Saturday Single No. 175

I had several glimmering ideas last evening of what to do for a single today; they came and went like quiet observers as I unboxed a new computer, set it up and went about the task of installing all the programs I use from day to day. That task is nearly done. I have a few programs left to install, and I will have to spend some time today talking to someone in India to find out why my email program demands a password that I evidently do not remember.

So instead of trying to remember the intriguing ideas that came and went as I connected cords and clicked “Install” buttons last evening and early this morning, I thought I’d just use a tool that’s been used here before: A random twelve song click-through of my mp3 files, with the thirteenth song being today’s tune. (Will I edit for weirdness? Not today. I’ll use the time frame of 1950-2009 – moving nearer to the present by ten years than I usually do – and of course, I will skip over anything planned for the Ultimate Jukebox. And given that this is the first random sort since the RealPlayer’s new installation, it might have pulled in things that were in the files but were not intended for play; those will be skipped, too.)

So I’ve sorted the 43,700 mp3s by running time, and I’ve placed the cursor as close as I can to the middle of that list. Here we go!

The first click takes us to 1982 and “Gypsy” from Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage, a good and popular tune from a good and popular album: A single version of “Gypsy” reached No. 12, and Mirage spent five weeks at the top of the album chart.

Our next stop is “Astahel,” a Lebanese tune that’s quite nice: a female vocal (by Nabiha Yazbeck), a few woodwindy instruments, guitar and rudimentary drums. The song has – not altogether surprisingly – the feel of a Mediterranean-Arabian hybrid. It’s from one of the omnipresent Putumayo collections, this one Sahara Lounge from 2004. I have no idea what Yazbeck is singing, but it’s pleasant listening.

From there, on to “Why,” a short helping of rock ’n’ soul slathered with echo from 1971, courtesy of Booker T. and  Priscilla Jones. “Why” came from Booker T. & Priscilla, the album the two performers recorded to celebrate their marriage. All-Music Guide says the two-LP album wasn’t bad, just over-long: “Cherry-picked and taken in smaller doses, which one can do now with a CD (but this is on vinyl and cassette), you could take the LP’s bitter with the sweet better. But constantly lifting the turntable arm to move to a different song gets old quick; just laying back and letting it roll isn’t the answer either. Nice singing, good tracks, but nothing to get up and boogie about. You keep waiting for the blockbuster that never comes.”

Our fourth stop this morning is “L.A. Woman,” the title tune from the last Doors’ album released during Jim Morrison’s life. It’s bluesy and gruff and feels to me – as it always has – as if it’s a song studded with sharp edges. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s a sense of the song I’ve had since I first heard it in someone’s dorm room long ago. The album was the last of seven Doors’ albums to reach the Top Ten; it went to No. 9 in the spring and summer of 1971.

Next comes “Trouble’s A Comin’” by the Chi-Lites, an album track from (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People. It’s not particularly interesting, which is why, one supposes, it was left home from the singles dance in 1971 while its clearly superior neighbors – “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People” and “Have You Seen Her” – jumped into the Top 40 (Nos. 26 and 3, respectively).

Our sixth click moves us ahead one year and west, from 1971 to 1972 and from Chicago to San Francisco,  for “Momotombo,” a track from Malo’s second album, Dos. I’ve noted here before my appreciation for Malo and several similar bands from the same time, and I like “Momotombo” a fair amount. It wasn’t a hit. “Suavecito,” which went to No. 18 in the spring of 1972, was Malo’s only hit. But it’s a nice nugget for a Saturday morning sequence.

Then comes “Listening Wind” from the Talking Heads’ 1980 album, Remain In Light. I wrote not all that long ago about not “getting” the Talking Heads. I’ve listened some more since then, and – though I still acknowledge the vision and artistry – the overall body of work still baffles me, though perhaps a little less than it has in the past. (Odd, the imaginary musichead who sits on my shoulders along with his twin, Pop, loves the Talking Heads and says that I should practice total immersion: an mp3 disc with nothing but the Heads played over and over for a week. Umm.) “Listening Wind” is a moody and atmospheric piece that – adjacent to Malo’s piece in this sequence – actually works quite nicely this morning. (Why do I think that the first disc burned on my new computer will be Odd’s work: All Talking Heads?)

