Pockets of Bliss Vol. 4

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I have presented my Favourite Songs in order from 100 to 1. But, truth be told, you could hit “Shuffle” on this playlist and almost any of the songs that starts playing I could consider my favourite. So, they’re not really in order. I mean “In the Still of the Night” #99? I love that song way more than that. Actually, I always have had the top 3 songs on this list locked down as my favourites; so 1, 2, and 3 are truly my absolute faves. One day, I just began jotting down songs I’ve always loved with the thought that one day it would make a killer playlist. The order they occurred to me is the order they are presented in here. I did do some jostling. Some songs were on the list and got bumped; those I’ll present in an Honourable Mention section. And another little secret; it was all I could do to not present these songs as not just my favourites but as simply the absolute best songs ever made. That may have been too bold a statement to make – but I still reserve the right to stand by it.

I’m babbling on about my favourite songs and who cares? But, again I say, the bigger point of this listing is just to get us talking, to get us sharing memories, to get us all reminiscing. Memory can be a wonderful thing. Even hard times take on a glow when you are looking back on them and it’s often during hard times that you really connect with a song. I remember sitting outside of a girl’s house in the dead of night in my 1983 Ford Escort listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and smoking a cigarette. I remember breaking up with girls and immersing myself in Springsteen’s “Tougher Than the Rest” one time and U2’s “One” another time. And of course, no song is more potent to hear when you’ve broken up with someone than Presley’s “Separate Ways”. I remember one Christmas season driving myself to the hospital at 2 in the morning with what turned out to be double pneumonia and Belafonte’s “Mary’s Boy Child” came on the radio. Looking back at these times, I remember how the music and I bonded – not so much the sad thing that was happening at the time.

And music goes well with good times, too. I made playlists to play at the hospital when each of my kids was born, wondering what would be playing when they arrived. My wife is working hard, nurses are scurrying around and I’m becoming a father – all the while I’m listening intently and jotting down Bing Crosby “Pennies from Heaven” the first time and “Innamorata” by Dean Martin the second. Singing along with 50,000 people and Billy Joel to “Piano Man” at Maple Leaf Gardens. Fulfilling my community service sentencing at the Kidney Foundation, waiting out in the stairwell for the place to open and my oldies station played Neil Diamond’s “Holly Holy” and it resonated with me that time more than it ever has since. The first time I ever had my own electricity bill to pay I walked to the hydro office to pay it. It was grey and drizzling and Peter, Paul & Mary were singing “Leaving On a Jet Plane” and I was struck by the sadness of John Denver’s lyric.

And on and on…

Friends come and go. Relationships with parents and family become strained and fracture. Marriages disintegrate. Loved ones suffer ill health and pass away. The evanescence of life. And on the other hand there is the permanence of music and its fusing into the events of your days. Thank you for checking out the soundtrack of my life. And now I have to ask; what’s yours?

25“What Now My Love” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (1966) // As a young married person, my wife and I began garage saling and thrifting. In every thrift store, there were records and the idea of collecting vinyl began to appeal to me. As I began to embrace a vintage lifestyle, certain things began to pique my interest. One was golfing and another was buying records. But where to start? In every thrift store I saw Ray Conniff records and LPs by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and so I began collecting both. Therefore, Herb and the Brass are not only near and dear to me but their music exemplifies to me vintage vinyl; the group to me is synonymous with the LP. One of Herb’s many strengths is in arranging. And this brings me to the wonderful title track of the TJB’s third consecutive #1 album. The thing about “What Now, My Love” is that it is a wonderful composition and I have been moved many times and for years by Elvis Presley’s dramatic version in his Aloha special and here the song enchants me again but in a vastly different setting. A wonderful sashaying beat, with fluttering acoustic guitar. Herb handles the melody briskly, punctuating his notes smoothly. He is echoed ably by Tonni Kalash on a secondary trumpet and the two play in delightful harmony. Add in a gentle gurgling marimba and this tune is a sunny day.

