Song of the Day, April 29: Living With the Dreaming Body by Poi Dog Pondering

PoiDogLivingToday’s song opens an eclectic delight. Poi Dog Pondering entered the burgeoning college rock scene with a sound like no other. With eight full-time members and up to a dozen supporting cast, they featured a wide range of instruments, crafting a folk-pop melange with its own special energy. Their first LP brought together two earlier indie EPs, and starts with a bang — or at least a whistle.

Bandleader Frank Q. Orrall’s sprightly tin whistle is the foundation of the song, bolstered by guitar, fiddle, trumpet, and a lively rhythm section. The star of the song is Robin, hanging out in the metaphysical section of a local bookstore, pondering her life and loves. Filled with nice details of everyday life, the song captures the complex in the mundane, finding ways to celebrate even the tricky moments. This is Poi Dog Pondering at its best, complicated, straightforward, thoughtful, and fun.

Enjoy this wonderful song today.

Song of the Day, April 28: I Can’t Close My Eyes by the Picketts

PickettsEuphoniumToday’s song is the showstopper on a wonderful anomaly. The Picketts called their sound Grange Rock, an alt-country amalgam that stood out in Seattle during the 90s. Their finest moment was Euphonium, a nice mix of original songs and covers, rockers and ballads. The penultimate track is the finest.

I Can’t Close My Eyes is a slow, aching ballad. Singers Christy McWilson and Leroy “Blackie” Sleep weave their voices together into something magical as they explore sorrow so deep it defies rest. The band provide a slow, dark bed of sound adding perfectly to the mix.

Enjoy this great song today.

Song of the Day, April 27: A Change of Heart by Gerry Rafferty

RaffertySleepChangeToday’s song sees an established artist finding new energy. After his breakthrough album City to City, Gerry Rafferty recorded a couple of decent soundalikes but grew increasingly disenchanted. He regrouped for 1982’s Sleepwalking, one of his finest moments. Fans were startled by the electronic keyboards and occasional drum machine, but Rafferty made these tools his own. Sticking with his folk-pop roots, he built a song cycle on alienation — and possible redemption. A Change of Heart is one of the standout tracks. Soaring and determined, it starts strong with a keyboard fanfare and gradually builds in intensity. Smartly layered and beautifully sung, it’s anchored by the demand not to let “this cold world tear you apart.”

Enjoy this wonderful song today.

Song of the Day, April 26: License to Confuse by Sebadoh

SebadohBakesaleToday’s song kicks off a lo-fi masterpiece in fine style. Sebadoh had a long, shambling path to their finest moment, Bakesale. Longtime drummer Eric Gaffney finally departed for good and Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein brought in Bob Fay as they worked out the new disc. Loose where previous albums were sloppy, cohesive without being polished, tha album builds on their lo-fi passion. Direct but never simplistic, it’s a great, fast romp through amazing, intense songs.

The opening track is a perfect mission statement. Barlow kicks into high gear, launching the song with angry chords as he declares his emotional tumult. He may not have all the answers, but it’s absolutely his right to fumble for them, and nobody should get in his way. In under two minutes he opens the door for a complicated — but sincere — musical journey.

Enjoy this great song today.

Song of the Day, April 25: The Weaver and the Factory Maid by Steeleye Span

SteeleyeSpanParcelWeaverToday’s song is a folk masterpiece by a band at their best. Steeleye Span survived numerous personnel changes, including the departure of founder Ashley Hutchings, finally finding their groove for their fifth album, Parcel of Rogues. One of its strongest tracks is a traditional song of social protest.

The Handweaver and the Chambermaid [Roud 3085], started as a standard song of romance and seduction. Over time, however, the chamber gave way to the factory, and the tone of the song became much more complex. The weaver relies on his skill for his handcraft. The factory maid works in a production line, turning out similar products faster and cheaper. His fascination with her is almost self-destructive, as the object of his affection is a symbol of the forces that are destroying his trade. This tension is played out against a nicely structured bit of bed-play, blending two of the most familiar folk tropes into one powerful mix.

Dozens of 20th Century singers performed the song, including A.L. Lloyd and Martin Carthy, but nothing matches Steeleye Span’s version. Blending their rock elements with a folk heart, they craft a stirring, warmly human song. Maddy Prior delivers one of her best vocals, giving the package just the touch it needs to soar.

Enjoy this amazing song today.

