Song of the Day, May 26: No Blue Skies by Lloyd Cole

Today’s song is a throwaway moment that resulted in a gem. After three solid albums with the Commotions, Lloyd Cole broke up the band and moved to New York. After settling in to his new environs and meeting a number of sympathetic musicians — including guitarist Robert Quine — he recorded his first solo album. His label, Polydor, insisted that the disc as delivered lacked a single, so he quickly put together one last song.

Cole says that he wrote the song in “about fifteen minutes” and that Quine came up with a distinctive guitar line as soon as he heard the song. Even the vocal came quickly; the final version of the song features the first vocal Cole laid down, intended as a scratch vocal. He had planned to write a third verse, but his collaborators convinced him that he’d nailed the vocal and the song was perfect as is. They were right.

In many ways a classic Cole track, it features his wry wit, leavening his somewhat dark stories. “You want to leave me, baby, be my guest. All I’m gonna do is cry.” opens the song. It has a slightly country feel, expanding his musical palette and fitting well with the theme of abandonment. Then he skewers his former love in a perfect Cole chorus.

Baby you’re too well read
Baby you’re too well spoken
Baby you’re too pristine
When I cry, do you feel anything?

While the quick effort may not have given Polydor the chart smash they were hoping for, it did result in one of Cole’s most aching, memorable songs.

Enjoy this beautiful song today.

Song of the Day, May 5: Love Resurrection by Alison Moyet

Today’s song launched a brilliant solo career from the ashes of a pioneering duo. After two albums of top-notch synth-pop as Yazoo, Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke went their separate ways. Moyet signed to CBS, who hooked her up with hot production team Jolley and Swain. The three got on well, writing several songs together for the singer’s solo debut, Alf. They worked fast: the producers had agreed to fit her into their hectic schedule.

One of their collaborations became Alf‘s first single and a UK Top Ten hit. Love Resurrection is a big, bold song of romance. After her potent but more restrained work in the duo, Moyet enjoyed the chance to belt out a tune with a full band. Lusty and celebratory, the song evokes the healing power of love. It’s a fine moment that stands out in a strong career.

Enjoy this fun song today.

Song of the Day, May 1: Amelia by Joni Mitchell

mitchellhejiraameliaToday’s song is a remarkable journey. Joni Mitchell’s 1976 album Hejira is a high point in her catalog and one of her most personal recordings. The songs were mostly written during a car trip from Maine to Los Angeles, reflecting the physical and emotional journeys of the time. The standout — and one of her finest moments — is Amelia.

The song, like the album, has at least two origins: a drive through the desert and Mitchell’s breakup with drummer John Guerin. Pondering her personal travels caused Mitchell to think of aviator Amelia Earhart. She wound up “addressing it from one solo pilot to another… sort of reflecting on the cost of being a woman and having something you must do.”

The result is spectacular, featuring some of her finest imagery. Spare and lean, it relies on her acoustic guitar, a wonderful electric lead guitar from Larry Carlton, and subtle vibes from Victor Feldman. The lyrics loop like the long journey, with each section ending “Amelia, it was just a false alarm.” Mitchell even works in some sly references to her own work — including the songs Woodstock, Cactus Tree, and Both Sides Now — another wonderful reference to her own journeys.

Enjoy this enchanting song today.

BONUS: Amelia is one of Mitchell’s personal favorites and featured in many of her live shows. This wonderful performance shows of its spare power nicely.

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. Bonus points to long-time Zevon collaborator (and maxi-instrumentalist) David Lindley, whose lap steel work is stunning.

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!

RBHSWebComics

all contents © Robert Hulshof-Schmidt

Weekly Top 40

The Weekly Top 40 1955-2016

Major Spoilers

We know you love comics. We do, too.

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

Greatest British Songs

The best songs from British bands and artists

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

%d bloggers like this: