the social distancing playlist 111-120

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 111. Little Feat, “Keepin’ Up with the Joneses” (1977) Posted 7/3/2020 — Today would have been Paul Barrere’s 72nd birthday. The longtime Little Feat guitarist and vocalist succumbed to cancer last fall, but the timelessness of the roots-savvy music he created with the band endures. In honor of the day, we return to Little Feat’s 1977 album “Time Loves a Hero” and the wily “Keepin’ Up with the Joneses.” A co-write with Feat founder Lowell George, this dark parody of social standing boasts a groove as wily as its sentiment. “Go on and hang that man that says the best things in life are free.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 112. Jimi Hendrix, “The Star Spangled Banner” (1969/70) Posted 7/4/2020 — How can we not post this one today? When Jimi Hendrix hotwired “The Star Spangled Banner” during the closing moments of Woodstock in 1969, reactions were as heated as they were varied. Obviously, the generation that abhorred the festival in the first place viewed it as nothing short of treason. More opened minded ears saw the national anthem stretched into odd new electric contours on solo guitar as a mix of protest and patriotism. That sense of power and invention endures. Happy 4th.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 113. Grateful Dead, “U.S. Blues” (1974) Posted 7/5/2020 — “Red and white, blue suede shoes, I’m Uncle Sam, how do you do?” That was the line that introduced the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter tune “U.S. Blues,” as well as the 1974 album “Grateful Dead from the Mars Hotel.” Seems like as good of a track as any to wind up the July 4th weekend with, providing your sense of patriotism is peppered with a touch of hippie subversion. “We’re all confused, what’s to lose? You can call this all the United States Blues.” Those words were penned 46 years ago. Hunter must have seen 2020 coming.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 114. Ennio Morricone, Theme from “A Fistful f Dollars” (1964) Posted 7/6/2020 — Awoke to the news this morning that the great Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. For over 60 years, the Italian composer was the unrivaled maestro of movie music. While he wrote for nearly every conceivable form of film, it was the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone that established his extraordinary career. The themes for all those films, starting with 1964’s “A Fistful of Dollars,” were mystic lullabies of guitar, whistling and chants with almost operatic crescendos. That Morricone never won an Oscar (outside of an honorary one) until 2016 was a crime.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 115. Ringo Starr, “Photograph” (1973) Posted 7/7/2020 — Happy 80th birthday to Ringo Starr (that’s Sir Ringo to you and me). In a pop world dictated by often violent stylistic change, Ringo marches calmly on. He upholds one of rock music’s most enduring legacies through ongoing touring and recording. To celebrate, we offer his biggest solo hit. The lead single from his 1973 album “Ringo,” “Photograph” remains a work of regal deception. Co-written with fellow Beatle George Harrison, its lyrical sweep is majestic, yet the lyrics underneath reveal a sadness that is devastating in its simplicity. This is Ringo at his unassuming finest.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 116. Marvin Gaye, “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” Posted 7/8/2020 — Every song on Marvin Gaye’s landmark 1971 album “What’s Going On” speaks to the times we are now in. “Inner City Blues,” the last of the record’s three major hits, is certainly no exception. While the album’s title tune – shoot, just its title – serves as a modern mantra, the chorus to “Inner City Blues” reflects equal exasperation: “Makes me wanna holler/throw up both my hands.” That comes right before the verse referencing “trigger happy policing.” This was 1971. Man, what is still going on?

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 117. Roxy Music, “Avalon” (1982) Posted 7/9/2020 — Roxy Music’s final studio album, “Avalon,” was released a decade after its debut record and represents the music of a pared down band (Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera, Andy MacKay) with a much fuller sound. Long gone were the Eno-esque pop/rock accents of the band’s early work. In its place was slower, lusher, more exquisitely engineered music heavy on melancholy and exotic rhythm. Not everyone’s cup of Roxy, mind you, but as world class chill albums go, nothing matches a trip to “Avalon.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 118. Tower of Power, “What is Hip?” (1973) Posted 7/10/2020 — “What is Hip?” was one of two hits from Tower of Power’s self-titled 1973 album, a record that introduced saxophonist Lenny Pickett (current leader of the Saturday Night Live band), singer Lenny Williams, organist Chester Thompson and guitarist Bruce Conte into the West Coast soul army’s massive lineup. But the ultra funky “What is Hip?” was penned by founders Emilio Castillo, Doc Kupka and David Garibaldi and boasted some sagely advice for the pop world: “What’s hip today might become passe.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 119. The Chambers Brothers, “Time Has Come Today” (1967) Posted 7/11/2020 — The Chambers Brothers maintained a decades-long career that began as a gospel/folk troupe. But the Baptist-bred Los Angeles siblings earned only one significant hit, “Time Has Come Today.” Edited down to a four minute single, the song’s full, fuzzed-out psychedelic glory comes into play during an 11 minute version, complete with the often-tagged “freak out” section, featured on the “The Time Has Come” album. Hey, it’s the weekend. Take the whole trip.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 120. The Velvet Underground, “Sunday Morning” (1967) Posted 7/12/2020 — “Sunday Morning” was the last song cut for the Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut album, “The Velvet Underground and Nico.” Co-written by band chieftains Lou Reed and John Cale, “Sunday Morning” is wildly subversive. On the surface, it breezes by with Reed’s whispery singing and Cale’s colorings on, of all things, celesta. But the lyrics are steeped in loss and paranoia (“It’s just the wasted years so close behind”). Not as ominous as “Venus in Furs” and “Heroin” from the same album, but still pretty dark.

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