Archive for social distancing playlist

the social distancing playlist 141-150

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 141. Nilsson, “Everybody’s Talkin’” (1968) Posted 8/2/2020 — A folk favorite by Fred Neil, “Everybody’s Talkin’” was cut by the stylistically cunning Harry Nilsson for 1968’s “Aerial Ballet” but created little commotion. Then director John Schlesinger grabbed it for the soundtrack to “Midnight Cowboy” the following year. The song won a Grammy, the film won an Oscar (several, actually) and Nilsson became a star. The song’s cinematic country sound proved inspirational, too. Listen to Bruce Springsteen’s epic “Western Stars” and tell me he wasn’t taken by the tune.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 142. The Staple Singers, “Respect Yourself” (1971) Posted 8/3/2020 — “Respect Yourself” is creation so perfect that you’re left wondering which is greater, the song of the artist performing it. I’d say it’s a draw. Penned by soul music maestros Luther Ingram and Mack Rice, it was one of many topically inclined, gospel charged R&B hits to come on the heels of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” (“Take the sheet off your face, boy, it’s a brand new day”). But it took the soul, faith and cool of the Staple Singers – specifically, the fervor within vocal tradeoffs between patriarch Pops Staples and daughter Mavis – to turn the song into a commanding affirmation.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 143. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “Teach Your Chiildren” (1970) Posted 8/4/2020 — “Teach Your Children” remains a cornerstone work by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – especially, Graham Nash, who penned this cautionary tale of the lessons one generation passes down to the next. Neil Young isn’t even on it. Instead, the lead pedal steel guitar work was provided by Jerry Garcia. While CSN’s harmonies seemed disarming when “Teach Your Children” appeared on 1970’s “Déjà Vu,” the song’s lyrical sting remains quietly moving: “Feed them on your dreams, the one they pick, the one you’ll know by. Don’t you ever ask them why. If they told you, you will cry.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 144. ZZ Top, “Waitin’ for the Bus”/“Jesus Just Left Chicago” (1973) Posted 8/5/2020 — A ZZ Top double-header from the album that broke the band, “Tres Hombres.” Though separate works, “Waitin’ for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” need to be viewed as a single, six-minute joyride that downshifts from a mid-tempo Lone Star grind into a smokier blues spiritual. A longtime staple of ZZ Top’s live shows, this medley was cooked up a full decade before the band’s commercial rebirth as jumbo-bearded MTV synth-savvy rockers. Here, the Texas blues/boogie charge of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard was dirty, devious and deliciously elemental.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 145. Bruce Springsteen, “Darkness on the Edge of Town” (1978) Posted 8/6/2020 — As summertime rock ‘n’ roll timepieces go, the title tune to Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” album is an unnerving classic. Take the storyline, where a far-reaching social darkness reaches beyond youthful unrest to a more ageless and immovable discontent. The music is equally urgent – a low rumble triggered by E Street Band pianist Roy Bittan that detonates one of Springsteen more impassioned anthemic breakdowns. Then everything recedes, returning to the opening piano riff – an afterburn that repeats as the song fades into an unending nocturne.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 146. Carole King, “Tapestry” (1971) Posted 8/7/2020 — Summer 1971. At the forefront of an increasing progressive pop landscape in 1971, two established songstresses release the recordings that would define their solo careers – Carole King with “Tapestry” and Joni Mitchell with “Blue.” Both were recorded simultaneously – in the same studio, in fact, which led to Mitchell turning up as a guest vocalist on “Tapestry.” King’s record became unstoppable – 15 weeks at No. 1, 25 million copies sold, 4 Grammys and pair of double-sided hits. But it was the music’s sense of poetic and often uneasy reflection that would inspire artists and audiences for generations to come.