Archive for social distancing playlist

the social distancing playlist 41-50

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Forty One. Leon Russell, “Of Thee I Sing” (1971) Posted 4/24/2020 — A shot of Leon Russell in his absolute prime, slamming together Okie soul, renegade gospel and wonderfully organic rock ‘n’ roll with a spirit and immediacy that was indicative of every song on his brilliant sophomore album, “Leon Russell and the Shelter People.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Forty Two. Santana, “No One to Depend On” (1971) Posted 4/25/2020 — Santana at its trippiest. “No One to Depend On” came from the band’s untitled third album, the final work of its original lineup. The music matched the times (late 1971) with a darkly psychedelic cast enhanced by the addition of a young Neal Schon.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Forty Three. Led Zeppelin, “Good Times, Bad Times” (1969) Posted 4/26/2020 — The first track from the first Led Zeppelin album. The hot-wired hybrid of primal rock ‘n’ roll and blues this song uncorked had to have scared the daylights out of more unsuspecting parents than any sound since the dawn of Little Richard. No wonder the band hit so big.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Forty Four. Cream, “Tales of Brave Ulysses” (1967) Posted 4/27/2020 — Cream for breakfast. Three minutes of tripped out trio psychedelia from “Disraeli Gears,” an album that serves as a mere suggestion of the chaos Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were capable of onstage. Created at the midway point of Cream’s astonishingly brief three-year lifespan.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Forty Five. Willie Nelson, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” (1975) Posted 4/28/2020 — Happy 87th Birthday to Willie Nelson. Still tough enough that it took a pandemic to keep him from playing a stadium show here last weekend. Celebrate the day with one of Willie’s simplest, yet most emotive recordings. This is the centerpiece tune from “Red Headed Stranger,” the album that tossed corporate Nashville to the Texas badlands in 1975.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Forty Six. Dusty Springfield, “Son of a Preacher Man” (1969) Posted 4/29/2020 — British singer Dusty Springfield’s early ‘60s pop hits were innocuous enough. Then she connected with the Atlantic Records A-team of producers, writers and musicians for the genre-busting “Dusty in Memphis” album. That triggered this regally arranged classic, penned originally for Aretha Franklin, but one Springfield completely made her own.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Forty Seven. Deep Purple, “Space Truckin’” (1972) Posted 4/30/2020 — “Smoke on the Water,” also from Deep Purple’s breakthrough “Machine Head” album, was the hit, but “Space Truckin’” was so much more fun. Big goofy fun, mind you. The lyrics are ridiculous, but the Richie Blackmore/Jon Lord groove and Ian Gillan’s gleeful screaming on the final chorus made for a pop-metal party piece.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Forty Eight. The Rolling Stones, “Dead Flowers” (1971) Posted 5/1/2020 — Ever feel a song was written just for you? That’s how many Kentuckians feel about the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers.” A blast of boozy country camp from “Sticky Fingers,” it has become an adopted Bluegrass anthem for its fleeting reference to “making bets on Kentucky Derby Day.” You should have heard the reception when the Stones played this at Churchill Down in 2006. There’s no Derby today, but the weather is glorious and the mood is high. Rock on.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Forty Nine. Randy Newman, “Lonely at the Top” (1973) Posted 5/2/2020 — My favorite Randy Newman songs are the bleak ones, the tunes with gorgeous orchestrations masking devastating sadness. As additional despair isn’t exactly in high demand these days, we’ll move on to his sardonic songs, the ones poking fun at the privileged with the whimsy of a vaudeville tune. “Lonely at the Top,” from 1973’s “Sail Away,” fits that bill. This one’s for you, 1%.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fifty. Kate Bush, “Cloudbusting” (1984) Posted 5/3/2020 — In terms of theatrical presentation, artistic daring and even vocal design, there is no artist like Kate Bush. While those traits often came together in more abstract compositions on her early albums, “Cloudbusting,” from 1984’s “Hounds of Love,” exhibited almost cinematic vision and precision. That emerged wonderfully on the song’s accompanying video -a short film, really – with Donald Sutherland. Wonderous stuff.

