Today’s/Tomorrow’s Top 40: January, 2023…Lewis Capaldi, Taylor Swift, Sza, Dan Penn, Yo La Tengo, Florence and the Machine

In today’s post I am going to be featuring three songs that are currently charting around the world and three songs that are hot off of the presses and may turn into the chart-topping songs of tomorrow. So, let’s get started with three of the hottest songs in the world.


Pointless: Lewis Capaldi

Lewis Capaldi

Lewis Capaldi is a Scottish-born singer who burst onto the world music scene in 2019 with the monster hit song “Someone You Loved”. This song helped Capaldi win the Brit Award for Best New Artist, as well as having the song nominated for Song of the Year in England as well as in the U.S. Lewis Capaldi has a new album coming out in the spring time and is presently pre-releasing singles in advance of his album coming out. The first single is a song called “Pointless”, and let me tell you, it is the first song of 2023 to be mentioned as a potential Song of the Year candidate for this year. It is a four-tissue tear-jerker of a song about a mother’s love for her son. Capaldi insists that the song is not biographical but one has to wonder. The video for this song plays like a home video from my own life. So many of the moments that he alludes to and captures on film are exactly right based upon my own recollections of being loved by my own mom. In a morbid sort of way, I predict that, from this point onward, “Pointless” will become the #1 song played at funerals for mothers. If you are a mother of a son or sons, or if you are a son with a loving mother, this song was written expressly for you. As you read these words, “Pointless” by Lewis Capaldi is #1 on the BBC Radio 1 charts. ***Lyrics video is here.

Anti-Hero: Taylor Swift

The “real” Taylor Swift learning to live with the “celebrity image” that she portrays when on brand, as seen in her Anti-Hero video.

Taylor Swift’s latest album, Midnights, dropped just prior to the Christmas shopping season. In press releases that accompanied the release of this new album, Taylor Swift said that each song on the album reflected some part of her life in which there were problems, fears, questions or concerns that kept her awake at night. The album has been well-received by fans and critics alike, with the song “Anti-Hero” being the one most are pointing to as being the best track. In literature or the movies, an anti-hero is a character caught somewhere in the netherworld between heroes and villains. An anti-hero often seems to possess the desire to act in a villainous manner, but in the end behaves in a good way. For Taylor Swift, this song is about the nature of living a life under the weight of being a celebrity. Swift claims that her life is actually different from her image, but that it is difficult to just be herself when her every move is scrutinized to such a tremendous extent that she can barely breathe. I have stated in previous posts that I harbour not a single ounce of envy for those living in the glare of the spotlights. It may seem glamorous on the surface, but as someone who values privacy and freedom of movement and calmness, having my every utterance analyzed would be almost unbearable. “Anti-Hero” is Taylor Swift’s musical declaration that she finds being the living embodiment of her own brand is growing wearisome and that she longs to live a normal life. As you read these words, “Anti Hero” has been a #1 song in the U.S. and remains in the Top Ten of many charts around the world. ***Lyrics version is here.

Sza: Kill Bill


Sza (pronounced SIZ-a) is a female Hip Hop singer. She has had much success over the past few years but really has a hit on her hands with the song “Kill Bill”. This song was inspired by the Quentin Tarantino movies Kill Bill and Kill Bill Vol. 2 that starred Uma Thurman as a revenge-seeking woman who is determined to bring her ex-lover to justice no matter who stands in her way. As is customary from Tarantino, both Kill Bill movies were very violent. That sentiment that equates violence to Art is at play in Sza’s song. In her song, “Kill Bill”, Sza is a spurned lover who seeks to kill the girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend because her love for him is just too strong to ignore. Sza is being praised by fans and critics for creating a song that displays such honest emotions. Have a listen to this song for yourself and see if you agree that killing in the name of love is a praise-worthy accomplishment. As you read these words, “Kill Bill” by Sza is the #1 song on Billboard, Spotify and KEXP-FM charts, as well as a Top Ten song on most charts around the world. ***Lyrics version is here.


Living On Mercy by Dan Penn

In a recent post *(which you can read here) I wrote about Dan Penn and the important role he played as a songwriter at the Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama during the 1960s and 70s and how he had contributed to the launch of the genre of music called blue-eyed soul. What I didn’t really do is give the man his due as a performer in his own right. I wish to correct that oversight here and now. Dan Penn has written some of the most important and recognizable songs in the history of modern music and has written for everyone from Aretha Franklin to Wilson Pickett on to Janis Joplin, Percy Sledge, Hank Williams Sr., Sam and Dave, Ronnie Milsap, Faron Young, Albert King, Nick Lowe and many more. But, as much as Dan Penn is respected as a songwriter for hire, he is equally respected for producing excellent albums of his own. Just as the pandemic was getting underway in 2020, Penn released an album called Living On Mercy, which contained a series of restrained Soul-influenced songs that tap into the wisdom of a man who has seen and done much in his eighty years on this planet. The lyrics track can be listened to here.

This Stupid World by Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo

In a previous post *(which you can read here) I wrote about Yo La Tengo being one of the most adored and respected alternative bands in the world. They have been quietly going about their musical business for over two decades now. The band consists of a trio of performers: singer/guitarist Ira Kaplan, keyboardist Georgia Hubley and a rotating series of bass players, the most current being James McNew. I have always considered their sound to be a coffeehouse/indie vibe. Their lyrics are often lyrically evocative and filled with gorgeous sensory imagery. If you like your music on the quiet and literate side, then you will like Yo La Tengo. This Stupid World is their 17th album. The first single off of the album is a song sung by Georgia Hubley called “Aselestine”. ***Unfortunately, there isn’t a lyrics version yet.

