Tag Archives: Top 5

Today’s Top 5: Ephemeral Musings (aka CMA 2018)

In part, it’s the starkness of the “Near You” video that gets me. Shot in 2013 at a Manchester club, Courtney Marie Andrews perches on a chair, and leans from the darkness into a spotlight that seemingly cuts through unseen clouds like a god ray. In larger part, however, it’s the sheer hypnotic quality of her vocal, which cuts through the quagmire of YouTube compression like a luminous murmur. And, too, it’s the lyrics themselves, which spin a tale of unfettered love.

When she released the song as a single in the fall of 2017, seven years (or so) after she wrote it, Courtney explained that it’s “about loving someone without expectations or ego. I wrote this song when I was 20 years old. At that time, I was still learning about that kind of love, and I suspect writing this song helped me understand that. Real adult love is loving yourself enough to love someone without expectations. ‘Near You’ explores themes of a flawed person who loves another flawed person, but doesn’t beg them to change.”

I’d like to say that I discovered the video not long after I read the reviews of Honest Life in Uncut and Mojo on the same afternoon in February 2017, when I began a mad dash through YouTube’s many CMA clips. But, in truth, I stumbled upon it this past Thursday night, not long after listening to Courtney Marie’s latest offering, the title tune to her forthcoming May Your Kindness Remain album. It was next up on the algorithmic block.

The organ, dirty guitar and gospel accents of “May Your Kindness Remain” jell together like a spicy gumbo cooked up inside a big pink house in Woodstock. (That’s an admittedly awkward reference to the Band’s Music From Big Pink LP, I hasten to add, not the John Mellencamp song.) As I wrote Thursday night, it bodes well for the album as a whole – which, I should mention, is available for pre-order over at Courtney’s Bandcamp page.

Here’s another song slated to be on the album, “Long Road Back to You,” which I recorded at last year’s Boot & Saddle show. To my ears then and now, it could well be a song A.P. Carter mined in the hills of Appalachia during the 1920s.

It’ll be interesting to hear the album version, and whether it’s fleshed out with a band and backup singers. As-is, however, it’s a mesmerizing song. As is this one, “It Keeps Going,” from her 2013 album On My Page:

Unfortunately, life being life, I don’t have as much time to explore the highways and byways of YouTube as I’d like. I deep-dive when possible, especially when devising a Top 5, but by and large…I often wind up surprised years after I should’ve been – such as by this cover of “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” Written by the legendary songwriters Chips Moman and Dan Penn, it was first recorded by Aretha Franklin on her I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You album…

…and covered by a whole host of classic acts, including the Flying Burrito Brothers on their 1969 debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin. (That was the first version I heard, actually, by way of the double-LP Close Up the Honky Tonks collection, which I picked up on April 27, 1984, when I was 18.)

I contemplated concluding with a flourish of words but, instead, I’ll simply circle back to the song at the start, “Near You.” The single version released last September is as stunning as that solo performance from long ago – and, though we didn’t know it, a precursor of things to come. Sonically speaking, it shares quite a bit with “May Your Kindness Remain,” including a guitar roaring and soaring its way into the melody.

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Today’s Top 5: January 7, 1983

The first week of January 2018 has been accented by frigid temperatures across much of the nation. In the Delaware Valley, we’ve “enjoyed” highs in the teens, and windchill temps clocking in the single digits. On this day in 1983, however, it felt positively balmy: We hit a high of 55.

I covered this month before via Trouser Press; and the previous month via Record magazine. The most important thing to know: Unemployment topped 10 percent for the fifth month in a row. The Reagan Recession, in other words, was in full swing.

But, as I mentioned in that Record magazine recap, you wouldn’t have known it by me. I was 17, a high-school senior, and concentrating on my studies. And although far from a math wizard, I could count – which explains why I worked inventory at the Abraham & Straus department store at the Willow Grove Park Mall as a temporary employee this month. (In a few years, I’d sign on at the same store as a sales associate.) I also had plenty of Christmas cash courtesy of my great aunts and uncle, and used much of it to expand my cassette collection – a necessity, as I’d received a Sanyo Mini AM/FM Stereo Radio Cassette Recorder for Christmas.

On January 3rd, a Monday, I picked up Neil Young’s Trans and Lou Reed’s The Blue Mask. I already owned Trans on vinyl; as I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I assumed store-bought cassettes possessed better sound that recorded copies of LPs. (In retrospect, I wish I’d gone the home-taping route and used the extra cash to buy other albums.) The Blue Mask, however, was new to me, and “Waves of Fear” quickly became a favorite track:

Anyway, as my Garfield desk diary reveals, the month’s other purchases included cassettes by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin and Todd Rundgren; and a way-cool three-LP Velvet Underground set. I also received, via the RCA Music Club, five of the six tapes I’d ordered the week after Christmas; as with Trans, I already owned Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna and Pete Townshend’s All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes on vinyl, but Eagles Live, Glenn Frey’s No Fun Aloud and Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk were new to me. 

