You Said Something

During the morning of October 31, 2021, I Shazamed a song I recognized as being sung by English alternative rock singer-songwriter and musician PJ Harvey (aka Polly Jean Harvey). The track was “You Said Something.”

I like how the nondescript but pleasing opening instrumental blends into Harvey’s bluesy vocal, and how I can hear a touch of the Pretenders’ frontperson Chrissie Hynde in her voice.

The song seems to tell a story of being haunted by things said to the writer, presumably by a lover. It reminds me of statements I heard as a youth that were sometimes out of affection, sometimes in anger, and how such words remain and resonate for years, for good or bad. It also makes me think of things I’ve said in my life and the lingering effects they might carry for the hearers. (This also reminds me of the ancient Chinese book of divination, The I Ching, which a brother told me about once long ago, interpreting one character of it as saying something like, “Life is short. Repair the damage.” Or at least that’s how I remember the conversation…)

Looking back on one’s life with a critical lens is not necessarily a bad thing; it can happen naturally, as it comes from a place of hopefully more growth and self-awareness than in the immaturity of younger life. And at the same time, it can lead to feelings of guilt, which is not a very productive emotion, especially if taken too intensely or obsessively; I think it’s important to accept accountability and also to contextualize memories and not beat oneself up for not meeting, back then, the heart, standards and principles we might have now. At the same time, this brings to mind the admonishment of British progressive rock band The Alan Parsons Project’s songwriters Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson (1945-2009) in their 1982 song, “Eye in the Sky,” “Don’t say words you’re gonna regret / Don’t let the fire rush to your head…”

PJ Harvey is an artist I don’t know a great deal about, and suppose I may have heard of her in relation to music she made with Australian singer, composer, musician, screenwriter and author Nick Cave, with whom she had a brief relationship (and unfortunately, that has been pinned onto her identity in a sexist way men rarely have to endure after being romantically linked with equally famous women). I’ve heard quite a few of her songs and enjoyed most, though there are some I just do not like at all… a few of both types have been auto-playing on YouTube as I’ve been writing this post, and I’ll admit hitting “skip” on a few.

In the end, Harvey never does disclose the “something” her person said to her in the song, leaving it as a mystery. Life can be unpredictable, and we don’t always get answers. But kindness, consideration and civility go a long way and can fill in for certainty at times. I hope I remember this the next time I say something that could hold meaning for years into the future.

“You Said Something” comes from Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2000), Harvey’s fifth studio album.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from PJ Harvey’s official YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Bright Star

I recently saw that the North Carolina, USA singer-songwriter and poet Jonathan Byrd featured “Bright Star” on his Facebook page. The song is written and performed by American singer-songwriter and playwright Anaïs Mitchell.

The piece, which premiered in late October, has a simple but lovely melody and beautiful vocals. I think it’s a love ballad to a bright star that may represent either the human object of the singer’s affections or perhaps really is about a heavenly body seen as she romanticizes about her travels on the sea, under a starry sky.

In an evening sky with a near-full moon last night, there were “movie clouds” as a brother described them. It’s easy to see where Mitchell’s inspiration and rich imagery come from when thinking of that breathtaking view. Sometimes, standing there in silence is all one needs to recall we are part of this big, beautiful, fragile living world.

“Bright Star” is a pre-release track from Mitchell’s self-titled eighth album, being released January 22, 2022. She developed her fourth album, Hadestown (2010), into a folk musical for theatrical performance, with an expanded version hitting the stage in 2016.

Mitchell appeared on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in 2020. Her parents named her after the French-Cuban-American author Anaïs Nin (1903-1977). My sweety featured some of Nin’s writing in our marriage ceremony.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Anaïs Mitchell’s YouTube channel:

Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G Minor

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was a pianist, composer and conductor in the Romantic period in Germany, and a friend of the composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856). Brahms is one of the composers who came up in a conversation with one of my sons that I referred to a few weeks back; I was looking for some classical music that matched the boldness of the samples in Little Simz’s rap tune “Introvert.”

Published in 1869 in the first of four books, the Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G Minor isn’t Brahms’ most famous (I’d say No. 5 is; most people will recognize it, and I’m sure it’s been in a few film soundtracks, too). While it’s spritely, I like the elegance and relative simplicity of No. 1 compared with the hyper-liveliness usually found in that musical form, even Brahms’ own interpretations of it.

The Hungarian Dances were initially composed for piano with four hands (a duet on one piano) and later arranged for various orchestral instrument configurations.

Like many of the suite of 21 dances, No. 1 is based on material by another composer, though which one is not entirely clear: some sources cite Hungarian Béla Kéler (1820-1882) as the inspiration, while one names the (also Hungarian) composer and conductor Miska Borzó (birth and date years not found, though he seems to have been a contemporary of Brahms’).

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from the official YouTube channel of Italian conductor Claudio Abbado (1933-2014) directing the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in a recording of all 21 dances:


Mr. Blue Sky

One of the most incredible things about modern technology and the Internet is how they combine to bring us together when we’re separated by geography, a pandemic, or both. Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or video messages sent by text or WhatsApp… they’re all tools my sweety and I have used at various times to stay in touch with family and friends.

We often receive video messages from family, and a recent example showed one of our grandkids dancing to his parents’ music. (This guy loves to dance and, whenever he’s over at our home, I always have songs playing just to watch him start his trademark move of rocking from one foot to the other, with a big grin on his face.) In the particular video message I remember, the background music was “Mr. Blue Sky,” by the Electric Light Orchestra, also known as ELO and, later, Jeff Lynne’s ELO.

Electric Light Orchestra is a band whose music I heard a lot of in my youth. I liked their progressive rock sound, though, oddly, I never bought any of their records. One of their big hits, “Don’t Bring Me Down,” is another standard from the typical playlist you would hear if attending that local phenomenon, the Manitoba social evening.

“Mr. Blue Sky” is a really upbeat song, praising blue sky after rain and taking joy in the celebration of light, play, and humanity. It’s a great song for a Friday, and up here in Winnipeg, Canada, a day of digging out after a significant snowstorm. It was one of those snowfalls where you go out and shovel while it’s still snowing so that it won’t be too deep when it ends.

“Morning! Today’s forecast calls for blue skies

Sun is shining in the sky
There ain’t a cloud in sight
It’s stopped raining
Everybody’s in the play
And don’t you know
It’s a beautiful new day
Hey ay ay!

Runnin’ down the avenue
See how the sun shines brightly
In the city
On the streets where once was pity
Mr. Blue
Sky is living here today
Hey ay ay!

Mr. Blue Sky
Please tell us why
You had to hide away
For so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?

Mr. Blue Sky
Please tell us why
You had to hide away
For so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?

Hey you with the pretty face
Welcome to the human race
A celebration
Mr. Blue Sky’s up there waitin’
And today
Is the day we’ve waited for
Ooorrr

Oh, Mr. Blue Sky
Please tell us why
You had to hide away
For so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?

Hey there Mr. Blue
We’re so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you

Hey there Mr. Blue
We’re so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you

Mister Blue Sky!
Mister Blue Sky
Mister Blue Sky-yiy!

Mr. Blue you did it right
But soon comes Mr. Night
Creeping over
Now his hand is on your shoulder
Never mind
I’ll remember you this
I’ll remember you this way!

Mr. Blue Sky
Please tell us why
You had to hide away
For so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?

Hey there Mr. Blue (Sky)
We’re so pleased to be with you (Sky)
Look around see what you do (Blue)
Everybody smiles at you

[Instrumental]

[Choir singing]

[Robotic voice:]
Please. Turn. Me. Ov-er”

(Mr. Blue Sky, by Jeff Lynne. Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

Today as I was clearing up the last of the heavy, wet snow off the parking pad, I was greeted by, you guessed it, Mr. Blue Sky! The weather was mild, and all the people I encountered had a positive frame of mind. I chatted for a few minutes with two men who walked by and complimented me on my snow clearing. They explained that they are unsheltered, living in an encampment and trying to get their lives back together after the effects COVID-19 has had on their lives. I gave them the money they asked for to buy coffee, and then they were back on their way.

“Mr. Blue Sky” comes from ELO’s seventh album, Out of the Blue (1977), a double album that was one of their most successful releases.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of a performance of “Mr. Blue Sky” by Jeff Lynne’s ELO. In it, band members Jeff Lynne and Richard Tandy are backed up by the Take That/Gary Barlow Band led by Mike Stevens, and accompanied by the BBC Orchestra at a BBC Radio 2 concert in September 2014 at Hyde Park in London, England. (A Wikipedia article tells me the 50,000 ticket show sold out in 15 minutes.)

Wading in Waist-High Water

Today, heading out to an appointment, I had an intense craving to hear Fleet Foxes’ recent album, Shore (2020). I’ve previously shared another song from that collection, “Quiet Air / Gioia.” (That’s a terrific song, by the way; if you don’t know it, please check out my post on it.)

The album, the band’s fourth, was released on the autumnal equinox in September 2020. It has an unassuming yet mystical quality that seemed appropriate as I drove slowly in the season’s first snowfall, the snow melting as soon as it landed on the windshield and the winter tires firmly and loudly whirring over the wet concrete.

It’s pretty rare for me to listen to a whole album in one sitting, and I enjoyed being immersed in the music, albeit in the background.

“Wading in Waist-High Water” is, for me, reminiscent of so many hot summer days at the beach with my sweety. Those days, each so deeply appreciated and savoured, seem so recent; it’s really only about a month since our last visit with toes in water which soon will be frozen solid as if waiting in stasis for us to return next summer.

If you don’t own the album, I highly recommend buying it. You can sample it on a YouTube playlist if you want to hear it first.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Fleet Foxes’ official YouTube channel, where you’ll also find official lyrics in the notes beneath the video pane:

Blackbird

Well, I finally did it. I signed up for a music streaming service. I know… the horror, right?!

I decided to take on a free trial of Apple Music, as I found it can co-exist with the owned content in my iTunes library. As I’ve often said here, I buy music to support the artists as streaming pays such a small amount per play. And at the same time, I sometimes grow tired of the music in my library. I like that Apple Music makes suggestions based on what one listens to. So, I thought it could introduce me to artists I’d benefit from and I could still support them by purchasing music of theirs I like.

On “Classical Sunday” mornings, I often listen to a station like CPR Classical, part of Colorado Public Radio. But sometimes, the playlist becomes a bit too busy and spritely for the morning vibe I’m seeking. So this morning, with my senses slightly puzzled by the annual and archaic changing of the clocks to end daylight savings time, I settled into the Apple Music playlist Classical A.M. It has a level, non-intrusive quality that I’ve been enjoying throughout the day, when not cycling or out on an afternoon date with my sweety.

A piece that I quite liked from earlier in the morning was an arrangement for Baroque orchestra and saxophone of the Beatles’ “Blackbird.” This arrangement is played by Lautten Compagney of Berlin, Germany, conducted by Wolfgang Katschner with saxophonist Asya Fateyeva. The piece appears on the Lautten album Time Travel, released last month.

Originally from the 1968 double album, The Beatles (more widely known as the White Album), “Blackbird” was composed by John Lennon (1940-1980) and Paul McCartney. McCartney performed the song solo on the album. He has said the inspiration for the song came from both the sound of a blackbird while the band was on a Transcendental Meditation retreat in India and the racial conflicts in the United States during the late 1960s.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Lautten Compagney YouTube topic channel:

Moondog

It’s often said that change is a constant.

From the handing off of the suits, shirts and ties that were part of my identity for so many years as a public servant, to serving as a resource to a group that is overseeing a major organizational transition, to the upcoming ending of a group that has gathered for over a year to share exploration of the journey through grief, this week feels like one of huge change. It’s been pretty exhausting! (And I don’t even have to work full time, so yeah, gratitude for that!) Some of the change is only symbolic, as in donating clothing that I haven’t used in four years. But it’s all significant…

In the song “Moondog,” I believe the Canadian singer, songwriter, musician and record producer Daniel Lanois explores our primal connectedness to the moon as part of the universe and all life in it.

Moon dogs are a visual phenomenon slightly less visible than sun dogs, as the former depend on the moon to create refracted light. But I suppose it could be argued that, in an existential sense, they are there all the time, whether we notice them or not. (Much like the old adage, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”)

“Moondog, I love you, love you so strong
And, moondog, I trust you, it’s been long

I trust you when it’s corporate bound
In facelessness I know your sound
Sweet water run where there was dust
I need to lift the weight I must

Better to feel that weight fall down
Better to feel that weight fall down

Two ways of looking just as easy to be kind
Two ways of looking just as easy to be kind

And, moondog, I lay my face down the night
My sleep not come, I hear your cries
In the omnipresence of the laughing gun
You reach me, moondog, you’re the one

Better to feel that weight fall down
Better to feel that weight fall down
Better to feel that weight fall down
Better to feel that weight fall down

Two ways of looking just as easy to be kind
Two ways of looking just as easy to be kind

Moondog, please send me a friend
A friend, moondog, please send

Looking for a place in the world
I used to have a place in the world
Better the heart in the whistling wind
Better the part deep from within
I feel you in these moon days
Messages in moon rays

Better to feel that weight fall down
Better to feel that weight fall down

Two ways of looking just as easy to be kind
Two ways of looking just as easy to be kind
Two ways of looking just as easy to be kind
Two ways of looking just as easy to be kind

Hey, moondog, yeah
Oh Moondog, oh moondog
Moondog, yeah
Oh Moondog, yeah”

(“Moondog,” by Daniel Lanois. Unofficial lyrics courtesy of Genius.com.)

Handing off inanimate objects can be easy — not always — though the acts of moving on from a meaningful phase of life or saying goodbye always seem to carry an air of finality. Change can be very challenging and can feel like loss.

This afternoon, while reading what I expected to be a routine email update from American author, professor, lecturer, researcher and speaker Brené Brown, I was drawn to her new website and, serendipitously, landed on a piece on her site called “The Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted.” (I recommend you go to brenebrown.com and use the search function to find it as I don’t want to infringe on her copyright terms.) I believe the piece could help those challenged by life and could feed resilience and perseverance. I think it’s kind of magical how life often hands us what we need, just when we need… if we are open to that.

In times of transition (and I cannot count how many I’ve been through in my personal and professional lives), I believe kindness and compassion are the most significant and essential elements. Those have been absent in many of the changes I’ve lived through, and I’m sure I didn’t always model these attributes as best as I might have, either.

When “Moondog” came on Apple Carplay autoplay last evening on the way home from errands, the line that stood out for me was “Two ways of looking / just as easy to be kind.” Indeed. That line influenced how I felt when interacting with the person who would distribute my suits and, later, when buying some food at a nearby market. It felt like, aside from the transactional nature of our relationships in those moments, we all recognized each other as fellow humans. It seemed we were all connected by kindness, something I think is always there as a possibility, just not always enfleshed into action. We all exist, sure, but we actually noticed each other, and made connections. It was a pretty good feeling, and I had a sense they felt the same. There can be opportunities like these everyday, even just meeting up with and smiling with a stranger on a sidewalk as we proceed on our journeys.

“Moondog” is the 15th of 18 tracks on Lanois’ fifth studio album, Here Is What Is (2007).

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And have a wonderful weekend.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Daniel Lanois YouTube topic channel:

Good Morning Starshine

Sometimes, it’s just good to hear a song that rings with optimism.

That’s how I was feeling when trying to decide what song to share with you today. When searching the Internet for “songs about positivity,” I found a list that included many good songs, including “Good Morning Starshine” by the American pop singer Oliver (the professional name for William Oliver Swofford, 1945-2000).

The song, and its easy, sometimes gibberish lyrics, exudes such lightness, it is hard not to be swept up by the mood it conceives.

“Good mornin’, starshine
The Earth says, “Hello”
You twinkle above us
We twinkle below
Good mornin’, starshine
You lead us along
My love and me as we singing
Our early mornin’ singin’ song

Gliddy glub gloopy, nibby nabby noopy la, la, la, lo, lo
Sabba sibby sabba, nooby abba nabba, le, le, lo, lo
Tooby ooby walla, nooby abba naba
Early mornin’ singin’ song

Good mornin’, starshine
There’s love in your skies
Reflecting the sunlight
In my lover’s eyes
Good mornin’, starshine
So happy to be
My love and me as we singing
Our early mornin’ singin’ song

Gliddy glub gloopy, nibby nabby noopy la, la, la, lo, lo
Sabba sibby sabba, nooby abba nabba, le, le, lo, lo
Tooby ooby walla, nooby abba naba
Early mornin’ singin’ song

Can you hear me singin’ a song, lovin’ a song, singin’ a song
Lovin’ a song, laughin’ a song, singin’ a song
Sing a song, song a sing, song, song, song, sing
Sing, sing, sing song

Song, song, song sing, sing, sing, sing song
Sing, sing, song, sing a song
Yeah, you can sing, sing, sing song, sing a song
Sing, sing, song, sing a song
Sing”

(“Good Morning Starshine,” by Gerome Ragni, James Rado, Galt McDermot.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of Lyrics.com.)

“Good Morning Starshine,” which appears on the 32-song soundtrack for the 1968 Broadway musical Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (better known as simply Hair), was a massive hit for Oliver in 1969. Opening the soundtrack is “Aquarius,” a number I remember well from a performance of it in many years ago in my school gymnasium by a musical theatre group dressed as “Flower Power” era hippies.

Hearing the song tonight, I didn’t recall hearing the instrumental lead-in before, but then it has been a long time since I last heard it.

In 1979, Czech film director Milos Forman (1932-2018) made a film based on the musical. I haven’t seen it but will look for it as I grew up with a lot of the music from the original and would be interested in watching it.

As I ponder on optimism after listening to the song, I’m also thinking of the major announcements that have been made this week by world leaders at COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. I have been following some of these speeches and have a feeling that leaders are finally taking the climate emergency as something real that must be addressed, and with urgency. In a world that has seen so much chaos and suffering in the last twenty months, I am cautiously hopeful, like that feeling that comes when waking in the morning with a rested and a positive mindset.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Oliver YouTube topic channel:

Symphony No. 1, Op. 25, I: Allegro

The Soviet Russian pianist, composer and conductor Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) began writing his Symphony No. 1, Opus 25, also known as the Classical Symphony, in 1916, completing it in 1917. He wrote it in a classical style inspired by the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Joseph Haydn (1732-1809).

Last night, my sweety and I had a dinner delivered and watched a Vimeo live-broadcast concert of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Raiskin, as part of an autumn harvest fundraiser. The meal was delicious, and the music varied, with light and airy elements (like the opening movement of Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony) and dark, bleak sounds of conflict (the Chamber Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich, 1906-1975).

The concert opened with the Classical Symphony, a famous work among Profofiev’s repertoire. He composed the symphony while on vacation in the country, having left the violence of the city behind during the first of two revolutions that happened in Russia in 1917.

Thinking about the concert last night, I find the first movement (Allegro) of Prokofiev’s piece to be like a celebration of nature… I can visualize being in a meadow in the low golden light of autumn. That’s an important image as I think about COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, an important summit that began today. We are in a time when bold, decisive actions must be acted on immediately if the life and beauty on our planet is to survive the climate emergency.

Among the evidence and appeals that will be presented to conference delegates, I hope they take the time and space to witness a collaboration of music and visual art I mentioned in a post on Friday. Life in the modern world can be oppressive to the soul, and nothing can rebalance one’s sense of well-being and connectedness to the earth quite like time immersed in nature. That’s what I feel Prokofiev was aiming to create in his symphony, and what London England-based singer-songwriter Kate Ells and visual artist Geraldine van Heemstra evoke in their jointly-created Wonderland Project (please see Friday’s post for the song, “Wonderland”).

Yesterday, before my date night with Sweety, I savoured some refreshing solo time in nature, cycling a short-ish 40 km (25 miles) on a sunny, crisp and windy afternoon. I hadn’t ridden in about a week and was keenly aware that it might be one of my last outdoor rides of the season. It was a blissful day, and an evening warmed by each other’s company and a small fire in our new wood stove.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the Allegro from a recording by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine conducted by Theodore Kuchar, on the orchestra YouTube topic channel. (Serendipitously, as YouTube cued up the video, it played an ad for the YouTube Originals presentation Dear Earth, an “epic global celebration of our planet and what we need to do to reverse climate change…”)

The audio post is part of a playlist containing Prokofiev’s symphonies:

Also, when browsing for videos, I found an amateur video capturing a beautiful performance by Russia’s Mariinsky Ballet, featuring its first soloist Maria Khoreva, dancing to the Classical Symphony:

Wonderland

It’s always a pleasure to hear from My Song of the Day for Today readers, either through comments on posts or via emails to me through the Contact link on the website.

Yesterday morning, I received a lovely email from English writer, musician and entrepreneur Andy Hobsbawm, who shared a song by Louisiana, USA-born and London, England-based Americana singer-songwriter Kate Ellis. A walk in the beauty of a park inspired Ellis to write “Wonderland.” The song, for which Hobsbawm has a co-writing credit on the YouTube post of the official video, also inspired a collection of original watercolour paintings by Geraldine van Heemstra of the Wilderness Art Collective, London, UK.

This collaboration of visual art and music, the Wonderland Project, will be put into the hands of world leaders at COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference which begins this Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland. The project’s goal is “to give a musical and artistic voice to the environmental rallying cry for urgent government action to protect our planet…” The sketchbook of charcoal drawings and paintings will contain a digital link to the song and a letter from Ellis and van Heemstra to world leaders.

About the song, Ellis says, “‘Wonderland’ is about how perceiving nature in a viscerally connected way gives us a deeper appreciation of it and a deeper sense of loss for what we’re putting at risk. Geraldine’s artwork is the perfect visual expression of the song.”

“My heart’s aching
Every inch of me is shaking
To see the beauty that we’re breaking
Our wonderland

A willow weeps into her cup
And sees her fields turn to dust
The trees that stalk me from all sides
With eyes of a hundred fireflies

A dead oak frozen like a lightning strike
Autumn colour like God’s own bonfire light
And a crown of leaves
Weighing down on me

My heart’s aching
Every inch of me is shaking
To see the beauty that we’re breaking
Our wonderland

I see the knot set in the bark
Like a bullet in its heart
Lava flowing down the trunk
And we’re all going up in smoke

A dead oak frozen like a lightning strike
Autumn colour like God’s own bonfire light
And a crown of leaves
Weighing down on me

My heart’s aching
Every inch of me is shaking
To see the beauty that we’re breaking
Our wonderland
Our wonderland”

(“Wonderland,” by Kate Ellis, Andy Hobsbawm.
Lyrics courtesy of Andy Hobsbawm.)

I am so grateful Hobsbawm invited me to share this song with you. He closes his email with thoughts about the artistic collaboration’s potential: “A lot of political activism is planned for COP26, but we hope that ‘Wonderland’ will communicate differently, in a complimentary way. Perhaps the double emotional punch of visual arts with an anthemic soundtrack can reach the parts that other climate campaigns cannot reach? Like the Washington Star’s famous 1967 ‘Flower Power’ photo of a carnation in the soldier’s gun barrel, you never know what will touch someone and inspire change.”

I was a child when the “Flower Power” photograph made its way around the world and, like so many momentous images in history, its message of peace still resonates with me to this day. May the heartfelt beauty of the Wonderland Project inspire similar levels of hope, commitment, determination and urgent action to save our planet.

To me, “Wonderland” is a love song to our living world and a tribute in hopes of its protection. I’m grateful to have been introduced to it. And I feel that the more of us who know about this song and art, the more people will be there in spirit, supporting wisdom, discernment and courage among the decision-makers at COP26.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. If you like the song, please give the YouTube post a thumb’s up, buy it to support the artist and, most importantly, call on politicians to act now on climate change.

Here’s the official video from Kate Ellis’s YouTube channel:

You can buy the song on iTunes or through Kate Ellis’s Bandcamp page, where I picked it up.

Scale It Back

When I hear the term “DJ,” I still think of the person playing prerecorded music at the front of a hall for a social evening (please see my post on “Sunshine on Leith” or, more recently, “Just the Way You Are,” for the lowdown on that Manitoba phenomenon).

But my recent experiences have shown me there is far more to the two-letter title. A few years ago, a friend introduced me to his son, a Canadian DJ hosting an online show on the Twitch platform. DJ FunkyBeak broadcasts on the worldwide web most Fridays from 7:30 to 11:00 pm in the Pacific time zone. His Twitch page says he focuses on 70s, 80s, Disco, Funk, Synth-Pop, New Wave and more.

His is an enjoyable program to jump onto, with a chatbox for interaction with him and other listeners. I’ve sat in several times over the past year or so and enjoyed the show. If one likes the show and wants to support it, they can make comments, or even send tips through a couple of payment apps. Or just hang out and focus on the fun mix of music, though the conversations can be fun, too.

I honestly don’t know how FunkyBeak keeps up with monitoring the comment feeds and acknowledging people arriving or commenting or messaging him from other platforms, all the while mixing his music and dancing here and there. He does a fantastic job of what I’d call blending one song into the next, using “lossless” digital music formats, matching the beats of the two songs and fading one in and the other out. On a recent show, he indulged my request, playing an alternate mix of the song “Duel” by Propaganda, which I featured in a recent blog post. (Serendipitously, in that same post another DJ, Britain’s Anne Frankenstein, is mentioned as she spun the song while sitting in the morning show chair in place of regular BBC 6 Music host Chris Hawkins).

Another example of DJing that stretches my notions of the craft is American DJ, songwriter, hip hop producer DJ Shadow (aka Joshua Davis). I recently heard one of his songs on that mainstay of mine, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on BBC 6 Music, when I listened to the archive of his August 8, 2021 instalment, “Entrances and Exits.” (This episode had none of his usual weekly features like his historian sister The Beckapedia, poet laureate Simon Armitage, the On This Day segment, and others.)

A Wikipedia article on Shadow says he has a personal collection of 60,000 albums. Wow. Again speaking to my lack of knowledge about this genre of art, his instruments are not all exactly what I traditionally viewed as musical instruments: “turntable, sampler, keyboards, synthesizer, drums, percussion.”

On the archive of Garvey’s show, I heard Shadow’s collaboration with Swedish electronic music group Little Dragon, “Scale It Back.” The song has a quirky, sometimes jittery melody that’s playfully, jauntily brought along by crisp, skillfully loping drum and percussion work.

The official video, quirky itself, begins with a man telling how he memorizes a deck of cards by making up a story where each image represents a pair of cards, then ends the video by recounting all the images.

“I swear I’ll solve your life, my feet fall over you inside
And I thought I heard someone say
You’ll fly far away
And when you reach up the sky is there

This clueless, I wouldn’t know
We swam in the waves, and we let it go
Until I heard someone say
Over the horizon beyond
Oh, where you reached and knocked over stars

I dreamt I came from parking movements
Every moment I see with our clothes
Take me to places where we can stop
I dreamt I came from parking movements

Ooo, Ooo
Nothing can steal this treasure from us, babe
I’m still in love, now
Fighting the sounds
Take chances and come closer to me babe
I’m fallin’ out, now

I dreamt I came from parking movements
Every moment I see with our clothes
Take me to places where we can stop
I dreamt I came from parking movements

Now, Oooooo
Take chances and come closer to me babe
I’m fallin’ out”

(“Scale It Back,” by Joshua Davis, Yukimi Nagano,
Erik Bodin, Hakan Wirenstrand, Fredrik Wallin.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of Genius.com.)

I’m not sure I’ve entirely grasped the song’s meaning, though there’s a dreaminess and kind of hypnotic sense coming across. It’s as if in the chorus, the songwriters envision a couple in their fanciest going-out clothes, going out dancing; their unison movement is a metaphor for the discipline of one parallel parking a car. The light flashing off the cars conjures up the swishing of their clothing under cabaret lights, creating a kaleidoscope of colour. The short version is: the couple is seeking places to go so that, in getting there and parking, they can again capture how it really is for them: the slow magic of their sensual dance moves. And, of course, this doesn’t mesh with the video (other than maybe the fancy clothes on the woman and man at the chest freezer).

My confusion about its meaning aside, I love the vibe of this song. I’m glad I took note of the song title and artists when listening to the program over a month ago.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the music video for the song from DJ Shadow’s official YouTube channel:

Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor, Op. 23, TH. 55, I: Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito

If you’ve been following along, you’ll recall my post about ten days ago, “Introvert,” a rap song by Little Simz introduced to me by one of our lads.

I commented in that post about the symphonic sounds in the track. He and I discussed it a few days later as I was drawn to those sounds, and I wanted to find some classical music that featured such a strong horn section. He has had extensive education and experience in music, and suggested the music of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) would be a good place to look. Yeah… they were totally in the same ballpark. I also wondered about the Russian Romantic classical composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). I had a piece in mind, which I was trying to figure out the title/composer of; a bit of a challenge, with classical music, but I found it yesterday morning: the first movement (Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito) from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor.

It’s a very grand piece, opening with the dramatic statement from the horn section, and less than 15 seconds later, the piano soloist leaps into the score. Wow!

Tchaikovsky wrote the concerto in late 1874/early 1875 though he revised it as late as 1888. It’s his best-known piano concerto and among the most popular across the genre. Equal to the piece’s drama is a conflict between Tchaikovsky and his friend, pianist, conductor and composer Nikolai Rubinstein (1835-1881). It’s believed Tchaikovsky may have initially dedicated the concerto to his friend, but they fell into conflict when Rubinstein criticized it sharply.

My lad and I chatted about the piece today. Our discussion inspired me to keep looking for more music like this.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from a 1963 recording featuring Russian-Icelandic pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy, soloist, playing with the London Symphony Orchestra directed by American violinist, conductor and composer Lorin Maazel (1930-2014). (Most of my family and our partners were fortunate to see Ashkenazy play a concert in the late 1980s in Winnipeg, Canada. It was a pretty big deal and I remember it well.) The video appears on the Vladimir Ashkenazy YouTube topic channel.

And it is always great to see a live performance; here is one (of the entire concerto) played in 1991 by pianist Daniel Barenboim (of Argentina, Israel, Palestine and Spain) with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Russian composer, musical theorist and teacher Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996). (Barenboim has also conducted the piece, with soloists like Argentine-Swiss pianist Martha Argerich.)

Free to Decide

Sometimes in life, we get to a place of feeling absolute clarity about where we are, where we want to be, and the decisions — sometimes hard ones — that we need to make to get there.

I think that’s what Dolores O’Riordan (1971-2018) was writing about with “Free to Decide,” the fourth track from the Cranberries’ third studio alum, To the Faithful Departed (1996). The second part of the opening verse tells it all: “I’ll live as I choose, / Or I will not live at all.” I honestly don’t believe that’s a reference to giving up, or to thoughts of suicide. Instead, I believe she was trying to say that living under others’ expectations instead of one’s own truth means not fully living.

“It’s not worth anything,
More than this at all.
I’ll live as I choose,
Or I will not live at all.

So return to where you come from,
Return to where you dwell,
Because harassment’s not my forte,
But you do it very well.

I’m free to decide, I’m free to decide,
And I’m not so suicidal after all.
I’m free to decide, I’m free to decide,
And I’m not so suicidal after all,
At all, at all, at all.

You must have nothing,
More with your time to do.
There’s a war in Russia,
And Sarajevo too.

So to hell with what you’re thinking,
And to hell with your narrow mind,
You’re so distracted from the real thing,
You should leave your life behind, behind.

’Cause I’m free to decide, I’m free to decide,
And I’m not so suicidal after all,
I’m free to decide, I’m free to decide,
And I’m not so suicidal after all,
At all, at all, at all.

I’m free to decide, I’m free to decide,
And I’m not so suicidal after all,
At all, at all, at all.”

(“Free to Decide,” by Dolores O’Riordan.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

O’Riodan’s words resonate with me, especially when I think of periods in my life where I didn’t feel free to decide. Some of those were times when I made personal and career decisions based on maintaining a status quo or doing what others expected of me, instead of doing the right thing for myself and — usually, in the end — everyone else, too).

The music video for “Free to Decide” begins with O’Riordan escaping a gauntlet of paparazzi, only to become a caged bird, then dancing freely and wandering in the desert. Part of the video is shot in what looks to be the same yellow, three-sided building that also appears on the album’s cover. At the end, the whole film goes to fast rewind. I suppose that’s a further commentary on how, even when we make our choices, they may not take us where we want them to. But we get up, dust the sand off ourselves off and keep heading forward, with intention.

A happy Friday, friends. What will you do this weekend? I hope you’re free to decide…

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Strangely, the video isn’t on the Cranberries’ official YouTube channel, though this unofficial version has properly-credited song rights listed.

PS: Love that cowbell. Life is always better with cowbell.

Ave verum corpus

After this past Wednesday’s post on a rap song by Little Simz, I started looking for classical music pieces in which the brass section came across as boldly as those in Simz’s song, “Introvert.” I haven’t found one yet, and I feel that speaks to my lack of knowledge of the genre. I’ll keep looking and learning. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I looked in my digital collection for something to share for “Classical Sunday.” A few pieces by Wolgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) came up. I sometimes associate Mozart with a kind of crazy-making busy-ness that some of his works seem to evoke for me. Yet his sacred music is almost unmatched in its ability to invoke and feed the spirit in such a blissful way. And this is what happened when I stumbled across his “Ave verum corpus.” A version of it happens to be on the same Kiri Te Kanawa album from which I featured a piece two weekends ago. Mozart’s “Ave verum corpus” is a beautifully meditative piece that is, historically, a chant related to the Christian sacrament of communion; feeding the body and soul, as it were.

Today has been a full day with a longer, early morning bike ride in the heavier, cold morning air (1° Celcius or 34°F), then some time at home with my sweety. In the sunny warmth of the mid-afternoon, we took our bikes out for a ride with friends to the outdoor patio of Barn Hammer Brewing, a local brewery and taproom. These friends were away for five weeks, and we had a fun and emotional time reconnecting and sharing. And soon after Sweety and I biked home in the low golden autumn sun, we had two long phone calls with loved ones, then some soup for dinner, and some Netflix (The Chair, though I didn’t really connect with it, despite having featured its preview music some weeks ago). 

And with that, I think I’ll just let the music speak for itself…

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio of Te Kanawa singing with the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir, London, England, accompanied by the English Chamber Orchestra with Barry Rose conducting, from the Choir’s YouTube topic channel:

Entangled

In 1975, the English singer, songwriter, producer and activist Peter Gabriel left Genesis, of which he had been a founding member in the 1960s. I was introduced to Genesis and Gabriel’s music by a school mate though, I didn’t follow Gabriel closely until his album Us (1992). (I posted about that friend in “Washing of the Water,” from that album.)

The year after Gabriel’s departure for a highly successful and well-regarded solo career, Genesis released A Trick of the Tail. I don’t know that album, though looking it up tonight, I read that it came soon after drummer/singer Phil Collins became the front person and lead singer for the group. The song I’ve heard from it is “Entangled,” which I first heard on an archive of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, the August 1, 2021 episode, “Hypnotic Guitar Tunes — Welcome In.” And, by the way, Garvey is back to his BBC 6 Music Sunday show after several weeks’ absence. With pandemic lockdowns lifting, he was finally able to tour with his band, Elbow.

I found “Entangled” really took me back to the mood and vibe of the mid-1970s, and I feel it has a sound like the English progressive rock band, Yes.

Entanglement is a common term when referring to dysfunctional relationships. I’m not sure if Genesis’s writers Tony Banks and Steve Hackett had that concept in mind. Still, their song does seem to be about trickery and manipulation, two definite characteristics of unhealthy connections.

Either way, “Entangled” is a lovely song, with beautiful keyboard and acoustic guitar sounds supporting Collins’ rhythmic vocals.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official audio for the song from Genesis’s YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.

Introvert

To riff on the title of today’s selection for a moment, as many of us joked during the last year and a half, “there’s never been a better time to be an introvert.” At the same time, the often intense pandemic-related social isolation (other than hundreds of Zoom meetings and gatherings) has led to an even greater awkwardness and sometimes trepidation toward in-person social settings. The result of that is even more fatigue than might be expected for an introvert, even when in relatively small gatherings with close friends or family.

But it felt like that all shifted a bit this past weekend. As I mentioned in Sunday’s post, we were preparing for a family dinner to mark Canadian Thanksgiving as well as a recent and an upcoming family birthday. We had a delightful time, around a fabulous meal made by Sweety and, later, gifts for the birthdays. It was pretty tiring as she and I are out of practice with hosting, having held just three family dinners in the last thirteen months, and this one being the first fully indoor gathering. (Hard to believe we used to host annual dinner parties related to her work, with 30+ guests!) But it felt wonderful to be together, and a pretty cool thing happened…

It’s typical that when we sit at the table, Sweety asks me to say something to mark the occasion as a bit of an invocation or blessing. I thought I would like to make a land acknowledgement, something that — at least locally — has become a custom in public gatherings since Winnipeg’s first Indigenous mayor, Brian Bowman, took office and declared 2015 the Year of Reconciliation, before the concept took hold nationally. Anyway, earlier in the day, one of our lads was in touch to ask if he could make an acknowledgement before dinner. I said I had been thinking the same, so yes, that would be great if he wanted to. So, the torch has been handed to the next generation for bringing a significant, meaningful spoken spiritual component to open up the intimacy of family meals.

During the same evening, while I was playing music from my Song of the Day playlist over the computer speakers, the same son asked if he could play a YouTube video. He prefaced this by saying, “I know you mostly post stuff you like, so here’s a challenge…” He knows I’m not a fan of rap and wanted me to listen to a song. Trusting him and the moment, I watched the YouTube video with him and his partner once he called it up. I was struck by the drama created by the symphonic passages in the song and the quick edits of the video, the majority of which are shot in classical period spaces, juxtaposed with gritty, hazily-lit modern-day architecture. The music, choreographed movement and film edits create a bold, visually and aurally cacophonous palette in which British-Nigerian rapper, singer and actor Little Simz (the stage name of Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo) expresses her message of struggle as a Black woman witnessing so much oppression and racist, systemic disadvantage.

As for the title, I’m not entirely sure of the intent, but it seems the song is a rallying cry to step out and claim one’s place in the world, and particularly women of colour, given the added layers of oppression on them as not only people of colour but also as women, in a world still dominated by old, rich, white men who control the systems of wealth and authority.

It’s a compelling video. I’m still not sure I’m a fan of rap, but I am glad to have been exposed to this music and video. It is a reminder of the comfort I live in, which is much different than what so many billions on our planet endure.

“Introvert” comes from Little Simz’s fourth studio album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, released last month.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Little Simz’s YouTube channel. You’ll find official lyrics among the notes beneath the video if clicking into YouTube.com to watch it.

Violin Concerto No. 2 in F, Op. 8/3, RV 293, “Autumn,” II: Adagio molto

Today in my country, it is Thanksgiving Sunday, during a long holiday weekend observed without question in the same way for many generations. In recent years, and particularly this year, it seems that is changing. As a nation, Canada has been forced to reckon with a story of colonialism and the devastating consequences of a greed-fueled movement that began in the fifteenth century and led to genocide. The stories are finally being heard.

When my family emigrated from England, they came here seeking opportunity. I doubt they had any inkling of their new home’s history of abuse against those who had been stewards of the land for thousands of years. The First Peoples warmly received European explorers and settlers. In my experience, Indigenous people remain a welcoming, gracious and hospitable people despite all they have suffered and continue to endure in the largely unaltered systems that have perpetuated poverty, disease, and the lack of both basic human rights and opportunities to thrive.

Today my sweety and I are hosting our first small, indoor family gathering in many months and will celebrate birthdays and a general feel of thanksgiving for all that a life of good fortune and privilege has blessed us with. Gratitude will sit next to acknowledgement and respect as we feast together.

As I write this, I’m watching the rain trickle down the window as the wind whips the few, wet leaves remaining on branches while autumn takes hold on a dark and dreary day, after the golden light and heat in “bonus weeks” of late summer. Anticipation of celebration and reflection on stories of the past mingle, and I found the second movement of “Autumn” from Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) Violin Concerto No. 2, The Four Seasons to be a good piece for this contemplative mood. Though short (this version lasts only two minutes and forty-eight seconds), the music captures the surroundings and feelings of the day. In my opinion, it is a beautiful composition, which I favour far more than the opening and closing movements of “Autumn.”

Just over a year ago, I featured “Summer” from The Four Seasons. The audio for today’s post comes from the same 1984 recording of German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter performing with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989).

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy, honour, remember, and give thanks.

Here’s the audio from Anne-Sophie Mutter’s official YouTube channel:

PS: My apologies to those who noticed the absence of a post this past Friday. It’s the first time since beginning the blog that I’ve missed making a scheduled entry here.

Green Eyes

I mention Coldplay’s song “Green Eyes” in my May 22, 2021 post on “The Scientist,” saying today’s selection is one of the better-known of the British band’s earlier songs.

But re-reading that post today, I’m not so sure that is an accurate statement after all. Coldplay never released “Green Eyes” as a single, and I’m really not sure what type of attention it received when the album A Rush of Blood to the Head came out in 2002 as I wasn’t a fan at the time. And anything I’ve read about the collection doesn’t shine a particular light on the song.

It’s a fabulous piece of music, though, so I must have just been projecting my own assessment of the song’s worthiness. The music, lyrics and singing in “Green Eyes” all carry a definite country music vibe I’ve never heard any commentary about. When I listen really hard, I feel like I can hear a pedal steel guitar in the last half of the song when it transitions from acoustic guitar and vocal to full band plus strings and vocal, but I think it’s just effects on the electric guitar. There does seem to be a country influence elsewhere on the album, too, and critics have noted the strummy electric guitar of “Warning Sign” to be country rock-inspired (and, again, if I listen really closely I’m sure I hear accordion on that one). In my opinion, the title track “A Rush of Blood to the Head” also keeps that country vibe going. It would be interesting to know if this is just my impression or if it was intentional on Coldplay’s part. I think it was the band experimenting with various styles of songwriting and performance, later complemented by the lavish, multi-layered production Brian Eno brought to Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008).

Hearing other tracks while reading up on the song tonight makes me think about sitting through the whole album many times when I discovered it a few years after its release. A Rush of Blood to the Head is an amazing album, probably one of Coldplay’s best, and to me, much more enjoyable than their more pop-oriented music of the last few years.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Coldplay’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available at AZLyrics.com.

Vesperae solennes de confessore in C, K 339, V: Laudate Dominum omnes gentes (Psalms 116/117)

Today for Classical Sunday, I’m featuring an old family favourite soprano soloist, Kiri Te Kanawa.

One of my favourite pieces in the New Zealand soprano’s repertoire is the fifth movement of the Vesperae solennes de confessore in C, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The Laudate Dominum omnes gentes is a setting of the two-verse Psalm 117 (numbered 116 in the Greek and Latin versions of the Bible). Several other classical composers set the psalm to music, including Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), William Byrd (c1540-1643) and others.

I am only familiar with the Mozart setting, which is divine; a wonderfully serene piece to sit and listen to. A CD that I bought in the 1980s includes a three-minute-and-59-second recording of it. The version I’m featuring today is over a full minute longer at five minutes, 11 seconds. I love the slower tempo, which makes the music so much more calming and meditative, as Te Kanawa slows down her delivery of the beautiful verses.

I’ve heard a few other interpretations of this piece, including one a few days ago with the German soprano Edda Moser, who is remarkable. However, no one I’ve heard can match the warmth and depth of Te Kanawa’s voice whose music was often heard at family parties from the 1970s to the 1990s.

The Laudate Dominum will be familiar to many of you, and some may recall it from the soundtrack of Netflix’s The Crown.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio of the recording of Kiri Te Kanawa, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Chorus, directed by Colin Davis (1927-2013), from Te Kanawa’s 1972 album of sacred compositions by Mozart, posted on the LSO YouTube topic channel:

The Air That I Breathe

This morning while driving home from an appointment, I heard the British pop group The Hollies’ cover of “The Air That I Breathe” playing on SiriusXM radio’s The Bridge soft rock stream. It’s a station I listen to a fair amount when not listening to my own playlists.

“The Air That I Breathe” is a song I associate more with Judy Collins, whose version of it from her album Fires of Eden (1995) is one my sweety and I have played often. We own the CD and put another song from it, “The Blizzard,” on our wedding keepsake CD.

British singer-songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood (1941-2001) co-wrote the piece, which first appeared on Hammond’s 1972 album It Never Rains in Southern California.

The Hollies, a Merseybeat-type band formed in Manchester, England in 1962 by Allan Clarke and Graham Nash (also of Crosby, Stills & Nash, later Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), released their version as a single in 1974. It appears on numerous compilation albums. (English songwriter, musician, audio engineer and producer Alan Parsons performed the audio engineering on the single.)

I didn’t know until reading about the song today that the English alternative rock group Radiohead was sued for copyright infringement by the song’s publishers, as the song “Creep” (1992) shared some melodic content and chord progressions with “The Air That I Breathe.” The settlement saw the composers receiving some of the song’s royalties along with co-writing credit.

Described as a love ballad, I would go further and call the song a soulful ode to lovemaking, with its dreamy, sensual rhythm, lilting strings, and lyrics telling a story of bliss.

“If I could make a wish
I think I’d pass
Can’t think of anything I need
No cigarettes, no sleep, no light, no sound
Nothing to eat, no books to read

Making love with you
Has left me peaceful, warm, and tired
What more could I ask
There’s nothing left to be desired
Peace came upon me and it leaves me weak
So sleep, silent angel, go to sleep

Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe
And to love you
All I need is the air that I breathe
Yes to love you
All I need is the air that I breathe

Peace came upon me and it leaves me weak
So sleep, silent angel, go to sleep

Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe
And to love you
All I need is the air that I breathe
Yes to love you
All I need is the air that I breathe

Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe
And to love you
All I need is the air that I breathe
Yes to love you
All I need is the air that I breathe
And to love you
All I need is the air that I breathe
Yes to love you”

(“The Air That I Breathe,” by Albert Hammond, Mike Hazlewood.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And, I hope that whatever you do this weekend will bring you blissful feelings.

Here’s the audio for the song from The Hollies’ official YouTube channel:

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

This week, Canadian schools observe Truth and Reconciliation Week, while tomorrow, September 30, our country will pause to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in our history.

The day comes after much introspection and examination of our country’s past and publicity through the year regarding the unmarked graves of thousands of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children who perished in what was known as the Indian Residential Schools system. From the 1870s to the 1990s, 150,000 children were forcibly removed from their families and held in institutions more akin to work camps than educational institutions.

Indigenous people continue to suffer the consequences of intergenerational trauma and systemic racism, both of which severely limit opportunities for fulfilling, healthy, happy lives.

A song that came to me as one to mark the day is “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” an epic work by Indigenous Canadian-American singer, songwriter, musician, composer, social activist, pacifist, and TV personality, Buffy Sainte-Marie.

The song is heart-wrenchingly authentic in portraying just some of the abuses Indigenous people have endured at the hands of greedy and corrupt governments and corporations who seek wealth at the expense of the planet and those relegated to remote communities, many of which have deplorable living conditions.

Introduction:
“Indian legislation on the desk of a do-right Congressman
Now, he don’t know much about the issue
so he picks up the phone and he asks advice from the
Senator out in Indian country
A darling of the energy companies who are
ripping off what’s left of the reservations. Huh.

1.
I learned a safety rule
I don’t know who to thank
Don’t stand between the reservation and the
corporate bank
They send in federal tanks
It isn’t nice but it’s reality

Chorus:
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Huh.

2.
They got these energy companies that want the land
and they’ve got churches by the dozen who want to
guide our hands
and sign Mother Earth over to pollution, war and
greed
Get rich… get rich quick.
(Chorus)

3.
We got the federal marshals
We got the covert spies
We got the liars by the fire
We got the FBIs
They lie in court and get nailed
and still Peltier goes off to jail
(Chorus)

4.
My girlfriend Annie Mae talked about uranium
Her head was filled with bullets and her body dumped
The FBI cut off her hands and told us she’d died of
exposure
Loo loo loo loo loo
(Chorus)

We had the Goldrush Wars
Aw, didn’t we learn to crawl and still our history gets
written in a liar’s scrawl
They tell ‘ya “Honey, you can still be an Indian
d-d-down at the ‘Y’
on Saturday nights”

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Huh!”

(“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” by Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Official lyrics are available on Sainte-Marie’s website.

Throughout this year, Indigenous organizations and allies have suggested many options for people to learn about our country’s true history. One such opportunity is the University of Alberta’s online course, Indigenous Canada. It is an excellent place to start learning about past wrongs as a first step toward reconciling them.

“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” is the fourth song I’ve posted from Sainte-Marie’s 13th studio album, Coincidence and Likely Stories (1992). It also appears on the 1996 compilation, Up Where We Belong.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Buffy Sainte-Marie YouTube topic channel:

“Heroes”

Since the summer of 2020, I’ve featured a piece of classical music each Sunday.

The song “‘Heroes’” from the album of the same title, the second in David Bowie’s (1947-2016) “Berlin Trilogy,” a song co-written with Brian Eno, is certainly not a classical piece. However, it is definitely a rock classic and likely one of Bowie’s most-covered songs.

Quoting from the notes to the post of the official studio version of the song on Peter Gabriel’s YouTube channel, “The track is taken from Peter’s eighth studio album Scratch My Back, the first part of Peter’s song-swap project. Originally conceived as a reciprocal arrangement that would be released as one album it was Peter’s half that arrived first, in 2010, featuring his orchestral interpretations of some of his favourite songs.

The other half of the collection, And I’ll Scratch Yours, was released in 2013, again featuring 12 tracks, this time, other artists covering Gabriel songs. But these were not all the same artists covered in 2010 by Gabriel, as some didn’t provide covers while others refused to participate in the project. (How rude!)

The British arranger, composer and violist John Metcalfe made the orchestral arrangements for most of the songs Gabriel chose for Scratch My Back, including “‘Heroes.’” And they are stunning arrangements. “‘Heroes’” is particularly magnificent: the London Scratch Orchestra starts slowly and softly with violas, and builds to a crescendo at the beginning of the third verse, gradually falling back to a soft ending. It’s the kind of music that gives me goosebumps.

I think the song is about perseverance and dreaming, dusting oneself off, getting back up and hoping for a better future after being knocked down by life’s trials. The song was inspired by Bowie observing producer-engineer Tony Visconti and his wife embracing near the Berlin Wall, and tells the story of lovers who live on either side of the wall. An enlightening 2016 article on Vox.com tells how a 1987 concert by Bowie was seen as provoking global pressures that eventually led to the tearing down of the wall in 1989.

“I, I wish you could swim
Like dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, for ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes, just for one day
Oh we can be Heroes, just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive us away
Oh we can be Heroes, just for one day
Oh we can be us, just for one day

I, I can remember
Standing, standing by the wall
And the guns, shot above our heads
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall
And the shame, the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever
And we can be Heroes, just for one day”

(“‘Heroes,’” by David Bowie, Brian Eno.
Peter Gabriel orchestral rendition arranged by Peter Metcalfe.
Lyrics edited from a version on AZLyrics.com.)

Today’s selection is the third piece I have featured from Scratch My Back; please see my posts on Lou Reed’s “The Power of the Heart” and Bon Iver’s “Flume” for the other two.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Peter Gabriel’s YouTube channel:

I also found an official video of a live performance of the piece in Verona, Italy in 2010. I enjoy the visual representation, though I find some of the more subtle orchestration in the studio version comes through a little better. At the same time, when the orchestra really gets going, it’s pretty fabulous, too.

And, it’s not orchestral, so maybe it doesn’t belong on Classical Sunday, but why not check out the official video of Bowie’s original version while you’re here? The video features the radio edit; check here for the full album version that includes additional verses not sung on the radio edit or by Gabriel. (In either version, you’ll notice, among the many “Eno” backing effects, some of that slide guitar I was referencing and comparing in my post earlier this week on LCD Soundsystem’s “call the police.”):

Alone Again (Naturally)

On Fridays, I usually post an upbeat song to ring in the weekend.

While driving to an appointment with my sweety earlier this week, the poignant Gilbert O’Sullivan song “Alone Again (Naturally)” played on SiriusXM radio’s The Bridge stream. I don’t know if we’ve ever heard it together before, but the other day I was overcome by a recollection associated to the song. So I told her about how the song carries a childhood memory; and how it’s difficult to remember what the specific memory is, but there’s a sad association to it. (I was thinking for a while that it might have marked the day I learned as a child that we all die. But that lesson would have been in the late 1960s, well before O’Sullivan released this song.)

Today, as I started the car to drive out of the city and attend the memorial service of a friend, “Alone Again (Naturally)” had just started playing on SiriusXM radio’s The Bridge. It was like a “Zen slap” — the Universe was telling me what song to share today…

We drove out, parked, and took our places, safely separated from others, standing out on the flatness of prairie, under a bleak sky and with a drop in temperature being carried on gusty winds casting a lingering chill on us. When the service concluded, Sweety and I spoke with the surviving family, who are utterly shattered in their loss. So much grief, so heavy, inconsolable. It leaves one with a helpless feeling, knowing words cannot take away the heartbreak. And at the same time, silence doesn’t help, so one finds words, imperfect as those might be. Maybe words we’d like to hear ourselves, were we the ones sitting at the front, tearily facing the photo and interred remains of a formerly vibrant, affable, memorable human being whose earthly voice is forever quieted but whose image lives on through memories, the person’s creative works, and family photographs; all these visions cruel yet reliable, cherished reminders of the person’s vitality. A life of service to others in so many more ways than just completing a day’s work.

“In a little while from now
If I’m not feeling any less sour
I promise myself to treat myself
And visit a nearby tower

And climbing to the top
Will throw myself off
In an effort to make clear to whomever
What it’s like when you’re shattered

Left standing in the lurch
At a church where people saying
My God, that’s tough, she stood him up
No point in us remaining

We may as well go home
As I did on my own
Alone again, naturally

To think that only yesterday
I was cheerful, bright and gay
Looking forward to, well, who wouldn’t do
The role I was about to play

But as if to knock me down
Reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch
Cut me into little pieces

Leaving me to doubt
Talk about God in His mercy
Who, if He really does exist
Why did He desert me?

And in my hour of need
I truly am, indeed
Alone again, naturally

It seems to me that there are more hearts
Broken in the world that can’t be mended
Left unattended
What do we do?
What do we do?

Alone again, naturally

Now, looking back over the years
And whatever else that appears
I remember I cried when my father died
Never wishing to hide the tears

And at sixty-five years old
My mother, God rest her soul
Couldn’t understand why the only man
She had ever loved had been taken

Leaving her to start
With a heart so badly broken
Despite encouragement from me
No words were ever spoken

And when she passed away
I cried and cried all day
Alone again, naturally
Alone again, naturally”

(“Alone Again [Naturally], by Gilbert O’Sullivan. Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

One of our dear ones called today to share a happy message as well as a couple of challenges the week had brought. The opportunity to give a little help came so easily, and on the way to do that, it struck me how fortunate Sweety and I are to witness the joys and sorrows of our loved ones, while knowing others are grieving the loss of that daily, earthly presence.

I wish you a good weekend. A clichéd statement has smothered the past year-and-a-half with the syrupy, “We’re all in this together.” The thing is, it’s true. We are. Naturally.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.

O’Sullivan released the single “Alone Again (Naturally)” in 1972, the year he released the album Back to Front. (The original record doesn’t contain today’s selection, but a later, remastered release of the album does.)

Here’s the audio for the song from Gilbert O’Sullivan’s official YouTube channel:

call the police

One of the most beloved songs on my Car Tunes playlist is the American rock band LCD Soundsystem’s dance-punk anthem, “call the police.”

Whenever this song comes on the car stereo system, I crank the volume and get lost in band member and co-founder of DFA Records James Murphy’s fantastic drum fills, as well as the slide guitar that appears in the intro and returns heartily at 2:52 into the song. (Murphy also sings, and plays guitar, bass guitar, piano, synthesizers on the piece.) The slide guitar reminds me a lot of the guitar effects and treatments on British musician, producer, author, theorist, and visual artist Brian Eno’s early 1970s works, before he dove headlong into the ambient genre he pioneered. And the aggressive bass guitar playing keeps time with the drumming to hold the whole thing together really nicely.

Aside from my thoughts on similarities, Murphy’s vocals have been compared to the music of David Bowie (1947-2016), and the guitar in his “Heroes” (from his 1977 album of the same name, part of the 1977-1979 “Berlin Trilogy,” accompanied by Low and Lodger). The song has also been compared to U2’s music. “call the police” is just so well played, it’s impossible not to want to play air guitar or drums to it with the stereo playing super loud, or even when driving (at stoplights only, of course…).

I think the song is a rather cynical commentary on our times and the extremist, exclusionary and hate-stoking politics that have developed in recent years, moving “like a virus and entering our skin.” Often police are called in to manage violent crowds whipped up by political figures consumed by lust for power at any cost (a cost usually borne by the ill-informed and socioeconomically disadvantaged whom these so-called leaders pander to and seek idolization from).

“We all, we all, we all, we all know this is nothing
We all, we all, we all, we all know this is nothing
We all, we all, we all, we all know this is nothing
This is nowhere
We all, we all, we all, we all know this is nowhere
There is no one
Here

It moves like a virus and enters our skin
The first sign divides us, the second is moving to Berlin
But that’s not the state I’m in
The air is thin but that’s not the state

The old guys are frightened and frightening to behold
Their heads come out fighting and still doing what they’re told
But you’re waking a monster that will drive you from your orioles of gold
And your body will get cold

And we don’t waste time with love
It’s just death from above

Your head is on fire, your hands are getting weak
We all, we all get stupid in the heat
You’ve basted your brains with the shatter and defeat up on the street
And this is nowhere

The early years were boring
The quiet, unhappy punk
See mother was a cripple and my father was a drunk but gentle man
So we do the best we can

This is the plan
Wear your makeup like a man

’Cause we don’t waste time with love
Yeah, we don’t waste time with love
It’s just a push and a shove

Well, there’s a full-blown rebellion but you’re easy to confuse
By triggered kids and fakers and some questionable views
Oh, call the cops, call the preachers!
Before they let us and they lose

When oh, we all start arguing the history of the Jews
You got nothing left to lose
Gives me the blues

And we don’t waste time with love
And we don’t waste time with love

So call the police
Yeah, call the police
Yeah, call the police
Yeah, call the police
Yeah, call the police
Yeah, call the police
Just chase the cops
Yeah, call the police
You’re crazy, man
Yeah, call ’em up
Just call the police
The first in line
They’re gonna eat the rich”

(“call the police,” by Al Doyle, James Murphy.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

“call the police” was released as a single and as part of LCD Soundsystem’s fourth studio album, american dream, in 2017.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the band’s official YouTube channel:

Peer Gynt, Suite No.2, Op. 55, IV: Solveig’s song

Today was a gloriously beautiful, sunny day, quite warm from early in the morning and reaching 28°C (82°F) this afternoon. More than halfway through September, it might be the last such day we have. I always hope for a few more days (do I hear weeks?) like it at this time of the year, as there’s always something to do, whether it is work or play.

And after a full day outdoors, painting the posts and railings on the back steps of our home, I enjoyed listening to the peaceful, serene sounds of “Solveig’s Song.” The piece is the fourth movement of the very well-known Peer Gynt Suite No. 2, Opus 55, by Norwegian pianist and composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907). 