Dance Fever by Florence and the Machine

Florence and the Machine

In a recent post *(that you can read here) I wrote about listening to the radio as I drove across the top of Toronto at nearly two in the morning. The first song I heard once the dial found radio station CFNY-FM was “Stereo” by The Watchmen. The very next song was “Free” by Florence and the Machine. For those unaware, the “Florence” in Florence and the Machine is a female singer from England named Florence Welch. About a decade ago, she was the winner of one of Simon Cowell’s on-air television talent shows and because of that was awarded a recording contract. She has released a string of hits in the years that have followed. My favourite moment of hers was when she acted as fill-in headliner at the Glastonbury Music Festival for the Foo Fighters one year when Dave Grohl had broken his leg. The first song she sang in her set was “Times Like These”, which is a Foo Fighters song. Dave Grohl and the band returned the following year as headliners. Grohl opened his set with a story about watching Florence and the Machine singing his song. It is a funny NSFW story, but it is well worth watching to get a sense of how respected Florence Welch is in music circles. *(You can watch the Dave Grohl/Florence Welch video here. You can watch Florence’s original performance here). In any case, Florence and the Machine released a new album called Dance Fever right at the end of 2022. “Free” is the second single released from it. The song is about how Florence dealt with the anxiety that was associated with the Covid pandemic and how music helped her retain her sense of inner balance. It is a peppy, uplifting song co-written by Jack Antonoff, who co-wrote the songs on Taylor Swift’s last few albums as well. You can listen to “Free” right here. ***The lyrics version is here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the written consent of the author. ©2023

Tomorrow’s Top 40: Christmas Edition

In this edition of Tomorrow’s Top 40, I am going to take a look at some of the many new Christmas releases that are flooding the marketplace at the moment. With the tremendous success experienced by Mariah Carey a few decades ago with “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, the market for the next great original Holiday song is wide open. It seems to me that almost everyone who’s anyone has jumped into the Holiday music scene with a new album this season. For me, what sets a Holiday album apart is when an artist or band includes songs that go beyond the usual Christmas suspects heard ad nauseam in shopping malls, on our car radio, in restaurants and so on as November winds down and December gears up. So, with that in mind, here are ten new Holiday releases that are all hoping to be the one to put you in that festive mood. Enjoy.

Happiness (Is Christmas) by Kristin Chenoweth

Kristin Chenoweth is well known from her work on a variety of Broadway musicals such as Wicked. Needless to say, the lady can sing and has charm to boot. This Christmas album is filled with many original tunes that are sung with the dramatic flair of a seasoned professional singer who appears to be having the time of her life. I am not sure that there is a Carey-calibre hit on this album but that is ok. Happiness (Is Christmas) is packed with energy and sounds like a Broadway cast recording which should appeal to many listeners who are seeking something different from the usual Holiday fare like Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. If you are a Kristin Chenoweth fan during the non-Holiday portion of the year, then you’ll be a fan of this album, too. Here is “Happiness (Is Christmas)?Christmas Time Is Here”. ***There is no lyrics video for this song as of yet.

The Season by Steve Perry

That Steve Perry, former lead singer of the 1980s rock band Journey, has one of the best sets of pipes of any male singer around, is a hill that I am willing to die on. So, imagine my delight when I found out that he had re-emerged onto the music scene with a new Christmas album entitled The Season. However, the press release that accompanied this album spoke of Perry’s yearning to sing some “timeless classics” which is a code for singing the usual Christmas fare. There are no new songs written by Mr. Perry on this album. Instead, we have a stripped down, jazzed up, smoking-jacket-by-the-fire style of singing by Perry of Holiday standards such as Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. If you think that an album of Steve Perry channeling his best Michael Bublé is your cup of tea, then you will like this album. I predict that fans of the band Journey will not. Here is “Silver Bells”. ***The lyric video is here.

Happy Holidays by Billy Idol

It was Billy Idol’s 67th birthday yesterday (as I type these words). One of the things that I always liked about Billy Idol is that he never seemed to take himself too seriously on stage. He always seemed to be in on the joke and, as such, he was a great entertainer all throughout his career. This was especially true once the big hits dried up in the 80s and 90s and he became more of a nostalgia act. It takes a certain type of singer to successfully transition from stadium rocker to Vegas-style lounge act, but Billy Idol has managed to make it seem effortless. His hit music always had great sound quality. Part of the reason for this was because of his deep singing voice. The combination of a rich singing voice and his comfort with being a lounge singer means that Billy Idol, unlike Steve Perry above, seems perfectly suited to croon out the “timeless classic” Christmas songs that we all know. Happy Holidays is a great album to listen to, especially if you visualize him curling his upper lip into a sneer with each mention of Santa. Here is “White Christmas”. ***The lyrics video is here. This video makes me laugh.