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 147. Joni Mitchell, “Blue” (1971) Posted 8/8/2020 — As mentioned yesterday, Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” and Carole King’s “Tapestry” were recorded at the same time in the same studio building. Where “Tapestry” was an article of independence from King’s pop songwriter past, “Blue” moved away from Mitchell’s folk profile. Its stark, blunt introspection was often frightening, especially on the title track – an almost operatic solo piano confession that typified the record’s unsettled honesty while avoiding undue sentimentalism. On “Blue,” Mitchell grew from Laurel Canyon songstress into one of popular music’s most uncompromising and mature composers.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 148. The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (1971) Posted 8/9/2020 — This one might seem overly familiar. Still, the eight minute version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” hit right me between the eyes (and ears) after a renewed listen this weekend to the album it hailed from, “Who’s Next.” As a protest tune, it still holds uncomfortably true (“The men who spurred us on sit in judgement of all wrong. They decide and the shotgun sings the song.”) Similarly, as a period piece of rock ‘n’ roll, it remains a volcano complete with a concluding scream from Roger Daltrey most of us wish they could have summoned over these last six months.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 149. Chick Corea and Return to Forever, “Spain” (1972) Posted 8/10/2020 — Ever since it surfaced on the “Light as a Feather” album with the initial lineup of his popular fusion band Return to Forever, “Spain” has been a performance calling card for Chick Corea. The tune uses a quote from Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” as a starting point before launching into a jazz samba that typified Corea’s bright, animated compositional style. He went on to record nearly a dozen different versions of “Spain” with an orchestral arrangement finally winning the song a Grammy in 2001. This wonderful original recording is where the journey began.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 150. King Crimson, “Neal and Jack and Me” (1982) Posted 8/11/2020 — The summer of 1982 was defined for me by three Brit albums released over three consecutive months: Roxy Music’s “Avalon” (May), King Crimson’s “Beat” (June) and Elvis Costello’s “Imperial Bedroom” (July). The Roxy and Elvis albums have already received a nod on the playlist, so it’s time to recognize “Beat,” the second of three ‘80s recordings by the Robert Fripp/Adrian Belew/Tony Levin/Bill Bruford lineup of Crimson. Produced by Rhett Davies (as was “Avalon”), “Beat” was a crisp, modernized prog outing that was reportedly murder to make. Sure was fun to listen to, though.

the social distancing playlist 131-140

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 131. R.E.M., “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) (1987) Posted 7/23/2020 — This motormouthed R.E.M. anthem from the “Document” album has to be one of the most uncomfortably quoted songs of these pandemic days. Even though Armageddon’s onset doesn’t resemble the start of Covidmania (“That’s great, it’s starts with an earthquake”), the sobriety within the warp speed lyrics is suitably appropriate for the present day (“World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed”). Add in some jovial electric urgency and a verse immortalizing Leonard Bernstein for a new generation and you know what? I feel fine.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 132. Lou Reed, “Satellite of Love” (1972) Posted 7/24/2020 — Ever since its release on the “Transformer” album, “Satellite of Love” has remained one of the most fascinating works of Lou Reed’s career. Written near the end of his tenure with the Velvet Underground, the song floats with a sense of childlike wonder, does a 180 into a refrain that confronts hedonistic jealousy without losing its lullaby-like lyricism and sails into a glorious pure pop finale. David Bowie produced and sang background vocals, so Lou, as always, was rubbing shoulders with giants.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 133. Steve Miller Band, “Living in the U.S.A.” (1968) Posted 7/25/2020 — “Living in the U.S.A.” was the single that largely introduced the Steve Miller Band to the world. With a lineup that included a then-unknown Boz Scaggs as first lieutenant, the Miller crew started as part of a fertile West Coast scene more than a little steeped in psychedelia. The album “Living in the U.S.A.” came from, “Sailor,” stands as an underappreciated work – a record that bridged Miller’s’ blues roots with plenty of psychedelic pop invention.