Best song for immediate impact when presenting or testing?

I, as most of you, have my regular tunes that I play or listen to when trying out a new system or playing music for friends. My current starter is 'Feels like Rain' by Aaron Neville. It engages me immediately because I love it so, but it is also very well recorded and has a bass voice doing backup which in the right system has a real visceral impact.

I was at an Audio shop recently, listening to my standards, and wanted to show the sales consultant a piece that he might not have heard. I played 'Golden Rust' off the Miles Gurtu album. After about 30 seconds, he pulled out his device and added the song to his favorites. I asked why did he add so quickly, and he said that the opening electronica had a three dimensional stereophonic quality that made a remarkable impression right off the bat. I paraphrase lightly; that was his comment.

What pieces do you play of any genre that have an immediate impact, especially for people listening to a good system for the first time?
The intro to Money for Nothing by Dire Straits does it for me!
I don't like to play for immediate impact. That is cheap and tawdry and right off the bat encourages people in all the basest aspects of listening. Of course this is what everyone does in demo's. Then they wonder why there are no women audiophiles, why so many constantly churn components (looking for the next immediate impact), why so few audiophiles have any real listening skills.

What I like to do instead is play something very simple and quiet like Springsteen Highway 29, just his familiar voice and guitar, or Doug MacLeod, or Linda Ronstadt (anything from her 3 albums with Nelson Riddle) the kind of thing that draws the listener in. Try it some time.

But does it impress? Oh yeah. One guy, his wife came up to me with this look of incredulity on her face, obviously emotionally moved, and what did she say? "I feel like I could listen to this all night!" Because instead of being barraged, aurally assaulted, she was actually drawn in and enjoying the music. She never even knew that was possible.

It is. Rare. Not easy. But definitely possible.
For me there are many songs that have immediate impact, a lot of them are well recorded (eg. Dire Strait Songs, Pink Floyd,) so they will sound good on a very expensive system and equally sound good on an under £1000 system, so I purposefully do not use such songs to test the system.  However there are other pieces of music (Classical, Rock and other genre of music) which have immediate impact which are not so straight forward in recordings, or are slightly more complicated eg voices in a choir, ensemble where individuals sing different words overlapping each over.  Such recordings for me tells me a little more how the sytem in question copes with the recording. However there are to immediate impact songs I play to test system which are Dick Dale - Misirlou and Rolling Stones - Painted It Black.
"The Unknown Soldier" from Weather Report's I Sing The Body Electric! 
The last movement of St.Saen's Symphony 3 - Barenboim/CSO on DG!
when I must be cheap and tawdry; Dave Holland - What Goes Around
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LOVE OVER GOLD - Dire Straits
Stones’ Midnight Rambler on Disc 2 Hot Rocks 1964-1971 CD, the 2002 DSD REMASTER by ABKCO

Cheap and Tawdry.
Allan Taylor's "Colour to the Moon"...
I don’t like to play for immediate impact. That is cheap and tawdry and right off the bat encourages people in all the basest aspects of listening. Of course this is what everyone does in demo’s. Then they wonder why there are no women audiophiles, why so many constantly churn components (looking for the next immediate impact), why so few audiophiles have any real listening skills.

What I like to do instead is play something very simple and quiet like......

Quoted because I couldn’t possibly agree more.

When I have guests with no previous experience with or interest in HiFi, I put on whatever music I think they might like. Generally they’ll never have heard a halfway decent system in their life, so pretty much anything will make an impact.

If I want to show off what the system can actually do and have guest who’ll know what they’re hearing, I put on "In darknesse let mee dwell " from " A Candle in the Dark " by the Newberry Consort, "Church Windows" by Respighi, "The Great Gate of Kiev" by Mussorgsky, a couple of songs from "Early Hours" by Eleanor McEvoy, something from Lisa Gerrard’s solo album or maybe Holly Cole’s album "Temptation". Depends what music they’re into.

+1 @toddalin. SRV - Tin Pan Alley is one of my all-time favorites.
I must say Planet Caravan by Pantera is a good test. You can hear palm strikes on the drums and finger slides on the guitar strings. The old standard though was always Time by Pink Floyd for the clocks and the drums.
Muddy Waters "Folk Singer" SACD is pretty mind blowing for the uninitiated.
Supertramps "Hide in your Shell" is well mixed and gradually builds.....  

Midnight Rambler on SACD  (could be the dirtiest Blues ever recorded?).
Journey - Don't Stop Believing on SACD
(Jazz drumming undertones in a Rock structured song).
Take Five.....Dave Brubeck
I usually start with David Manley’s "Toolbox" (VTL 008). First track side 1 "The Loft". It has everything that I find difficult for a system to reproduce well: Piano, kick-drum, Tenor sax and flute. Within the first minute, I can tell approx. where a system is relative to what I like. This CD does not have female vocals so I go elsewhere for that.

