Song 170, Thursday, 12/12/2013 -- Slim Slow Slider by Van Morrison, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Astral Weeks cover, but there's a good chance this song might move you even if the visual part of the video doesn't. In the early '70s I often read references in Rolling Stone and other parts of the music press about Astral Weeks being a really remarkable record, and when I finally got around to hearing it, I could hear how good the record is, but I also felt like it was mainly an interesting side trip. It's not the kind of album I listen to very often, as good as it is, but when I'm in the mood to go there, then it's the best way to get to that mood and that place. However, this song, which closes Astral Weeks, is the one track from the album that I can listen to any time, any day, regardless of the mood I'm in. I like the way Van doesn't give you the details of the story, but instead paints a kind of impressionistic picture, with both the words and the music, that draws you into the scene but leaves the edges a bit unfocused.
Song 169, Wednesday, 12/11/2013 -- Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere cover, but the video has a song that really moves even if the visual part doesn't. Yes, I will admit that I do listen to some Neil Young songs, and this would probably be my favorite one. I decided to post this song today because I just bought some organic cinnamon for the first time, and though I haven't tasted it yet (tomorrow for sure, though), it smells so much better than the stuff I've gotten in the past at the chain store grocery place, so I'm sure it will be good. One thing I always liked about this song is the guitar solo break that basically builds off of one note, with a few variations added at the end. I probably would have done a much different solo for this tune, with a lot more notes, and I really like the way Neil makes that one note with slight variations sound so good, giving the lead break a kind of epic simplicity.
Song 167, Monday, 12/9/2013 -- It Doesn't Matter by Firefall, written by Chris Hillman, Rick Roberts and Steve Stills. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Firefall Greatest Hits cover, but this song keeps things moving pretty well even if the visual part of the video doesn't. This song and this band have a lot of names behind them — Firefall's story begins with singer-songwriter Rick Roberts from The Flying Burrito Brothers, who in 1975 was performing with former Byrd Chris Hillman's band, along with Mark Andes (former Spirit bass player), Mike Clarke (former Byrds drummer) and guitarist Jock Bartley. With a bit of a shake up, these 4 added singer-songwriter-guitarist Larry Burnett into the mix and then recorded their debut album, which included this song written by Rick with some help from Chris Hillman and Steve Stills. When I first heard the song, I already knew most of the names of the players, but it felt good to hear a tune that lived up to its pedigree. I really liked the basic musical idea of country-rock, and I would put this tune near the top of a short list of songs that sound as good as the promise of that idea.
Song 166, Sunday, 12/8/2013 -- Drivin' Wheel by Tom Rush, written by David Wiffen. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Tom Rush cover, but this song moves along pretty well even if the visual part doesn't move. In 1970 Chicago-area radio was really good, and it introduced me to this song, from a current LP, pretty quickly convincing me that I wanted to get that record. The backing track almost sneaks in behind Tom's voice, but then really kicks in with the slide guitar, and keeps moving along for almost 5-and-a-half minutes, building to a point where the train sounds like it's leaving the station, whereupon it then fades into the distance, all in a song about feeling like some old engine that's lost its drivin' wheel.
Song 164, Friday, 12/6/2013 -- Flicker by Patti Rothberg, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video is a live performance of the song, which was the best I could find since she doesn't have a YT video of the album track, but I think she does a pretty good version of the song in the video, and you can hear it reasonably clearly, which is not always true of live video tracks. Friday being Friend's Day, today's song is by my friend Patti Rothberg. This song opens her first full-length CD, and pulls the listener into her musical world in a rocking but still understated way, with a sound that hints at a lot more to come. The music and the words of this song together paint a visual image of a distant flickering light, sparking interest and igniting a curiosity to get closer to that flicker and find out more about it.
Song 162, Wednesday, 12/4/2013 -- Small Change by Tom Waits, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is just a still graphic of the Small Change cover, but even though the visual doesn't move, the song should keep your attention for the full 5-plus minutes of the video, plus there's a lot going on in that photo so you may want the whole time just to take it all in. While I do listen to some jazz, the form never interested me to the same degree as rock, folk, country and blues, but when I hear someone take that jazz influence in the direction of a track like this, it makes me like it a lot more. When I saw Tom on a TV special doing some stuff from the Small Change LP, I knew I had to get the record, and I did soon after. A couple of years later, I sold all of my LPs to lighten my load and get some change together for the hitch to CA. Later, living in Berkeley, when I began collecting LPs again, I got another copy of Small Change and noticed that a small change had indeed occurred to the title track. Apparently Revlon had threatened to sue if Tom didn't change a line, and in the process he also deleted a reference to whores looking like a certain actress, whose name rhymed with stilettos a bit better than the word prophylactics does.
Song 161, Tuesday, 12/3/2013 -- How Have You Been? by John Sebastian, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is just a still graphic of the John B. Sebastian cover, but the video does give you a good song to listen to, even if it doesn't give you much to watch. A few people have compared my songs to John Sebastian, and I consider that a nice compliment. I've always really liked the positive quality of Sebastian's outlook, which comes through in both his music and his words, and I will admit that I have written a few songs mainly from the inspiration of a John Sebastian piece. I very well understand the story he tells in this song, as a musical hitch-hiker who's been traveling without much to carry, having been there more than a few times myself. A couple of further angles on the words of this tune -- to this day, I still wonder about that strange European guitar string that John mentions in verse 4, and I hope that the turtle from the L.I. Expressway is doing better these days in the back yard of the folks in the song.