I am always in search of good music to listen to at work. I usually opt for something along instrumental lines, but once in a while I find a lyrically-focused artist that doesn’t intrude too much into my concentration. My searching usually results in going back to the 80s or 90s or earlier, as overly produced music tends to distract me too much. And I have mentioned before that auto tune makes me want to crawl up a wall.
Last week I started listening to Air Supply’s Greatest Hits album. I’ve always been a closeted Air Supply fan, primarily because of the quality of their musicality. They play real music, they employ real vocals and you can feel their heart and soul in their tracks. They love what they do.
Curious as to their whereabouts these days, I decided to look them up on YouTube to see if they had performed live recently and come to find out, they still do about 150 shows a year. Earl reminded me that they perform at the local casino from time to time.
We’ll have to get tickets the next time they’re in town.
The thing that absolutely astounds me about Air Supply is that over 30 years later they still sound amazing. They’re not pitching their songs down in a lower key, they’re not auto-tuning the hell out of their vocals, they are simply still sharing their heart and soul through music. I’ve always found Russell Hitchcock’s tenor voice to be crazily crystal-like and I’m very surprised that at 65 years old he still sounds the same! Same key, pretty much the same quality. Yeah, there’s a little bit of age in his voice but it hasn’t turned into some husky ghost of what it used to be, like other 80s singers have done.
Here’s a video of a recent live performance of “Sweet Dreams”.
I already tweeted this video out earlier this morning, after dancing around to this track in my home workspace, but I just had to watch this video again at lunchtime. This track has been on my short-list in Spotify for the past six months or so. It always puts me in a great mood.
As a former club DJ, I find this song from 2011 to be absolutely amazing. I have always been a fan of both Sylvia Tosun and Bellatrax, so it’s makes sense that I would find a collaboration to be awesome. The musicality of the track is sound, the production is top-notch and I have always liked the way the song builds along its flow. It doesn’t immediately jump into the goldmine, it seductively finds its way there.
And to be completely candid, Sylvia Tosun is my girl crush. Her vocals, combined with the imagery in her videos, make me all starry-eyed. I love the way she expresses her sensuality. I’ve watched several of her interviews on YouTube and the like, and she seems like a genuinely talented singer-songwriter.
Here is Sylvia Tosun, produced by Bellatrax, with “World Keeps Turning” from 2011.
I never finished that degree in Music Education. I am no longer the Program Director of a radio station. Both of those things came to a close many, many years ago. But I still know a really good song when I hear it. The goosebumps never lie.
And this track still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.
Here’s Gary Barlow and Agentha Fältskog with “I Should Have Followed You Home”. Released in Europe last year, I don’t know that this track ever made it to the States in any meaningful way, but it’s still a very, very well done song.
So, to get my workday started on the right foot, every morning I listen to same playlist on Spotify. I call this playlist “Morning Inspiration” and it contains the following songs, which could probably be easily pushed right out of the nozzle of a Cheez-Whiz can:
“I’ll Be Around”, The Spinners
“Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, The Spinners
“Heartbreaker”, Dionne Warwick
“Islands In The Stream”, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
“Guilty”, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb
“Emotion”, Samantha Sang
“The Main Event/Fight”, Barbra Streisand
“Lotta Love”, Nicolette Larson
“It’s A Miracle”, Barry Manilow
… and then to regain my musicality sanity …
“It’s My Life”, No Doubt
I have no idea as to what motivated me to select these tracks for a morning kick, but it works and helps keep me focused.
The song and its video always put me in a happy mood. Even though it’s your basic mid 2000s dance track, the combination of the vibe, the vocals, the tempo and the bass track, bundled with the simple video (I might add with a very hot woman, and how many times do I say that?) just all puts me in a wonderful mood. I love this song. I can never get enough of it.
From 2004, here’s the Stellar Project featuring Brandi Emma with “Get Up, Stand Up”.
Stay with me forever,
Call my name and I’ll be there
Follow me wherever, I will fly.
So when I walked into the gym this morning at 5:50 a.m., all blurry eyed and trying to find the energy to work out, this song was playing on the speakers blaring music through Planet Fitness. I haven’t heard this track in a few years and it’s one of the songs I remember playing when I was a baby DJ on WRCK, Rock 107, “Central New York’s All Hit Music Station”.
From 1994, here’s the Brand New Heavies with “Spend Some Time”.
As a baby DJ in the 1980s, I always tried to find some fun songs that you wouldn’t hear on the radio every 10 minutes. I always tried to fill the dance floor with a track that the audience might know, could probably be able to sing to but more importantly, would get them moving. I like to think that this approach made me a successful club DJ back in the day. One such song was from 1985. It was a top 10 track called “Don’t You Want My Love” by Nicole, sometimes billed as “Nicole McCloud”.
If you follow along with me on Twitter, you probably know that Earl has somehow roped me into watching “The X Factor” with him on selected evenings during the week. Over the past several years shows like this have made me cringe for a number of reasons, including the fact that there is way too much in the way of urban-yodeling, people are screaming more than they are singing and quite frankly, sometimes it feels rigged. Once in a while a story will come along that tugs at your heartstrings and this makes it feel worthwhile. For instance, 54-year old contestant Lillie McCloud.
