I prefer to talk to people about books right now. I will never steer you wrong with a book. My sister can vouch.
But I probably shouldn't be a contrarian. These are singles. Or single tracks.
O.C. Smith, “Little Green Apples”
Too funky, too beautiful. Love can be about a surfeit of feeling – as expressed by a hell of a lot of guys and gals in a big studio and a shit-ton of reverb. This kind of has it all. A bit of a story. Waking up – the narrator's wife basically creates the world with a squeeze of the hand. We've probably all been there. That's what forever and ever is supposed to be – a bit of perfection, conflict and resolution eternally. Plus somebody loves you. So you gotta tell the world about it.
This video is pretty rad too because it's just a guy dropping a needle on a busted vintage single. Not that it's unique – but if you listen hard you can hear the remnants of a sob as the tone arm falls off.
John Hartford, “Back In Goodle Days”
Hartford wrote “Gentle on My Mind”, which brought him money and some fame and a comfortable life. That song is incredible and I recommend you listen to it again. The lyrics are tragic, actually. But anyway, you may judge me for being drawn to this “slight” tune, but the sessions that resulted in the peerless Aereo-Plain seem to emerged out of some kind of fully inhabited comfort and peace. The playing is witty and rambling, the lyrics and delivery half-way between lazy and driven and it captures an enduring ease. It also sounds like Jerry Band if Jerry Band were a little bit better.
Fairport Convention, “Now Be Thankful”
This is a tune from the latest great version of the band. I am being unfair to someone probably—well, to the band without Richard Thompson—but I'm not breaking ground with this assessment. This is from 1970. The lyrics are bizarre. There is no center. But I *think* it's just about being thankful in repose among life's great chaos. And that's how I'm taking it now. Check back in another week.
Aretha Franklin, “I Say A Little Prayer”
Fragility. That's what this song is about. I was writing about how I lean towards Ms. Warwick's version versus the more famous Aretha take. But then I watched this performance:
God's grace and superstitious mindfulness will stop the world from crumbling. Sometimes you can pray and God hears you. Sometimes God is the idea of another person.
“Please love me too.”
Despite the recent scathing review in the Times of Promises, Promises, the Bacharrach and David revival now on Broadway, I think you should go see Kristin Chenoweth sing this song. While she didn't nail everything fragile about the narrator, the context opened a window for me. This is a tremendous song and and life is alienating and love is rare.
Traveling Wilburys, “End of the Line”
Ridiculous triumph over cynicism. “It's alright” – the 80s were destroyed by this record. “I'm just glad to be here, happy to be alive.”
Two of these guys are dead now.