Sunday, January 8, 2006

These are a few of my favorite songs (part 1)

One of the nice things about storing music on the computer is that you can compile lists of favorite songs pretty easily. I have 28 songs that I have marked with five stars in iTunes. I thought maybe what I had to say about them might be of some interest to somebody. Or at least as much as anything else on this blog.

"Pajarillo Barranqueño", from Ring Them Bells by Joan Baez (duet with Tish Hinojosa)
This is an old Mexican folksong about a pretty bird which "already has an owner." I don't know that I'd like this song all that much if anybody else sang it, but I find the harmony between Baez and Hinojosa blends well on this track.
"Rambler Gambler/Whispering Bells" from Speaking of Dreams '89 by Joan Baez (duet with Paul Simon)
This is a weird medley of an old doo-wop tune with an even older traditional ballad, produced by Paul Simon at about the same time as "Graceland," and it sounds like it. It is sung by Baez with backup vocals by Simon. I don't know why I like this song so much -- the upbeat tempo, just the right level of percussion, Simon's back-vocals -- but if I had to pick a favorite song, this would be it.
"Scarborough Fair/Canticle", "The 59th St. Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)," and "A Poem on the Underground Wall" from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme" by Simon and Garfunkel
Three great songs from a great album -- in fact I've marked every song on this album with four or five stars, which makes it the highest rated album. "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" is just plain hauntingly beautiful, and I remember hearing it as a request on classical music station KKHI back when I was in high school (well, it sounds like a harpsichord to me). I first heard the whole album as a freshman in college, and to me "Feelin' Groovy" always brings back a particular memory of crossing Kresge Bridge at UCSC on a particularly sunny April day, the first week of Spring Quarter 1989. A gorgeous day to be out and about and a college student with, as yet, no worries about school or work. "A Poem on the Underground Wall" strikes me now as a bit less tightly crafted in its lyrics than some of the other songs -- and indeed, I'm wondering now if "Patterns" or "Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall" (its lyric "I don't know what is real, I can't touch what I feel, and I hide behind the shield of my illusion" was perfect for someone taking Introduction to Philosophy) aren't better songs -- but the pure facetiousness of treating the four-letter graffito as a work of art appeals to me.
"Let it Be" from Let it Be and "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" from Rubber Soul, by The Beatles
I don't think I can say much about either song that hasn't been heard before. Although the electric guitar solo on "Let It Be" isn't very harsh by most people's standards, it was something that helped me appreciate that sound when I was, metaphorically, booing Dylan at Newport in 1965. "Norwegian Wood" is just an interesting song, with its sort of Indian rock and roll and its ambiguously romantic lyrics, and I like it.

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