Music Lists #18: Nineteen Songs I Love

Here's 19 songs that should be on everyone's playlists.  I'd share them with you myself, but I've been burned too many times with the music sharing biz.  Instead, here's a list of what I'm listening to.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this selection and maybe learn song recommendations that you have to offer as well.  I prefer tracks a bit off the beaten path..... but don't stray too far.  Things get scary in the far corners of the music landscape.

Once You Fall In Love
(From Here to Eternity)

Happily has one foot in booger-nosed funk, the other in silky-smooth harmony; It's Super Fly meets the Rubber Band Man

You Can't Kill Rock and Roll
Ozzy Osbourne
(Diary of a Madman)

Slow-motion head-bang followed by godlike Randy Rhodes jam - repeat.

Lord Grenville
Al Stewart
(Year of the Cat)

Transcendental melody circling upwards like cannabis vapors to the Heavens.

The Fez
Steely Dan
(The Royal Scam)

It's not about the lyrics, it's about sick musicianship and a groove that will have you jettisoning your suburban roots in favor of the dirty backstreet.

Fascinating Things
Gary Wright

Screw Dream Weaver; this is in the spirit of Spirit - distributing groovy licks like you just don't care.

Jefferson Starship

Can a song be cheesy and exultant at the same time? No, but it's only cheesy to the hopelessly cynical.. The Z-Boys would approve.

Psychic Vampire
Space Opera
(Safe at Home)

More complicated than a song has a right to be; yet still pleasing to the ear.  Prog rock could use a dose of the Beatles; this song has a heaping spoonful.

Some Gospel According to Matthew
Roberta Flack
(Feel Like Makin' Love)

Before American Idol infected the world with melisma, and before autotune turned the singers of a generation into synthetic ventriloquist dummies - there was Roberta.

Fundamentally Yours
(The Man in the Bowler Hat)

As Anglo as blood pudding; sounds more like Badfinger than Badfinger, but you cannot deny its a flat-perfect pop melody.

Mother Freedom
(Baby, I'm a Want You)

Not as pillowy soft as we're accustomed with this band, but still has that signature triumphant hook

Gotta Get Up
Harry Nilsson
(Nilsson Schmilsson)

No wonder the Beatles loved him - he was one of the elect who could trap lightning in a bottle; if he hadn't kept pressing his self-destruct button, he'd have gone on to bigger things than the Popeye soundtrack.

Satellite of Love
Lou Reed

I've heard this song 900 times over thirty years and I still don't know what it is. It's a rock snob favorite, so I want to hate it, but can't.

Sleep Won't Help Me
(Ring of Hands)

While listening to this in my car, I felt like the wheels left the road; will turn your Toyota Camry into a magic carpet ride.

Woman in Love
Barbara Streisand

Marinated in Barry Gibb mojo; F**k the haters, this is the pop music gold standard.

Behind Closed Doors
Charlie Rich
(Behind Closed Doors)

Despite the Silver Fox's anti-John Denver-isms, he could still make some killer honky-tonk worthy of a Philo Beddoe bar brawl.

Minstrel of the Dawn
Gordon Lightfoot
(If You Could Read My Mind)

A masterpiece painted with words and guitar chords; Not meant for modern jaded ears, this is for those of us that still see ghosts when the woods get black.

Nice, Nice, Very Nice

Even Vonnegut couldn't help but sing its praises; it's not easy to adapt Bokononism for Casey Kasem's Top Forty.

Early Morning Love
Sammy Johns
(Sammy Johns)

Dirtier than "Afternoon Delight" but that's alright with me (did you catch the "Chevy Van" reference?).  I've been singing its praises for over a decade and it's still finds its way into my every playlist.

Love Alive
(Little Queen)

Led Zeppelin harnessed by two Seattle girls; before they wrote glam power ballads, they were channeling the spirit of Lothlorien.

I'm not a fan of legendary music critic Robert Christgau - his tastes don't quite align with mine.  For instance, he puts The New York Dolls among his top five bands of all time - and I'd put them somewhere between Thin Lizzy and Rainbow (i.e. way on down my list).  Both Lou Reed and Sonic Youth have lambasted the guy with extreme prejudice; but I wouldn't go that far.  He's just stating his opinion, and opinions are like... you know, assholes.

I do admire his verbal prowess, though.  In fact, I'm a longtime reader of his reviews, and actually have a collection of his album critiques.  They were so terse and condensed - he'd say more in a sentence fragment than most critics could say in an entire column.  (I refer to him in the past tense, but Christgau is still ticking.)  But, there is something innately offensive and wrong about reducing an artist's work to a few words and a grading scale.  Dark Side of the Moon: B+

Anyway, I thought I'd try my hand at some song reviews in Christgau style.  I can't write a bit like him, but just followed his economy of words. Note that I chose songs I actually love, so that whether you care for the review or not, you can at least have a few tracks to add to your playlists.


