What
 · Song of the Day

SotD: Into the Dark · In ful­l, I Will Fol­low You In­to the Dark, by Death Cab for Cu­tie off their al­bum Plans. This is a so­lo acous­tic thing, stripped down to noth­ing but a love­ly tune and a haunt­ing mes­sage; both will stick to you, even if you heard them a mil­lion times on the ra­dio a decade back ...
 
SotD: Do You Love Me? · Nor­mal­ly I write Song of the Day a few days ahead, and to­day I woke up on Valentine’s day and re­al­ized that day’s “song” was sym­phon­ic stuff by Brahm­s, which is great but not per­haps the Lan­guage Of Love. To make up for that, I’ll send you all along a Hap­py Valentine’s for a few days back with a song that’s about noth­ing but love, by Nick Cave ...
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SotD: Fine and Mellow · This is a song not on­ly per­formed but writ­ten by Bil­lie Hol­i­day; it was a hit in 1939, the flip side of the beau­ti­ful but grue­some Strange Fruit (the fruit was a lynch­ing vic­tim). Fine and Mel­low is sad too, but a fair­ly stan­dard man-treats-me-bad blues. It’s a treat for the ears and the heart ...
 
SotD: Death Don’t Have No Mercy · Death Don’t Have No Mer­cy is a very old, very dark blues by Rev. Gary Davis which has been cov­ered lot­s, by Dy­lan and the Dead among oth­er­s. But to­day I’m plug­ging a live ver­sion record­ed by Hot Tu­na in 1992 ...
 
SotD: Ashes the Rain and I · The James Gang was a stripped-down band that most­ly played prim­i­tive rock and roll (which I love) very well, and Rides Again is an ex­am­ple of that, but Ash­es the Rain and I isn’t prim­i­tive at al­l; five min­utes of con­tem­pla­tive beau­ty ...
 
SotD: Brahms’ Variations · To­day, let’s do clas­si­cal mu­sic, as in a great big splodge of or­ches­tral goo by a dead Ger­man. Brahms op. 56a and 56b is a set of vari­a­tions on a the­me; he thought the theme was Haydn’s, thus called it Vari­a­tions on a Theme by Joseph Haydn. But now they think the Haydn at­tri­bu­tion on the theme is sketchy, so now you’ll see ’em la­beled some­times as the Saint An­tho­ny Vari­a­tions. Any­how, this is a su­per tasty splodge of goo, the kind of thing or­ches­tras ex­ist to play ...
 
SotD: Jah Glory · Third World have al­ways had had a dif­fer­ent sound, lean­ing quite a bit on sweet har­monies and in­stru­men­tal fla­vors. It’s reg­gae all right, but im­pure like most great mu­sic, and sounds as tasty as any­thing you can imag­ine. Jah Glo­ry is such a sweet wel­com­ing thing, a soar­ing song of wor­ship. (You don’t have to be­lieve in Jah.) ...
 
SotD: Dear Darling · Mary Mar­garet O’Hara, a daugh­ter of Toron­to, hasn’t record­ed much and hasn’t had hits and these are ter­ri­bly sad things be­cause she’s a gem, a won­der­ful un­con­ven­tion­al song­writ­er and singer. Her stuff gets pret­ty far out over the edge some­times, but Dear Dar­ling is a love­ly straight-up coun­try tune, hard­ly weird at al­l, or on­ly in places ...
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SotD: Mercy Street · No­body could call this ob­scure; Peter Gabriel’s So sold a kazil­lion copies and was right in the cen­ter of the zeit­geist for months back in the late Eight­ies. The songs were good, the sound was good, and (e­spe­cial­ly) the videos were good, which re­al­ly mat­tered in 1986. Mer­cy Street was not one of its big hit­s, which al­ways as­ton­ished me; I thought it by far and away the album’s high­light ...
 
SotD: Fantaisie Impromptu · After the hot gui­tar a cou­ple days back, I thought some more flashy solo­ing would be fun, and the world cur­rent­ly has no­body flashier, on any in­stru­men­t, than pi­anist Yun­di Li, who seems to have re­brand­ed him­self as YUNDI. But I end­ed up at this Frédéric Chopin Fan­taisie which has, yes, flash, but lots of mu­sic among and be­tween it, and Mr Li re­al­ly seems to un­der­stand Mr Chopin ...
 
