Songs You May Have Missed #726

Styx: “I’m O.K.” (1978)

Like contemporaries Kansas, who leaned more toward progressive rock, Styx had a pretty clearly-defined two-album artistic career peak. Both bands released their two finest albums between 1976 and ’78.

Pieces of Eight, which followed platinum breakthrough The Grand Illusion, was a more than worthy follow-up. It combined some of the progressive tendencies of their pre-Tommy Shaw early work with tight, commercial singles like “Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade”.

While all three of the album’s singles were penned by Shaw (the third being the joyous “Sing For the Day”) Dennis DeYoung’s “I’m O.K.” certainly could have been a single.

Perhaps the church organ solo disqualified it.

But this song is like DeYoung’s answer to Shaw’s “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” from the previous LP–uplifting pop/rock psychology from an era when so-called “classic rock” was trying to hold its own in a landscape altered by disco and punk.

Songs You May Have Missed #725

Viento de los Andes: “Taquirari De Jaina” (1994)

Led by Jose Arcieniegas, Viento de los Andes are a group of musicians from Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and, uh, Canada who play music of the Andes region of South America using traditional instruments.

This is the kind of stuff you sprinkle like huacatay on your shuffle playlist for a little international flavor, rather, perhaps, than consume in 40-minute, full album servings.

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The Best of “Unchained Melody”–A Love Song For the Ages

(via Goldmine)

(via Goldmine) by Bill Bronk

Bring together and meld a powerful, hauntingly beautiful melody with a lyric that touches the soul…and you have “Unchained Melody,” an honest, tender and unapologetic ode to love and longing.

Adapted from composer Alex North’s film score for the 1955 movie Unchained, the lyrics were written by Tin Pan Alley lyricist and composer Hy Zaret. Burdened with an inauspicious beginning in a mostly unknown black and white “B” movie, “Unchained Melody” went on to become an iconic and timeless love song for the ages.


Oh, my love, my darling, I’ve hungered for your touch, a long, lonely time.

And time goes by so slowly and time can do so much, Are You Still Mine?

I need your love,__ I need your love,__God speed your love__ to me.


Lonely rivers flow__to the sea,__to the sea, To the open arms__of the sea

Lonely rivers sigh,__”Wait for me__wait for me!, I’ll be coming home,__wait for me”!

Lyric by Hy Zaret

There’s a story behind every song… and this one is fascinating. Beloved around the world, “Unchained Melody” began its heralded journey in 1954. As reported in The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) on June 28, 1954: “Hall Bartlett, producer of ‘Unchained’, which will start filming July 6 at the California Institute for Men, will have Alex North as the composer and conductor of the film”.

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Video of the Week: Dead-On “Stumblin’ In” Video Parody

Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman’s lip-synched TV performance video for their 1979 hit “Stumblin’ In” is (above) is brilliantly parodied by Magdalena and Anna Bielecka of Poland (below).

The attention to detail is amazing. Hard to say who had more fun–Suzi and Chris, Magdalena and Anna, or those responsible for the 7+ million YouTube views.

There’s also a side-by-side comparison video to help you fully appreciate how well these girls nailed it.

Video of the Week: The Comedy of Dumb Song Lyrics

Ten Great Proclaimers Songs that Aren’t ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’

Just today a little uninvited ad popped up on my Facebook page asking if I liked the Proclaimers’ ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ and directing me to check out their newest album. Ironic since I was already planning to write this post complaining about how the Scottish sibling duo are too often summed up by their one-and-only American pop singles chart entry.

Thanks to its inclusion in the 1993 Johnny Depp film Benny & Joon, ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ was a #3 hit a full five years after its original release on the Proclaimers’ Sunshine On Leith album. And given our perception of one-hit wonders and the fact that there are plenty of respected acts (Tom Waits, Phish, The Ramones, Indigo Girls, Bob Marley) who have never had a top 40 single, I can’t help but wonder if that fluke hit actually has had a negative net effect on the Proclaimers’ legacy.