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The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Thirty One. Herbie Hancock, “Hang Up You Hang Ups” (1975) Posted 4/14/2020 — The electric side of Herbie Hancock, in honor of his 80th birthday. This was cut in 1975, when Hancock’s innovations in funk and fusion were at their height. The only thing greater than the groove here is the title: “Hang Up Your Hang Ups.” Truly a mantra for our times.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Thirty Two. Procol Harum, “A Salty Dog” (1969) Posted 4/15/2020 — The downside of having your debut single become an iconic hit, as “A Whiter Shade of Pale” did for Procol Harum 1967, is it becomes the commercial standard the rest of your career is measured by. The Procols never matched that success, but still created some stirring music, like this orchestral title tune to 1969’s “A Salty Dog” album.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Thirty Three. World Party, “Ship of Fools” (1987) Posted 4/16/2020 — Though over three decades old, “Ship of Fools” is eerily representative of certain factions roaming among us today. But let’s look on the bright side and celebrate it as a full introduction to World Party’s Karl Wallinger, one of the ‘80s finest but most underappreciated song stylists.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Thirty Four. Bruce Springsteen, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” (1973) Posted 4/17/2020 — Isolation or no isolation, it’s still Friday. Time to let the Boss loose. Here’s a bonafide Bruce Springsteen classic from his sophomore album, “The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle” to remind us, in these Covid days, of life’s true brilliance. “Rosalita” remains a defining statement of Springsteen’s potency as a performance force.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Thirty Five. Elvis Costello, “Someone Took the Words Away” (2003) Posted 4/18/2020 — We will post something more indicative of Elvis Costello’s familiar pop-centric sound later. For now, here is a quietly pensive tune from his album “North” chosen for the luscious Lee Konitz solo at the end. It represents a rare journey outside the jazz world for the saxophone giant, who died Wednesday from coronavirus complications.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Thirty Six. Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Karn Evil 9 – First Impression, Part 2” (1973) Posted 4/19/2020 —  Five joyously blusterous minutes of pomp and circumstance, “the show that never ends,” courtesy of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Brain Salad Surgery” album. Prog, especially the commercially popular kind, was never cool. I didn’t care. Loved this stuff as a kid. Still do. To me, this song was a carnival come to life. Hence the title.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Thirty Seven. Jethro Tull, “Inside” (1970) Posted 4/20/2020 — A snapshot from Jethro Tull’s trippiest, most transitional album, released 50 years ago today. “Aqualung” would make bring massive commercial visibility in 1971. But on “Benefit,” Ian Anderson and crew were still a lighter-textured psychedelic band, shedding its fuzzy folk and blues exterior in preparation for a pop/rock breakthrough.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Thirty Eight. Emmylou Harris, “Luxury Liner” (1977) Posted 4/21/2020 — Unlike now, when country radio plays bad rock music, the 1970s became an era where rock radio regularly opened up to great country songs. Hence the crossover breakthrough of Emmylou Harris’ “Luxury Liner” album and it’s extraordinary Gram Parsons-penned title tune, in early 1977.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Thirty Nine. Otis Redding, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (1965) Posted 4/22/2020 — A mini soul symphony. Everything here sounds golden – the composition (which Redding wrote with fellow soul giant Jerry Butler), the playing and arrangement (with Booker T and the MGs at the core) and one of the great R&B vocal performances ever. For my money, this was Otis Redding’s finest recording.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Forty. Talking Heads, “Road to Nowhere” (1985) Posted 4/23/2020 — A post-touring career Talking Heads classic that speaks perhaps uncomfortably to the times. Still, the melody and march-like groove are so sunny that you almost overlook the doom factor. Almost. (“They can tell you what to do, but they’ll make a fool of you.”).

