Black

by Pearl Jam

~ The slow burn ~

I’ve noted in a couple of places how I enjoy intricately layered production and songs that you have to listen to multiple times to really appreciate all of the parts as they appear. This one definitely fits that mold.

This was the first mellow song in the track order of their debut album. After four straight balls out rockers (Once, Evenflow, Alive, Why Go) they slowed down and gave us a softer side. Given that this was the era of the power ballad, there was an immediate assumption that this was some sort of grand bombastic love song as reinterpreted by Pearl Jam, but if you give it a closer listen you realize it’s nothing of the sort.

As the song builds along, you get different layers added throughout the song, from the backing vocals, to Rick Parashar’s repeated piano riff, to different guitar textures. By the end of the song, it’s almost a different composition than where you started, but it’s a great ride.

Gimme Some Lovin’

by Spencer Davis Group

~ RIP Spencer ~

Spencer Davis died today. This song was a generation before my time, but still all over the airwaves years later. No one’s really sure how this one didn’t end up on the Iron Eagle soundtrack, given its prominence in the movie, but it’s not like we needed the soundtrack to find / like / enjoy the song.

He was responsible for a lot of great 60s-era classics, and cynics will note that he gave Steve Linwood the platform he needed to springboard to stardom, and little else. But that significantly undersells how great Spencer was at songwriting. So chill out with this all-time classic and thank the maker that men such as Spencer graced the Earth, rather than mourn the fact that he’s gone.

Kiss This Thing Goodbye

by Del Amitri

~ Yes that’s a banjo, and yes he’s Scottish ~

Here’s the funny thing about Del Amitri: almost everyone I know who has heard of him thinks he’s a one-hit wonder, and they all name different hits.

He barely makes the cut off as an ’80s artist since this tune was released right at the end of the decade, but most of his production was in the ’90s. However, this is a great start as it’s a pretty solid rock radio tune that catches your attention when it comes on in the car. The combination of a banjo and a memorable harmonica riff both make it stick out as something a little off the wall but the execution is a straight-up breakup song.

It’s catchy, and hummable, and singable, and just about everybody has felt this way at least once in their life, so everyone’s got a piece of it they can relate to. But yes, it’s a banjo on a rock tune that was a pretty bold choice for the debut single for an artist from Scotland and it’s a good thing America paid attention.