A Very Backstreet Christmas by The Backstreet Boys

When I think of the boy band craze of the 1980s and 90s, I remember a lot of singing that featured harmonies and a lot of choreographed dancing. Even though I cannot see the members of the Backstreet Boys while listening to this album to know if they are dancing or not, the harmonies certainly remain and shine through. This may sound like an obvious statement to make, but even though these guys are singing “timeless classic” tunes that we all are familiar with, they are doing so in a way that makes this album sound just like any other Backstreet Boys album. This is the very first Christmas album that they have released in the thirty years that they have been singing as a group. But, believe me when I tell you that their style of singing makes each song on this album instantly recognizable as a Backstreet Boys song, even if they are covering a song like “Last Christmas”, for instance. If you are a Backstreet Boys fan then you will love A Very Backstreet Christmas. Here is their cover of “Last Christmas”. ***The lyrics video is here.

Everybody Knows It’s Christmas by Chris Isaak

Mr. “Wicked Games” himself, Chris Isaak delivers a Christmas album that features almost all original music. On the standards such as “O Holy Night”, one could easily mistake him for Elvis, such is the rich timbre of his voice. Many of the original tunes on this album were written by Isaak and strike more of a rockabilly tone. His entry into the Carey-calibre derby is a song entitled “Almost Christmas”, which takes us through an afternoon of frantic Christmas shopping on December 24th. This song is whimsical and will make you smile. I am sure it will become a popular new entry into the modern day Christmas seasonal canon for years to come. All in all, Chris Isaak has delivered an album that is fresh and filled with great energy and superb singing. Don’t wait until Christmas Eve to download this terrific Christmas album. Here is “Almost Christmas”. ***There is no lyrics video for this song yet.

Pickin’ On Christmas by Davis Causey and Jay Smith

Pickin’ On Christmas is an instrumental Bluegrass Christmas album. For those of you who are not familiar with Davis Causey, he is a Bluegrass performer who has been making music for over sixty years! He was a session player extraordinaire for much of that time and over the course of his career has backed up a bevy of stars such as Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson, Bonnie Raitt and many more. The story behind this album is that it began two decades ago as a project that was never meant to be an album. Instead, Causey, along with his friend, Jay Smith, recorded these songs and created cds as gifts for their friends. Causey and Smith were good friends for many years, so when Smith passed away recently, Causey was asked how he would remember his friend. He answered by playing some of the tunes that they had recorded together. It was decided to make those informal gift cds into a polished professional record. The result is Pickin’ On Christmas. If you are fine with instrumental music then this album would be a great addition to your own collection of Holiday music. The musicianship on display is at a high level. Their take on these “timeless classics” is lovely and is done in a way that makes these familiar tunes uniquely their own. Excellent album. For what it is worth, it is my favourite album on this entire list. Here is “The Little Drummer Boy”. ***Remember, this is an instrumental album so there is no lyrics video for this song.

A Family Christmas by Andrea, Matteo and Virginia Bocelli

In order to appreciate what this album adds to the Holiday music canon, I want you to imagine what it must have been like to grow up in a family where your father is an internationally famous tenor. When I imagine this scenario in my mind, I see images of growing up in a home filled with music and warmth. If that is what you see then we will both enjoy this Bocelli Family Christmas album. Matteo Bocelli is Andrea’s son and Virginia Bocelli is his daughter. Needless to say, the musical apple has not fallen far from the tree. Both Matteo (who is twenty years old) and Virginia (who is entering her teens) possess beautiful singing voices, just like their father. There seems to be an easy rapport between them all as they sing their way through the “timeless classics”, and somehow they manage to cover familiar musical ground in a manner that demonstrates the affection that they have for one another. If you are a fan of Tenor-style singing, then this album is a must-have for your collection. The music is simply gorgeous. Here is “The Greatest Gift”. ***The lyrics video is here. ***Both videos are excellent. Well worth checking out.

Santa Baby by Alicia Keys

I have been an Alicia Keys fan right from the release of her very first single, “Falling”, way back in the 1990s. Over the course of her career, she has sold over 66 million records. Santa Baby is her very first album of Christmas music. Of all the performers seeking to replicate Mariah Carey’s success, Alicia Keys stands the best chance simply because her original Christmas song, “December Back 2 June”, sounds the most like a Mariah Carey song. It is soulful, jazzy, bluesy and filled with soaring moments that seem to thrill listeners. Not only does this song sound like a song that Mariah Carey could be singing, but Alicia Keys even followed Carey’s writing formula by creating the lyrics and recording the song in the middle of the summer, just as Mariah Carey did for her hit song. While it remains to be seen if “December Back 2 June” reaches the same dizzying heights that “All I Want For Christmas Is You” did back in the day, don’t be surprised if it does. This song strikes me as one that was written with being a hit in mind. If you give it a listen and like it then the rest of the album will sit well with you, too. Here is “December Back 2 June”. ***Lyrics version is here.

Louis Armstrong Wishes You a Cool Yule by Louis Armstrong

The music industry is known for many things but one of the most suspect ones is the “posthumous release”. Many artists sign contracts with record labels that promise the label x-number of albums during a certain period of time. However, real life being what it is, sometimes an artist dies before fulfilling their contractual obligations. When that happens, record labels will often insist on having the terms of the contract met, which is why after an artist dies we often see the release of “Greatest Hits” albums and/or albums that were recorded live somewhere. The downside of this for the artist is that the artist has no control over what is released in their name. As a result, sometimes a record label will release an album of outtakes, b-sides and rarities that the artists would never have released if they had been alive. So, I always view posthumous releases with a wary eye. With Louis Armstrong Wishes You a Cool Yule I needn’t have worried. This album is a collection of Holiday recordings from over the course of his career. It includes duets with Ella Fitzgerald and a spoken word rendition by Satchmo, himself, of “The Night Before Christmas”. In short, as posthumous releases go, Louis Armstrong Wishes You a Cool Yule defies convention and is actually wonderful in all regards. It would make an excellent soundtrack to a Holiday dinner I would imagine. Here is “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as read by Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. ***The lyrics version is here.

