Archive | December, 2017

Certain Songs #1086: Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – “Blinded by the Light”

Album: The Roaring Silence
Year: 1976

Heh. I can almost hear the head-shaking and silent denunciations from my fellow Bruce Springsteen fans for choosing to write about this epic piece of prog-pop trash, and not about the jazzy R&B opening track of Springsteen’s career.

But fuck that: I’ve always loved this ridiculous arrangement, which — in my defense came out when I was 13 — pretty much owned the summer of 1976 on both the AM and FM radios. So I could hear the single on KYNO-AM, which was all chorus verse chorus verse chorus, and then flip over to KFIG or Rock 96FM and hear the album version, which was where the fun was.

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Certain Songs #1085: The Mamas & The Papas – “California Dreamin'”

Album: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
Year: 1965

While it’s kinda bad form to misuse apostrophes for your band name — check the horribly named album cover to the left — that’s pretty much the only misstep one could accuse this other perfect piece of pop songcraft of taking.

An early reason why Lou Adler gets to sit next to Jack Nicholson at Lakers games, “California Dreaming” is an airtight piece of baroque folk rock that lives and dies on the vocal harmonies of The Mamas & The Papas. But mostly lives.

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Certain Songs #1084: Mahlathini And The Mahotella Queens – “Thokozile”

Album: Thokozile
Year: 1986

In the early part of the awful summer of 1988, having just been blown away by the still-amazing The Indestructible Beat of Soweto — and unable to find a full album by my favorite artist on that comp, Udokotela Shange Namajaha (it took me almost 30 years to find one) (but i did!) — I took a flyer on a full album by one of the artists on that compilation, Mahlathini, who was known as the “Lion of Soweto” for reasons that were obvious the moment you heard him sing.

That album was called Thokozile, and while I didn’t understand a single word on it, as always, the music and performances were amazing.

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Certain Songs #1083: The Magnolias – “One More Reason”

Album: Concrete Pillbox
Year: 1986

Coming from the same Minneapolis scene that birthed Hüsker Dü, The Replacements and Soul Asylum, The Magnolias sounded like a band that came from the same Minneapolis scene that birthed Hüsker Dü. The Replacements and Soul Asylum. Hell, their debut album — Concrete Pillbox — was even produced by Grant Hart.

And while, as an album, I prefer 1992’s more polished Off The Hook, — and haven’t heard any of the others — the last song on Concrete Pillbox, “One More Reason,” is as pure of a distillation of noisy, melodic & bratty punk rock as came out in the mid-1980s.

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Certain Songs #1082: The Who – “Christmas”

Album: Tommy
Year: 1969

The thing about “Christmas,” of course, is that it’s really not a Christmas song.

But since it’s called “Christmas,” that means I can post something about it on Christmas Day, which is really just an excuse to write about The Who long before they come up alphabetically.

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