SotD: Broken English · This the ti­tle track from Bro­ken English, an al­bum by Mar­i­anne Faith­full, on which ev­ery song is good and some are ter­ri­fy­ing (not this one) ...
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SotD: Pride and Joy · It’s been most­ly gen­tle and so­phis­ti­cat­ed around here re­cent­ly. Let’s turn to Texas and fix that; Pride and Joy, by Ste­vie Ray Vaugh­an, is about the sim­plest blues holler you can imag­ine, with a hap­py mes­sage and some smokin’ hot gui­tar ...
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SotD: Sodade · Cesária Évora is prob­a­bly the on­ly per­son you’ve ev­er heard of (now that you’ve heard of her) from Cabo Verde, which is an is­land group 570km west of Africa’s west­ern­most point. She was a re­al­ly great singer and record­ed lots of fine col­lec­tions of mu­sic. It’s hard to pick from among them, but So­dade is a fine ex­am­ple ...
 
SotD: Both Sides Now · Anyone’s list of top song­writ­ers would in­clude Joni Mitchel­l, and any list of her top songs would in­clude Both Sides, Now. There’s lit­tle I can say that will add val­ue here, just give it a lis­ten and it’ll im­prove your day, any day ...
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SotD: Joan of Arc · This is a song by Leonard Co­hen, but I’m talk­ing about it as per­formed by Jen­nifer Warnes. It may not even be Warnes’ best cov­er of a Co­hen tune, but it’s good enough to be any day’s song, and the record­ing is spe­cial ...
 
SotD: Diaraby · Today’s song comes from Africa (first in the se­ries); Diara­by is a slow dreamy elec­tric African blues with exquisite singing and gui­tar, by Ali Far­ka Touré; sev­en min­utes of pure mu­si­cal joy ...
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SotD: Happy · The song-of-the-day re­cent­ly has been trend­ing a lit­tle bit to the eclec­tic and the ob­scure. Enough of that, let’s dish up a hearty serv­ing of meat-and-potatoes rock-n-roll. Hap­py is a sim­ple stripped-down hard Stones rock­er, vo­cals by Keef, with a nice tune, tasty chord changes, and you know what? I need a love to keep me hap­py too ...
 
SotD: Ne Nehledej · I’m pret­ty sure Ne Nehledej, which is said to mean “Stop Searching”, is in the Czech lan­guage, be­cause Iva Bittová is Czech. I don’t know that much about her and frankly this Song of the Day most­ly ex­ists to high­light re­mark­able video, but Ne Nehledej is a nice song and Bittová is a great en­ter­tain­er while al­so be­ing out there on the edge. She sings and plays vi­o­lin, and is as much per­for­mance art as mu­sic. But (un­like some per­for­mance artist­s) this per­for­mance is all about mu­sic ...
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SotD: More White Flags · Yesterday’s White Flag isn’t the on­ly song of that name. I want to share one in par­tic­u­lar, a mi­nor hit by a mi­nor band (“one-hit wonder” would be char­i­ta­ble) called the Leg­gatt Brother­s, be­cause I think it’s bril­liant, a for­got­ten gem. But there’s no live video and it’s not for sale dig­i­tal­ly, so I load­ed up the en­try with a few ex­tra White Flags ...
 
SotD: White Flag · Here we have a sweet sad love song by Di­do (full name Di­do Flo­ri­an Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Arm­strong) who was born in 1971 and is thus younger than many oth­er Songs of the Day. It was a huge hit, hard­ly ob­scure (the al­bum Life For Rent sold 10+ mil­lion copies). It’s OK to be main­stream some­times, and White Flag is more than OK, it’s bril­liant ...
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SotD: If I Had a Rocket Launcher · Bruce Cock­burn is suf­fi­cient­ly Cana­di­an that his name may ring no bell­s. But I think If I Had a Rock­et Launch­er made a few waves back in the day and may jog a mem­o­ry. He’s an in­ter­est­ing guy, and this is a nice, lilt­ing melod­ic song about want­ing to kill peo­ple ...
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SotD: Canones Diversi · Al­most a month in, and we haven’t had a vis­it with J.S. Bach yet. Long past time, and we’ll be back a lot too, if this se­ries stretch­es out much. We’re go­ing to start out with min­i­mal Bach; we’ll get around to thun­der­ous Bach, pas­sion­ate Bach, and show-off Bach in lat­er in­stall­ments. To­day we’ll sam­ple from a small se­ries en­ti­tled Canones di­ver­si su­per The­ma Regium, part of a larg­er work called Musikalis­ches Opfer, or in English The Mu­si­cal Of­fer­ing, com­posed in 1747, BWV 1079. To­day we’ll take on the Canon a 2, per aug­men­ta­tionem, con­trario mo­tu and the Fu­ga canon­i­ca in Epidi­a­pente. They’re not the two deep­est frag­ments, but they’re a good place to start. This is se­ri­ous­ly beau­ti­ful thought­ful, pa­tient mu­sic ...
 
