Song 90, Monday, 9/23/2013 -- Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles, written by Percy Mayfield. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video is just a blank still with some type, but for this RC classic, the visual doesn't matter -- just listen to the song and you'll be glad you did, even if you know this one very well. Today is Ray Charles' birthday, and someone on Facebook asked for votes on everyone's favorite RC song, so without hesitation, this one got my vote. I first heard it on a NYC bus trip, probably some time around 1968. I was on a field trip to the city with some high school mates, and when the radio played this song, a bunch of them started singing along. It was obviously a golden oldie, although one I hadn't heard. Interestingly enough, with that many singing along with the tune, I couldn't hear Ray Charles' voice very clearly, and a couple of years later when I started hearing Joe Cocker, it wasn't so obvious to me who he sounded like, though a friend or 2 might have mentioned Ray Charles. I also remember that inspired SNL Pepsi skit, and a funny Rolling Stone picture of a smiling RC in an airplane cockpit. While we wouldn't want him flying the plane, this world would be a slightly better place if Ray was still here, even just doing Pepsi commercials.
Song 89, Sunday, 9/22/2013 -- Everything Zen by Bush, written by Gavin Rossdale. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Sixteen Stone cover but playing the video, you will hear a really good song though you might not see much. After the Black Lab song on my iPod playlist, I have one called Let Go by a band called From Good Homes, but I couldn't find a YouTube video or any other way for someone to hear the song, so I had to skip it. (Update: Let Go is Song 289.) Bush caught a lot of flack for sounding like Nirvana, and there's some validity to the criticism, just as Joe Cocker owed his singing style mostly to Ray Charles and Aerosmith sounded a whole lot like Led Zeppelin, but they still did songs I liked and I bought their albums as well. I respected Nirvana for their originality, but Sixteen Stone has quite a few songs that I like, in spite of what the sound might have owed to someone else. I also enjoy the lines about finding someone's brother, plus I don't take offense at the suggestion that Dave's on sale again.
Song 88, Saturday, 9/21/2013 -- Wash it Away by Black Lab, written by Paul Durham. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. You won't see much moving on this video, but you will hear a really moving song if you play the video. The Nineties Favorites playlist on my iPod opens with this song, from late '97. I only had to hear this song once or twice on the radio before I knew I had to get the CD, and I was happy to find out how good an investment that CD turned out to be, since it has 11 other very good tracks, one of which became another hit soon after I got it. I liked this song so well after only hearing it a couple of times, though, that I was willing to risk the price of an entire CD just to get it. Of all the thousands of songs I like to listen to, I don't know if could name another one that better expresses, in both music and lyrics, the sense of regret and hard-learned life lessons that can come to someone who has lived, as the song says, Forty years spent one by one, forty years of life just slippin' away.
Song 87, Friday, 9/20/2013 -- Alternate Universe by Patti Rothberg, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Double Standards cover, but while you won't see anything moving, you will hear a really good song if you play the video. Friday being Friend's Day, it seemed like a good time to put up another Patti Rothberg song. I had the privilege of helping Patti put together the EPK for her Double Standards CD, and in the process I very quickly came to appreciate her songwriting talents, as well as her vocal and guitar abilities. Patti and I share a fondness for lyrical puns, and I enjoy a lot of what she does with them, though there's a couple that I would have missed if she hadn't told me about them. This song has a lot of really good lines, my personal favorite being, "I hold the strings to my own purse in my alternate universe."
Song 86, Thursday, 9/19/2013 -- Born on the Bayou by Creedence Clearwater Revival, written by John Fogerty. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is just a still graphic of the band, but if you play the video, though you won't see anything that moves you will hear a song that really moves. Between cassette tape collections of favorite songs, I thought I'd randomly throw in my favorite CCR tune. John Fogerty was actually born in Berkeley, but at the time he wrote this song and the band recorded it, maybe that didn't seem as cool. When I first heard this song, I knew CCR came from the SF Bay Area, but JF made me believe that he really could still hear his "old hound dog barkin', chasin' down a hoodoo there" even though that hound dog only existed in John's imagination. Listening to this song, you also might hear that old hound dog barkin' in your imagination too -- I know I can hear it.