Grieg wrote the suite in 1875 at the request of (also Norwegian) playwright and director Henrik Ibsen as incidental music for his 1867 play of the same title.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio of a recording by the San Francisco Symphony under the direction of Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt, from an album of pieces by Grieg and Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). This version of “Solveig’s Song” also appears on a CD compilation of music for meditation that I picked up years ago.  

New Safe

In August, one of my friends from Colorado sent me a link to “New Safe,” a song by British singer-songwriter David John Morris. After a few weeks of not listening to much music at all (What?! I know, right?!) I finally sat down and played the song. I also sampled the rest of the album from Monastic Love Songs, released in May of this year.

“New Safe” opens the album, and I find it quite different from the vibe in the rest of the collection. A strumming acoustic guitar carries the opening melody. It is subtly joined by other instruments that blend in and diverge, then combine with the guitar again, creating a mystical, ethereal sound that is genuinely captivating, inviting one to step right into the music. 

Morris’s Bandcamp site lists his location in London, and the notes in the YouTube post of the official lyric video identify him as from Cornwall, England. Other information about him is sparse. In addition to Morriss’s solo work, he writes and plays with two groups, Red River Dialect and Melos Kalpa. I couldn’t locate much on them either but am intrigued, so will probably look them up and listen.

Serendipitously, the day after I listened to the song, it visited again, as part of an archived episode of none other than Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, that old go-to of mine! It was a Song for Guy Recommendation sent in by a listener, and Garvey featured it during the July 25 episode. 

I think I was so mystified by the music that I wasn’t really paying much attention to the words at first, and, granted, they are a bit tough to make out with Morris’s softly lush singing style and deep accent. So it was helpful to have lyrics to follow while listening this evening. 

The piece seems to be about a man waking up to the pain held in his body, recognizing the only way to release it is through connection to water and earth, through his own body and soul. At the end, he has let go of the tension in his body and describes the feeling of that as being like the boundless, bright clarity of the ocean. 

The notes in the official video tell that Morris wrote it near the end of a nine-month retreat in a Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia, Canada. I think it’s a wonderful poem on transformation, written, played and produced beautifully.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official lyric video for the song from Hinterground Records’ official YouTube channel. You’ll find lyrics right in the video, as well as down below it in the notes section when viewed on YouTube: 

Duel

In many of my previous posts, I’ve shared how I often discover new music through programs like Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on BBC 6 Music, or The Morning Show with John Richards on KEXP Seattle. Back in the 1980s my main sources were FM radio programs on the Canadian Broadcasting Network: Night Lines (Fridays and Saturday, running from 1984 to 1997) and Brave New Waves (the rest of the week; 1984-2007). Those programs fed me a lot of innovative and captivating music like Jeff Buckley’s (1966-1997) “Song to the Siren,” covered in 1984 by the project collective This Mortal Coil.

Over the years CBC rebranded its stations: AM was known as Radio One, FM became Radio 2 (now CBC Music) and in 2005 the network began developing a separate, online presence in Radio 3, building upon a program element of Radio 2 launched in 2000 to target younger listeners. I used to listen to online Radio 3 (which is also available on SiriusXM satellite radio) but it became fairly tedious after 2015 when all its live hosts were dropped in favour of automated, repetitive playlists devoid of personality or engagement.

In 1985, the Dusseldorf, Germany based synthpop band Propaganda released its debut record, A Secret Wish. While it had been played on CBC late-night FM, I don’t know that the album was issued in North America. I purchased it as an import at Impulse Records in Winnipeg, Canada for 17.99 CAD, pretty pricey for a vinyl record at that time, but imports always cost considerably more and were often quite rare. In an age without online ordering, it now seems like it was quite a find at the time.

Propaganda’s A Secret Wish album.

There was something I loved about the band from the first time I heard them; for sure the dreamy synth-pop and dance club beats, strong musicianship, and solid production (by Stephen Lipson, who has produced for many artists including Annie Lennox, Simple Minds and Rod Stewart to name just a few).

Today’s selection was originally presented on the record as part of a single song, “Jewel/Duel,” but is actually two fully separated songs. “Jewel” is an upbeat, slightly rambling and cacophonous prelude to “Duel,” using audio samples and keyboard themes from the latter song as a kind of build-up to what is the last track on side one (referred to as Within on the record, and side two is Without). 

“Duel” is no less upbeat sounding; in fact, the music has a positive tone to it, despite the lyrics having some uncertain meaning. Some have said the song is about love, heartbreak and pain, and there’s allusion to that in the official video with its mix of  1980s slightly campy, film noir-ish and art-/glam-rock vibes. As the song tells, the first instance of heartbreak may not affect one deeply, while the second “makes you wonder” and the third “will have you on your knees” as we realize none of us is above suffering. 

At the same time, I feel there is an accompanying sense of strength and perseverance in band member Ralf Dörper’s lyrics, sung by lead vocalist Claudia Brücken, who alternates that role on different pieces with the group’s other singer, Susanne Freytag (who sings with a heavier German accent). That idea of persistence resonates with me, because the mid-80s was a time when I’d recovered from some failed relationships, made new friendships (“friends 2.0,” some of which eventually morphed and all ended, over time) but all the while I was building a stronger sense of myself as I moved toward the next phases of my life, with marriage and, later, parenthood, and many fulfilling relationships since then.

“Eye  to eye stand winners and losers
Hurt by envy, cut by greed
Face to face with their own disillusions
The scars of old romances still on their cheeks
And when blow by blow
The passion dies sweet little death
Just have been lies
Some memories of gone by times would still recall the lies

The first cut won’t hurt at all
The second only makes you wonder
The third will have you on your knees
You start bleeding I start screaming

It’s too late the decision is made by fate
Time to prove what forever should last
Whose feelings are so true as to stand the test?
Whose demands are so strong as to parry all attempts?
And when blow by blow
The passion dies sweet little death
Just have been lies
Some memories of gone by times will still recall the lies

The first cut won’t hurt at all
The second only makes you wonder
The third will have you on your knees
You start bleeding I start screaming

The first cut won’t hurt at all
The second only makes you wonder
The third will have you on your knees
You start bleeding I start screaming

The first cut won’t hurt at all
The second only makes you wonder
The third will have you on your knees
You start bleeding I start screaming”

(“Duel,” by Claudia Brücken, Michael Mertens, Ralf Dörper.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

I heard “Duel” the other day as British DJ Anne Frankenstein who, with American singer-songwriter, producer and arranger Matthew E White, spun it on September 13 while sitting in for BBC 6 Music host Chris Hawkins (the early morning show), and I was again reminded how much I like the song.

A Secret Wish also has influences from American writer, editor and critic Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), as the first track, “A Dream Within a Dream,” quotes his poem of the same name, “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream…” The album is a creative collection of music that I have enjoyed holding in my collection all these years.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for“Duel,” featuring the band’s four members, Brücken, Mertens, Dörper and Freytag in some of the roles from the short film, posted on the ZTT Records YouTube channel:

And a live performance (date unknown), featuring bassist Derek Forbes who at the time had just left Simple Minds:

And finally, the studio version from Propaganda’s YouTube channel:

Spiegel im Spiegel

This summer, while I wasn’t blogging, I acted on the advice one of my brothers gave when I told him about my planned break. He suggested I take notes of things and music that resonated with me. He and I share a love for the idea of those happenings in life considered “chance,” which we refer to as serendipity, so I really took his words to heart.

As it turns out, I heard a couple of remarkable classical pieces that I thought might fit on a Classical Sunday edition of the blog. Due to some goofy error by me, though, I dragged those extracts out of my working notes and lost them. As a former colleague would say, “It’s in ‘computer heaven.’

Anyway, one piece I heard and saved did remain in my notes and, as it turns out, felt perfect for sharing with you today. The universe has a way of providing, I’m told…

The Estonian composer Arvo Pärt wrote “Speigel im Speigel” in 1978, just before leaving his country due to Russian oppression. (He was able to return home after living in Germany for 20 years.) In my post from November 28, 2020, on Counting Crows’ “Rain King,” I talk about the only person I’ve ever met from Estonia, a brilliant, gifted, compassionate university professor who seemed to exhibit wounds from having had to escape her homeland, which had essentially been invaded and settled by Communist Russians (in a way I imagine is similar to the experience of Indigenous people on what’s now known as North America: cruelly displaced, mistreated and disregarded). And, like with my country’s record of human rights violations, no one seemed to make a big deal of what was happening in Estonia starting in the late 1970s. I still remember that teacher, now deceased, and how her stories came across as deeply soul-crushing.

So today, perhaps serendipitously, I found the link to this selection and, already in a contemplative space, having a lazy morning and nestled with some reading, I really absorbed the music. I later went for a walk in nature; there’s a City-maintained park about ten minutes’ walk from our home, and it’s a favourite place of Sweety’s and mine to go through on walks. But this weekend, she was away, so it was me missing her a lot while at the same time knowing that I have never had to comprehend what it’s like to be oppressed, or living in hostile, occupied territory, or being a refugee, or chronically poor, or any number of staggering conditions faced by billions on the planet, as we all sit here freely checking out the Internet from the comfort of where we are.

“Spiegel im Spiegel” is a piece that has been used in several films or film trailers I know, including the intriguing Heaven (2002) by Tom Twyker, featuring Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi; Richard Curtis’s charming film About Time (2013, with a favourite actor, Bill Nighy, coaching his son on how to cope with a life of time travel), and the — in my opinion — horrid Gravity, by Alfonso Cuarón (music in the trailer, 2013; a science fiction movie of such promise, with a massive budget and fascinating premise and only two characters, but both of whom were so utterly, badly miscast, destroying the film as severely as space junk caused their spacecraft to be smashed to bits), among other movies.

Another film that uses the music is Wit (2001), a TV film adaptation of a heart-rending work by the American playwright Magaret Edson. British actor Emma Thompson plays the central character, a university professor diagnosed with metastatic, stage four ovarian cancer. (The immensely talented Canadian stage actor Seana McKenna performed in this role in Winnipeg about 20 years ago, and Sweety and I were fortunate to witness it. I’m almost sure it was at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s Warehouse Theatre, their venue for slightly edgier works. If not there, maybe Prairie Theatre Exchange, but I really think it was RMTC… I just couldn’t find any online archives to confirm that. Wherever it occurred, McKenna’s treatment of the role was memorable in an almost life-altering way: I clearly remember us walking away from the theatre that night in completely shattered, teary silence.)

Producers have used the music to bring the listener into a quiet, contemplative space, inviting in compassion and a calling to identify with the characters.

A Wikipedia article explains that the composition is made up of piano triads combined with the violin’s slowly rising and falling scales, like questions and answers, or walking to or away from a mirror, thus the title, “Spiegel im Spiegel” or “mirror in mirror” as if looking into the infinite reflections creating by opposing mirrors.

One day this summer, I heard the piece and couldn’t place where I’d heard it, so I set aside a link for later review. Since then, I found a recording with two English classical musicians, violinist Tasmin Little and pianist Martin Roscoe and after hearing them, recalled these memories as I started writing earlier today, before my sweety returned safely home.

This weekend, contemplating how blessed I am in an absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder kind of way, the music was both a salve and a reminder of just how incredibly fortunate I am to be living a life without tyranny, with good health, a roof over my head, food, and loving companionship.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the audio from the Tasmin Little YouTube topic channel:

Just the Way You Are

A few days ago, I was in the car driving to do a collection of errands including the joyous experience of picking up an ice-cream birthday cake for one of our lads (his favourite dessert, at least at some time, and now a tradition), to share at our first family gathering in a year.

I was listening to The Bridge on SiriusXM radio, a channel that features soft-rock, with a lot of it coming from the 1970s. One of the songs that played was “Just the Way You Are,” one of several major hits from American singer-songwriter, composer and producer Billy Joel’s fifth record, The Stranger (1977), an album that launched him into commercial and critical success.

I’ve never really followed Joel’s career though I do like some of his songs, particularly today’s selection. I remember it being played as a late-in-the-evening waltz at most if not all social evenings I attended back in the 1970s and 80s (please check out my post on “Sunshine on Leith” for my take on the Manitoba phenomenon, the “social” or “social evening”). It’s also a standard at weddings due to its romantic theme and lyrics about accepting and cherishing each other, as we are. (Well, mostly… there’s a line or two that are not quite on-point, in that regard.)

Hearing “Just the Way You Are” the other day, I was drawn in by the production of it. Even in the 1970s, without the benefits of today’s computerized technologies, producers were using innovative techniques to create unique sounds like the multi-tracked vocal loop that appears throughout the song. It’s been recognized as similar to the effect in the British group 10cc’s, “I’m Not in Love” (in which, as stated in a Wikipedia article, co-producer and band member Eric Stewart “… spent three weeks recording [band members] Gouldman, Godley and Creme singing ‘ahhh’ 16 times for each note of the chromatic scale, building up a ‘choir’ of 48 voices for each note of the scale.”). Please, while you’re here anyway, why not check out my post on that song. The production room magic by Joel and co. adds a wonderful, dreamy layer to “Just the Way You Are.”

Here’s to accepting everyone — including ourselves. And having folks around us to support, honour, celebrate and cherish us all in that; and yeah, just the way we are.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official audio from Billy Joel’s YouTube channel

Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Fireworks

I don’t know a lot of the music of the Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit, though I have posted two of their songs already: “Cedar Lane,” back in the first week of this blog, then“Emmylou” (a tribute to the country singer Emmylou Harris) this past March. I think on the next Bandcamp Friday (the first Friday each month since March 2020 when the platform waives its revenue share as a response to the pandemic’s effects on recording artists), I will stock up on the band’s music.

For quite some time, I have wanted to post “Fireworks,” and today, I found a fantastic video version. In it, the band members are all dressed in 1970s garb (though some look a little 60’s). The group is expanded from the usual four (or sometimes five when using a pedal steel guitar) piece ensemble with another guitarist and a second percussionist. I like to post performance videos whenever I find official versions, as my sweety enjoys watching musicians singing and playing. This video is charming, entertaining and moving all at the same time.

The notion of fireworks also brings to mind memories of this past summer and Canada Day, the anniversary of my country’s 1867 confederation, traditionally a time celebrated with grand fireworks displays. This year, the occasion was surrounded by controversy due to publicity around burial sites attached to what were known as Indian Residential Schools, where Indigenous children suffered neglect and abuse after being forcibly taken from their family homes. While the institutions’ true history has been known (and denied) for many years, the physical evidence emerging now has made the longstanding claims of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people incontrovertible, and caused my country to face the shadow side of its history. Many people decided not to romanticize the holiday this year, instead standing in solidarity with North America’s first inhabitants and descendants.

As for the intended meaning of the song, I haven’t been able to independently confirm the information one commenter put on the YouTube video page who claims to quote from a press release saying, “Fireworks is about the goals and demands you put on yourself in life and how they can break you down to emptiness and loneliness.” 

Another aspect of the song that struck me this summer was the belief about fireworks being harmful to animal life, causing trauma and fear. As we grow and develop as a species, humans must recognize our impact on the world. Simply dismissing beliefs as cancel culture doesn’t acknowledge that our activities do, in fact, place stress on the planet and the living beings on it.

The powerful drum beats by the primary drummer evoke the heavy bursts of exploding fireworks, as well as emphasizing the deep emotion of the song, while the second drummer’s snare drum mimics the shimmering light display as the embers fall from the sky. The song is brilliantly played.

All those related, personal observations aside, “Fireworks” is an excellent example of the superb songwriting and musicianship of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg. Originally from their fourth album, Ruins (2018), today’s version comes from the EP Live from the Rebel Hearts Club (also 2018). Those will be on my Bandcamp Friday list for October 1, along with checking out Who by Fire (2021), a live tribute to the Canadian poet, novelist, singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen (1934-2016).

“I could have sworn, I saw fireworks
From your house, last night
As the lights flickered and they failed
I had it all figured out

Why do I do this to myself
Every time I know the way it ends
Before it’s even begun
I am the only one at the finish line

I took a trip out to the frozen lake
And you felt so far away
But I could feel it washing over me
There’s no escaping, the harsh light of day

Why do I do this to myself
Every time I know the way it ends
Before it’s even begun
I am the only one at the finish line

Stood out on that beach in Chicago
Woke up next to you on Silverlake Avenue
Wherever I went, I always knew, always knew
Until I didn’t know

Why do I do this to myself
Every time I know the way it ends
Before it’s even begun
I am the only one at the finish line

I could’ve sworn, I saw fireworks
From your house, last night”

(“Fireworks,” by Klara Söderberg, Johanna Söderberg.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com)

“Fireworks” is a poignant work, and as with all life on earth, a reminder of our need for companionship and the caring protection of community.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from First Aid Kit’s YouTube channel

Gloria, RV 589, I: Gloria in excelsis Deo

Welcome to my first Classical Sunday post since resuming this blog after my summer break.

Recently, my sweety and I discovered the TV mockumentary sitcom Modern Family on Netflix. The American series originally ran from 2009 to 2020, but somehow we managed to completely miss it until this summer when a friend recommended the show. Soon we were hooked and have blasted through almost five seasons already. For me, the best part of the program is listening to my dear couch-mate’s laughter throughout the episodes. I also love the interview segments; they add so much to the flow, style and charm of the series.

One evening as I opened Netflix eager to see more antics of the Pritchett/Dunphy/Tucker-Pritchett families, I scrolled through recommendations, including The Chair, a drama series about the first woman of colour to chair the English department of a major university. Canadian-American actor Sandra Oh is the lead actor in the series created by American actor, writer and producer Amanda Peet. We’ve heard a lot of good things about the show and will no doubt watch it. Have you seen it? Did you like it?

When stopping briefly on the icon for the program, its preview activated with a lively piece of classical music that I recalled as a longtime favourite among popular classical pieces, though it took me a while to identify it (and Shazam couldn’t help). At first I thought it might be from the Christmas Oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) or perhaps something by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), then finally found it: “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” the first of 12 movements in the Gloria, RV 589 by Italian Baroque violinist, composer, teacher and Roman Catholic priest, Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741).

It’s believed that Vivaldi wrote three settings of the hymn “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” catalogued as RV 588, 589 and 590, though the last one is presumed to be lost. He wrote RV 589 sometime around 1715, and it is very well-known among his sacred works.

The Netflix preview version is considerably slower than the version I found on YouTube, sung by Les Muses Chorale, a women’s choral ensemble from McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The video performance, directed by Gohar Manvelyan, was captured in 2019 at Christ Church Cathedral in Montréal. (Unfortunately, the chamber orchestra is not credited in the video.) When accompanying me in Montréal for a conference in 2015, Sweety and I toured this church in the heart of downtown, not far from the hotel where the gathering was held. We stayed on a few days after the conference, touring many sights, including the visually stunning Parc Olympique de Montréal, the site of the 1976 Olympics.

The opening movement of the Gloria, “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” is a vibrant and jubilant piece. To me, it is a joyous celebration of the living universe and all beings in it.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here is the video of the 2019 performance by Les Muses Chorale, from their official YouTube channel: 

And, here’s the audio for a slightly slower version, comparable in tempo to the Netflix preview. It’s by the Choir of St. John’s College Cambridge and the Wren Orchestra under the direction of Welsh organist and conductor George Guest (1924-2002), with soloists Lynda Russell (soprano I), Patrizia Kwella (soprano II), Anne Wilkens (mezzo-soprano) and Kenneth Bowen (1932-2018, tenor):

The Blizzard (The Colorado Song)

Yesterday, when I shared my return-from-holidays blog post of a song by Nanci Griffith (1953-2021) on my Facebook wall, I made a comment that more summer stories would follow.

Well, Judy Collins’ “The Blizzard,” her tribute ballad to the beautiful state of Colorado, USA isn’t a summer song by any stretch, but it does evoke summer memories…

“The Blizzard” is also one of Sweety’s and my favourite songs. So, of course, it is on the CD compilation we handed out to guests at our wedding reception. (Check out my posts on “Lovers in Japan,” “Late Night Grande Hotel”(also by Griffith), “Goodnight,” “When You’re Gone,” and “Stay By Me” for some other selections from that disc.)

This summer, the song popped up on random play a few times during our weekly trips to Patricia Beach Provincial Park, where we’d arrive mid-to-late-afternoon to sit in the sun and read, and play in the water, later dining on a cheese, bread, veggie and fruit picnic. We’d reluctantly leave that blissful place just as the sun began to set, sometimes stopping for ice cream on the way home.

I also recall a moment of serendipity related to the song: On summer holidays in 2016 with one of my British cousins and her husband, we were on the highway somewhere in Alberta, bound for the Rockies when I saw a Colorado licence plate on a passing car just as Collins sang, right on cue, “Colorado, Colorado…” (That trip was by design and on demand almost identical to one we took with the cousin’s sister, husband and daughter in 2009 when they travelled to Canada for our wedding.)

“The Blizzard” also brings to mind some dear friends, one I’ve known for many years and others I’ve met online during the pandemic, who all live in Colorado. In her story, Collins sings of a few places in the Centennial State: Estes Park, Berthoud, Denver, and the Peak to Peak Highway. I’ve always loved the song but now it has an added layer, recalling those folks and the places that I travelled to with three buddies to visit our friend there in 2012, and thinking of the many more places I hope to see there with my sweety, sometime soon. 

“The Blizzard” comes from Collins’ 1990 album Fires of Eden, and is also included on several compilation albums, two Christmas/winter albums (one of these in 2019, with Jonas Fjeld and Chatham County Line, which is also her most recent album), and a motion picture soundtrack. 

The Fires of Eden version is seven minutes and thirty-one seconds long, while all the other versions are almost a minute shorter. I much prefer the original version; right from the first few notes, the introduction is more smooth and welcoming, and the added length brings a magnificent spaciousness that I find quite remarkable, as Collins tells the story of a woman driving in the Southern Rocky Mountains when a blizzard is developing, and how she meets and spends an evening (and the night, it seems) with the mysterious but kind and vulnerable “dark-headed stranger.”

Judy Collins released her first album in 1961 (A Maid of Constant Sorrow), and has a new album in the works, for release this year. What an amazingly long career! It is such a gift that we still have this singer-songwriter sharing her craft with the world.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here is a video of Collins performing the song in concert in 1989, from her official YouTube channel

And, here’s the studio recording:

Official lyrics are available at judycollins.com.

So Long Ago

Well, hello there, how have you been doing?!

I’ve really been enjoying summer, and hope you have, too (and I’m not ready for it to be over!). It is so good to be back to sharing music and stories with you after taking an extended summer break from My Song of the Day for Today.

Taking a two-month pause from blogging was a real gift to my soul. I enjoy the practice of sharing my love of music with you, though I also wanted to be deliberate about spending as much time out in nature, cycling, and with loved ones, instead of sitting in front of the computer. Summers here in Manitoba, Canada are short, and the cold winters are long. 

The hiatus also showed me that writing a piece each day can sometimes feel like an obligation, and I want to enjoy the experience of sharing my musical collection and discoveries with you. So from now on, I’ll be posting on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays (“Classical Sundays”). I encourage you to go to my blog feed or index/search pages to check out some of the daily posts I shared beginning in January 2020. I’ve had fun doing these, and have enjoyed looking back on a few myself. There is so much good music in the world, and I want to discover more of it.

But back to the summer for a bit; in August, my sweety and I rented a cottage not far from Lake of the Woods in Ontario. We spent a week there and while the first three days were cool and rainy (including a ferocious storm the first night), we had warm, sunny days for the rest of the week. We relaxed and read on the dock, and I took my road bike out for three tours on the secondary highways, enjoying the extra workout provide by the hilly, undulating terrain. We also canoed almost every evening to see the sun set over the horizon. It was blissful.

Summer vacation, near Lake of the Woods, Ontario, August 2021. Photo by Steve West.

Not all of our family could join us at the lake, and we had to miss a family gathering in the city, but it was a great way to spend seven days and nights after being cooped up or staying near home for the last many months. And, with the rise of the Delta variant of COVID-19, it seems like our hopes for further travel may be on hold again.

Back home, in the week following our vacation, I was sitting with Sweety one evening and browsing some news when I saw an article reporting that one of our favourite musicians, Nanci Griffith, had died on August 13, 2021, and her wish had been that there be no statement or press release until a week after her death. I was shaken by sadness and disbelief at stumbling upon this awful news. 

I vaguely remember in the early years of us listening to Griffith — starting around 1997, and more so after 1998 when we moved together into a condominium complex where we met friends who shared our love for the Seguin, Texas born singer-songwriter — that Griffith had survived cancer in the late 90s, and that her touring schedule had become quite limited, though I did always hold out hope to see her perform live some day. (I wrote more about that in my post on “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness.”

In “So Long Ago,” Griffith tells a story of unrequited love, or more accurately, the cruel, patriarchal banishment of a romantic relationship. In love with a young man, a young woman is sent off by her father to live away, thus cutting off the relationship. A key recollection in the memory is the kiss the boy blows her at the train station the day she departs from Austin, Texas bound for Baton Rouge, Louisiana. When she returns from school, her love has gone off to war. She later marries someone else to comply with family wishes. When she sees him years later across the room in a crowded bar at Christmastime, she recalls their love, but her once impassioned heart has been diminished by life — “I live my life in whispers now and I choose to live alone” — and she leaves, stepping out into the cold wind.

It’s a poignant, tragic story, and I find it evokes even more emotion now with the still new and too-young death of this amazing, talented woman. Sweety and I have loved and will continue to savour the beautiful music she gifted to the world.

Like all of Griffith’s extensive musical catalogue, “So Long Ago” is beautifully written, sung and played, and features those delightful little vocal surprises she used, like the sudden emphasis on words in two lines, “And you were running from me in the rain down on Congress Avenue” and “So I slipped back to the Avenue and flipped my collar to the cold.” And the pedal steel guitar adds such a beautiful layer to the multi-decade story.

“My daddy sent me off to Baton Rouge in nineteen-sixty-nine
He said our love was like a forest fire and he’d end it with the miles
So you rode with us to Temple, Texas where I did catch the train
I remember waving back at you from a silted window pane

And I said, ‘Fare thee well true love of mine’
And I said, ‘Fare thee well, sweet lips of wine’
And you said, ‘Fare thee well my Texas rose’
And then you blew a kiss of innocence as the train began to roll
So long ago

You’d gone off to fight the war when I returned from school
I traded in my innocence when the springtime came to bloom
I married for my family, one night I dreamed of you
And you were running from me in the rain down on Congress Avenue

And I said, ‘Fare thee well true love of mine’
And I said, ‘Fare thee well, sweet lips of wine’
And you said, ‘Fare thee well my Texas rose’
And then you blew a kiss of innocence as the train began to roll
So long ago

I saw you once in a crowded bar it was Christmas time
I was frightened by the thunder of our hearts in sixty-nine
Because I live my life in whispers now and I choose to live alone
So I slipped back to the avenue, flipped my collar to the cold

And I said, ‘Fare thee well true love of mine’
And I said, ‘Fare thee well, sweet lips of wine’
And you said, ‘Fare thee well my Texas rose’
And then you blew a kiss of innocence as the train began to roll
So long ago

Where did we go?
That long ago?
So long ago”

(“So Long Ago,” by Nanci Griffith. Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com, with some corrections by me.)

“So Long Ago” is originally from Griffith’s sixth album Little Love Affairs (1988), which contains several songs later included on the compilation The MCA Years: A Retrospective (1993).

In 2011 Griffith toured briefly with her backing band, The Blue Moon Orchestra (a name likely inspired by her album and song Once in a Very Blue Moon). The following year, the band set up at her home where they recorded her final album, Intersection.

Today’s is the seventh song I’ve posted by Griffith. My previous post on her music featured “Love at the Five and Dime.” (In that June 23, 2021 post, you’ll find links that will take you to the five blog entries before that one.) Since her death, many who love Griffith have landed on a lyric of hers to mark the artist’s passing from this life; quoting her preamble and ending to “Love at the Five and Dime” where she uses a guitar harmonic to represent to sound of the Woolworths store elevator reaching the next floor and sings, “Going up…”

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for coming back and joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Nanci Griffith YouTube topic channel:  

And, I somewhat reluctantly post this unofficial video posting of the song as it is not credited to the artist, but captures a wonderful performance from her Other Voices, Other Rooms VHS videotape. Hopefully Griffith’s estate and management will provide official, credited archives of live performances so unaffiliated individuals do not profit from her magical creations.

I’ll Be Seeing You

The other day, I was looking for a “see you in a while” song and found today’s selection. Serendipitously, the first version I came upon was by Rosemary Clooney, whose singing of “Sway” I shared a little over a week ago

In addition to Clooney’s version, I found renditions of “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Rod Stewart, Anne Murray, Jimmy Durante, Deirdre Harrison, Queen Latifah, Norah Jones, Dean Martin, Anne Shelton, and many others. Today I decided to feature a 1944 recording by American singer Billie Holiday (1915-1959). (An interesting side note from Wikipedia: this version of Holliday’s was used in the last transmission NASA made to the Mars rover Opportunity at the February 2019 completion of its mission.)

Well, I’m not making a final transmission, but I am taking two months off to enjoy summer as the public health situation hopefully continues to stabilize and improve here slowly and everywhere in the developed world. I hope world leaders will pay better attention to developing nations in the coming weeks, months and years as the world will not be safe from COVID-19 until people in all countries have access to vaccines and related healthcare. 

Written by American popular music composer Sammy Fain and American lyricist Irving Kahal, “I’ll Be Seeing You” was published in 1938 and included in the briefly-running Broadway musical Right This Way. The first recording of the piece was in 1940 by Canadian singer Dick Todd (1914-1973), known as the Canadian Crosby due to his similarity in vocal sound to American actor, singer and comedian Bing Crosby (1903-1977). The piece also appears on the soundtrack for the film I’ll Be Seeing You (1944), whose title the song inspired.

