Last year for Valentine’s Day, I suggested a playlist of background music that would surely get you in if it was set at the correct volume. This year I went into my personal discography and selected songs concerned with the eternal struggles of potential lovers as well as tributes to the ones you worship on February 14. So this is prep this year, rather than accessory. I love writing songs and these are some of the ones that stuck out to me (pardon the pun). I also included a couple of other people's work as they inspired me. I wish you the best of luck this year on this potentially horny holiday.
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. "Valentine's Day" — Al Kooper (3:00)
This was a homemade demo I made to see if my arrangement idea worked for this Steve Earle song I became enamored of. The lyric reminds me of quite a few guys I know. I never properly re-recorded it, but I did get to play it for Steve when he interviewed me on his radio show a few years back.
2. "Love Time" — Al Kooper (4:11)
This is the lead-off track on my last album White Chocolate. It’s a celebration of loving someone you live with in an all-encompassing manner. My favorite line is, “It’s such a mess but don’t get dressed / It’s love time." Know wot I mean, lads?
3. "How 'My Ever Gonna Get Over You" — Al Kooper (4:40)
I never wrote a song like this before or after. It’s like a breeze from the 1940s blew into the room and enveloped me until I finished writing it. I can vaguely remember some of the music I heard from my Mom’s radio after being born in 1944. It all influenced me in this song. As a lyricist, it’s a big deal for me to use words other people usually shy away from (i.e."proselytize" in "I Can’t Quit Her"). In this song I used "extricate" and "RSVP" — I can’t think of other songs that previously used those (probably for good reason) but I get a kick out of it when I can do this. This is a sad song for people who are sad on Valentines Day. It lets them know they’re not alone in their misery, but actually, physically alone.
4. "I Cried So Hard" — Al Kooper (3:27)
Another sad song but help is built into it, i.e. I cried so hard until I just couldn’t cry no more. So much grief that now there’s no more left and one can move on from the emotional holocaust. Forty years ago I wrote a song called “A Sad Song Is Not a Bad Song,” but it didn’t survive. This will have to suffice for that thought.
5. "Love Theme From The Landlord" — Al Kooper (2:51)
This was originally for the first feature film I scored. It was also the late Hal Ashby’s first film as a director. The opening chorale part for eight voices was arranged by my friend and arranger Charlie Calello back in 1969. It’s the first 45 seconds of the 2:51 cue, but it’s so musically complex, it took three hours to record it perfectly. Then a few years ago, Jay Z sampled the first verse for an album track called “Soon You’ll Understand.” He actually used my vocal on his track but sped it up so I sound like a chipmunk. I did get half writing credit, but it wasn’t a single. But then DJ Alchemist sampled this track as well on a single called “Hold You Down” and it got tons of airplay and was used all over the world in TV shows and movies. The ironic part is that it’s one of the whitest songs I ever wrote. The original version here sounds apropos on February 14th...
Al Kooper and Hal Ashby, 1969
6. "You Make Me Feel So Good All Over" — Al Kooper (3:11)
It was a thrill for me to co-write this with the legendary Gerry Goffin in 2005. We wrote it over the computer. He sent the lyric and I put it to music. This is the original demo I made to send him for his approval before I recorded it with my full band. I like this tempo much better than the master. The drummer on the session refused to play it at the tempo I requested and played it too fast, in my opinion. This is the tempo it SHOULD have been recorded at. What an amazing lyricist Goffin still is. It was one of the highlights of my entire career to write with him. He certainly tells it like it is...
7. "She Don't Ever Lose Her Groove" — Al Kooper (3:32)
This was originally written and recorded by guitarist/vocalist Little Beaver in Florida in the ‘70s. I fell in love with it and cut it in Gnashville around 1975. It was included in my album Act Like Nothing’s Wrong the next year. The guitar solo is by ex-Memphis studio stalwart Reggie Young, another of my heroes. This epitomizes how I wanna feel about that certain someone on Valentine’s Day.
8. "I Want a Little Girl" — The Rekooperators (4:50)
Eventually I am always bound to cover a Ray Charles favorite from my youth. Eric Clapton put it out about the same time circa 1993. This was the only vocal on an all instrumental album called Rekooperation. The Rekoops were a jam sideband mostly fronted by my dear friend, guitarist Jimmy Vivino, featuring Anton Fig on drums and my childhood buddy Harvey Brooks on bass. Harvey left and was replaced by Mike Merritt late in the '90s. We are joined here by the Uptown Horns mirroring the Ray Charles Band horn arrangement. The song was co-written many years ago by Lil Armstrong, Louie’s wife at the time, and probably dates back to the 1940s. I LOVE the words!
Louis and Lil Armstrong
9. "Turn My Head Towards Home" — Al Kooper (4:01)
I wrote and recorded this in 1975-76. I was quite the rapscallion in those days, but deep inside I longed to settle down. This song was a call to help myself out of my 'dilemma', but it didn’t really work at the time. I hope it did for the various listeners throughout the years. Finally, in 1997 I DID settle down. John Simon, who produced the Blood Sweat & Tears album I was on, returned to co-produce the album this was on, Act Like Nothing’s Wrong. His assistance is why it sounds so good. Most of what I know about record production, I learned from watching him work in the two instances we toiled together. Hats off to John, and don’t forget he also produced the first three Band albums, The Cyrkle, Bookends by Paul and Artie, Big Brother & The Holding Company (Cheap Thrills), and on and on...
John Simon, Clive Davis, Al Kooper, 1967
10. "I Stand Alone Medley" (Live '94) — Rekooperators (6:22)
This was from my 50th birthday party at The Bottom Line in NYC which became the double album Soul Of A Man. It combines the title song from my first solo album plus "I Can Love a Woman" from the same album and concludes with the outro from "New York City (You’re A Woman)." The original Rekoops sre on this one with background singers and horns. This is a medley of three love songs: one for a city, and two for the ladies. I wish you all a happy Valentine's Day and hope the music and lyrics get you through this potentially harrowing 24 hours. See ya back to normal next week with all those empty chocolate boxes lyin’ around.
Al Kooper and Jimmy Vivino, 2010
"I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" — Amy Winehouse
I can't resist adding this as it touched me deeply. I never saw it til she was already gone. I love that she sang the lyric in the male gender and I wish we had met. I had MORE songs for that amazing voice. Enjoy.