Posts Tagged ‘Joni Mitchell’

‘Green’

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

So today, in the fourth installment of Floyd’s Prism, we come to “Green,” the “G.” in the famous mnemonic for recalling the colors of the spectrum: “Roy G. Biv.”

The RealPlayer provides a total of 576 mp3s to sort. The first tracks to be trimmed are the sixteen covers of 1960s folk from the fine 1999 collection Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village in the ’60s and the thirteen covers from a similar 2009 album, The Village: A Celebration Of The Music Of Greenwich Village.

We also lose many, if not all, tracks from other albums: The Stone Poneys’ Evergreen, Vol. 2, Dana Wells’ The Evergreen, Steel Mill’s Green Eyed God, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Green River, Dar Williams’ The Green World, Leo Kottke’s Greenhouse, the Pete Best Band’s Hayman’s Green (yes, that Pete Best; it’s a pretty decent album from 2008), the bluesy Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, the Jayhawks’ Tomorrow the Green Grass and a few others, including Sibylle Baier’s Colour Green, an album featured here not long ago that was made up mostly of home recordings from the early 1970s and released in 2006.

We set aside multiple albums by Al Green and country singer Pat Green, and single albums from songwriter Ellie Greenwich, the 1960s groups Green and Evergreen Blue Shoes, and a 2010 album by a European electropop duo called the Green Children.

We also lose tracks by performers Barbara Greene, Cal Green, Eli Green (with Mississippi Fred McDowell), Grant Green, the Greenwoods, Jackie Green, Johnny Green & The Greenmen, Judy Green, the little known R. Green (of R. Green & Turner, who recorded two blues sides for the J&M Fulbright label in Los Angeles in 1948), Rudy Greene, Rudy Green & His Orchestra, Lorne Green, the marvelously named Slim Green & The Cats From Fresno and, of course, Norman Greenbaum.

And a few songs fall by the wayside because of their titles: Jackie DeShannon’s “The Greener Side,” five mp3s titled “Evergreen” (some with numbers attached and none of them the 1976 Barbra Streisand record), Peter, Paul & Mary’s “Greenland Whale Fisheries,” Tony Rice’s “Greenlight on the Southern,” a couple versions of “Greensleeves,” three of “Greenback Dollar,” and six tracks with “Greenwood” in their titles, including the wonderful 1970 single “Greenwood, Mississippi” by Little Richard.

But that leaves us many titles yet to work with. We’ll start with a country favorite of mine from 1993.

I didn’t know about the tune in 1993, of course, as I rarely listened to country music then. (A work friend of mine in those days suggested I give a Brooks & Dunn album a listen; I returned it to him regretfully, not yet ready for boot-scootin’.) But come the year 2000, with the Texas Gal on the scene, I began to catch up at least a little on what I’d been missing. And one evening, as we were passing time watching country music videos on CMT, there came Joe Diffie’s “John Deere Green.” The story of Billy Bob and Charlene and the tall green letters on the water tower amused me, and it touched memories of both summer weeks on my grandpa’s farm and of Gramps’ allegiance to John Deere farm equipment. I don’t follow country closely, but it’s on the radio and the CD player occasionally; it’s not nearly as foreign as it was, thanks mostly to the Texas Gal and at least in part to Diffie’s single (which went to No. 5 on the country chart and to No. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100).

There are five versions of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Bitter Green” in the digital stacks: covers by Ronnie Hawkins, Tony Rice and fellow Canadian folk singer Valdy and studio and live versions by Lightfoot. I like them all but decided to go with Lightfoot’s version from his 1968 album, Back Here On Earth. At the time, Lightfoot was known mostly in the U.S. as a songwriter; his performing career was much stronger in Canada (and that imbalance remained until 1970 or so). “Bitter Green” and the story it tells are vintage Lightfoot: an easily embraced melody backed only by guitar and literate and clear lyrics. He’d go on to great critical and popular success in the 1970s and beyond, but many of his early recordings are still worth close listening. This is one of them.