A Neil Diamond Christmas by Neil Diamond

Our tenth and final Christmas album under review is A Neil Diamond Christmas by the man, himself, Neil Diamond. Over the course of his career, Neil Diamond has released four albums of Christmas music. This latest album cherry picks from those four albums to create an album that is not quite a “Greatest Hits” album but one that purports to be Neil’s favourite songs from those four albums. Needless to say, the music is very orchestral, soaring often on the strength of Diamond’s rich voice. In the same way that the Backstreet Boys Christmas album still sounded like a Backstreet Boys album even though they were covering familiar holiday songs, Neil Diamond’s Christmas album sounds like a Neil Diamond album, too. If you are a fan of the man, then you will enjoy this album of his favourite Christmas classics. Here is “The Christmas Song” from this album. ***There is no lyrics version for this song.

I hope that you enjoyed this post and that you were able to find something from this list that might find its way into your home during the holiday season. If not, then I know that there is no shortage of “timeless classics” playing everywhere you go. One way or another, may your holidays be filled with joy and love and, of course, with good music, too.

***As an editorial note, this is the final Tomorrow’s Top 40 post for 2022. For the next few Thursdays, I am going to use this space to talk about the stories behind some of those very same “timeless classic” songs that make up the soundtrack to our holidays. See you all then. Take care. Thanks for tuning in and reading my words. I appreciate your presence here on my blog. Bye for now. Happy Holidays.

The links to the official websites for Kristin Chenoweth, Steve Perry, Billy Idol, the Backstreet Boys, Davis Causey, Alicia Keys, Chris Isaak, Andrea Bocelli, Louis Armstrong and Neil Diamond can be found by clicking on their names above.

***As always, all original content contained within this blog post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Tomorrow’s Top 40: First Aid Kit, Lido Pimiento, Soweto Gospel Choir and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

Welcome to another edition of Tomorrow’s Top 40. These artists that I am about to highlight all have recently released new material that is noteworthy in one regard or another. I encourage you to give each artist your attention because, as you know, these songs that you are hearing today could all potentially be tomorrow’s Top 40. So, let’s goooooooo!

Palomino by First Aid Kit

Johanna and Klara Soderberg of First Aid Kit. Both sisters are singing at a microphone and each are playing a guitar, too.
Johanna and Klara Soderberg of First Aid Kit.

I have written in the past about what life was like during the early stages of the COVID pandemic and how I used some of that time in lockdown as a way to discover new artists and bands. While I have spoken mostly about bands such as Idles and Fontaine DC, a third group that caught my attention and held it was First Aid Kit. This duo is composed of Swedish sisters, Johanna and Klara Soderberg. I first discovered them when they released their amazing cover of “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush *(before it became a monster hit for Bush via the TV show, Stranger Things, when it seemed as though every artist was covering that song. You can watch that video here). Because I watched that video, the YouTube algorithms took me to more of their work. It was all equally interesting. They did a second amazing cover…this time for “America” by Simon and Garfunkel. The thing about that video is that they performed the song live at a Royal Gala concert with Paul Simon in attendance. Well, when the song ended, Simon jumped to his feet and gave a standing ovation. What made that noteworthy was that he had broken royal protocol by doing so before the Swedish King had risen. I guess it was a bit of a diplomatic incident. *(You can watch that video here). The third video of theirs that I saw was an original song by them called “Emmylou”. This song was written about the legendary singer, Emmylou Harris. First Aid Kit performed it for her and did such a good job that it brought Harris to tears. *(You can watch that performance here).

For fifteen years now, Johanna and Klara Soderberg have been perfecting their musical craft. They harmonize beautifully. Their voices are strong and clear. Their respect for those pioneers who have paved the way for their own success is clearly shown. Now, they have a new album of original music called Palomino. From that album, the first single is called “A Feeling That Never Came”. First Aid Kit is easily one of my favourite discoveries of the last five years. Give them a listen and they might just become the same for you as well. Their latest song, “A Feeling That Never Came”, can be heard here. ***The lyrics version is here.

Miss Colombia by Lido Pimienta

Lido Pimiento faces the camera. She is wearing a pointed tiara-like crown. She is wearing colourful feather boas and a pink gown.
Lido Pimienta

Lido Pimienta is a Colombian-born singer/artist/activist who has lived in Canada for the past decade or so. She came into the national spotlight in 2016 when she released an album of original music called La Papessa which went on to be declared the Album of the Year in Canada and which helped her to win the Polaris Prize. Much of her music revolves around ethnicity and gender issues. Her latest release is called Miss Colombia. The album title stems from an infamous incident from a few years ago when the Miss World Pageant crown was mistakenly awarded to the contestant from Colombia by host Steve Harvey, only to have it taken away moments later when it was revealed that Harvey had misread the card he was given and had announced the wrong contestant’s country. That moment brought deep embarrassment to Steve Harvey, but it also brought deep anger to the country of Colombia and to many Colombians who were watching, such as Lido Pimienta. Her anger stemmed from the disrespect she felt on the world stage from being someone from Colombia. Pimienta stated that the country’s legacy of being colonized, along with its association with drug cartels has caused all Colombians to bear a mark of shame wherever they travel in the world and that she has never felt at home regardless of where she has lived.