Song 84, Tuesday, 9/17/2013 -- I Used to Be a King by Graham Nash, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Songs for Beginners cover, but if you play the video you'll hear a pretty good song even if you won't have much to look at. I guess it makes sense to have Nash follow Stills, though when I put the cassette together, I didn't think of putting a Crosby song before the Stills one, and perhaps I should have. The Nash solo album, which was his first, came out about a month before Stills' second solo LP, and I didn't have any good friends at the time who had the record, unlike my friend who got the Stills album, so I didn't hear it then. Actually, I missed the album almost completely, except for a couple of tracks that got some radio play, but when I started hanging out with Jeff Larson in 1979, since he was as big a CSN&Y fan as me, he helped get me interested in finding out some of what I'd missed. When I got around to picking up this record, I liked this song a lot on first hearing it. One thing I really like about the track is the pedal steel guitar, and the guy playing those inspired pedal steel lines is Jerry Garcia.
Song 83, Monday, 9/16/2013 -- Fishes and Scorpions by Steve Stills, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Steve Stills 2 cover, but you'll hear a really good song by playing the video even if you won't see much. I remember when one of my friends walked in carrying a copy of the new Steve Stills album, and we all got to hear it not long after it first showed up in the record stores in that summer of 1971. While Stills' first LP got more attention and the critics liked it better, I felt that, song for song, his second solo record had better songs, and this one sounded really good to me the first time through. The more I've heard it over the years, the better it sounds to me. Also, I really like the picture on the inside of the record, where Steve seems to be sitting on the top of a high mountain, pointing off into the distance -- looking at that picture, I wanted to be where he was at that moment.
Song 82, Sunday, 9/15/2013 -- Dark Eyed Woman by Spirit, written by Randy California and Jay Ferguson. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is a bunch of stills of the band, show posters and album covers, some of which you might recognize if you're familiar with Spirit's early career. I didn't know about Spirit during those years, but in the early '70s I heard a few Spirit tracks on the radio that sounded pretty good, though I didn't get really interested in them until around the turn of 1975, when someone played me their 12 Dreams album. Hearing that whole record got me hooked, and over the next few months I picked up their first 4 LPs, which quickly turned me into an even bigger Spirit fan. This song opens their 3rd album, Clear, and if you like the sound of it, I can tell you that the original album had another 11 tunes that went very well with this track. I've read that the CD reissue has some extras as well, which would make the album an ever better investment.
Song 81, Saturday, 9/14/2013 -- Fakin' It by Simon and Garfunkel, written by Paul Simon. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Bookends cover, but if you play the video, you will hear a really good song even if you won't see much. Returning to my All Time Favorites 1 cassette, I knew about Simon and Garfunkel from hearing I Am a Rock, which appeared just as school was getting out in 1966. A bit under 2 years later, in the winter of '68, The Graduate got them a whole lot more attention. Suddenly, Simon and Garfunkel were really big, and then their new album Bookends arrived, with a top-notch set of songs that included this tune. My best friend soon had the entire Simon and Garfunkel collection, and we listened to them over and over again almost every time we got together at his parent's house. As a singer-songwriter, guitarist and record co-producer, I feel like this track has it all -- an inspired and poetic set of lyrics, a strong and well-crafted musical structure, soaring harmonies, deft acoustic guitar work, and that surreal bit about the tailor's shop to top it all off, as the cherry on the ice cream sundae.
Song 80, Friday, 9/13/2013 -- Bring Stones by Hugh Blumenfeld, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Barehanded cover, but while you won't see a whole lot if you play the video, you will hear a really good song. Friday being Friend's Day, today's post is from my friend Hugh Blumenfeld. I actually got to hear him do this one at a Fast Folk concert in Manhattan a short time before I met him, and I really liked the song on first hearing it. The song has very evocative lyrics, but it also has a strong and solid musical setting for those lyrics, which is something folk songs too often lack.