Sunday, February 20, 2011

Valentine's Day, 2011

Ok I’m late, I’m sorry I’m sorry. It was a few days ago, Valentine’s Day, but I was otherwise occupied just around that time, not that, you know, this blog isn’t my first priority all the time.

I thought maybe the most ridiculous thing to do was a list of special love songs. I mean let’s get real. Probably 99% of all pop / rock / jazz / MOR / country songs are love songs.

So I’ll do something just slightly less ridiculous – breakup songs. This isn’t anything stupid like the 10 best or anything, forget that. This is just a list of some songs that I think are special, songs that for one reason or another have meant something to me at one time or another. It isn’t even my 10 favourite, I don’t think I have 10 favourite and if I do it would take me a long time to figure out what they were.

So let’s have some fun with heartbreak:

Jim Croce – Lover’s Cross: This comes from his last album, I’ve Got A Name, which I’ve owned since I was in high school. And every time I’ve heard this song, from then until now, it makes my heart ache. "I’ve come to my decision," he sings, "and it’s one of the painful kind." Painful, yes, it’s painful.
Jim Croce – One Less Set Of Footsteps: Two Croce songs, not fair. But who said life is fair? Isn’t that what this is all about in a way? This is strident where the former is wistful, but the truth is that there’s a lot of anger in both songs. "If that’s the way that you want it.." he sings. I guess it is.
Melanie – Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right: This is Dylan’s of course, and nobody ever combined heartache and sarcasm quite this effectively. There are so many covers that it almost makes no sense to start listing them( though the one by The Wonder Who is in a class by itself). Melanie got a lot of flak for her cover, which cuts the tempo in half, and makes a dirge out of what was a rant, but I love the way she sings it (I love the way she sings generally) and if you can stop thinking about Dylan for a bit, this works its own magic.
Dolly Parton – I Will Always Love You: A song of incredible sadness and vulnerability and heartbreak. Warning: not for divas. [Note: you have to be careful with this one because she’s recorded it more than once; you have to hear the original.]
Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind: You knew he’d show up eventually didn’t you. Lightfoot sings of pulp fiction and old time movies, ghosts and heroes, and feelings that have died. And if you want lessons in how to use orchestration with acoustic music, this is a good place to start.
Neil Diamond – The Last Thing On My Mind: I agree that Diamond hasn ’t done anything worthwhile since Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I agree that not everything he did before that was stellar either. But when he was on he was on. And if anyone captures the pain of a breakup better than Diamond does with this Tom Paxton song I don’t know if I want to hear it.
Jackson Browne – Late For The Sky: Jackson Browne’s early LPs were masterpieces of heartland romance, and this, the title track of his 4th album, was probably the most powerful of all. Just about each line of this song could have been spun off into a song of its own, and the realness of that shattering time when you’re desperately trying to hold the pieces together and all the while they are spinning beyond your grasp, it’s hammered home by David Lindley’s guitar and the incredible melody and Jackson’s voice soaring into the stratosphere. Not for the meek.
Bob Dylan – Abandoned Love: This was from the Desire sessions but it wasn’t released until Biograph, 10 years later. Emmylou Harris sings harmony, Scarlet Rivera plays electric violin, and Dylan whacks and thrashes at the remains of a marriage, with violence and desperation and anger and sadness, “everyone is wearing a disguise,” he sings in what may be the most telling line of his career, “to hide what they have left behind their eyes.” Our hero hides nothing and everything.
Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way: Maybe it’s the rhythm that coils like a spring during the verses and resolves itself on the chorus (kudos to Mick Fleetwood) or maybe it’s the pure anger that Lindsay Buckingham brings to the lyrics when he spits out the title lines, or maybe it’s his razor sharp guitar that slashes all sentiment to pieces, but if this isn’t the best breakup song ever, it’s certainly in the top 10. It was hearing this song that inspired this post, and I’ve got many more on the list that I just may get to next year.

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