The first song from her new album is sung entirely in Spanish and it sounds amazing! The video is worth watching because of the striking visuals involved and because of the story it tells. The song is called “Eso Que Tu Haces” which translates into “That Thing That You Do”. The story behind the song is of Colombian slaves seeking freedom. The video is set in a village called San Basilio de Palenque, which was the first “free town” for slaves seeking their freedom in Colombia. The dancers who appear in this video perform a series of modern and traditional dances that relate directly to the story of emancipation from slavery in Colombia. The music is excellent and the visuals are extraordinary. Lido Pimienta is definitely her own person, but if you need a comparable performer to measure her against, then someone with the artist pedigree of Bjork comes to mind. “Eso Que Tu Haces” is an incredible song that is well worth checking out. That it is sung entirely in Spanish didn’t affect my enjoyment in the least. Well worth checking out…which you can do here.

***Sorry, there isn’t an English lyrics version for this song…which is kind of the point of it all when it comes to Pimienta’s assertion that she and all Colombians should be accepted for who they are. Enjoy.

Hope by The Soweto Gospel Choir.

Ten members of the Soweto Gospel Choir sing in unison, each with their left arm raised toward the sky.
The Soweto Gospel Choir

If you know your history at all then you will be aware that Soweto is a city in South Africa and that it was one of the hotspots when it came to ending Apartheid in that country several decades ago. The Soweto Gospel Choir have been in existence for many years and have earned an international reputation for the beauty of their harmonies and the passion with which they sing and the pride with which they represent African culture. Over the years, The Soweto Gospel Choir have won numerous Grammy Awards for Best Traditional World Music Album. They have also toured with super stars such as Robert Plant and Peter Gabriel (who co-wrote a song of theirs that was included in the WALL-E soundtrack, which was nominated for an Academy Award).

Their latest album, Hope, is their first in four years. It is filled with covers of songs from the US Civil Rights movement, along with original music from the era of resistance to Apartheid in their home country of South Africa. On Hope, they cover Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder and Hugh Masekela, among others. The Soweto Gospel Choir was originally sponsored by Reverend Desmond Tutu. They carry on his legacy by promoting a programme called the 46664 Campaign which, again if you know your history, was Nelson Mandela’s identification number while in prison. The first single is called “Stand Up”, which is an original song inspired by the best Gospel/Soul songs of the Civil Rights Movement from the US. That a choir from Africa can so accurately capture the spirit of resiliency and hope that the US Civil Rights marchers exuded just shows how universal the experience of racial oppression actually is and how connected Africans and African-Americans actually are. “Stand Up” is more than just a song, it is an anthem. I can picture this song winning awards before the coming year is through. You can listen to it here. ***There is no lyrics version of this song but a link to a print version of the lyrics to “Stand Up” is here.

Live in Cleveland ‘77 by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

Southside Johnny and Steven Van Zandt sing together at one microphone. Two horn players stand behind them, to their left.One has a trombone and the other has a saxophone.
Southside Johnny and “Miami” Steven Van Zandt and some of the Jukes.

In the early 1970s, Asbury, New Jersey was one of the hotbeds of rock n’ roll music in America. A young man named Bruce Springsteen was launching his career by playing epic sets in bars all up and down the Jersey shore. But he was not the only one doing so. At the time, there were other acts that were ripping it up as well. One of the most famous was a band called Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. The “Johnny” in question was a man named John Lyon. The use of a horn section that helped create a sound that encompassed Blues, Soul, as well as elements of the Beatles style of rock n’ roll was characteristic of a sound that came to be known as the Jersey Sound. The songs that Southside Johnny sang often dealt with the lives of working class people who found themselves in positions where they were underdogs. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes put on live performances that rivaled the epic sets that their compatriot, Bruce Springsteen, became known for. Jon Bon Jovi is credited with stating that it was Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes who directly inspired him to become a singer.

As was the case with many bands, there was a lot of cross-pollination between bands in the Asbury scene in the 1970s. In fact, Bruce Springsteen regularly wrote songs for Southside Johnny to sing while guitarist Steve Van Zandt actually was a member of The Jukes until Springsteen went big. He was called “Miami Steve” back then. In any case, like many bands, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes had dreams of finding success beyond the borders of the Jersey shore. So, it was with much appreciation that they discovered their early tunes were being played on a radio station in Cleveland, Ohio. In gratitude for such support, the band traveled there and put on a couple of shows that were recorded live. At one of the shows, the band was supported by the legendary Ronnie Spector. She covered a hot tune at the time, “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” by a rising New York singer named Billy Joel. *(You can listen to that song here). Live in Cleveland ‘77 captures Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes in their prime. After listening to this album, it is easy to understand why Southside Johnny is considered an equal to Bruce Springsteen by many who were there at the time. If you have never heard this band before then, buckle up! They were truly something back in ‘77!

The link to the official website for First Aid Kit can be found here.

The link to the official website for Lido Pimienta can be found here.

The link to the website for The Soweto Gospel Choir can be found here.

The link to the official website for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Bruce Springsteen, Mud Morganfield, Amanda Shires and The Mahones: Tomorrow’s Top 40

In this edition of Tomorrow’s Top 40, we are taking a look at some new releases from some talented veterans of the music scene. So, if you are searching for some terrific Soul, R&B, Gospel, Blues, Country or Punk, this is your post because, as you all know, today’s new releases often become Tomorrow’s Top 40 successes. So, let’s quit the chatter and get down to it for the week of November 14-20, 2022. Here we go!

