Don Henley — “The Boys of Summer”
(from The Very Best of Don Henley) —
“When the song came out [in 1984], for me then, the idea of being 50 was so far away. . . . And then here I was singing that song [now at 50] and I’m a very different person from that person who was listening to that then. . . . You realize that time is passing on, people are leaving the planet, people are coming on to the planet, and the boys of the summer change — who those boys are changes — but for a time you are that thing and you’re still that thing that you were. Some people who aren’t with us anymore can still be that in memory, but not physically. It is quite sad.”
— the terrific Tori Amos, describing to The Huffington Post’s Noah Michaelson what was going through her mind when she decided to cover Don Henley’s Grammy-winning solo classic smash while on the Scandinavian leg of her latest world tour (this one in support of her languid new record Unrepentant Geraldines) earlier in the year. The shaky YouTube clip of this performance — which I’ll embed at the bottom of this post if I can remember how the hell to do it — held me enraptured just moments ago; once again, Tori proves just how peerless she is at the act of drilling down to the very heart of a song — any song! — and yanking its inherent melancholy core to the fore. (And do know that when I say “any,” I mean exactly that, and if you ever heard Tori’s heart-wrenching take on the old children’s chestnut “This Old Man” — one of the brilliant b-sides of her “Caught a Lite Sneeze” single in 1996 — then you damn well know what I mean.) (PS: Don’t mind me if I spend the remainder of this day trying to wrap my blown mind the fact that this classic track will celebrate its thirtieth birthday later this year, a fact made all the more crazy by the fact that I can still clearly remember the first time I ever heard it on the radio in that gloriously alive autumn of 1984. Fear not, Tori: we’re all getting older, babe.)
Emmylou Harris — “Boulder to Birmingham”
(from Heartaches and Highways:
The Very Best of Emmylou Harris) —
The brilliant Sherry Ann has been aflame of late thanks to Rolling Stone‘s hellaciously half-baked new list of the one hundred greatest songs in country music history, a collection of tunes that contains two hideous tracks from that irritating twit Brad Paisley (which, incidentally, is exactly two more than Sammi Smith, K.T. Oslin, Kathy Mattea, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Crystal Gayle, Lacy J. Dalton, Janie Fricke, Shawn Colvin, Deana Carter, and Trisha Yearwood combined managed to score). (RS printed only the top 25 songs in the latest issue of the magazine; the full list can be viewed here.) Sherry’s (and my) problems with this list are far too legion to list here (although, let it suffice to say that any list that purports to compile the hundred best anything with regard to country music and yet hoists Taylor Swift’s singalong piffle “Mean” all the way up to #24 while unceremoniously stranding Rosanne Cash’s searing, stunning “Seven Year Ache” in the mid-60s and making poor Juice Newton hang on by her fingernails all the way down at #92 at very least needs a new panel of nominators, if not an entirely new governing philosophy). So in honor of Sherry Ann’s birthday today, I am giving her, from across the miles, the greatest gift I can: the Buzz’s turntable is spinning one of her favorites from the glorious Emmylou Harris — ridiculously, another artist whose brilliant work as a lead vocalist makes nary an appearance on the aforementioned list — and crankin’ it all the way up to eleven. (Happiest of happy birthdays to the greatest friend a guy ever had. You are the best, Sherry Ann!)
Shivaree — “Goodnight Moon”
(from I Oughtta Give You a Shot in the Head
for Making Me Live in This Dump) —
In honor of last night’s total lunar eclipse — in which the moon passed through the darkest parts of Earth’s shadow on the same night that Mars made its closest approach to Earth (hardly a near-miss at just over fifty-seven million miles, but nonetheless close enough to cast an eerie red pall over the moon’s reflection) in about six years — that lit up social media like a Roman candle as Monday faded into oblivion, I can think of no better tune to serve as the soundtrack for some ravishing photographic evidence of the galactic traffic jam. (The top photo is from The University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, and the bottom photo is from Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, Calla-forny.)
Pete Yorn — “Burrito” (from Day I Forgot) —
Convenience store comestibles may well not be the preferred romantic motifs of priests and poets. But just try to name a pop song that better captures the kinetically heady rush of new love.
