Originally posted January 1, 2010:
So it’s the first morning of a new year and of a new decade. (That last is true only in cultural terms; mathematically, the new decade starts a year from now, but I understand the widely felt impulse.) Does that make today a time to reflect? A time to review? A time to quaff a good beer and watch college football? A time to listen to music?
Around here, it’s always a good time for the last two of those choices. And reflection and review seem to be pretty constant in these precincts, too. So any observations I make about life and music or anything else simply because of today’s date would likely be things I’d say on another, less obvious, date as well. Proclamation for the sake of proclamation – though I’ve no doubt been guilty of that at times – is something I’ll avoid today.
But I would like to note that something about this new year resonates here: 2010. It feels like science fiction to me, like a time so far in the future that I’d never get there. Perhaps that’s because Arthur C. Clarke used it for the title of one of his sequels to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nine years ago, the dawn of the year 2001 carried with it that same quality of futuristic resonance, almost certainly because of the 1968 film and story that Clarke wrote with Stanley Kubrick. Another year that had that same sense, though in a far less pleasant context, was 1984. When I read George Orwell’s bleak novel in high school, the titular year of 1984 seemed so far away that it was impossible to comprehend: I was fifteen in 1969, and Orwell’s dystopian universe was set sixteen years in the future, and that was more than a lifetime away for me.
But we went through 1984 and shot past 2001 on our way to this morning and 2010, and it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long of a journey. Oh, if I care to catalog the places where I’ve been as each January 1 has dawned and the people with whom I’ve shared my life as those days passed, it’s clear that in some ways – to borrow from Bob Dylan – time passes slowly. But looking back, it’s also just as clear that it’s been – to borrow again, this time from Jackson Browne – the wink of an eye.
There’s a clear contradiction there, of course. Maybe the resolution is something as simple as noting that time ahead seems long while time back seems short. Other than that, the puzzle is not one I’m willing to try to untangle today.
What I am willing to do is to wish all those who stop by here the best of years in 2010. May the next twelve months bring you peace, comfort, joy and lots of good music. (And for those whose tastes bend that way, plenty of good beer, too!)
A Six-Pack of Years
“Year of Decision” by the Three Degrees from Three Degrees 
“This Year” by the Staple Singers from Soul Folk in Action 
“As the Years Go Passin’ By” by the Lamont Cranston Band from Tiger In My Tank 
“Hard Hard Year” by Growing Concern from Growing Concern 
“Soft Parade of Years” by Dion from Suite For Late Summer 
“Tender Years” by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band from the soundtrack to Eddie & The Cruisers 
Just a few notes about the songs:
“Year of Decision” is a sweet piece of Philadelphia soul from the same album that eventually brought the group one of its two biggest hits: “When Will I See You Again,” which went to No. 2 in 1974. (The other of the Three Degrees’ biggest hits was “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” which was No. 1 for two weeks earlier that same year.)
The Staple Singers have shown up here often enough – and this track itself might have, too, for that matter – that what they provide is no surprise: Tunes that are sometimes melodic, sometimes gritty, sometimes both, but always tunes with at least a little bit of something to think about.
It’s hard to know exactly how well-known the Lamont Cranston Band is/was in other parts of the country or beyond. Here in Minnesota, the band was pretty well-known and generally successful with its beefy bluesy mix. “As The Years Go Passin’ By” – a tune that I think originated with bluesman Fenton Robinson in 1959 – is a pretty good example of how the Cranstons approached their work.
I picked up Growing Concern a while back at the wonderful blog hippy djkit. Here’s what the blog’s dj fanis had to say about the record: “Fantastic ringing acid guitar work with male/female vocal duets that swoop and dive over a strong acid folk/rock backing. Essential for the US ’60s fanatic . . . Featured harmony vocals by Bonnie MacDonald and Mary Garstki, which are an intricate part of the band’s distinctive sound. Great organ and guitar interplay feature on most tracks . . .” (I’ve seen other sources that have 1968 as the release year, but I’ll go with dj fanis’ year of 1969.)
Dion’s “Soft Parade of Years” is maybe a little slight, as is the singer/songwriter-ish album it comes from, Suite For Late Summer. But Dion has worked in so many styles over the years – the most recent being that of solo bluesman – that even his lesser experiments are interesting.
I once read a comment to the effect that “Tender Years” and its companion from the soundtrack to Eddie & The Cruisers, “On The Dark Side,” were likely the best non-Springsteen Springsteen records ever made. There’s no doubt that the two records sound like The Boss’ work. But they also sound like the music the movie called for: a mix of the early Eighties and a mythical time in Sixties. Cafferty and his band were asked for something and they produced, and “Tender Years” is a track I enjoy every time it pops up.