Archive for the ‘Top 5’ Category

What a wild and wacky week it was. Without dwelling on the details, which would bore most folks, I’ll share this: It was somewhat prophetic that Paul Weller released “Movin On,” a track from his forthcoming True Meanings album, on Wednesday, August 1st.

The press release for the album says, “Paul’s 26th studio album is a record unlike any he has ever made before, characterised by grandiose-yet-delicate, lush orchestration: an aesthetic to which Paul’s better-than-ever voice, singing some of his most nakedly honest words, is perfectly suited.”

Released into the wild a day earlier, Anna Calvi’s “Hunter” is as mesmerizing as it is restrained. Just when you think it’s about to explode into rapture, it pulls back. On Twitter, she explained that “I wanted simplicity, I wanted something quietly brave, quietly defiant. I wanted there to be intimacy. I wanted to find a place between beauty and ugliness.”

Neneh Cherry’s “Kong,” which was produced by Four Tet and Massive Attack’s 3D, is a stirring response to Europe’s refugee crisis. 

Jamie Lin Wilson – “The Being Gone.” So I don’t know much about Jamie Lin, but a few folks that I follow on Twitter retweeted this song, about returning home after an absence, and I liked what I heard. The bio on her website refers to her “honeyed tenor twang,” which I think is quite accurate.

First Aid Kit – “Running Up That Hill.” The sisters Söderberg covered the Kate Bush classic for a recent Spotify Singles session, and here they are performing it in concert… 

There’s no denying it: I’ve been in a Shelby Lynne frame of mind for the past few weeks. How could I not? But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been time for new music…

One of my favorite young acts, Hannah’s Yard, released a delightful four-song EP this weekend. Titled Revelations, it features renditions of the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” Jack Johnson’s “Better Together” and Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home,” as well as their own “Never Gonna Say I’m Sorry” (from their 2017 Beginnings album). “Blackbird” is beautiful.

 

Hannah’s Yard hails from Olney, Buckinghamshire, the small British town that gave birth to “Amazing Grace.” About two hours south, in Surrey, lies Paul Weller’s Black Barn Studio, where the R&B/soul-infused Stone Foundation and assorted friends, including Weller and his former Style Council mates Mick Talbot and Steve White, recorded their forthcoming Everybody, Anyone album. The latest teaser track is “Carry the News”…

The singer-songwriter Amanda Shires released her self-made video for “Parking Lot Pirouette,” from her forthcoming album To the Sunset, last week. It features Shires on vocals and violin, husband Jason Isbell on acoustic and electric guitar, Dave Cobb on bass, Peter Levin on Wurlitzer and synthesizer, and Jerry Pentecost on drums.

Karrie O’Sullivan – “I Love You the Most.” Here’s another tantalizing track from the Irish singer-songwriter. It was released back in May, and I’ve enjoyed it since – but I was unaware that there was a video for it until just now. Like last summer’s single, “I Don’t Here You,” it’s quite addictive…

And because I am in a Shelby frame of mind…  here’s “Off My Mind,” one of the songs from her movie Here I Am. It was released back in April…and was a song we’d hoped to hear her perform in Ardmore.

Finally, one bonus… Shelby again, this time from just last night in Knoxville, Tenn., where she performed an a cappella version of Dusty’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”… “hypnotic” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Sunday July 20th, 1969, marked a momentous moment in the history of humankind: Neil Armstrong stepped from the lunar module Eagle and descended a ladder to the surface of the moon. After touching ground at 10:56pm ET, he paused to say, “that’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” (The “a” is in brackets because it wasn’t audible on the transmission beamed to the 600 million people watching on Earth.)

The U.S. president – the 37th in the country’s history – was Richard M. Nixon, who took the oath of office six months earlier. His time in office was accented by chicanery, cynicism and brilliance, though much of that was yet to come. At this point in time, though he was viewed with disdain by some, his approval ratings were routinely in the 60s.

On the economic front, the unemployment rate began the year at 3.4 percent and ended at 3.9 percent. Everyone who wanted one had a job, just about. Inflation, on the other hand, was a source of concern: When Nixon took office, it was already high at 4.4 percent, and it continued to inch higher each month. 

When it came to foreign affairs – specifically, the Vietnam War – this very month marked two significant events: the first U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam occurred on the 8th; and, on July 25th, the “Nixon Doctrine” – aka the Vietnamization of the war – was announced. The plan was for the U.S. to turn over the defense of South Vietnam to the South Vietnamese.

In the Philly region, it was an atypical summer’s day, topping out at a mere 78 degrees (Fahrenheit). The Phillies didn’t take advantage of the cool weather, however, as starting pitcher Bill Champion failed to live up to his surname in a 6-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Connie Mack Stadium.

Among the movies playing in the theaters: Hook, Line & Sinker, True Grit, The Wild Bunch, and Easy Rider, which was released on July 14th. As I’ve noted before, however, this was the era when it could take a movie six or more months to make it to your local cinema.

Aside from the moon transmission, TV was basically in yesteryear’s DVR mode – rerun season. It’s when folks caught up on episodes they had missed.

In the world of music, June and July 1969 saw the release of a few notable – and not-so-notable – albums, including Roberta Flack’s First Take, Elvis Presley’s From Elvis in Memphis, Fairport Convention’s Unhalfbricking, Tim Buckley’s Happy Sad, The Doors’ Soft Parade, and Yes’ eponymous debut. 

And with that, here’s today’s Top 5: July 20, 1969 (via Weekly Top 40; the chart is for the 19th).

1) Zager and Evans – “In the Year 2525.” The next time a baby boomer laments the state of today’s music, point them to this song. And laugh. Because on July 20th, 1969 – less than a month before Woodstock – this “prophetic” song was the No. 1 song in the land.

And for you Gen-Xers feeling smug right now, here’s R.E.M. covering it:

2) Blood, Sweat & Tears – “Spinning Wheel.” Holding steady at No. 2 for a second week is this jaunty philosophical ode, which was penned by BS&T singer David Clayton-Thomas. 

To again leave the pop charts for a moment, earlier in the year Peggy Lee released an effervescent rendition of the song that reached No. 24 on the Easy Listening charts…

3) Three Dog Night – “One.” Dropping from No. 5 to No. 6 is this song, which I first heard in the mid-1970s on a commercial for a mail-order compilation. The song was written and originally recorded by Harry Nilsson, who released it in 1968.

And – yes, this is a trend – Aimee Mann recorded “One” for the For the Love of Nilsson tribute album in 1995. It also appeared on the soundtrack for Magnolia.

4) Elvis Presley – “In the Ghetto.” Elvis continued his comeback with this classic song written by Mac Davis that tackles poverty. (Sad to say, 50 years later, it remains as relevant as it was then.)

A few decades years later, on the 1998 Lilith Fair tour, Natalie Merchant – accompanied by Tracy Chapman – sang the song.

5) Jackie DeShannon – “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” One of the week’s “power plays” is this catchy plea for love, which jumps from No. 55 to 48. FYI: Jackie co-wrote it.

And, finally, Dolly Parton recorded a wonderful version of the song for her 1993 album Slow Dancing With the Moon. Here she is singing it a few months earlier on the CMA Awards… 

We finished the second and final season of Joan of Arcadia yesterday. For those of you counting at home, that means we whipped through the 23 Season 1 episodes and 22 Season 2 episodes in exactly 22 days. One of the things I like about the series is that it avoids the typical pitfalls associated with dramas that explore faith and humanity. Within the show, as in real life, faith leads to questions, doubts and realizations, but never easy answers.

One of my favorite moments comes near the end of its run, in the “Common Thread” installment. God commands Joan to return to knitting, a hobby she stopped when she was a kid. As always, there’s far more to the episode than just that; we don’t just see Joan casting on, stitching and purling for the next 40+ minutes. I’ll skip the rest of the story, however, to the moment in question, when Joan gently rebuffs her folks, who are trying to ease her guilt regarding a bad decision made by her former boyfriend, Adam. “I mean, we’re all connected like the scarf. One piece of yarn, if you cut it up into little pieces, it’s useless. You can’t make anything out of it. I am responsible, partly. We all are…for everything that we touch and everything that touches us.”

It’s never us vs. them, as much as we sometimes wish it so. It’s us vs us. 

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Of Questions & Faith (aka Joan of Arcadia, Part II)…

1) Kasey Chambers – “Abraham”

2) Van Morrison – “When Will I Ever Learn to Walk in God”

3) Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer – “Into My Arms”

4) Bruce Springsteen – “Rocky Ground”

5) Paul Weller – “Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)”

And two bonuses…

6) Natalie Merchant – “I May Know the Word”

7) Maria McKee and Bryan MacLean – “Sweet Dr. Jesus”