm and The RCO All-Stars—“Milk Cow Boogie”
Right out of the gate, I want to get everyone out there feeling good. And who better to achieve that than drummer Levon Helm and his RCO All-Stars? Yes, they’re “all-stars” in the true sense of the word. After The Band’s Last Waltz documentary, Helm roped in no less than Dr. John, MG’s Booker T. Jones, Duck Dunn, and Steve Cropper, Paul Butterfield and a host of other heavy hitters to get this barn burner on tape. Propelled by a tough horn arrangement and Helm’s soulful, down-home lead vocals, this one is sure to get you on your feet.
The Rolling Stones—“Scarlet”
This outtake from The Rolling Stones’ 1974 LP Goats Head Soup, featuring studio ace and Led Zeppelin mastermind Jimmy Page on guitar and Blind Faith’s Rick Grech on bass, should have been the lead single. Recorded in Ronnie Wood’s basement studio (or Olympic Studios, depending on whom you ask), this rocker is as funky as anything the Stones ever committed to tape, and I can’t stop listening to it.
After a string of huge hits, producer Mickie Most brought in The Jeff Beck Group for Donovan’s seventh LP, 1969’s Barabajagal. The title track is about as rockin’ a tune as I’ve heard from the Scottish hurdy-gurdy man, due mostly to a rock-solid foundation laid by guitarist Jeff Beck, bassist Ronnie Wood, and drummer Micky Waller.
Thin Lizzy—“She Knows”
From Thin Lizzy’s Nightlife LP, the band’s fourth, comes this soulful tune featuring the tasty twin guitar work of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson with the intuitive drumming of Brian Downey. All Lizzy’s hits are great, but singer-bassist Phil Lynott and company were much more than that. If only Mother Mary had gotten to Lynott sooner.
The Kinks—“I Need You”
The b-side to The Kinks’ hit single, “Set Me Free,” holds up alongside other full-out rockers in the band’s catalog like, "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night.” This track, complete with catchy hooks and raw vocals, features rock-solid bass and drums courtesy of Messrs. Avory and Quaife, and a blistering guitar solo from Dave Davies.
The Smoke—“High In A Room”
England’s The Smoke started playing R&B covers around Yorkshire and London as The Moonshots and the The Shots, scoring a hit with 1967’s “My Friend Jack.” But it’s this catchy psychedelic number that caught my ear. It’s the perfect combination of bouncy bass, swinging drums, vibrato guitar, and tight, harmonized vocals. Their ascots don’t hurt either.
The Nazz—“Open my Eyes”
If you like late ‘60s-style phased drums, all kinds of fuzz guitar, and an opening similar to The Who’s “I Can’t Explain,” this track from Todd Rundgren’s first group, The Nazz, is right up your alley. “Clear my eyes, make me wise or is all I believe in lies? I really don't know when or where to go And I can't see a thing 'til you open my eyes.”
Small Faces—“Talk to You”
Many will argue who the most soulful singers to come out of England in the ‘60s were. Some say Rod Stewart, others Terry Reid, but I’d put Small Faces’ Steve Marriott in that lineup as well. Having a long string of hits and an incredibly strong rhythm section in Ronnie Lane, Ian MacLagan, and Kenny Jones doesn’t hurt either. Plus, no one dressed better than these Mod fashion icons.
Los Dug Dug’s—“Smog”
Mexico’s Los Dug Dug’s brought it for their second full length, 1972’s fuzzy psych offering, Smog. The title track sounds like “a crazy Mexican version of Jethro Tull, and to others like a Spanish speaking incarnation of MC5” according to my friends at Light in the Attic Records. Sung entirely in Spanish, the lyrics translate to: “Smog everywhere, I don't know what to do anymore. I can think of not breathing. Smog cancer everywhere. Cancer is a bad disease, it kills us without mercy.” Indeed.
Samantha Jones—“Today Without You”
I’m a sucker for late ‘60s and early ‘70s psychedelic British pop-soul, so I have to thank my buddies Steve Tounsand and Daryle Goldfarb for turning me on to this killer single from Penny Farthing Records by Samantha Jones (aka Jean Owen from England’s Northern soul scene). I promptly raced to Discogs and found a copy right after they played it for me. Great tune, great horn and string arrangements. The drummer and bass player are both beasts, whoever they are.
Creedence Clearwater Revival—“Commotion”
Taking a break from bayous and bad moons, Creedence Clearwater Revival venture out from their back door and into the city, sounding as manic and rocking as ever on this ferocious cut from their third LP, 1969’s Green River. "Traffic in the city turns my head around,” sings John Fogerty. “Backed up on the freeway, backed up in the church. And everywhere you look there's a frown."
ZZ Top—“Shaking Your Tree”
The only single from ZZ Top’s first album is a rockin’ lament to a cheatin’ woman: “Somebody else been shakin’ your tree. S’posed to be savin’ all that stuff for me.” Frank Beard’s syncopated kick drum pattern locks down the groove, while bassist Dusty Hill and The Reverend Billy Gibbons riff away on one of the toughest and rawest Texas boogies I’ve heard from them.
Three Dog Night—“I Can Hear You Calling”
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of rap, which is how I first found out about this funky rocker from a band I only knew from its bigger hits. Thanks to Diamond D’s “Best Kept Secret,” I flipped over the 45 of “Joy To The World” and discovered this corker. Chuck Negron sings his ass off, while drummer Floyd Sneed—with the help of “more cowbell”—gives us one of the sickest breakbeats known to man.
David Axelrod—“Holy Thursday”
Last but not least comes this jazzy, psychedelic masterpiece from Axe’s 1968’s Songs Of Innocence LP. The album is held together by the rock-solid drums of Earl Palmer and fellow Wrecking Crew kingpins bassist Carol Kaye, guitarist Al Casey, and pianist/organist Don Randi; however, what stands out is Mr. Axelrod’s arrangement, a “tone poem” based on William Blake’s 1789 collection of poems, Songs Of Innocence. Hip-hop heads will recognize bits sampled by The Beatnuts, Lil Wayne and UNKLE, but this is one of those recordings that doesn’t get any better than the original.
Listen to the playlist on Apple Music:
The Last Word: If you love these songs, please buy physical copies if you’re able. Spotify, YouTube, and other streaming services are great tools, but streaming doesn’t pay artists a living wage. We want these amazing folks to keep making the music we cherish.
Love music as much as we do? Then check out Dan Ubick’s production company, DanUbe Productions, and drop him a line if you’re so inclined.