The CD is very well-recorded (all tube chain, Manley enhanced 1/2 tape, Manley preamps etc.., 20-bit A to D converter, Precision Mastering digital master) Has a depth to the soundstage that is missing from most CD’s I listen to.

For my unwashed guests, I have them sit in my parlor, break out the candles and put on a 180 gram Living Stereo copy of Elvis is Back...most say they thought he was in the room...

Green Grass and High Tides by the Outlaws
This one kicks.....”why is it” by Yellowjackets

Man, I agree with you 100%. About 20 years before my dad died, He came in to see me a couple times when I was separated from my wife for a couple years. I went out and bought a barber shop quartet album because my dad used to sing in one long ago and I thought he would love it. He was beginning to have hearing problems at that point,
but he sat there and sang along with the tunes and got this look in his eye of love, the remembering the times look, and the outward appreciation he showed me was way more important than how great the recording was. I then played a Virgil Fox Direct to Disc organ record. He went nuts as He felt and heard the big pipe organ just like he was in his church and the pipe organ started to play. This recording IS great, but the music itself was WAY more important than the recording quality.

I have a good friend that can play most anything with his Spotify and Roon but he usually chooses stuff that he knows I like to play at his house. I need to return to the guy who also does that most of the time.

When I want to be cheap and tawdry I play one cut that gets me every time: Steve Hunter The Deacon-The idler. Even sounds good on You Tube. 
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes - Paul Simon
Peel me a grape - Diana Krall
On the way home- Neil Young Massey Hall
anything by Lyle Lovett
Factory Girl - Stones
Hey Laura- Gregory Porter
Just a Little Lovin’- Shelby Lynne
River Man- Lee Ritenour
New Love- Amos Lee
Babylon Sisters- Steely Dan
Flamenco Sketches- Miles Davis
Allman Brothers Band,  You Don,t Love Me, from Live at the Filmore.  Duane’s solo about 6 minutes in is so expressive and I also listen to the dual drummers.

Second choice is Take Five on SACD
  • East River Drive - Stanley Clarke
  • Feel No Pain - Sade
  • Lily Was Here - David A. Stewart featuring Candy Dufler
  • Moai - Monica Ramos
  • Sexy Paradise - Mariea Antoinette
  • Welcome - Lisa Lynne
  • West Indeed - U-NAM
Thomas Dolby- the flat earth. 
Beck- sea change
billy idol- rebel yell. 

All great recordings. All very different. 
"Almost Like the Blues"  Leonard Cohen
"Forget Her"   Jeff Buckley
"Milestones"   Bill Evans Trio
"Alabama"  John Coltrane
"Those Shoes"  Eagles
"Cousin John" Marcus Miller
"Edith and the Kingpin" live  Joni Mitchell

Thanks cmjones (OP), this is an interesting discussion that has given me a lot of good ideas for demonstrating my system (some would say playing with). Especially now I have a Tidal subscription. Having fun with HiFi all over again.

"The Way I Walk"   Robert Gordon

"Sweet Dreams"   Patsy Cline"
Save the Last Dance for Me"   Aaron Neville"
Here in the Dark"   Taj Mahal featuring Eric Clapton
I always ask visitors what they would like to hear first. If they don’t have a preference - Styles by Ben Liebrand. The whole album is first class in all aspects.There are plenty of suggestions provided by you all for me to chase down and listen to now too.Great idea for a post! Thanks!
Veela - several different ones but Rameses works well
Clark Richard - Red Robin
Talking Heads- Burning Down the House
Gotye- Eyes Wide Open
Copeland- Appalachian Spring
"China Lake", which is track #8 on David Baerwald's "Triage" CD.
Hands down..10cc Feel the Benefit Parts 1, 2 and 3 ... it hits all the notes and then some... on the Deceptive Bends Album.

@tostadosunidos, Damn great list! Robert Gordon’s first album knocked me out when it was released in ’77; great songs, great band, great sound. It was produced by Richard Gottehrer, who also did Blondie’s first couple. "The Way I Walk" is a song written and first recorded by Jack Scott, one of the best of the 50’s Rockabillies. Also on the album is one by a favorite of mine, "Lonesome Train (On A Lonesome Track)" by The Rock and Roll Trio (Johnny Burnette).

Robert isn’t as good a singer as the 50’s guys, but that’s all right. I like the albums he did with English guitarist Chris Spedding taking Link Wray’s place even more. On his third album (the first with Spedding) he does another Johnny Burnette song, the fantastic "Rockabilly Boogie", as well as a cool version of "Black Slacks" (Joe Bennett and The Sparkletones). Great guitar playing by Spedding.

