Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

2011 – Happy New Year.

My favourite thing as a kid was listening the countdown on January 1, sometimes December 31, of the best of the year.

They still do it of course, but I’m far from that these days, and I have been for longer than I care to think about. There are reasons for than, besides just old-fogeyness, and I may get into that at some point, but for now I’m going to do my own top 10, but not of songs of the year.

There was a news article recently about how Canadians are per capita the biggest YouTube watchers of any G7 country, and I take my share of the credit. I don’t watch what everybody else watches, I promise you, but it matters not; I do my share to bring up the average.

So here, with no further ado, are 10 of my favourite YouTube videos, 10 of the many that have made it to my favourites list, and I have to admit that I’m partial to videos of live performances (or fake live performances, I’m not fussy) or videos that give us more than just the bare music. We are, after all, meant to sit and watch these…

Days Like This by Van Morrison – I love the way Van Morrison uses a horn section and the way he uses his voice, and the way he uses them together. I love the way that he’s made a career out of singing songs of joy and happiness, (when he’s not whining about being rich and famous) without ever sacrificing his artistic integrity. He may be a miserable man (so I’ve heard, lawyers keep away please) but his music reaches a place in my heart that surprises me every time. This isn’t a song that I’ve paid a lot of attention to, but I like this video (I just discovered it this evening, one of those “recommended for you” videos), I like the black and white, and I love the way that he is twice the age of anyone else in the band and how little it matters.

Two Beds And A Coffee Machine by Savage Garden – Savage Garden is / was an Australian duo who were big for about 5 minutes. Most of the stuff on their 2 CDs is likeable but forgettable pop. But this song is something else. The subject isn’t all that common in pop music (think of another song anyone?) and it would be incredibly difficult to pull off, but they do it, nothing maudlin. All they had to do was throw in an electric piano and it would have thrown the song into saccharine hell, but as it is, especially the strings, and especially the cellos, it’s all too human and all too sad. And the video? The guy that did it got an amazing amount of positive feedback, well deserved.

Only You by Ringo Starr – Lightening things up… This is obviously a promotional video, and what we see has obviously nothing to do with the song per se (flying saucers?), but this is here for one reason: Harry Nilsson. He does all the background vocals, and that’s him in the bathrobe, reading the magazine and smoking. Harry, RIP.

Diamonds And Rust by Joan Baez – Yeah I know she can be insufferable, and I know she’s been known to be strident, and I know she’s not for everyone’s taste. But when she’s good she’s very very good. And on this video she’s very good indeed. The song is one the best she’s written, and the performance shows her at her elegant best. And yeah I know she squeaks the guitar strings, so she’s no Jorma Kaukonen ok?

Stay With Me by The Faces– Rockin’ it up… The song was always one of my favourites, and the video reminds us that Rod Stewart used to sing some damn fine rock and roll, and he that he used to have a splendid time doing it.

Some Of Shelley’s Blues by Michael Nesmith – Well into middle age, here is the former Monkee, who didn’t so much outgrow his Monkee persona as anticipate his later musical identity even while a Monkee, doing the song that was done so well by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, with David Letterman sitting behind him looking out of place at his own desk, doing what he (Nesmith, noth Letterman) does best, singing and playing. Honestly though, it was hard for me to decide between this and Different Drum, but I went for this one because as much as I love watching Nesmith do Drum , and as much as I love the original Stone Poneys version , it’s a song about rejection, so I went for the positive. (But notice how cleverly I got the link in anyway…).

הלילה הוא שירים by Chava Alberstein – Forgive me this indulgence. The title of the song (pronounced "halayla hu shirim") translates literally as “the night is songs,” which makes no sense in English, but the real meaning is something like “the night is full of music.” I can get into that. This is from 1977, which, I’m ashamed to say, is the last time that I was in Israel, and I bought the album with this song as a souvenir, because they were playing this song on the radio a lot. This shows an incredibly beautiful performance; Chava looks radiant, the shot of the oboist off the top is cinematic brilliance, and the fact that it’s in black and white is a reminder that while Israel is one of the most technically advanced countries in the world, it’s not always kept up with availability of luxuries (like colour cinematography – this is late 70s remember). And the song? The song is beautiful. I know you probably don’t understand the lyrics, but take my word for it…

Your Mother And I by Loudon Wainwright III – I wrote about this already, so maybe this is cheating, but here it is again. It just hits too close to home…

Foolish You by Kate & Anna McGarrigle – The late Kate McGarrige happens to be ex-wife of Loudon from the last entry, the “Mother” of Your Mother And I. That’s not her singing, though, that’s Anna. Kate is playing the banjo in the corner. No matter, this is the McGarrigle Sisters at their best.

A Song For You by Ray Charles – A special friend sent me this, and that’s reason enough to include it here.


Belle said...


Life Student said...

I'll try to make time to watch them all. No Cee Lo Green for you, eh?

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