social distancing playlist 101-110

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 101. Jeff Beck, “Wired” (1976) Posted 6/23/2020 — Happy 76th Birthday to Jeff Beck, a guitar titan for any age. “Blue Wind” hails from the blistering 1976 instrumental album “Wired,” a record that landed Beck in the heart of a then-booming jazz fusion world. It represents the height of Beck’s studio collaborations with Jan Hammer, with the latter serving as the tune’s keyboardist, drummer, composer and producer (George Martin produced the rest of the album). What results is six minutes of glorious, nasty fusion. Rock on, El Becko.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 102. John Lennon, “Crippled Inside” (1971) Posted 6/24/2020 — As soon as the immortal title song to John Lennon’s 1971 “Imagine” album subsides, the record shifts gears to “Crippled Inside.” The mood of contemplation and hope is now a reality check set to a dance hall reverie led by Nicky Hopkins’ tack piano and George Harrison’s slide guitar. Lennon, as always, sings of life with heat seeking candor. “You can go to church and sing a hymn. You can judge me by the color of my skin. You can live a lie until you die. One thing you can’t hide, is when you’re crippled inside.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 103. Pink Floyd, “Us and Them” (1973) Posted 6/25/2020 — The fascination surrounding Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” has endured since its appearance on the epic “The Dark Side of the Moon.” In a true group effort – David Gilmour sang it, Richard Wright composed the music, Roger Waters penned the lyrics – its comforting melodicism is undercut by verses of social and racial division. It remains an exquisite work right down to Dick Parry’s luminous saxophone colors and those buried spoken words tucked into the midsection that speak to any age (“Good manners don’t cost nothing, do they?”).

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 104. Robert Plant, “Big Log” (1983) Posted 6/26/2020 — To the credit of his artistic daring and the frustration of his fanbase, Robert Plant has spent the better part of his solo career, a trek nearly 40 years long, sidestepping the stylistic extremes of the band that immortalized him – Led Zeppelin. Of his early post-Zep music, “Big Log,” from 1983’s “The Principle of Moments,” remains a favorite. The vocals possess enough of a howl to remind you of a storied past. But the music, a mix of Spanish guitar and Twilight Zone click track, signaled the new world ahead.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 106. Joni Mitchell, “Refuge of the Roads” (1976) Posted 6/27/2020 — A rainy Sunday calls for a track from Joni Mitchell’s most ominous album, 1976’s “Hejira.” The jazzier stride of her two previous records was pared down to leaner essentials built around the rubbery bass melodies of Jaco Pastorius and Mitchell’s own sparse but spry rhythm guitar work. An overall darker hue to the music emerged to drape a series of songs dominated by varying themes of travel. On the concluding “Refuge of the Roads,” the Mitchell/Pastorius sound glides like a ballet.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 107. Neil Young, “Vacancy” (1975/2020) Posted 6/28/2020  — “Vintage” has been the operative word for the Playlist music. While including “Vacancy” from Neil Young’s new “Homegrown” sorta violates that rule, the album has been sitting on the shelf for 45 years. As such, “Vacancy,” cut in January 1975, is a vintage work we’ve never heard – a dark, electric rumination that tosses us back to an age when Young fashioned his most vital and lasting music. A killer work. And to think this is a song that, until now, had been thrown away.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 108. Finn, “Last Day of June” (1995) Posted June 30 — Something different. Crowded House chieftain Neil Finn just posted a very arresting video of dual images from Los Angeles and Auckland, New Zealand. They’re set to a light but bittersweet composition that speaks to the moment: “Last Day of June.” It’s a forgotten tune from a forgotten album – namely, a 1995 recording cut with brother and one time Split Enz/Crowded House bandmate Tim Finn credited to  simply “Finn.” This music and montage very much reflect my mood in these unsteady days.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 109. Otis Redding, “These Arms of Mine” (1962) Posted 7/1/2020 — “These Arms of Mine” was the single that essentially introduced the world to Otis Redding. It wasn’t just the smooth, solid desperation of the singing that was arresting, it was the song itself – a tune which, like many of Redding’s hits, he wrote himself. Legend has it, the ballad was cut quickly during 40 leftover minutes of a recording session. It charted in 1963 and eventually wound up on Redding’s 1964 debut album, “Pain in My Heart.” It stands today as a quiet monument to 1960s soul.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 110. Elvis Costello and the Attractions, “The Loved Ones” (1982) Posted 7/2/2020 — On this day in 1982, Elvis Costello released what was, arguably, his finest album, “Imperial Bedroom.” Having outlasted the post-punk hype that greeted his career five years earlier, Costello broadened his spectrum of pop preferences with colors and orchestrations his Attractions band merrily executed. “The Loved Ones” summed all of that up – a pop melody worthy of The Beatles, a lyrical cunning that was pure Costello and an instrumental charge that allowed Attractions keyboardist Steve Nieve to have a field day. Glorious stuff.

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