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.

References:

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”

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