Gods and Generals, a 2003 film based on a 1996 novel by Jeffrey Schaara, was focused, says Wikipedia, on “the life of Thomas Jonathan ‘Stonewall’ Jackson,” the God-fearing and militarily brilliant yet eccentric Confederate general.” I’ve not seen the film, and perhaps I should, but my interest in Gods and General this morning is the soundtrack, itself notable to me because Bob Dylan’s haunting “’Cross the Green Mountain” is its closing track. In her review of the soundtrack at All Music Guide, Heather Phares notes that Dylan’s contribution “sounds more contemporary than most of the rest of the album, but still has enough rustic warmth to complement it gracefully.” The video to which I’ve linked has a shorter version of the tune than does the soundtrack; the original version, which runs eight-plus minutes, is available on the soundtrack CD and on Dylan’s 2008 release, Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8.

Although I try to dig up relatively rare and different tracks when I do sets like this – for Floyd’s Prism or the earlier March Of The Integers – there are times when familiar tracks simply demand to be included. Such is the case with “Green Onions” by Booker T. & The MG’s. The record – familiar and forever fresh – went to No. 3 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1962. In his 1989 book, The Heart of Rock & Soul, Dave Marsh wrote that “Green Onions” is “what happens when the best backup band in the universe decides it’s time to get noticed.”

In early 2007, a Houston, Texas, music producer named Kevin Ryan went into his home studio and, as Dan Brekke of Salon wrote that April, “engineered a sort of retro mash-up of two of his favorite artists, Bob Dylan and Dr. Seuss. . . . Ryan took the text from seven Seuss classics, including ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’ and set them to original tunes that sounded like they were right off Dylan’s mid-’60s releases. He played all the instruments and sang all the songs in Dylan’s breathy, nasal twang. He registered a domain name, dylanhearsawho.com, and in February posted his seven tracks online, accompanied by suitably Photoshopped album artwork, under the title Dylan Hears A Who.” The Salon piece tells the tale of the copyright claims that followed from the folks who own the Dr. Seuss material, examines the copyright issues at hand and notes that the material is still widely available on the ’Net. That’s true, of course, at YouTube, where Ryan’s version of “Green Eggs & Ham” remains a delight.

When Joni Mitchell released Blue in 1971, the lyrics to “Little Green” must have seemed like typically elliptical Joni Mitchell lyrics, telling a story by circling around it with vague hints and references:

Born with the moon in Cancer
Choose her a name she will answer to
Call her green and the winters cannot fade her
Call her green for the children who’ve made her
Little green, be a gypsy dancer

He went to California
Hearing that everything’s warmer there
So you write him a letter and say, “Her eyes are blue”
He sends you a poem and she’s lost to you
Little green, he’s a non-conformer

Just a little green
Like the color when the spring is born
There’ll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green
Like the nights when the Northern lights perform
There’ll be icicles and birthday clothes
And sometimes there’ll be sorrow

Child with a child pretending
Weary of lies you are sending home
So you sign all the papers in the family name
You’re sad and you’re sorry, but you’re not ashamed
Little green, have a happy ending

Just a little green
Like the color when the spring is born
There’ll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green
Like the nights when the Northern lights perform
There’ll be icicles and birthday clothes
And sometimes there’ll be sorrow

When one reads those lyrics now, in the light of Mitchell’s having given birth to a daughter in 1965 and giving her up for adoption – a tale that became public in 1993 – “Little Green” becomes a heart-breaking piece of work.

From Henry Mancini To MFSB

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Among the least used books in my musical reference library is Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Top 10 Album Charts, and I’m not entirely sure why. Back in 2008, when I was doing a monthly look at music and events of 1968, I used the book for most of those posts, tracking albums through the year. Since then, however, I’ve rarely pulled it off the shelf.

I think it’s because the book has few surprises. I might not know right offhand what the No. 10 album was during the first week of April in 1970, but when I see that it was Willy and the Poorboys by Creedence Clearwater Revival, I think, “Yeah, that make sense.” Digging in a Top Ten list is not like digging in the Hot 100, where unknown gems reside in the lower depths.