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 134. Fleetwood Mac, “Albatross” (1968) Posted 7/26/2020 — A quiet Sunday adieu to Peter Green, who died yesterday at age 73. “Albatross” was an instrumental single released in October 1968 at the height of his tenure with Fleetwood Mac. Cut just after the addition of co-guitarist Danny Kirwan to the band, the tune dialed back the electric intensity of Fleetwood Mac’s blues-inclined music of the day to a soundscape of comparative calm. But the lyricism that was always so indicative of Green’s playing and songwriting still glows.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 135. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Cosmo’s Factory” (1970 ) Posted 7/27/2020 — Over the weekend, “Cosmo’s Factory,” the fifth and finest album by Creedence Clearwater Revival turned 50. It was essentially a greatest hits record as seven of its eleven songs became radio staples. “Ramble Tamble,” the leadoff tune, wasn’t one of them. It was a seven-minute rampage – verses of social upheaval at the beginning and end with a long, incantatory jam in the middle. “Cosmo’s Factory” was the first album I ever bought – $3.47, a king’s ransom for an 11 year old. It changed my life.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 136. The Rolling Stones, “Get Off My Cloud” (1965) Posted 7/28/2020 — Belated Happy 77th Birthday to Sir Michael Philip Jagger – Mick, to his pals. He was set to roll with the Stones into Louisville this summer, but, alas, Covidmania broke up the party. So to celebrate, let’s jet back to 1965 when a 22-year old Jagger and a classic Charlie Watts drum intro led the Stones on one of the champion bugger-off anthems of all time, “Get Off of My Cloud.” A No. 1 US single for the band, it never appeared on a studio album, but has been included on nearly a dozen different anthologies.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 137. Buddy Guy, “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” (1991) Posted 7/29/2020 — During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Buddy Guy was a Chicago blues champion whose music was a keystone inspiration for almost every major blues-informed rock guitarslinger of the day. Then came an extended period of artistic purgatory where Guy’s career was largely viewed in the past tense. “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues,” the album and its uproarious title tune, reawakened the world to Guy’s performance intensity. Thus began a remarkable career renaissance that continues to this day.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 138. Roy Buchanan, “The Messiah Will Come Again” (1972) Posted 7/30/2020 — Last weekend’s passing of Peter Green made me think of Roy Buchanan – specifically, the glorious slow blues instrumental “The Messiah Will Come Again” from the latter’s self-titled debut album. The two guitarists were very different stylists, but much of “Messiah” reflects on Green’s elegiac, compositional lyricism. Buchanan also goes off on some serious string benders, though, which was his style. Buchanan committed suicide in 1988 at age 48, a sad end for an extraordinary artist.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 139. X, “The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss” (1980) Posted 7/31/2020 — Within the opening weeks of 1980 came the debut album from the West Coast punk band X that took its title from the city that served as ground zero for a new rock ‘n’ roll generation, “Los Angeles.” But if the closing “The World’s A Mess” sounds more like a retro-rock fest than a punk onslaught, perhaps it’s because the vocals of Exene Cervenka and John Doe dance about with the organ outbursts of veteran Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek. The result? A party favor laced with a dose of pop anarchy.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 140. George Harrison, “Bangla Desh” (1971) Posted 8/1/2020 — On this date in 1971 at Madison Square Garden, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar convened an ensemble of all-star pals – Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr and Billy Preston – for two concerts to raise relief funds for refugees of the war and genocide decimated region of East Pakistan established as Bangladesh. The event largely introduced much of the world to the plight and even existence of Bangladesh and became a prototype for similar concert benefits (Live Aid, being one) that followed through the decades. This stirring live version of the “Bangla Desh” single issued earlier in 1971 concluded both concerts.

