the social distancing playlist 61-70

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Sixty One. The Kinks, “Sleepwalker” (1977) Posted 5/14/2020 — “Sleepwalker” was the title tune to a 1977 album that brought The Kinks back to earth after a series of fun, but theatrically indulgent recordings. Everything the band did best in the 1960s was rediscovered, retuned and pushed to the forefront, from Ray Davies’s alert ability to blend clever, rockish immediacy with a tasty piano-pop refrain to brother Dave’s knack for building elemental chords into blistering guitar breaks. God Save the Kinks!

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Sixty Two. King Crimson, “In the Wake of Poseidon” (1970) Posted 5/15/2020 — A weekend of celebrations for King Crimson. Today is the 74th birthday of Crimson chieftain Robert Fripp as well as the 34th anniversary of his wedding to British songstress Toyah Willcox. Yesterday, though, marked the 50th anniversary of Crimson’s second album, “In the Wake of Poseidon.” Here is that record’s epic title tune, one of the last works the band cut before vocalist Greg Lake moved on to Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Sixty Three. Steve Earle and the Dukes, “The Rain Came Down” (1987) Posted 5/16/2020 — Discussion surrounding the early music of Steve Earle often celebrates 1986’s “Guitar Town” (the record that introduced him) and 1988’s “Copperhead Road” (the record that cemented his popularity). But the album that came between, “Exit 0,,” was equally strong, as shown by this blast of farmland faith that packed all of the anthemic assurance of the music Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp were making at the time.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Sixty Four. Janis Joplin, “Little Girl Blue” (1969) Posted 5/17/2020 — A 1935 Rodgers and Hart chestnut, “Little Girl Blue” has been interpreted by scores of diverse female artists, from Doris Day, Judy Garland and The Carpenters to Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson and Diana Ross. But like every song she took on, Janis Joplin found an emotive rawness within the music that she transformed into electric, scorched earth heartache. Pulled from her 1969 album, “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Sixty Five. The Who, “1921.” Posted 5/18/2020. —  Happy 75th Birthday to the other Dr. Who, Pete Townshend. Aside from penning near all of The Who’s music over the past 56 years, Townshend revealed a vocal blend of sensitivity and sneer that served as a fascinating contrast to Roger Daltrey’s more overt bravado. And at the time of the epic “Tommy,” from which “1921” was pulled, Townshend was, as a guitarist and stage performer, mad as a hatter. A boundless rock ‘n’ roll spirit. Happy Birthday, Pete.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Sixty Six. Steely Dan, “Kid Charlemagne” (1976) Posted 5/19/2020. Finding a Steely Dan song that wasn’t overplayed into oblivion by radio during the 1970s (and ’80s and ’90s) is tough. “Kid Charlemagne” certainly doesn’t qualify. Larry Carlton’s guitar solo alone immortalized the tune. But nearly 45 years later, the work has aged well. Maybe it was because it stood as a bleaker pop confection from what was hands down Steely Dan’s darkest album (1976’s “The Royal Scam”). Maybe it was the song’s inherent jazz instincts. Regardless, the Kid still rocks.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Sixty Seven. Devo, “Jerkin’ Back ‘N’ Forth” (1981) Posted 5/20/2020 — Wanna feel old? Try this on: Devo’s “Freedom of Choice” album and its radio hit “Whip It” are 40 years old this month. To my ears, though, the follow-up, 1981’s “New Traditionalists” was the better record – darker in temperament but not in groove and more topically in tune with the times. It also contained one of Devo’s murkiest dance tunes, “Jerkin’ Back ‘N’ Forth” – an acidic little party favor served with verve before the band’s records veered into campy electro excess.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Sixty Eight. The Beach Boys. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (1966) Posted 5/21/2020 — With the unofficial opening weekend of summer at hand, we go to the opening track of the album that changed the pop landscape in the summer of 1966 – the Beach Boys’ epic “Pet Sounds.” A maturation of the group’s hit surf-pop sound, the album was a game changer in every way, especially in terms of production and sentiment. Much of it, in fact, echoed a more melancholy, autumnal mood. On “Wouldn’t it Be Nice,” though, summer reigned. Surf’s up!

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Sixty Nine. Spirit, “Mr. Skin” (1970) Posted 5/22/2020 — One of the centerpiece tunes to “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus,” the last in a four-album series the Los Angeles psychedelic pop troupe released in a mere 2 ½ years, “Mr. Skin” was a fun, brassy, organ fortified pop treat penned and performed by one of Spirit’s two principal singer-songwriters, Jay Ferguson. The band’s original lineup splintered after this album, leaving “Dr. Sardonicus” as a parting shot from the golden era of an underappreciated ‘60s juggernaut band.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seventy. Bob Dylan, “Tombstone Blues” (1965) Posted 5/23/2020 — Happy 79th Birthday to Bob Dylan. While it might not exactly be a party piece, we offer a troubled song from another troubled time as a means of celebration. “Tombstone Blues,” from “Highway 61 Revisited,” is as abstract as it is allegorical, a snapshot of surreal imagery set against a giddy electric arrangement. It may be a product of the ‘60s, but the bleak social undercurrent running through the song often reveals a very modern sting.

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