Nothing to Do But Today: Top 5

Once upon a long ago, a month lasted forever. Now? In a wink – or is it a blink? – of a young girl’s eye, they pass me by. Sure, specific events from the distant past seem like they happened just yesterday, but much more has faded into the haze that hangs over the river of time. Life flows a little faster with each new day; and the mist thickens behind.

Certain things, however, have stuck with me. For instance, about once a week in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, I walked or rode my bike to the Hatboro Music Shop, a small independent store that stocked the latest 45s and LPs as well as a healthy smattering of older releases. If anything wasn’t in stock, it could be ordered – so long as it was still in print, of course. I often stopped in to browse and, sometimes, picked out albums based on the cover art alone. (I often regretted those purchases.) Other days, however, I was on a mission – I knew what I wanted.

Back then, as I’ve written before, being a music fan required work. Now? You can condense my lifetime’s pursuit into a minute’s transaction – or however long as it takes to join Apple Music or Spotify. And learning about one’s favorite artists is as simple as following them on social media. I checked into Twitter this morning, for instance, and discovered that Diane Birch shared a recently minted song via SoundCloud. Which leads me to today’s Top 5…

1) Diane Birch – “Ordinary Angels w/Glowstick Halos.” A deceptively simple tune that, to my ears, bears the influence of her recent cover of Paul McCartney’s “Waterfalls.” It’s stark, haunting and beautiful.

[This has since gone missing from SoundCloud. C’est la vie.]

2) Rickie Lee Jones – “Feet on the Ground.” So, in November 2013, I pledged in support of a new Rickie Lee project on Received an autographed poster, which I’ve yet to frame, and…time passed. Occasional updates on Facebook reminded me of it, but it seemed like one of those forever-on-the-horizon things, never to be realized. Then came the notice a week or so ago that the completed album, The Other Side of Desire, was available for download. One listen and I was hooked. As a whole, it possesses a vibe that radiates instant familiarity; it’s as if the album, and “Feet on the Ground” especially, have been a part of my life forever. (And, no, I do not have temporal dysplasia.)

3) Neil Young & the Promise of the Real – “Big Box.” Neil’s latest release, The Monsanto Years, is much better than it ought to be. Essentially an album-long diatribe against Monsanto, GMOs, the corporatization of America, Citizens United, politicians and apathy, it’s the kind of screed one might read on left-leaning websites. And, yet, it works. It’s rough and ragged, rocks hard, and his outrage at the changing American landscape is palpable throughout. A sample lyric from “Big Box”: “Too big to fail/too rich for jail.”

4) Carly Simon – “Anticipation.” I saw The Spy Who Loved Me at the Hatboro Theater in the fall of 1977, when I was 12. I fell in love with the theme song and set out to buy it on what was one of my first trips to the Hatboro Music Shop; and left with the movie soundtrack, not the single, because – as I wrote a while back – I didn’t grasp the difference between LPs and 45s. I was a fast learner, however, and by the next summer was picking up 45s left and right. Well – not quite, but often enough. One of my first: Carly’s “You’re So Vain.” In time, I stepped up and purchased her Best Of. “Anticipation” quickly became my favorite song of hers; and remains so. Sometimes we look ahead to the detriment of the present. “These are the good old days,” indeed.

5) Stephen Stills – “Nothing to Do but Today.” We’re seeing Stills next week. Can’t wait. This has always been one of my favorites of his songs, from his underrated second solo album. Bluesy, guitar-centric and damn good.

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