Born on this day in 1939, in Ensley, Alabama, singer and entertainer, Paul Williams. Williams was a gifted singer, and a founding member of The Temptations. He was the group’s choreographer, and also worked out stage routines for The Supremes.
Born on this day in 1936, in Detroit, Michigan, vocalist Levi Stubbs. Stubbs was a founding member of Motown’s Four Tops, and sang lead on their biggest hits “Baby, I Need Your Loving”,”I Can’t Help Myself” and “Standing In The Shadows Of Love.”
It has been scientifically proven that music is a great healer. That said – especially now, when the world as we know it has literally collapsed – we need music more than ever to maintain a positive outlook. Here are ten pop songs that never fail to put a smile on my face, and are bound to brighten your day as well.
“And Your Bird Can Sing” (1966) The Beatles. Although the lyrics are cut of a cryptic nature, explosive harmonies, combined with chiming guitars spinning and tumbling with velocity, furnish “And Your Bird Can Sing” with a joyous tenor that grips the both the mind and the body.
“Precious To Me” (1980) Phil Seymour. From the sweet and shiny Buddy Holly influenced vocals to the clutching hooks to the neat and tidy instrumentation, “Precious To Me” not only serves as the quintessential pop song, but a superbly-articulated sonic sentiment. Precious indeed.
“Let’s Go To San Francisco” (1967) The Flower Pot Men. Lushly textured and bursting at the seams with dazzling Beach Boys styled vocal exercises, “Let’s Go To San Francisco” checks in as a charming ode to the beautiful city by the Bay. Subtle drug references led the song to be banned from many American playlists, but topped the charts in England.
“I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” (1988) The Moody Blues. Shimmering with spirituality, “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” sends a telepathic SOS to a long lost love with the certanity they will meet again. Ethereal vocals, accompanied by sweeping synthesizer slopes and a nice mix of acoustic and electic guitars, supply the gorgeously-groomed song with equal amounts of yearning and hope.
“She Don’t Care About Time” (1965) The Byrds. Authored by Byrds founder, vocalist and tambourine man Gene Clark, “She Don’t Care About Time” sparkles and swirls to the legendary band’s signature stance of jangling riffs and heavenly choruses. As the cherry on the sundae, the song adds a classical touch to the proceedings in the form of a Bach inspired passage.
“Not Alone Anymore” (1988) The Traveling Wilburys. Guided by Roy Orbison’s soaring lung power that invariably produces goosepimples from head to toe, “Not Alone Anymore” is a booming ballad, promising love, comfort and security. Fellow Traveling Wilburys George Harrison and Jeff Lynne also lend their assistance to the heart-swelling presentation.
“I Hear A Symphony” (1966) The Supremes. Stepping in as yet another solid gold hit from the Motown factory, “I Hear A Symphony” begins on a rather soft note before gradually ballooning into a super-sized symphony of bellowing brass arrangements, glossy melodies and supremely Supreme harmonies.
“Summerlove Sensation” (1974) The Bay City Rollers. Reflecting a cross between The Beach Boys and Raspberries, “Summerlove Sensation” smacks of carefree happiness. Sprinkled with twinkling sleigh bells, the invigorating song pours a premium on sunny singing and a bubbly beat all in the name of teen romance.
“I Can Hear The Grass Grow” (1967) The Move. Designed of psychedelic impressions, “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” favors a quick and effective pace, humming with stirring licks, galloping rhythms, skyscraper choruses, pulsating percussion and bracing breaks. Hammering hard rock currents to pop sensibilities, the technicolor tune allows the imagination to run wild. The line – “My head’s attracted to a magnetic wave of sound” – drives the point home.
“Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” (1971) The Fortunes. Despite the sad prose involving a guy who apparently only sees his girlfriend on Sunday, and therefore, dreads Monday, “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” possesses a pretty and punchy tone that immediately energizes the soul. Smartly structured and polished with precision, the tasty tune is doubly highlighted by the exceptional harmony prowess The Fortunes are recognized for.
Bulletproof (Kool Kat)
The Lolas have existed in one form or another, since 1998. Head Lola, Tim Boykin, has been the one constant since then, providing lead vocals and guitar. Lolas’ records have always been tight, no-nonsense affairs, and Bulletproof is no exception. Most of these tracks clock in at around the three-minute mark.
Boykin’s voice cuts through the mix like a young John Lennon, although the songs have many influences. Destroy comes on like Ray Davies at his roughest and Oceans Of The Moon combines a Motown beat with a 90’s alt-rock attitude. It’s refrain of “Would you believe, there’s an ocean on the moon?” is catchy as can be.
My fave of the set is the driving She Will Shake The World. With a relentless drum beat and Ramones-inspired guitar work, it’s a head-bobber of the highest order. Bulletproof is probably the best full-on rock album I’ve heard yet this year, and will no-doubt end up on many year-end-best lists.
Maurice & The Stiff Sisters
Welcome To Love
Speaking as a person who consumes a large quantity of new music, I’m especially partial to artists that put a smile on my face. That unconscious action is the undoubted precursor to what we humans call happiness. Maurice & The Stiff Sisters, a swell outfit hailing from Portland, Oregon, are particularly adept at smile inducing.
The opener, “French Exit,” heralds the following nine tracks with a ringing guitar figure that starts the excitement. It’s a peppy pop song complete with staccato horns, about wanting to be invited to big events, even though you wouldn’t want to go. It’s an anthem for introverts and misfits of all shapes and sizes.
“Our Old Haunts” borrows a Motown beat, once again covering a sorrowful subject with energetic aplomb. “Punk Rocker” and “Unlucky In Love” both match modern problems and relationships with vintage flare. This is new music that strikes just the right chord, sounding vintage without being too precious about it. Very well done.