Just for fun, I use "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder. Great clavichord and drum sound, the drums actually played by Stevie himself. Good album (Talking Book).

In ’73 was in the second high end store to open in the South Bay (San Jose, Cupertino, Palo Alto, etc.) on the day Bill Johnson just happened to be delivering and setting up a complete ARC system. His new dealer (Walter Davies, now of Last record products renown) put on "Me and Bobby McGee" by Gordon Lightfoot (on his If You Could Read My Mind album). Bill remarked on how good the song sounded, and Walter gave him the LP to take home. Lots of low-level information to be revealed by a high-resolution system. Great acoustic guitar and vocal recording. The same is true of many albums on Rounder Records, including those of Tony Rice.

David Lindley’s first two albums, when cranked up to live SPL, sound great (if you get the chance, see him live). But even they pale in comparison with any of the great direct-to-disk LPs from the 1970’s, which are absolutely startling "alive". Insane immediacy, presence, transparency, and dynamics. The closest to live I’ve ever heard music reproduced. Most contain little of musical interest; I think of them as test records.

Maybe not the best, but fun to listen to on any system.  Blue Man Group, "TV Song".
All interesting replies.  My ultimate “sit up and take notice” song is the following... Especially great on vintage stereo or tube setups with warm sounds.  Enjoy!
I sold a ton of Magnepan and Audio Research products back in the day with both "Money" (Pink Floyd) and "Midnight at the Oasis" (Maria Muldaur).

Linda Ronstadt was also a hit--as she should be, of course, as was the Lincoln Mayorga series of direct-to-disc recordings.  I would actually suggest them (Mayorga) for ANYONE listening critically to a system before purchase.  GIGO and buyer beware!

"Book of Shadows" from Black Light Syndrome.
Features - Terry Bozio, Tony Levin and Steve Stevens - Jazz/Fusion. It's a masterpiece.

Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5” is an extraordinary recording when played on a decent Hi-Fi, and it was recorded 60 years ago! The song is effectively a drum solo and that drum solo on the left speaker and the sax straight down the middle at the start and end of the song will give you so much info on the capabilities of the system.

Elvis’ “Fever” from the Living Stereo RCA master is an amazing vocal recording. It should be warm and present in the room.

John Martyn’s “Easy Blues” from the Solid Air album has a brilliant into piece of acoustic guitar - all dynamics and heavy plucking.

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I had a lot of fun listening to the first half of this list last night!  In particular the 17-minute Dave Holland track melted my face into a puddle on the couch.  Weather Report surprised me by holding my attention for 7+ minutes of fairly "out" sounds.  And I'd never even heard of Malcolm Arnold (classical isn't my wheelhouse) but the Keith Johnson recording was typically sublime.

When I'm demonstrating the system to someone uninitiated, I explain that we'll progess like a wine or beer tasting -- simpler fare to start, palate-wreckers at the end.  So I'll lead off with Getz/Gilberto "Girl from Ipanema."  They all know the song; it soothes the ears and the mind. A couple of minutes into the track, when Stan starts to blow, they're usually hooked.  

After that I might toss out mid-tawdry chestnuts like 
Paul Simon -- Rhythm of the Saints -- "Can't Run But"
Muddy Waters -- Folk Singer -- "Country Boy"
Sonny Rollins -- Way out West -- "I'm an Old Cowhand"
Steely Dan -- Gaucho -- "Babylon Sisters"

Once I've connected on any of these, I'll just hand them the iPad and let them drive to their heart's content.  They'll eventually play their favorite Black Keys track, then look at me with sad eyes to ask why it sounds so bad.  We'll talk for a minute about dynamic range compression.

We might eventually bring the house down with something like
Sara Bareilles -- Brave Enough -- "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"
Yes -- Fragile -- "Heart of the Sunrise" or
The Bad Plus -- Give -- "1979 Semi-Finalist." 
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Don't need immediate impact, just want something detailed, clear that allows me to really experience the sonic properties of what I'm testing.  My favs include:

Almost anything by SADE
New York Serenade by Bruce Springsteen
Summer Madness by Kool and the Gang
Symphony No. 2 Op. 27 III. Adagio: Adagio - Rachmaninov (quiet but engrossing)
Samba Da Bencao  by Bebel Gilberto

MacArthur park by Richard Harris. If your system can make that sound listenable your good to go....
So many so cool in different ways but my latest is Harmonix by Surfer Blood. The guitar lead is clean yet piercing and grabs your attention right on through from the start .
I use this one for just about any person that has listened to my system

Andreas Vollenweider, La Strega & The Grand Ball of the Duljas opening tracks from the Book of Roses LP. If you have a good system, this will blow you away. Be sure to crank it up! (it isn't that great on YT, stream it)
Sundown--- works well