the social distancing playlist 121-130

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 121. The Housemartins, “Caravan of Love” (1986) Posted 7/13/2020 — A band you’ve probably never heard covering a song you’ve probably never heard. “Caravan of Love” was a 1985 R&B hit for Isley-Japser-Isley – a great tune saturated in now dated synths and pop excess. The short-lived British band The Housemartins reworked the song a year later as a non-album a cappella single, pushing its message of hope to the forefront. What resulted was a slice of Impressions-flavored pop-soul undercut by vintage doo-wop. Try it. You’ll like it.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 122. The Allman Brothers Band, “Jessica” (1973) Posted 7/14/2020 — Upon its release on the “Brothers and Sisters” album, “Jessica” defined the sound of the second coming of the Allman Brothers Band. Its original lineup shattered by the deaths of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, the group dramatically revamped its instrumentation by replacing lead guitarist Allman with pianist Chuck Leavell and handing all guitar duties, along with the lion’s share of the songwriting, to Dickey Betts. Leavell and Betts are the stars of “Jessica,” the jubilant instrumental cornerstone of the Allmans Mk2.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 123. Richard and Linda Thompson, “Shoot Out the Lights” (1982) Posted 7/15/2020 — “Shoot Out the Lights” was a landmark 1982 work of finality and fresh starts. For Richard and Linda Thompson, though, it was curtains – the last of six albums capped by an ugly marital breakup. It’s a devastating work highlighted by the guitar-centric and largely Linda-less title tune. The album became a critical triumph, reigniting a solo career that rightly showcased Richard as one of the most compelling songwriters and guitarists of his day.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 124. Weather Report, “Birdland” (1977) Posted 7/16/2020 — Jazz tunes haven’t experienced many pop breakthroughs in recent decades (no, Kenny G doesn’t count). That’s especially true with works bearing even a trace of progressive spirit. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t the original (and vastly more creative) instrumental version of Weather Report’s “Birdland” from 1977’s “Heavy Weather” that hit big, but later interpretations by the Manhattan Transfer and Quincy Jones. Still, the original became a beacon at the height of the fusion era – a still-fascinating mix of jazz tradition and futuristic ingenuity.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 125. U2, “Bad” (1984) Posted 7/17/2020 — Everything great about U2 culminates in “Bad,” one of several standout works from 1984’s “The Unforgettable Fire” album. Thematically, it’s about addiction – or, more exactly, a coming to terms with it. Musically, the song builds like a symphony from the kinds of circulating guitar arpeggios that once served as a trademark sound for the band to vocals that rise to a reckoning in its final chorus (“Wide awake… I’m not dreaming”). A song of dark grace, realization and reclamation.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 126. Pink Floyd, “Astronomy Domine” (1967) Posted 7/18/2020 — A trip back to the trippiest days of Pink Floyd, an era when Syd Barrett’s paisley muse led the music. After a few psychedelic-laced singles, Barrett adjusted the controls to a darker setting for Pink Floyd’s debut album, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” Leading the record off was “Astronomy Domine” with Barrett handling guitar duties (this was pre-David Gilmour) as well as dual vocals with keyboardist Rick Wright. A spacey escapade that planted the seeds for all future Floyd adventures.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 127. Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together” (1971) Posted 7/19/2020 — Was “Let’s Stay Together” Al Green’s greatest work? It gets my vote, although Green’s reign as one of the ‘70s most persuasive soul singers yielded a long list of competing creations. In fact, his epic reworking of the Bee Gees’ “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart,” which shared space on the “Let’s Stay Together” album, is No. 2 in my book. But the title tune to “Let’s Stay Together” remains unrivaled, from Green’s cool but combustible singing to Willie Mitchell’s sublime production. A total classic.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 128. Led Zeppelin, “Bron-T-Aur Stomp” (1970) Posted 7/20/2020 — For “Led Zeppelin III,” Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham retreated to the Welsh country house known as Bron-Yr-Aur to write. Thus was born “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” (why the misspelling is anyone’s guess), one of several “LZIII” tunes that reverted to a largely acoustic setting. Essentially a tribute tune to Plant’s dog, the song reflects the homemade sound of a makeshift street corner band playing a hoedown. The Zeppelin spirit is still in abundance. It’s just dressed differently.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 129. Rod Stewart, “Mandolin Wind” (1971) Posted 7/21/2020 — Long before Rod Stewart’s celebrity status got the better of him, there was an album called “Every Picture Tells a Story.” An inventive mix of folk, barroom rock ‘n’ roll and dance hall pageantry, it made Stewart a star in 1971. “Maggie May” was the hit, but “Mandolin Wind” was the masterpiece. Perhaps the saddest song Stewart ever recorded, its wintry imagery was offset by blasts of acoustic street band merriment. Simply put, Stewart never wrote a better song or cut a better record.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 130. Lyle Lovett, “L.A. County” (1987) Posted 7/22/2020 — The word on Lyle Lovett was spreading by the time his sophomore album “Pontiac” was released in 1987. A schooled Lone Star songsmith, he became part of a country music movement that also saw the simultaneous breakthroughs of Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam. Lovett was the most stylistically and lyrically cunning of the three with songs that ventured into jazz and soul. The brilliant “L.A. County” glides along with the narrative thrill of an impending wedding until Lovett goes all Sam Peckinpah at the end. Needless to say, country radio had a coronary.

