Back in the ’70s, I made a mix tape of my favorite female singers to use to demonstrate hi-fi gear, so to continue on last month’s theme of ballads, I figured I would dedicate this month to female singers. As Heart was covered last month I will skip the Wilson sisters. Also, once again I am changing up my reference system to include the wonderful Dan Clark Audio EXPANSE Headphones.
1. “Angel of the Morning” (“Angel of the Morning” – Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts – 24-bit/192kHz – Qobuz) This song always gets to me down deep. Actually, I have always found it ironic that such a sweet and emotional song is actually about one night stands. (note: the 24-bit/192kHz version is from an album called “Dial A Hit”, but I felt it appropriate to credit the original album) There is a fantastic live version of the song, that appears to have been recorded at a much later date than the original but I could find no info on it. Second only to Merrilee Rush’s version of the song is Billie Davis’ version which was recorded a year earlier. The original Evie Sands recording takes third place in my book due to the poor production values though this may just be a result of the digital transfer.
2. “Eskimo Blue Day (Live at The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, August 16, 1969)” (“Woodstock Two” – Jefferson Airplane – 16-bit/44.1kHz – Qobuz) When one thinks of Jefferson Airplane ballads “White Rabbit” is the first to come to mind, and as iconic as that song is, the Woodstock performance of “Eskimo Blue Day” with Nicky Hopkins at the piano is my favorite, in fact, it has a place on my regular test tracklist. Grace Slick can punch more emotion into a song than most.
3. “Birthday Of The Sun (Live at The Woodstock)” (“Woodstock Two” – Melanie – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) Another fantastic performance at Woodstock and another off my test list is Melanie’s “Birthday Of The Sun” which is just Melanie and her guitar serenading half a million people. Actually, any of her performances from the newly (finally) release complete recordings of that concert could make this list, but I stand by my choice.
4. “Sweet Sir Galahad (Live at The Woodstock Music & Art Fair/1969)” (“Woodstock Two” – Joan Baez – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) A third song from Woodstock and Joan’s best, though “Rejoice In The Sun” runs a close second and “Silent Running” a close third both from the film “Silent Running” and written by Peter Schickele (PDQ Bach).
5. “Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody” (“Wild Things Run Fast” – Joni Mitchell – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) Joni has about a hundred candidates for this list, I would have liked to pick something from “Shadows and Light” since that is the concert I saw, I mean Joni meets Jaco, what’s not to love, but it was a bit too upbeat for this list, and “Unchained Melody” is one of those epic ballads.
6. “Dance This Mess Around” (“The B-52’s” – The B-52’s – 24-bit/192kHz – Qobuz) Kate Pierson’s heart-wrenching vocal was the inspiration behind that original mix tape and therefore a must-have for this list. Also another of my go-to tracks.
7. “Luka” (“Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music, Vol. 3 (Live)” – Suzanne Vega – 16-bit/44.1kHz – Qobuz) This was a hard one because there are so many versions. While I love the piano in the original, there is something magical about the simple guitar, bass, and drums.
8. “Torn” (“Left Of The Middle” – Natalie Imbruglia – 16-bit/44.1kHz – Qobuz) Talk about songs that tear you up inside, this song just strikes a chord every time I hear it. While the original by Lis Sørensen has a lot of the same beats, not knowing the language means that it doesn’t hit me the same. On the other hand, the Ednaswap version has a completely different feel altogether.
9. “Baby It’s You” (“A Group Called Smith” – Smith – 16-bit/44.1kHz – Qobuz) I literally looked for this album for 40 years, the search somewhat hampered by the popularity of The Smiths, but it was finally released on CD about 10 years ago. Gayle McCormick’s vocal on this song is just heart-rending.
10. “Just Like U Said It Would B” (“Lion and the Cobra” – Sinéad O’Connor – 16-bit/44.1kHz – Qobuz) My friend Bruce and I discovered this song (and album) while on one of our regular record bin dives at a store called Licorice Pizza where they would let us listen to the albums before buying. We both immediately fell in love with it, him buying the album, me buying the CD which I took to CES that year and played on every High-end system in the tower. I can’t help but think that I had some impact on her subsequent rise to fame.
The problem with limiting myself to 10 songs is that last song is the hardest to pick, while Sinéad’s incomparable voice had to be on this list, it meant leaving off three of my absolute favorites the epic Kate Bush, The Motels, and Judy Garland, who will have to wait until next month though I do intend to go back to listening to new music. Another song and performance that didn’t make the cut, not because it didn’t deserve to be on the list, but because it simply isn’t available on Qobuz (or any streaming service) but you can listen to it on YouTube, is “The Morning After” as performed by Renée Armand for the film “The Poseidon Adventure”, there are several covers of the song, but none hold a candle to the original which just broke my heart at the time.
Until next month, remember it’s all about the music.
Qobuz Playlist Link: