Our Top 10 Garland Jeffreys songs list looks back at the songs of one of the most brilliant, soulful and undoubtedly underrated musical artists of the past 50 years. Long a critic favorite, it is only recently that Garland Jeffreys has retired from performing. And that’s a shame because the man could still sing his heart out and mesmerize an audience with his amazing spirit and magnificent musical talents. I met Mr Jeffreys a few years ago when I lent him my keyboard to use in a show in New York and he was just so friendly and grateful to me about it. I have been a long time fan of his music since I first purchased Ghost Writer in the mid 1970s when I was in high school. I have followed his career ever since, buying every album he has ever released. To pick only ten songs is truly a challenge but that’s what this website does in order to turn people onto artists they may not know while also paying tribute to these musical legends.
Garland Jeffreys has had a long career in classic rock history. His first album entitled Grinder’s Switch featuring Garland Jeffrey was released in 1970 with his band called Grinder’s Switch. Garland Jeffreys would release his first solo album in 1973 entitled Garland Jeffreys. It would be another four years before Garland Jeffreys released his second solo album, but the next one was real special. In 1977, Garland Jeffreys released the legendary Ghost Writer album that was promoted heavily by Columbia Records. There were trade ads in all the major music magazine ads at the time promoting the record. It was simply a fantastic album and deserved even more promotion than it probably got. We have to be careful not to fill up this entire top 10 Garland Jeffreys songs list with songs from Ghost Writer because every song on that record is stunning.
Garland Jeffreys followed up Ghost Writer a year later with the great record One-Eyed Jack in 1978. In 1979, Garland Jeffreys released the sensational American Boy & Girl album. While Ghost Writer will always remain our favorite Garland Jeffreys album, his 1981 record Escape Artist comes in a close second. There were many legendary musicians playing on that record which we will get to in the songs list. Garland Jeffreys released two more albums in the 1980s entitled Rock ‘n’ Roll Adult in 1981 and Guts For Love in 1983.
After almost a ten years absence from releasing albums, Garland Jeffreys returned to the music business in 1992 with the album Don’t Call Me Buckwheat. It was a groundbreaking album in which Garland Jeffreys put the issues of race bravely at the forefront of the album. Since Don’t Call Me Buckwheat, Garland Jeffreys has released six more studio albums with his most recent being the 2017 album 14 Steps To Heaven.
For those of you unfamiliar with the music of Garland Jeffreys, we hope this top 10 list will serve as the catalyst for checking out his entire catalogue which will be well worth your time. For those who are big fans already, yeah we know we forget that song and that one to….
# 10 – 14 Steps To Harlem
We open up our top 10 Garland Jeffreys Songs list with the unbelievable song entitled “14 Steps To Harlem.” When you first put this album on for a spin and are greeted with the killer opening track “When You Call My Name,” you just get the feeling right away that this is going to be a great album. The next track “Schoolyard Blues,” with it’s vintage Rolling Stones blues style sound further cements the argument. By the time you’re halfway through the album’s title cut you realize Garland Jeffreys has hit it out the ballpark once again, and maybe even further than he has ever hit one. The title track of his 2017 album 14 Steps To Harlem speaks to poverty and despair through the eyes of a father, a son, a family, a community, a race and all that’s right and wrong, sad and true. It’s what Garland Jeffreys has always done, and done so well.
# 9 – Cool Down Boy
Continuing with our top 10 Garland Jeffreys Songs list we take a listen to the great grooving song entitled “Cool Down Boy.” It’s the first song from the legendary Ghost Writer album to appear on this list. Boy did we struggle with picking songs from this album because there were just so many we didn’t want to leave off. This is a classic one through. It’s got a stunning rock groove that breaks into a reggae bridge that Garland sings over complaining about how all his teachers, parents and everyone else has been telling him his whole life to cool down. Its just perfect. The production on the song is magnificent. The song was released as the fourth track on the Ghost Writer album released in 1977.
# 8 – Christine
brilliant 1981 album Escape Artist was another record we had a tough time having to only pick one or two songs from. There was just so much great material on the record that we almost pulled our hair out (what we have left) trying to select from the record. I remember vividly always loving the song “Christine.” There was just something special about this one. It appeared as the second track on the record. It just sort of exploded out through the speakers. Bruce Springsteen’s great organ player Danny Federici of The E Street Band who has since passed laid down some great reggae sounding organ licks that fueled the groove on this one so wonderfully. Garland Jeffreys’ lines in the song are spectacular and the way he sings them were so unique and genuine.