The Texas Gal and I have seen the Wailin’ Jennys perform twice here in St. Cloud, and both times they sang “Deeper Well,” a selection from their 2001 EP, Wailin’ Jennys. The song’s tagline, I think, provides a good metaphor for the Jennys and their acoustic and choral journey: “Lookin’ for the water from a deeper well,” the place where few others’ musical buckets have reached. And “Deeper Well” is stop No. 8 this morning.

Larry Long is a Minnesota-based singer/songwriter who’s showed up here at least once, when I shared a couple of tracks from his 1981 album, Living In A Rich Man’s World. Today’s ninth track, the story song “Timber Of Love,” comes from the same album. I have to note that I’ve not listened to the album extensively, but whenever I lay it on the turntable or drop the recently acquired CD into the player, I enjoy it.

The first Steely Dan album I owned was Pretzel Logic, which I bought for the sake of “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” a song that became a talisman of survival and freedom in the long-ago summer of 1974, when I was recovering from a lung ailment. As much as I liked “Rikki,” however, I found when I finally had the LP – a couple of years later – that there were other songs I liked just as well. And one of them pops up this morning: “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” and it puts a gentle bobbing to my head as I write this. (There’s an extra resonance to the song these days, of course, as “Any Major Dude Will Tell You” was the inspiration for the blog Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, whose proprietor stops by here regularly and frequently leaves comments, as I do at his house.)

Our eleventh stop this morning is “Angel Eyes,” the gorgeous track from 1989 by the Jeff Healey Band. Buttressed by the late Healey’s sometimes-stunning guitar work and his earnest vocals, the record went to No. 5 during the summer of 1989. This record was one of the last ones trimmed from the Ultimate Jukebox before I decided I could trim no more, so it’s obviously one of my favorites.

One more stop before we find today’s big winner, and No. 12 for this morning is “San Diego Serenade” by Nanci Griffith from her 1991 album, Late Night Grande Hotel. A slow and meditative piece from the pen of TomWaits, the song has nothing more than emotional weariness at its core, and Griffith finds the voice to bring that weariness through the speakers. I do have one quibble: The background string section is a bit off-putting. For me, the filigree diminishes rather than enhances the vacancy at the center of the song. The album, one of Griffith’s best, languished in the charts, reaching No. 185 on the Billboard 200.

That brings us around the bend and onto the home stretch. And we find a tune from a singer/songwriter who’s showed up here before: Jesse Winchester, whose work I’ve liked a great deal for many years. (One of his recordings will eventually show up in the Ultimate Jukebox series.) All-Music Guide says that Winchester’s 1976 album, Let the Rough Side Drag, “with its accomplished mixture of country and R&B, was Winchester’s most accessible album so far, even if it was his least ambitious.” That’s sounds about right, but the album is enjoyable, as is the song “Blow On, Chilly Wind,” today’s Saturday Single.

“Blow On, Chilly Wind” by Jesse Winchester from Let the Rough Side Drag [1976]

(Incorrect name changed since original posting.)


One Response to “Saturday Single No. 175”

  1. Paco Malo says:

    Re: The Doors’ “L.A. Woman.” You’ve probably seen Oliver Stone’s film “The Doors”, but if not, check it out. L.A. Woman turns up toward the end and, for me, provided new insight into this haunting song.

    Re: Steely Dan — my two favorites albums are “Katy Lied” and “Gaucho”, with an honorable mention for “Countdown to Ecstasy” (I lived it New Orleans a while, so “Countdown” is probably a local color pick.)

    Echoes in the Wind, I surely hear them tonight. Thanks whiteray

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