David Gray — “Gulls” (from Mutineers) —
Don’t tell me the universe doesn’t love me when it gives me a new Tori Amos single and a new David Gray single in the same calendar week. Such a pity then, is it not, that this song isn’t a bit more — uh — enjoyable that what we’ve come to expect from this infinitely brilliant Irishman. My gut reaction upon first listening to this track was that Gray is far too gifted to settle for turning in a second-rate Bon Iver impression, and though “Gulls” comes alive a bit in the tune’s more sonically absorbing back half, I can’t even try to claim I’m not disappointed to see David — who, a decade and a half ago, with a shattering recording called White Ladder, nearly singlehandedly rescued the idea of the male singer-songwriter as a commercially viable thing — meekly following trends he used to set.
Aloe Blacc — “The Man” (from Lift Your Spirit) —
The thunderously soulful voice behind Avicii’s autumn smash “Wake Me Up” steps into the solo spotlight with a killer track and an able assist from the most recognizable lyric that Bernie Taupin likely ever penned for Elton John to sing. Just try getting this one out of your head after one listen.
O-Town — “We Fit Together” (from O-Town) —
Billboard reported the welcome news earlier this week that O-Town — a minor blip in the much-ballyhooed boy band revolution of the early aughts — is back in commission after a decade-long dormancy. Ready-made for reality television and then immediately placed under the tutelage of music legend Clive Davis, the band labored mightily but ultimately couldn’t overcome the misfortunes of circumstance, as bubblegum pop was on its way out of fashion when these boys were trying to lodge their collective feet in the doorway, and they managed to score one major hit (2001′s “All or Nothing,” a ballad whose chorus we can all still sing from memory, whether we like it or not) and a couple of minor ones — including this slinking, sexy, not-subtle-at-all ode to, well, sharing the night together — before fading into the dustbin of obscurity inside of two years. (I feel no shame in admitting that this was one of my favorite pop songs of its day, and when I read the news that these guys were reuniting, it was literally the first thing that popped into my brain. And while one can’t quite claim that it has aged as well as, say, the majority of Hanson’s gems have, “Together” still has its own likeable and uniquely brainless charms. So I still dig it; sue me.)
Serena Ryder — “Mary Go Round” (from Harmony) —
The force behind one of 2013′s most thrilling triumphs, the riveting Ryder stole the show at this past weekend’s Juno Awards (Canada’s answer to the Grammys), walking away with trophies for Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. (One of the tunes for which she wound up in the winner’s circle was her staggering smash “Stompa” — whose praises I pumped to the heavens in this very space last fall — so if you think I in any way quibble with these award choices, you’re officially nuts.) As is true of a number of Canadian singer/songwriters whose names don’t start with the syllables “Sarah Mack” (hi, Jann Arden; hey, Chantal Kreviazuk), we at the Buzz are still waiting — patiently — for ‘Murrica to wake up and make this gal the supastar she so richly deserves to be; in the meantime, we’re letting the act of digging into the heart of Serena’s brilliant breakthrough album its own reward.
Tori Amos — “Trouble’s Lament”
(from Unrepentant Geraldines) —
I know it’s been months since the Hive has blasted some sweet tuneage (so many, in fact, that I literally just had to walk myself through a twenty-minute primer on how I used to format these posts to make them look as pretty as possible), but the Goddess is back — always a cause for celebration — and seemingly channeling her inner Joan Baez on this foreboding and fascinating leadoff single from her latest album (due May 13). La Amos has been off on a bizarro tangent for much of the last decade — the holiday record was fab, but the so-called 21st-century song cycle project was strictly so-so, and there wasn’t a single track on 2012′s Tori-covers-Tori effort that wasn’t better the first time around — but “Lament” feels very much like a sequel to “Don’t Make Me Come to Vegas” (a slinky, sizzling high point from Amos’ ball-busting 2002 epic Scarlet’s Walk), and if that’s the creative direction in which Tori’s aiming her arrow for her latest record, I’m here for that. All. Day. Long.