Ms. McCloud can definitely sing. She has a very impressive voice and when she gets a record contract, I’m sure her album will be impressive. She has the gift and she knows how to use it.
The folks at “The X-Factor” have shared the backstory about Lillie, she’s a 54 year old grandmother who is anxious to share her artistic abilities with the world. She has experience.
Mother of three and grandmother of 7, Lillie McCloud has experience on her side. Find out what went through her head when her first audition made the judges cry.
She has a beautiful stage presence. Kelly Rowland has even commented about her seemingly very natural presence on the stage. Well there’s a reason for that, Lillie McCloud is the aforementioned Nicole McCloud.
I thought shows like “The X-Factor” were touted as a vehicle to showcase otherwise unknown talent. Now granted, Ms. McCloud has been out of the public spotlight for over a decade, and one can not deny her gorgeous talent, but I have to admit that I feel a little cheated when the folks at “The X-Factor” don’t really mention her previous abilities in her backstory.
Earl says I worry too much about little things. I probably do.
On my way home from work yesterday I dialed up tracks by The Human League for my listening pleasure. I haven’t listened to The Human League in a long while, partly because I never quite got over being snubbed by them years and years ago at a concert in Saratoga Springs when I asked if we could meet them backstage (they shunned my Program Director powers of radio!). However, I decided that they had punished for long enough and I would give their classic stuff a listen again.
I dialed up “Dare” and its instrumental counterpart, “Love And Dancing” on my iPhone. It made my commute home quite enjoyable. While the Human League was ground breaking with their use of synthesizers back in the day, I think a good portion of the success of “Dare” can be attributed to producer Martin Rushent. After a nasty conversation between him and Susan Sulley1 during the production of their follow-up to “Dare”, “Hysteria!”, Martin left the studio and never returned to work with The Human League, which probably explains some of their uneven success after “Dare”.
One of the things that I have always enjoyed about The Human League is that, like me, lead singer Phil Oakey is a baritone and because of this, I can sing along with his vocals without having to tighten my innards to the point of having my jewels up over my stomach. I think Phil’s natural range was ignored by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis during the recording of “Crash” and that’s why that album just feels weird to your average Human League connoisseur.
My fascination (ha! get it?) with The Human League continued into the evening last and I dialed up some of their videos on YouTube. I was particularly intrigued in the video of their most famous hit, “Don’t You Want Me”. Labeled the “uncensored”/”director’s cut” version of the famous video, the astute observer will notice that the ending of the video is completely different and a bit darker in tone.
It also explains why the mainstream version of the video has rather rough edits in the audio and weird slow motion shots near the end of the video.
Here’s the Director’s Cut of “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League. Things are different starting around 2:30. For the life of me I have no idea why it would be considered necessary for censorship other than the presence of an extra gun or two.
1 Susan and Joanne grew very impatient with the time it was taking to sequence a drum track for one of the tracks on “Hysteria!”. Susan made an off-the-cuff insulting remark to Martin and Martin decided that he had had it with the group. I guess no one realized that it was Martin’s precision on “Dare” that made it the famous album that it is, which one could safely say is one of the best albums of the 1980s. Quick aside, Susan’s vocals in “Don’t You Want Me” took over 65 takes to record. She’s never been one for vocal precision.
So I’ve been reading and hearing about Pet Shop Boys’ latest concert tour and from what I can ascertain, it is amazing as always. I have never seen Pet Shops Boys in concert before and perhaps if they ever tour again I’ll take the opportunity to see what they’re all about.
The reason that I haven’t gone out and seen them on tour is because, well, I’m not really that big of a fan of Pet Shop Boys. I like some of their songs, but I guess my favorite Pet Shop Boys-esque songs would have to be when Neil Tennant sang with the group Electronic. “Disappointed” is one of my favorite dance tracks from the 90s.
I’m also a fan of Electronic’s “Getting Away With It”. Neil sings backups on that one.
I think one of the reasons I wasn’t a Pet Shop Boys fan back in the day was because I didn’t “get” them. Musically I have always found them to be quite good but they never really looked particularly happy on their album covers. This was always disconcerting to me. If you’re going to sing somewhat happy sounding pop music, you should look mildly happy or at least somewhat engaged on your album cover. At least, that was the logic I was processing in my at the time 16-year-old mind.
Like I said, I didn’t “get” them.
As I DJ I didn’t really spin their music that much. They were never really in my “OMG I have to play this record!” category when I had the ability to pack the dance floor by playing the proper music on Technics SL-1200 turntables, but I would play one of their tracks once in a while. Anyone that worked at Wow-FM back when I was program director can probably attest that there wasn’t a lot of Pet Shop Boys in rotation on the dance-oriented station. I guess that wasn’t a fair decision for me to make but we didn’t get a lot of requests to support otherwise, I guess.
There is one track of there’s that I have always enjoyed. It came out in 1987 and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Top 40. Now this track I like, musically, lyrically and throughout its video presentation.
Here’s “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” by Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield.
Ok, this song wasn’t huge on Top 40 radio in 1988 but I think it’s still pretty recognizable. While working I used to bop around in the ARC van with my friend Dawn to this track.
Here’s The Cover Girls with “Because of You (the 12″ remix)” from 1988. Look ma, no auto tune!