Thursday, April 30, 2020

Grading Billboard's Top 100 singles of 1979

1. My Sharona - The Knack: A+
Putting aside the fact that the real Sharona (that's her on the picture sleeve of the 45) was something like 17 or 18 years old, something not frowned upon then, the song itself is a great, aggressive power pop song. The Knack's sudden rise to the top made them targets for critics, and frontman Doug Fieger didn't handle it well, and so despite two other Top 40 hits, most people perceive the band as a one-hit wonder. Oh well. Fieger had a (pardon the pun) knack for catchy, melodic rock tunes, and the band was simply killer. That's Bruce Gary driving the beat on drums, and that fantastic guitar solo is courtesy of Berton Averre. The Knack kicked off the so-called skinny tie revival, with loads of power pop and new wave bands. Many were good, a few were great, almost none of them had a song this good.

2. Bad Girls - Donna Summer: A
The title track of one of the great pop albums of the '70s. This song was co-written by Summer, who was really coming into her own as a tunesmith. There's a bit of theater (which was in her background in this song) and a lot of empathy for what, but for the subject matter, is a pretty upbeat pop song. The production is great - there are disco touches all over the place, but they don't overwhelm the pop-soul core of the song.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

April 26, 2020 CHIRP Radio Playlist (Show #482)

9:01 AM St. Vincent • Black Rainbow • Actor • 4AD

9:05 AM Terence Trent D'Arby • Let's Go Forward • Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby • Columbia

9:10 AM The Mountain Goats • January 31, 438 • Songs for Pierre Chuvin • Merge

9:15 AM The Tallest Man on Earth • Jesus, Etc. • single • Dead Oceans

Saturday, April 25, 2020

April 25, 2020 CHIRP Radio playlist (Show #481)

9:00 AM David Byrne and Brian Eno • Strange Overtones • Everything That Happens Will Happen Today • Todomundo/Opal

9:04 AM Sudan Archives • Come Meh Way • Sudan Archives • Stones Throw

9:07 AM Elvis Depressedly • Can You Hear My Guitar Rotting? • Depressedelica • Run for Cover

9:13 AM Faye Webster • In a Good Way • single • Secretly Canadian

Monday, April 20, 2020

Grading Billboard's Top 100 singles of 1977

1. Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright) - Rod Stewart: B
I'm either grading this a bit too low or way too high. Although the album this came off of, A Night on the Town, had some songs that were reminiscent of his great early work for Mercury, this song was the beginning of Rod Stewart, Mega Pop Star. A four-minute tune with Rod the Mod asking Britt Eklund to have sex with him, I presume that the record buying public found it sexy, but it comes off as too chaste. Either it should be even more innocuous or more explicit. This song is certainly the most successful single featuring a Swedish model speaking in French. And the inspiration for the song was America's "Today is the Day".

2. I Just Want to Be Your Everything - Andy Gibb: A-
Phase II of the Bee Gees' plan for world domination was setting up younger brother Andy for success. Andy was an affable presence, and it's hard to get a line on how talented he was, because he was propped up by one the great songwriting teams of all time. This is an easygoing R & B-laced pop song, with the older Gibbs adding backing vocals. What this record showed is that the Bee Gees had more songs than they could possibly keep for themselves, and so other artists were going to benefit from that.

3. Best of My Love - Emotions: A
If a family act is great, how about combining two families? The Emotions were sisters who grew up in Chicago. They got started as a gospel act, and by 1964, they had gone secular and hit the R & B charts. And for well over a decade, they landed singles all over those charts. Finally, working with fellow Chicagoan Maurice White (and two of his brothers) of Earth, Wind & Fire got them to cross over. This song really mixed a great girl group vibe with that classic E, W & F mix of soul and funk to create a truly sublime song. Somehow, The Emotions never hit the Top 40 on their own again, while continuing to hit the R & B charts. At least their one hit was an instant classic.

4. Evergreen (Love Theme from "A Star Is Born") - Barbra Streisand: A-
This is an example of a song I hated when I was 11 that I've grown to like now that I'm older and wiser. Paul Williams composed this ballad, and it is Williams at his melodic best. This is combined with an excellent, rich performance from Streisand. The movie may have been "meh," but at least it produced this song.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

April 19, 2020 CHIRP Radio Playlist (Show #480)

9:02 AM The Kinks • Shangri-La • Arthur: Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire • Pye

9:07 AM Noname • Sunny Duet (with theMIND) • Telefone • self-released

9:10 AM Floating Gardens • Rhizome's Logic • Ephemerals • Chicago Research

9:15 AM Bedouine • The Hum • single • Spacebomb

Saturday, April 18, 2020

April 18, 2020 CHIRP Radio playlist (Show #479)

9:01 AM Arcade Fire • Crown of Love • Funeral • Merge

9:05 AM Vagabon • Fear + Force • Infinite Worlds • Father/Daughter

9:09 AM SiP • Sparkling Spur • Leos Naturals • Not Not Fun

9:14 AM Tasha • But There's Still the Moon • single • Father/Daughter

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Grading the Top 100 singles (according to Billboard) of 1976

1. Silly Love Songs - Paul McCartney and Wings: A-
This song was a response to critics who thought McCartney's music was too lightweight. So Paulie decided to show them by doing something that goes beyond lightweight. There is so little to this song -- and I mean that as a compliment. The defining element of this song is McCartney's bass playing, which is R & B on the cusp of disco and is the most complex thing about the song. Everything else, like so much Macca does, seems effortless.