Holliday recorded the song for her self-titled 1944 album. It is about nostalgia and became one of the wartime standards treasured by so many during the long, dark times of World War II.

I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar
Places that this heart of mine embraces
All day through. In that small cafe, the park
Across the way, the children’s carousel, the
Chestnut trees, the wishing well

I’ll be seeing you in every lovely summer’s
Day, in everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you

I’ll be seeing you in every lovely summer’s
Day, in everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you

(“I’ll Be Seeing You,” by Sammy Fain, Irving Kahal.
Unofficial lyrics adapted from a post on AZLyrics.com
and transcribed from the song.)

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. This blog is important to me; it’s a place to share some of the music I love and the memories evoked by the soundtrack that has been my life thus far. So, thanks for joining me here.

Have a wonderful summer… and in the next while, please check out some of my 542 previous posts, or send me a note if you’d like me to feature something. I’ll be seeing you back here in September. And please, enjoy!

Here’s the audio for the song from the Billie Holiday Official YouTube channel:  

Golden Feather

The Canadian-born songwriter, musician, producer, film writer, actor and author Robbie Robertson is likely best known as the former songwriter and lead guitarist of The Band. They were vital in developing the Americana musical style. He has written such classics as “Broken Arrow,” “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and others.

The only album of Robertson’s that I own is the CD Robbie Robertson and the Red Road Ensemble’s Music for the Native Americans. It’s a brilliant piece of work and, I think, a beautiful homage to his Indigenous lineage: his mother was of Cayuga and Mohawk background from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Nation. His birth father was Jewish. I highly recommend acquiring it and sitting and listening to the whole work in one sitting.

The album was conceived as the soundtrack for the documentary film The Native Americans. Robertson’s son Sebastian played drums on some of the album, while his daughter Delphine sang backup vocals on one track, “Coyote Dance.”

I chose “Golden Feather” for today for a couple of reasons. First, I am taking a course called Indigenous Canada offered by the University of Alberta online through Coursera.org. I am in week five of twelve. This week’s lesson centres on education, starting with the Indigenous customs of learning through observation, experience, and elder storytelling, leading into what was called the Indian Residential School system.

After finishing three modules this morning, I felt emotionally gutted at the storytelling of what was unquestionably a genocidal partnership of church and state. The schools operated from the 1870s until the last one was closed in 1997. The Government of Canada forcefully took about 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children from their families, from age three to seventeen. One school had a death rate of 75%; overall, a former government official’s findings were that the death rate was about 42%. Inconceivable. But real.

The government ignored these and other findings of Dr. Peter Bryce (1853-1932), a government medical officer, so he published them in a book. Yet nothing happened; the schools continued for many years, run brutally and mercilessly by the Catholic church (whose leader still refuses to apologize officially) under contract with the federal government. Recently, several discoveries of mass graves across Canada have made my country face up to its evil, criminal history of colonization and given credence and validation to those who have spoken for generations about genocide.

The other reason for today’s selection is that July 1st is Canada Day, formerly known for many years as Dominion Day. I find it difficult this year to celebrate my country while its monstrous past is steadily and consistently being revealed. I’m not into “cancel culture,” don’t get me wrong. But those who I’ve seen objecting so strenuously to the pausing of Canada Day festivities are the same people who are silent on our country’s legacy of murder, torture, sexual abuse, and medical experimentation on thousands of dear children of the First Peoples. While it’s true, there is work on reconciliation, it is not enough, especially in the face of the recent uncovering of secret and unceremonial burial grounds.

And when you find a golden feather
It means you’ll never lose your way back home
… ”

(from “Golden Feather,” by Robbie Robertson.
Full, unofficial lyrics are available, courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

“Golden Feather” for me speaks to the indomitable spirit of the people of Turtle Island, what is now called North America. Intergenerational trauma has ruined many lives and completely overturned and tried to “cancel” their culture, heritage, family, and governance structures to benefit those of us who came to this land long after the First Peoples. Yet, these people persist and are finding ways to protect and preserve their languages, customs and culture despite the many disadvantages laid upon them over centuries.

I am grateful to live in a vast, beautiful country where I enjoy many good things. But I know I enjoy those privileges because of a long and shameful legacy of exploitation by the European fur trade, expansion across the continent, and the attempts to erase the rich, magical, wisdom culture that existed here for thousands of years before we arrived.

My country and all living in it must make amends and reconcile with a people who have suffered so much at the hands of greedy and inhumane explorers and settlers and who continue to suffer through systemic racism, disadvantage and indifference by many in positions of power.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the video for the song from Robbie Robertson’s official YouTube channel:

Cups (When I’m Gone) (from the film, Pitch Perfect)

For all the bad press it gets, the Internet can be a magical place. This evening, after four big meetings/gatherings on Zoom through the day, some housework, phone calls, and then dinner in the summer porch made by my sweety, I finally settled down to write today’s post.

I was looking through a few songs by the English progressive rock band Yes then, somehow, landed on the official music video for “Cups (When I’m Gone),” a song performed by American actor and singer Anna Kendrick. I remember her debut film role in the Todd Graff comedy-musical-drama Camp (2003) and later opposite a job-cutting George Clooney in Up in the Air (2009).

Anyway, I gave the video a play with a recollection of having really liked Kendrick’s acting and singing. (And if you haven’t seen Camp yet, you really must. It is terrific; I’ve previously shared a song from its soundtrack.)

The beginning of today’s selection grabbed me immediately with its apparent parody of the intro to the Pink Floyd song “Money” from 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon. From the sound effects leading into sound of the old-fashioned cash register and onward, “Cups (When I’m Gone)” carries that opening “riff” through all the sound effects of a 1950s-style American diner. That opening culminates with Anna Kendrick’s percussion work in the kitchen with the empty plastic cup she’s using to cut dough into biscuit shapes, setting the stage, as it were, for her to sing her story.

It’s a brilliantly conceived and produced video, a delightful and serendipitous discovery on the tail end of a long and busy but fruitful day.

Originally part of the soundtrack for the comedy musical film Pitch Perfect (2012), “Cups (When I’m Gone)” comes from the extended play CD More from Pitch Perfect, and the EP producer and film’s director Jason Moore made the official music video as well. We have never seen the film, but must, soon!

The song is a remix/reworking of “When I’m Gone,” written in 1931 by A.P. Carter, founder of the American folk music ensemble the Carter Family, which made music from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Anna Kendrick’s official VEVO/YouTube channel:

A reminder that June 30 will be my last post on My Song of the Day for Today — A Daily Dose of Music for Your Soul while I dose my soul with cycling and other outdoor fun until resuming the blog in September.

Du bist die Ruh, D. 776; Op. 59, No. 3

Winding my way down an Internet rabbit hole this afternoon, I found a beautiful piece by Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828), “Du bist die Ruh” (“You are repose,” or “You are rest and peace”). Schubert wrote music, for solo voice and piano, to four poems by German poet Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866). Today’s selection is the third of that set.

I found numerous versions of this piece by various artists. The first one I listened to, sung by American soprano Renée Fleming accompanied by German pianist and conductor Christoph Eschenbach, is the one I was most drawn to as Fleming’s exquisite vocal and the delicate playing of Eschenbach so beautifully evoke the sensual love of the poetry.

I also found a translation of the poem, which Rückert had originally left untitled, then later named “Kehr ein bei mir” (“Stay with me”).

You are repose
and gentle peace.
You are longing
and what stills it.

Full of joy and grief
I consecrate to you
my eyes and my heart
as a dwelling place.

Come in to me
and softly close
the gate
behind you.

Drive all other grief
from my breast.
Let my heart
be full of your joy.

The temple of my eyes
is lit
by your radiance alone:
O, fill it wholly!

Translation © Richard Wigmore, author of Schubert: The Complete Song Texts, published by Schirmer Books, provided courtesy of Oxford Lieder (www.oxfordlieder.co.uk)

The performance by Fleming and Eschenbach is genuinely captivating. What a blissful discovery!

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today, on Classical Sunday. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from Renée Fleming’s official YouTube channel:

This will be my last Classical Sunday post until I resume blogging in September after taking a break through July and August.

Shape of My Heart

The British artist Sting (aka Gordon Sumner) released “Shape of My Heart” as the fifth single from his wildly successful fourth solo album, Ten Summoner’s Tales (1993).

Like “Wild Is the Wind,” “Sultans of Swing,” and many other songs, today’s selection sounds perfect for the ending credits of a film. And, in fact, Sting’s song did end up in two films, 1994’s Léon (with Jean Reno, Gary Oldman and the film debut of Natalie Portman) where it plays in the ending credits, and it also plays during 1993’s Three of Hearts (with William Baldwin, Kelly Lynch and Sherilyn Fenn).

In 1993, I turned away from working at the railway just when my career potential was rising dramatically but also threatened by job cuts from rationalization to make the company more profitable. Profits over people. Anyway, I had more important work to do: I stayed home full-time to care for my infant son and, later, sons.

To deal with social isolation at the time, since the Internet was not yet widely available for social connection and interaction for home-bound folks (primitive bulletin board systems were only just emerging here, as far as I knew, anyway), I took up more volunteering and learned to run. From 1992 to 1996, I increased my fitness significantly, and though I let that falter when rejoining the workforce in late 1996, I remained somewhat active. But now, at 61, I am much more active and probably in as good physical condition as I was in my late 30s (though time and gravity have made their imprints, too).

I remember listening to Ten Summoner’s Tales a lot back then. An album about love and morality, it contains a wide variety of sounds and overall, I would say is very ballad-based. In “Shape of My Heart,” Sting is talking about a card player who is so deeply invested in his world that he considers the luck of the game to be a religion. The song has a contemplative quality to it, along with a melancholic undertone that seems to say the card player does not know fulfilling love.

He deals the cards as a meditation
And those he plays never suspect
He doesn’t play for the money he wins
He doesn’t play for respect

He deals the cards to find the answer
The sacred geometry of chance
The hidden law of a probable outcome
The numbers lead a dance

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart

He may play the Jack of diamonds
He may lay the Queen of spades
He may conceal a King in his hand
While the memory of it fades

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart
That’s not the shape, the shape of my heart

And if I told you that I loved you
You’d maybe think there’s something wrong
I’m not a man of too many faces
The mask I wear is one

But those who speak know nothing
And find out to their cost
Like those who curse their luck in too many places
And those who fear are lost

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart
That’s not the shape of my heart
That’s not the shape, the shape of my heart

(“Shape of My Heart,” by Sting, Dominic Miller.
Unofficial Lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

The album was well-recognized by the music industry’s awards programs, including the GRAMMY for Best Long Form Video being awarded in 1994 to the video of a performance of the whole album. And while I mention above that the Internet we know now was still in its infancy, the New York Times reported the August 1994 sale of a copy of the Ten Summoner’s Tales CD to be the first secure transaction made over the Worldwide Web.

We’ve come a long way since then, though as I’ve stated here before, the shadow parts of the Internet have brought much discord, hate and harm to the world. All it takes is choosing to make it a safe place for sharing like early technological developers envisioned, much like any place in the physical world. And love. It takes love.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Sting’s YouTube channel:

Friday on My Mind

Yes! Another Friday!

This weekend, pandemic restrictions will loosen significantly in my province, Manitoba, Canada. While I’m grateful we are closer to having family gatherings (at least outdoors, like the latest one we had in September 2020), I do think some of the measures the government will implement are once again too much, too soon, but I guess we will see…

But, on to the song for today. The Australian band, The Easybeats, released their original composition “Friday on My Mind” as a single in 1966, and it gained praise and worldwide commercial success. It also appears on their 1967 record, Good Friday.

In 1973, David Bowie (1947-2016) recorded “Friday on My Mind” for his all-covers album, Pin Ups. He was accompanied on the album by two of the three musicians from his Spiders from Mars backing band: Mick Ronson (1946-1993) on guitar, piano and backing vocals, and Trevor Bolder (1950-2013) on bass guitar; Aynsley Dunbar had replaced Mick “Woody” Woodmansey on the drum kit.

This is only the second cover by Bowie I am sharing on this blog; the first was “Wild Is the Wind” which, as I mention in that post, I had always assumed was a Bowie composition.

The verses in “Friday on My Mind” depict the grind of the workweek and rise to a celebratory tone of the chorus. It’s an excellent song to usher in the weekend.

I also want to let you know that My Song of the Day for Today — A Daily Dose of Music for Your Soul is taking a vacation! After posting for nearly 540 days in a row, I wouldn’t say it’s a grind, but I do feel it’s time to take a break. So I will not be posting in July and August while I focus on savouring our brief summer: cycling (of course), day trips to the beach, reading or generally hanging out in the summer porch, hopefully visiting in-person with family and friends, and occasionally helping my sweety with her amazing garden. I’ll be taking notes of summer fun and the music associated with it to share with you when the blog resumes in September.

But there is still almost a week left in June, so I’ll be in touch for a few more days before hitting “pause.”

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, have a great weekend, and please enjoy the song.

Here’s the audio for the song from the official David Bowie YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com. Warning: they contain cuss-words!

Hard on Things

Tonight my sweety and I will be watching the last in a series of three spring/summer online concerts by Canadian singer-songwriter and dramaturgist Corin Raymond. The show is being produced through Canada’s Home Routes, a non-profit organization established by founders of the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the West End Cultural Centre. Home Routes also presents the Winnipeg Crankie Festival and acts as an organizing hub for house concerts.

“Hard on Things” is the opening track from Raymond’s 2016 Juno-nominated album, Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams. It’s a terrific album and, like most of his CDs, comes with a book with stories, chords, credits, lyrics and artwork, also known as a “coffee table CD.”

Much of our family’s history with Raymond is told in my previous post on a Corin Raymond song (one he wrote with American singer-songwriter, poet and photographer Jonathan Byrd, another fine fellow and great musician), “The Law and the Lonesome.” I encourage you to visit that post and then head over to the Home Routes website and score some tickets for tonight’s show. It starts at 7:00 pm CDT.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of Raymond along with Treasa Levasseur (backing vocals), M.C. Hansen (lead guitar), Jacob Chano (snare/snare case) and Brian Kobayawaka (upright bass) playing the song in 2016, from his official YouTube channel:

Official lyrics are provided in the notes section beneath the YouTube video pane.

Love at the Five and Dime

Woolworth stores are the same everywhere in the world. They have this wonderful smell to them; they smell like popcorn and chewing gum rubbed around on the bottom of a leather-soled shoe…” — Nanci Griffith

Yesterday I did some grocery shopping, and Sweety came along as she wanted to get a few more annuals to fill some spots in her lovely garden. It’s the first time we’ve gone out shopping together in ages, though we didn’t actually shop together, as you can’t do that in our province right now due to COVID-19 restrictions. (But that will change this weekend, as part of sweeping changes our provincial premier is ramming through as he chomps at the bit to turn on the taps on consumption taxes, otherwise known as “reopening the economy.”) I digress.

While I shopped for food and other provisions, my sweety went to visit the garden centre, outside. Except it had closed. So we went to another; this time, my turn to stay in the car. We ended up getting a few things here and there after stopping at a total of five stores with outdoor garden centres. I sat in the car, listened to music, checked email, read Twitter, drank water… and each time glad my dear one emerged from the store happily bearing some treasure she found in the prematurely picked-over centres.

As we arrived home, “Love at the Five and Dime” was playing on a continued random CarPlay of all my music, as I hadn’t selected a specific playlist. I love this song so much, including the sweet introduction Griffith gives. Each time I hear it, I have tears in my eyes, with gratitude for the lovely music, regret at not having ever seen Griffith when she has performed in concert, and most of all, sharing this beautiful music and life with my sweety.

Today we decided to get out of the city and enjoy the heat and sun at the beach and packed up the car bound for Patricia Beach Provincial Park. As we pulled away, “Love at the Five and Dime” continued. How could I not feature this song today with such serendipity at play?

I’ve previously posted five Nanci Griffith recordings: “Just Another Morning Here,” “From a Distance” (which contains links to my pieces on Griffith songs that predate that post), “Deadwood, South Dakota,” “Late Night Grande Hotel,” and “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” (in that post, I talk about stumbling upon a Woolworths store in London, England, just like Griffith talks about in her introduction to “Love at the Five and Dime”). And you’ll want to listen to the song if even just to hear the whole delightful introduction… the bit at the top of this post is just a teaser.

Rita was sixteen years, hazel eyes and chestnut hair
She made the Woolworth counter shine
And Eddie was a sweet romancer and darn good dancer
And they’d waltz the aisles of the five and dime
And they’d sing

Dance a little closer to me
Dance a little closer now
Dance a little closer tonight
Dance a little closer to me
’Cause it’s closing time and love’s on sale tonight at this five and dime

Eddie played the steel guitar and his momma cried ’cause he played in the bars
And he kept young Rita out late at night
So they married up in Abilene, lost a child in Tennessee
But still that love survived

’Cause they’d sing

Dance a little closer to me
Dance a little closer now
Dance a little closer tonight
Dance a little closer to me
’Cause it’s closing time and love’s on sale tonight at this five and dime

One of the boys in Eddie’s band took a shine to Rita’s hand
So Eddie ran off with the bass-man’s wife
Oh, but he was back by June singin’ a different tune
And sporting Miss Rita back by his side
And He’d sing

Dance a little closer to me
Dance a little closer now
Dance a little closer tonight
Dance a little closer to me
’Cause it’s closing time and love’s on sale tonight at this five and dime

Eddie traveled with the bar-room band till arthritis took his hands
Now he sells insurance on the side
And Rita’s got her house to keep; she writes dime store novels of love so sweet
They dance to the radio late at night
And
still sing

Dance a little closer to me
Dance a little closer now
Dance a little closer tonight
Dance a little closer to me
’Cause it’s closing time and love’s on sale tonight at this five and dime

Rita was sixteen years, hazel eyes and chestnut hair
She made the Woolworth counter shine
And Eddie was a sweet romancer and darn good dancer
And they’d waltz the aisles of the five and dime
And they’d sing

(“Love at the Five and Dime,” by Nanci Griffith.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

“Love at the Five and Dime” comes from Griffith’s 1988 live album, One Fair Summer Evening.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Nanci Griffith YouTube topic channel:

And here’s an unofficial video of Griffith performing the song live in Austin (Texas, I assume but date unknown though likely 1988 or 1989).

Planet Earth

Today’s selection is the first song I ever heard by the English new wave/art-rock/new romantic band Duran Duran. Formed in 1978 in Birmingham, England, the band takes its name from the character Dr. Durand Durand from the 1968 science fiction film Barbarella, which starred American actor, environmentalist and political activist Jane Fonda.

Duran Duran is still active, though it has been through numerous personnel changes, including a reformation of its original lineup from 2001-2005. Most of the original members have stayed on since the regrouping, but not guitarist Andy Taylor.

I was introduced to Duran Duran’s music by those cool kids from St. Vital, Winnipeg who I refer to as “friends 2.0.” We would often hear their songs in nightclubs alongside music by Spandau Ballet and Visage (a project of Midge Ure from Ultravox), groups who were part of what’s been referred to as the second British Invasion (the first was in the 1960s with bands like the Beatles). Duran Duran’s rise to fame was coincidental with the launch of MTV, the first 24-hour cable music channel, which led to an explosion in the production of music videos.

The last attention I really gave to Duran Duran was with their second self-titled album, also known as The Wedding Album (1993). By then, they mainly had shed the art-rock, androgynous look, and their music had morphed more into adult contemporary. Even lead singer Simon Le Bon shed the glam look, sporting a beard in a 2011 video of a concert performance at the MEN Arena in their hometown (with only keyboardist Nick Rhodes still wearing the art-rock look).

“Planet Earth” was the first single from the 1981 album Duran Duran. One of the most commercially successful bands of all time, Duran Duran has sold over 100 million records.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the 2011 concert performance of the song from the official Mercury Studios YouTube channel:

Also, here’s the official video for the 1981 studio version of the song from the official Duran Duran YouTube channel. Official lyrics are included in the notes section below the video pane.

Sway

Earlier today, after morning routines, chores and a bit of reading, I caught up on another instalment of BBC 6 Music’s Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, the May 23, 2021 edition, “Birthday Mentions Galore.”

A song that really drew me in played about halfway through the program was “Sway,” sung by American singer and actor Rosemary Clooney (1928-2002). While credited only to her in many places, the recording actually comes from her collaboration album with Cuban bandleader (Dámaso) Pérez Prado (1916-1989), called A Touch of Tabasco, co-released in 1959. (Interesting tidbit courtesy of Wikipedia: Puerto Rican actor and director José Ferrer [1912-1992], Clooney’s husband, wrote the liner notes for the album.)

Mexican composer and bandleader Pablo Beltrán Ruiz (1915-2008) wrote the song, titled “¿Quién será?” in 1954. American lyricist Norman Gimbel (1927-2018) repaced the original, melancholic words about a lovelorn man with English-language lyrics praising a dance partner’s moves.

The song will be familiar to many of you; it’s appeared in numerous film and TV soundtracks, many of which have featured the 1954 Dean Martin (1917-1995) version. I must say, though, I haven’t heard a recording as powerful as the Clooney/Prado combination.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Rosemary Clooney YouTube topic channel:

Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of Genius.com.

La carnaval des animaux, R. 125, VII: L’aquarium

The French romantic composer, pianist, organist and conductor Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) wrote Le Carnaval des animaux (The Carnival of the Animals) while in a small Austrian village in 1886.

The piece has 14 movements, each representing a different animal or animals. The seventh movement, “L’aquarium,” has a mystical, magical sound about it, and listening to it, I can imagine peering through glass into a giant aquarium and watching the various sea creatures passing by. Another movement from the piece, “Le Cygne” (“The Swan”) is likely more recognizable to many people.

The American poet Ogden Nash wrote a humorous narrative to accompany the music in 1949. The verses were recited on a subsequent recording by American actor, singer, playwright, director and composer Noël Coward.

I’ve had a video performance of the piece bookmarked for a while. Interestingly, it is a transcription for harp, and the uniqueness of the instrument had some appeal. But as I checked out other videos of the piece today, I found a version for two pianos and orchestra that I prefer. I find the broader staging stimulates the imagination more, with the various sounds representing the diversity of inhabitants of the aquarium — kind of like in our world.

French sisters Katia and Marielle Labèque appear in this version; I previously shared a video of them performing a piece by American composer Philip Glass, Les Enfants Terribles.

While I like the music and the imagery in today’s selection, I am a bit conflicted; I am not a fan of aquariums and zoos. I have always felt the unnatural captivity inherent in these institutions troubling.

Nonetheless, an aquarium might be a place for a family or solo visit on Fathers’ Day. And like Mothers’ Day, today can be complicated for some. Whatever your situation as a father, step-father, aspiring father, one who provides a fatherly presence for another, one who has not chosen this path, or grieves the absence of this influence, I hope you are taking time today to be gentle on yourself, and honouring your gifts.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today, on Classical Sunday. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from the official Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel, with British conductor Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker at Waldbühne Concert with the Labèque sisters at an outdoor classical music festival in 2005.

Cold Little Heart

The official music video of a live studio session for British singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold Little Heart” has persistently appeared in my YouTube feed, and today I finally gave in and watched it. Wow. It’s stunning.

The video begins with a compelling introduction that goes on for six-and-a-half minutes after a studio staffer makes and serves hot beverages for three band members, who gratefully acknowledge him. The first few minutes of the piece seem to me at times to be influenced by the British psychedelic band Pink Floyd.

As an aside, I remember about 20 years ago, my sweety and I were helping a friend who was catering a large event held for church leaders and other high-ranking helping professionals. We were acting as servers, carrying trays of appetizers through what turned out to be quite a ravenous crowd. On the drive home that night, I remember Sweety and I were discussing how invisible and small we felt offering this delicious food to people; they took from our smilingly-carried platters, wordlessly, with not even a glance our way. Even people we knew and who knew us. (I think we mused at one point that maybe we should have sat in a corner with a tray to ourselves and tucked into it!)

While I’ve always appreciated those who serve, I made a further commitment that night always to make eye contact with the person helping me and say something kind to them. That’s something I noticed my late dad did, and he inspired me to be more like that. I don’t always do it, but I keep working on it.

Anyway, I digress.

I found the introduction to the song inviting (I think in part thanks to the server) and quite spellbinding. The keyboardist leads the way for quite a while (and it almost seems like the music is coming straight from his fingers), then he mixes with Kiwanuka’s lead guitar and the heavenly sounds of the backup singers as the intro builds, subtly transitioning into the main part of the song, with natural, heavenly light absolutely streaming in at about 6:00 in that in-between time.

I feel Kiwanuka’s song is a commentary on our present-day society in which the allure of and search for individualism has eroded our intentionality about creating and nurturing an inclusive community. Unfortunately, political and other operatives have harnessed this energy, which has led to a rise in hate and neglect for those around us, particularly those who we judge as different from us.

So, maybe I wasn’t digressing after all.

May we all appreciate, honour and truly see the tray-bearer who brings us our coffee and all other things we rely on and savour. Or the people like a young man of highly compromised body, in a wheelchair, panhandling, and with whom I always look forward to interacting on my walks to the stores near home. After stopping to talk with him several times in the past, today I decided I wanted to know his name and him to know mine. His name is Mike.

“Cold Little Heart” is the opening track from Michael Kiwanuka’s 2016 album, Love & Hate. I featured the title track in November 2020 at a time of great upheaval and division that has lingering effects for many friends in America.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here. And thank you to the persistence of the YouTube algorithm. And Michael. And Mike.

Here’s the video for the live studio session version of the song, from Michael Kiwanuka’s official YouTube channel, with official lyrics in the notes section of the video post.

UPDATE: I had a link to my previous post on Kiwanuka’s “Love & Hate” in my working copy and somehow mistakenly used that video instead of the one for “Cold Little Heart”! So my story about coffee service wouldn’t have made sense to you! Sorry, folks!!

Calling All Angels

Last night, my sweety and I watched an online conversation between American singer-songwriter, writer, producer, fisher, carpenter and philanthropist Brandi Carlile and Shelley Youngblut, CEO and Creative Ringleader of Wordfest, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on Wordfest’s Imagine On Air series.

Wordfest held the event to promote Carlile’s just-released memoir, Broken Horses. We truly enjoyed the program; a bit of inspiration and fun amid the usual routines of pandemic-restricted life. As part of the CAD 40.00 ticket price, we received a hardcover copy of the book last week, and Sweety has finished it already (in addition to all she does in our life, she’s a voracious reader).

Last year, I featured a song by Carlile on this blog, “The Joke.” If you don’t know it, head over to that post next. It is a breathtakingly beautiful song.

During the talk, Carlile mentioned Canadian singer-songwriter, producer and poet Jane Siberry, who host Youngblut referred to as “Canada’s Kate Bush.” Such an apt description. I’ve known Siberry’s music only marginally for years, though I have one of her records, The Speckless Sky (1985). She has worked with greats like Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel and is well known as a musical innovator in alternative and experimental music spaces. If find her quite an interesting and admirable artist.

Perhaps Siberry’s best-known song, “Calling All Angels,” sung as a duet featuring Canada’s k.d. lang, appears in the 1991 Wim Wenders film Until the End of the World, as well as the soundtrack for the 1994 documentary TV series, In Search of Angels. Siberry re-recorded the song for the soundtrack of the Mimi Leder film, Pay It Forward (2000). I don’t care as much for the later version. The mix and production are not as bright, and I feel it loses some of the ethereal sounds of the original, which Siberry also released as part of her album When I Was a Boy (1993). Because of the mix on the 2000 version, I can’t really tell if it is still k.d. lang singing the duet part.

After a full day of fun outdoors with family, this song seems like a good one to settle into a lazy Friday evening.

Santa Maria, Santa Teresa, Santa Anna, Santa Susannah
Santa Cecilia, Santa Copelia, Santa Dominica, Mary Angelica
Frater Achad, Frater Pietro, Julianus, Petronella
Santa, Santos, Miroslaw, Vladimir
And all the rest

Oh a man is placed upon the steps, and a baby cries
High above it hear the church bells start to ring
And as the heaviness
Oh the heaviness the body settles in
Somewhere you can hear a mother sing

Then it’s one foot then the other
As you step out on the road, steppin on the road
How much weight? How much?
Then it’s how long? And how far?
And how many times… Oh… Before it’s too late?

Calling all angels
Calling all angels
Walk me through this world
Don’t leave me alone
Calling all angels
Calling all angels
We’re trying we’re hoping
But we’re not sure how long…

Oh and every day you gaze upon the sunset
With such love and intensity
Why it’s… It’s almost as if
If you could only crack the code
Then you’d finally understand what this all means

But if you could… Do you think you would
Trade it all
All the pain and suffering?
Ah, but then you’ve miss
The beauty of the light upon this earth
And the sweetness of the leaving

Calling all angels
Calling all angels
Walk me through this world
Don’t leave me alone
Callin’ all angels
Callin’ all angels
We’re tryin’
We’re hopin’ but we’re not sure how
Calling all angels
Calling all angels
Calling all angels
Calling all angels
Walk me through this world
Walk me through this world
Don’t leave me alone
Calling all angels
Calling all angels
We’re trying’
We’re hoping
We’re hurting
We’re lovin’
We’re cryin’
We’re callin’
’Cause we’re not sure how this goes…

(“Calling All Angels,” by Jane Siberry.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of Genius.com,
with a few corrections by your faithful servant.)

