Posts Tagged ‘On My Way Home’

There are far more important concerns than NPR’s 150 Greatest Albums Made by Women list. This, we know. Yet, while breezing through it Monday afternoon, I couldn’t help but to (silently) scream.

First and foremost: Albums from last year are on it. Seriously?! Maybe it’s me, but placing any recently released album on a “best of all time” list is short-sighted; we don’t know whether it will, as most great albums do, grow stronger through the years or fall from favor. The former is (obviously) the case for Joni Mitchell’s Blue (from 1971), the top pick, and Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (from 1967), No. 4 (which really should have been No. 2). They speak universal truths of the human condition that are applicable to every generation and age; i.e., they both reflect and transcend their time.

That’s one reason why my Essentials series has a strict “at least five years old” policy. “Classic” status only kicks in if you continually return to an album – and not just for nostalgia’s sake – time and again through the years.

Another reason for my (silent) scream: The exclusion of many great and influential albums at the expense of…Britney Spears?! The Spice Girls?! Isn’t that a bit like including David Cassidy and the Osmond Brothers on an all-male list? I also have serious doubts about any list that ranks Hole higher than Joan Jett or Chrissie Hynde. They kicked down the door for Courtney Love (and all other women rockers who followed them, for that matter). I agree that the debuts of Tracy Chapman and the Indigo Girls should be included, but 10,000 Maniacs’ In My Tribe and Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing set the stage for them. And Vega’s 99.9° deserves mention, too, as does Madonna’s True Blue.

But, of course, that’s part and parcel with these sorts of lists. I’ve never seen one that I agree with – from Rolling Stone‘s to Entertainment Weekly‘s to Mojo‘s. They’re generally the creation of a small band of voters who share the same basic dispositions. I.e., they’re good for starting arguments, little else.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Albums MIA From NPR’s “Made by Women” List. (Where they fall is anyone’s guess… so I’m placing them in chronological order.) And, yes – I could well have called this Top 5 “My Regulars.” I’ve featured all of them many times.

1) Lone Justice – Lone Justice (1985). Selected song: “Sweet, Sweet Baby (I’m Falling).” I’ve written about this album, and spotlighted this song, many times before, of course, including in my first Essentials entry. It’s a genre-shattering, epoch-changing album that set the stage for the alt.country boom a decade later.

2) 10,000 Maniacs – In My Tribe (1987). Selected song: “Hey Jack Kerouac.” A folk-rock band from upstate New York, the Maniacs were (and remain) a wondrous group of eccentrics with a serious knack for crafting cool and catchy tunes. Who else could have come up with this swinging ode to Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and the beats? Their success paved the way for other late-‘80s (and beyond) folk-flavored singers and bands, from Tracy Chapman to the Indigo Girls to Innocence Mission.

3) Blake Babies – Sunburn (1990). Selected song: “Sanctify.” You want punk? You want spunk? You want an album that, whether anyone heard it or not, helped kick off the ‘90s wave of women-led rock bands? That could be said to be a true alt.college-rock album? That sounds like it was recorded yesterday? Then pick up this classic from Juliana Hatfield & Co. (And be sure to get Earwig, too). This song brings a “heavy metal rain” upon one’s head…

4) Juliana Hatfield – in exile deo (2004). Selected song: “Tourist.” On her own, Juliana has released a slew of stupendous albums, from Hey Babe (1992) to Pussycat (2017) – but I’m limiting myself to this one (and the Blake Babies) because, well, it’s great – her second to win my esteemed Album of the Year, in fact. Just as a side note: I clearly remember when and where I first heard it – on the day of its release in my Dodge Neon while on my way to pick up my wife.

5) Rumer – Seasons of My Soul (2010). Selected song: “On My Way Home.” I’ve written (too many times) about this album before, most recently in my Essentials series. At once retro and modern, it went platinum twice-over in the U.K. and topped the iTunes charts in the States; and it’s influenced other singers in the U.K. to follow the same stylistic path.