Herb and the boys play along to the record for the BBC.

24“All the Things You Are” by Les Baxter (1961) // Like the previous song, this is one that I dearly love in many different versions and by many different artists. I remember hearing once that “All the Things You Are”, by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, was voted – by someone somewhere – the greatest, most cherished song of the first half of the 20th century. It has become a jazz standard. But the version I love is Les Baxter’s and – again like the previous tune – it is down to arrangement. Baxter’s music for me is the epitome of stylish, classy, suit-and-tie music of mid-century. I have often imagined myself as a Cavanaugh hat-wearing studio pianist in the early Fifties, living in a cool apartment and working at Capitol Studios at Hollywood and Vine. Baxter’s treatment of “All the Things You Are” is gorgeous and it never fails to transport me to a sunny day, a grassy hilltop. Majestic brass combine with sweeping strings and a wordless chorus but it may – yet again – be the piano. Listen how the piano gently pops behind the strings as they essay the celestial melody and then steps out front for some robust exclamations. Gorgeous.

23“Águas de Março” by Elis Regina and Antônio Carlos Jobim (1974) // Here’s the third of four consecutive songs on this list that I love not for specific versions but for the compositions themselves. I must shout-out the version of “Águas de Março” on Sérgio Mendes’ 2008 album Encanto that featured the vocals of Ledisi. The legendary Antônio Carlos Jobim wrote the song in the year of my birth – 1972 – and first presented it on record the following year. The version on his 1974 collaboration with Elis Regina is my favourite. “Águas de Março” was voted the best Brazilian song of all-time by Brazilian journalists and the second-best by the Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone. Strumming guitar and plinking piano give way to Regina’s dulcet tones and she and the man they called Tom carry on a pleasant back and forth singing lyrics that form a checklist of things found in every day Brazilian life. While the English versions of the lyrics have been more life-affirming, the original Brazilian speaks more of the inevitability of the passing of life; the rains of March mark the end of the Brazilian summer. For me though, this tune marks the beginning; of warm weather, of positivity, of joy. “The promise of spring”. The lilting melody just wafts over you like the aroma of grass freshly washed with rain.

Elis and the man Francis called “Tone” lip synch playfully.

22“Wave” by Oscar Peterson (1969) // Here’s another composition by my man, ACJ. Jobim himself debuted this gem on his album of the same name in ’67. This Brazilian standard has been done by many; it was one of Frank’s favourite of his own recordings. What Canadian OP does with it is otherworldly. No surprise that Oscar’s version and the album its on – Motions and Emotions (1969) – features arrangements by German Claus Ogerman who had done similarly sublime work on Frank’s album with ACJ, half-a-dozen of Jobim’s own albums, records by Wes Montgomery, Sammy Davis, Jr., Billie Holiday, Stan Getz and he would later add feather-lite bossa touches to two wonderful records by Diana Krall. Ogerman and Peterson combine for 6 minutes of the smoothest sounds you could ever hope to hear. The understated percussion helps drive the beat and legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli displays his capacity to go full Bonfá and strum gentle bossa chords. String orchestras like this…how to describe the feeling? The places they can take you? Sometimes its a simple vibe that takes you to a blazing hot summer day of your childhood. Suffering in the heat, your mom takes you into an air-conditioned building. The blast of cool air is sweet relief. You recall these moments as a grizzled, old middle-aged person fresh out of work. The day has been stifling. You get in your car, gun the AC and play “Wave” by Oscar Peterson. The sublime beauty of Ogerman’s orchestra is matched only by what Peterson is doing here on the piano. It’s hard to believe that anyone could play like this. His right hand is almost disembodied and charts a path through a nether world of silken delights. A dream land of nebulous enchantment. Ogerman’s chart ascends during the last third of the song and this is appropriate as the listener also soars into a state of ethereal euphoria. You cannot talk about this song without a thesaurus.