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

The rendition of the song on Siberry’s YouTube channel is the Pay It Forward re-recording. I’m sharing below the version I prefer, the 1993 Siberry/lang duet, which appears as a remastered track from a k.d. lang compilation album, on the official k.d. lang YouTube channel:

Sowing the Seeds of Love

One of the most remarkable bands to emerge in the 1980s has to be Tears for Fears. Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith: an English twosome who, I feel, revolutionized music by merging new romantic/new wave sensibilities with the rawness of arena rock, mixed with socio-political consciousness.

“Sowing the Seeds of Love” perfectly represents all those aspects of the band. And it mixes in a massive influence of the Beatles in an epic song that seems like it lasts much longer than the six minutes and sixteen seconds that The Seeds of Love album version runs, because there are so many changes in the song’s tempo and direction.

High time we made a stand
And shook up the views of the common man
And the love train rides from coast to coast
DJ’s the man we love the most
Could you be, could you be squeaky clean
And smash any hope of democracy?
As the headline says you’re free to choose
There’s egg on your face and mud on your shoes
One of these days they’re gonna call it the blues, yeah, yeah

Sowing the seeds of love, seeds of love
(Anything is possible when you’re sowing the seeds of love)
Sowing the seeds
Sowing the seeds of love
(Anything is possible)
Seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love
Sowing the seeds

I spy tears in their eyes
They look to the skies for some kind of divine intervention
Food goes to waste
So nice to eat, so nice to taste
Politician granny with your high ideals
Have you no idea how the majority feels?
So without love and a promised land
We’re fools to the rules of a government plan
Kick out the style, bring back the jam

Sowing the seeds of love, seeds of love
(Anything)
Sowing the seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love, seeds of love
Sowing the seeds

Sowing the seeds
The birds and the bees
My girlfriend and me
In love

Feel the pain, talk about it
If you’re a worried man, then shout about it
Open hearts, feel about it
Open minds, think about it
Everyone, read about it
Everyone, scream about it
Everyone
Everyone, yeah, yeah
Everyone read about it, read about it
Everyone
Read it in the books, in the crannies and the nooks, there are books to read for us

Sowing the seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love
We’re sowing the seeds
Sowing the seeds
Sowing the seeds of love
We’re sowing the seeds
Sowing the seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love
Mr. England sowing the seeds of love

Time to eat all your words
Swallow your pride
Open your eyes
Time to eat all your words
Swallow your pride
Open your eyes

High time we made a stand
Time to eat all your words
And shook up the views of the common man
Swallow your pride
And the love train rides from coast to coast
Open your eyes
Every minute of every hour
I love a sunflower
Open your eyes
And I believe in love power
Open your eyes
Love power
Love power
Open your eyes

Sowing the seeds of love, seeds of love
Sowing the seeds
Sowing the seeds of love, the seeds of love
Sowing the seeds
Sowing the seeds
Sowing the seeds of love, seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love, sowing the seeds
Sowing the seeds

An end to need
And the politics of greed
With love

Sowing the seeds of love, seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love, seeds of love
(Anything, anything)
Sowing the seeds
Sowing the seeds of love, seeds of love
Sowing the seeds

An end to need
And the politics of greed
With love

Sowing the seeds of love, seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love, seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love, seeds of love
Sowing the seeds of love

(“Sowing the Seeds of Love,” by Roland Orzabal, Curt Smith.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

I remember when the album came out in 1989. It was a few years past my “friends 2.0” period as that group had pretty much dispersed. I’d married, and we were starting to call in the idea of children (who wouldn’t begin to arrive for another three years). I was firmly into my railway career, though the economic inflation of the 1980s had taken a toll and resulted in significant cutbacks and job losses, reducing chances for job advancement. By the way, my partner liked the song so much she took the record to work to play this song for her students as an example of the baritone saxophone being a cool instrument to study and play.

I was drawn back into Tears for Fears and its new music, having been spellbound by their earlier releases (as I mention in my post on “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”). Today I listened to Songs from the Big Chair (1985). As always, I was mesmerized by the transitions between each of the tracks on the B-side. That’s a recording and production style I don’t know that I’ve ever seen happen since that album.

Back to The Seeds of Love, the cover art is remarkable; it also harkens back to some of the Beatles’ more extravagantly elaborate record covers. It also perhaps reveals part of the reason the album cost about one million GBP to produce (compared to about GBP 70,000 for Songs from the Big Chair).

In “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” the lyric “Politician granny with your high ideals / Have you no idea how the majority feels?” was Orzabal introducing his interest in socialism after the re-election of Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) as the British prime minister. I remember news out of England at the time; similar to the regime in Manitoba these days, politicians on-the-right are, in my view, all about cutting taxes to benefit the wealthy, with most of the resulting cuts disproportionately affecting those with the least means and voices.

Though the song carries a jadedness about politics, it calls for people to replace greed with love and see love as the world’s real power. It’s a beautiful and admirable ideal, though 32 years after its release, it’s still essentially a dream. We need to sow more seeds.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Tears for Fears official YouTube channel:

Happiness

Guy Garvey, the lead singer of the English band Elbow, is a big admirer of the Scottish group, The Blue Nile. I’ve only come to know the latter’s music through Garvey’s Sunday program on BBC 6 Music, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour (in the afternoon in England; morning over here).

I previously posted another song by The Blue Nile, “Downtown Lights.” Please check out that post for a tidbit or two on the band.

Today, “Happiness” came up in my YouTube feed, and it seemed like a fitting song to celebrate both my sweety and me receiving our second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

I think the song says, through the singer’s doubt, how fragile happiness can be. I believe this is true of all good things in life, if they aren’t well-rooted and cared for.

Now that I found peace at last
Tell me, Jesus, will it last?
Now that I found peace at last
Tell me, Jesus, will it last?

The birds are laughing in the trees
It’s only make-believe
It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love
I swear

I wanna hold you, and treat you right
The cigarettes, and the morning light
I can do wrong, but I will do right
I see you later
It’ll be alright, yeah

Now that I found peace of mind
Tell me, Jesus, is it mine?
Now that I found peace of mind
Tell me, Jesus, is it mine?

Birds are laughing in the trees
And in the empty breeze
It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love
I swear

I wanna hold you, and treat you right
The cigarettes, morning light
I can do wrong, I can do right
I see you later
Be alright, yeah

Happiness, happiness
Happiness, happiness
I wanted more, but live with less
Live again
Happiness

Now that I found peace at last
Tell me, Jesus, will it last?
Now that I found peace at last
Tell me, Jesus, will it last?
Happiness

(“Happiness,” by Paul Buchanan. Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

Yesterday, I felt quite emotional when the vaccinator said, “Congratulations!” after the painless poke. Today, I feel blessed by science and healing, family, dear friends, and all the good things in my life. It’s yesterday’s optimism repeated, and multiplied. Happy. Hopeful for hugs in the not-too-distant future.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from The Blue Nile Official YouTube channel:

A New Life

Today feels like a good day for a hopeful song.

I received my second COVID-19 vaccination this afternoon. I know it won’t get to its maximum protection for two weeks, and we must all still exercise a lot of caution while the vaccination rate (hopefully) rises, especially in hotspot Manitoba. But it does finally feel like life will begin anew after over fifteen months of restricted life. I was filled with emotion just after the nurse gave me the needle and said congratulations.

And by the way, technically, it’s still spring, a season of renewal, new beginnings, new life. Hope.

So, looking for a song, I stumbled upon “A New Life” by Jim James (also known as Yim James). I have no recollection of buying this song, though my Apple Music library’s metadata tells me I did indeed snag it in the iTunes Store, in April 2013.

I didn’t know anything about James, but after reading up on him, I see that the American guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer is a member of the Louisville, Kentucky, USA band, The Morning Jacket. I don’t know them, either. I also read that, in the 2007 Todd Haynes biographical film of Bob Dylan, I’m Not There, James plays the bandleader (for the Tucson, Arizona, USA group, Calexico) singing “Going to Acapulco.”

But, back to “A New Life”…

Hey, open the door
I want a new life
Hey, and here’s what’s more
I want a new life, a new life

Babe, let’s get one thing clear
There’s much more stardust when you’re near
I think I’m really being sincere
I want a new life, a new life
With you

Hey, open the door
I want a new life
Hey, and here’s what’s more
I want a new life, a new life

Babe, let’s get one thing clear
There’s much more stardust when you’re near
I think I’m really being sincere
I want a new life, a new life
With you

Can’t you see a perfect picture
You and me
But you know, it won’t come easy
And what’s more
It’s worth looking for

Babe, open the door
And start your new life
Oh, your new life
Babe, on to the shore
And start your new life
Your new life, once more

(“A New Life,” by Jim James. Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

Today’s selection comes from Regions of Light and Sound of God, James’s first solo album, released in February 2013.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of James’s performance of the song for the Public Broadcasting Service TV program Austin City Limits, from 2013:

Love Vigilantes

I find it intriguing to get a glimpse at what a songwriter has in mind when crafting a piece of music, especially when it’s a song I feel I know well.

In the case of the English band New Order’s “Love Vigilantes,” I had a rather rude awakening today when I did a little Internet research on the song to see if I’d discover anything new. A Wikipedia article quotes the band’s vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, Bernard Sumner, from a 2012 interview with the British edition of GQ Magazine. Sumner tells of wanting to compose a “tongue-in-cheek” song about the Vietnam War. He explains that one can interpret the ending as either the soldier returning home to learn that a telegram advising of his death was incorrect, or it was true and it’s his ghost returning home. Sumner states that, either way, the man’s wife has died by suicide after receiving the telegram. Ohhhh.

I had always thought, perhaps in a Pollyanna kind of way, that the soldier arrives home to find his dear one in tears at the telegram, and his safe arrival makes everything good again, moments later.

Sumner’s subtle poke at war can unleash a sense of the utter tragedy of conflict and the many levels of loss it brings to the world.

Oh I’ve just come
From the land of the sun
From a war that must be won
In the name of truth
With our soldiers so brave
your freedom we will save
With our rifles and grenades
And some help from God
I want to see my family
My wife and child waiting for me
I’ve got to go home
I’ve been so alone, you see

You just can’t believe
The joy I did receive
When I finally got my leave
And I was going home
Oh I flew through the sky
my convictions could not lie
For my country I would die
And I will see it soon
I want to see my family
My wife and child waiting for me
I’ve got to go home
I’ve been so alone, you see

When I walked through the door
My wife she lay upon the floor
And with tears her eyes were sore
I did not know why
Then I looked into her hand
And I saw the telegram
That said that I was a brave, brave man
But that I was dead
I want to see my family
My wife and child waiting for me
I’ve got to go home
I’ve been so alone, you see

(“Love Vigilantes,” by Stephen Morris, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, Gillian Gilbert. Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

“Love Vigilantes” is the opening track on the 1985 album Low-Life.

I’ve previously posted two other songs by New Order: “Your Silent Face” and “Crystal.” (In the latter post — a “cracking” song by the way — I included a photo of the back cover of Low-Life; the thumbnail image in the YouTube video for today’s selection is the front cover.)

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from New Order’s official YouTube channel:

Passacaglia

Today’s selection is the final piece of the Rosary Sonatas, also known as the Mystery Sonatas or Copper-Engraving Sonatas, a set of 15 short sonatas for violin and continuo that ends with a passacaglia for solo violin.

Bohemian-Austrian violinist and composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704), known for his technically complex works, wrote the series sometime around 1676. But the collection’s existence had not been known until it was published in 1905; it then became one of Biber’s most famous compositions.

Today, browsing through several suggested videos and checking out the sidebar suggestions within those, I found a video of a performance of the Biber passacaglia, transcribed for a 13-course lute and played by Spanish musician Xavier Díaz-Latorre. It’s quite a remarkable piece.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today, on Classical Sunday. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Xavier Díaz-Latorre’s YouTube channel:

Diamonds

The song “Diamonds” is one I heard many years ago, and it attracted me with its simple but effective guitar riff and drum beat. However, I never gave much more thought to it, never learned anything about the band — The Boxer Rebellion — and never thought to look for an official music video until today, when I decided I’d post the song. (It’s been on my notepad for a while…)

The song is the opening track from The Boxer Rebellion’s fourth studio album, Promises, released in 2013. My Apple Music app’s metadata tells me I added the song to my library from the iTunes Store in 2014. I probably heard it on CBC Radio 3, as that was one of my primary sources of new music at the time.

Of course, I looked them up and found they are made up of Brits from London and a fellow from Tennessee, USA.

I found the official video quite stunning when watching it tonight. The song seems to me to be about a man wrestling with regret over his part in a failed relationship. But the video took it further as the singer/main character, in his busy day, can’t look folks in the eye and hangs his head; he seems racked with guilt and shame. Those two, along with blame, form what a dear friend calls the “three amigos.” Things many of us men live with, and not very well, I might add. Not equipped to deal with them, and somehow not naturally open to exploring ways to learn to deal with them, we hide our feelings, bury them, diffuse, transfer. I think that’s what happens in the video as the man is wholly consumed by something that literally drowns him, in his office.

Pretty little thing did you feel something
Did you always want me to be something
To mend a broken a heart
From a Devil of shallow nonsense
Turned your world upside down

Whatever said that it’d mean something
Whatever said that it’d mean nothing
And did I look the part
When it’s all said and done
When it’s all said and done

I’m no good next to Diamonds
When I’m too close to start to fade
Are you angry with me now
Are you angry cause I’m to blame

I’m no good next to Diamonds
When I’m too close to start to fade
Are you angry with me now
Are you angry cause I’m to blame

Never wanna hide the truth from you
Just hang my head what I put you through
I wasn’t good enough
When what’s done is done love
When it’s all said and done

But I’m

No good next to Diamonds
When I’m too close to start to fade
Are you angry with me now
Are you angry cause I’m to blame

Cause I fall away
Further than I ever was
Further than I ever was
Further than I ever was
Further than I ever was
Further than I ever was

I’m no good next to Diamonds
When I’m too close to start to fade
Are you angry with me now
Are you angry cause I’m to blame

I’m no good next to Diamonds
When I’m too close to start to fade
Are you angry with me now
Are you angry cause I’m to blame

Cause I fall away
Further than I ever was
Further than I ever was
Further than I ever was
Further than I ever was
Further than I ever was
Further than I ever was

I have no words

(“Diamonds,” by Nathan Nicholson, Todd Howe, Adam Harrison, Piers Hewitt.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

No matter what our early (or later) lives have dealt us, there are ways out of the patterns, excuses, addictions and other dysfunctions that might limit our lives. If you’re a man and struggling, there is help. There are men’s groups, resources, courses, trainings, retreats, and they can and will make a difference in your life. They have for me and many men I know, of all ages and walks of life. Healthier men are good for themselves, their families, their communities. If you need help, find a therapist, then look up men’s organizations and groups in your area. You’re not alone. None of us is alone. Unless we choose to be. (And please, don’t do that.)

And, as an aside, the other day I was talking with one of my brothers, and as he often does, he brought up serendipity. He and I both marvel at its presence in our lives.

Thinking about serendipity and the concept of help, today, Sweety and I joined in celebrating (virtually) with a dear friend who lives in America and was being ordained into ecumenical ministry. He’s a remarkable man. We’ve never met in person, yet he and I are close, trusted confidantes for each other. He’s someone who I know will continue to help and guide many people on their journeys of healing and growing: men, women, all genders and identities. That is something that truly gives me hope for the world.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from The Boxer Rebellion’s official YouTube channel:

What did you think of the song? If you liked it, please give the video a thumb’s up as that helps the band. If you liked my post, please give it a like or a comment, or follow me. And if you have a question, please contact me. I would love to hear from you.

It’s Just Another Morning Here

Yes, it’s just another morning here. It’s a Friday, though, so that means some of you will have few days off. And this weekend, pandemic restrictions are being lifted slightly here in Manitoba to allow gatherings of up to five people from two households, outside, on private property. It’s something, and I’m glad we’ll be able to see a few folks safely.

“It’s Just Another Morning Here” is a song that my sweety and I have listened to for many years, on Nanci Griffith’s 1993 compilation album, The MCA Years: A Retrospective. I’ve mentioned before, it’s an album we associate with a couple we met in 1998 and who we remained close friends with, although one in the couple died four years ago.

The song initially appeared on and is the opening track of Griffith’s 1991 release, Late Night Grande Hotel. The title track of that record is another longtime favourite and made its way onto our wedding CD. I’ve posted that and a few other Griffith songs on this blog; check out the links in my post on her cover of “From a Distance.”

To me, today’s selection seems to be about being stuck in fear of change; maybe new love has come, and the singer is afraid because of past relationships that didn’t work out? Or perhaps she’s stuck in a rut, or fearful of one. At the same time, I think the singer realizes every day is a chance to start fresh and is to be appreciated. Whatever it really means, it’s classic Nanci Griffith, singing in her charming way about life and its challenges, and hope.

The telephone is ringin’ in the middle of the night
I pull the bedclothes higher
Will it stop calling out if I turn out the light?
I’m afraid of these shadows here
’Cause my past is truly frightening
And I’m afraid of the warmth in the down
Of a feathered heart in flight

It’s just another morning here (it’s morning)
It’s just another morning here
It’s just another morning here (it’s morning)
And it’s a miracle what it comes around
Every day of the year

The neighbors scream and their baby cries
I’m hiding in the corner
I won’t be them, pray I won’t be them one day
Maybe it’s just the breath of August
So hot upon my shoulders
Or the open window for the winged heart
To fly away

(“It’s Just Another Morning Here,” by Nanci Griffith.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

Whichever side of the bed you woke up on today, I hope it’s a good one for you. Happy Weekend!

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Nanci Griffith YouTube topic channel:

Carry On

It has been a while since I’ve sat and listened to an episode of BBC 6 Music’s Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour. And I think I might have missed out on finishing one program I had started, as they only remain available on the BBC Sounds app for a month. Come to think of it, I haven’t listened recently to my other Internet radio mainstay, The Morning Show with John Richards on KEXP Seattle, either.

Life seems busy and full — in a good way — but with spending more time outdoors in the fantastic early summer weather, I’m falling behind on my listening and reading.

Anyway, I listened to a couple of Garvey’s programs over the last two days while doing computer work. (I usually try to listen to them undistracted but don’t want to lose any more instalments to “time’s arrow,” so I tried to catch myself up a bit.) The shows are always a delight; even the relative predictability of some of his segments is a joy as I know what might be coming but am never quite sure what it will be.

Checking out Garvey’s May 16 episode, “One For The Head on Slow Sunday” (“Slow Sunday” is an occasional BBC 6 Music-wide thing where all the presenters share laid-back sounds), I heard Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young play “Carry On.” It’s a familiar song, and hearing it for the first time in a long while, I was struck by how much the principal vocal harmony sounds exactly like Jon Anderson, the lead singer of the English progressive rock band, Yes. (I can’t recognize one particular solo voice that sounds that way; it seems to be a harmony. But if someone knows different, please comment… I’d love to know for sure!)

Crosby, Stills & Nash was a supergroup; its members all came from big-name acts: American singer-songwriter David Crosby had been a member of the Byrds; American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Stills had been part of Buffalo Springfield; and British-American singer, songwriter and musician Graham Nash was a former member of the Hollies. When Canadian-American singer, songwriter, musician and activist Neil Young (who also had been with Buffalo Springfield) would join the group, it would be Crosby, Stills Nash & Young, or CSNY for short.

“Carry On” is the first track on CSNY’s 1970 record, Déjà vu. The album, the second for the trio of Crosby, Stills and Nash and their first with Young, is a solid release. It includes “Helpless” (a Neil Young composition covered by many, including k.d. lang, whose version I posted in January 2021), “Teach Your Children,” and “Our House;” some truly delightful music. (And, Neil Young has been featured on the blog a few times, as you will see from links in my post on Annie Lennox’s cover of his “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.”) The album has been remastered and reissued this year as an expanded, 48-song deluxe edition to mark 2020 being its 50th anniversary.

CSNY’s music was classified as folk rock/country rock, but I find today’s selection has a little more than an edge of psychedelic rock, especially in the bridge at the middle of the song. There’s a dreaminess to it that seems to emerge from nowhere, then lingers subtly with the wah-wah pedal of the guitar.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young YouTube topic channel (be sure to tap on the settings gear wheel then click on 1080p for the highest quality playback):

Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

The Thrill Is Gone

I mentioned the other day, I was looking for a blues song, though I ended up posting something entirely different.

Today that urge came again, and I thought of an old blues standard made famous by American Blues singer, songwriter, guitarist and record producer B.B. King (1925-2015), “The Thrill Is Gone.” Whenever I think of this song, I remember a conversation with a work superior of mine from years ago. He told how an employee a few levels down in the hierarchy had announced his retirement to him, saying the job “wasn’t fun anymore.” I don’t recall whether it was the employee’s or the superior’s embellishment, or perhaps my imagination that added, “The thrill is gone, baby.”

American blues singer, songwriter and pianist Roy Hawkins wrote “The Thrill Is Gone” in 1951 with a fellow named Rick Darnell (I couldn’t find details on him). King’s version, recorded in 1969, became a major hit, earning him a GRAMMY award in 1970 (Best R&B Male Vocal Performance), and would become one of his most famous songs. There are numerous videos of him performing it in concert, running for up to 12 minutes. And there are many studio and live audio recordings ranging from about three to eleven minutes.

King was known for his innovation in solo guitar playing, pioneering techniques like staccato picking, fluid string bending, and vibrato, and his style has influenced many blues electric guitarists. He performed right up until October 2014 and died in May 2015, aged 89.

“The Thrill Is Gone” comes from King’s 1969 record, Completely Well.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of King’s performance at the 1993 Montreux Jazz Festival, held on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, from the Mercury Studios official YouTube channel.

If you click on “watch on YouTube,” you will see official lyrics in the notes section.

Iris

It has been a while since I posted something from Mixing Colours, last year’s ambient music collaboration between brothers Roger and Brian Eno. I appreciate the compilation and have shared several pieces from it, as you will note if you read one of my previous posts, the one on “Verdigris.”

At the end of a busy and full day of work, sunshine and play, it feels good to settle into a peaceful track like “Iris.” Seeing this video on a list reminded me that our irises are flowering in Sweety’s perennial garden. They’re such beautiful flowers, and I have to keep reminding myself to go by the far side of the house to look at them for the short time they are in bloom.

Irises from my sweety’s garden. Photo by Steve West

As part of their promotion of Mixing Colours, the record label Deutsche Grammophon and the Eno brothers hosted an international competition and invited the submission of videos to accompany the musical pieces. They received over 1,700 entries and posted them on a promotional website

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video Mirjam Klever of Scotland submitted for the track, “Iris.” The fluttering of the leaves is a relaxing, calming thing to accompany the soft piano sounds.

Heartbeat

The new wave band The Psychedelic Furs was formed in London, England, in 1977. They took a hiatus in the early 1990s, reformed in 2000 and are still active today. They are definitely up there on my top-thirty list of bands, and I often like to listen to their music. In fact, they were the first band I featured on this site, back on January 5, 2020, with “Heaven” from the 1984 album Mirror Moves. (It’s a song one of my brothers plays a lot and which always makes me think of him.) I later posted “No One,” a track from last year’s release, Made of Rain.

Today I’m sharing “Heartbeat,” which also comes from Mirror Moves. The record made it into the top 20 on the Canadian Albums Chart. And Toronto, Canada’s CFNY-FM, also known as 102.1 The Edge (where Canadian music historian and broadcaster Alan Cross spends some of his time) named it the number one album of 1984.

The song has a driving, almost urgent beat describing the heartbeat of all things; people, the street, traffic, the city, radio, even nightclubs when the music has ended for the night. Maybe it’s about wanting to keep the excitement up after all the day’s activities and nightlife have all faded.

Today, I took particular note of my heartbeat on my bike computer out on a 60-kilometre (37-mile) ride. While the temperature was quite pleasant on my way out, it spiked pretty quickly, and though it wasn’t that hot (25°C or 77°F), a lot of my route was away from the shade of trees, and the sun was quite intense, so the tarmac was probably a few degrees hotter and generously giving off that heat. I decided to abort the longer version of my planned journey. I also slowed down a bit for the last ten kilometres to keep my heart rate in a lower zone, especially when not in shaded areas. I was glad I did… I felt hot and a little depleted when I returned home. But, all hydrated again and relaxing in the sheltered coolness of the summer porch with my sweety.

She’s a heartbeat
Yeah, she’s a heartbeat
She’s a door at the end of a dead-end street
She’s a heartbeat
And footsteps
I hear her footsteps
Here comes rumours and lies
Here comes my life of crime
I hear footsteps

When the music goes down
And the traffic is stopped
And nobody talks at all
When they turn up the town
I hear a heartbeat

And I’ve shut all the shades
And the radio stops
And nobody moves at all
When the city’s asleep
I hear a heartbeat
I hear a heartbeat

In the shadows
Out in the shadows
It’s like walking on glass
It’s the end of the show
In the shadows
And sweet dreams
She sells you sweet dreams
It’s like movies and trash
Where there’s always a girl
And she’s sweet dreams

When the music goes down
And the traffic is stopped
And nobody talks at all
When they turn up the town
I hear a heartbeat

And I’ve shut all the shades
And the radio stops
And nobody moves at all
When the city’s asleep
I hear a heartbeat
I hear a heartbeat

She’s a heartbeat
Yeah, she’s a heartbeat
She’s a door at the end of a dead end street
She’s a heartbeat
And sweet dreams
She sells you sweet dreams
It’s like movies and trash
Where there’s always a girl
And she’s sweet dreams

When the music goes down
And the traffic is stopped
And nobody talks at all
When they turn up the town
I hear a heartbeat

And I’ve shut all the shades
And the radio stops
And nobody moves at all
When the city’s asleep
I hear a heartbeat

Heartbeat, I hear a heartbeat
When they turn up the town
I hear a heartbeat

Heartbeat, I hear a heartbeat
When the music goes down
I hear a heartbeat

Heartbeat

(“Heartbeat, by Richard Butler, John Ashton.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from The Psychedelic Furs’ official YouTube channel:

Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major (Triple Concerto), Op. 56, II: Largo – attacca

After a short walk-run this morning, followed by a short bike ride, then lunch (and a very short but pleasant snooze), I started looking for a classical music video. None of YouTube’s suggestions sparked my imagination, so I went over to the always-reliable Deutsche Grammophon channel, where I was pleased to find today’s selection.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) composed the Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major, Opus 56, popularly known as the Triple Concerto, in 1803. It was published in 1804 but not premiered in public until 1808 where it was played at a summer concert in Vienna, Austria.

Today, I’m featuring the second movement (Largo – attacca). Three classical music greats⁠ — Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello) and Daniel Barenboim (piano and conductor) — perform it with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra at the Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany, in 2019. DG released their recording the following year to mark two anniversaries: the 250th of Beethoven’s birth and the orchestra’s 20th.

It’s a beautiful piece of music, slow and lyrical, with a magnificent interplay among the three soloists. Cellist Ma says of the concerto, “It’s so celebratory, so positive.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today, on Classical Sunday. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of the performance by Mutter, Ma and Barenboim from the official Deutsche Gammophone YouTube channel:

Crystalline Pools

A couple of months ago, I posted some music that had been shared with me, by Michigan, USA-based Seth Bernard. (Please see my post on “Sandman’s Dust” for more on him and his work and art.)

This week, Bernard released a new single and music video, “Crystalline Pools.” On the Bandcamp page for the song, he explains the inspiration for the music, which came to him while spending time at the Woody Guthrie Foundation. He based the song around the bedtime ritual for his daughter.

It’s a poignant song. The video beautifully portrays the father teaching his daughter about her lineage and life; all those lessons we wish to teach our children, so they will grow and thrive long after we are gone, with their ancestors always standing behind them.

Sitting here this afternoon in the summer porch, fed, watered and sheltered from the heat of the sun, with many birds chirping wildly and the enlightenment of Pluto Living (who is trying to unravel the secrets of the universe) coming from Sweety’s iPad, it’s a good day.

Now, if only we were allowed to gather with our family, make them some food, share stories and memories, witness their grown wisdom… and give them all the hugs missed over the past fifteen months.

Until then, there are the words Seth Bernard says to his daughter each night, “The strength of your heart will carry you through your whole life.”

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the music video from the Earthwork Music YouTube channel:  

“Crystalline Pools” is available for purchase from Seth Bernard’s Bandcamp song page:

Destination: Anywhere (from the film, The Commitments)

Happy Friday!

Destination: anywhere? These days, it’s more like destination: nowhere. But being at home isn’t so bad now that summer is here. And my oh my, is it ever here. It was only two weeks ago that gardeners in Winnipeg, Canada were covering their plants overnight to protect against frost. Today, the temperature reached 36.1°C (97°F) after being 30°C or higher all this week. This week my sweety and I have been spending hours lounging in our screened veranda, affectionately known as the summer porch.

I was looking for blues songs today but then ended up checking out the soundtrack to the 1991 Alan Parker musical-comedy-drama The Commitments. (Please see my post on “Dark End of the Street” for more on the movie.)

“Destination: Anywhere” is by the American husband and wife songwriting / recording / production duo Ashford and Simpson (Valerie Simpson, and Nickolas Ashford [1941-2011]). The Marvelettes, an American female singing group, released it as a single in 1968.

The soul band from The Commitments covers the song in the movie, featuring Niamh Kavanagh on lead vocal, with Angeline Ball, Maria Doyle and Bronagh Gallagher on backup vocals. Although the song is about a woman booking a train ticket to get away after a relationship breakup, it’s a lively, uptempo song with a kind of carefree beat that really evokes summer.

Ah, yes, summer. It’s great beach weather here, especially if you have shelter from the sun, such as an umbrella tent (one of our primary pieces of beach gear). But this weekend the beaches will be packed, so we’ll wait until next week when they’re not so crowded.

