Love has so many nooks and crannies, so many twists and turns, that it has provided fodder for lyricists since the start of songs and shows no signs of stopping. There are so many kinds of love permutations that I have tried to display the everyday ones as well as the perverted and the complicated. It makes for a Valentine's Day foray that may touch a higher percentage than you might think. So get all your work done, have a sit-down, put a l’il buzz on and see a preview of your own life or what may happen later tonight. Think of this as a musical box of candy from me to you...
Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.
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1. "The Earthquake of Your Love" — Al Kooper (3:19)
I have experienced seven quakes in my life, all in Los Angeles. The Northridge one I got caught in kept me away for six years and only my grandchildren’s existence could coax me back. But here I tried to invent a good, happy one. Only in song, my friends, could this happen and only with Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and Neil Stubenhaus on bass. I played all the other parts. And what a lift the second half of each verse gets when uber-singer Freddie Henry comes in to lift it just a little higher. Fasten your seatbelts and push the play button.
2. "Welcome Home" — Dusty Springfield (2:32)
This is a scenario of intense bickering, causing one of the participants to move out. Years before texting, the couple makes up on the phone, and the retreating party comes back to open arms. Dusty portrays the woman who didn’t leave and observes twice, “We acted just like children.” Now that Dusty has found a much higher residence, it’s extra special to hear that voice again — and what a voice it is.
3. "You're My Imaginary Lover" — Al Kooper (3:38)
I always wanted to write a song about some singer or movie star I had a serious crush on that could never materialize. So one day songwriter Sandy Stewart and I got together at my house in Gnashville in the ‘90s and knocked this ditty off in about two hours. A week later, I had recorded a one-man demo and Sandy came back to sing the high part in the harmonies. It felt so right to me, I put it on my next album just like it was. The music and arrangement are a loving nod to one of my main influences, Thom Bell, and the guitar licks I learned from Curtis Mayfield, Reggie Young and Little Beaver.
4. "This Love Is True" — NRBQ (2:44)
One of the best Paul McCartney songs he never wrote. Terry Adams, Joey Spampinato and Jake Jacobs (!) (from The Magicians and Bunky and Jake) hunkered down to achieve this Beatle-esque beauty. Not what you would expect from the rockin’ NRBQ but nothing wrong with being musically ambidextrous. This is a tribute that I wish Paul had recorded on his album where he covered other people’s songs recently. But NRBQ got that classic Beatle harmony on the opening that probably fooled a few people when they first heard it. Very nicely done, lads, and always a V-day favorite of mine.
5. "Out of Left Field" — Al Kooper (4:12)
I LOVED the original version by Percy Sledge so much that I instantly checked the label of the 45 when I bought it to see who the writer was. Of course it was Dan Penn — who else could describe love as “sugar and peaches in a paradise land?” WOW. You don’t get that perspective growing up in Queens, New York. I jumped at the chance to record it in 1972 when Little Beaver and his trio spent a day off from the road at my studio in Atlanta at the time. We recorded three songs that day. This was the only one released (Act Like Nothing’s Wrong, 1975) The other two will be on my box set of unreleased recordings when I finish that. Kudos to Wendy Waldman for the back-up vocals.
6. "What Do You Take Me For?" — Paul Thorn (3:51)
I think of Paul as a modern-day Randy Newman. I wish more listeners would delve into his discography because he doesn’t really ever write a bad song and his longtime band is terrifying. I always go to his gigs in Boston and usually sit in. It’s one of the few things that gets me out of the house (believe me, the other things are ALL musical or medical). This song describes the woman you have fallen so far for that you disregard her blatant misuse of you and the “relationship.” I sadly remember those.
7. "Another Man's Prize" — Al Kooper (5:14)
I was staying at a friend’s house on a vacation island for a few days. One of the other people staying there was the middle-aged wife of a really rich older guy who didn’t have the time or inclination to get away with her. So, the wife is runnin’ around with some REALLY younger guy and when I got back home I wrote this song about them. In the song, I play the part of the younger guy. Only in song lyrics, folks... As time has passed it’s become one of my favorite lyrics I ever wrote and I thought I’d try it out on y’all. It’s another one-man demo and I rarely write songs in this musical genre — sorta young Dylan-esque.
8. "A Picture of Me" — George Jones (2:33)
Lordy, Lordy, what a magnificent singer has left the Earth. I just can’t get over George’s vocals and the choice of material he recorded.
9. "Get It Out In the Open" — Freddy Henry (5:14)
I can’t believe I have a friend who can sing like this and owns a lumber yard in Milwaukee. Fred and I met and made a record together in the late '70s. We have remained friends and I went up to Milwaukee a few months ago and we played a concert for charity together. Boy, was that fun. This was the title song of the album we made back then and Freddy wrote this sucker as well. In this one, he is courting another man’s prize, but he has no pangs of conscience. I have run this in the column before but I have no guilt in running it again. It’s the closest I’ve come to producing and arranging something akin to “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” We were really lucky to get the background singers who sang on all the Al Green records as well, Rhodes-Chalmers & Rhodes. I still love his singing and especially his ad-libbing in the fade-out. He just keeps lumbering on...
10. "Back When We Were Beautiful" — Matraca Berg (3:40)
Now first off, this is one of my favorite lyrics of ALL TIME. It’s a mother in her 80s talking to her daughter about how life was before her husband passed on. It was written by a friend I made when I lived in Gnashville all those years ago. Her name is Matraca (pronounced ma-TRACE-ah) Berg. She married an old friend of mine, Jeff Hanna, originally and still in The Nitty Gritty Dirt Bird. I played the organ at their wedding, “Green Onions” after he kissed the bride as they made their exit. At any rate, everyone I play this song for is floored by it. Emmylou Harris just covered it but I still love Matraca’s version. She also has a pretty great cover of “Jolene” as well. I think this song will eventually reach millions. Maybe one of you reading this will put out a cover at just the right time. Happy Valentine's Day from me to y’all!