Jameson Street by The Mahones

Ladies and gentlemen….The Mahones!

OMG! It’s The Mahones! Canada’s preeminent Celtic punk rockers, The Mahones have been ripping it up for almost thirty years now. They sing songs about drinking and partying and loving and fighting in a way that is impossible to ignore. The Mahones have drawn their inspiration from the likes of The Pogues at their boozy best. They relentlessly tour, appearing regularly with bands such as The Dropkick Murphys, Stiff Little Fingers, Flogging Molly, Spirit of the West, even opening for The Tragically Hip on one of their Canadian tours. Jameson Street is their first album since before the pandemic so there is an extra energy infused into each song. There is nothing subtle about the music you will hear when you click on their link. It is loud and fast and brash and a whole lot of fun! I think their music sounds better with a beer in your hand but that’s just me. Here are The Mahones with a song that I predict will become a huge hit in pubs everywhere. It is called “Last Call at the Bar”. You can listen to it here. ***If you want a taste of The Mahones live then, check out this rendition of their most popular song, “Paint The Town Red” here.

***There is no lyrics version of this song at this time.

Take It Like a Man by Amanda Shires

Amanda Shires….and her fiddle.

Amanda Shires has been working her way through the ranks of the best female Country and Western singers for a while now. As a teenager, Shires was given a fiddle from a second hand store on the condition that she learn how to play it properly. So, she took lessons from some of Nashville’s best session players and soon found herself performing with The Texas Playboys. In her twenties and thirties, Shires released hit album after hit album. She was declared the “Best Emerging Artist” in 2017 and received a Grammy Award as a member of the band, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit that same year. However, what Amanda Shires is mostly known for is starting an all-female supergroup called The Highwomen. This group was meant to be the female counterpart to the legendary Highwaymen (Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson) from a few decades ago. The Highwomen consists of Shires, Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby. Well, as it has turned out, Amanda Shires is turning forty this year and that has caused her to take stock of her life to date and her hopes for the future. This self-assessment has manifested itself in the form of a new album called Take It Like A Man. The title track has a clever twist at the end that helps make this song a feminist anthem of sorts. You can listen to “Take It Like A Man” here. ***Not sure if it just me but I think she sounds a bit like Dolly Parton.

***The lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Portrait by Mud Morganfield

He sounds as smooth as he looks! This is Larry “Mud” Morganfield.

Growing up on Cape Breton Island as I did, there was a great tendency among the locals to place everyone into family groupings on the basis of a single question that every newcomer tended to be asked…that question was, “Who’s yer fodder?” That is a slangy way of asking who someone’s father was. From there, the newcomer could be judged accordingly: being welcomed with open arms or pushed away, whichever the case may be. Well, it appears that the same sort of judging process has been a part of Larry “Mud” Morganfield’s life for as long as he can remember, too. You may not be familiar with Morganfield’s name but I guarantee you that if you are familiar with music history at all, and in particular, Chicago Blues, then you know Morganfield’s father, Muddy Waters. Waters was a legendary Blues master who passed away in 1983. At that time, Morganfield was driving trucks for a living. He had no intention of trying to start a career in the shadow of his legendary father. In fact, Morganfield was just trying to avoid the bullets that often flew around his neighbourhood in Chicago. But then, the story goes that one night after his father’s death, Morganfield had a dream that he was on stage with his father and that he was playing the Blues and that his dad was smiling upon him. When he awoke, Morganfield decided to pick up a guitar and see what would happen. Well, what happened was that he turned out to be quite the Bluesman, himself. In fact, Morganfield decided to introduce himself to the world by recording an album of his father’s greatest hits, for which he won Bluesman of the Year. To listen to Morganfield play and sing is to hear Muddy Waters again. To follow up his debut success, Morganfield is drawing upon his Gospel and R&B roots with an album called Portrait. From that album, his first single is a soaring Gospel song entitled, “Praise Him”. It is hard not to smile and sway as this song plays. It is magnificent. I am hopeful that Portrait becomes a hit and that Mud Morganfield becomes a success in his own right. Maybe the day will come when people refer to Muddy Waters as Mud Morganfield’s Dad. You can listen to “Praise Him” here.

The lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Only The Strong Survive by Bruce Springsteen

The Boss at age 73.

The storyteller in me absolutely loves Bruce Springsteen. The Boss has written some of the best story-songs of all time. I love “Thunder Road” and “Atlantic City” and “The River”, just to name a few. However, Only The Strong Survive is not an album of new material. It is a covers album containing tracks that Springsteen feels are essential Blues, Soul and R&B songs that today’s generation of listeners should be made aware of. I tip my hat to Springsteen because I have always maintained that the foundational songs that helped start Rock n’ Roll as we know it today all have their roots in black churches and nightclubs on the Chitlin’ circuit. It should not be up to someone like Bruce Springsteen to publicize these songs because they should be part of the Great American Songbook already. But, as many of you know, our understanding and appreciation of cultures that are different from our own tends to be limited. We often stick to cultural experiences that reflect ourselves, thus the Everly Brothers and The Beach Boys become more well known than the Isley Brothers or someone like Jackie Wilson. Whether this is simply due to human nature or to something else is a question for another post. But, for Bruce Springsteen, the answer is clear. He feels that the songs on Only The Strong Survive are under-valued and under-exposed and he is attempting to change that. For that reason, I commend Springsteen for having noble intentions. If you listen to the first single, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)”, you might think it is a terrific sounding song that fills your heart and soul and gets your toes a-tapping! But, as one critic put it, “The entire album sounds like Springsteen singing karaoke”. That was my impression, too. It will be your impression as well, especially if you listen to the real thing from Mud Morganfield first. That having been said, I am sure that Only The Strong Survive will sell well this holiday season. After all, anything that Springsteen associates himself with will always have a certain level of quality inherent in the final product. So, while there are no new stories from The Boss, he is using his 73rd year wisely to tell a story of a different sort. I hope that his efforts result in a Motown-esque revival because that is some music that really slaps. *You can listen to “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” here.