So, there are destinations, after all.

Wherever you go or don’t go, enjoy the weekend!

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from The Commitments YouTube topic channel:

Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of MetroLyrics.com.

Dreams

I wouldn’t say I listen to the Cranberries that much, but I do like a lot of their music, including “When You’re Gone.” (As I mention in a January 2020 post, that is one of the tracks on Sweety’s and my wedding CD because of memories associated with the song.)

Formed in 1989 in Limerick, Ireland, the band took a six-year hiatus starting in 2003. They reunited in 2009 and remained together until the death of their distinctive, mezzo-soprano lead singer, Dolores O’Riordan (1971-2018). They released their final album, In the End, in 2019 and formally disbanded.

The band’s official music videos continue to be viral on YouTube. For instance, in April 2020, the political protest song “Zombie” overtook a one-billion-view campaign and now sits at 1.1 billion. (It is a “banger” with an urgent beat and rhythm, scenes implying the military and paramilitary clashes from the 1960s to 1990s, and bold, mystical sequences representing religious aspects of the conflict.) “Linger” has 297 million views, while “Dreams” has been watched over 187 million times, and some other songs have about a hundred million views each. Not surprisingly, the Cranberries were one of the highest-selling alternative bands, with worldwide record sales of 50 million records up until 2019.

“Dreams” came up on my YouTube feed today, and I gave it a listen. It has a lightheartedness to it, which I think relates to the optimism and hope of new love. The video was shot cleverly to depict nighttime, infused with coexisting light and dark and the often disjointed elements of dreams.

Oh, my life
Is changing everyday
In every possible way

And oh, my dreams
It’s never quite as it seems
Never quite as it seems

I know I felt like this before
But now I’m feeling it even more
Because it came from you

Then I open up and see
The person falling here is me
A different way to be

Aaah, la-a-la-aaah
La la laaaa
La-a-la-aah
La-ah ah aaah

I want more
Impossible to ignore
Impossible to ignore

And they’ll come true
Impossible not to do
Impossible not to do

And now I tell you openly
You have my heart so don’t hurt me
You’re what I couldn’t find

A totally amazing mind
So understanding and so kind
You’re everything to me

Oh, my life
Is changing everyday
In every possible way

And oh, my dreams
It’s never quite as it seems
’Cause you’re a dream to me
Dream to me

(“Dreams,” by Dolores O’Riordan, Noel Hogan.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

“Dreams” comes from the Cranberries’ 1993 album, Everybody Else’s Doing It, So Why Can’t We? It’s a song that stands up well, nearly thirty years after its release.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from TheCranberriesTV, the band’s official YouTube channel:

Gimme Shelter

So, I have a confession to make. I’ve never been a follower of the Rolling Stones. Yeah, really.

It’s not a value judgment but, like pretty well no one else I know, I’ve just never been strongly drawn to them, for whatever reason.

It’s interesting, though: two years ago in February, I heard a local special event band play “Sympathy for the Devil.” The lead singer for the song, Ian Lodewyks of The Noble Thiefs and other bands, did an earth-shattering version of the vocal, and it along with the band’s instrumentation mesmerized me. For me since then, the original version just does not cut it. Edit: I’ve found a video I shot that night… unfortunately it doesn’t capture the whole song as my old phones storage was acting up on that of all nights

The band was drawn from a larger group of over 40 musicians assembled to play a benefit concert in honour of the birthday of a young Winnipeg musician, Alex Danyliuk (1991-2013). Tragically, Alex died at the age of 22 from a sudden cardiac event related to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. My lad Kieran, a close friend of Alex’s, was in the band that played “Sympathy for the Devil.” The group was conceived of one evening by a few people including Boris (the event organizer and father of Alex), Kieran, and Ian. Boris named it the Champagne All-Star Band as part of an event to celebrate and honour what would have been the young man’s 28th or champagne birthday. (Please see my February 28, 2020 post on the Dave Matthews Band’s “Grave Digger” for more on “Alex Dee.”)

In addition to my above, limited association with Rolling Stones music, on Saturday’s pizza and movie date night, my sweety and I watched the film 20 Feet from Stardom. It’s a 2013 documentary about backup singers and is directed by Morgan Neville. The movie features many backup singers, including Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, Táta Vega, Darlene Love and others, and goes well back in modern music history.

Fischer, who sings in the video I’m using today, spoke at length about being approached to perform the studio recording of “Gimme Shelter.” For that reason and her stunning performance, I chose a live version of the song with her singing backup.

Fischer has also backed up Tina Turner, Sting, Luther Vandross (1951-2005) and toured with the Rolling Stones from 1989 to 2015. In the documentary, Stones lead singer Mick Jagger speaks highly of Fischer as a collaborator and friend. She has also released her own solo work.

Back to the Rolling Stones… I took a look at the vinyl I own by them, and there’s a few: Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) (1969), Sticky Fingers (1971), Goats Head Soup (1973, which still has a price tag of CAD 4.69 from Autumn Stone, one of Winnipeg’s preeminent record stores of the 70s), It’s Only Rock ’n Roll (1974), Black and Blue (1976), and Emotional Rescue (1980). All but the last one came from a collection I bought from an older brother years ago.

I must take these LPs out of the covers and play them sometime soon and see what I’ve been missing all these years. I guess it’s a good thing there’s not much else we can do in the COVID-19-besieged Manitoba at the moment…

“Gimme Shelter” is the opening track from the Rolling Stones’ 1969 album Let It Bleed.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Rolling Stones’ official YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Handshake the Gangster

Warning: this song contains a cuss-word!

I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen the Canadian band Hey Rosetta! perform live. But, I have probably seen almost every Winnipeg gig they played before they announced an indefinite hiatus in 2017.

My introduction to the group, formed in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador in 2005, was through one of those hit-of-the-week cards that Starbucks used to give out a long time ago. The freebie was “Lions for Scottie,” from Plan Your Escape (2006), a super-high-energy song that I used to do fast intervals to when riding a stationary bike for exercise years ago. My older son, Kieran, also a musician, loved the song and convinced me to take him to a Hey Rosetta! concert soon after our discovery. I believe that show was downtown at the Garrick Centre (formerly the Garrick movie theatre).

The band has always been important to Kieran’s musical pursuits. He says bandleader and lead singer Tim Baker’s sound inspired him to be a singer, and I can hear Baker’s influence so clearly my lad’s vocals. Today’s selection is one of the best examples of that, and it’s been pretty wild to hear him singing along to the song when we’ve been listening to it together. And by the way, Kieran and his band are working on a new record right now. I cannot wait to hear the fruits of the writing, rehearsing, recording and production processes!

Another time we saw Hey Rosetta!, they were playing an event at what is now called Shaw Park, home of American League baseball team, the Winnipeg Goldeyes. Both my lads were at the show with me. We met the band and hung out with them for a while, which was pretty exciting. My sweety was with us for yet another HR! concert. I am not sure of the venue; it might have been The Pyramid Cabaret, but I do remember us having seats quite close to the stage.

A Hey Rosetta! live show is distinctive, with brass, violins and cello added to the traditional rock setup. Combined with their high energy, the instrumentation produces a rich, vibrant sound and a unique concert experience that makes the seven-piece group’s shows so appealing and thrilling to witness.

“Handshake the Gangster” comes from Into Your Lungs (2008), the band’s second album, produced by Canadian singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman. The album also contains “Red Heart,” which appears in a video essay by The Globe and Mail’s Stephen Brunt compiled for the CTV National News about the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Games were a moment of national pride, in stark contrast to current news about the legacy of the Residential Schools system; at the same time, a reminder of the goodness we can be when, collectively, we set and commit to genuine intentions for social justice.

In addition to Baker’s singing, songwriting and musicianship, he produced an EP for the Aley Waterman project GALA in 2013 (now known as galaa). One of EP’s tracks, “Little Fires,” is among the first songs I posted on this blog.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the official Hey Rosetta! YouTube channel:

If you like the music, please give the video a thumb’s up, then head over and buy it, to support the artists who made it.

Official lyrics can be found on the Hey Rosetta! website.

I’m Going Home

I was horrified and deeply saddened by the news that the remains of 215 Indigenous children of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation had recently been discovered at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.

My country, Canada, was built on the oppression of the First Peoples. That oppression extended to the tearing apart of families and placing children in what were officially called the Indian Residential Schools. This nationwide program ended only about thirty years ago and is a shameful stain on our history. Over the past several years, many stories of systematic abuse have emerged, as have the horrific discoveries of unmarked graves of those who died while held against their and the will of their families.

I can’t imagine what life would have been like in such places or the effects on the children, their parents, and each following generation. As a grown child of white privilege, a parent, and step-grandparent, it distresses me to my core to imagine such things being done deliberately, systematically and mercilessly to members of my family. It’s unthinkable. Except it’s real. It was done to many thousands of families.

I could write at length about how I feel my people and our ancestors, the settlers of this land, have harmed the Indigenous population, whether intentionally or unintentionally. And how our lifestyles, attitudes, and government perpetuate those harms. 

Instead, I’d like to focus on the generous, welcoming and abiding spirit that I’ve witnessed from Indigenous women, men and children I’ve encountered in my life. And while I disapprove of many of the Winnipeg mayor’s policies and practices, I believe he has worked to advance reconciliation with the Indigenous community in what is now Winnipeg. He was among the first to institute land acknowledgements in City meetings, and these and have since expanded to non-government and commercial organizations. It’s one step in the healing that many say will take seven generations.

When thinking of a song to share to represent the day, I immediately turned to Buffy Sainte-Marie, an Indigenous Canadian-American singer, songwriter, musician, composer, social activist, pacifist, and a former cast member of the American children’s TV program Sesame Street (where she turned the children’s programming world on its ear when she breastfed her son as part of the show, to show the beauty and nurturing of that literally lifegiving act).

In 1992 after taking 16 years away from the music industry to raise her son, Sainte-Marie released Coincidence and Likely Stories. It’s an incredible piece of work, and I’ve previously posted two songs from the album: “Starwalker” and “Goodnight.” (If you haven’t seen those posts, please click on the links and read them, and listen to the songs. They are remarkable.)

Today I was moved to share “I’m Going Home.” There’s something deeply spiritual about the music, beginning with the ethereal sound of synthesizers and other effects that lead into the supporting vocal line (which I believe might be Indigenous chanting or throat-singing, but I am not knowledgeable about it). The lyrics feel to me like they build to a call of empowerment and honouring of self and people, perhaps like how I interpreted those of “Starwalker.” It also feels like the words could be an invocation to call home the souls of those, like those 215 children whose lives, happiness and security were stolen from them in their earthly lives.

Heaven isn’t so far away as people say
I got a home high in my heart
Heaven is right where I come from
I never throw it away
I know the place and I’m goin’ home
I’m going home
See up there it’s not the same
they know your name
and I’m not ashamed to need it
I’m going home
You can keep a-knocking
but I’m not coming out of this state I’m in
I’m travelling right, I’m gonna get there soon
I’m standing up praying, I’m singing
saying Heyo ha ha heyo hey ya
I know the way and I’m going home
I’m going home
That’s where the heart can rest
The best is there
and only a fool would leave it
I’m going home
I’m going home
I been around I been to town
Hey, where you think I learned right from wrong?
I’m going home

(I’m Going Home, copyright by Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Originally written for the film, Where the Spirit Lives.
Official lyrics accessed from buffysainte-marie.com.)

Much harm has been done, and we can’t take that away. But we can work to reconcile the wounds inflicted in the past and build a more inclusive society that honours all lives. And I must search for my way to contribute to the healing.

I included this in my post on “Starwalker” but feel it bears repeating: When commenting about toasting our country, a beloved Canadian broadcaster, radio performer and author Stuart McLean (1948-2017) said such a declaration “should contain certain humility, acknowledgment of our stumbles and our quiet determination to try harder, to listen carefully, to be thoughtful of new ways, to be sure we are on the right side of history.”

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thank you for joining me here.

Here’s the audio for the song, from YouTube. It’s not an official version but rather aggregated to the Buffy Sainte-Marie topic channel and is credited to the artist by YouTube.

Dido and Aeneas, Z. 626, Act III, “When I am laid in earth” (Dido’s Lament)

No one knows for sure when the English composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695) wrote his three-act Baroque opera Dido and Aeneas, though it is believed to have been completed sometime between 1683 and 1688. 

The work is one of Purcell’s best remembered theatrical compositions and his only true opera. He based the music on the play Brutus of Alba, or The Enchanted Lovers (1678), a tragedy by the Irish poet, lyricist and hymnist Nahum Tate (1652-1715).

“When I am laid in earth,” commonly known as “Dido’s Lament,” is the most famous aria in the play and comes near the end of Act III after Dido and Aeneas part ways forever.

Originally scored for four-part strings and continuo, French conductor, composer, arranger and violist Mathieu Herzog arranged the aria for cello and strings, as he did with Christoph Willibald Gluck’s (1714-1787) “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” (posted to the blog on June 28, 2020). Franco-Belgian cellist Camille Thomas plays both pieces on her 2020 album, Voice of Hope.

In the official video for her performance with the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra, Thomas plays in a gallery in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. I have a strong recollection of that place; I toured a small portion of it with my parents in the summer of 1973, and my sweety and I walked outside along the length of the massive building in October 2012. (We instead toured the smaller and more manageable but awe-inspiring Musée d’Orsay, where we delighted in works by Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh [1853-1890].)

“When I am laid in earth” is an emotive, tragic piece of music, its solemnity brought out beautifully by Thomas’s cello playing. I found this performance several weeks ago and noticed it today in my bookmarked videos.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today, for Classical Sunday. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from the official Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel:  

High Fidelity

Well, I just can’t seem to leave the 1980s behind. Let’s have just one more from that decade, shall we?

Elvis Costello and the Attractions recorded the high-energy, uptempo “High Fidelity” in 1979 and released it on their 1980 record, Get Happy!! The song is familiar to me, but I have not heard it in many decades. I found it today searching through the 1980s tab on my Apple Music library (where it resides as part of 1986, 22-track compilation from the iTunes Store, Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions).

The song is believed to be about an adulterous couple in which one partner still has hope for a future in the relationship. And, like so many songs, the upbeat nature of the tune contrasts with the mood of the narrative. Costello wrote the piece at a time of his life and career when he was feeling heightened pressure due to his growing fame and all the nastiness that can sometimes bring a person’s soul. I don’t envy famous people; they often pay a high personal price for their monetary wealth.

Costello is one of those artists I listened to with friends but never collected myself until I bought that quoted compilation ten years ago. I’ve posted two of his songs before: “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” and the sad but brilliant “Good Year for the Roses,” the latter of which often seems to play when my sweety and I are making Saturday night pizza together. She always says, “Oh, that’s so sad… play it again!

Costello makes some simple but catchy dance moves in the official video for the song. It’s also from 1980, so the sound quality isn’t the best, but the strong bass line still comes through pretty well.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official video from Elvis Costello’s official YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

In a Big Country

Well, happy Friday, friends!

Another week has gone by so quickly… how does that happen when we are still so restricted and isolated? Surely, time should be dragging!

My province, Manitoba, continues to be subject to seemingly (or realistically) ever-widening restrictions, and it’s my opinion that this is primarily due to the arrogant, myopic leadership of our premier. He has stubbornly upheld his notion of “the economy” over most everything else, so much so that we currently have the highest COVID-19 infection rates in North America. And instead of compassion, he has chosen to shame those infected or sick in the hospital. And now, our temporarily-expanded hospital intensive care units are so overwhelmed, overloaded and understaffed by caring but exhausted people, we’re airlifting critically ill patients to other provinces.

Okay, wait… I’m sure you didn’t stop by to read a rant. Let’s begin again.

If you’ve been following along here in the last few weeks, you might have noticed I have a bit of a thing going on with the 1980s. In the last while, I’ve posted songs from the 80s by Peter Gabriel, Simple Minds, John Lennon (1940-1980), Echo & the Bunnymen, and The Church. Today, it’s Big Country, with their breakout hit, “In a Big Country.”

I first heard the band’s music in 1983 or so and now automatically associate them with that one song. I never followed them and didn’t know much about their career, which started in Scotland in 1981. After a couple of breaks, they are still active. But today, “In a Big Country” popped into my head, and I decided I’d post it.

It’s been another busy day, much of the early part governed by Perry Como the inside cat’s morning routines, then meditation, some commitments for Sweety, and a super-windy bike ride for me. Later, we drove out to Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park, then off to a couple of garden centres on the western edge of the city. I could not go into the store with my dear as local restrictions limit shopping to one person per household. I sat in the car watching her delight in being among the plants while I enjoyed the day’s heat and, of course, some music from my Song of The Day playlist. With over 500 songs on that list, it’s always a surprise what will play next.

“In a Big Country” played in all the dance clubs I frequented in the 80s, so it recalls good times with my friends (that 80s mix of St. Norbert and St. Vital folks I refer to as friends 2.0, as explained in a much earlier post). The song has a catchy beat; maybe not a remarkable piece of music but on the upbeat side for a Friday. From reading the lyrics, I believe it’s about resilience and persistence; two things we all need more of these days.

Like I mentioned in my post on “Under the Milky Way” The Church used effects on guitars to reproduce bagpipe sounds. Big Country, classified as a Celtic rock/new wave/post-punk band, are known for similarly using effects on guitars to make sounds like fiddles and bagpipes in their music. I guess that was a thing, though it never occurred to me at the time.

Today’s selection comes from Big Country’s debut album, The Crossing (1983). While the album only made it to #18 on the American charts, it rose to #4 in Canada and #3 in the United Kingdom. Steve Lillywhite — who has worked with U2, Ultravox, Simple Minds and many others — produced the record.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official video from Big Country’s YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Losing My Religion

It’s been a busy day of appointments plus a bike ride, a few phone calls and an online gathering before I took the time to sit down and complete today’s post.

During a free moment this afternoon, I thought I’d visit my YouTube feed for a song idea. Of course, several of Rick Beato’s What Makes This Song Great? videos came up, and I took a look at one, which led me to another, and on…

I enjoyed Beato’s take on the American band R.E.M.’s 1991 song, “Losing My Religion,” a fantastic piece that became perhaps an unlikely hit for the band, but a big one nonetheless. The song received a lot of airplay, and MTV (Music Television) heavily played the official music video. MTV pioneered the broadcasting of that new medium, the music video, in the early 1980s. VH1, another music video broadcaster that launched later in the 80s, also carried the video.

The song comes from Out of Time, R.E.M.’s seventh album. It is also the subject of an episode of Song Exploder ― but the Netflix series (2020), not the podcast, though both come from the creative genius of American musician, producer and composer Hrishikesh Hirway.

The band co-wrote “Losing My Religion,” basing it on a mandolin riff by guitarist Peter Buck. The song showcases the sound of a group that had developed its unique style over nine years and six other studio releases.

The online knowledge and entertainment aggregator Grunge tells of a 1991 New York Times interview in which Michael Stipe, the lead singer of R.E.M., reveals that the song title is an expression from the American south that means to be at the end of one’s rope. He goes on to say the song is a romantic expression related to unrequited love. I think it could also be about realizing that, even without intention, one has hurt their love. As if observing the situation from outside the couple, the one is desperate to bridge the gap and remove the lover’s pain, getting back to the essence of the relationship.

Oh life, it’s bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I’m choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt, lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

Consider this
Consider this, the hint of the century
Consider this, the slip
That brought me to my knees, failed
What if all these fantasies come
Flailing around
Now I’ve said too much

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
Try, cry, why try
That was just a dream
Just a dream
Just a dream, dream

(“Losing My Religion,” by Bill Berry, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Peter Buck.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

When Out of Time came out, I wasn’t actively following R.E.M. as I did early on in their career while hanging out with a longtime friend, but I remember hearing it played a lot on the radio. As Beato states, the song is written with a lot of “sad notes” but the tempo creates a contrast to this, creating a captivating and compelling piece of music.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from the R.E.M. YouTube account:

And, here’s Beato breaking down the song:

River Man

I first came to know of the music of English singer-songwriter Nick Drake (1948-1974) through the BBC 6 Music program Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour. As I’ve referred to so many times before, the host is the lead singer of the English band, Elbow, and I often find post-worthy songs on the show.

The first Nick Drake song I heard on the program was “‘Cello Song,” and I published a post about it on March 29, 2020. More recently, Garvey played “River Man,” and I took note of it as it captured my attention the same way “‘Cello Song” did. Drake had depth and a soulful, perhaps haunting quality to his voice. It’s saddening to think that such a beautifully talented human died so early in life and almost 47 years ago.

Some of Drake’s lyrics are believed to have been influenced by his depression, and I feel there’s something in today’s selection that registers that. I read and hear a mix of self-awareness and melancholy in some lines: “Going to see the river man / Going to tell him all I can / About the ban / On feeling free…” It’s like Drake knew his state and couldn’t escape its bonds, but was determined to talk about it.

Betty came by on her way
Said she had a word to say
About things today
And fallen leaves.

Said she hadn’t heard the news
Hadn’t had the time to choose
A way to lose
But she believes.

Going to see the river man
Going to tell him all I can
About the plan
For lilac time.

If he tells me all he knows
About the way his river flows
And all night shows
In summertime.

Betty said she prayed today
For the sky to blow away
Or maybe stay
She wasn’t sure.

For when she thought of summer rain
Calling for her mind again
She lost the pain
And stayed for more.

Going to see the river man
Going to tell him all I can
About the ban
On feeling free.

If he tells me all he knows
About the way his river flows
I don’t suppose
It’s meant for me.

Oh, how they come and go
Oh, how they come and go.

(“River Man,” by Nick Drake. Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

“River Man” comes from Drake’s debut album, Five Leaves Left (1969).

Many prominent artists have named Drake as an influence on their music, including Beck, Kate Bush, the Black Crowes, Aimee Mann, and others.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Nick Drake YouTube topic channel:

Heaven

I remember one night very clearly, after closing time, at the McDonald’s restaurant where I worked part-time during the mid- to late-1970s. The night-time cleaning crew had arrived; two grown men with long hair and beards, and plenty of attitude and bravado. They would work all night, cleaning the greasy kitchen and all areas of the building preparing it for the next day of business. We on the food and serving crews thought they were like gods because they took over the restaurant’s public address system and would play night-time radio, loudly. (It was probably CJUM, better known as UMFM, the station associated with the University of Manitoba, as it was far out on the FM spectrum, playing new, innovative and experimental music.)

That particular night, a catchy, rebellious track came on: “Psycho Killer / Qu’est-ce que c’est? / fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better / Run run run run run run run away…” That was my introduction to the American band Talking Heads, whose debut record, Talking Heads: 77, released in December 1977, took the world by storm.

I’ve always admired their work, through the band itself and its development over the years, plus members’ side projects, like bandleader and singer David Byrne’s solo work and collaborations with others like Brian Eno; and drummer Chris Frantz and bassist Tina Weymouth’s Tom Tom Club.

Talking Heads albums usually had quirky names (not unlike the personality of Byrne) such as More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978), Remain in Light (1980, an album that was central to a visit to Vancouver that year), and Speaking in Tongues (1983), to name a few. Around the time of Little Creatures (1985), I began to lose interest as the edginess of their music had been obscured somewhat by more of a pop-rock focus.

Recently, I heard today’s selection on Internet radio and remembered how much I liked its sardonic yet hopeful style. Some say the track expresses sarcasm about religion and the idea of heaven as a reward for doing good deeds.

Everyone is trying to get to the bar
The name of the bar, the bar is called Heaven
The band in Heaven, they play my favorite song
They play it once again, they play it all night long

Heaven, heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens
Heaven, heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens

There is a party, everyone is there
Everyone will leave at exactly the same time
It’s hard to imagine that nothing at all
Could be so exciting, could be so much fun

Heaven, heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens
Heaven, heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens

When this kiss is over, it will start again
It will not be any different, it will be exactly the same
It’s hard to imagine, that nothing at all
could be so exciting, could be this much fun

Heaven, heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens
Heaven, heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens

(“Heaven,” by David Byrne, Jerry Harrison.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

“Heaven,” an identically-named but different song by The Psychedelic Furs, is the first song I posted when I started my blog on January 5, 2020. After 505 more posts, I’m happy to offer another example of that place or belief.

Talking Heads’ “Heaven” comes from the band’s third album, Fear of Music (1979).

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Talking Heads YouTube topic channel:

Under the Milky Way

Sometime in the recent past, I heard a song on KEXP Seattle’s The Morning Show with John Richards. And like I do when I don’t know the song, I capture it with the Shazam app. (I swear, sometimes it seems to take only a fraction of a second… how do they do that!)

Anyway, on one of these occasions, Shazam told me the song was “Under the Milky Way” by the Australian alternative rock band The Church. What really surprised me was to learn the song came out in 1988!

I’m vaguely familiar with the band, formed in 1980, but I cannot remember if I ever heard the song back when they released it. It felt like I was hearing it for the first time when it was on KEXP recently.

Lead singer and bassist Steve Kilbey wrote the piece with his then-girlfriend, Swedish-born musician Karin Jansson who was with the band Curious (Yellow). If you listen closely during the first solo/bridge, you’ll hear a guitar recorded through a synthesizer and other effects, producing a sound like bagpipes.

The song appears on the soundtrack for the 2001 psychological thriller film Donnie Darko. It also was played by the band, along with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, during the opening ceremonies for the Commonwealth Games in 2006.

I’ve heard people say that no good music came out in the 1980s. I don’t see it this way. Some favourites in my collection are bands, records and songs from the ’80s (and I’ve featured some of them already). For some reason, I tend to associate the decade with the summer season, maybe because I was young and loved to go to the beach (still do). Or perhaps because summer infers that carefree sense of youth. Yeah.

The title of today’s selection also reminds me of laying under the stars on a summer night, like my sweety and I did last August during the Perseid meteor shower (please see my post on “Clear Desert Night” for more on that). We had a lovely time driving together to Birds Hill Provincial Park, watching a few meteorite trails, and stopping on the way back for an ice-cream cone to top off our date night. With COVID-19 restrictions that seem to have lasted forever, and so few opportunities to gather with others in the last 15 months, we’ve had a LOT of date nights… and all of them have been special.

So today, as Winnipeg, Canada returns to the sunny and hot weather club after a couple of days of much-needed rain, it feels like a good day to post another song evoking the 80s, youth, summer, and yes… date nights in the 2020s with Sweety. ❤️

“Under the Milky Way” comes from The Church’s fifth studio album, Starfish.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from The Church’s official YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Lakmé, Act I, No. 2: Duo des fleurs / Sous le dôme épais

Occasionally I’ve listened to Colorado Public Radio’s online classical music stream lately, and have enjoyed their programming and insightful host commentary. That station was where I heard “Gather Round the Table” (posted here on May 10), and today I heard several bookmark-worthy pieces.

YouTube is another source of suggestions and is where I found a selection for today’s Classical Sunday post on the blog. 

“Duo des fleurs / Sous le dôme épais” (“Flower Duet”) is from the opera Lakmé, by French Romantic composer Léo Delibes (1836-1891). Film, TV and TV advertising have used the duet section of the piece extensively; it starts at 1:05 in the video below, and I’m sure you’ll recognize it. 

I remember the duet from a scene in the 1983 Tony Scott film, The Hunger, when gerontologist Dr. Sarah Roberts (played by American actor Susan Sarandon) visits Miriam Blaylock (French actor Catherine Deneuve), whose vampire husband John is played by David Bowie (1947-2016).

The “Duo des fleurs” is a beautiful piece of music, lovely and calming after considerable frustration last night and again today with the much-anticipated livestream event by Glastonbury Music Festival I talk about in yesterday’s post. A technical issue denied access to thousands of people during the British and European stream. Many angry people! I encountered the same problem when trying to access the North American stream: it would not show the first 90 or more minutes of the concert, the part I mainly wanted to see (Wolf Alice as the opener, followed by Michael Kiwanuka). After some searching today, I managed to find a customer service person with the event promoter, who insisted the North American stream worked but tried to help me watch today’s entire “encore presentation.” It didn’t work either. The person promised to send an access link to the archive for those who could not view the event yesterday or today. I have faith all shall be well.

In today’s video, France’s Les Siècles Orchestra, conducted by François-Xavier Roth, accompanies French vocalists Sabine Devieilhe, coloratura soprano and Marianne Crebassa, mezzo-soprano. The piece also appears on Devieilhe’s 2017 album Mirages (though it is listed there as “Viens, Mallika”).

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from the Warner Classics official YouTube channel

The Scientist

One of the first songs I remember hearing by the British band Coldplay is “The Scientist,” from their second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002).

Today’s selection is the fourth song I’ve posted by a band I used to listen to almost incessantly once I came to know their music. Previously, I shared “Fix You” (from X&Y, 2005), “Life in Technicolor ii” (Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, 2008), and “Lovers in Japan (Osaka Sun Mix)” (also from Viva…, and a song that appears on Sweety’s and my wedding CD).

From the start, I found Coldplay’s mix of indie-pop music with creative instrumentation and experimental production by geniuses like Brian Eno to weave a very satisfying sound. However, Mylo Xyloto (2011) was when they lost some of my interest; it’s a good enough collection, with solid harmonies like on the lovely, reassuring and primarily acoustic “Us Against the World.” The album is well-produced but a bit on the formulaic side for me, compared to the more imaginative, sparser and more independent-sounding appeal of the earlier works. Like today’s track, for instance.

“The Scientist” is probably among the band’s best-known earlier songs, with other greats like “Yellow,” “Clocks,” and “Green Eyes.” American music producer and educator Rick Beato tells great stories and gives a superb analysis of the song’s writing, playing, singing, and production on episode 93 of his inimitable What Makes This Song Great? series. It’s definitely worth a watch.