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.

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.

the social distancing playlist 91-100

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Ninety One. Grateful Dead, “Uncle John’s Band” (1970) Posted 6/13/2020 — 50 years ago today, the Grateful Dead released what was arguably its finest studio album, “Workingman’s Dead.” In a dramatic turnaround from 1969’s ultra-tripped out “Aoxomoxoa,” this follow-up was rooted in Americana shades of folk, blues and even bluegrass with Robert Hunter’s role as lyricist greatly emphasized. Several of the recording’s eight tunes would become concert staples for the Dead, especially the acoustic, harmony-happy album-opener “Uncle John’s Band.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Ninety Two. Linda Ronstadt, “Heart Like a Wheel” (1974) Posted 6/14/2020 — “Heart Like a Wheel” was the album that shot Linda Ronstadt’s celebrity status through the roof. While the record produced four hits, its shy masterpiece was the Anna McGarrigle composed title tune. Fragile but volcanically emotive, the song (and, indeed, the album) peaks when Ronstadt masterfully concludes the first verse with quiet but heart shattering grace: “My love for you is like a sinking ship, and my heart is like that ship out in mid ocean.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Ninety Three. Wilson Pickett, “Funky Broadway” (1967) Posted 6/15/2020 — Legend has it that “Funky Broadway” was the first single to chart that contained the word “funky” in the title. More to the point, though, was the blend of Pickett’s impossibly soulful vocal strut (which owes considerable debt to James Brown), a masterfully sleek Muscle Shoals arrangement where horns bob in and out with a groove all their own and Jerry Wexler’s sublime production. Pickett’s final Top 10 pop hit, this remains a classic from the golden age of Atlantic Records.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Ninety Four. R.E.M., “Perfect Circle” (1983) Posted 6/16/2020 — Over 35 years after its release, “Perfect Circle” remains one of my favorite R.E.M. songs. It possessed all the beautifully unfinished atmosphere that distinguished the band’s debut album, “Murmur,” with a very knowing wink to the similarly constructed music of the Velvet Underground. Yet Peter Buck’s guitarwork was placed in the background, save for the times it railed distantly like an angry neighbor. A wonderful relic from when the R.E.M. sound was still a journey of mystery.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Ninety Five. Paul and Linda McCartney, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” (1971) Posted 6/17/2020 — Happy 78th birthday to Sir Paul McCartney, perhaps the greatest living architect of the pop music innocence and innovations that bloomed in the 1960s. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” remains one of my favorite Macca tunes. On one hand, this oddity from the “Ram” album was like a British cartoon very much in the vein of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.” But so much is going on – bittersweet melodies, orchestral color, poppish choruses and plenty of childlike cunning. A song to feel young with, and what a birthday gift that is.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Ninety Six. Bonnie Raitt, “Angel from Montgomery” (1974) Posted 6/18/2020 — At the end of “Picture Show,” last week’s moving online tribute to John Prine, manager/widow Fiona Prine remarked that when audiences heard “Angel from Montgomery,” they weren’t absorbing it as a John Prine composition but as a Bonnie Raitt work. Raitt was 24 when she made “Angel” her own on 1974’s “Streetlights” album. She was 70 when she closed “Picture Show” with the tune last week. If ever a Prine song benefited from the passage of time and age, this was it. “Those years just flow by like a broken down dam.