What
 · Song of the Day

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 ...
 
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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