Maybe I can make it better

Eclectic Playlist Series 10.2 – March 2023

I know not everyone has time to listen to a 20-song playlist, especially when said playlist is comprised of a certain amount of unfamiliar music. But I do hope that those of you who have the inclination to start at least occasionally find the stamina to finish. This doesn’t mean you have to do it all in one sitting! But look: my playlists are not albums front-loaded with hit singles, quickly to peter out after that. I believe in every one of the 20 songs that populate each list, which means that songs that land near the bottom aren’t there because they are somehow weaker or less appealing than the first few songs. But I see the stats and I see that listening lengths tend not (at all) to be the full length of the playlist. This is the internet, people are flitty, I get it. But I’m often sad to see what great songs people are missing out on just because they weren’t among the first few.

Take this month, for instance. Anyone who bugs out before the final stretch will miss, among other excellent things, the short but distinctive David Bowie track “So She,” mysteriously left off the standard version of 2013’s The Next Day; rather, it ended up one of four songs added to the “deluxe” version of the album. To this day, however, it is not to be found on Spotify; remember the mantra about streaming: use it but don’t rely on it!

As always, the widget for listening is below the playlist. The extra curious can scroll further and find extra notes about some of what you’ll be hearing.

On to the music:

1. “Glorious” – A. Graham and the Moment Band (This Tyrant is Free, 2004)
2. “Things We Said Today” – The Beatles (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964)
3. “Instrumental Introduction/Don’t Look Down” – Lindsey Buckingham (Out of the Cradle, 1992)
4. “Sweetheart” – Jennah Barry (Young Men, 2012)
5. “If Looks Could Kill” – Camera Obscura (Let’s Get Out of This Country, 2006)
6. “Livin’ in Love” – Sheila Anthony (b-side, 1970)
7. “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” – The English Beat (What Is Beat?, 1983)
8. “Diamantes” – Carla Morrison (El Renacimiento, 2022)
9. “Nevermind” – Leonard Cohen (Popular Problems, 2014)
10. “Rome (Wasn’t Built in a Day)” – Sam Cooke (Ain’t That Good News, 1964)
11. “Anniversary Song” – Cowboy Junkies (Pale Sun, Crescent Moon, 1993)
12. “Icarus” – Paul Winter Consort (Icarus, 1972)
13. “Always” – Tom Verlaine (Dreamtime, 1981)
14. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Burt Bacharach (Burt Bacharach – Hit Maker!, 1965)
15. “Walkin’ In and Out of Your Arms” – k.d. lang (Absolute Torch and Twang, 1989)
16. “Stop Pretending” – Deep Sea Diver (single, 2020)
17. “So She” – David Bowie (The Next Day [deluxe], 2013)
18. “American Heartbeat” – Duncan Browne (Streets of Fire, 1979)
19. “It’s In Our Hands” – Björk (Greatest Hits, 2002)
20. “Magnificent Bird” – Gabriel Kahane (Magnificent Bird, 2022)

The fine print:

* Back in Fingertips’ formative years, I used to keep a running “Top 10” of favorite songs from the recent months of postings. I remember “Glorious” as riding at #1 on that list for a good while. These many years later, it remains as user-friendly and good-natured a song as it sounded to me back in the day. I long since lost track of front man Andy Graham but a quick poke around the intertubes informs me that he is still out there singing and recording in his user-friendly, good-natured style. He now calls his ensemble A. Graham and the Worlds of Fun; their album, Rides, came out in November. Check it out on Bandcamp. The album includes a new recording of “Glorious,” identified “Glorious 22.”

* An original Buttercup Records pressing of Sheila Anthony’s 1970 single “Woman to Woman,” the b-side of which is “Livin’ in Love,” is currently selling on Discogs for £325.00. Several re-issues, from 1975, are somewhat cheaper. The previously obscure track has become a Northern Soul standard but remains virtually unknown outside of that well-intentioned but somewhat fetishy scene. As for Anthony herself, I can find nothing online with even a hint of her history or biography. I guess the song, which is wonderful, will have to suffice.