I wanted to post a Coldplay song today since they will be one of the headline acts on Live at Worthy Farm, a five-hour, special livestream event from the Glastonbury Festival site in England. The North American stream for the show gets underway today at 6:00 pm CDT. A band I’m really excited to see is Wolf Alice, whose songs “Bros,” “Turn to Dust” and “Don’t Delete the Kisses” have appeared here before. (At the time of writing, I’m reading a media report of a problem with the UK livestream which must have been very disappointing the the home crowds there… hopefully the time lag will be on our side and our date night will be glitch-free!)

In my post on “Don’t Delete the Kisses,” I talk about choosing not to take a vacation side trip from London to Margate, a seaside town in southeast England, where Wolf Alice was playing, and have regretted that decision since then. But tonight, I finally get to see them perform from the comfort of our living room. And there will be pizza; since around the beginning of the pandemic, Saturday has taken over the role of pizza and movie night, a tradition we had on Fridays when my lads were little.

So, shall we wrap up today’s song, and talk about the video?

The official music video for “The Scientist” is quite an ambitious work. The entire piece follows lead singer, keyboardist and frontperson Chris Martin through excerpts of a day, night and next day but is filmed entirely in reverse motion. I won’t spoil the “beginning” if you haven’t seen it before. The video received a 2004 GRAMMY nomination for Best Short Form Music Video though the award went to the video for Johnny Cash’s (1932-2003) cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” (please see my post for a link to that piece).

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And, trust science. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Get vaccinated, for others and yourself. And… wear your seatbelt.

Here’s the video from Coldplay’s official YouTube channel:  

And, here is the Beato video about the song:

Unofficial lyrics are available, courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

UPDATE: The Glastonbury folk didn’t have a banner day, from a technical perspective. The livestream didn’t work for the first hour and a half or so, so I missed Wolf Alice and Michael Kiwanuka, as did everyone in the EU/UK. Those are the two acts I was really looking forward to. Dang.

Lips Like Sugar

Hanging back in the 1980s for a bit, here…

I’ve mentioned before that a school friend of mine was in a local avant-garde/art-rock/new wave band, A New Man Celebration, in the early ’80s. I remember one of his favourite bands at the time was Echo & the Bunnymen, and I’m sure he put one of their songs on that elusive, arty mixtape I’ve been looking for, for a while. (I mention the friend’s band in my post on Philip Glass’s “The Poet Acts” and also talk of receiving an email through the Contact page on my website from the daughter of the NMC lead singer in my post on “Can’t Let Go.” The mixtape itself gets a mention in my post on “Long in the Tooth.”)

But, I digress, already…. back to today’s band.

Ian McCulloch is the instantly recognizable voice and frontperson of Echo & the Bunnymen, formed in Liverpool, England in 1978, just as the new wave movement was kicking off. Fast forward to the present, I’ve heard his vocal in one of their recent releases, “Bring on the Dancing Horses” from The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon (2018) numerous times on KEXP Seattle’s The Morning Show with John Richards. McCulloch’s voice has a unique, almost kind of haunting quality to it.

“Lips Like Sugar” is a terrific, upbeat song from the band’s eponymous 1987 album. The official video opens with a shot of the famous Royal Liver Building on St. George’s Pier Head in Liverpool. The top of the building is home to two statues of liver birds, a mythical creature and a symbol of the city and local football club. (It’s also the image on a tattoo one of our lads has to recognize his family history.)

One of the birds faces out to the River Mersey and Liverpool Bay, and the other faces into the city. One of my cousins there says one is watching over the sailors, and the other is checking to see if the pubs are open.

The video also features some campy, B-movie type footage and is pretty entertaining. It was a serendipitous discovery after an Internet rabbit hole took me there.

Wherever the day takes you, I hope it’s a great one. Happy Friday!

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video. It’s on an unofficial but automatically-credited-to-the-artist version on YouTube:

(Just Like) Starting Over

I remember, in 1980, being excited about Double Fantasy, a new record by John Lennon (1940-1980) and Yoko Ono, after Lennon had pretty much disappeared from the music industry a few years earlier.

Back then, I was a 20-year-old with a few circles of friends, a great job, and several relationships with women that would start and end within the space of a few years. It was a very full time in my life, with lots of excitement.

Looking for a song about hope today, “(Just Like) Starting Over” perfectly fits. It is an incredibly well-written, played, sung and produced piece of music. It carries such an air of positivity and hope, though it does so rather ironically: the album’s release was less than two months before Lennon’s assassination in New York, New York, USA, in December 1980.

“(Just Like) Starting Over” would be the last single released during the former Beatles member’s lifetime. I recall it receiving a lot of radio airplay before and after his death. Afterward, hearing this serenade to love was deeply poignant when thinking of the sudden loss suffered by his wife Yoko and his children, friends, and colleagues.

Our life together is so precious together,
We have grown – we have grown,
Although our love is still special,
Let’s take our chance and fly away somewhere alone,

It’s been so long since we took the time,
No-one’s to blame,
I know time flies so quickly,
But when I see you darling,
It’s like we both are falling in love again,
It’ll be just like starting over – starting over,

Every day we used to make it love,
Why can’t we be making love nice and easy,
It’s time to spread our wings and fly,
Don’t let another day go by my love,
It’ll be just like starting over – starting over,

Why don’t we take off alone,
Take a trip somewhere far, far away,
We’ll be together all alone again,
Like we used to in the early days,
Well, well, darling,

It’s been so long since we took the time,
No-one’s to blame,
I know time flies so quickly,
But when I see you darling,
It’s like we both are falling in love again,
It’ll be just like starting over – starting over,

Our life together is so precious together,
We have grown – we have grown,
Although our love is still special,
Let’s take a chance and fly away somewhere alone.

(“(Just Like) Starting Over,” by John Lennon.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

The musicianship on the song is fabulous, particularly guitar work by Earl Slick and drumming by Andy Newmark. The two musicians collaborated with Lennon, David Bowie and Strange Advance (plus, Newmark also worked with Roxy Music).

On a day like today, when Manitoba recorded its highest-yet daily count of new cases of COVID-19, it’s essential to focus on positive, hopeful, life-giving moments. We’ll get through and thrive — with music.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the official John Lennon YouTube channel:

Charlie Darwin

I’m not sure where I first heard the song “Charlie Darwin” by the band The Low Anthem, though it may have been on KEXP Seattle during The Morning Show with John Richards.

Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky formed the band, which is currently a foursome, in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, in 2006. They self-released their second studio album, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, in 2008. It was re-released in 2009 by Nonesuch Records (USA) and Bella Union (UK).

The lead track, “Charlie Darwin,” is solemn with beautiful vocal harmonies and is perfectly matched with a remarkably produced, stop-action short film created by Simon Taffe and Glenn Taunton of the London, England-based company End of The Road Films.

It is a piece of music that has been working in my mental notes for a while.

According to co-writer Knox Miller, the song is about “environmental decay and social de-evolution and the death of morality and all these very grand things.” And that statement was made over a decade ago, before the shadow side of social media metastasized into such a toxic cloud over the Internet, creating multiple, unregulated and mostly uncontrolled streams for the propagation of hate and misinformation. Fast forward to 2021, where addiction to the immediate gratification and mob mentality stoked by these platforms is so pervasive it has even bled into the shaming of loved ones online. “Oh my God…” indeed.

The song lyrics include some wise, though piercing, commentary on modern society: “The lords of war just profit from decay / And trade their children’s promise for the jingle / The way we trade our hard-earned time for pay…”

There’s a heartbreaking edge to the song, but I feel it needs to be heard. I believe the man in the video hears the cautioning voices of the past when he holds the prehistoric skull he finds while digging, but by then it is too late.

Set the sails I feel the winds a’stirring
Toward the bright horizon set the way
Cast your wreckless dreams upon our Mayflower
Haven from the world and her decay

And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
Fighting for a system built to fail
Spooning water from their broken vessels
As far as I can see there is no land

Oh my god, the water’s all around us
Oh my god, it’s all around

And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
The lords of war just profit from decay
And trade their children’s promise for the jingle
The way we trade our hard-earned time for pay

Oh my god, the water’s cold and shapeless
Oh my god, it’s all around
Oh my god, life is cold and formless
Oh my god, it’s all around

(“Charlie Darwin,” by Jocie Adams, Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowsky.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

To paraphrase my dear friend in the mountains of Colorado, it’s the artists, the poets, who will save the planet.

Isn’t it time we stopped the “flaming” and started listening… and hearing them?

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the official video from The Low Anthem’s Vimeo site:

Speed Your Love to Me

Welcome to my 500th post on the My Song of the Day for Today blog! That’s 500 consecutive days of posting! Whew…

I had a busy day today, shortened by a rare sleep-in, then attending a virtual event followed by an online meeting, and later packing up and taking a mid-afternoon drive to Patricia Beach Provincial Park to sit on the beach. Yes, my friends, on May 18! Just two weeks after my sweety was out walking wearing a winter coat, today she and I were in swimsuits sweating on the beach under the glorious sun.

Patricia Beach in the afternoon. Photo by Steve West.

With all the activity of the day, I didn’t have a song in mind for this milestone, but serendipity helped me out on the way home tonight, as it often does. I was hoping for random inspiration from the shuffle play of my Bday Party playlist on CarPlay, but wouldn’t you know it: most of the songs that came on were ones I’ve already posted. Getting closer to home — or I should say a pit stop at VJ’s Drive Inn to pick up burgers and fries — Simple Minds’ “Speed Your Love to Me” played. It is one of my favourite songs, and I mention it briefly in my post on “Up on the Catwalk.”

Both songs come from Sparkle in the Rain (1984). I say in the earlier post how much I love Steve Lillywhite’s raw production of that record. The instruments are all bright and slightly hollow-sounding, especially the live-sounding drums; Mel Gaynor plays almost machine-gun speed as he also does on “Up on the Catwalk.” Jim Kerr’s powerful vocal is made almost ethereal by the subtle back-up vocal of guest singer Kirsty MacColl (1959-2000; she and Lillywhite were married from 1984-1994). And there are some funky keyboard sounds best picked up on headphones. It’s a great highway song… which begs the question: Why isn’t this song on my Car Tunes playlist?

I couldn’t sleep a wink last night
I’d love to hold on
Love to see the fires in motion
Love to feel a free world turn tonight

Run till we come, until we be
Speed your love to me
Run till we come, until we be
Speed your love

Run till we come, until we be
Speed your love to me
She would like to make a wish
Twenty-four cannot be this
He moved at the speed of light
Through the day and through the night
Fire from the flame of youth
Fire

Run till we come, until we be
Speed your love to me

Just my imagination, just my imagination
You go to my head, you go to my head
With the flames that go higher and higher
And higher and higher and higher and higher
Over and over to me, speeds your love

I couldn’t sleep a wink last night
I’d love to hold on
Love to see the fires in motion
I’d love to feel a free world turn tonight

Run till we come, until we be
Speed your love to me

Just my imagination, just my imagination
You go to my head, you go to my head
With the flames that go higher and higher
And higher and higher and higher and higher
Over to me, speed your love to me

Run till we come, until we be
Speed your love

You go to my head, you go to my head
You go to my head, over me
Higher, higher, higher
You go to my head, you go to my head
You go to my head, over me
Higher and higher, higher and higher
All across to me

(“Speed Your Love to Me,” by Charlie Burchill, Derek Forbes, Mick MacNeill, Jim Kerr, Mel Gaynor. Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com, with a few corrections by me.)

Now you know a little about why this is my 500th pick for My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for supporting this blog by joining me here, and please enjoy!

Here’s the audio for the song from Simple Minds’ official YouTube channel:

In Your Eyes

In 1993, Peter Gabriel was touring in support of his 1992 album Us. I’m not sure all the places that his Secret World tour played, but during two nights at the Palasport Nuovo in Modena, Italy, a crew filmed the concerts. The resulting film was Secret World Live, released in 1994 on VHS tape, then LaserDisc (does anyone remember those?!) and later on DVD.

I’ve previously posted two songs played during that show, the dramatic opening “Come Talk to Me,” and “Washing of the Water” (both are from Us).

Today’s selection, “In Your Eyes,” is the final track on the Secret World Live setlist. The song runs for about ten minutes and showcases Gabriel and the entire backing band on a circular stage (there were two stages, joined by a conveyor belt). They play, sing, make dance moves together, and just generally jam in what looks and feels like a celebratory ending to the concert. The excited audience flicks cigarette lighters on and off in unison, adding a beautiful ambiance to the venue.

The song initially appeared on Gabriel’s fifth studio album So (1986). Canadian musician (and frequent collaborator with Brian Eno) Daniel Lanois joined Gabriel in producing the record.

The song also appears in American director Cameron Crowe’s film Say Anything… (1989). In a famous scene, the underachieving student Lloyd (played by American actor, producer and activist John Cusack, whose roles often have him brilliantly playing hapless young men mired in mediocrity) holds a boombox on his shoulder in the early morning. The boombox belts out “their song” as his attempt to serenade and win back his girlfriend Diane (played by British-born American actor Ione Skye). Don’t worry; I won’t spoil the plot…

Love I get so lost, sometimes
Days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
When I want to run away
I drive off in my car
But whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are

All my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

In your eyes
The light the heat
In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes
I see the light and the heat
In your eyes
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
The heat I see in your eyes

Love, I don’t like to see so much pain
So much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive

And all my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

In your eyes
The light the heat
In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes
I see the light and the heat
In your eyes
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light,
The heat I see in your eyes
In your eyes in your eyes
In your eyes in your eyes
In your eyes in your eyes

(“In Your Eyes,” by Peter Gabriel.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

In addition, American educator Rick Beato features the song in episode 27 of his What Makes This Song Great? series. I haven’t watched it all yet, but I am sure it is up to Beato’s usual informative and entertaining style.

At a time when COVID-19 case counts and test-positivity are continuing at record highs in my province of Manitoba, Canada, and too-little-too-late restrictions remain, it’s vital to have hope. The lively performance of this song brings some joy, as does the weather on this sunny, hot day in Winnipeg as I sit in the recently set-up summer porch writing to you.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the performance from Secret World Live on Peter Gabriel’s official YouTube channel:

If you prefer, the much-shorter, official music video for the studio version is also on Gabriel’s channel:

Locus iste

Last Sunday, I posted music from Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, which my sweety and I had heard during a virtual concert by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on a dinner and concert “date night out, at home.”

I explain in that post that four members of the WSO played the sacred motet, Locus iste (Latin for “this place”), by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) in memory of a staff member who recently died.

Locus iste is the generic title for a piece of music used in a church’s dedication, and Bruckner’s setting of this form is one of the most famous examples. He composed his version in 1869, for unaccompanied mixed choir, to celebrate the first completed section of a new cathedral in Linz, Austria. The WSO quartet last weekend played an arrangement for trombones.

I searched for the different arrangements and found a lovely choral version by the Tenebrae Choir conducted by Nigel Short, filmed at the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great, London, England. The other was a trombone quartet representing the WDR (or Westdeutscher Rundfunk) Symphony Orchestra, an orchestra of the West German Broadcasting Corporation at the WDR Funkhaus Wallrafplatz in Cologne, Germany.

Both versions are from early 2020; the choral performance is about two months before the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. The brass version is from spring 2020, perhaps after the implementation of lockdown, given the spacing of the musicians. Both performances are beautiful and contemplative; I find them both profoundly moving.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for choral performance from the Tenebrae Choir’s official YouTube channel:

And, the arrangement for trombone quartet, from the official WDR Klassik YouTube channel:

Redemption Day

In 1995, American singer, songwriter and actress Sheryl Crow travelled to Bosnia to give a concert for military service people. What she witnessed there, along with the largely-unheeded genocide in Rwanda, inspired her to write “Redemption Day,” a song which she says has a Bob Dylan-inspired lyric.

The song is on her 1996 self-titled album. I have never followed Crow or particularly been enamoured with many of her hits like the pop number “Everyday Is a Winding Road.” But when I noticed this morning that she had participated in an instalment of American musician, composer and podcaster Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder, taking apart and telling the story of a song featuring the voice of Johnny Cash, I was interested and listened to the podcast episode from June 2019. (I highly recommend listening to it as well.)

Crow sang at the funeral of June Carter Cash (1929-2003), a frequent collaborator with her husband Johnny Cash (1932-2003). Soon after, Johnny called Crow, wanting to cover “Redemption Day” and had questions about some of the lyrics. His 2003 recording was released posthumously on American VI: Ain’t No Grave (2010).

When Crow recorded a new version of the song in 2019, she added vocals from the Cash cover.

In the podcast, Crow tells how she felt deeply emotional in the studio recording the song while hearing the voice of the late singer-songwriter.

I’ve wept for those who suffer long
But how I weep for those who’ve gone
Into rooms of grief and questioned wrong
But keep on killing
It’s in the soul to feel such things
But weak to watch without speaking
Oh what mercy sadness brings
If God be willing

There is a train that’s heading straight
To Heaven’s gate, to Heaven’s gate
And on the way, child and man
And woman wait, watch and wait
For redemption day

Fire rages in the streets
And swallows everything it meets
It’s just an image often seen
On television
Come leaders, come ye men of great
Let us hear you pontificate
Your many virtues laid to waste
And we aren’t listening

There is a train that’s heading straight
To Heaven’s gate, to Heaven’s gate
And on the way, child and man
And woman wait, watch and wait
For redemption day

What do you have for us today
Throw us a bone but save the plate
On why we waited ’til so late
Was there no oil to excavate?
No riches in trade for the fate
Of every person who died in hate
Throw us a bone, you men of great

There is a train that’s heading straight
To Heaven’s gate, to Heaven’s gate
And on the way, child and man
And woman wait, watch and wait
For redemption day

It’s buried in the countryside
It’s exploding in the shells at night
It’s everywhere a baby cries
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom

(“Redemption Day,” by Sheryl Crow. Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

The result is a remarkable piece of music, complemented by a dramatic and, at times, disturbing music video about some of humankind’s activities on the planet.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Sheryl Crow’s official YouTube channel:

The Road

The Matinée is a Canadian band from the west coast.

While categorized as alternative, the band has a southern kind of sound, with influences of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. I first heard them on CBC Radio 3 when I listened to that Internet station years ago, before they did away with live hosts/DJs.

My sweety and I and one of our boys went to see the band when they had a gig at Winnipeg, Canada’s Park Theatre. I’m not sure when this was, but it must have been not long after they put out their debut album, We Swore We’d See the Sunrise. That album produced a hit with its opening track, “Young & Lazy,” a song reminiscent of youth and summertime.

I remember talking with the band members after the Winnipeg show; a friendly bunch who put on an entertaining show. I think we even talked about putting them up at our place the next time they came back. I bought the album on vinyl, which they all signed.

“The Road” is an excellent example of the fun sound I associate with the band. And the music video… whoa, it is a great time! I don’t recall ever seeing it before.

It feels like a good song for a Friday, heading into the weekend.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. If you like the song, I encourage you to give the video a thumb’s up.

Here’s the video for the song from The Matinée’s official VEVO/YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of MetroLyrics.com.

Skyway

The Replacements were a rock band formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, in 1979. They disbanded in 1991 but reunited briefly from 2012-2015.

“Skyway” originally appeared on Pleased to Meet Me, the band’s fifth studio album, released in 1987. I came to know the song as it is featured on the soundtrack for the musical drama-comedy film Camp (2003) — a fantastic movie, by the way. I previously posted the breathtaking opening track from the soundtrack, “How Shall I See You Through My Tears,” one that marks one of the many emotive moments in the IFC Films company release about the experience of a summer camp in New York state for young performing artists. (My previous post tells a little more about the film. Check it out if you haven’t seen it; the song is really worth the trip.)

I’m so glad I bought a copy of the DVD as it is the kind of film I like to revisit. Many people might say, it has “all the feels” and explores many of the issues that confront youth, like belonging, sexuality, family, peer pressure, body shaming, and the angst and anxiety that comes from uncertainty about the future.

In singer, guitarist and band songwriter Paul Westerberg’s composition, I believe he is writing about being attracted to someone he thinks about but never seems to meet up with and is perhaps shy about approaching. When he’s walking on street level, the other person is on the skyway. Then, when he is up on the skyway, he sees the person down below, where he waits every day for his bus. From that standpoint, the lyrics remind me a little of “Ironic,” by Canadian singer, songwriter and musician Alanis Morissette.

You take the skyway, high above the busy little one-way
In my stupid hat and gloves, at night I lie awake
Wonderin’ if I’ll sleep
Wonderin’ if we’ll meet out in the street

But you take the skyway
It don’t move at all like a subway
It’s got bums when it’s cold like any other place
It’s warm up inside
Sittin’ down and waitin’ for a ride
Beneath the skyway

Oh, then one day, I saw you walkin’ down that little one-way
Where, the place I’d catch my ride most every day
There wasn’t a damn thing I could do or say
Up in the skyway

Skyway
Skyway (sky away)

(“Skyway,” by Paul Westerberg. Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

Whatever it really means, it’s a lovely song.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the YouTube topic channel for The Replacements. If you like it, please give a thumbs-up on the video:

Harmony

Elton John released his seventh studio album, the double-record Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 1973. That was a year of musical significance for me, as it was the year I saw David Bowie at the tail end of his Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars tour at the Liverpool Empire Theatre while on holiday in England and Paris, France, with my parents.

Bowie was big in my childhood home, after an older brother introduced us to his music. I think it may have been my sister who brought home Elton John’s music. Anyway, we all enjoyed him and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road played many times on our living room stereo.

I also remember, when driving in my car, I would occasionally play the opening medley “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” far too loudly on the cassette tape player.

“Harmony” is the closing track on the album, a short (2:46) but beautiful piece. The whole album is magnificent; many different song styles but consistently excellent writing, musicianship and production. I find the sound of the drums to be so full, crisp and clear, the bass line deep with a slight hollowness to it, and the distortion of the electric guitar to be just right. Then, of course, there is all of John’s outstanding keyboard work and vocals.

Hello, baby hello
Haven’t seen your face for a while
Have you quit doing time for me
Or are you still the same spoiled child

Hello, I said hello
Is this the only place you thought to go
Am I the only man you ever had
Or am I just the last surviving friend that you know

Harmony and me
We’re pretty good company
Looking for an island
In our boat upon the sea
Harmony, gee I really love you
And I want to love you forever
And dream of the never, never, never leaving harmony

Hello, baby hello
Open up your heart and let your feelings flow
You’re not unlucky knowing me
Keeping the speed real slow
In any case I set my own pace
By stealing the show, say hello, hello

(“Harmony,” by Elton John, Bernie Taupin. Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

I feel like the song might be the singer telling about his relationship with himself, getting through struggles and learning to care for himself and live in harmony with the world around him. John had challenges in his life with drugs and an eating disorder which lasted a few years beyond the time of the album’s release but publicly stated in 2019 that he had been clean and sober for 29 years.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Elton John’s official YouTube channel:

When Your Mind’s Made Up (from the film, Once)

One of the first songs that caught my attention when skimming over my digital collection this morning was “When Your Mind’s Made Up,” from the soundtrack of the Irish romantic musical drama Once (2007).

Most of the characters in the movie are referred to by their gender or occupation: Glen Hansard (who has a minor mention in my post on a song by The Commitments) plays “Guy,” a local musician and vacuum-cleaner repairer; Markéta Irglová plays the Czech “Girl;” then there are other characters named “Guy’s Dad,” “Ex-girlfriend,” and “Guy in Piano Shop,” for example. Guy and Girl meet up in a Dublin street where Guy is busking, and Girl, also a musician, sells flowers.

The two strike up a conversation and soon are hanging out, playing music together at a piano in a music shop. They decide to team up and record some songs after securing a bank loan to buy studio time and recruiting random street musicians to form a band. “When Your Mind’s Made Up” appears in the film when the group has finally hit its stride and is recording. It’s an exhilarating moment in the movie.

The song seems to be Guy addressing his former girlfriend who left him and moved to London, England.

So, if you ever want something
And you call, call
Then I’ll come running
To fight, and I’ll be at your door
When there’s nothing worth running for

When your mind’s made up
When your mind’s made up
There’s no point trying to change it
When your mind’s made up
When your mind’s made up
There’s no point trying to stop it

You see, you’re just like anyone
When the shit falls all you want to do is run, away
And hide all by yourself
There is no one, who is gonna run to help

When your mind’s made up
When your mind’s made up
There’s no point trying to change it
When your mind’s made up
When your mind’s made up
There’s no point even talking
When your mind’s made up
When your mind’s made up
There’s no point trying to fight it

So, if you ever want something
And you call, call
Then I’ll come running

(“When Your Mind’s Made Up,” by Glen Hansard.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

The film is fantastic. One of my sons has recalled it as a random movie dad arrived home with for pizza and movie night one Friday many years ago, and that it sparked his interest in performing music. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t seen it (or seeing it again even if you have!).

Glen Hansard wrote “When Your Mind’s Made Up” and recorded it in 2006 with his band The Frames on their sixth album, The Cost. The album track is very similar to the film version. The original recording has a string intro and features an electric guitar playing the rhythm instead of the acoustic guitar in the movie version. But both are fabulous.

Irglová and Hansard performed for several years as The Swell Season and recorded the music for the film soundtrack. “Falling Slowly” from the Once soundtrack won Best Original Song at the 80th Academy Awards in 2008, helping to increase the popularity of the folk duo.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the soundtrack version of the song from Glen Hansard’s official YouTube channel:

And just for fun, here’s the audio from the 2006 album version (an unofficial but credited-to-the-artist video):

Gather Round the Table

Yesterday morning, I was listening to Colorado Public Radio’s classical music stream. It’s a station often recommended to me by a dear friend who lives there.

At one point, CPR Classical host David Ginder played a new piece by American pianist, composer, music scholar and author Bruce Adolphe, titled “Gather Round the Table.” Adolphe set to music a poem by Sri Lanka-born poet, editor and lecturer Pireeni Sundaralingam. A recording of it features two American performers, soprano Susanna Phillips and pianist Myra Hung.

I post a classical piece of music every Sunday, but today I’m making an exception and posting another because this one impressed me so much and I really wanted to share it with you. “Gather Round the Table” is a beautiful piece, described on Adolphe’s website as “a song of yearning during the pandemic.” Phillips’ singing of it is exquisite, as is Hung’s piano accompaniment.

Adolphe has composed music for Sylvia McNair, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and many other notable performers. I hope he makes today’s piece available for sale as I would love to buy a digital copy for my music collection. (If I discover it does become available, I’ll add an update to this post.)

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

To listen to the piece and read the poem, please visit the Featured Audio page on the Bruce Adolphe website.

Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, K. 364, II: Andante

Sweety and I got all dressed up and went to a concert last night! Well, sort of…

We attended a special livestreamed Mothers’ Day event held by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Masterworks with Mom, from the comfort of our living room. 

Conductor Daniel Raiskin was at the podium directing Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), followed by Serenade No. 2 in A Major, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). Another piece, not on the program, was the sacred motet Locus iste, by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896). The piece, written for four voices, was played, after the intermission, by a horn quartet in memory of a WSO staff member who recently died.

As part of the event, the symphony partnered with Peasant Cookery, a charming local restaurant, to provide a delicious, three-course meal of spinach and beet salad with raspberry vinaigrette, apples, pepitas and hemp seeds; tarte flambee with cork cheese, caramelized onions, wild mushrooms, swiss cheese; followed by rum baba, and dulce de leche for dessert. The delivered bag also contained a bottle of Italian red wine and a red carnation. Very classy.

It was the first time we’ve both gotten dressed up to do something in more than a year, and it felt like a touch of normalcy. The food and wine were delightful, and the music was lovely. Bravo, WSO and Peasant Cookery!

Mothers’ Day can be a complicated day for many. The name can feel excluding to step-moms, godmothers, adoptive and foster moms, or those of any gender who provide motherly nurture without having children, whether childlessness is a choice or not. Also, it doesn’t acknowledge the problematic relationships many have with their mothers, the challenge of grieving the loss of a mother, or a mother’s loss of a child. I like how some dear friends replace the Mothers’ Day and other similar salutations of “happy” with “gentle,” to honour the fact the day can bring many heavy emotions besides the happiness the commercialized side of the day commands (often creating unrealistic and unrealized expectations).

Thoughtful intentions and adjustments to our language needn’t diminish the celebratory nature of a day; in fact, a spirit of inclusiveness can do so much to build a culture of authentic, collective celebration that is like the sentiment of mothering spirit: nurturing to all.

Whatever your situation, I wish you peace and a gentle, nurtured day today.

Mozart wrote Sinfonia in 1779 at the age of 23. It’s an outstanding piece of music, though the second movement (Andante) is the most beautiful part, to me. The violin (played at last night’s concert by WSO concertmaster Gwen Hoebig) and viola (played by Daniel Scholz) danced with each other beautifully, surrounded by the modest fullness of the chamber orchestra. The WSO chose chamber pieces to keep the occupancy of the stage as low and spread out as possible and using physical distancing, with face coverings where possible and Plexiglas screens where not possible.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and I hope you enjoy it.

Here’s a video of a performance of the Andante by Susanna Yoko Henkel (violin), Maxim Rysanov (viola) and the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra from the Zagreb KOM official YouTube channel, recorded at Zagreb KOM 5 (the fifth Zagreb International Chamber Music Festival) in October 2010:

Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)

I’m not sure how I feel about the use of sampling in music production; that is, the practice of taking a clip from a song and editing it into a new piece. Sometimes I think like it’s the equivalent of plagiarism, in other words, a ripoff, and indeed it’s been a source of lawsuits in the past, and no doubt will be in the future.