21“Soul Sacrifice (live)” by Santana (1969) // Serendipity. Its a wonderful thing when a stunning, once-in-a-lifetime live performance is captured and preserved for all of time. The entire Woodstock Music and Art Fair of August, ’69 would qualify. So many things coalesced that weekend, resulting in startling sounds and images. One of the most significant stories to emerge from the 3-day concert and the resulting documentary film was the 45-minute performance of Santana, a band who had yet to release a single album. They closed their epic set with an 11-minute original instrumental called “Soul Sacrifice”. Carlos Santana recalls feeling the effects of psychedelics during his set; seeing snakes, etc. He says he had “returned from a journey” by the time the band got to their closer. Perhaps what he had seen inspired his all-world guitar performance on the song. And his face as he plays says it all. Also coming together at that moment was the presence of kid drummer Michael Shrieve. At 20, he was the youngest performer at Woodstock and his work on the song is “electrifying”. These two virtuosos are aided and abetted by the rest of the excellent players in – by far – the greatest Latin-based musical unit in history and one of the finest bands of all-time, period. An opening tribal trance augers the journey to come. Carlos and Hammondist Gregg Rolie state their phrase and Shrieve pounds his kit. Santana goes into his resonant staccato picking and later we’re back to a percussion-and-bass guitar drift. And then, ladies and gentlemen, Michael Shrieve. With “Soul Sacrifice”, Carlos Santana & Co. take us on a journey to the edge of reality and back. This is outrageous and Carlos is savage.

Presented in its entirety for your enjoyment. No ownership intended. Natch.

20“Our Sweet Love” by the Beach Boys (1970) // I had heard of scores of songs by the Beach Boys before I actually heard them. Their 1992 career-spanning box set Good Vibrations remains one of my most significant audio purchases. I had been a big fan of the group since my earliest days of listening but this set truly expanded my horizons and made me appreciate the entirety of the group’s oeuvre. It featured never-before-officially-released SMiLE music. I don’t like to talk about my past debaucheries here because I’ve been saved from all that but this bears noting. One of the half-dozen times I ever smoked a joint was by myself listening to the selected tracks from SMiLE. It really blew my mind and I decided that Brian Wilson’s plan all along had been to record the music in the Sixties and abandon it, just to release it in just this sequence on a box set 25 years later. I heard the train at the end of “Caroline, No” not as the end of Pet Sounds but as the beginning of a journey. The opening ceremony was the crowd-pleasing “Good Vibrations” and then Brian got serious. After a prayer for protection, perception and discernment, the journey proper began. Through the “Heroes and Villains” sections, the “Wind Chimes” and the “Vegetables”. To the heavenly penultimate statement, “Surf’s Up” and wrapping with the comforting “With Me Tonight”. I digress but the point is to drive home the significance of this CD collection. It also turned me on to some of the Beach Boys’ deeper cuts, like “Our Sweet Love”. Taken from the underappreciated Sunflower, this track dates from a time when the band was stepping up to somehow fill the void left by Brain’s retreat. Carl Wilson particularly put his enduring stamp on music history with songs like this. I’ve spoken before about Carl’s knowledge of and devotion to the sound his band was known for and he presents all that is great about the Beach Boys in even just the first 30 seconds of this song. His own gentle singing aided by the group’s heavenly harmonies, piano and strings chart a course through the ether. And there is a moment; at about the 70-second mark, things drop out and Carl gently sings “sweet love, sweet love” while sitar and strings drift. This is absolute perfection. Dig the sleigh bells at the very end. “Honey, it’s heaven”

19“Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard (1955) // The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock I read when I was about 12 years old. It was the first really large book I ever read and it was the first and last time I’ve ever heard the word “quasar” used. I’ve sensed, then, from early days that there is much significance to the seemingly lighthearted, vacuous music of Richard Penniman. Fast forward 35 years and I realized that Little Richard’s early recordings are indeed seminal and may just be the finest examples of the purest rock & roll. I even more recently put forth the notion that it is Little Richard who should be considered “the king of rock & roll”. Heresy, you Presley fans say? I don’t blame you but read here. When I dug into his music, I realized that this most common of his recordings – one that can easily be taken for granted – is maybe the most perfect song ever recorded, maybe the greatest rock & roll song of all-time. Probably the most magnificent rock vocal of the early days. What can be said – how to even describe – the sound of Richard’s voice as he starts this song with some of the most iconic lyrics in rock? It is the sound of unbridled energy. No wonder it set the kids on fire in ’55. Richard’s left hand pounds the beat while his right dances on the keys and the saxes honk. Bliss. This is bliss. One of the coolest songs ever recorded.