Billboard #1s for the Week Ending April 26, 1986

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 Kiss Prince and the Revolution 2
R & B Kiss Prince and the Revolution 4
Country Now and Forever (You and Me) Anne Murray 1
Adult Contemporary Greatest Love of All Whitney Houston 1
Rock Stick Around Julian Lennon 1
Album 5150 Van Halen 1

EGDailySayItThis week sees a talented voice performer notch her only Hot 100 hit. Elizabeth Ann Guttman jumped on the mid-80s dance bandwagon, signing with A&M in 1985 as E.G. Daily. Her debut album, Wild Child, was produced by Madonna’s old friend “Jellybean” Benitez. The lead single, Say It Say It, was written by the singer with another Madonna collaborator, Stephen Bray. This week it entered the the Hot 100 at #95. Daily failed to make much of a pop impression, peaking for three weeks at #70 in a 10-week run. The song fared much better on the Dance charts, spending a week at #1 in mid-May.

Daily moved on to voice acting after this brief musical career, finding much greater success. She is the voice of the Rugrats‘ Tommy Pickles and Powerpuff Girl Buttercup, and has racked up an impressive number of other gigs on TV and in the movies.

Song of the Day, April 22: Sick of Food by American Music Club

AMCSickToday’s song looks at suffering from the inside. Mark Eitzel drew some of his strongest lyrical inspirations from his reaction to the AIDS epidemic and its impact on his friends. This is especially clear on American Music Club’s finest album, Everclear, especially the pair Rise and Sick of Food. Where the former is sung from the perspective of a frustrated caretaker, the latter assumes the voice of someone living with HIV. Appropriate for the time of its recording, the song treats the disease as a probable death sentence, forcing the protagonist to live a duality. He is still alive, but suffering and unsure how much energy to invest in reality.

“I’m sick of food, so why am I so hungry?” it opens. Numerous simple dichotomies form the lyrical backbone with mundanity and desperation vying for center stage.

I was sick of love
So I just stopped feeling
But I couldn’t find anything to take its place.

Seldom is suffering so succinctly evoked. Enjoy this powerful song today.

Song of the Day, April 21: Time of the Season by the Zombies

ZombiesTimeToday’s song is a hit that almost wasn’t. The Zombies’ final album, Odessey and Oracle, was a masterpiece of baroque pop, bringing all of the members’ talents together in a beautifully cohesive package. Sadly, label neglect and internal tensions broke up the group just as the disc was released. One of the album’s biggest fans was Al Kooper, wo had just assumed A&R duties at Columbia, home of the band’s US label, Date. He pushed hard for singles, but nothing stuck. Finally, one of his choices was packaged with a failed UK single from the album and became a smash symbol of the age.

Time of the Season is a rich, layered track celebrating new love, a perfect fit for the post flower power psychedelic age. Writer Rod Argent had a very specific sound in mind and fought bitterly with bandmate Colin Blunstone over the vocal delivery. Blunstone finally turned in a performance that Argent approved, and the result is magical. Sinuous and urgent, it both captures and transcends its time. Tight, haunting playing and lush harmonies complete the package nicely. The single was also a big hit, spending two weeks at #3 on the Hot 100 a year after the band ceased to be.

Enjoy this classic hit today.

Song of the Day, April 20: For Shame of Doing Wrong by Richard and Linda Thompson

R&LPourShameToday’s song is a standout from a turning point album. After three years of marriage and two albums together, Richard and Linda Thompson moved into a Sufi commune, intending to set aside their musical careers. They owed Island records an album, however, so they struck a deal, balancing four tracks that were based on Richard’s meditations about the divine with others that were more of a piece with previous work. The finest moments transcend both categories, notably For Shame of Doing Wrong.

A song of mourning for lost love, it’s a powerful testament to emotion. Linda delivers a stark vocal, supported by an unusually restrained guitar from Richard, creating a darkly evocative track. Often re-titled I Wish I Was A Fool For You Again from the repeated chorus line, the song is one of Richard’s most covered, including versions by Sandy Denny, Peter Blegvad, and Yo La Tengo.

Enjoy this amazing song today.

Song of the Day, April 19: Sunshine (Send Them Away) by Lesley Duncan

DuncanSingCSToday’s song shines a light on the forces of darkness. Lesley Duncan’s Sing Children Sing is a lost gem of singer-songwriter magic, featuring her socially conscious observations. One of its finest moments is Sunshine (Send Them Away). Unlike most songs that invoke the light of the sun, this track has a dark, brooding feel. Duncan turns in one of her deepest, roughest vocals, pondering the people that make the world a worse place. She calls on sunshine to banish them, shining the light of truth. It’s a smart twist on a standard pop trope and makes for a compelling listen. As a bonus, Duncan’s longtime friend Elton John — just beginning his career — provides a nice piano line.

Enjoy this powerful song today.

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