the social distancing playlist 81-90

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eighty One. Jeff Beck, “Scatterbrain” (1975) Posted 6/3/2020 — Following a decade-long run with the Yardbirds and three high profile bands that bore his name, Jeff Beck shifted course, embraced Mahavishnu Orchestra-inspired jazz fusion and released an instrumental guitar album called “Blow by Blow.” “Scatterbrain” is the record’s centerpiece tune, a dizzying car-chase of a work that drew equally from the contributions of two key allies – Max Middleton’s keyboard runs and producer George Martin’s string arrangements. Simply spellbinding.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eight Two. Los Lobos, “The Neighborhood” (1990) Posted 6/4/2020 — If any song can offer a sense of solace when the world is askew, it’s this 30 year old title tune to the extraordinary Los Lobos album “The Neighborhood.” While much of the band’s music explores varying elements of Tex Mex and Latin-based inspiration, its rock ‘n’ roll sensibility remains steadfast. Ditto for the message Los Lobos’ music conveys. In this case: “Thank you Lord for another day. Help my brother along the way. Please bring peace to the neighborhood.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eighty Three. Jefferson Airplane, “She Had Funny Cars” (1967) Posted 6/5/2020. — Depending on your semantics, “She Has Funny Cars” was the point where Jefferson Airplane either took off or arrived. With a kickoff drum roll by Spencer Dryden, the tune began the band’s breakthrough album, “Surrealistic Pillow.” This was the record that recruited Grace Slick, shifted the flight pattern to more psychedelic skies and, most of all, utilized the talents of four lead vocalists. “Cars” put Marty Balin out front and defined the sound of San Francisco psychedelia.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eighty Four. Fairport Convention, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” (1969) Posted 6/6/2020 — For such a serene sounding composition, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” bears the worldly wariness of a very old soul. Remarkably, British songstress Sandy Denny wrote and first recorded it when she was 19. There have been many versions of this haunting but graceful work through the decades, including several by Denny herself. But her recording with Fairport Convention for its “Unhalfbricking” album stands as the most lasting, lovely and definitive. A song of boundless, gentle beauty.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eighty Five. Dr. John, “Creole Moon” (2001) Posted 6/7/2020 — It was just over a year ago that we lost Dr. John, musical shaman and New Orleans cultural colossus. To honor such an incomparable spirit, let’s revisit the title tune to his forgotten “Creole Moon” album, an eight-minute suite that bookends a smooth flight of carnival funk with sections of warm jazz longing. The good doctor – Mac Rebennack in real life – cut many sides that were darker and trippier. But few will put a bigger smile on your face. Yeah, you right.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eighty Six. The Rascals, “People Got to be Free” (1968) Posted 6/8/2020 — To some, this song might seem an idealistic relic from the psychedelic age, yet its plea for peace, freedom and unity was an answer to the social turbulence that boiled over during the summer of 1968. Such unrest, of course, is sadly prevalent today. But “People Got to be Free” also freshened up the Rascals’ pop/soul hybrid sound and Felix Cavaliere’s joyous vocals. Included later on 1969’s “Freedom Suite” album, the song was the Rascals’ final chart hit.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eighty Seven. Humble Pie, “I Don’t Need No Doctor” (1971) Posted 6/9/2020 — “I Don’t Need No Doctor” was an Ashford & Simpson soul classic covered by a host of stylistically varied artists, the most prominent being Ray Charles. The version Humble Pie used to close its landmark 1971 concert album “Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore” was a nine-minute electric monument to the boisterous rock ‘n’ soul spirit that was Steve Marriott. The atomic guitar hook sells the tune even more, as does the presence of the young guitarist/backing vocalist egging Marriott on – Peter Frampton.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eighty Eight. The Moody Blues, “Question” (1970) Posted 6/10/2020 — “Question” represented The Moody Blues and guitarist/singer Justin Hayward, in particular, at their finest. Released in the spring of 1970 from the album “A Question of Balance,” it served as a crash course in what made the band’s music from this era so distinctive – folk/pop accessibility, orchestral gusto, a compositional design that made the song work like a suite (an extended, slower midsection between two rock-ish passages) and choral psychedelia. The song became one of the Moodys’ biggest hits.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eighty Nine: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “All Along the Watchtower” (1968) Posted 6/11/2020 — In addition to more familiar innovations as a guitarist, songwriter and bandleader, Jimi Hendrix was a keen interpreter whose concerts boasted covers of everything from the latest Beatles hit to a radical electric rewiring of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Aside from a 1967 take on “Hey Joe,” Hendrix’s most popular studio cover was a psychedelic revision of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” the crescendo of 1968’s “Electric Ladyland” album. It remains one of his most expertly arranged and executed pop makeovers.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Ninety. The Who, “Join Together” (1972) Posted 6/12/2020 — One of two stand-alone singles The Who released in 1972, “Join Together” was initially part of Pete Townshend’s aborted “Lifehouse” project. As Who works of the era went (it surfaced between the epic albums “Who’s Next” and “Quadrophenia”), the song was refreshingly simple with its march-like drive, synth-savvy melody and meaty guitar hooks. So was its message – an invitation to an alliance operating without pretense or prejudice. In that respect, this overlooked Who tune works nicely as a rallying cry for today.



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