* Duncan Browne had a few different musical incarnations in his cancer-shortened career. On the scene first in the late ’60s as a baroque folkie, he emerged in the mid-’70s as half of the would-be glam-rock-ish duo Metro, only then to find his most compelling voice as a solo act with two fine late-’70s albums. However excellent, neither album sold very well, and Browne in the ’80s ventured into the somewhat more remunerative field of TV and movie scoring. The sad ending came in 1993; Browne was just 46. I featured the haunting title track to his 1978 album The Wild Places on EPS 4.05 in May 2017. “American Heartbeat” is a standout track from 1979’s Streets of Fire.

* Björk’s singular, unearthly vocals are in full command of “It’s In Our Hands,” a song that showed up on her 2002 Greatest Hits LP without previously appearing on any release of hers. Sonically it lands in an awesome sweet spot: a near-ideal blend of her commanding Homogenic sound and the quieter, glitchier world of Vespertine. Her subsequent albums have gotten at once more complex and more abstract–not necessarily a bad thing but also not necessarily music that’s easy to absorb without careful and repeated listens. Sometimes the ear just needs simple and accessible to get through the day. But being a little weird at the same time is usually a bonus.

* When last we heard from the Mexican singer/songwriter Carla Morrison (see EPS 4.07), she was touring in the aftermath of two Grammy-nominated albums, which were her first two full-length releases, coming in 2012 and 2015. A lot has changed since then. By the end of 2017, she had burnt out from writing and performing and was battling depression. She moved to Paris in 2019 and started to find new inspiration, moving her music in a more overtly pop-oriented direction, while lyrically confronting her mental health battles. A new wave of depression descended in 2021 after losing her father to COVID. But she has since emerged and finished her first album in five years, El Renacimiento (which can be translated as “The Rebirth”), which came out in the spring of 2022. My ears are not often attuned to what passes for pop in the 2020s but when it emerges from a musician with deeper roots and musical chops I take it more seriously.

* Is Leonard Cohen a downer or what? But an incisive and formidable downer to be sure. I did however feel compelled to shut the door on old Leonard with an immediate shot of Sam Cooke. The songs don’t quite match up but I wanted a quick change of pace so that’s where we ended up.

* Two memorials wove their way, back to back, into this month’s mix. First up is Tom Verlaine, who left us in January at the age of 73. He’s most well-known for co-founding the seminal NYC band Television in the 1970s. (And call me thick but I just the other day realized the connection between the band name and Verlaine’s initials.) Influential and iconoclastic, Verlaine released nine solo albums after Television’s initial breakup, in 1978, but only two after 1992 (the year Television reunited; they never officially broke up again but never recorded again either). It’s not clear exactly how he passed the final few decades of his life, but a hint comes from his answer to the New York Times when asked, in 2006, to summarize his life. He replied, “Struggling not to have a professional career.” I can relate.

* The second “in memoriam” entry is of course the Burt Bacharach song. Bacharach, 94, died last month and the outpouring of appreciation was potent and well-deserved. If you’re curious, you can read a lot more about him all over the internet at this point. I can’t help but recall from my distant youth his snazzy, harmonically astute ’60s hits, often for Dionne Warwick, but what drew me towards him as an adult was the collaboration album he did with Elvis Costello in 1998, Painted From Memory–an album that has only grown in stature over the years. (It’s a bit of a masterpiece.) “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” is an early Bacharach nugget, at once lazily sophisticated and over in a blink. This was another case in which I judged the somewhat mismatched segue as worth it for the overall effect. By the way, the vocals here were handled by a British trio called The Breakaways, considered top-flight session vocalists at the time; they worked with Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, and (yes) Jimi Hendrix, among others. They were uncredited on the Bacharach song.

* But hey if you want a nice segue check out #19 into #20. That works pretty well.

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