Songs That Move Me, 20-11

20. Strawberry Letter #23 – Brothers Johnson
Starts off with circus music, then kicks a groove. That swirling sound at the bridge is extraordinary.
Feeling: loving.

19. Eleanore – the Turtles.
The story goes that their record company wanted another “Happy Together”, so the group gave them one. It has the same minor to major transition, very similar – though lovely – harmonies, and the like. So why is this song, rather than “Happy Together” on the list? Two reasons, really. One: HT was really overplayed. Two: the line “you’re my pride and joy, et cet’ra,” a throwaway line if ever I heard one. (It rhymes with “better” or more correctly, “betta”.) Love singing along.
Feeling: swell.

18. Drive My Car – Beatles.
I read once the intricacy of the chord structure. It’s the minor key feel of the verse and major chord feel of the chorus that grabbed me from first hearing. First song that Paul McCartney played in some 23008 concerts.
Feeling: ironic.

17. Isaac Hayes – Shaft
Even before the great vocal comes up, an orchestral delight, as the melody shifts from section to section.
Feeling: damn right.

16. Can We Still Be Friends – Todd Rundgren
The changing meter in the bridge makes it.
feeling: You know the answer is no.

15. Sly & The Family Stone – Hot Fun In The Summertime
Harmonies, shared vocals and an “ooo-Lord” worth waiting for.
Feeling: sweaty.

14. Jerks on the Loose – the Roches.
The album Keep On Doing was produced by Robert Fripp, so there are odd sonic twists and turns throughout. this song has one of my favorite (and used) couplets:
“You work too ard to take this abuse
Be on your guard jerks on the loose.
This 30-second taste (Track 11) hardly gives the full sense of how great this song is.
Feeling: on my guard.

13. (Just Like) Starting Over – John Lennon.
In the fall of 1980, when the single was released, there was a lot of anticipation about it and the forthcoming Double Fantasy album. I didn’t think it was a great song, but it was sort of fun, with that faux Elvis vocal in the beginning of the verse. Then John died, and the irony of the title – we waited five years and THAT had to happen? – made me tear up for months, if not years.
Feeling: still makes me very sad.

12. River – Joni Mitchell.
There’s a lot of Joni I could have picked, but this one, based on Jingle Bells, is just so beautiful. The piano variations at the end seal the deal.
Feeling: longing.

11. In My Room – the Beach Boys.
I liked being in my room when I was a kid. I could entertain myself for hours, reading, looking at my baseball cards and listening to the radio. Yet I was somehow supposed to feel guilty for doing so. Anyway, lives on the vocals, in this case – single voice, then two-part harmony, then full harmony; very effective.
Feeling: cloistered.


A Wizard, A True Star

There have been so many incarnations of Todd Rundgren that I have a difficult time keeping track. Surely, Open My Eyes by Nazz was the first song I connected with.

I own both Nazz albums.

Then he bounced back and forth between being a solo artist and the leader of the group Utopia. From the former category, a painful ballad that asks a question – Can We Still Be Friends – and just from the music, you’re pretty sure the answer is no.

Without looking, I’m not sure what I own, though the 1985 A Capella album is certainly among them.

From Utopia, I have Deface the Music (1980), a Beatles tribute/parody, Swing to the Right (1990), and likely other albums.

Utopia hit in 1977 with Love in Action in 1977; this is solo Todd performing in 1986.

Signature tune, first done with Nazz, but a 1972 solo hit, Hello, It’s Me:

He has toured with Ringo’s All Starrs and has recently performed as part of the New Cars.

Todd Harry Rundgren, born June 22, 1948, turns the big six-oh today.


Buying New Music

It’s been a while since I went out and bought new music, but the Barnes & Noble had sent me a coupon worth 40% off on all CDs, after whatever sale prices applied. Sunday, I took the bus to the ever-expanding Colonie Center. B&N used to be in a free-standing building on Wolf Road in Colonie across from the mall. But at some point in the past few months, it has moved to its new location across the street.

I went in figuring I’d buy some new music, the new k.d. lang, the new Herbie Hancock that won a Grammy for best album(!) or maybe its predecessor which featured Paul Simon and Sting. I was also looking for the soundtrack of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, either the Julie Andrews or the Lesley Ann Warren version. NONE of them were there. O.K., now what?

So, I just systematically started looking through the albums. I was trying not to buy on CD the exact same albums I already own on vinyl, because a friend of mine told me about her recent experience converting vinyl to CD. That eliminated greatest hits by Bob Dylan, Queen, the Guess Who, Hall & Oates (yes, shut up), The Association (YES, shut up), and a couple others.

First album picked, much to my surprise: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy by Elton John. I have all of the other “classic” period EJ albums on vinyl, save for the early Empty Sky, but never got this one. At some level, the garish cover, and the fact that the album went to #1 in its first week, turned me off at the time. But it was Elton’s 61st birthday recently, and the only CDs I had to play were various greatest hits collections, plus the later Made in England. I’m sure I was affected also by Johnny B.’s recent discussions of all things early Elton. What sealed the deal was one of the additional tracks. Along with Lucy in the Sky and Philly Freedom was One Day at a Time, which I assumed was not the theme song of the Bonnie Franklin TV show that debuted in 1975, but rather the John Lennon cut, and it was.

Second album: The Ramones Greatest Hits. I have a couple LPs, but have massive holes in the collection. Probably influenced by Gordon.

The third album: The Very Best of Todd Rundgren. I have various Nazz, Utopia and solo LPs, but still wanted this.

The fourth album: OK, no recent Herbie Hancock? How about some classic Herbie Hancock, Head Hunters, featuring the classic cut Watermelon Man? All right then.

These were all $12.99 each list price, so $7.80 after the coupon, and I might have quit there, but I discovered The Millennium rack. If you’ve been in a record store lately, you’d recognize these. Black and white picture, gray top. And there were several to choose from: the Platters, Tom Jones, the Allman Brothers were all considered. The cool thing about these is that they were $9.99 each, but three for $20 if I used my MasterCard. I ended up picking Joan Baez, who my father admired as far back as 1959, when he brought home the oddly-named The Best of Joan Baez; and John Mellencamp, probably in part because of the love Tosy had given him after his recent induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The final album was also on the Millennium rack, but was not a Millennium album. It was Lucinda Williams’ 2003 album World Without Tears. $16.99 list, but still with the 3 for $20 sticker. I might have gotten this one anyway, but Lefty Brown’s affection for her did not hurt. Also the fact that, because I had the 40% off coupon, 3 for $20 became 3 for $12, or $4 apiece. (BTW, there’s a second version of World Without Tears with three extra songs available out there. Oh, and the three for $20 continues through May 5.)

Total price, less than $47, under my $50 mental budget. So thanks, guys, for going shopping with me.
Elton Joe Performs “Dogs in the Kitchen” , the never-completed song, the lyrics of which appear in Captain Fantastic.


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