One album that I inexplicably left off of that end-of-the-month summary – Van Morrison’s Moondance, which came into my life on Friday the 7th. It’s still one of my favorite Van albums.

One other notable event this month: on the 21st, I ventured into Philadelphia to see A Clockwork Orange at the TLA on South Street.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: January 7, 1983 (via Weekly Top 40; for the week ending the 8th):

1) Hall & Oates – “Maneater.” For the fourth week in a row, the No. 1 song in the land was this catchy hit from the Philly pop-soul duo.

2) Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney – “The Girl Is Mine.” The lead single from MJ’s classic Thriller was this syrupy confection, which was the week’s No. 2 single.

3) Don Henley – “Dirty Laundry.” The lead single from Henley’s first solo album, I Can’t Stand Still, is as relevant today as it was when it was first released on October 12, 1982. This week, it rose to No. 3 (from No. 4).

4) Men at Work – “Down Under.” Jumping four spots to No. 4 is this one-time MTV staple.

5) Marvin Gaye – “Sexual Healing.” Entering the top 5 this week is this latter-day classic from Marvin Gaye, who was in the midst of a comeback. (His last hit had come in 1977, when “Got to Give It Up” topped the charts.)

And two bonuses…

6) Golden Earring – “Twilight Zone.” The Dutch group’s “Radar Love” is (rightfully) considered one of the greatest driving songs of all time, but this “powerplay” track – which jumped from No. 52 to 50 this week – is their lone Top 10 U.S. hit. (I’ve featured this song before, of course, in my March 1983 rundown.)

7) Dire Straits – “Industrial Disease.” After the success of 1980’s Making Movies, Mark Knopfler & Co. stretched out on Love Over Gold, a full-length LP with just five songs (including the 14-minute “Telegraph Road”). This satiric tune, which entered the charts at No. 86 this week, was the album’s shortest entry at 5:50.

Today’s Top 5: December 29, 1967

Fifty years ago today, the fabled Summer of Love was but a hazy memory as the optimism associated with those halcyon days had given way to anger and dismay over the Vietnam War, where casualties were mounting. The bulk of the American people still supported the effort, mind you, but anti-war sentiment was spreading.

The month’s headlines included the announcement from the U.S. Public Health Service that it was studying possible harmful effects associated with the era’s color TVs. It may sound like a whack-a-do health myth but, earlier in the year, some of GE’s first color TVs had misaligned shields on their vacuum tubes. That meant that anyone sitting directly right in front of the TV, such as kids watching cartoons, was bathed in x-rays.

New movies released this month included Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In Cold Blood, Valley of the Dolls, Doctor Dolittle and The Graduate.

The month’s biggest headline from the music world was the untimely death of Otis Redding, who died in a plane crash on the 10th. New albums included Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Axis: Bold as Love; Traffic’s Mr. Fantasy; the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request; the Who’s The Who Sell Out; the Beach Boys’ Wild Honey; and Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding.

Here’s a sampling of the month’s magazine covers:

 

If you’re interested in seeing the era through the eyes of Life magazine, Google has the year’s final issue (a double) available to browse. The ads are always fun.

And, with that, here’s today’s top 5: December 29, 1967, via Weekly Top 40. (The charts are actually for the week ending on the 30th.)

1) The Beatles – “Hello, Goodbye.” The Fab Four top the charts with this fun 45…

2) Gladys Knight & the Pips – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Nowadays, this song brings to mind Marvin Gaye, who released his version a year later (though he actually recorded it before Gladys & Co.). This week, Gladys and the Pips hit No. 2 with it; and here she is, a few years later, singing it and “The Masquerade Is Over.”

3) The Monkees – “Daydream Believer.” Princess Eugenie’s favorite song is the week’s No. 3.

4) Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – “I Second That Emotion.” The week’s No. 4 is this classic…

5) The Union Gap Featuring Gary Puckett – “Woman, Woman.” The week’s No. 5 would hit No. 4 in two weeks, and would stay there for four weeks before spiraling down the charts.

And two bonuses…

6) The Letterman – “Goin’ Out of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” One of the week’s “powerplays” is this swingin’ medley, which jumps from No. 59 to 48.

7) Dusty Springfield – “What’s It Gonna Be.” And here’s another “powerplay,” which holds steady at No. 49. (It’s a great, great song.)