SotD: Slavery Days · I sure do love me some reg­gae; my island-music tastes are main­stream, but once you get past Mar­ley, the names are fad­ing from mem­o­ries. Maybe I can re­verse that a bit. Let’s start with Win­ston Rod­ney; his first band was Burn­ing Spear, then he just adopt­ed the name for him­self. His mu­sic is a lit­tle deep­er, his singing a lit­tle edgier, his horn ar­range­ments ex­cel­len­t. Slav­ery Days has all of those things, and de­serves to live forever ...
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SotD: Beck + Call · I run a lot of old mu­sic but I’m not some­one who re­al­ly thinks it was all bet­ter back in the day, or is all trash now. So from time to time, the Song of the Day is go­ing to be some­thing I liked on the car ra­dio while I was driv­ing around to­day. To­day, it’s Beck + Call by Ju­ly Talk. Who knows if it’ll still have lis­ten­ers decades from now like most of the se­lec­tions here, or even cen­turies like some. Who cares? It’s a nice tune, needn’t hang its head in the cur­rent com­pa­ny, and Ju­ly Talk are hot stuff live ...
 
SotD: Habanera · The full ti­tle is L’amour est un oiseau re­belle (“Love’s a rebel bird”), a big so­pra­no aria from Car­men, writ­ten by Ge­orges Bizet in 1875. That’s right, an opera! We’re in­to scary ter­ri­to­ry here, at risk of chas­ing away fol­low­ers of this quixot­ic New Year’s Res­o­lu­tion. But bear with me, it’s quite a song ...
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SotD: I Thank You · Mr Moore and Mr Prater dropped their last names and were big soul stars as Sam & Dave be­tween 1961 and 1981. That kind of mu­sic has been pret­ty far off the charts for a lot of years, al­though they got some help from the Blues Brother­s. They’ve got two or three per­for­mances that be­long in this se­ries. I think that I Thank You was the first ev­er soul song that pen­e­trat­ed my con­scious­ness, and is maybe still my fa­vorite ...
 
SotD: The Heart of the Sun · In ful­l, Set the Con­trols for the Heart of the Sun by (the very ear­ly) Pink Floy­d. While Floyd writ­ten some beau­ti­ful mu­sic, if you want some­thing that’s new to, well, any­one, you pret­ty well have to go way back in time to be­fore Dark Side of the Moon. Set the Con­trols is an easy, pleas­ing, soar­ing lis­ten, with or with­out the help of hal­lu­cino­genic drugs ...
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SotD: Visions of You · Jah Wob­ble grew up in East Lon­don with the Sex-Pistols-to-be, and his han­dle comes from a drunk­en Sid Vi­cious at­tempt­ing to pro­nounce his re­al name (John Wardle). He joined John Lydon’s post-Pistols Public Image Limit­ed and then formed In­vaders of the Heart. Vi­sions of You is the lead-off track on the Invaders’ Ris­ing Above Bed­lam disk, which I of­ten play end-to-end. It’s a lightweight pop song with an icy slow-funk back­ground, a re­al treat for the ears ...
 
