Try to understand (Eclectic Playlist Series 4.10 – Nov. 2017)

Perhaps the least cool band that can possibly be imagined to 2017 ears, the British outfit Renaissance had its moment in the ’70s, with a distinctive, quasi-Baroque approach to the progressive rock that ruled the pre-punk day. Once musical fashions changed, rather abruptly I might add, Renaissance, like prog-rock compatriots Yes and Genesis, attempted to re-jigger their approach towards trimmer, catchier exercises. Because the underlying musicianship was so strong for most of these bands, some of this actually worked, and to me, few better than “Northern Lights.” The melodies here are so unfaltering as to seem pre-existing—verse leading unstoppably to chorus, chorus resplendent beyond reason. It became a top-10 hit in the U.K., and got a certain amount of play on the album-rock stations that ruled the American airwaves in those years, but lord knows if any but the band’s stalwart fans remember it. Such treasures await anyone willing to dig through the past 60 years of popular and semi-popular music. Spotify just can’t find them all for you.

What else this month? I guess it’s all over the place, as usual, from a solo jazz pianist to a one-hit wonder, from the Monkees to Lene Lovich, from the sublime Laura Marling to the recently departed, sadly neglected Fats Domino (a weirdly effective segue, I might add). But it’s not all over the place, not really, because the music absorbs it, the music supports it, and the idea that your ears are too tender to find coherence in a playlist that doesn’t stick to one genre or one era, well, that’s a stupid idea fostered by misguided entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists who feed them, and reinforced by cultural forces that even at this late date resist the manifest truth that diversity is our natural state. Enjoy the adventure, and see you for maybe a bit of a holiday thing in a few weeks.

Full playlist below the widget.

“Lullaby of the Leaves” – Art Tatum (Solos, 1940)
“The Mermaid” – Kate Rusby (Life in a Paper Boat, 2016)
“Ride Captain Ride” – Blues Image (Open, 1970)
“There Goes The Fear” – Doves (The Last Broadcast, 2002)
“Northern Lights” – Renaissance (A Song For All Seasons, 1978)
“Grace” – Jeff Buckley (Grace, 1994)
“I Want Something to Remember You By” – Marvin Smith (single, 1967)
“So Here We Are” – Gordi (Clever Disguise EP, 2016)
“Swamp Thing” – Chameleons UK (Strange Times, 1986)
“Stillsane” – Carolyne Mas (Carolyne Mas, 1979)
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” – The Monkees (b-side, 1967)
“What Can I Say” – Brandi Carlile (Brandi Carlile, 2005)
“New Toy” – Lene Lovich (New Toy EP, 1981)
“Vapour Trail” – Ride (Nowhere, 1990)
“No Sugar Tonight” – The Shirelles (Happy and In Love, 1971)
“Ta Douleur” – Camille (Le Fil, 2005)
“I Believe” – Tim Booth & Angelo Badalamenti (Booth and the Bad Angel, 1996)
“Someone Up There” – Joe Jackson Band (Beat Crazy, 1980)
“Soothing” – Laura Marling (Semper Femina, 2017)
“Let The Four Winds Blow” – Fats Domino (Let The Four Winds Blow, 1961)

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