And two (non-chronological) bonuses:

6) Rosanne Cash – Interiors (1990). Selected song: “What We Really Want.” Rosanne Cash shed the country label with this, her seventh album, which owes a heavy debt to Joni Mitchell and the other confessional singer-songwriters of the early ‘70s. It’s stark and powerful, and a glimpse of the internal demons haunting her at the time.

7) Nanci Griffith – Other Voices, Other Rooms (1993). Selected song: “Speed at the Sound of Loneliness.” In the early 1990s, after a string of successful albums, Nanci celebrated her influences on the sublime Other Voices album; and won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album as a result.

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

Last night, I listened anew to one of my all-time favorite albums – the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was just released with a “3-D mono” mix orchestrated by the son of the late George Martin, Giles Martin. I first heard it in…late 1978, I imagine, though I can’t say for sure, and have returned to it hundreds, if not thousands, of times through the decades.

But is it, as the marketing campaign for this reissue claims, the greatest album of all time? According to numerous critic polls, the answer is yes – but some say no. Pet Sounds has edged it a time or two, I believe, as has – if my memory is correct – the Beatles’ own Revolver. It’s what happens when you solicit opinions from dozens or hundreds of people, as few of us are totally in sync on any matter, let alone music. And, too, there’s this: I honestly don’t know where it falls in the pantheon of my top picks. Aside from the not-so-arduous process I employ for my annual Album of the Year exercise, I’ve never contemplated all that long on where an album (or single, for that matter) falls in the scheme of things. Is it better than What’s Going On? Pet Sounds? Abbey Road? Dusty in Memphis, Late for the Sky or Born to Run? Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere? Bridge Over Troubled Water? Blue? Seasons of My Soul? How can one judge such things?

And even with the jeweled trophies I dole out to the winner and runners-up at my year-end Album of the Year fete, which is now in its 39th year (!), the reality – as I explain in the intro to my running tally – is that the honorees are as much a reflection of my mindset as anything. Which, really, is what makes a great album great: It speaks to and for us in ways that, often, we aren’t aware we want or need.

Such is the case with Seasons of My Soul, the 2010 debut album from British singer-songwriter and pop chanteuse Rumer, which would easily rank among my Top 10 Albums of All Time – if I had such a list, that is. It’s my most played album of the past seven years, easy; and likely one of my most played albums, ever. As I wrote in my first blog post (which first appeared on the Hatboro-Horsham Patch in February 2012), it’s “an atmospheric song cycle that’s teeming with soulful, knowing lyrics and melodies that wrap themselves around the heart, to say nothing of Rumer’s emotive, pitch-perfect vocals. It echoes the classic pop of Burt Bacharach and the Carpenters, yet moves past those inspirations by tackling themes not always associated with pop music. ‘On My Way Home,’ for example, is about the grieving process, and several other songs echo loss of one sort or another. ‘Come to Me High,’ on the other hand, is a lush, romantic ode, as is ‘Slow.’ The intoxicating ‘Take Me As I Am’ is about pushing people away when you need them the most. Add in … ‘Aretha’ and such songs as ‘Thankful’ and ‘Blackbird’ and, to my mind, the album is a must for everyone’s collection.”

Here she is in 2011 performing “On My Way Home” in Philadelphia:

I’ve written about the album here, as well, and elsewhere on this blog. To my ears, it’s a timeless song cycle that captures the nuances of life and love in a way that’s both personal and universal. It’s my definition of “essential,” in other words.

Here’s a YouTube playlist I created of the album as nature intended, aka in the order of the original British release. It features several of the original videos plus official and unofficial uploads of individual tracks:

The songs:

  1. Am I Forgiven?
  2. Come to Me High
  3. Slow
  4. Take Me As I Am
  5. Aretha
  6. Saving Grace
  7. Thankful
  8. Healer
  9. Blackbird
  10. On My Way Home
  11. Goodbye Girl

(Warner Bros. saw fit to re-arrange the order of the tracks for its download-only version when they released it in the U.S. in 2012. The songs remain brilliant, of course, but the album’s ebb-and-flow is dammed, at times.)

rumer_somsMy morning wasn’t all that different than what others in the Northeast experienced this Sunday: I shoveled snow, shoveled some more, and then applied generous amounts of Ben-Gay to my aching back and shoulders. If you’re a young ‘un, odds are that you snickered at the end of that sentence, but if you’re of a certain age, well, I’d wager that you nodded in sympathy or, at least, understanding.

Digging out after a major snowstorm, of course, isn’t fun regardless of one’s age. When you’re young, though, you come in from the hours whiled away outside rarin’ to do something else. Maybe it’s turning on the TV and rooting for your favorite team in the Big Game, whatever that Big Game may be, or dropping a favorite record onto the turntable and losing yourself in the music.

Those favorite platters tend to stick with us through the decades, of course, because we hear in the music much more than just the melodies and lyrics. We hear our youth – our teens and early 20s, for the most part. The nostalgia factor is one reason, I think, why many of a certain age routinely cite those “classic” songs and albums as “the best of all time.” Memories can cloud judgment – even mine, as this blog shows.

Of late, I’ve been thinking of my Top 10 Albums of All Time – as in, favorite albums. If I was going for the most important, well, that’s an easy list that would feature picks by the Beatles, Stones, Marvin, Neil, Springsteen and Joni, among others. While some might quibble about the specific titles and order, most would agree that they laid the foundation for everything that’s followed. But favorites? That’s a different list altogether; as I often joke, my Top 10 contains 100 (or so) titles.

dusty_memphisExcept, really, it’s less a joke and more a statement of fact. Albums by some of the same artists I mention above make the cut. Dusty in Memphis does, too. Some predate my birth, others were released when I was a toddler, and many come from my teens and 20s. At a certain point, though, it seems that, for some, a switch is flipped and they’re forever stuck playing and replaying the same-old, same-old, over and over again, and dismissing anything that’s even relatively recent.

It’s obvious from this blog that I love the music of yesteryear, but it should also be obvious that I love much that is current. When push comes to shove(l), for instance, one of my all-time favorites isn’t a classic from my youth, but of my middle-age: Rumer’s maiden effort, Seasons of My Soul, which was released in England in late 2010. Where it would rank, I can’t say, other than it’s in the top tier. I’ve written plenty about it before, of course, from my first-ever post on the Hatboro-Horsham Patch (since moved here) in 2012 to last week, when I spotlighted it in my Of Apple Music, Pono & Sound essay. It’s easily my most played album of this decade – no easy feat given the way I churn through and obsess over music new and old.

Breathe easy: I won’t rehash anything I’ve written before, other than to say that the themes that Rumer tackles on the album – love, loss and longing, and fitting in – are ones that I identify with. I’ll also share a memory, of the moment that bonded me to the album:

Thanksgiving 2010 was the first traditional family gathering without my dad, who passed away at the end of 2009. That morning, I drove the 15 minutes to the cemetery where he’s buried to pay my respects, iPod Classic plugged into the aux jack of the stereo and Seasons of My Soul – which I’d recently purchased from Amazon as a pricey CD import – filling the car. I liked it from first listen, but when “On My Way Home” floated forth from the speakers during my ride home…

…well, I’m not an emotional guy. I’m just not. But that song, which is about loss – in Rumer’s case, her mother to breast cancer – and acceptance, of coming to terms with grief, is a magical odyssey, soothing, stirring and aching all at once. It was a perfect song to hear at that moment.

Anyway, many fans hear Rumer as a spiritual heir to Karen Carpenter due to the similarities of their voices. I don’t. I hear her more as a spiritual sibling to Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick and Carly Simon, among others, who (generally) dealt with adult matters for adult audiences. But that’s a topic for another post.