Songs You May Have Missed #713

Durand Jones & The Indications: “Love Will Work it Out” (2021)

Durand Jones and company seem to have dug through the dustier crates of vinyl for the inspiration to create the soulful symphony that is 2021’s Private Space.

The mix of vocals between Jones and falsetto (and drummer) Aaron Frazer, along with cool vibes by Joel Ross create a magical retro sound that calls to mind Earth, Wind & Fire’s jazzier moments, with a sprinkling of Philly soul and maybe a touch of Bobby Caldwell.

While the tyrics touch on topical issues such as the pandemic and racial tensions, the message of this soul-soothing song is a hopeful one.

Songs You May Have Missed #712

Los Manolos: “Amigos Para Siempre” (1992)

Los Manolos are ten friends from Barcelona whose airplane wing shirt collars make them a risk to go airborne while performing, Or walking briskly.

Their mirror shades, Elvis sideburns, neon suits and bell-bottoms certainly lend them a distinctive…uh, flare.

And their music, like their look, isn’t for everybody. But if you happen to like rumba with a rock attitude, they could be the life of your next partido.

“Amigos Para Siempre”, whose music was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, may sound familiar. It was written for Sarah Brightman and Spanish tenor José Carreras to sing at the closing ceremony of the the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games.

Los Manolos themselves also performed at those same ’92 closing ceremonies.

This version of “Amigos” reached number 3 in the Spanish charts.

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Songs You May Have Missed #711

John Mayer: “New Light” (2018)

How this soft, silky slice of faux-80’s soul-inflected disco pop missed the Hot 100 is a mystery to me–like the appeal of so many artists who do inhabit the upper reaches of said singles chart.

The video is a hoot too. In an Instagram post Mayer joked:  “I needed to make a video for ‘New Light’ but nobody could agree on a budget, so I went to a place downtown and made this with a company that usually does birthday and Bar Mitzvah videos.”

Yup, that’s pretty much what it looks like.

Songs You May Have Missed #710

Mashmakhan: “As the Years Go By” (1970)

Somewhere there exists a VHS tape, recorded in the 90’s, of my young offspring lying corpselike across the living room floor and furniture, pretending to be dead, while the spooky intro to this song begins to play from my boombox.

As the organ swells they slowly rise like zombies, then as the band kicks into the playful uptempo section of the preamble, the kids bounce around the room in random, goofy improvised dance–something like a precurser to the Harlem Shake. Or something. I guess you had to be there.

What my kids to this day refer to as “The Dead Song” was Montreal band Mashmakhan’s idiosynchratic 1970 #31 hit “As the Years Go By”, which depending on your age and awareness at the time may be unfamiliar, or possibly exists on the edge of your musical memory. The band never charted another U.S. hit.

But their heartfelt, anthemic examination of the manifold meanings of the phrase “I Love You” is deserving of four minutes of your attention. Dancing like a zombie is optional.

This seems like the kind of song that could only have come from the era it did–indeed, compositionally the closest comparision in terms of chart hits may be Zager and Evans’ “In the Year 2525” of the previous year, although that song was much more commercially successful, claiming the #1 chart position for 6 straight weeks.

But hey, “As the Years Go By” was a million seller in Japan.

And in my house, too, “The Dead Song” was a big hit.

Songs You May Have Missed #709

Marisa Monte: “A Primeira Pedra (Ao Vivo)” (2016)

Brazilian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Marisa Monte’s legendary status in her native country hasn’t exactly made her a household name in the US–at least not yet. But then again, she doesn’t pander to American audiences with English-language records a la Selena, Shakira or even Juan Luis Guerra.

But her divine, operatically-trained voice does translate. And the melodies of her compositions, inspired by classical, Brazilian soul and bossa nova music, certainly can touch the heart even if the words of the song (in this case “The First Stone”) are a mystery.

One of the great singers, one of the great talents of her generation.

Songs You May Have Missed #708

Ghost: “Life Eternal” (2018)

Sweden’s Ghost inhabit–haunt, really–a world of their own on the musical landscape. Inspired by Alice Cooper’s sense of the theatrical, Opeth’s dark vibe, Dio and BOC’s riffs, and ABBA’s songwriting, Ghost create their own uniquely creepy stew of something I want to call Halloween Rock.

