Posts Tagged ‘Top 5’

Days become weeks, months and then years, and soon enough the communal memories are relived on the Decades TV channel via its flagship “Through the Decades” program. For those who’ve never seen the show, it’s a magazine-styled documentary series that delves deep into what happened on a particular date across the decades. Sometimes, though, I wish it dove deeper into specific days or timeframes. 

Which leads to this date in 1979: September 8th. It was a Saturday and, in the Delaware Valley, a wondrous pre-fall day. As predicted by Jim O’Brien, the weather forecaster on Action News, temperatures remained in the low 70s through the afternoon, thanks in part to the sun hiding behind billowy clouds, and then dipped into the 60s that evening.

The main issue on everyone’s mind: the economy. The unemployment rate jumped from 5.7 percent in July to 6 in August, due in large part to layoffs in the manufacturing sector, and inflation was – yet again – on the move, clocking in at 15.4 percent.

Two months earlier, on July 15th, President Jimmy Carter had delivered his infamous “malaise” speech about the palpable unease in the land: “It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.” Carter, it should be noted, was half-right: There was a crisis in confidence – but it wasn’t directed inward. Rather, the American people had lost confidence in him.

The median income of households in the U.S. was $16,530 (click here for a full report), which comes out to $58,418 in today’s money. (The average cost of a car, for those curious, was $6,848.)  

Anyway, Saturday being Saturday meant me heading up the street to play make-shift baseball, basketball, football or street hockey with friends, all to a soundtrack provided by the Top 40-oriented WIFI-92. That night, along with the mom of two of the friends, we took in one of the funniest movies I’d yet seen, The In-Laws.

I know the date not due to a photographic memory, but old-fashioned deduction: It’s the only Saturday in September that the movie was booked at the one-screen Hatboro Theater, which is where we saw it.

If I’d stayed home, my TV options would have been severely limited…

…so, odds are, I’d have hightailed it to my room and listened to music. And speaking of music, here’s today’s Top 5: September 8, 1979 (via Weekly Top 40).

1) The Knack – “My Sharona.” Topping the charts for the third week in a row is this tasty track, which I owned – and still own. In time, an anti-Knack backlash took hold, as the band was seen as calculating and somewhat crass. Whatever. 

2) Chic – “Good Times.” Within a year, Chic would find themselves cast aside due to the anti-disco backlash deejay Steve Dahl’s Disco Demolition Night ignited on July 12th at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. But that doesn’t diminish their work. (Nile Rogers’ memoir, by the way, is well worth the read.)

3) Earth, Wind & Fire – “After the Love Has Gone.” The classic soul group channels their inner-Christopher Cross in this adult-contemporary classic.

4) Electric Light Orchestra – “Don’t Bring Me Down.” The final single from ELO’s 1978 Discovery album reached No. 3, their highest-charting 45 yet. (It would take an assist from Olivia Newton-John for them to hit No. 1, which they did the following year with the title tune to Xanadu.)

5) The Charlie Daniels Band – “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Folks who heard this on country radio back in the day may not know, but the line that goes, “’Cause I told you once, you son of a gun, I’m the best that’s ever been” was dubbed in after the fact to accommodate radio airplay. As heard in the clip below, it originally went, “I done told you once, you son of a bitch, I’m the best that’s ever been.” 

It’s early Sunday morn as I write, and Roberta Flack is killing me softly with her songs. My trusty Tribit headphones cover my ears, and – though Bluetooth capable – are plugged into my Macbook Pro via an M-Audio Micro DAC. It’s a plug-in sound card that, as the picture shows, is just a tad larger than a thumb drive, and enables me to listen to 24-bit, 192-kHz music files in all their glory without first copying said files to my Pono player. 

A MacBook Pro can output 24/96 through its headphone jack, of course, by switching the settings in the MIDI utility, and the sound quality is quite good for both high-res files and the Neil Young Archives, which streams up to 24/192. But this $100 Micro DAC improves the sound, be it through my headphones or solid Logitech Z623 THX-certified 2.1 computer speakers.

I should mention that, a few summers back, I stopped using the Pono player on a regular basis. It overheated once, then twice, and then a few more times during the summers of ’16 and ’17 while I was out and about, and then, while listening in our den one hot-and-humid afternoon, it didn’t just overheat, but fried the 128g micro-SD card inside. (I made the “mistake” of listening while charging.) By that point, however, I’d already grown tired not just of adding and subtracting files from my micro-SD cards, but of toting two gadgets around.

Around the same time, I decided to give Apple Music a go. While there was a drop-off in quality, there wasn’t a drop-off in what – to me, at least – is the most important factor when it comes to music: emotional quotient. And, truthfully, what I hear via my iPhone or MacBook Pro is better than what I enjoyed via the Realistic stereo system my parents gifted me with for Christmas ’77  and the Realistic cassette deck I installed in my little brown Chevette in ‘85, to say nothing of staticky AM radio. All things are relative, in other words. Sometimes “good enough” is enough.

Yet, when at my desk and in the mood, I often fire up the Vox app and play some of the high-res files I collected from 2014 through early ’17 – or just stream from the NYA site. How to enjoy that music to its fullest? While there are many options, some of which are rather pricey, for me right now it’s the M-Audio Micro DAC. It gets the job done.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Sunday, 9/1/19. 

1) Roberta Flack – “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” A few years back, Diane and I watched Killing Me Softly: The Roberta Flack Story, a one-hour documentary about Roberta’s ascent to stardom, on (I think) Amazon Prime. For me, it was something of a revelation – I picked up a few of her albums from the Pono Store in the weeks that followed. This, her rendition of the Simon & Garfunkel classic (found on her 1971 Quiet Fire album), is just mesmerizing. 

2) Simon & Garfunkel – “American Tune.” One of Paul Simon’s greatest songs, from his 1973 There Goes Rhymin’ Simon album, was given the Simon & Garfunkel treatment during their now-legendary 1981 Central Park concert. The lyrics are as appropriate now as they were in ‘73: “And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered/I don’t have a friend who feels at ease/I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered/or driven to its knees/But it’s all right, it’s all right/We’ve lived so well so long/Still, when I think of the road/we’re traveling on/I wonder what went wrong/I can’t help it, I wonder what went wrong.”

3) Courtney Marie Andrews & Deer Tick – “You’re the One That I Want.” Speaking of duets… and to lighten the mood… there’s this clip of a Grease cover, which I just discovered last night. Trust me when I say, “It’s electrifying!”

4) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Downtown Train.” Speaking of Courtney, she’s part of the forthcoming collection of Tom Waits songs, Come on Up to the House, which also includes Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, Rosanne Cash, Iris DeMent, Phoebe Bridgers and Patty Griffin, among others.

5) Allison Moorer – “The Rock and the Hill.” One album I’m anticipating is Allison Moorer’s Blood, which will be released alongside her memoir of the same name in late October. If this tasty track is any indication, it’s going to be flat-out great. (If you’re so inclined, head over to Allison’s website and pre-order both it and the book. And then check out her online journal, which is always an interesting read.)

And one bonus…

6) Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Milky Way.” Another album I’m looking forward to is Colorado, which is also due out in October. It features Neil backed by a reconstituted Crazy Horse (with Nils Lofgren on guitar in place of Frank “Poncho” Sampredo). This, the first single, is both stirring and subdued at once.

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.)