***The lyrics version of this song can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Mahones can be found here.

The link to the official website for Amanda Shires can be found here.

The link to the official website for Mud Morganfield can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bruce Springsteen can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Tomorrow’s Top 40: Maggie Rogers, Prince, Mary J. Blige and Elvis Presley, too.

Here are some of the bands and artists who are making news with new releases this week:

Horses by Maggie Rogers

Maggie Rogers.

Maggie Rogers is one of the most interesting young people in music today. She was the subject of a viral video that was uploaded during the initial lockdown phase of the pandemic, and as such, she became well known to thousands of folks without having released an album or performed on a tour. Maggie’s story goes a little like this…as a child, she was a self-taught multi-instrumentalist. As she entered high school, more musical opportunities presented themselves so she became involved in school choirs and theatre productions. But, in addition to that, Rogers used her high school years to learn about music production and sound engineering. As high school ended, Maggie Rogers recorded a series of songs that would end up becoming her debut album in a couple of years. In the meantime, she used those completed songs as her application to New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. Needless to say, she was accepted into the programme. One of her professors there was star singer, Pharrell. (You might know Pharrell from the song “Happy”). In any case, in Pharrell’s class, the students there were tasked with writing, arranging, performing and producing an original song. The viral video that swept the Internet was one in which it was Maggie Rogers’ turn to present in class. In the video, she sits beside Pharrell at the front of the class. They conduct a brief interview so that Pharrell can get a sense of where the upcoming song got its roots, and then her song is played. The song is called “Alaska” and was written about an Outward Bound-type leadership camp she attended in Alaska as a teenager. Pharrell is a seasoned professional and yet, when he listened to “Alaska”, he was visibly moved. When it came time for him to critique her work, he was momentarily at a loss for words. When he did speak, he ended up telling Rogers that he had never encountered anyone like her and that she was completely unique as far as her vision of herself and her music was concerned. As for her skills, he compared her to the genius of Stevie Wonder. No one who watches this video feels that he was just blowing smoke with his comments. They all appeared to be genuinely offered. (I encourage you to stop and watch this video before going on. It is a star turn happening in real time and is really something to see. You can watch the video here).

Not long after graduating from The Institute, a bidding war erupted between record labels. But, just to show you how grounded this young lady was, she formed her own label before signing with anyone else. Her condition for signing with a major label was that all of her music had to first come through her own label so that she could control the content and direction of her career. The only role a major label would play was promotion and distribution of her finished product. A bidding war ensued anyway. Her first album was released. It was called Heard it in a Past Life which earned her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. After the whirlwind ride that came with touring to support her debut songs, Maggie Rogers stepped away from the spotlight and went to divinity school at Harvard. She moved to Maine and lived by the sea. So, while learning about God and exposing herself to the salt air on the east coast, Maggie Rogers came up with the inspiration for new songs that comprise her album called Surrender. The lead single from this album is called “Horses”. This young lady sure can sing! She has a Folk background but “Horses” allows her to stretch her vocal range a bit, giving her a Country-Rock feel. But, what pipes! Wow! “Horses” was written after Rogers witnessed a herd of wild horses in the mountains. In the song, she admires the freedom these horses seem to have and asks a lover/friend if they have the courage to join her in a quest to be just like those horses. Quite the song. Quite the singer.

***Here is Maggie Rogers with “Horses”. The lyrics version of “Horses” can be found here.

Between the likes of Maggie Rogers, Phoebe Bridgers, Lorde, Aurora, Arlo Parks and Brandi Carlile, there is as strong a contingent of ultra-talented female artists performing today as there has been in quite a while. I wish that radio programmers would reflect this more in their offerings. As much as I enjoy hearing Fleetwood Mac-era Stevie Nicks, the 1980s Tina Turner and Annie Lennox and the twenty-year-old songs of Katy Perry and P!nk, I would prefer, just as much, to cycle in some of these modern female performers, too. They are the present and they are the future of music. Let’s give them the air time they deserve, as well.

Holiday Offerings:

Just in time for the holiday gift-giving season, we have the following three offerings for your consideration:

Prince and the Revolution: Live.

Prince and the Revolution circa 1985.

There are many people who go on and on about Bruce Springsteen and what a task master he is and how his penchant for perfection helped to craft some of the most legendary live performances in rock history. The same assessment can easily apply to Minnesota’s own Prince. Like Springsteen, Prince was very much in charge of all aspects of his music; everything from songwriting, to studio production, as well as to concert performance. He was a stickler for details and he demanded complete obedience by everyone involved in the performance of his music. Again, like Springsteen and Rock, Prince was able to create some of the greatest Funk-inspired music of the 1980s. With a string of hits such as “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, “1999”, “Raspberry Beret” and many more, Prince was one of the most prolific musical forces of his time.