One-hit wonders are a joke. No-hit wonders are too cool to have hits. Right?

At any rate, the fact that Craig and Charlie Reid play coffeehouse-size venues in this country belies their status as a popular worldwide touring attraction. Their songs have been sung by stadia full of soccer fans and had stage musicals written around them (a la ABBA’s Mamma Mia!) in countries where they’d be baffled to see ‘I’m Gonna Be…’ featuring in lists with names like 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders.

Here are ten proclamations of the songwriting prowess of the Reid brothers:


1. “Letter From America”

The Proclaimers’ first album, 1987’s This is the Story, has similarities to another promising artist’s debut, that being Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True.

Though brimming with great songwriting, both albums featured a primitive sound that would be abandoned by the release of the respective artists’ sophomore LPs. Costello’s ragged throwback sound (provided by backing band Clover, later known as Huey Lewis & the News) pegged him as a punk Buddy Holly; a year later, with the legendary Attractions in place, Elvis began forging a legacy that terms like “punk” and “new wave” couldn’t encapsulate.

The Proclaimers’ first record presents them in a stripped-down (in this case acoustic) setting with an almost folk-punk feel. But tacked on at the end, in a full-band arrangement that presaged their sound on subsequent albums, was their first classic anthem, “Letter From America”.

This song deserves the status that “I’m Gonna Be…” enjoys as the Proclaimers’ calling card. It’s a heartbreaking elegy to Scotland’s emigration drain due to economic depression:

I wonder my blood/Will you ever return/To help us kick the life back/To a dying mutual friend?/Do we not love her?/Do we not say we love her?/Do we have to roam the world to prove how much it hurts?

Interestingly, the 12′ vinyl pressing interwove the full band and acoustic versions of the song on the same side of the record in such a way that the needle would play one or the other version randomly when the needle hit the grooves. The song was a #3 UK hit.

2. “Cap in Hand”

From their second and finest album, 1988’s Sunshine on Leith, somehow an overlooked classic despite the fact that it contained “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”. The brothers and their backing band talk about the special feeling they all had recording the album, and the great melodies that were flowing from the brothers’ collective pen.

In a brilliant piece of writing, “Cap in Hand” mixes cheek with pointed political commentary:

I can understand why Stranraer lie so lowly/They could save a lot of points by signing Hibs’ goalie/But I can’t understand why we let someone else rule our land/We’re cap in hand

3. “Then I Met You”

A hopeful ode to new love’s ability to overcome hardened cynicism. Also from Sunshine on Leith.

This one’s a burner live.

4. “Sean”

The Leith album was littered with songs which stirred the best kind of nationalistic feelings. Not the defiant, ready-to-take-up-guns type. But the kind that make you want to sing loudly and celebrate the beauty of family, nation and heritage.

Though fear and hurt and care can lead me to despair/I saw why I’m here the morning you appeared

Sean, I sat awhile on clouds to ask God if He’s living/I should have spent the time on knees in thanks for what He’s given

From parents smart and strong to both of us passed on/From kings is where you come, through daughters and through sons

5. “Sunshine on Leith”

Speaking of songs you want to sing loudly, the album’s title track–a beautiful serenade to the port district near Edinburgh–has been adopted by the Hibernian Football Club, whose fans belt it at all their matches.

While I’m worth
My room on this Earth

I will be with you
While the Chief
Puts sunshine on Leith

I’ll thank Him
For His work
And your birth
And my birth

The first video below shows the cheer that goes up when the song begins, and the team’s celebration of the CIC Cup victory as the fans serenade them. The second (which begins the same–just a heads up) adds a layer of poignancy with the story of the coach losing his father. The videos truly capture a moment when life and music intersect in a powerful way.

6. “I’m on my Way”

Yet another track from the Leith album (and it wasn’t easy to narrow it to five). This one will be familiar to anyone who saw the movie Shrek.