But this morning, that belief was challenged somewhat as I resumed listening to the April 25 episode of BBC 6 Music’s Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on the BBC Sounds app (I haven’t mentioned Guy in a while, now, have I?). Garvey’s sister Becky, known on the program as “the Beckapedia,” gave an enlightening and entertaining segment on sampling, which ended with Guy spinning “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So),” by the Chicago, Illinois, USA foursome the Chi-Lites.

Here’s an excerpt of her comments on the notion of sampling as a homage to past artists, as an opportunity to teach younger folk about music history:

(The Chi-Lites) peaked in their popularity in the early seventies with… and raucous R&B struts such as “Are you My Woman (Tell Me So).” It’s an amazing, infinitely sample-worthy track, full of wild percussion, outstanding vocals, and a brass riff that has since become the framework for one of the biggest tracks of the ‘noughties.’ Now I know the one I prefer, but whichever song gets you grooving, it has to be said that those horns are the stars of both tracks, and the sort of sample likely to draw younger fans back to the roots of music where there’s so much more to discover.”

As the song began, I immediately knew the big hit, from 2003, that the Beckapedia was talking about. Listen to today’s song, and let me know how long it takes you to recognize the sample and the song it was used in! (I will leave a note in the comments below, in case you are really stuck, but I am sure most of you will guess the song.)

“Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)” comes from the Chi-Lites’ 1970 album, I Like Your Lovin’ (Do You Like Mine?)

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Chi-Lites YouTube topic channel:  

Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Do You Feel Like We Do

While writing my May 5, 2021 post on Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” I watched a video by music educator and producer Rick Beato’s What Makes This Song Great? series in which he takes apart and explains the many elements in the piece.

So it’s no surprise that today my feed was flooded with Beato videos. Some great songs, but the one that really jumped out for me as a Friday song was “Do You Feel Like We Do,” the nearly-14-minute, closing track from side four of English singer, songwriter, musician and producer Peter Frampton’s 1976 double live record, Frampton Comes Alive! Most of the songs on the album come from recordings made one night at the Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, California, USA.

And, as with the Led Zeppelin vinyl, my copy of the Frampton record set comes from that record collection I bought from a brother and would have heard during his basement suite parties I talk about in that post.

I think there’s just such a calm yet excitedly celebratory tone to the song, and I can see why Beato chose it for the hundredth episode of his series. Beato goes all out, bringing Frampton in to talk about the music and even enlists friends and colleagues to play sections of the piece.

In one of the solo breaks in the song, Frampton plays the talk box, a device for distorting sounds from his guitar, using the mouth and voice. The effects of early versions of the tool (dating back to at least 1939) were referred to as “singing guitar.” It’s also remarkable that in many periods during the song there are gaps where the rhythm section is continuing, but the audience fills the voids with wild, jubilant applause.

And that, my friends, is a concert. Someday, we’ll be going to those big shows again. (Depending on where you live, maybe you are already. Not here.) In the meantime, now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Peter Frampton’s official YouTube channel:

And here’s Beato’s video, which includes appearances by Frampton:

Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

The Man Comes Around

Checking out my digital library today, I happened upon the album American IV: The Man Comes Around by country music legend Johnny Cash (1932-2003). It’s a favourite.

The album was the fourth in Cash’s American series and the last to be released while he was still living. It’s an absolutely superb collection, mostly made of covers: Cash interprets a wide variety of eras, styles and artists, including Nine Inch Nails, Sting, Paul Simon, Ewan MacColl’s (1915-1989) “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” Depeche Mode, the Beatles, Tex Ritter (1905-1974), Eagles, as well as the World War II classic, “We’ll Meet Again” and an old folk composition, “Danny Boy.” (The last one is a song which always reminds me of emergency management training I took in Ottawa, Canada in 2001, just after the terror attacks of 9/11. One evening after a few rounds in the bar, a tall, massive firefighter from the East Coast started belting out the song in a most beautiful, gentle voice, and he left the somewhat tipsy crowd speechless with emotion.)

Cash recruited some stellar talent to help him with the album’s recording: Nick Cave and Fiona Apple (vocals), John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mike Campbell of Tom Petty’s (1950-2017) backing band the Heartbreakers, and Randy Scruggs (1953-2018) on guitars, and Don Henley of Eagles on drums, vocals, and keyboards, plus many other musicians.

I believe I first heard music from American IV: The Man Comes Around during a gathering at my oldest brother’s home, and then I bought the CD about ten years ago.

The title track from the album is also the opening song. It’s a lively piece Cash wrote and, listening to the track, it’s hard to imagine it was performed by a man who would die about a year later. The guitar and piano play off each other brilliantly, creating a powerful melody that I guarantee will have you tapping your toes!

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder: one of the four beasts saying: “Come and see.” And I saw. And behold, a white horse...

There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names.
And he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won’t be treated all the same.
There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down.
When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up
At the terror in each sip and in each sup.
Will you partake of that last offered cup
Or disappear into the potter’s ground
When the man comes around?

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin’.
Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin’, voices cryin’.
Some are born and some are dyin’.
It’s Alpha and Omega’s Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

‘Til Armageddon, no Shalam, no Shalom.
Then the father hen will call his chickens home.
The wise men will bow down before the throne.
And at his feet they’ll cast their golden crowns
When the man comes around.

Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still.
Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still.
Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.
Listen to the words long written down,
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin’.
Multitudes are marchin’ to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin’, voices cryin’.
Some are born and some are dyin’.
It’s Alpha and Omega’s Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

In measured hundredweight and penny pound
When the man comes around.

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts, and I looked and behold: a pale horse. And his name, that sat on him, was Death. And Hell followed with him.

(“The Man Comes Around,” by Johnny Cash.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

I previously posted Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the official Johnny Cash YouTube channel:

Whole Lotta Love

As I opened YouTube today, I saw it offered up a few suggestions of videos by American record producer and educator Rick Beato, whose “What Makes This Song Great?” series I quote in several posts on this blog.

I watched episode 43, which profiles and breaks down today’s selection, “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. I don’t listen to this former London, English band much, though I have most of their studio albums: Led Zeppelin (1969), Led Zeppelin III (1970), an untitled record often referred to as Led Zeppelin IV (1971), Houses of the Holy (1973), Presence (1976) and In Through the Out Door (1979). The first four come from a collection I bought from an older brother, the last two I purchased on one of my weekly downtown record shopping trips. I’m pretty sure I also used to have Physical Graffiti (1975), but it’s not with my collection; I must have given it away. On the digital side, I have the 2007 compilation, Mothership.

My Led Zeppelin vinyl collection.

I have a lot of childhood memories of hanging out in my brother’s basement suite, hearing his (now my) Led Zeppelin and other rock records played when he had friends in to visit. Like I mentioned in my post on Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” they were a really friendly bunch. It always looked like they were enjoying each other’s company, the music, and bottles of Mateus wine. I also remember having a crush on the girlfriend of one of the friends; it always felt like she was genuinely interested in talking with the awkward, bespectacled and early-teenage me.

“Whole Lotta Love” comes from Led Zeppelin II, the only early album I don’t have. It also appears on Mothership.

When I watched Beato’s video, I was interested to hear his analysis of the bridge in the middle of the song. There is a sound I had always assumed was an electric guitar with effects on it but, turns out, it is the theremin, an unusual musical device that a person plays without actual physical contact with it. There’s an excellent article on this device in Wikipedia. I found some serendipity in learning this little factoid, as a variation of the instrument, the electro-theremin, is used in yesterday’s song choice, The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.” (And, while I’m here, both songs are on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”)

Beato’s videos are always entertaining, insightful and educational. I recommend checking this one out… it’s posted beneath the official music video.

Led Zeppelin released “Whole Lotta Love” in 1969, and, at first, airplay was difficult as radio stations shied away from experimental/psychedelic sounds like the theremin-enriched bridge. The label released a shorter edit for radio. (I’m not too fond of those; hearing a favourite song on the radio, often there’s that moment of an audible edit, and I find I’m disoriented for a second or two, while my mind catches up and skips the edited-out part). The band’s guitarist, backing vocalist, and thereminist Jimmy Page produced the song and album, and all other Led Zeppelin albums.

In addition to the band, a writing credit for “Whole Lotta Love” went to American blues musician Willie Dixon (1915-1992) along with a payment, a result of Led Zep basing parts of their song on Dixon’s composition “You Need Love” (which American blues singer-songwriter Muddy Waters recorded in 1962).

After the death of drummer John Bonham (1948-1980), Led Zeppelin disbanded. Bonham’s son Jason, also a drummer, played with the surviving members of the group on some reunion shows. He also played here in Winnipeg, Canada, in June 2014 as part of a show with the Seattle, Washington band Heart. Sweety and I and two dear friends attended the concert and had a fabulous, rocking time.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Led Zeppelin’s official YouTube channel:  

And, here’s the Beato breakdown:

Full, unofficial lyrics for the song are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Good Vibrations

Today I began listening to BBC 6 Music during morning rituals and routines. The always affable guest host Huw Stephens was in the chair on Shaun Keaveny’s show (13:00-16:00 GMT). After a news break, Stephens’ playlist resumed and “Good Vibrations” by the California, USA band, The Beach Boys was the first song I took note of while puttering around in the quiet of the early morning kitchen, with sunlight streaming in the east-facing windows.

I know I’ve written before about this, but it always amazes me how a song can help harness the beginnings of a good day and make it even better. That’s one of the things I love so much about music. Combined with the sun and the smell of coffee filtering into the cup, the music set a lovely tone for the day.

Released in 1966 as a single five years after the band formed, “Good Vibrations” was a massive hit. It is reported to be the most expensive-to-produce single at the time, with its complex structure and soundscapes. Singer-songwriter Brian Wilson also produced the track, using many hours of tape and session musicians to supplement the band’s instrumentation, adding others like the electro-theremin to create the layers of textured sound that span several phases in the piece. It’s quite a brilliant piece of studio work when one thinks of the technology available 55 years ago.

The song also led the way into experimentation in music that spawned genres like psychedelic and progressive rock.

I-I love the colorful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair
I hear the sound of a gentle word
On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air

I’m pickin’ up good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations (Oom bop bop)
I’m pickin’ up good vibrations (Good vibrations, oom bop bop)
She’s giving me excitations (Excitations, oom bop bop)
Good, good, good, good vibrations (Oom bop bop)
She’s giving me excitations (Excitations, oom bop bop)
Good, good, good, good vibrations (Oom bop bop)
She’s giving me excitations (Excitations)

Close my eyes, she’s somehow closer now
Softly smile, I know she must be kind
When I look in her eyes
She goes with me to a blossom world

I’m pickin’ up good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations (Oom bop bop)
I’m pickin’ up good vibrations (Good vibrations, oom bop bop)
She’s giving me excitations (Excitations, oom bop bop)
Good, good, good, good vibrations (Oom bop bop)
She’s giving me excitations (Excitations, oom bop bop)
Good, good, good, good vibrations (Oom bop bop)
She’s giving me excitations (Excitations)

(Ahh)
(Ah, my my, what elation)
I don’t know where but she sends me there
(Oh, my my, what a sensation)
(Oh, my my, what elation)
(Oh, my my, what)

Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin’ with her
Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin’ with her
Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin’

(Ahh)

Good, good, good, good vibrations (Oom bop bop)
(I’m pickin’ up good vibrations) (Oom bop bop)
She’s giving me excitations (Excitations, oom bop bop)
Good, good, good, good vibrations

Na na na na na, na na na
Na na na na na, na na na (Bop bop-bop-bop-bop, bop)
Do do do do do, do do do (Bop bop-bop-bop-bop, bop)
Do do do do do, do do do (Bop bop-bop-bop-bop, bop)

(“Good Vibrations,” by Brian Wilson, Mike Love.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

Wikipedia features an extensive article about “Good Vibrations,” and I recommend reading it if you want to learn more about the creation and development of the song.

The single also appeared as a track on the band’s 12th album, Smiley Smile (1967). Rolling Stone magazine lists “Good Vibrations” as number six in their “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from The Beach Boys’ official YouTube channel (click on the settings wheel and choose 1080p for the best sound):

Breakers Roar

The Kentucky, USA-born singer, songwriter and actor Sturgill Simpson has one of those voices that sounds like it carries deep, soulful wisdom and life experience beyond what a young man might possess. An “old soul,” as a dear Colorado friend would say.

Hearing Simpson’s voice makes me think again of the similarly-mature-sounding-at-a-young-age Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. For more on that thought, please see my post from a few days ago on his song “If You Could Read My Mind”.

A few years ago, I bought two Sturgill Simpson albums on the compelling recommendation of an American friend: Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (2014) and A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (2016). I have to admit, I haven’t listened to them much, and I don’t know why. Simpson’s voice, songwriting, instrumentation and self-production of the album produce such a superb sound.

A Sailor’s Guide to Earth earned Simpson a GRAMMY award for Best Country Album in 2017. The album features raw, outlaw country tunes, bluesy numbers, plenty of slide guitar, horns and strings, and then there are softer, more contemplative tracks like today’s selection, “Breakers Roar.” In the song, Simpson advises opening one’s heart and experiencing life and love in fullness instead of being consumed by the darkness of heartache.

Oh, how the breakers roar
They keep pulling me farther from shore
Thoughts turn to a love so kind
Just to keep me from losing my mind
So enticing, deep dark seas
It’s so easy to drown in the dream

Oh, and everything is not what it seems
This life is but a dream
Shatter illusions that hold your spirit down
Open up your heart and you’ll find love all around
Breathing and moving are healing
And soothing away
All the pain in life holding you down

Bone break and heals
Oh, but heartaches can kill
From the inside, so it seems
Oh, I’m telling you it’s all a dream
It’s all a dream
It’s all a dream
It’s all a dream
It’s all a…
It’s all a dream

(“Breakers Roar,” by Sturgill Simpson.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

The line, “Breathing and moving are healing…” is a good reminder that those two elemental activities can often be all it takes to ease one’s pain and start to unburden the mind.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Sturgill Simpson’s official YouTube channel:

Moonlight

The first movement (Adagio sostenuto) of the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Major, Opus 27, No. 2 (“Moonlight Sonata) by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), is a very well-known piece of solo piano music. Some might even say it’s overplayed. Not me.

Beethoven wrote the sonata in 1801 and dedicated it to a student of his. Years later, the influential German poet and music critic Ludwig Rellstab (1799-1860) remarked on the similarity between the piece and the effect of moonlight shimmering on a lake and, well, the name stuck.

One of my most memorable experiences of the Moonlight Sonata is from my early 20s: Friends and I travelled to British Columbia, Canada, for a skiing holiday in February 1983. (BC has always been a favourite destination of mine, and for my sweety and me, too, as I mention in my post on Spoons’ “Trade Winds.”) After flying to Vancouver, my friends and I stayed at the home of one of the gang’s parents in Tsawwassen, en route to Whistler/Blackcomb. This couple was so welcoming, kind and generous, making food for us to take up to our Whistler condo, lending us a car and, of course, putting us up at theirs.

When that same couple returned to visit Winnipeg, Manitoba, our group of friends hosted them for dinner. In addition to whatever part of the meal I contributed, I made a mixtape of classical music to create a warm, inviting ambiance. The Adagio from the Moonlight Sonata was one of the most popular pieces that evening.

As I returned to the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel for inspiration today, I was excited to find a “rethinking” of this piece of music and quickly decided this would be today’s selection. It’s an arrangement by Deutsche Grammophon’s Christian Badzura for solo violin, played by Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen, accompanied by an uncredited string orchestra and piano.

Deutsche Grammophon features Samuelsen’s comments in the notes section from the video post for “Moonlight”: “When listening to the ‘Moonlight Sonata’,” she explains, “I feel my soul getting detoxified. It’s like an internal cleansing of my emotional and mental system, a dream or a fantasy where you’re invited into a different world for some five minutes. I think it’s impossible to define if it’s dark or light. It gives me a feeling of hope and enlightenment, and of reflection and consciousness.”

Samuelsen is a talented artist who appears quite passionate about her playing. She performs on a number of alternate arrangements of classical pieces, as well as adaptations from other genres, like the Brian Eno/Hans-Joachim Roedelius/Dieter Moebius composition, “By This River.” That piece, by the way, is another arrangement for Samuelsen by Badzura. (If you haven’t yet seen my post on it, please check it out… it’s another marvellous song.)

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the official Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel:

Get Home

Yesterday, I featured a magnificent and beloved Canadian musician, Gordon Lightfoot. Today, it’s another one from my country, Sarah Slean.

I found the official music video for Slean’s song “Get Home,” which appears on her album The Baroness (2008). It’s produced in a visually pleasing film noir kind of way, like some of her other videos. I previously posted another piece from that album, “The Rose.” That post shares memories of listening to The Baroness in the car on weekend getaways with friends, plus includes a bit of a rant about people bashing public servants.

Both yesterday’s and today’s posts feature songs built around melancholy. I believe that love is the strongest feeling we can have as humans, and when it ends, it is a powerful thing to depict artfully. In the case of both “If You Could Read My Mind” and “Get Home,” the artists both do that with such authenticity and beauty, with strong emotional effect. “Sad songs” needn’t, in my view, be just about bringing you down… they are about exploring the full range of human emotion. At least, I think so, anyway.

In my post on Jann Arden’s “Good Mother,” I quoted from the Francis Weller book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief. One of my main learnings from the book is that we may not fully treasure the joys in our lives until grief breaks us open. I truly believe that, and I think that’s part of the reason I appreciate these types of songs so much.

Plus, they’re both so remarkably written, played and sung.

You can stay the night
You can look me in the eye
You can fake your way to the finish line
But don’t you dare profess to love me
When you’re lying to another
That’s not love that’s just wishing
Wish and love are not the same thing

Get home get home
Take a look at her
You know you know
That you love her

Mr. Masquerade
You’re getting good at this charade
Go on fool yourself with talk of poetry
But don’t you dare pretend you’re sorry
To me you’re just a tourist
You’ve got to stand next to the real ones
Because you know you’ll never be one

Get home get home
Nothing more to say
You know you know
That you’ll never change

You’ll never change
And I don’t play the game
With liars and cowards
Liars and cowards
Liars and cowards
Like you

(“Get Home,” by Sarah Slean. Unofficial lyrics courtesy of Genius.com)

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from Sarah Slean’s official YouTube channel:

If You Could Read My Mind

There are many world-renowned musicians and bands that my country Canada has produced. One of them is singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, an incredibly talented balladeer of folk, folk-rock and country music who has an unmistakable sound. Even as a younger man, he had a depth and gentleness in his voice that belied the age at which he became famous.

Lightfoot has said that his divorce inspired the lyrics for “If You Could Read My Mind,” which is a beautifully melancholy piece of music. I usually try to post an uplifting song on Fridays, heading into the weekend, but this song came into my YouTube feed… actually, it was music producer and educator Rick Beato’s breakdown of the song in episode 94 of his What Makes This Song Great? series that my feed has featured for a few days, and watching it compelled me to share the song. There’s something remarkable about the lyrics, musicianship, singing and production that makes it so beautiful and captivating. (I also recommend watching the Beato video, which is posted beneath the audio for the song.)

At one point in his video, Beato tells how part of the rich, emotive soundscape is created in part by Lightfoot’s vocal and guitar in the left speaker, while the acoustic guitar fills by folk guitarist Laurice Milton “Red” Shea (1933-2008) play from the right speaker. (I hadn’t even noticed that before!) Of course, the strings add much to the depth of the song, too.

If you could read my mind, love
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like an old-time movie
‘Bout a ghost from a wishin’ well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
You know that ghost is me
And I will never be set free
As long as I’m a ghost that you can’t see

If I could read your mind, love
What a tale your thoughts could tell
Just like a paperback novel
The kind the drugstores sell
When you reach the part where the heartaches come
The hero would be me
But heroes often fail
And you won’t read that book again
Because the ending’s just too hard to take

I’d walk away like a movie star
Who gets burned in a three-way script
Enter number two
A movie queen to play the scene
Of bringing all the good things out in me
But for now love, let’s be real
I never thought I could act this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it
I don’t know where we went wrong
But the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back

If you could read my mind, love
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like an old-time movie
‘Bout a ghost from a wishin’ well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
But stories always end
And if you read between the lines
You’ll know that I’m just tryin’ to understand
The feelings that you lack
I never thought I could feel this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it
I don’t know where we went wrong
But the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back

(“If You Could Read My Mind,” by Gordon Lightfoot.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

I am always caught by the emotion in this lovely song. Lightfoot was another family favourite in my childhood home, and hearing his music makes me think of that life, many years ago.

The song appears on Lightfoot’s 1970 album, Sit Down Young Stranger, later retitled as If You Could Read My Mind, due to the success of the song.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Gordon Lightfoot’s official YouTube channel:

And, here’s Rick Beato’s take on the song, telling the story of how his older brother taught him to hear the production elements in music.

Breathe Me

Today I took a look at my digital music collection to find something I hadn’t listened to in a long time.

I landed on “Breathe Me” by Australian singer, songwriter, vocal actor and director Sia (Sia Kate Isobelle Furler). I first heard it around ten years ago when my sweety and I watched the TV series Six Feet Under. The show centres on a family that runs a funeral home in Los Angeles, California, USA; it follows their lives and those of their friends and lovers. It is a brilliant drama.

In the closing scene of the last episode, “Breathe Me” played during a nearly seven-minute montage telling the future stories of the show’s remaining living characters. The series creator, American producer, director, and writer Alan Ball tells in a December 2013 interview with Vulture, the entertainment and culture website of New York magazine, how he wrote the scene to work specifically with the music.

The song, which runs four minutes, thirty-five seconds, was extended in an edited version to accompany the entire scene. The combination of the sound and the visuals is a compelling one that I remember clearly whenever I hear the track.

I recall that Sweety and I watched the five seasons of the show very quickly over our Christmas holidays. One day, we probably watched seven or eight episodes, as the series drew us in so deeply. (Neither of us can remember if we rented or borrowed the DVDs, or watched the show on Netflix.) At the end of that final episode, we just sat there, stunned, with the concluding scene and the song reverberating in our minds.

“Breathe Me” comes from Sia’s 2004 album, Colour the Small One. Of course, I ordered the CD right after watching the show.

Help, I have done it again
I have been here many times before
Hurt myself again today
And the worst part is there’s no one else to blame

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small and needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

Ouch, I have lost myself again
Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found,
Yeah, I think that I might break
Lost myself again and I feel unsafe

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small and needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small and needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

(“Breathe Me,” by Sia Furler, Dan Carey. Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Sia’s official YouTube channel:

No One Receiving

Cruising around my YouTube feed this morning, I stumbled upon a full album stream of Brian Eno’s 1977 record, Before and After Science. (It seems I can never go too long before posting another piece of music by this brilliant artist and creator. My latest was from his 2020 collaboration with his brother Roger, Mixing Colours.)

I’ve previously featured Before and After Science on this blog (with the classical rethink of Eno’s “By This River”). That’s likely why it came up in my YouTube feed since it is where I seek out video/audio to share in my posts.

The opening track on the album is “No One Receiving,” a jazzy number that has a lot of percussion guiding the song along:

  • Solo singer, musician, former Genesis member and Eno collaborator Phil Collins plays the drum kit,
  • Eno plays synthesized percussion, and
  • His co-producer and audio engineer on the record, Rhett Davies, plays live percussion instruments.

The three complement each other’s beats, rhythms and fills. I find all the percussive sounds quite captivating, creating a solid yet sometimes chaotic foundation for the similarly jazz-influenced bass line, synthesizer treatments, and guitars. All this surrounds and supports Eno’s effects-layered vocals (which, to follow a theme over the past few days, makes the lyrics ever-so-slightly hard to follow).

The song, and indeed the album, is a bit of an enigma when it comes to categorization. The record includes calming, pastoral pieces, energetic works (like today’s selection), and softly-rocking experimental electronic songs. At the same time, it leans toward the ambient musical style that has dominated his work since the 1977 album.

It struck me today that the title of the 44-year-old album seems meaningful as we live in an age of fake news, conspiracy theories, and rampant distrust and manipulation of fact. In many ways, we appear to be in the “After Science” phase. Further, the song title and perhaps even the lyrics seem to speak to wilful ignorance of science-based information.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from Brian Eno’s official YouTube channel:  

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Radio Free Europe

I don’t know that I ever realized this before, but the sung lyrics in the R.E.M. hit “Radio Free Europe” are basically incomprehensible.

Apparently, this was deliberate, perhaps much like Adriano Celentano’s intention was with the mostly gibberish lines in his 1972 song I posted a few days ago, “Prisencolinensinainciusol.”

In my January 31, 2020 post on R.E.M.’s “Drive,” I tell the story of getting to know the band’s music through a friend, and having a vision of him rocking out to “Radio Free Europe” while sitting in the passenger seat of my car.

The song, released as a single in 1981, is high-energy and one of R.E.M.’s most popular early releases.

When the band signed to I.R.S. Records, the label asked them to re-record the song for their debut album, Murmur (1983). I had no idea the album version wasn’t the original!

In the liner notes of their greatest hits/compilation album Eponymous (1988), the band tells they prefer the original. While acknowledging the later version was more “pro,” they also felt it was more sedate. I’m not sure what I think… there are great elements to both versions.

I’m posting both the 1981 and 1983 recordings — please let me know which you prefer!

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the 1983 version of song from R.E.M.’s official YouTube channel:

And, the original, 1981 single:

Full, unofficial lyrics (1983 version; the two are slightly different) are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Yesterday Once More

In one of my previous posts (Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s in Love with You,” February 11, 2020), I tell a story about Saturday shopping trips with my parents and what felt at the time like an ordeal, following them around women’s clothing stores all day.

In that post, I mention that Alpert’s songs remind me of songs used in TV commercials for those downtown stores. And as I mention in my April 26, 2020 post on the American easy-listening duo the Carpenters’ “Top of the World,” today’s selection is one I definitely remember hearing as the background music to one such store’s commercials. It might have been Clifford’s or Dayton’s; I can almost picture it, but not quite. (Incidentally, it was Alpert who signed the Carpenters to his label, A&M Records, in 1969.)

“Yesterday Once More” comes from the Carpenters’ album Now & Then (1973). The song was a massive hit for them, peaking at number two on the Billboard 100, held back from the top spot by the ballad “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce (1943-1973).

Richard Carpenter wrote the song with American lyricist Richard Bettis (who also co-wrote “Top of the World”). “Yesterday Once More” reminisces about the music of the past and the feelings and memories evoked by favourite songs.

When I was young
I’d listen to the radio
Waitin’ for my favorite songs
When they played I’d sing along
It made me smile

Those were such happy times
And not so long ago
How I wondered where they’d gone
But they’re back again
Just like a long lost friend
All the songs I loved so well

Every Sha-la-la-la
Every Wo-o-wo-o
Still shines
Every shing-a-ling-a-ling
That they’re startin’ to sing’s
So fine

When they get to the part
Where he’s breakin’ her heart
It can really make me cry
Just like before
It’s yesterday once more

Lookin’ back on how it was
In years gone by
And the good times that I had
Makes today seem rather sad
So much has changed

It was songs of love that
I would sing to then
And I’d memorize each word
Those old melodies
Still sound so good to me
As they melt the years away

Every Sha-la-la-la
Every Wo-o-wo-o
Still shines
Every shing-a-ling-a-ling
That they’re startin’ to sing’s
So fine

All my best memories
Come back clearly to me
Some can even make me cry
Just like before
It’s yesterday once more

Every Sha-la-la-la
Every Wo-o-wo-o
Still shines
Every shing-a-ling-a-ling
That they’re startin’ to sing’s
So fine

Every Sha-la-la-la
Every Wo-o-wo-o
Still shines
Every shing-a-ling-a-ling
That they’re startin’ to sing’s
So fine

(“Yesterday Once More,” by Richard Carpenter, John Bettis.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

An article I read today reminded me that in addition to being the lead singer of the brother and sister duo, Karen Carpenter (1950-1983) was the group’s drummer which, strangely, still seems to be an unusual role for women.

The Carpenters had a heavy touring schedule in the 1970s, which put a lot of pressure on the pair. At the same time as Karen struggled with anorexia nervosa, Richard had a drug addiction after suffering depression, anxiety, and insomnia. He took a year off to recover and rest, but Karen’s condition would eventually claim her life.

Hearing the song reminds me of memories from childhood. It also reminds me of the tragedy of Karen Carpenter’s illness and death and the similar, serious struggles many people face, often silently and alone.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Carpenters’ official YouTube channel:

Kinderszenen, Op. 15, No. 7 in F Major: Träumerei

Many recognize the German pianist, composer and music critic Robert Schumann (1810-1856) as one of the greatest composers of the classical romantic era. 

However, Schumann’s short life was one of considerable difficulty. He suffered from mental health issues that plagued him at times, as early as 1833. His love for pianist, composer and teacher Clara Wieck (1819-1896) was complicated by a lengthy legal battle with her father, who disapproved of the union. Finally, in 1840, three years after Schumann’s proposal, the two were finally married once she reached age 21, then the age of majority. 

In 1854, Schumann admitted himself to a sanatorium near Bonn, Germany and was diagnosed with psychotic melancholia. He died in the institution from pneumonia two years later. While Schumann’s friend Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was allowed to visit him regularly, Clara was not allowed until Robert was near death.

Schumann composed Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood), 13 pieces of piano music, in 1838. Seventeen other movements written at the same time were published later, some of them after his death.

Today’s selection, the seventh movement of Kinderszenen, “Träumerei” (Daydreaming), is a well-known piece, one that most people will recognize from popular classical music. It appears on a 2004 album featuring live recordings of French-Cypriot pianist, teacher and composer Cyprien Katsaris.

It’s a calming and beautiful piece of music created by an often-tortured soul.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Cyprien Katsaris YouTube topic channel: