This week’s songlist includes lots of classics, including ABBA, Ricky Skaggs, Guns N’ Roses and The Judds, plus new music from Celtic Thunder’s new show, Mythology, and from Charlotte Church’s new EP “Two”, which comes out on March 4. There’s also a bit of Irish and a bit of bluegrass, as usual, though with a bit of a twist- an Irish song whose style usually would imply lyrics in Arabic, and a bluegrass cover of a Metallica classic. Enjoy!
1. “Love Isn’t Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough)”- ABBA (The Albums) :
It’s been a little while since I had ABBA on a list, so here’s another less well known song from this mega-successful pop icon to start off this week’s list. I find it hard to refrain from singing along to this song, a common symptom for many people with respect to much of ABBA’s music and probably a huge part of why they were so successful.
2. “Baby Baby All the Time”- Diana Krall (All For You (A Dedication to Nat King Cole Trio)): Keith Harkin fans and anyone who follows Verve Music’s release calendar would recall that Diana Krall was one of the first to release an album through Verve Music under David Foster’s leadership. That was of course how I came across her name, though this is a song off a different album. This song reminds me a lot of the songs Pearl Bailey used to go for, though Diana Krall’s voice is of course higher and smoother.
3. “Goodbye My Lover”- James Blunt (Back to Bedlam) : As sad songs go, this one’s quite poignantly tragic and personal. It says nothing about why the fellow speaking has to leave, but simply cuts to that raw emotion that comes with leaving behind someone you still love deeply. I’m somewhat glad that songs this intense don’t generally make it onto the radio, because I’m not sure I would want to be reminded of feelings like this while I am in public, and equally I would not wish to cheapen such songs by hearing them on grocery store speakers every week along with all the usual pop fare.
4. “The Click Song”- Cher (The Best of Cher (The Imperial Recordings: 1965-1968)) : In the 1960’s musicians in the US discovered the fascinating rhythms and songs of Africa and other ‘primitive’ places, and began eagerly exploring these rich sources of musical inspiration. Songs like “The Click Song” tapped into Westerners’ fascination with ‘primitive’, ‘tribal’ music, and there is lots of debate now as to the ‘right’ of Western peoples to use beats and songs from these non-Western cultures. The debate is complex on all sides, but the fact remains that some truly interesting and entertaining music came out of all this naive exploration.
5. “Inion/Daughter”- Afro Celt Sound System (Bliss ) : From the way the lyrics are spelled, I would guess that this song is in Irish. The song on my spotify list is from an album called Bliss, and the link I have provided is to the album Bliss, available on itunes. However, this song is also available on amazon.com on a different album, Volume 1- Sound Magic, and the album art one sees on spotify when listening to the track on my playlist is from this second album. Thus the artwork I have put up here is from this second album. The idea of an Irish song that sounds like it comes from North Africa or the Arabian Peninsula is intriguing enough to justify giving this one a listen.
6. “Like A Prayer”- Madonna (Celebration) : This album is the third of Madonna’s greatest hits albums, all of which include “Like a Prayer”. I suppose with the way the industry used to work it made sense to have new greatest hits albums regularly; in today’s digital age it seems either silly or mercenary. Still, this song is a classic that is still great when played amidst more contemporary music. The original music video to this one was quite controversial, as it depicted a statue of Jesus Christ coming to life and ‘interacting’ with Madonna, perhaps for real, perhaps just as a dream or vision. As kids we got quite a thrill out of seeing such seemingly sacrilegious scenes, and as an adult that video still comes to mind when I read tales about famous women in the Catholic tradition.
7. “If I Ain’t Got You- Unplugged”- Alicia Keys (Unplugged) : My younger trendier sister laughed at the notion that I might find songs recorded by Alicia Keys that I honestly like. She owns several Alicia Keys albums, and I must admit those albums are not favorites of mine. Still, Alicia Keys has a well-trained voice, and occasionally she sings songs that are not made for bumping and grinding on a dance floor. I did in fact find a few songs I liked after sifting through lots of quickly rejected pop songs, and this is one of them that I liked well enough to include on this week’s list.
8. “You Take My Breath Away”- Queen (A Day At the Races) : With one of really gorgeous layered studio harmony sections Queen recorded, this song is one of my absolute favorite Queen songs. It is even more impressive when enjoyed through good headphones, and may prove hazardous to one’s health, especially if it starts playing when one is crossing a busy street. Actually, I was trying out my new headphones a few months ago while walking around town somewhere when this song came on my now-deceased ipod, and it had been a while since I’d heard this song anyway, so that the luscious intro stopped me quite literally in my tracks, but thankfully on a nice wide empty sidewalk.
9. “Uncle Pen”- Ricky Skaggs (The Essential Ricky Skaggs ) : Here’s one of my favorite bluegrass songs, though I rarely can think of its name when it gets randomly stuck in my head. I’ve heard this song played live by several very good bluegrass bands and musicians, so not only is it a fun song, but I have lots of good memories associated with this tune. I must say, though, that Ricky Skaggs, who I am pretty sure I’ve seen live as well, looks much better with facial hair and a few distinguishing wrinkles.