18“Photograph” by Ringo Starr (1973) // After the unbridled exuberance of Little Richard Penniman, we have this devastating song of heartbreak from little Richard Starkey. Many songs on this list have struck me because of their chord changes, melodies in which I hear wordless tales of longing or devastation. Another of those serendipitous and delightful rock moments, “Photograph” was written by Ringo Starr and George Harrison while the two sailed on a yacht in the South of France. Not only that, Ringo had hired the yacht for the duration of the Cannes Film Festival after attending Mick Jagger’s wedding. Another guest on the boat, Cilla Black, recalls Star and Harrison writing the song and accepting ideas for lyrics from their friends. Cool story. What’s more though is the song itself. Incredibly sad lyrics and melody but a large contribution was made by arranger Jack Nitzsche and producer Richard Perry. Nitzsche – Phil Spector’s arranger – provided the magnificent string arrangement and Perry utilized Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production technique. It’s been said that the lyrics are “atypical” because of the “absence of any hope that love might be rekindled”. And that’s what makes this song – though gorgeous – so soul-crushing. Piano again with the legendary Nicky Hopkins sounding the mournful death knell with his left hand. Here enter those chord changes I’ve talked about, the ones that sound like longing. Klaus Voormann’s bass line sounds just like crying and the acoustic guitars signal the lament. Even Ringo’s less-than-stellar voice is apropos; this ain’t no grand vocal performance here. He just needs to tell you how he’s dying. And Bobby Keys on the sax gives new meaning to “wailing”; his instrument is sobbing here. And listen to the castanets – a Spector trademark – Nitzsche and Perry throw in here behind Keys. Listen at the 2:30 mark when the vocal drops out and the dramatic opening notes are played again, this time by the orchestra. And when the band comes back in the sound is divine as the tune fades out. Listen to Hopkins’ right hand at the closing. A perfect production and the saddest song you ever heard. “Every time I see your face it reminds me of the places we used to go. Now, all I’ve got is a photograph and I realize you’re not coming back anymore. I can’t get used to living here while my heart is broke. My tears I cry for you…”

Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group

17“Summer Wind” by Frank Sinatra (1966) // Before I knew anything about anything, I heard this song by Frank Sinatra in the Mickey Rourke film The Pope of Greenwich Village (1983). It was the first Frank song I ever heard and its still my favourite. This is latter-day Sinatra and there is such a maturity in the sound. In my article on the best recordings of FS I referred to the “oaken” quality of the songs from this time and “Summer Wind” is a perfect example. It’s the sauntering gait, the shimmering strings, the jazzy organ, the blatting saxes; make no mistake – this is one of Nelson Riddle’s finest, most mature charts. Listen to the saxes descend in tone as they herald Frank’s entrance. And his voice at age 50? It’s more. More something. More everything. His lazy, breezy reading of the lyric. I have nothing left to prove, he says, and this song calls for little effort. He knows the setting demands a mellow reading denoting acceptance, not so much weariness or contentedness. Listen to the hi-hat and the bass going back and forth in their own little world. Nelson has those reeds sounding like…life, experience, survival. The song gently builds as Frank rises to it. “The autumn wind and the winter winds they have come and gone” – I’m crowding 60 now. Life has been a challenge and I’ve made some mistakes but I’m still here. “But still days, those lonely days they go on and on” – Life is not stopping for me. My spouse, my children, my friends, my neighbourhood…they keep rolling. I can either curl up and die or get on with it. “And guess who sighs his lullabies through nights that never end – my fickle friend, the summer wind. Warm summer wind” Summer, warmth, positivity – and music? – abide with me and sustain me. This is a triumphant song on so many levels. Sinatra lays claim to his later days. Riddle and songwriter Johnny Mercer cement their positions in the pantheon even at this advanced hour. Everything comes together here in my favourite Sinatra recording. Surely one of his best.