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The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Twenty One. The Crusaders with Bill Withers, “Soul Shadows” (1980) Posted 4/4/2020. An ignored tune featuring the great Bill Withers, who we lost yesterday. “Soul Shadows” was a collaborative single with the jazz/soul group The Crusaders that preceded Withers’ Grammy-winning hit “Just the Two of Us” with Grover Washington Jr. by six months. I prefer this tune.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Twenty Two. The Byrds, “My Back Pages” (1967) Posted 4/5/2020 — There was so much invention and joy packed onto any Byrds album that picking a single tune to spotlight is a chore. For now, we’ll go with Roger McGuinn fronting an affirmative and popular Bob Dylan cover.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Twenty Three. The Beatles, “You Can’t Do That” (1964) Posted 4/6/2020 — A tip of the hat, via a 1964 Beatles hit, to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and his often-quoted admonishment to those not adhering to social distancing policies. To paraphrase him and the song: “Andy’s told you before, ‘You can’t do that.’” Rock on, Andy.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Twenty Four. David Bowie, “TVC15” (1976) Posted 4/7/2020 — Something fun, just because the world could probably use a little David Bowie. A goofy tune from what his perhaps his finest album, 1976’s “Station to Station.” So much of the record is dark and wistful. Not this song.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Twenty Five. John Prine, “Lake Marie” (1995) Posted 4/8/2020 — A farewell of sadness and appreciation to John Prine. “Lake Marie.” A requiem. A romantic postscript that turns the chorus line of “Louie, Louie” into a reckoning. A 6-minute hurricane of a song from 1995’s “Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings”. “Ah, baby. We gotta go now.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Twenty Six. John Prine, “When I Get to Heaven” (2018) Posted 4/9/2020 —  With all the heartfelt and devout tributes to John Prine, it seems fitting to close out with one of his most whimsical works – the final song from his final album. Hope he is enjoying the cocktails, the cigs and “going to town.” Goodbye, John Prine. Thanks a million.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Twenty Seven. Earth, Wind & Fire, “That’s the Way of the World” (1975) Posted 4/10/2020— An affirmation at the end of a difficult week. Immediately, Earth, Wind & Fire came to mind. So did this song. Everyone has their favorite Maurice White EWF moment. This one, a massive 1975 hit, is mine.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Twenty Eight. Van Morrison, “Domino” (1970) Posted 4/11/2020. — A cheery blast of Van Morrison from 1970’s “His Band the Street Choir” album (released a mere 10 months after “Moondance”), “Domino” put Van on AM radio at a time when singles by George Harrison, Santana and Runt (Todd Rundgren) ruled the airwaves. So did the Partridge Family, but you can’t have everything.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Twenty Nine. Frank Zappa, “Watermelon on Easter Hay” (1979) Posted 4/12/2020. — A song for the day. “Watermelon in Easter Hay” was possibly Frank Zappa’s finest instrumental composition for guitar, a tune that unfolds with patient, elegiac beauty. Supposedly, the 1979 tune’s original title was “Playing a Guitar Solo with This Band is Like Trying to Grow a Watermelon in Easter Hay.” Happy Easter.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Thirty. Herbie Hancock, “Cantaloupe Island” (1964) Posted 4/13/2020. — A belated Happy Birthday to Herbie Hancock, who turned 80 yesterday. So how do you chose from nearly six decades of music? Do you go with vintage acoustic jazz or full-on electric funk? Answer: one today, the other tomorrow. Today, we head back to 1964 for the ultra-suave “Cantaloupe Island.”

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The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eleven. The Temptations, “Psychedelic Shack” (1969) Posted 3/25/2020. — Released during the last week of the 1960s, “Psychedelic Shack” was one of the funkiest singles from the Norman Whitfield-era of The Temptations. It came packed with fuzzed out guitars, shifting vocal leads and a monster riff holding everything together.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Twelve. The Pretenders, “Middle of the Road” (1983) Posted 3/26/2020. — A song to wake up the neighbors with, a reckoning from 1983 that reaffirmed Chrissie Hynde’s role as a game changer for women in rock ‘n’ roll. The Pretenders are headed to Rupp in September. Better look sharp. (UPDATE 9/15/2020 – The Pretenders’ entire tour with Journey was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Thirteen. The Band. “The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show” (1970) Posted 3/27/2020. — From the underrated “Stage Fright” album, The Band at its best. A sideshow tune with a killer Robbie Robertson guitar riff, a rustic Levon Helm lead vocal and a playful Rick Danko refrain. A swampy Garth Hudson sax break cements the mood. “Once you get it, you can’t forget it…”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fourteen. U2 and Johnny Cash, “The Wanderer” (1993) Posted 3/28/2020. — Talk about your odd couples – U2 and Johnny Cash. Together. Seriously. An electro-pop meditation from U2’s “Zooropa” album, which was released a year before Cash’s Rick Rubin-produced “American Recordings” ushered in one of popular music’s most astounding career victory laps.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Fifteen. Bob Dylan, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1965) Posted 3/29/2020. — “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” This list was overdue for some vintage Dylan. An electric, game changing, motormouth social commentary, in structure as well as content, from “Bringing It All Back Home.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Sixteen. John Prine, “Fish and Whistle” (1978) Posted 3/30/2020. — Something simple, sweet and hopeful as so many of us are thinking of John Prine today. “When we get through this, we’ll make a big wish that we never have to do this again. Again? Again?”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seventeen. Joe Cocker, “Hitchcock Railway” (1969) Posted 3/31/2020. — My favorite Joe Cocker recording, despite the fact I can make out maybe five words of the lyrics. The build of the intro, the piano rolls, the vocal trade-offs and Cocker’s wonderfully wobbly presence compensate. Pulled from the 1969 sophomore album, “Joe Cocker!”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eighteen. Junior Walker and the All-Stars, “Shotgun” (1965) Posted 4/1/2020 — A one-chord wonder from 1965 – a blast of fun-filled funk from Motown. I remember this, along with the Beatles’ early hits and the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” as one of the first songs I heard on the radio as a kid that stuck with me.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Nineteen. Posted 4/2/2020. Traffic, “Glad”/”Freedom Rider” (1970) Posted 4/2/2020—  A two-fer of Traffic, the lead off tunes from one of my all-time favorite albums, 1970’s “John Barleycorn Must Die.” A wild showcase, instrumentally and vocally, for a 21 year old Steve Winwood. Very spooky. Very soulful. Very cool.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Twenty. Simon & Garfunkel, “The Boxer” (1970) Posted 4/3/2020. — Paul Simon offered a solo online reading of “The Boxer” this week for his “fellow New Yorkers.” Though lovely, it made me think of how much the lavishly tasteful arrangement of the original 1969 version with Art Garfunkel added to the song’s natural drama.