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Ninety Seven. The James Gang, “Walk Away” (1971) Posted 6/19/2020 — At the heart the Northern Ohio power trio known as The James Gang sat Joe Walsh. He was neither the band’s original guitar voice nor its last. But the four albums Walsh cut with bassist Dale Peters and drummer Jim Fox as the James Gang yielded a fun, inventive blend of psychedelia and radio-friendly rock, pop and boogie. But it was Walsh’s spirit – sometimes jovial, sometimes darkly ragged – that sold the sound. “Walk Away,” a minor hit from 1971’s “Thirds” album, whittled all that down into three jubilant minutes.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Ninety Eight. The Kinks, “Sunny Afternoon” (1966) Posted 6/20/2020 —- Happy 76th birthday to Sir Raymond Douglas Davies, chieftain of The Kinks and one of the most quintessentially British of all pop songsmiths. For the occasion, here is one the Kinks’ most prominent hits, “Sunny Afternoon.” Released in 1966 as a stand-alone single and later included on one of the band’s finest albums, 1967’s “Face to Face,” this dance hall-style song is a tale of privilege and old money, as well the intrusion of British taxation on both. Mostly, though, it’s perfect period pop music.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Ninety Nine. Todd Rundgren, “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” (1972) Posted 6/21/2020 — Happy Birthday No. 72 to Todd Rundgren, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most enduring all-purpose do-it-yourselfers. As an instrumentalist, songwriter, engineer, producer and stylistic thrillseeker, Rundgren has been a pioneer for over 50 years. Best of all, he is showing no signs of slowing down. To celebrate, let’s spin back to the breakthrough album “Something/Anything?” for the jubilant studio pop parade that is “Couldn’t I Just Tell You.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day 100. Yes, “Long Distance Runaround” (1971) Posted 6/22/2020 — Even though its biggest hit, 1983’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” was a concise pop single, much of the music made over the past half-century by warhorse prog-rock band Yes has been longer, more ornate and instrumentally textured music that adhered to prog’s lavish extremes (i.e., indulgences). But on “Long Distance Runaround,” from the career-making album “Fragile,” Yes’ finest lineup – Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Chris Squire and Bill Bruford – packed a boatload of melody and cheery compositional invention into a musical progfest that clocked in at a taut three minutes.

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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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The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seventy One. Wes Montgomery with the Wynton Kelly Trio, “Four on Six” (1965) Posted 5/24/2020 — We honor the great jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb, who died yesterday at the age of 91. An exquisitely understated rhythm architect, Cobb played with countless jazz giants– the most prominent being Miles Davis. As a tribute, we go to 1965’s “Smokin’ at Half Note.” The record teamed Davis’ late ‘50s/early ‘60s rhythm section (Cobb, pianist Wynton Kelly and bassist Paul Chambers) with guitar titan Wes Montgomery for a slice of understated but assured swing.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seventy Two. Peter Gabriel, “Shock the Monkey” (1982) Posted 5/25/2020 — Although a few singles had clicked with radio since leaving Genesis in 1975, this artsy but dance worthy gem from 1982’s “Security” cemented Gabriel’s solo stardom. Of course, an imaginative video that made him equally popular with the booming MTV generation didn’t hurt, either. Supposedly a song about jealousy (“Don’t ‘cha monkey with the monkey”), this remains a dark, defining highlight of Gabriel’s solo adventures.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seventy Three. The English Beat, “Save It for Later” (1982) Posted 5/26/2020 — Although seemingly mainstream in its pop approach, “Save It For Later” was an anomaly for the English Beat. It was written by co-frontman Dave Wakeling as a teenager before the band formed and sat unused until its third and final album, “Special Beat Service.” Unlike the majority of the Beat’s music, a blend of Jamaican ska and punk-leaning rock, it went straight-on dance hall pop and became one of the band’s biggest hits before its breakup in 1983.