Archive for the ‘Today’s Top 5’ Category

At some point over the summer, as evidenced by recent posts, I shifted into a somewhat nostalgic state of mind, with the songs and albums of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger receiving the most play – though I’ve also leaned on a few artists of more recent vintage, such as Lucy Rose. Their oeuvres delve deeper into the human experience than most, articulating dreams both dashed and achieved – and, at least in the case of Bruce and Bob, transporting me across the spacetime continuum to my late teens and early twenties. (To borrow a line from Lucy Rose’s “Floral Dresses,” “I’m growing older each passing day, but my heart remains the same.”)

That’s not to say I’ve totally eschewed the new, mind you. In between my time-travel excursions, I’ve explored and enjoyed a range of new releases. Some have gotten more play than others, but all are items that have stuck with me long after the music faded to silence.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: New Music, Vol. DCCCXVIII: 

1) LoneHollow – “Shoot to Kill.” Rylie Bourne’s vocals, both tone and phrasing, are magnetic, and this track – like their EP as a whole – is guaranteed to pull you back for repeated plays. It’s not a new song or performance, as she previously released it as a single under her own name a few years back, but it remains as stirring now as it did then. If I owned a club, I’d book the band for a month-long residency. And then book ’em again.

2) Tyler Childers – “All Your’n.” Childers recently topped the country charts with his Country Squire album, which conjures yesteryear in form though not subject matter. It’s not a five-star release by any means, at least not to my ears, but is a damn good outing – and a welcome alternative to modern-day country music. This tune, which mixes in some heady Stax rhythm & blues, is my favorite.

3) Dracula’s Miniskirt – “Unbecoming.” This Philly-area glam-and-goth band cites David Bowie, T-Rex, Patti Smith, the Velvet Underground and The Rocky Horror Picture Show as influences. Lead singer Spook Marlow’s vocals remind me of Zombie Birdhouse-era Iggy Pop, which is somewhat apropos since one of the songs on their EP is titled “Zombie Love.” You can check them out, and purchase their EP, via BandCamp. (Disclaimer: In years past, I worked with two of the band members.)

4) Penelope Isles – “Leipzig.” I don’t know much about this band beyond what I read in Mojo or Uncut last week (or was it the week before that?) during a visit to Barnes & Noble. They’re an Isle of Man-based band fronted by sister and brother Lily and Jack Wolter, and the music they make is hypnotic.

5) P.P. Arnold – “Baby Blue.” P.P. Arnold started her career with Ike and Tina Turner, but parted ways with them while in the U.K. in 1966. She quickly carved out a niche for herself with such classic sides as “The First Cut is the Deepest” (1967) and “Angel of the Morning” (1968). I highly recommend the two-CD best of Angel of the Morning, which blew my mind when I first heard it in 2012, as well The New Adventures of P.P. Arnold, which was released earlier this month.

Life flows like a stream rushing and cutting down a mountainside and through a valley, its path seemingly pre-ordained but, in reality, routinely diverted by manmade and natural obstacles, dams and debris. The water takes the path of least resistance, forever jutting one way only to jut another, powered by gravity and the melting snowpack atop the mountain.

Samantha Sang’s “Emotion,” a song I likely haven’t heard since 1978, blasted from my trusty THX-certified Logitech computer speakers moments ago, followed by the catchy “Then Came You” by Dionne Warwick and the Spinners. Olivia Newton-John’s “Make a Move on Me,” which hit No. 5 on the pop charts in 1982, was next up. Phoebe Snow’s “Poetry Man,” Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree” and Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good” roll on in this particular stream, followed by Terrence Trent D’Arby’s “Wishing Well.”

It’s not Pandora, but KDRI, aka The Drive, which is a new independent radio station in Tucson. For those in the Arizona city, it can be listened to via 830 AM or 101.7 FM; for the rest of us, it can be streamed at its website, https://thedrivetucson.com. Geared to older Gen Xers and younger baby boomers (aka ages 45 to 64), the playlist features songs from the late ‘60s through the mid-‘90s. I tuned in a few hours back, and have yet to tune out – which says something. 

“Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image, a No. 4 hit in 1970, followed Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do,” a No. 2 smash from 1994, with Smokey Robinson’s 1987 hit “Just to See Her” closing the unlikely block. And then? Jackson Browne’s “Doctor My Eyes” from 1972. It’s a mishmash of songs that have contributed to the soundtracks of many lives, in other words, whether we first heard them when they hit the charts, via the oldies stations of our youths, or our own turntables. The ‘80s were represented this morning, too, with Thompson Twins “Lay Your Hands on Me” followed by the only Cars song I like, “Drive.” 

At the macro level, one thing I like best about oldies stations is that they replicate, to a degree, the Top 40 stations of yore, when genre was an afterthought. Pop, rock, R&B and disco, even country, blasted from the speakers simply because the song was a Hot Hit. At the micro level, one of the things I like about KDRI is that many of the songs aren’t the normal nostalgia fodder. (10cc’s “Dreadlock Holiday”?!) If you’re of a certain vintage, and stuck at a desk during your workday, the KDRI experience is a good alternative to the same-old, same-old.

1) Samantha Song – “Emotion.” Written by Barry and Robin Gibb, and featuring Barry on backing vocals, this Bee Gees-like tune reached No. 3 on the pop charts in 1978. It was later covered by the Bee Gees and Destiny’s Child.

2) Dionne Warwick and the Spinners – “Then Came You.” Here’s some trivia: Despite her many classic sides in the ’60s, this 1974 collaboration with the Spinners was Dionne Warwick’s first No. 1 pop hit.

3) Phoebe Snow – “Poetry Man.” Released in late 1974, the debut single from singer-songwriter Snow would peak at No. 5 on the pop charts in 1975 (and hit No. 1 on the adult contemporary charts).

4) “All I Wanna Do” – Sheryl Crow. From Crow’s 1993 Tuesday Night Music Club debut album, “All I Wanna Do” was released as a single in April and went on to hit No. 2 – and nab Record of the Year honors at the 1995 Grammy Awards.

5) Marmalade – “Reflections of My Life.” The Glasgow band eked into the U.S. Top 10 in 1970 with this introspective tune, their only Top 40 success across the pond. They enjoyed more success in the U.K., where the song hit No. 3. (They also topped the U.K. charts with a cover of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” in 1968 and scored a few additional Top 10 hits.)

August 4th, 1982, a Wednesday, was a good summer’s day, weather-wise, in the Delaware Valley. The high topped out at 89, while the overnight low was 69. In the headlines: Israeli tanks rolled into Beirut in an ongoing attempt to expel the PLO from southern Lebanon. The incursion began two months earlier, and had already caused many PLO fighters – including leader Yassir Arafat – to flee to such locales as Tunisia.

In less incendiary news, young Prince William was christened.

Closer to home, in Philadelphia: Two men suspected of murdering alleged mobster hitman Salvatore Testa failed to show for a hearing.

Even closer to home: Fifth Avenue was coming to Willow Grove! Legendary Fifth Avenue retailer B. Altman & Co. was opening a branch at the brand-new Willow Grove Park Mall, which wasn’t scheduled to open for another week. (B. Altman is perhaps best known, these days, as the one-time employer of Midge Maisel.) Here’s the ad from this day’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

Back then, the Willow Grove Park Mall was a planned high-end retail locale, with its anchors consisting of B. Altman & Co., Bloomingdale’s and Abraham & Straus department stores. It was shiny, bright, large and pricy, and out-of-step with the economic times. Unemployment for the year averaged 9.7 percent across the nation, and August was a notch above that. (See this entry on December 1982 for more.) In Pennsylvania, however, it was even higher: 11.4 percent.

Entertainment-wise, the summer’s movie scene was somewhat…eh. The Pirate Movie was scheduled to be released on Friday – and, yes, I saw it in the coming month. It was, in two words, not good. Don’t believe me? Check out the trailer:

And here’s the Inky’s TV schedule for the night:

Even closer to home: I was 17, and soon to start my senior year of high school. More to the point for this post: I purchased four albums during August’s 31 days.