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Welcome to the Social Distancing Playlist. This was/is a series of daily Facebook postings that began when lockdown conditions began for the COVD-19 pandemic began. The idea was to offer “a vintage pop (or funk or folk or jazz or country) tune chosen for homebound comfort listening during troubled times.” Each entry contained a brief review/explanation for the song’s inclusion on the playlist. These postings ran for 200 consecutive days and are now archived here.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day One. The Beatles, “I’m Looking Through You” (1965) Posted 3/15/2020.  — Let’s begin with a classic. An exquisite through sometimes overlooked example of how deftly the Beatles could wrap a bleak thought in a bright, harmony-rich melody. From the immortal 1965 album, “Rubber Soul.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Two. Aretha Franklin, “Chain of Fools” (1968) Posted 3/16/2020. — One of the coolest grooves Aretha Franklin ever set to vinyl. This album version features an intro, edited out of the popular single, that is otherworldly. Released as a single in 1967 and eventually on the 1968 album “Lady Soul.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Three. The Chieftains with Van Morrison, “Boffyflow and Spike (1989) Posted 3/17/2020. — A very lively online St. Patrick’s Day celebration courtesy of The Chieftains and Van Morrison. Though tough to hear, the fading Irish banter at the end is a hoot. (“Cosmic! Totally cosmic, lads! We must do aerobics”). Pulled from the 1989 album, “A Chieftains Celebration.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Four. Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, “Happiness is Just Around the Bend” (1973) Posted 3/18/2020 — A blast of British jazz-pop from 1973 courtesy of Brian Auger, switching here from his trademark B3 organ to Fender Rhodes piano. A slice of musical sunshine with a great groove and, given the times, a nicely prophetic title. From the 1973 album, “Closer To It.”

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Five. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Who’ll Stop the Rain” (1970) Posted 3/19/2020. — A perfect 2 ½ minute classic from 1970 courtesy of Creedence Clearwater Revival. A fresh listen, though, revealed how eerily topical most of the lyrics are, and not just because of the precipitation element.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Six. Sly and the Family Stone, “Everyday People” (1968) Posted 3/20/2020. — Something happy and hopeful, the first No. 1 hit by Sly and the Family Stone. Released in late 1968. A round of soul, pop and funk wrapped in a way only Sly Stone could devise, the song remains as fun, fresh and inventive as ever today.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Seven. The Allman Brothers Band, “Little Martha” (1972) Posted 3/21/2020 —  Something short and very sweet, the classic 1971 acoustic guitar duet between Duane Allman and Dickey Betts that closes the Allman Brothers Band’s “Eat a Peach.” Recorded a matter of weeks before Allman died in a motorcycle crash. A haunting yet beautiful end of an era.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Eight. Joni Mitchell, “Raised on Robbery” (1974) Posted 3/22/2020 — Perhaps the loosest sounding song cut by Joni Mitchell. “Raised on Robbery” represented the lighter side (musically more than thematically) of her “Court and Spark” era with Tom Scott and the L.A. Express.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Nine. Crowded House, “World Where You Live” (1986) Posted 3/23/2020 — An expert bit of serious Down Under pop where the song title and band name are eerily apropos for the times. This wasn’t a hit per se in the United States, but the tune wonderfully outlines the band’s dark melancholy, a mix of Neil Finn’s expert songwriting and Mitchell Froom carnival-esque production.

The Social Distancing Playlist, Day Ten. The Police: “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” (1980) Posted 3/24/2020 — Can’t take full credit for this one. I’ve seen several posts in recent days referencing this 1980 hit by The Police. With good reason, too. Its chorus (a series of playful repetitions of the title) is a mantra for modern times. The song itself, though, captures the trio’s post punk sound just as their career took the turn to mega-stardom.

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