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seventy Four. Graham Parker, “Get Started, Start a Fire” (1988) Posted 5/27/2020 — Graham Parker was a bawdy, brassy ‘70s variation of Elvis Costello. Same punkish intensity, same affinity for songwriting but with a more marked love for R&B and soul tradition, as witnessed by his early records with The Rumour. The music smoothed out somewhat with a series of underrated solo albums for RCA that began with “The Mona Lisa’s Sister” and its leadoff single “Get Started, Start a Fire,” but not the temperament.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seventy Five. John Fogerty, “Rockin’ All Over the World” (1975) Posted 5/28/2020 — Happy 75th Birthday (a day late) to John Fogerty. “Rockin’ All Over the World” was the clarion call opening tune to Fogerty’s self-titled 1975 debut album. With the grim demise of Creedence Clearwater Revival and the neo-country experiment that was the Blue Ridge Rangers behind him, Fogerty returned here to celebratory rock ‘n’ roll. Side note: Status Quo performed this song in 1985 from Wembley Stadium in London to kickoff the day-long, cross-continental Live Aid concert.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seventy Six. Neil Young, “Cinammon Girl” (1969) Posted 5/29/2020 — A classic. “Cinnamon Girl” was the song that defined the electric sound of Neil Young and Crazy Horse – ragged but rhythmic, simple but soulful. Pulled from his second album, “Everybody Knows This Nowhere,” the song roars with its instantly infectious ensemble riff and famous one-note guitar solo. Mostly, it’s just everything that’s great about garage rock ‘n’ roll rolled up into a three-minute cyclone. And at the ripe ol’ age of 51, it still grooves like mad.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seventy Seven. Quicksilver Messenger Service, “Fresh Air” (1970) Posted 5/30/2020 — “Fresh Air” was the only real chart hit for Quicksilver Messenger Service. By the time of 1970’s “Just for Love” album, the band had abridged its name to simply Quicksilver and relocated from its native San Francisco to Hawaii. The sound shifted, too. “Fresh Air” was all Latin jazz-tinged psychedelia. This was actually the San Francisco sound at its finest with the guitarwork of John Cipollina and shattering vocals of Dino Valenti placed front center.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seventy Eight. The Beatles, “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) Posted 5/31/2020 — From the summer of 1964, the title tune to the Beatles’ third album and first film as well as their fifth US No. 1 hit. But “A Hard Day’s Night” was more than that. Aside from whatever nostalgia one wishes to attach to it, the song stands as pop testament of the time as well as a snapshot of simple, youthful exuberance. Paul McCartney was 22 when “A Hard Day’s Night” became a hit. He was two weeks shy of turning 77 when he opened his concert with the tune one year ago tonight at Rupp Arena.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seventy Nine. Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth (1966) Posted 6/1/2020 — Together less than three years, Buffalo Springfield launched the careers of Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay. While a trio of immensely creative albums blending folk, country, rock and psychedelia came from that brief alliance, no song better reflected the times the band worked in than Stills’ “For What It’s Worth.” Written as a protest to a series of Sunset Strip curfews in 1966 (not the Vietnam War, as it often thought), its lyrics are frighteningly applicable to the very troubled here and now.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eighty. Roxy Music, “Re-Make, Re-model” (1972) Posted 6/2/2020 — “Re-Make/Re-Model,” the introductory track from Roxy Music’s self-titled debut album. With this tune, the world met Bryan Ferry and, more importantly, Brian Eno, whose influences as a composer, producer and overall sound architect continue to reshape (remodel?) modern music. Here, though, Roxy was simply a band of arty, fashion-struck misfits, cramming brief instrumental solos by each member into five minutes of pure pop mayhem.

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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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The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fifty One. Hot Tuna, “Water Song” (1972) Posted 5/4/2020 — Hot Tuna is the 51 year old spinoff band of Jefferson Airplane led by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady. Despite flirtations with heavier electric compositions, it essentially focuses around acoustic blues-based works. “Water Song,” from 1972’s “Burgers” album, is neither, but rather a sunny, lyrical, free flowing guitar instrumental. It remains one of Kaukonen’s most popular tunes.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fifty Two. Los Straitjackets, “My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme from ‘Titanic’)” (1999) Posted 5/5/2020 — Okay, time to have some fun. For that, we summon Los Straitjackets to discover the surf and camp possibilities within one of the most smarmy pop hits of the 1990s. The result: a Titanic-size treat from “The Velvet Touch of Los Straitjackets” and the band that never had a problem with wearing a mask in public.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fifty Three. Kraftwerk, “Kometenmelodie 2” (1974) Posted 5/6/2020 — In honor of Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider, whose April death was announced yesterday, we travel back to a track from 1974’s “Autobahn.” The album broke the electronic ensemble through to an international audience. I prefer this era to the group’s later, more popular recordings. Back then, Kraftwerk’s synthesized sheen possessed more dimension, dynamics and man-made heart.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fifty Four. The Doors, “Riders on the Storm” (1971) Posted 5/7/2020. A parting shot from The Doors off of the “L.A. Woman” album. The last song the band cut with Jim Morrison, “Riders on the Storm” entered the charts the same week the singer died. It is an atypical Doors work – a slower, jazz-like lament as opposed to a psychedelic pop piece with Ray Manzarek ditching his trademark organ sound for Rhodes piano. A seven minute meditation of dark, elegiac beauty.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fifty Five. Joe Ely, “Musta Notta Gotta Lotta” (1981) Posted 5/8/2020 — For nearly five decades, Joe Ely has been one of the most assured and versatile song stylists to ever stampede out of Texas. He was also, at times, one of the most masterful rock ‘n’ roll ambassadors from any land. The title tune to his “Musta Notta Gotta Lotta” album was a total roots rock meltdown – a megaton blast of Jerry Lee Lewis fervor and Lone Star roadhouse soul. Fasten your seat belts for this one.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fifty Six. Little Richard, “Lucille” (1957) Posted 5/9/2020 — A farewell to rock ‘n’ roll game changer Little Richard, who died yesterday. “Lucille” is one his many co-written classics cut in New Orleans with some of the city’s finest session men (Lee Allen, Alvin “Red” Tyler, Earl King) for the Specialty label in the mid-1950s. But it was that hurricane voice that sold everything – well, that, the suave piano chops and a boatload of soul-savvy attitude.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fifty Seven. Miles Davis, “All Blues” (1959) Posted 5/10/2020 — Jazz for a Monday. Like everything on Miles Davis’ immortal “Kind of Blue” album, “So What” is pretty much perfect: understated and sleek horn solos from Davis, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley that follow simple but potently emotive bass and piano turns by Paul Chambers and Bill Evans, respectively. The ideal music to greet your week with.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fifty Eight. Crowded House, “Something So Strong” (1987/2020) Posted 5/11/2020. — A fresh take on a pop classic. Last Friday, Crowded House served up a social distancing performance of its 1987 hit “Something So Strong.” The current lineup of co-founders Neil Finn and Nick Seymour, keyboardist Mitchell Froom (producer on the band’s first three albums), and Neil’s sons Liam and Elroy nicely retain the original version’s endlessly sunny disposition. And after all, what house in these Covid days isn’t crowded?

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fifty Nine. B.B. King, “The Thrill is Gone” (1969) Posted 5/12/2020 — Given B.B. King’s seven decade career, the urge was strong to find something other than his signature hit to post for the playlist. But few songs – in terms of composition, arrangement, production and performance – play to a music legend’s strengths better than this 1969/1970 classic. Better still, after so many plays and so many years, “The Thrill is Gone” still sounds fresh and vital. In short, the thrill is still very much there.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Sixty. Stevie Wonder, “Higher Ground” (1973) Posted 5/13/2020 — Missed Stevie Wonder’s 70th birthday by a day. Shame on me. We’ll compensate and celebrate with one of his most and empowering songs (and he’s got a lot of ‘em). “Higher Ground” comes from “Innervisions,” the third of four extraordinary early ‘70s albums that transformed Wonder from a Motown pop celebrity to an artist with an ear acutely attuned, in temperament and groove, to the times

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