Song of the Day, April 28: Hurts by Emeli Sandé

emeli-sande-hurts-compressedToday’s song is a remarkable acknowledgment of pain. Emeli Sandé’s second album, Long Live the Angels, is a triumph of musical diversity and passion. The songs are informed by her struggles with sudden fame and the impact it had on her personal and romantic life.

Hurts is one of the most straightforward songs, a gospel-inspired tour-de-force that proclaims itself from the opening line. “You know my heart’s not made of stone, it hurts,” Sandé declares. That bare honesty carries through the whirlwind of song. Urgent handclaps and soaring strings make the aching track one of the most danceable on the album. The result is heartfelt and cathartic.

Enjoy this amazing performance today.

Song of the Day, April 24: One Day Like This by Elbow

elbowonedayToday’s song is the epic peak of a magnificent album. Elbow showed off all their musical styles and influences on their fourth disc, The Seldom Seen Kid. A tight, versatile band with smart lyrics, they explore their prog/art roots, love of solid pop, emphasis on dynamic range and variety, and clever sequencing.

One Day Like This finds singer Guy Garvey startled to find himself waxing optimistic. Life may be challenging, but somehow love has given him hope and strength.

What made me behave that way?
Using words I never say
I can only think it must be love
Oh, anyway, it’s looking like a beautiful day.

Gorgeous strings, aching keyboards, and a barely restrained rhythm section propel Garvey along through his pleasantly gobsmacked wonderings. Then he intones “Throw those curtains wide!”, letting in the sun and making the most of this startling feeling. That section repeats for a long fade with a powerful choir and a fun guitar figure that would be right at home on a Queen epic. It’s a delightful package.

Enjoy this amazing song today.

Song of the Day, April 21: You Can Close Your Eyes by Linda Ronstadt

ronstadtwheeleyesToday’s song is a multifaceted musical collaboration. James Taylor wrote You Can Close Your Eyes in 1970. He calls it a “secular hymn”, a touching meditation on loss and separation. The track appeared on his 1971 album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon and as the b-side of his #1 hit You’ve Got A Friend (written by Carole King). He has acknowledged that he wrote the song about his short, tumultuous affair with Joni Mitchell. The references to singing and sight are natural and poignant.

Linda Ronstadt included a cover of the song as the closing track of her finest album, Heart Like A Wheel. It’s a smart choice, and she makes the track her own. With a bittersweet delivery, she offers a sad farewell as she wraps up the disc. It’s a fine recording, nicely produced by Peter Asher and Andrew Gold, and a standout in her substantial catalog.

Enjoy this lovely song today.

BONUS: Enjoy this stirring version recorded by Taylor and Mitchell for the BBC.

Song of the Day, April 17: Congratulations by Jeffrey Osborne

osbornecongratulationsToday’s song is a powerful song of resignation. Jeffrey Osborne’s eponymous solo debut is a smart mix of tracks. Producer George Duke understood the array of talents the singer had to offer and assembled a mix of ballads, uptempo story songs, and funky tunes. Osborne co-wrote a number of the tracks, including the album closer, Congratulations. Written with Jeffrey Kerr, it’s one of his best songs.

Duke makes the most of stellar talent he collected, crafting a lush backdrop for the song. Osborne sings to a former lover, a woman whom he has just learned is about to be married. It’s a simple conceit, and the song could be trite or overblown in less capable hands. Instead, the production is just restrained enough, and Osborne’s delivery is aching and heartfelt. When he intones “life goes on I guess,” the emotion is real and palpable.

Enjoy this sad song today.

Song of the Day, April 14: Detox Mansion by Warren Zevon

zevondetoxhygieneToday’s song finds a master storyteller making the most of his own life experience. Warren Zevon recorded only sporadically for much of his career, frequently derailed by substance abuse and stretches in rehab. After 1982’s solid offering, The Envoy, he disappeared for five years. When he returned, he did so with a vengeance. He hooked up with 3/4 of R.E.M. — guitarist Peter Buck, drummer Bill Berry, and bassist Mike Mills — and put together one of his best albums. Sentimental Hygiene is full of wonderful moments, but the best may be a jab at the artist himself.

Detox Mansion is a tongue-in-cheek celebration of the 80s frenzy of stars in rehab. Zevon opens with the wonderful, “Well I’m gone to Detox Mansion, way down on Last Breath Farm. I’ve been rakin’ leaves with Liza; me and Liz clean up the yard.” The R.E.M. boys join in the fun, providing a surging energy for Zevon’s dark but funny observations. It’s a great package, and a highlight of a long career.

Zevon has touched on his troubles on other tracks as well. On The Envoy, he sang about the compelling need to feel anything. Ain’t That Pretty At All finds him pondering throwing himself against the wall — literally — because “I’d rather feel bad than not feel anything at all.” Grim but witty, it’s a darker take on similar themes.

