Kim Carnes | Bette Davis Eyes

19 11 2010

I’ve had this Kim Carnes’ song, “Bette Davis Eyes” stuck in my head for 2 days. Whether you like it or not, it’s hard to forget this one. So, I figure, if I have to suffer, then everybody should share in on it. OK. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh. It’s actually a pretty great song… for 1981 especially. The song, the lyrics, the video; everything smacks of comedy with this one. I’ve got to say though,  the funniest thing to me is how Kim’s trademark raspy voice is regularly mistaken for Rod Stewart. Come to think of it, Rod would probably do a fantastic version of this tune. Hoefully, it’ll make his next ‘great American songbook’ album.

I pick on this tune but it is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine and was actually really successful in it’s time. In 1981 it was one of the most popular songs of the entire year, second only to Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical”. And, I have to hand it to Kim Carnes. She not only sings well, she is also quite the instrumentalist; playing guitar, keyboards and harmonica. Now, none of that talent is really showcased in this classic music video but it’s pretty amazing nevertheless. Check it out…

Guilty Pleasures II

21 06 2010

GG fans may recall an earlier Guilty Pleasures post, where I featured some of my more favorite songs that I am a bit ashamed to admit make it on my playlists. Well, the post was quite popular so I’m bringing it back for a second installment. It may even become a quasi-regular feature on The GG, so look for future editions. As stated in the original post, many of these are not necessarily anything to hang your head about. In fact, many people will give me flak for listing them but I know you’ll agree that these songs don’t exactly exude cool despite being great in their own right.

The first one is from Steely Dan. It’s their 1972 release “Dirty Work” from the album Can’t Buy A Thrill. Although the song was never officially considered a “hit”, it has always been hugely popular among Steely Dan fans. In my mind it’s a classic but it often raises a few eyebrows when it pops up on one of my mixes.

This one is Hall & Oates’ fourth #1 hit from 1981 “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)”. It’s a song I really do love but I think with one glance at this video you will see why I have a hard time admitting that to the world.

The Doobie Brothers’ “Taking It To The Streets” was released in 1976. It was their first to feature Michael McDonald on lead vocals. The original leader, Tom Johnston, was forced to take a lesser role due to stomach ulcers. McDonald was a Steely Dan “graduate”, who initially was reluctant to join the band. Thankfully he accepted the gig as his contribution has lead to some great music.

This King Harvest song, “Dancing in the Moonlight”, was released as a single in 1973 and reached as high as #13 on the charts. It’s a great song but is very much soft rock… even for this bunch of songs which all seem to fall in that category. The wurlitzer electric piano is a nice touch that gives the song a sweet, mellow sound.

Any GG fan should know that I love Steve Winwood, especially his earlier works with The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith. Much of his solo work is very light but the guy is a musician’s musician, playing 13 instruments. Not only does he play 13 instruments, ranging from guitar to keyboards to drums to horns, but he plays them all really well, plus he’s a superb singer. As evidenced by his extensive catalog he’s certainly no slouch of a songwriter either. “Higher Love” was a 1986 #1 that, despite being a little dated in it’s sound aesthetic, is still a great song. Again, not one I would to blast from my car stereo but I enjoy it every time.

There’s something about this next one that I really do like. It’s Looking Glass’ “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)”. This was a true one-hit-wonder from 1972 that will probably live on as a 70’s pop classic in the realm of Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime” or Seal’s & Croft’s “Summer Breeze”. Despite being extremely “sugar-coated” for pop audiences, they stand the test of time and even epitomize the pop sensibilities of that era.

Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” is clearly a good song from his wildly popular 1986 release Graceland but it’s so hard to take it seriously, especially with this Chevy Chase video (although I secretly love it). Yea, it has a great hook riff and the chorus is fantastic but for a guy who has such a large and impressive catalog it often it played on way too many Adult Contemporary radio stations, which are now essentially considered synonymous with Muszak… basically, it’s something you would hear while at a shopping mall.  On a side note, there is a really great bassline in this tune from African bassist Bakithi Kumalo. In a master class, I once heard Bakithi tell a story about how we was just messing around in the studio and the engineer liked what he heard so he recorded him to use it as a solo section. However, in order to create a complete resolve he had to take the last bar of the phrase and double it up, then reversed that newly added bar. The result is makes for a really cool effect that still makes me wonder how he plays it live. You can hear it at about 3 mins and 45 secs into the piece.


More info on Steely Dan

More info on Can’t Buy A Thrill

More info on Hall & Oates

More info on “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)”

More info on The Doobie Brothers

More info on “Taking It To The Streets”

More info on King Harvest

More info on “Dancing In The Moonlight”

More info on Steve Winwood

More info on “Higher Love”

More info on Looking Glass

More info on “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)”

More info on Paul Simon

More info on “You Can Call Me Al”

Guilty Pleasures

19 02 2010

We all have them and I am no exception. A good friend recently asked what mine are. It was part of a discussion about the stress of putting your iPod on shuffle while with others and hoping that one of those guilty pleasures doesn’t somehow pop up and embarrass you, which always seems to happen. Here are a few of my guilty pleasures but I’m not that embarrassed by them so I don’t know if they really count. But, they are certainly not tunes I want the guy next to me on the subway overhearing from my headphones although they’re really nice to squeeze into playlists here and there… they seem to go really well with the rest of the ‘so bad it’s good’ yacht rock in my library. I hear this stuff is coming back so maybe I’m actually on the fore of something big here.

This is Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl”. I once worked with a guy who famously said, “Daryl Hall is the greatest blonde-haired, blue-eyed soul singer of his time”. Despite not being able to come up with another to challenge that, I would hardly give the guy that much credit. Nevertheless, they do have some really great songs… and this is perhaps their best. Either this or “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)”. It’s too close to call.

I just want to add that Hall’s outfit in this is hysterical. It’s way Don Johnson in Miami Vice.

Here’s Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin”. Now this one is more commonly appreciated because it was the sample used for Warren G’s “Regulate” circa 1994. Sure McDonald is hard to take seriously but it’s a pretty good song. There is a newer live version available but I actually prefer this early 80’s disaster of a music video.

Bowie should never be a guilty pleasure but I tend to lump “Ashes to Ashes” in there. Unfortunately, Mr. Bowie has blocked the embedding of the official video (yes, every single one on the web) so this is just the song with the album cover. It’s from Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) ca. 1980.

This is both guilty pleasure and Soundtrack classic. Huey Lewis & the News’ 1985 hit from Back to the Future, “Back in Time”. Embarrassing and amazing all at the same.

This does not fit the soft rock trend going on here but it still qualifies for the guilty pleasure category. Weezer doing “Undone (The Sweater Song) back in 1994 on The John Stewart Show. That’s right, not the Daily Show… this was that long ago. Look how young they are…

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