SotD: Lust For Life · I sup­pose that in 2018 Lust For Life is an ob­scu­ri­ty, some­thing you might have heard on the ra­dio or in an ad. That’s in­sane, it’s ob­vi­ous­ly one of the great rock songs of all time, and has giv­en Ig­gy Pop, who co-wrote it with David Bowie, a per­for­mance ve­hi­cle that he’s tak­en a long, long way ...
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SotD: Cry Me a River · Oc­ca­sion­al­ly, the Song of the Day idea starts with a Greatest-Hits record that has mul­ti­ple can­di­dates, and I pick based on which turns up the best live video. Today’s Great­est Hits are those of Julie Lon­don, and it was a tough choice, but what a beau­ti­ful piece of singing Cry Me a Riv­er is ...
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SotD: Israelites · The sum­mer I turned four­teen, Is­raelites by Des­mond Dekker and the Aces was the biggest hit in the world. I thought it was the best song of that sum­mer and maybe the next sum­mer too. I’d go to the beach, where ev­ery­one had a ra­dio, and as you walked along you’d hear Is­raelites com­ing at you in super-stereo from a dozen di­rec­tion­s; it sound­ed so great ...
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SotD: Travelin’ Prayer · In the mid-Seventies, a wom­en we found with a clas­si­fied ad moved in­to my stu­dent house, and of course brought her record col­lec­tion. It in­clud­ed some­thing called Cold Spring Har­bor by a guy I’d nev­er heard of, Bil­ly Joel. We were pret­ty well a heavy-music joint that didn’t lis­ten to fluff with­out gui­tar solos, so Bil­ly got no re­spect then, just like he gets no re­spect now. But, in among the cheesy bal­lads there was this song that got way un­der my skin, and still does: Travelin’ Pray­er. It’s great, pret­ty well flaw­less ...
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SotD: No Woman, No Cry · Bob Marley’s been gone a long time; longer than most peo­ple read­ing this have lived, I bet. But more than most de­ceased mu­si­cian­s, it feels to me like he’s still out there; a qui­et dub track wo­ven in­to the uni­ver­sal quan­tum back­ground hum. Try to prove me wrong. No Wo­man, No Cry is a good first en­try for reg­gae in Song of the Day; Warm-sounding warm-heartedness; what could be bet­ter in a Northern-hemisphere win­ter? ...
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SotD: Pärt’s Cantus · Since I’ve been rock­ing the house the last cou­ple of days, let’s do seren­i­ty in­stead. Specif­i­cal­ly, Can­tus in Me­mo­ri­am Ben­jamin Brit­ten, for string or­ches­tra and bel­l, by Ar­vo Pärt, one of my mu­si­cal heroes. Here’s how good this is: It just about got me killed, the first time I heard it. Which was on a rent­ed car’s ra­dio in Eng­land, head­ing up the M3, where they drive fast; I was jet-lagged and I caught my­self clos­ing my eyes at 85mph to sa­vor the fad­ing tones of the church bel­l ...
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SotD: Clampdown · Yes­ter­day, I used the phrase “best Rock song ev­er recorded”. Wel­l, why not two days in a row? Be­cause an­oth­er fine can­di­date is Clam­p­down from the Clash’s won­der­ful Lon­don Calling al­bum. That record was a high­light of 1980 and Clam­p­down was a high­light of the record ...
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SotD: Day Tripper · If some­one asked me what the great­est rock&roll song of all time was, I wouldn’t be able to pick. But if they kept ask­ing, and you got a se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion go­ing, Day Trip­per would be in that con­ver­sa­tion ...
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SotD: Missionary Man · If I ac­tu­al­ly had any se­ri­ous mu­si­cal tal­en­t, I would have cho­sen rock&roll over all oth­er pro­fes­sion­s. I guess I haven’t been run­ning that many pure sim­ple rock songs here, and that’s wrong. So let’s turn today’s space over to An­nie Len­nox, Dave Ste­wart, and Joniece Jami­son of the Eury­th­mics for some nice pol­ished pas­sion­ate BritRock ...
 
SotD: Gravity’s Angel · Pos­si­bly you haven’t en­coun­tered Lau­rie An­der­son, and pos­si­bly if you did you wouldn’t like her, be­cause she’s pret­ty far out there. Gravity’s An­gel is at the near end of out-there, a simple-ish song with a love­ly tune and a cool ar­range­men­t; a good place to start ...
 
SotD: Please Don’t · I mean Baby, Please Don’t Go of course, the blues chest­nut to end all blues chest­nut­s. No­body knows who wrote it, al­though ap­par­ent­ly Mud­dy Waters first made it a hit; Wikipedia of­fers sev­er­al plau­si­ble back­grounds dat­ing from slav­ery days up to about 1925. The ver­sion I’m chiefly rec­om­mend­ing was record­ed by Lightnin’ Hop­kins in the ear­ly Six­ties ...
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SotD: The Other 5:15 · No, I’m not talk­ing about the Who song from Quadrophe­nia (though it’s a fine tune), I’m talk­ing about the song by Chris Isaak. No, I’m not talk­ing about Wicked Game ei­ther, which I may fea­ture here some day. I’m talk­ing about Chris’ 5:15, one of the sev­er­al ex­cel­lent songs on San Fran­cis­co Days, one of the sev­er­al ex­cel­lent al­bums Mr Isaak has re­leased ...
 