  1. I remember back when Ross Perot was running for president that, in his top 10 list, Letterman made the allegation that 'Baby I'm A Want You' was his favourite song.

  2. Um, sorry, most of these are by bands or singers I don't care for. *shudders* I can't stand Barbara Streisand. Like Celion Dion she's so stuck on herself it comes out in everything she sings, ruining the song.

    1. True. But Barry Gibb's cosmic mojo can override even the most arrogant diva. BG could do no wrong in 77-80; he could've made Nickleback sound good.

    2. So true. Just look at his chest hair.

  3. I remember listening to Bread's Mother Freedom one winter night in 1974. It was a departure for them. Abba also had a rockin' song out that year, Watch Out, which was Waterloo's B-side.

  4. AnonymousJune 12, 2013

    Here are some of my favorite songs...

    Leon Haywood - Disco Fever - There are at least a dozen songs with the title "Disco Fever" but this is the best one imo.

    Klaatu - Hot Box City - I always thought Klaatu were 3 dorky dweebs from Canada, kinda like Rush. But Rush would *never* do a song called "Hot Box City" much less make it sound like the theme song from a Crown International Picture circa '79. So I guess Klaatu wins.

    Graham Central Station - Earthquake - Some decent bass slapping at first, then at 0:52 the bass drops right through the floor like a friggin' anvil! Holy crap!

    1. There are few things better than a nicely distorted bass, second only to fuzz bass.

    2. Nice. Someone needs to put a leash on Graham Central's bass; that bassist bezerker goes off the deep end!

      Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft will always be in my all time favorites.... although, I actually prefer the Carpenters' version.

  5. My mother had that Streisand album & blast "Woman in Love"....good memories :D

  6. How the hell does Streisand even get recording contracts? Robert Smith; use robot punch!

    I gotta disagree about the Z-boys loving that Jefferson Starship song. OK, maybe Stacy Peralta, but everybody else would totally trash it for the Velveeta that it is.

    I'd never had the chance to hear any Gary Wright that wasn't electronic, and it turns out I haven't missed much. Electronic music was his forte, IMO.

    1. Not every song needs to be Le Ciel de Charlevoix; nothing wrong with a little Velveeta.

  7. Christgau got canned from the Village Voice for a reason: there are only so much Belgian Gypsy hip-hop reviews the average "consumer" can take before choking on his New York chauvinism and Avenue B put-downs. Any band with a married couple in it is fair game for his oozy love letters, though, from Delaney & Bonnie to Yo La Tengo. D+ [previously A-]

    1. I haven't read one his reviews since 1979, so cannot attest to his modern era smugness. Again, I'm impressed what he could do with a couple dozen words, but never could rely on his actual opinion.

  8. I'm just glad to hear Rainbow is on your list at all,no matter how low.They tend to be forgotten by all but the heaviest metalheads,and even they'll say the band became way too soft and commercial near the end of their lifespan.I saw them in 83,when they were on their third bassist,fourth drummer,fourth keyboardist,and their third singer,and was still impressed with their live show.

    1. Yes, it seems that any band with Blackmore had a high turnover rate. Brilliant guitarist..... but apparently quite a douche.

  9. Magic KennyJune 12, 2013

    I've always hated Christgau's approach to reviews, and Lou Reed was spot on about him. Plus, his shit's so completely interchangeable - he doesn't review ANYTHING. He snaps off soundbites that he could swap in-between reviews and no one would notice. "They're loud and proud. Now if they'd only get a new hairstylist." "Side one I boogied with. Side two I boogied from." etc.

  10. Hate to steal the thread, but from the way the two ladies are looking at each other, and the way the guy is looking at the blonde, I smell PANCAKES!

  11. Do all Al Stewart songs sound the same?

    Do all Gordon Lightfoot songs sound the same? My sister loves the guy, BTW.

    That Gary Wright was fantastic!

    I wasn't crazy about all the songs, but at least it was different than what I get on the radio!

    1. Just got to Heart, man, I love that song! I'd forgotten about it for some reason. Probably because they only play three Heart songs on the radio!

  12. People might not like Gordon Lightfoot but the guitar work on "Edmund Fitzgerald" is great. As I get older I find myself liking the old cheesy 70's singer/songwriter stuff.
    First Rainbow song I ever heard was "Street Of Dreams"(Thank you Radio 1990 on USA Network).

  13. I grew up on 70's hit AM radio, so I don't care what anyone says, I still have ABBA and Gordon Lightfoot and the Bee Gee's in regular rotation. This is a fantastic list.

    Best song Al Stewart ever did was "Roads to Moscow." It's a hell of a gut-punch, though.

  14. I hate to admit it, but I have that Bab's vinyl at home.

  15. Please have as a regular feature on the blog your favorite song lists. What a great selection! I enjoyed early 70s AM then FM and all the different musical styles that used to get played on the radio.