But an occasional dip into the book might be fun, so I thought I’d take a look at the Top Tens from the first week of a few Aprils past. The book begins with Billboard magazine’s first comprehensive album chart in August 1963, so the first April in the book is from 1964. Here’s the Top Ten from April 4 of that year:

Meet the Beatles by the Beatles
Introducing . . . the Beatles by the Beatles
Honey in the Horn by Al Hirt
Hello Dolly! by the Original Cast
The Third Album by Barbra Streisand
In The Wind by Peter, Paul & Mary
Yesterday’s Love Songs/Today’s Blues by Nancy Wilson
There! I’ve Said It Again by Bobby Vinton
Peter, Paul & Mary by Peter, Paul & Mary
Charade (original soundtrack) by Henry Mancini

The second album on that list is the famous Vee-Jay album, now a valuable collector’s item, especially in stereo, with prices for a near-mint copy reaching as high as $40,000, according to the “Ask ‘Mr. Music’” feature at DigitalDreamDoor.com.  But according to Wikipedia, nearly every circulating copy of the record – and this is especially true for those labeled as stereo – is a counterfeit. That includes the copy that sits on my shelf. Oh, well.

As to that Top Ten itself, it shows the shift underway from middle of the road tunes, show tunes and soundtracks to rock and pop. I have half of those albums on the shelves – the Beatles, Al Hirt and Peter, Paul & Mary – and I’m a little bit interested in hearing the Nancy Wilson record.

As to the others, neither Hello Dolly! nor the Streisand or Vinton records interest me, but being a soundtrack geek, I like Mancini’s work for Charade a lot, especially the title tune. A single release of the title tune had gone to No. 36 earlier in 1964, and the soundtrack album peaked at No. 6 a week later.

Let’s jump ahead five years to the Top Ten albums from the first week of April 1969:

Wichita Lineman by Glenn Campbell
Blood, Sweat & Tears by Blood, Sweat & Tears
Ball by Iron Butterfly
Goodbye by Cream
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly
Donovan’s Greatest Hits by Donovan
Greatest Hits by the Association
Cloud Nine by the Temptations
Help Yourself by Tom Jones
Bayou Country by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Yes, there was a time when Iron Butterfly ruled the land. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard Ball, but I think I had a copy of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida at one time, and I know I had a copy of the group’s live album. Lots of folks did. Whatever Iron Butterfly I had on vinyl, though, I sold long ago. (I do have digital files of the seventeen minute album version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and the single edit as well as the group’s 1970 album, Metamorphosis, which isn’t bad.)

As to the rest, it’s a decent set of records, and they all have a place in my stacks except for the Tom Jones album. I do recall the title track, “Help Yourself,” which went to No. 35 on the singles chart. The album peaked at No. 5.

And we’ll jump another five years to the first week of April 1974:

John Denver’s Greatest Hits by John Denver
Band on the Run by Paul McCartney & Wings
Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell
Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield
The Way We Were by Barbra Streisand
Love Is The Message by MFSB
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
Rhapsody in White by the Love Unlimited Orchestra
Hotcakes by Carly Simon
The Sting (original soundtrack) by Marvin Hamlisch

Boy, that’s a jumble of stuff. The soundtrack to The Sting was notable for its resurrection of the music of Scott Joplin, and two more of those albums were connected with movies: The title track of the Streisand album was also the title track of the movie in which she starred with Robert Redford, and excerpts from Oldfield’s side-long suites were used in The Exorcist.

Beyond that, folks looking for classic albums could find two, perhaps three here: Band on the Run and Court and Spark are great records, and some will make the argument for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but I’m not sure I’d be persuaded. As long-time readers might anticipate, I’m ambivalent about the John Denver album, and singles are all I really need of MFSB, the Love Unlimited Orchestra and Carly Simon.

Thinking about the way things sound, however, it comes to mind that nothing sounds to me more like 1974 than almost anything from Court and Spark, which peaked at No. 2. We’ll close this brief exercise with the title track.

One Chart Dig: December 29, 1973

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

The Texas Gal is on vacation for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day this year, which means that she’s only got a couple days left before we get back to what passes for our regular routine. And that also means that I’m not all that committed to spending more time than necessary here in the EITW studios today.

So I took a quick look at the Billboard Hot 100 from December 29, 1973, to see what I could find. I recall very few of the records listed there from that time; when that Hot 100 was released, I was visiting friends near Århus, Denmark, and we were all preparing for a New Year’s celebration capped with red and white fireworks.

Most of those one hundred records are familiar now. I’ve noticed a few that aren’t, however, and I’ve spent a few minutes wondering which way I should go for one chart dig this morning: familiar or unknown? And I’ve decided to go familiar.

“Raised on Robbery” was – I think – the first single Joni Mitchell pulled from Court and Spark, which would be released in January 1974. As the year was ending, “Raised on Robbery” was sitting at No. 89; it would peak in a few weeks at No. 65. (Two other singles from Court and Spark would do much better in 1974: “Free Man In Paris” went to No. 22 and “Help Me” went to No. 7.)

Here’s a live performance of “Raised on Robbery” from the 1980 video Shadows & Light, which All-Music Guide says was taken mostly from a September 1989 performance.

Saturday Single No. 222

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

We’re just coming out of what will likely be the coldest week of the year. When I fired up the computer at about 6:30 the other morning, the Weatherbug – which keeps me apprised of meteorological data – told me it was twenty-six degrees below zero, Fahrenheit. (That’s about thirty-four degrees below zero for those of you keeping score in Celsius.) And the temperatures have stayed chilly for the past few days.

The worst of the cold snap is over, though, with tonight’s low expected to be the last sub-zero temperatures for a while. While our twenty-six below the other morning was chilly, it’s still far from the coldest temperature I’ve ever experienced. That, I think, came during the winter of 1976-77 when the temperature in St. Cloud dropped one night to forty-three degrees below zero (-42C). And I was living in a ramshackle house on the north side, the one that had no central heating and depended on an oil-burning stove in the living room for its (limited) warmth. That was a difficult winter.

Degrees of difficulty, of course, are subjective, and however bad a current cold snap is, almost every Minnesotan will have one stored in his or her memory that was colder or longer or both. But sometimes, history has to take a second-tier seat to current reality. Today’s ten below zero is worse than 1977’s forty-three below because that ten below is what I have to deal with today.

And I do have to deal with it: Yesterday’s flurries left about two inches of fluffy snow, and as soon as I am done here, I’ll have to go out and clean the sidewalk. So to advance my morning, I thought I’d do a random walk through six tunes with the word “cold” in their titles and see what we find.

First up is “One Last Cold Kiss” by Mountain from its 1971 album, Flowers Of Evil. The song, which tells the tale of a bonded pair of swans separated by a hunter’s arrow, has a sense of a classic ballad filtered through the heavy metal of Leslie West and Felix Pappalardi. The album, Flowers of Evil, went to No. 35 in early 1972.

Next up is “Cold and Hard Times” by the late Delaney Bramlett, from his 2008 CD A New Kind of Blues. The meditation on how a couple gets through difficult days will have a familiar sound to those who’ve listened to the music of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends: bluesy, with overtones of country, gospel and R&B. It’s a great sound, and if Bramlett’s voice was a little careworn near the end of his life, well, that just adds to the atmosphere.

From there we go back to 1968, and “Out In the Cold Again” by the Peanut Butter Conspiracy. From the group’s album, For Children of All Ages, the tune is a passable pop effort about lost love with a chorus that would not be out of place in a country record. (That chorus, with its vocals and horn accents, sounds very much like something from the work Elvis Presley would do the following year when he returned to Memphis for the sessions that resulted in “Suspicious Minds” and more. I’m going to have to come back to this one someday and figure out what it is I hear.)

Fourth on our brief journey this morning is “Cold Harbour” by Robin Williamson from his Myrrh album from 1972. Williamson was half of the Incredible String Band in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and Myrrh was his first solo work after he and Mike Heron parted ways for some time. (The two got together about ten years ago with Clive Palmer, an early partner of theirs, for a live recording.) “Cold Harbour” is a loosely structured impressionistic song, actually reminiscent of David Crosby’s early solo work.

“Cold Bologna” by the Isley Brothers is a metaphor, as the narrator notes that “Mama’s out cookin’ steak for someone else.” The track, written by Bill Withers, is from the brothers’ 1971 album Givin’ It Back, which went to No. 71 on the Billboard Hot 200 and to No. 13 on the R&B albums chart. Three singles from the album reached the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles chart. “Cold Bologna” was not one of them.

And from there we land on “Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire” by Joni Mitchell, a track from her 1972 album For The Roses. Beautiful and inscrutable, it’s vintage Mitchell, and it’s today’s Saturday Single:

Cold Blue Steel out of money
One eye for the beat police
Sweet Fire calling
“You can’t deny me
“Now you know what you need.”
Underneath the jungle gym
Hollow-grey-fire-escape-thief
Looking for Sweet Fire
Shadow of Lady Release
“Come with me
“I know the way,” she says
“It’s down, down, down the dark ladder
“Do you want to contact somebody first
“Leave someone a letter
“You can come now
“Or you can come later.”

A wristwatch, a ring, a downstairs screamer
Edgy-black cracks of the sky
“Pin-cushion-prick-
“Fix this poor bad dreamer!”
“Money,” cold shadows reply
Pawnshops crisscrossed and padlocked
Corridors spit on prayers and pleas
Sparks fly up from Sweet Fire
Black soot of Lady Release
“Come with me
“I know the way,” she says
“It’s down, down, down the dark ladder
“Do you want to contact somebody first
“Does it really matter
“If you come now
“Or if you come on later?”

Red water in the bathroom sink
Fever and the scum brown bowl
Blue Steel still begging
But it’s indistinct
Someone’s Hi-Fi drumming Jelly Roll
Concrete concentration camp
Bashing in veins for peace
Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire
Fall into Lady Release
“Come with me I know the way,” she says
“It’s down, down, down the dark ladder
“Do you want to contact somebody first
“I mean what does it really matter
“You’re going to come now
“Or you’re going to come later”

(Lyrics ©1972, Joni Mitchell)

‘With A Blue Moon In Your Eyes . . .’

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

I wonder how huge the eureka moment was when the producers of the television series The Sopranos came across the song “Woke Up This Morning” by the English group Alabama 3.

I can only imagine that the producers, trying to find a theme song that summed up mob boss Tony Soprano and his messy, conflicted, ordinary and brutal life, just stared at the speakers the first time they heard the track, with its odd and compelling mix of hip-hop, electronica and Americana. I’m sure those producers felt that the Alabama 3 song had just been waiting for them to discover it and provide it with a home.

And that’s what happened. For six seasons, stretching between January 1999 and June of 2007, an edit of the song led off each of the eighty-six episodes of one of television’s greatest dramas. Viewers would have been forgiven for thinking that that song was written for The Sopranos when it was actually released in 1997 on Alabama 3’s first album, Exile On Coldharbour Lane.

And viewers would also have been forgiven for thinking that Alabama 3 was an American group, when it was actually a product of England. To be honest, the band’s history is strange enough that I’m just going to turn to the account by Garth Cartwright at All-Music Guide:

“Alabama 3 was one of the oddest musical outfits to arise from late-’90s London, but also one of the most original. The band’s origins are shrouded in urban myth — the band likes to claim that the three core members met in rehab, while their Southern accents have many believing they are from the U.S. state of Alabama, although it appears vocalists Rob Spragg and Jake Black met at a London rave when Spragg heard Black singing Hank Williams’ ‘Lost Highway.’ Bonding, they set out about creating an agenda of Americana, electronica, leftist politics, and laughter. Joined by DJ Piers Marsh, the trio issued two 12” dance singles that combined their interest in gospel and country music, yet these went over the heads of the London dance scene. In Italy, where Spragg and Black began singing Howlin’ Wolf songs over Marsh mixes, the idea of the band began to take shape and back in Brixton, South London, they recruited a crew of musicians to shape their vision. This, combined with brilliantly theatrical live shows, meant the band attracted a huge South London following long before they had a record deal.”

Cartwright calls Exile On Coldharbour Lane “a groundbreaking work that effortlessly fused gospel, country, blues, and house music,” a style dubbed “chemical country.” While the British press – then caught up in what Cartwright calls its “infatuation with Britpop” – tended to ignore the group, the use of “Woke Up This Morning” in The Sopranos brought some popularity in the U.S. Unfortunately, that popularity brought legal action as well, says Cartwright, as the country group Alabama sued over the group’s name, which means that in the U.S., Alabama 3 is now known as A3.

Since its odd beginnings, Alabama 3 has continued to record and release albums, the most recent being Revolver Soul, which came out last May. I’ve not listened to much of their catalog, but the group’s approach is still novel, based on both the quotes from followers cited at the group’s website and on the tag line on the ad there for Revolver Soul: “Soul Music With A Gun Against Your Head.”