Tracking such things was a haphazard thing I did up until this very month, when I began listing every addition to my collection in a month-in-review notation. By year’s end, however, I was jotting down every purchase on the day itself.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: August 1982 (via my Desk Diary).

1) Blondie – The Best of Blondie was almost a year old by the time I picked it up, but that’s neither here nor there. It was, and remains, a great best-of – as the cliche goes, it’s all killer, no filler. “Dreaming,” which hails from their 1979 Eat to the Beat album (which I owned), remains my favorite song of theirs. I’ve showcased it before, of course… but so what? Here it is again:

2) Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – I Love Rock & Roll is one of my “essential” albums – an LP, CD, or download that belongs in everyone’s collection. I already owned it, as I picked it up the previous November, but needed this for completist reasons. As most fans know (or should know), it originally included her cover of “Little Drummer Boy,” which was then replaced with “Oh Woe Is Me” after the holiday season. Although that was the b-side on the “Crimson & Clover” 45, I wanted it on LP, too. So I basically spent $7.41 (the equivalent of $25.87 today) for one song that I already owned! Anyway, that the original “I Love Rock & Roll” video isn’t on YouTube is one of life’s oddities, so here’s a clip from Top of the Pops:

3) Big Brother and the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills is a raw, ragged and sloppy, and great. Here’s one of its key tracks, “Ball and Chain.” 

4) Don Henley – I Can’t Stand Still. Henley’s solo debut was released on August 16th of this month. “Talking to the Moon” is a gem that would’ve been at home on any Eagles album.

5) Kim Wilde – “Kids in America.” Although Kim’s self-titled debut was released in the U.K. in June 1981, it didn’t land on these shores until April of ’82; and I wouldn’t buy it until September ’82 – I’m including it here because of the month’s limited purchases. It’s a good-great album, and the title tune remains as relevant as ever.

(FYI: The newspaper clippings are from the day’s Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer.)

“I spent my first 19 years trying to escape my hometown of Neptune, made it out, then after a decade away, decided Neptune needed me and I needed it. I was wrong on both counts. Neptune didn’t need another private investigator. It needed an enema.”

Thus opens Season 4 of Veronica Mars, an eight-episode arc that is as enthralling and involving as the noir mystery’s first three seasons, which aired on UPN and CW from 2004 to 2007 (and now, like S4, are available only on Hulu). In Episode 1, Veronica struggles to pay the bills, mired not in the intriguing mysteries of yore, but the routine muck of private investigation: infidelity cases. I’d say that the tawdry has become commonplace, but to an extent the tawdry has been commonplace since she began helping her P.I. dad way back when.

In the original series, Veronica was a cynical gal toting more baggage than most; fifteen years later and that cynicism has hardened like the scar tissue it is. She thinks nothing of drinking too much, dropping ecstasy, or bugging a new friend, and enjoys her status-quo relationship with on-again boyfriend Logan less for the relationship and more for the status quo. (Commitment means trust, after all, and trust, due to that scar tissue, is beyond her.) Now, some of that does seem out of character for the Veronica we knew – but that Veronica occupies a different point on the spacetime continuum.

The multilayered mystery that plays out throughout Season 4 is well worth one’s time, whether one is new to the series or, like myself, a longtime fan. (If you’re new, double back and watch the series in full, then hop over to HBO and watch the film. It’s a great way to chase the August blues away.) Also, ignore those crying over its ending, which saw Veronica miss an important clue to detrimental effect. Without giving anything away, it sets up what should be – fingers crossed – an even better Season 5, with Veronica haunted by the miscue.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Veronica Mars, Season 4 (aka Songs Heard Therein).

1) Chrissie Hynde – “We Used to Be Friends.”

And here’s the cute video that introduced it to the world:

2) Mac Davis – “In the Ghetto.”

3) Mirah – “Counting.”

4) Idyll – “Trouble.”

5) America – “A Horse With No Name”

And one bonus…

6) Captain & Tennille – “Love Will Keep Us Together”