Enjoy the exploration of Detox Mansion and a look at things that Ain’t That Pretty At All today.

Song of the Day, April 10: All I Know by Art Garfunkel

garfunkelalliknowToday’s song is a majestic tribute to love. When Simon and Garfunkel went their separate ways, Art Garfunkel took a little time to craft his solo debut. Angel Clare, produced by Garfunkel with long-time S&G partner Roy Halee, is a smart collection of songs that shows off the singer’s strong, flexible voice.

The highlight is the Jimmy Webb song All I Know, also Garfunkel’s first (and most successful) solo single. Soaring and anthemic, it looks at the transitory nature of life and relationships. In the face of this, the singer asserts, simply, “I love you, and that’s all I know.” It’s a smart construction, moving in its structure and delivery. After a full build with strings and horns, it drops so a simple piano line, emphasizing the need to focus on the basic truths in our lives. It’s a masterpiece of writing, singing, and production.

Enjoy this beautiful song today.

Song of the Day, April 7: The Fix by Elbow with Richard Hawley

elbowhawleyfixToday’s song is a wonderful collaboration. Elbow lead singer Guy Garvey met singer-songwriter Richard Hawley when they were both performing in Tennessee. They were on the same flight back to England and over “Battleship and drinks” struck up a friendship. They agreed to work together on a song, and the result is delightful.

The Fix, taken from Elbow’s stunning The Seldom Seen Kid, takes on a simple enough subject, fixing a horse race. Given the talent involved, however, the song itself is so much more. Featuring lines like “the redoubtable beast has had Pegasus pills”, it’s a lyrical tour-de-force. Garvey and Hawley’s voices blend delightfully, and the Elbow musicians provide a dark, swirling, mysterious backdrop for the tale. With eerie sound effects, subtle percussion, and off-kilter keyboards, it’s a magic musical ride.

The original version is stellar, but this live for broadcast version is even more amazing, showing off the band’s skill and featuring a tasty guitar solo from Hawley. Enjoy it today!

Song of the Day, April 3: Take It On the Chin by Kim Carnes

carneschinToday’s song wraps up a veteran singer’s finest album. After getting her start with the New Christy Minstrels, Kim Carnes released a series of decent folk-pop albums. In 1980, she hit the Top 10 twice, writing a duet recorded with Kenny Rogers (Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer) and performing a smart reinvention of Smokey Robinson’s More Love. She followed that up with a monster hit, the charming, infectious Bette Davis Eyes. That success proved hard to follow on the charts, but her next album was an artistic peak.

Voyeur is a consistent, cohesive set of songs, dark and brooding but essentially human. The final track is Carnes’ composition Take It On the Chin. A delightful kiss-off song, it shows off the singer’s wit and sass. She turns in a sharp vocal, making the most of her trademark rasp as she dissects a disappointing lover. As she bids him farewell, she doubts he can even live up to her expectations in departure.

Enjoy this fun song today.

Song of the Day, March 31: Streets of Your Town by Bryndle

bryndleToday’s song features on the realization of a long-deferred dream. In 1969, four like-minded musicians got together as Bryndle. Karla Bonoff, Kenny Edwards, Andrew Gold, and Wendy Waldman all had an interest in country-tinged folk-pop and great craftsmanship. They signed with A&M and recorded an album. Only a single was released however, and the lack of a strong response to their carefully crafted recording broke up the band and shelved the album.

Over the next two decades, all four found success as writers, singers, producers, and session musicians, including shared projects with Linda Ronstadt. Finally, in 1995, they gathered again and recorded an eponymous debut — a quarter century after their first try. The result was magical, with the intervening years honing their talents. Regular collaborators, they meshed even better than they had in 1970. Bryndle is a fine album without a dull moment.

The standout was written by Gold with folk singer Jenny Yates. Streets of Your Town is a fun road song and tale of frustrated romance. It’s energetic and compelling, making the most of the fine group harmonies and solid musical talents of the quartet.

Enjoy this fun song today.

Song of the Day, March 27: Easy For You To Say by Linda Ronstadt

ronstadtclosereasyToday’s song is a smart moment by a master interpreter. By the time she recorded her 11th solo album, Linda Ronstadt was a superstar with a proven approach. Each disc included songs written by longtime friends and regular collaborators, a couple of classic covers, and a few songs by emerging songwriters. Get Closer is a solid effort that follows this pattern to good effect. The standout track was written by veteran composer Jimmy Webb.

Unlike the lush, intricate songs for which he is best known, Easy For You To Say is a simple track. It explores the frustration of a woman whose lover has abandoned her, offering shallow excuses. Ronstadt is in fine voice, mining the subtle ache of the lyrics nicely. She saves up her dismay for the chorus, smoldering as she sings the title line. With a crack band and smart production from long-time partner Peter Asher, she offers one of her finest moments on record.

Enjoy this beautiful song today.

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