Sounds like something Tony Soprano would listen to.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 32
“Follow” by Richie Havens from Mixed Bag [1967]
“Back Stabbers” by the O’Jays, Philadelphia International 3517 [1972]
“Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple, Warner Bros. 7710 [1973]
“Help Me” by Joni Mitchell, Asylum 11034 [1974]
“Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd & the Monsters from Sister Sweetly [1993]
“Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3, Geffen International 22302 [1997]

Television brought me another great recording a few years before I first heard “Woke Up This Morning.” One Sunday evening in May 1998, the law drama The Practice closed its season-ending episode with Richie Havens’ sublime “Follow” as the backing track. I recognized the voice but not the song, and as the last scenes played out, I went to the record stacks – the total number of records was then about 1,600 – and was stunned to find no Richie Havens. I grabbed a pen and piece of paper and jotted down “Follow” – that had to be the title of the song, I assumed – and over the next few weeks, I sought out and bought several of Havens’ albums, finally finding “Follow” on Mixed Bag at the end of July. Since then, I’ve continued to buy Havens’ albums on LP and on CD, but nothing I’ve ever heard from him – and he’s one of my favorites – is as good as “Follow.”

“They smile in your face; all the time they wanna take your place: The back-stabbers!” That warning couplet, following a lush and haunting string introduction laid on a bed of spooky percussion, brought the O’Jays to the attention of the world, or at least the portion of the world that listened to Top 40 radio in 1972.  Those who listened to R&B, however, had known the group since at least 1967, when “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)” went to No. 8 on the R&B Singles chart, the first of eight O’Jays records to reach that chart before “Back Stabbers” was released. Seven of those early R&B charting singles – and one that did not make the R&B chart – had also reached the Billboard Hot 100, but until “Back Stabbers” came along, none had pushed into the Top 40. From 1972 through 1980, however, the O’Jays saw nine singles reach the Top 40, while even more reached the R&B, Disco, Dance and related charts from 1972 into 2004. There’s a lot of good work in that catalog – I particularly like the gospel version of the Bob Dylan title song on 1991’s Emotionally Yours – but not many of the O’Jays records sound better than that first major hit: “What can I do to get on the right track? I wish they’d take some of these knives off my back!”

I’ve never been much of a Deep Purple fan, but there was no escaping “Smoke On The Water” during the summer of 1973, when it went to No. 4. And the record, with its iconic opening riff, is here in my Ultimate Jukebox for a time and place moment: Sometime during late July or early August of that summer, many of us who would spend the next school year in Denmark through St. Cloud State got together for a picnic at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. At one point during that evening, I was standing at the base of Minnehaha Falls – the waterfall that gives the large park its name – talking for the first time with a young woman who would turn out to be a very important part of my next nine months. Some distance away, another group of picnickers had a music source of some kind, and in that moment, those distant picnickers were listening to “Smoke On The Water.” Ever since, that opening riff puts me back at the base of Minnehaha Falls during the first tentative moments of a friendship that for a while became something else.

I wrote a while back that I thought that “Help Me” was Joni Mitchell’s best work, noting that I found much of her post-Seventies records difficult to listen to. Some readers encouraged me to try those works again, suggesting specific albums. I’ve done some of that listening, and although much of that later work is still challenging, it’s not as entirely drear as I had thought. But I still think “Help Me,” which went to No. 7 in June of 1974 (No. 1 for a week on the Adult Contemporary chart), is the best thing she ever did.

I imagine I first heard the long strummed groove of “Bittersweet” on the radio, likely Cities 97, but wherever I heard it, I liked the song by Big Head Todd & the Monsters enough that – in a time when vinyl releases were rare and I had no CD player – I went out and bought the album on cassette, a format I tended to avoid. I think it was the long slow groove of the song that pulled me in, but it’s the story in the lyrics that keeps the track – which went to No. 14 on the Mainstream Rock chart – near the top of my list of favorites. Every generation finds its own versions of universal truths and tales, and “Bittersweet” is one generation’s version of the thought that even if you get what you dreamed of, you might find that it wasn’t what you really wanted.