SotD: Troy · I bought Sinéad O’Connor’s de­but, The Lion and the Co­bra, be­cause Mandinko was on the ra­dio and I liked it. The first time I played it, not hav­ing looked at the track list­ing, I no­ticed some med­i­ta­tive croon­ing about “Dublin in a Rainstorm”; the next time, a gut-grabbing throaty chan­t: “You should have left the lights on”; and then an­oth­er time a howl­ing dec­la­ra­tion about ris­ing, a phoenix from the flame. It took me a while to no­tice that all of these were from the same track: Troy. It’s a hell of a song ...
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SotD: Temporary Ground · This is the best song from Jack White’s 2014 Lazaret­to al­bum, and it was the cen­ter­piece of the show last time I saw him play. It’s most­ly acous­tic, thus has to stand on its own sans bom­bas­tic gui­tar flour­ish­es. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jack’s bom­bas­tic­s, but it’s good to let a song speak for it­self, and Tem­po­rary Ground has a lot to say ...
 
SotD: Voodoo Runner · Today’s song is Miles Runs the Voodoo Down, from Bitch­es Brew. In the se­ries in­tro I said “I won’t be rec­om­mend­ing abra­sive free-jazz jams…” and well, this is kind of abra­sive and while it might not be free jaz­z, it’s pret­ty loose. But it’s won­der­ful im­pro­vi­sa­tion and pro­duc­tion, full of deep mu­si­cal in­tel­li­gence, and if you like any­thing at all in the electric-jazz space, you’ll prob­a­bly like this a lot. If you’ve nev­er checked the space out, this might be a good place to start ...
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SotD: Solveig’s Song · Hey, there are songs in Clas­si­cal Mu­sic, too! Maybe you think you don’t like that stuff? Stick around and give this one a lis­ten. This Song is the last move­ment of Peer Gynt Suite #2 by Nor­we­gian com­pos­er Ed­vard Grieg, dat­ing from 1876. It’s ex­cep­tion­al­ly beau­ti­ful, one of the great melodies of all time. I en­coun­tered it some decades ago, when my cel­lo teach­er as­signed it to me, and it works well on that in­stru­men­t. I loved play­ing it and now I love lis­ten­ing to it ...
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SotD: Pete’s Blue · This is a min­i­mal­ist gui­tar in­stru­men­tal by Roy Buchanan (1939-1988). Gen­uine­ly ob­scure stuff, but I’m pret­ty sure you’ll find it worth sev­en min­utes and sev­en­teen sec­onds of your time ...
 
SotD: Cannonball · Mu­sic comes in lots of fla­vors, most of which I’d hate to have to live with­out, but the ones clos­est to my heart in­volve well-played elec­tric gui­tars, fe­male voic­es, and raw rock en­er­gy. The Breeders’ Can­non­ball has all three in­gre­di­ents ...
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SotD: Ooh La La · This by The Dit­ty Bops, from their self-titled de­but al­bum in 2004. I’d nev­er heard of them be­fore, nor have I since; but this is a re­mark­able song and more than one friend, hear­ing it in the back­ground, has stopped talk­ing and asked “What’s that?” ...
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SotD: Identikit · This is from Radiohead’s re­cent A Moon Shaped Pool, which I’ve been lis­ten­ing to a whole lot, and oh my good­ness what a beau­ti­ful song ...
 
SotD: Western Stars · No­body, and I mean no­body, brings more to a per­for­mance than k.d. lang. But she’s not on the road that much, so you might have to set­tle for record­ings. A good record­ing to set­tle for would be Shad­ow­land, fea­tur­ing pro­duc­tion by country-music leg­end Owen Bradley and guest ap­pear­ances by oth­er divas-with-twang. This is prob­a­bly the best song on Shad­ow­land ...
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Songs of the Day · Here’s my New Year’s Res­o­lu­tion: I’ll try to try to pub­lish a short piece ev­ery day rec­om­mend­ing a song that I think is ex­cel­len­t, and apt to please at least some read­er­s. Let’s see how far in­to 2018 I get; a quick run through the col­lec­tion turned up around 240 can­di­dates, so a whole year’s worth of songs would be a stretch goal. Read on for mo­ti­va­tion, lo­gis­tic­s, and me­chan­ic­s. Or just read the song notes, start­ing to­mor­row. Or don’t ...
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SotD: New Year’s Day · Back in the late Eight­ies, for a few months I went to aer­o­bics class, and once ev­ery ses­sion the in­struc­tor put this U2 chest­nut on and ev­ery time my beats-per-minute cranked right up. Not in the slight­est ob­scure, but worth re­vis­it­ing at least once a year, ide­al­ly on this day ...
 
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