2. Don't Go Breaking My Heart - Elton John and Kiki Dee: B+
This is a song that I despised back in the day, but I've come around to it, despite the cheesiness of the whole thing. This was another one of Elton's R & B-laced songs, and it has a nice rhythm to it. Kiki Dee is a fine singer, and the two sound good together, and the song leads to refrain ("right from the start/I'll give you my heart") that's pretty effective. This gets a bonus boost for inspiring the episode of One Day at a Time where the Coopers put on a show at a nursing home, and Valerie Bertinelli and MacKenzie Phillips play Elton and Kiki and sing this song.

3. Disco Lady - Johnnie Taylor: A
Taylor was a pretty successful soul singer on Stax who had a surprising number of crossover hits. He moved over to a major label and hopped on board the disco train and had the biggest hit of his career, which can be found on his tastefully titled Eargasm LP. The song isn't hardcore disco, and is really just a slinky R & B number that allows Taylor to croon and leer and charm over a really good groove. In what seems to be a common tale, despite trying to join Team Disco, Taylor had no more pop hits.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

April 12, 2020 CHIRP Radio playlist (Show #478)

9:02 AM FKA twigs • holy terrain (featuring Future) • MAGDALENE • Young Turks

9:06 AM Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark • Souvenir • Architecture & Morality • DinDisc/Virgin

9:09 AM Deep Space Duo • Outer Oort Cloud • Spacetones • Love All Day

9:15 AM Hamilton Leithauser • The Garbage Men • The Loves of Your Life • Glassnote

Saturday, April 11, 2020

April 11, 2020 CHIRP Radio Show (Show #477)

8:01 AM Solange • Don't Wish Me Well • A Seat at the Table • Saint

8:05 AM Dwight Yoakam • Nothing • Gone • Reprise

8:09 AM Juniore • Grave • Un, Deux, Trois • La Phonographe

8:15 AM Sparks • I'm Toast • A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip • BMG

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Grading Billboard's Top 100 singles of 1975

1. Love Will Keep Us Together - The Captain and Tennille: A
This is a zippy take on the Neil Sedaka song that started the good-sized string of hits for married couple Toni Tennille and Darryl Dragon. The song is simply joyous, with simple, rhyming lyrics and a killer hook in the chorus. Darryl Dragon's production may sound dated now (and he played everything but the drums on it -- the great Hal Blaine handled that task), but back in 1975, his use of keyboards and synthesizers was pretty ahead of its time for American pop music. And Toni Tennille's powerhouse vocals are full of sunshine, and make this a great track.

2. Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell: A
While not a songwriter, Campbell knew a good song when he heard one. And somehow he heard songwriter Larry Weiss's original version on a radio station and taught himself the song. This is a big open song, so well suited for Campbell's clear singing voice, and has that tinge of country that was just right for Campbell's pop approach. This got Campbell back on the Top 40 for the first time in four years.

3. Philadelphia Freedom - The Elton John Band: A
This is easily the best song ever inspired by World Team Tennis (which is still a going concern). Elton and Bernie Taupin wrote it for Billie Jean King who captained the Philadelphia Freedoms team, and Elton managed to definitely inject his music with a certain Philly soul flavor (it was some years before he worked with Thom Bell), and the result is another terrific smash. I wish the lyrics had been more tennis-centric, however.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

April 5, 2020 CHIRP Radio Playlist (Show #476)

9:01 AM Lykke Li • Unrequited Love • Wounded Rhymes • Atlantic

9:04 AM Hot Chocolate • Brother Louie • A's, B's & Rarities • EMI

9:09 AM Zapruder Point • Unnamed Stars • Zapruder Point + The Brightness • self-released

9:15 AM Mavis Staples • All in it Together • single • Anti-

Saturday, April 4, 2020

April 4, 2020 CHIRP Radio playlist (Show #475)

9:00 AM Bon Iver • Skinny Love • For Emma, Forever Ago • Jagjaguwar

9:03 AM Nancy Sinatra • Don't Let Him Waste Your Time • Nancy Sinatra • Attack/BMG

9:07 AM Tennis • Tender as a Tomb • Swimmer • Mutually Detrimental

9:14 AM Anna Burch • Ask Me To • If You're Dreaming • Polyvinyl