The final track of 2018’s Prequelle LP is a ballad, and stands alone as such, even if a listen to what precedes it–a bombastic metal conceptual album revolving around Europe’s black plague–lends it some dark undertones.

The bell tolls and pipe organ don’t hurt, either.

Ghost’s best work is dark, twisted and creepy. But also beautiful, inspired and thrilling.

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Songs You May Have Missed #707

Hollywood Vampires: “I Got a Line On You” (2015)

Fittingly, Alice Cooper-fronted supergroup/side project Hollywood Vampires mostly covered dead rockers on their 2015 debut release.

Cooper, guitarist Joe Perry and Johnny Depp form the core of the band, with Cooper’s old pal Bob Ezrin producing and a stupifying list of guest stars dropping by throughout.

Guest vampires include Dave Grohl, Perry Farrell, Sir Paul McCartney, Slash, Joe Walsh, Robbie Krieger, Zak Starkey, Brian Johnson and Kip Winger.

The result is one raucous party of a record, with MC Alice bringing all his multiple vocal personalities to the mic as required to revive the spirits of legends such as Jim Morrison, T.Rex, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, Badfinger and, on this burner of a track, Spirit’s Randy California.

Sacrilegious as it might sound, this supergroup’s performances might just out-do some of the originals.

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Songs You May Have Missed #706

The Stapletons: “The Flame” (2017)

The Stapletons are a husband and wife, harp and guitar duo. Together, they write baroque folk rich with hints of Appalachian balladry, Delta blues, and echoes of the English folk revival movement. Blues-driven harp and guitar arrangements topped by ethereal vocal harmonies combine to create a wondrous sound.

Casey, a mariachi from LA married Kate, who grew up in Middle Ridge, WI. Swept into sooty post-industrial Pittsburgh, The Stapletons set about reconciling their many cultural clashes and started a brood of children. Six years later they sat down one morning in the kitchen with a Celtic harp and a Mexican guitar and began writing music. Their unique, “chamber folk” style features blues driven harp riffs, tightly interwoven vocals, and ethereal harmonies. Inspired by their home surrounded by civil war ghosts, this husband wife duo write intricate songs that bring the past alive, illuminate the present, and lift listeners into the stars.

Songs You May Have Missed #705

Stephen Moore: “Marvin” (1981)

For those not familiar with Douglas Adams’ HItchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, some explaining is in order on this one.

In the fictional book series, radio drama, TV series and movie, Marvin is a robot starship crew member who has been programmed with a human personality.

Unfortunately, Marvin is chronically depressed and bored with the mundane tasks he’s routinely asked to perform. Marvin claims to be 50,000 times more intelligient than a human, yet, as his song laments, “they make me pick the paper off the floor”.

Stephen Moore, who voiced Marvin in the British radio and TV series, released the single “Marvin” in 1981, and it reached number 52 in the British pop charts.

Aside from play on the Dr. Demento show, the song had basically zero exposure in America. And that’s exactly where I came across it, around 1985, and recorded it to a long lost cassette from the boombox beside my bed.

I'm just a robot and I know my place 
A metal servant to the human race 
I work my can off trying to satisfy 
I know they'll disconnect me by and by. 

Chip on my shoulder made of silicon 
My printed circuit's like a lexicon 
Ten billion logic functions, maybe more 
They make me pick the paper off the floor. 

Solitary solenoid 
Terminally paranoid 

Know what makes me really mad 
They clean me with a Brillo Pad 
A carwash wouldn't be so bad 
Life! Don't talk to me about life. 

I'm so depressed I could expectorate 
My moving parts are in a solid state 
I want to rust in peace, switch off and lie 
In that great junk yard in the sky. 

Solitary solenoid 
Terminally paranoid 

Nothing left to be enjoyed 
Every diode rheumatoid 

Outer alloy Inner void 

Happiness has been destroyed.

Songs You May Have Missed #704

Steriogram: “Go” (2004)

Another delightful pop nugget from New Zealand’s answer to Sum 41, Weezer, Beastie Boys, Nirvana and more.

Tyson Kennedy’s rap overlapping Brad Carter’s singing, backed by some tasty riffage makes for a winning formula. This band–and this gloriously ebullient album–should have been big.

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