Originally posted January 2, 2010:
Holidays tend to disrupt my internal clock. We spent yesterday doing very little: The Texas Gal read and worked on a quilt for a few hours; I read, played a little bit of tabletop baseball, puttered around with some mp3s and watched a fair amount of college football.
It was a Friday, yesterday was, but it felt like a Saturday. So when I got up this morning, I looked forward for an instant to a nice plate of bacon, our Sunday tradition. Then I realized that, damn, it’s Saturday, and I’ll have to wait another twenty-four hours for bacon. And I also realized that I’d put even less thought than usual into what I was going to do for a Saturday Single.
But that’s okay. Improvisation is good for the soul. Let’s take today’s date – 1/2 – and convert it into a 12. And then we’ll sort some 42,000 mp3s by running time, go to the middle of the pack and then go random twelve times from there. (I’ll use my usual framework when we get to No. 12: Nothing from before 1950, nothing after 1999, and nothing that will go into the Ultimate Jukebox. I generally exclude the very odd things I tend to collect, but not today. I’m feeling edgy.)
First up is “Mercury Blues” by the Steve Miller Band, a chugging 1968 track that was included in the soundtrack to a film called Revolution. Two other bands contributed to the soundtrack as well – Quicksilver Messenger Service and Mother Earth – and while dissing the soundtrack slightly, All-Music Guide notes: “[I]t is really difficult to knock an album that includes liner notes beginning with the following advice to the reader: ‘Next time you use the word revolution, you’d better include in your concept a beautiful blonde who went to San Francisco and illegally changed her name from Louise to Today.’”
From there we go to “Love Lament,” a traditional song of the Nez Perce Indians, who made their homes across the Pacific Northwest of the United States before being confined to a reservation in Idaho in the latter years of the Nineteenth Century. The song, performed by Len Weaskus, was included on a CD titled Lewis & Clark: Sounds of Discovery, which recreated the sounds – man-made and natural – that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their companions heard during their travels through the American wilderness during the years 1804-1806.
Next comes “I Don’t Know Where I Stand” by Barbra Streisand, which turns out to be a delicate and somewhat moody ballad from Streisand’s generally enjoyable 1971 album Stoney End. I’ve no doubt heard it before, but I might not have ever really listened to it, and there is a difference.
The Strawbs are one of my favorite Brit-folk groups, a group that began as a bluegrass band but which grew into a band with a broad understanding of folk descended from British traditions. That makes the Strawbs’ music more interesting than that recorded by those groups who hewed closer to the original sounds and instrumentation of British folk. The fourth song on this morning’s trek is “The Battle,” an epic story song from the Strawbs’ 1969 self-titled album.
From there, we dip into my supply of soundtracks for “A King Reborn,” written by Trevor Morris for the second season of The Tudors. And on we go for our sixth stop.
Wikipedia tells us that Old and In The Way “was a bluegrass supergroup in the 1970s.” Its members were Jerry Garcia, Dave Grisman, Peter Rowan, Richard Greene, Vassar Clements and John Kahn, with fiddler John Hartford filling in at times. The track we’ve found is the Rolling Stones’ tune “Wild Horses,” which was included on Old and In The Way’s self-titled album. Wikipedia says the album was released in 1975, while All-Music Guide says 1973. I’ve got the mp3s tagged with 1974, which I must have seen somewhere. I’ll maybe check out the discrepancy this week.
It only takes one or two notes of a song to recognize Bonnie Raitt’s voice. Her “Cool, Clear Water” from 1994’s Longing In Their Hearts is our seventh tune this morning, reminding me that I need to put the CD in the pile of things I plan to listen to in their entirety late at night. Raitt’s self-titled debut album from 1972 and her 1973 album Takin’ My Time are already in that pile.
Number Eight is “Rostemul” by the group Romashka from a 2005 CD entitled Gypsy Muzica for Dancing & Dreaming. I’ve recently found several blogs that focus on Eastern European folk music of all types. The stuff from Romashka is just okay, but I quite like the Latvian folk songs I found at one of the blogs.
The TV game show Name That Tune used to have a feature called “Bid A Note,” which had the host reading a clue about a song and the contestants bidding for the opportunity to name the tune in as few notes as possible. Even without a clue, I recognize Bob Dylan’s “If You See Her, Say Hello” at the first sound. The song was the flip side of the “Tangled Up In Blue” single, and during the autumn of 1975, I used to play it at least twice a week on the jukebox in the snack bar at St. Cloud State. Does “Even without a clue” mean I’m clueless? I have been at times.
Tenth is “Cocaine,” Eric Clapton’s 1980 cover of J.J. Cale’s subtle song about the perils of the drug. According to Wikipedia, Clapton once noted: “It’s no good to write a deliberate anti-drug song and hope that it will catch. Because the general thing is that people will be upset by that. It would disturb them to have someone else shoving something down their throat. So the best thing to do is offer something that seems ambiguous – that on study or on reflection actually can be seen to be ‘anti’ – which the song ‘Cocaine’ is actually an anti-cocaine song. If you study it or look at it with a little bit of thought... from a distance... or as it goes by... it just sounds like a song about cocaine. But actually, it is quite cleverly anti-cocaine.”
From there we find Brit singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine and his heartbreaking “Please Don’t Ask Me To Dance” from his 1999 CD Thanksgiving. I’ve not kept up with Hewerdine’s career for a few years, which is an error that I will soon correct.
And that brings us to our twelfth song of the morning:
It comes from Donovan’s 1970 album Open Road. The album was an interesting outing for the sometimes twee singer-songwriter, according to AMG: “Although it was a disappointing seller and signaled the start of Donovan’s commercial decline, Open Road could have been a new beginning for the singer. Stripping down to a Celtic rock format that managed to be hard and direct, yet still folkish, Donovan turned out a series of excellent songs, notably the minor hit ‘Riki Tiki Tavi,’ that seemed to show him moving toward a roots-oriented sound of considerable appeal. Unfortunately, he was derailed by record company hassles and perhaps his own burnout, and Open Road turned out to be a sidestep rather than a step forward.”
It’s not an album I know well, but that can be remedied. And that can start now, with today’s Saturday Single:
“Curry Land” by Donovan from Open Road