# 7 – Matador
In the number seven position on our top 10 Garland Jeffreys Songs list is the radiant, song entitled “Matador.” The song was released on the album entitled American Boy & Girl. The album was released in 1979. This song is just magical. The chord changes and grooves just makes you feel good. Then there’s the wondrous voice of Garland Jeffreys. There are almost no words to describe the vibrato that flows from his vocals chords. His phrasing is so soulful and ravishing. His voice has always been so wonderfully unique and captivating to list too. If you ever want to show off the beauty of Garland Jeffreys’ voice, this is one to definitely use. Just a striking song from the great American Boy & Girl album.
# 6 – Any Rain
From his very first album up until his most recent record released in 2017, Garland Jeffreys never stopped releasing great quality music that was as memorable as great songs come. This one entitled “Any Rain,” is simply another astonishing song recorded and released by Garland Jeffreys. Whenever you hear someone say they don’t make great songs anymore, just play them this one. The song “Any Rain,” was released on the album entitled Truth Serum. The album was released in 2013. “Any Rain,” was also composed by Garland Jeffreys. Don’t miss the video which is so artistic and well done. Easily one of the great tracks of the 2010s.
# 5 – The Contortionist
At the halfway point on our top 10 Garland Jeffreys Songs list is another grand Garland Jeffreys Song released in the 2000s entitled “The Contortionist.” The song was issued on the album entitled The King of In Between. The album was released in 2011. If it feels like or sounds like there is a sort of Lou Reed vibe happening on this pulsating song, it’s because Lou Reed is singing backing vocals on the track. Two New York musicians laying down a track that is simply timeless. Don’t miss listening to this one.
# 4 – Hail Hail Rock ‘N’ Roll
Garland Jeffreys had gone away from releasing records for almost ten years between 1983 and 1992. Yet, when he returned in 1992 with his first album in almost ten years he was sure to make a statement. Garland Jeffreys’ album Don’t Call Me Buckwheat was an album that looked at the issues of race from all angles including personal experiences that Garland Jeffreys sadly had to go through as man of mixed races. The album featured an all star cast of A list musicians like Steve Jordan, Michael Brecker, Jeff Bova, Sly Dunbar and Venin Reid of Living Colour who played guitar on the incredible song “Hail Hail Rock N Roll.”
# 3 – I May Not Be Your Kind
Moving along on our top 10 Garland Jeffreys Songs list we present the soul infused classic song “I May Not Be Your Kind.” This one always had the sound of one of those classic Stax or Motown Records. It sounded like a classic the first time you heard it. With a groove to die for and a vocal melody lines that is simply one for the rock and roll ages, this one will always stand as one of Garland Jeffreys most legendary songs. The song was released on the album entitled Ghost Writer. The album was released in 1977 It was the first single released from the album. That’s the great Anthony Jackson playing that killer bass line. Yeah baby, this one smokes.
# 2 – Wild In The Streets
Just of the top spot on our top 10 Garland Jeffreys Songs list we celebrate the song entitled “Wild In The Streets.” Garland Jeffreys knew he wrote a legendary song when he first recorded this one. The song was originally released as a stand alone single in 1973. The song was re-recorded a few years later and placed on the Ghost Writer album making its first appearance on a Garland Jeffreys album. When Columbia Records released Ghost Writer, they heavily promoted the inclusion of the song “Wild In The Streets.” 1970’s New York classic rock music doesn’t get much better than this.
# 1 – New York Skyline
We close out our top 10 Garland Jeffreys Songs list with our favorite Garland Jeffreys songs entitled New York Skyline. We fell in love with this one instantly the first time we ever heard it. Being a New Yorker myself being born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx I am probably very much biased towards this song. If your a New Yorker there is no way you don’t fall in love with this romantic and soulful ballad. Even if your not from New York how could you not love this song. Garland Jeffreys delivered the vocals performance of his career on this one. The song was released on the album entitled Ghost Writer.
Top 10 Garland Jeffreys Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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