7. “Shout Shout”

After a six-year drought due to writer’s block, the twins returned with their attention having turned somewhat from the political/cultural focus of Sunshine on Leith to more domestic matters. Significantly, the album delivered no big follow-up single to “I’m Gonna Be…”, cementing their one-hit status in the States.

8. “Should Have Been Loved”

After a pair of so-so albums and a ‘best of’ collection, the brothers returned to form in 2003 with Born Innocent, their strongest record since Sunshine on Leith. The effortless songcraft and catchy melodies were abundant on this, their most underrated record.

9. “He’s Just Like Me”

Also from Born Innocent. Illustrative of the honest, poignant lyric style that sets them apart as writers.

10. “Now and Then”

This song, written in memory of the Reid brothers’ lost father, will be a dose of strong stuff for anyone who’s experienced a similar loss. Sad, beautiful and reassuring all at once.

Bonus Track: “Hate My Love”

I first wrote this post in April 2013. Due to some degradation of the attached files it was necessary to re-post it with the music files restored.

Since I always regretted that the snarling “Hate My Love” (another track from the superb Born Innocent LP) didn’t fit among the ten songs that were part of that post, I cheated this time and included it as a bonus track.

There. Now I feel better.

See also:

Ten Great Hollies Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Asia Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Irish Rovers Songs that Aren’t ‘The Unicorn’

Ten Great Weezer Songs That Aren’t from the ‘Blue Album

Steely Dan Gaucho Outtake: “The Bear”

Engineer Jay Marks’ comments: This is a rough mix that was made at Sigma Sound in New York the day Gary (Katz, producer) & Company came to check out our studio. I was the engineer. The tracks were cut by Al Schmidt except for the piano solo which I overdubbed that day.

The reason I know it’s my mix all these years later is because of the fade — Gary kept telling me to fade faster, and I was just too slow, never having heard the whole song before. So that’s why you hear that slight transition at the end — it’s not supposed to be there. (We also cut Kind Spirit that day as well as doing a rough mix on the “original lyrics” version of Third World Man, which at that time was called Were You Blind That Day.)

Video of the Week: Lindisfarne’s Geordie Genius–The Alan Hull Story

Video of the Week: Brooklyn Charmers Live at City Winery Chicago

There are several excellent Steely Dan tribute bands out there. You can add the Brooklyn Charmers to that list.

Considering there are only five of them on the stage (I know you’re used to sixteen or more) these guys approximate Steely Dan classics–and choice deep cuts–remarkably well.

Wisely they don’t mess with the great original guitar solos. No band ever catalogued a greater collection of solos. And not tribute band ought to improvise their own or try to better them.

The only thing they lack is the thing every Dan tribute act lacks: the inimitable voice of Donald Fagen.

– Bodhisattva 6:46 – Peg 11:37 – Black Friday 15:55 – Turn That Heartbeat Over Again 21:43 – Kid Charlemagne 27:12 – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number 32:18 – Kings 36:18 – King Of The World 42:02 – Bad Sneakers 45:34 – Don’t Take Me Alive 50:24 – Midnite Cruiser 55:48 – Green Earrings 1:00:52 – My Old School 1:07:55 – Josie 1:13:59 – Hey Nineteen 1:21:52 – Boston Rag 1:28:36 – Reelin’ In The Years

The Song Steely Dan Wrote to Mock John Lennon

(via Far Out) by Sam Kemp

Like many of the biggest groups of the early 1970s, Steely Dan grew up under the shadow of The Beatles. When Donald Fagen and Walter Becker came together in 1971, the pioneering group had already been broken up for more than a year. They may have wondered if they had somehow absorbed the ghost of ‘The Fab Four’ and that it was their responsibility to carry the flame in their absence. Indeed, Fagen and Becker intentionally modelled themselves off The Beatles, choosing to emphasise writing and recording than relentless touring. However, Steely Dan could also be highly critical of The Beatles’ former members at times, as the song ‘Only A Fool Would Say’ makes devastatingly clear…

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