16“Rise” by Herb Alpert (1979) // An early music memory for me was being in my older cousin Mark’s bedroom when we’d go to visit. It was the early Eighties and he had one of those excellent shiny silver stereo systems. I’ll always remember that he played Eric Clapton’s single of “Cocaine” and Herb Alpert’s Rise album. A major hit for Alpert, the album hit #1 on the Jazz Albums chart and Number 6 on both the Pop and R&B listings. Perhaps more importantly, the title track was a Number One song on the US Pop charts in October of 1979. Added to Herb’s #1 hit when he took the vocal on 1968’s “This Guy’s in Love With You”, “Rise” made Alpert the only artist to score a Number One song with a vocal and an instrumental recording. While many of my favourite songs feature wonderful piano, this one is all about the bass line. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Mr. Abraham Laboriel. The prolific session man lays down my favourite bass line of all time. And this whole track – like the album its on – just exudes style, class and attitude. Echoing guitar riffs, sudden keyboard smears, and excellent Fender Rhodes lead into Herb’s fantastic playing of this cool melody while the hi-hat pops behind him and Abe takes charge, dropping into what musicians call “the pocket”; Daddy is driving this bus. There’s drama and atmosphere in this track. I recall as a kid in Mark’s bedroom never having heard anything before like the “street scene” breakdown in this song – an interlude of wordless chatter. At 7:40, the album version has the length I love in a great song, too. Just a stone groove.

15“In the Rest of My Life” by the Osmonds (1972) // This song and the next are two of the few on this list that I discovered only recently. I stumbled on the Osmond album Phase III at a thrift store and took a chance – I fell in love with it. This got me wondering; what are the Osmonds about? I happily discovered a mini 3-album era in the Osmonds’ career that was spectacular. This prompted an article – one of the most-read here at Your Home for Vintage Leisure – and turned me on to the devoted legion of fans the family from Utah have. I guess I’ve confirmed something about myself with this playlist; my favourite music is mostly about the piano for me. “In the Rest of My Life” – and I’m still not sold on the grammar of the title – starts with piano and quickly moves in to what really sold me on this tune; the wonderful chorus featuring the Osmonds’ unique vocal blend. I love to sing along to this one. I think what really drives the chorus is the quarter notes Jay Osmond (I’m assuming) is playing on his snare drum. It gives the passage energy before it drops out and the dramatic piano chords return. The song benefits from crisp production by Alan Osmond who is aided by two men who know how to make a pure pop record; Don Costa and Mike Curb. No surprise then that the orchestral chart is superb. Be sure to read about the Osmonds in the early 70s here and Mike Curb here. Now, sing it with me; “Oh, my darlin’, in the rest of my life I may never find another exactly like you. Oh, I’d be a fool to spend the rest of my life without you”

14“Café Regio’s” by Isaac Hayes (1971) // I’ve always loved incidental music. When I was first understanding that more was going on in the 1950’s than rock & roll, I identified this sound as the music I heard in movies. This lead to an exploration of Mancini, lounge music, etc. As film carried on into the Seventies, so did film scores. Isaac Hayes famously won an Oscar for his score for Shaft (1971) and the title track is legendary. But hidden in plain sight on that record is this delightful jaunt. Think about this; films of any given past era needed music, obviously. Most often, the music was to be heard in the background of a scene and therefore it had to be pleasant if somewhat innocuous but it had to be hip. It had to suit the style of the film and the music of the time in which the film was released. Now, this music was never going to be released on a single. Until Mancini, it was unlikely to even be released on a record. So, this music wasn’t fashioned to sound like a hit. It was made to simply set the tone, create a mood, be cool. So because it wasn’t concerned with reaching a vast audience or with being timeless, this is the music that most often is what most sounds like the era in which it was released. I’m babbling but my point is songs like Hank’s “Something for Sellers” (#38) and Isaac’s “Café Regios” are excellent reflections of their eras. This track from Shaft can transport you right to the sidewalk on a cool, early winter afternoon in NYC in ’71. Hayes may not get the love he deserves. Cat had a ton of great music in him. And dude could build a band. His unit is tight here sounding like a cooler George Benson/Breezin’ thing with extra soul. Driven by great guitar and Isaac’s deft piano playing and Hayes’ arranger Johnny Allen does great work with the orchestra here. To top it off, the tune is over 6 minutes long. Perfect eyes closed-head bobbin’-groove length.

© Stax Records

13“Wish It Were Me” by the Platters (1959) // The Platters are nothing less than the pinnacle of popular music in the 1950’s, or “oldies”. Many years ago, I bought a wonderful 2-disc set devoted to the Platters and it is loaded not only with all of their hits but also some wonderful B sides and lesser-known tracks. As familiar as you are with “Only You” – and as delightful as it is – sometimes a song you’re not familiar with is a special kind of joy to hear. It slowly began to dawn on me that “Wish It Were Me” is a heartbreaking hidden gem. I’ve searched for info on the song and have come up largely empty. Which is partly frustrating and partly satisfying. The lack of info and the fact that it was never centered out in any real way – it was a B side that charted itself but only as high as #61 – confirms for me its hidden gem status. This song is not known the world over. This is one of those songs that is just for you and I. The leader of the Platters, the great Tony Williams, puts on a clinic here in the art of the lament; the song is 19 seconds in and I’m already broken. The Platters were at this point one of the biggest acts in the world and they plied a unique sound that was part R&B and part pure light pop and “Wish It Were Me” – like “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – features a sweeping orchestra. It also boasts the sublime wordless backgrounds of the four voices that always supported Williams so well. Just listen to the notes they are singing behind Tony; they are heartbreaking in themselves. But Tony… As a guy who’s been pathetic more than once in his day, songs of the “sap” resonate with me. Songs that tell of a guy willing to lower himself and play the fool have extra sadness for me because – though the guy knows what’s happening to him – he cannot help it. “Saw you dancing last night with someone. Wish it were me”, is his simple statement. Do I get on with my life? Find someone else? Absolutely not. I see you with someone and I wish it were me. It occurs to me that this song has a unique rhyming structure; as if the story it has to tell is so sad that it will not be hemmed in by conventional methods of songcraft. Listen to how Tony sings “yes, I pray that my prayers will *touch you, touch you* for true” and then he delivers the clincher; “so you’d love me, too. AND THE WHOLE WORLD WOULD SEE”. Something about this man wanting the whole world to see this girl loving him just kills me. This is how low he’s fallen. He has nothing to offer to anyone, nothing to contribute to the world. But if a miracle should happen and this girl should love him he’d want the additional – and unrealistic – benefit of having the whole world see it. Something about what this reveals of his need is the most poignant and devastating of all for me. Notice he sings the “whole world would see” line in a hushed, gentle tone – as if he knows it is hopeless. This is a killer and a true hidden gem. Throw this one out there next time someone talks to you about the Platters. And read their story here.

Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises

12“You Got Me Worried” by Walter “Wolfman” Washington (1986) // I have written before of my love of the music and culture of New Orleans. As I was charting a path through sounds that have emanated from Louisiana, I bought a compilation CD through one of those mail-order clubs. Louisiana Scrapbook was a little underwhelming at first because it wasn’t wall-to-wall zydeco, like I thought I had wanted. But as I matured I came to appreciate the jazz and R&B on the record. And I came to realize that “You Got Me Worried” by guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington was a stellar recording. A stone groove. Dramatic start with some growling from the Wolfman. Then his solid band – lead by a stone cold drummer – slide into the pocket. Dig the popping horn arrangement and the drums during the chorus; and the horns throughout, actually. I picture myself strolling in the open door of a club on Bourbon and some cat is on the stand with a horn section and Daddy knows true bliss. The last third of the tune is golden. Walter lamenting, horns popping, ride cymbal clanging. Then they break it down – “I wanna love you, baby…” – and then return with a vengeance for a big finish. The horns blast their tattoo just enough times to send you over the top, baby. Here’s another tune that is helped onto this list by its length. “Sometimes you leave in the morning and you don’t come back ’til late at night. And every time you come home all you wanna do is fuss and – fight, baby. You got me worried”

Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group

11“Hot in the City (Exterminator Mix)” by Billy Idol (1985) // When I was 15, I had a girlfriend who was much older and hip to some great tunes. One of the best things I discovered through her was Billy Idol’s Vital Idol remix album. And I still love Billy Idol to this day. He has always had such swagger and has often reminded me of Elvis Presley, truth be told. But that’s another story. OK, we’ve had some pure pop, some string-laden laments and R&B horn blasting work-outs. Billy here brings it decidedly “techno” by comparison. I get that this remix may seem out of place. But I sense a wonderful visual quality from songs like this. Different from Isaac Hayes’ incidental music, there’s a cool, music video feel to songs like this. I picture myself walking through the crowded, noisy bar with the lights flashing while a tune like this plays. And never mind the synthetic sounds; Billy Idol has always had bluster to burn. And what sound emerges here yet again? The purest of all sounds, the piano. The long intro has been added to the basic track of the original version of this tune. I love the ostentatious way he cruises through the chorus. “Well, you know that you’re HOT in the city…” At about the three minute mark, the song ventures off and meanders and simmers awhile but then it begins to grow and this may be the most audacious, infectious part of the tune. It builds up to a four-note crash before Billy returns to stride back through “HOT in the city, HOT in the city tonight!”

While in the past I have been intrigued, let’s say, by the sound of Donna Summers’ recordings with Giorgio Moroder or even a group like New Order, what I connect with most is an earthy sound. Real, organic, acoustic, front-porch music. A strummed guitar, a blown harmonica, a plinked ukulele. The majestic sound of a piano, perhaps the most regal and venerable of instruments. This is why I count The Allman Brothers Band as my favourite band. They check many boxes for me. Southern boys who understood the blues, legendary guitarist and founding member Duane Allman is also embraced by jazzbos for his searing, improvisational and lengthy guitar solos. Country boy Dickey Betts could write a song that would thrill your soul and then play it with guitar work that almost rivalled his bandmate’s. Add to this Gregg Allman’s soul voice, keyboard work and songwriting and the supporting players, drummers Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson and Butch Trucks, bassist Berry Oakley and pianist Chuck Leavell and what you get is music that sounds like soil. The original unit met with tragedy when Duane Allman and Berry Oakley died in separate motorcycle accidents 18 months apart and things were different afterwards. But in their prime…dang. Honourable mention goes to Rare Earth, another white act who really understood black music. I’m happy to say I’ve seen later iterations of each band live.

Speaking of honourable mentions, here’s some of the tracks that didn’t make the Top 100. They are blissful pockets, nonetheless.

  • “Tougher Than the Rest”, “Born to Run” and “Open All Night” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “Moon River” by Henry Jerome
  • “Political” by Spirit of the West
  • “Hard to Handle” by the Black Crowes
  • “I’ve Been Working” by Van Morrison
  • “To Make You Feel My Love” by Billy Joel
  • “Freedom ’90” by George Michael
  • “Blue Train” by John Coltrane
  • “Mo Money, Mo Problems” by The Notorious B.I.G.
  • “The Changeling” by the Doors
  • “Trip Through Your Wires” by U2

It’s getting very near the end. Up next: The Top Ten


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