Ok it’s been awhile and, well, I’m digging out from the destruction of my iPod death, so it’s been relatively hard to think of the songs that have been on my mind for this, the first month of a new decade…
1) “When a Boy Falls In Love”
Mel Carter (1963)
So it’s the beginning of a new year, and who, if you’re alone, doesn’t want to think of falling in love in the soft lilting way? The arrangement seems slightly to the left of The Miracles “I’ll Try Something New”, slightly more anchored with sandblocks and more early Spector-esque drumming. The paint by numbers analysis of falling for a new person. Sweet and charming, and often forgotten.
2) “In The Middle of a Heartache”
Ruby Winters (1966)
January can also be the most lonely and desolate of months, and Ruby Winters, appropriately gives a stark, pained vocal to match lyrics that match the sensation of how long winter nights can be, all to a stark Anti-Phil Spector arrangment: same stop and start tempo that was familiar to the giants last big hits by the Righteous Brothers, all agonizing slow verses and wailed, slightly uptempo choruses, but nothing but a guitar and a drum, some backgrounds, muted horns and reeeally distant strings
3) “Until You Love Someone”
Chris Clark (1966)
I personally think this song should be submitted as testimony in the Prop 8 hearings. The arguments for Gay Marriage could be summed up by this: the access to full love and happiness shouldn’t be denied anyone, if they want it. The reason I give the Chris Clark version a nod over The Four Tops version is because, well, like Kim Weston’s “Helpless” her version sounds “finished” and it’s one of those many times Chris works the smoky uneven quality against the silkiness of a string laden Motown song. Plus for an album track, the backing track is given a full on “Supremes #1 a-side” polish.
4) “My Heart”
Tammi Terrell (1966)
In another “the original seems unfinished” comparison shop, Tammi Terrell’s cover of Carolyn Crawford’s last Motown single works better. Not that anything about Carolyn’s original is “bad”, but there’s is the innate charm that Tammi Terrell graces with each song she recorded, and who would ever leave someone that pleas and yearns as well as Tammi Terrell? And yes, I can get over the Mandolins on crack that begin and end the song.
5) “Chico’s Girl”
The Crystals (1962)
In the historic gold category this month we have the original intended follow up to The Crystals masterpiece “Uptown” in Chico’s girl. It got shelved for the Sado-masochistic “He Hit Me(and it Felt like a kiss)” and in the hilarity over the radio bans and disgruntled Crystals refusing to come out to LA The Blossoms recording of “He’s a Rebel” (stolen from liberty records and Vikki Carr) released as The Crystals, this poor song got lost until it was recorded by The Girls in 1966 (and went nowhere). It’s just as somber as all of The Crystals songs of the period, and the question is, would it have been a hit? Riddle me this…
6) “I Won’t Dance”
Blossom Dearie (1957)
In the new year, my big conquering collection jump is to really get more Blossom Dearie. I fell in love with her Live at Ronnie Scotts re-issue last year and think that she was literally the birth of tongue in cheek cool. The beauty of her girlish voice combined with sparkling wit and warmth are absolutely magical. My favorite so far after departing the ground I landed on with appreciation for her is this item from 1957.
7) “What a Day”
Barbara McNair (1966)
So it’s that season of new year resolutions and new beginnings. So how about awakening each morning appreciating how great every new day really is? And bouncing out of the door like a bulldozer with the zeal to live each day to the fullest. Barbara McNair has the razzmatazzy show tune for you. The impressive squawk she gives to the last “Cock-a-doodle What?” is one of those brilliantly beautiful and unintentionally hilarious moments, reminding you underneath the sophisticated lounge singer persona still lay a 30 year old Black woman ready to take on the world.
8) “I Don’t Wanna Hear it”
Betty Harris (1966)
This delightful Country Soul gem from Betty Harris can qualify as NY resolution record #2: Get rid of the dead weights (and cheating lying menfolk in your life) to get rid of stress and access freedom in life.
9) “Little Bell”
The Dixie Cups (1965)
The forgotten anti-“Chapel of Love” (peaking at #51 at the beginning of 1965) that out of societies over familiarity with that massive hit for this girl group from New Orleans I love to death. Plus the crossing of signals and misunderstandings makes it the perfect song for any Mercury Retrograde period (Mercury, in Capricorn, goes direct today btw).
10) “Insane Asylum”
Koko Taylor and Willie Dixon (1967)
For our last song this month, a reminder to not go crazy. Going crazy is some crazy shit. So… umm, don’t do it. You crazy bastard. It all works out in the end. It’ll all be alright… just keep cool… and chill…