4. Bobby Womack, "California Dreaming," 1968
Womack was one of the most intensely committed collaborators in R&B/soul and rock history, so it's ironic that his first solo hit was a cover of this Laurel Canyon prayer-rug confessional. But Womack's version, arranged and recorded in Memphis at Chips Moman's American Studio (where he'd done session work) with a nimbly sublime horn and rhythm section, reads as both more sacred and more desperate, while it sounds both more delicate and more edgy, his guitar teasing the siren glow of Los Angeles. Wistful nostalgia becomes grinding need as Womack scats and aches. The whole thing has the intensity of a one-act play on your front stoop. Whew.