10. “Sweet Child Of Mine”- Guns N’ Roses (Greatest Hits) : This has always been one of my favorite songs since I was a kid, and this past week I had the pleasure of hearing it covered by a bluegrass band, Rich With Friends, who did an excellent job of rendering this classic rock tune into a completely different genre without damaging the song itself. This bluegrass band also had a Flinstones theme interlude while their acoustic guitarist tuned his instrument mid-show. I loved both, but I don’t really want the Flinstones theme on my playlist this week, so Guns N’ Roses won this spot.
11. “Unforgiven”- Iron Horse (Long Live Bluegrass: CMH Records 30th Anniversary Special) : Speaking of fun bluegrass covers of classic hard rock songs, here’s one that I came across on spotify in its bluegrassy form. Iron horses, by the way, are trains, so while this band’s name sounds like it could belong to a metal band, it makes sense as a bluegrass band’s name.
12. “18 Til I Die- MTV Unplugged Version”- Bryan Adams (MTV Unplugged ) : I must be in the mood for music from my younger days still, because here is yet another musician who now falls in more of a ‘classics’ category, along with Madonna, Guns N’ Roses, ABBA and several others on this list. I’m not sure I would want to have stayed frozen as I was at 18, myself, but maybe 23 would be alright, mature enough to handle living as an independent adult, but not yet as jaded and cynical as I am now.
13. “Now We Are Free”- Celtic Thunder (Mythology) : Most of Keith Harkin’s solo songs in the new Celtic Thunder show, Mythology, are songs from his own solo album, which makes sense as a way to keep him from having to dedicate too much time to learning more songs while he was working on that solo album last year. This song, though, is also mostly a Keith solo, and is a beautiful example of what the new configuration of Celtic Thunder is capable of. The harmonies and echoes near the end of this one are not fancy electronic sampling and layering effects, though they sound seamless enough to be artificially produced.
14. “A Fine Line”- Places (No More Wasted Days) : Every time I hear this one I think it is a Bryan Adams track, but no, it is in fact a song by a fantastic local Colorado band called Places. This was the band I was so impressed by at last year’s New West Fest, that turned up in matching gray suit vests, slacks and blue dress-shirts. It was August and mid-afternoon when they played, so they must have been roasting, but they looked great and sounded great. They aren’t from Fort Collins and haven’t played here lately, so I haven’t seen them since, but hopefully they’ll be back for another show this summer.
15. “Girls Night Out”- The Judds (Number One Hits ) : This is yet another childhood favorite, and a great song to put on when doing chores. Blasting this song always cut in half the time it took to clean my room when I was a kid, and it was by a country band my mom liked, so she didn’t even seem to mind the loud volume of my music when I went for this stuff.
16. “Viola”- Girlyman (Remember Who I Am) : This one is just a nice, pretty folk tune, slow and a bit melancholy, but catchy enough to be memorable.
17. “Uncle John”- Katie Glassman (Snapshot ) : I haven’t had Katie Glassman on here for a while, but I usually have a few of her songs on my playlists while I’m just listening to music for my own pleasure. This song has a nice faster rhythm, and would be great for dancing. It has an old-timey sound that makes it seem like music out of the 20’s or 30’s. I’ve seen a bit more activity on facebook from this lady recently, so perhaps she’ll make it back to Fort Collins soon for a show. Actually the last time I saw her here for a live show she was on the same stage in the same festival as Places, just in a different time-slot.
18. “In Your Room”-Devics (The Stars at Saint Andrea) : This song sounds like a lot of the music Catch Bees performs. It is a haunting, somewhat creepy sing-song folk style that seems like the sort of music I’d imagine as a soundtrack to a surrealist dream. Devics is out of L.A., and has been around since 1996, with their last album released in 2009. Catch Bees is from Northern Colorado (the lead singer was a student at CSU here in Fort Collins when I first met him) and they just released a new EP this month. So, if you like Devics, check out Catch Bees as a next generation of the same dreamy folk/pop music.
19. “Shadow on the Wall”- Brandi Carlile (The Story) : Speaking of creepy, this one always makes me think of spiders, even though it says ‘shadow’ on the wall, not ‘spider’. It fits well enough with the style of the Devics song to not interrupt that surrealist dreamy mood, though it has a bit more of a hard edge than the Devics tune.
20. “Lasts, or Eschaton”- Charlotte Church (Two) : Charlotte Church’s new EP, “Two”, comes out on March 4th, and is available to listen to now on spotify. Thus, while it is only available to pre-order on itunes, you can still check out these new tracks. The song I included on this playlist is a sci-fi narrative that shares a similar theme with Queen’s “Radio Ga-ga”. I like that while Charlotte is certainly placing her music in the stylistic range of pop radio, she still incorporates her more formally-trained and refined voice.