Myself and a friend were talking the other day about songs we like that no one's ever heard before. You know the ones; obscure songs off albums that aren't hits per se, but that you always jump to when you put the CD on, or maybe bands you've never heard of. Anyway, here are 10 such songs on my iPod that I like which people may not know of. Got any recommendations of your own?
Something Sad, by Timothy B. Schmidt
Timothy B. Schmidt is, of course, one of the Eagles. He joined the band just in time to record The Long Run album, after which they all split up (although they are back together and touring again, sans Don Felder). This song is from Schmidt’s solo album ‘Tell Me The Truth’ released back in 1990. It’s reminiscent of the Eagles ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’ with beautiful harmonies. Yes, it’s pop, but nice pop.
Skeletons, by Rickie Lee Jones
The live version from her album ‘Naked Songs’. It’s just her singing while playing piano in front of a crowd. I’m not sure if the song is ‘true’ or not, but she sings it like she’s choking back tears – you can feel the emotion in her voice. If this doesn’t make you bawl your eyes out (or at least shed a tear) then you have a heart of stone.
Aubrey, by Bread
One of the most beautiful, melancholy melodies I’ve ever heard. I’ve played this for people often on the guitar. I remember seeing Bread years ago when they came to New Zealand on tour. At the time, Chris Knox reviewed their greatest hits album in the Herald and called this song, “sheer, seamless genius”. He was dead right. David Gates wrote the song after seeing ‘Breakfast At Tiffanies’.
Night Vision, by Suzanne Vega
A great song from Vega describing the world at night, and finding objects “through the grain” by feel and shape. A goose-bump inducing song and better than ‘Luka’ IMHO.
Prospero’s Speech, Loreena McKennitt
I first heard this song in an episode of Due South. McKennitt is Canadian but her influences are very Eastern. Prospero’s Speech is from the end of ‘The Tempest’ by Shakespeare, which she puts to music. Very beautiful and haunting.
Old and Wise, The Alan Parsons Project
The APP is best known for the pop of ‘Eye in the Sky’, but the pop description (and the joke about their name in Austin Powers) isn’t really fair on them. With their first album ‘Tales of Mystery and Imagination’ they put music to the stories and poems of Edgar Allen Poe with guest narration by Orson Welles. This song, from a subsequent album, is probably something I’d like to have at my funeral (although I’d replace the ‘shadows’ bit). ‘Bitter words that tossed and blew me/Like Autumn winds will blow right through me […] and the sadness would be lifted from my eyes/When I’m Old and Wise’
I Get Along Without You Very Well, by Diana Krall
Ok, so the song is a standard, off her album of standards, ‘The Look Of Love’. It’s not the vocal that makes this song though, it’s the strings by legendary arranger and conductor Claus Ogerman. They take your breath away.
Transatlanticism, Death Cab For Cutie
I got turned onto these guys from one of the soundtrack albums to The O.C. Transatlanticism is their best album IMHO and this title track is a great kind of anthem. It’s to do with separation and starts with the protagonist decrying the flooding of the planet because now he can’t walk to the door of his beloved because he cannot cross the Atlantic (finding it “less like a lake and more like a moat”). Sounds strange but it’s a grand track that starts off with piano culminating in a huge final chorus.
Say Goodnight and Go, Imogen Heap
This is from Imogen’s excellent album ‘Speak For Yourself’ from 2005. I have bought at least three copies of this album and have given some as gifts. I don’t know why the album is not more well known; those in the know rave about it. Imogen’s style is a bit hard to describe. The music is modern but unique; she has her own sound – a modern beat with digital noises that make an appearance and leave; tracks packed with washes of orchestral and breathy background harmony vocals; the vocorder used in a different way by itself (Hide And Seek). I would say that if you bought Speak For Yourself (which is pretty cheap at The Warehouse now), you won’t be disappointed. Jeff Beck contributes a guitar solo to this track.
The Sire of Sorrow (Job’s Sad Song), Joni Mitchell
The version of the song from her album Travelogue is best where she plays with a live orchestra. Yes, it’s Mitchell putting music to the Biblical book of Job, although she does paraphrase (“the janitors of shadowland flick their brooms at me”). It’s very well done, as Job pours out his heart to God accompanied by an almost cinematic orchestral score.