Prince and the Revolution: Live captures him at his fiercest and funkiest. After touring for two years in support of the Purple Rain album and movie, Prince was growing restless. He had other musical ideas that he wanted to explore but he was beginning to feel trapped in the past, only being able to play his hits. So, while on a world tour, Prince suddenly announced that the tour was ending and that this particular show in Syracuse, New York at the Carrier Dome, would be their final stop. Because it was to be the last time Prince was to perform the songs that made up the first half of his career, he wanted the show to be one for the ages. So, he arranged for it to be broadcast live across Europe and to be recorded for national distribution in the US and so it was. This concert was first released as a video tape in the late 1980s. It was updated and re-sold as a CD a decade or so later. Finally, it has been digitally remastered, visually and audio-wise, and is being re-released again in 2022. So, if you have never witnessed a musical genius at the height of his powers, you now can. This is two hours of Prince and his band, the Revolution, absolutely ripping it up! If you like Prince even in the slightest, then Prince and the Revolution: Live is a must-have for your collection.

***Here is how the concert began with “Let’s Go Crazy!”. The lyrics version is here.

The Elvis Movie Soundtrack

As you may know, director Baz Lurhman released a movie this past summer that walked, bopped and rolled us through the life story of the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. I was very pleased that Lurhman included references to Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Big Mama Thornton who inspired Elvis and so many other white musicians. In any case, there were 36 songs included throughout the movie. Most of these songs were original Elvis recordings, but many others were mash-ups, or else they were original songs by others such as Thornton or Tharpe. Well, the entire soundtrack is available for download or for purchase as a CD. Today’s music lovers will purchase this collection because of the inclusion of modern singers such as Doja Cat, Diplo, Swae Lee, Kacey Musgraves and Eminem. More seasoned Elvis fans will, no doubt, appreciate the King’s older, original tunes. In either case, Baz Lurhman presents the best of both worlds for Elvis fans. In reply, all I can say to Mr. Lurhman is…come on, say it with me…thank you…thank you very much! 🙂

***Here is Elvis with “In The Ghetto”. The lyrics version is here.

Amazing by Mary J. Blige ft. DJ Khaled

Mary J. Blige and DJ Khaled from the video for “Amazing”.

“Amazing” is the first single off of a new album by Mary J. Blige called Good Morning Gorgeous. This is the first new album of original material from the Godmother of Hip Hop Soul in several years. Just to put this event into some context for you…Mary J. Blige is revered in the Soul and Hip Hop communities. She has dozens of Grammy, Billboard and other awards for her music. Her career has spanned over three decades now and places her firmly in the company of such foundational members of the world of Hip Hop as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, Eminem and others of their ilk. As Mary J. Blige has matured in years, she has branched out into the acting world. She has enjoyed much success in roles based upon real people such as Jazz singer Dinah Washington in the movie Aretha, and as Florence Jackson in the historical drama, Mudbound, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Good Morning Gorgeous is a return to her musical roots. It is an album filled with songs that reflect her status as a strong, black, female role model who has earned the respect that comes with such a stellar career. The song “Amazing” features rising star DJ Khaled in a supportive role, but, as the music video clearly shows, the song is all about the feeling of happiness and fulfillment that comes from enjoying success that was earned by staying true to your principles. The song has an excellent throbbing bassline, as one would expect from Mary J. Blige. Just as a personal aside, I find the official video to be visually distracting and prefer the lyrics version. All in all, this is a grand return to form from one of Hip Hop and Soul’s leading ladies. Enjoy.

***The video for “Amazing” is here. The lyrics version can be found here.

The link to the official website for Maggie Rogers can be found here.

The link to the official website for Prince can be found here.

The link to the video for the movie Elvis can be found here.

The link to the official website for Mary J. Blige can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post is to be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Tomorrow’s Top 40: The Best of Today’s Newest Releases featuring The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Blondie, Tegan and Sara, Carly Rae Jepsen, Meghan Trainor, Vance Joy and, oh yes, Taylor Swift!

In this issue of Tomorrow’s Top 40 we will take quick looks at new releases by The Rolling Stones, Madonna and Blondie…all just in time for the Holiday season. We will also take a closer look at new releases by some modern day artists such as Tegan and Sara, Carly Rae Jepson, Meghan Trainor, Vance Joy and, oh yes, some unknown, unassuming artist named Taylor Swift.

Home For The Holidays:

When I was a much younger man, the start of the Christmas buying season was always a good one in that there always seemed to be an explosion of good books, movies and music that suddenly appeared on store shelves. Buying “Collector’s Editions” or “Commemorative reissues” or simply, “Greatest Hits” CDs was always synonymous with Christmas for me. However, today, with streaming services monopolizing content delivery, the Christmas shopping season feels like it has a slightly different aura about it. But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some blockbuster packages waiting for us to buy them. Here are just a few of the heavyweight artists who have assembled some of their best work for us to buy, just in time for the Holidays.

The Rolling Stones: Live at the El Mocambo, 1977.

This double CD/album actually came out at the beginning of the summer but is being heavily promoted again as Christmas draws near. If you know The Rolling Stones history at all then you will be aware of that time they disguised themselves as The Cockroaches and played two surprise shows at Toronto’s El Mocambo night club in 1977. It was not easy to pull off such a show but they did so by promoting the two-date set as an April Wine gig with The Cockroaches opening for them. However, truth be told, the planning for the recording of a live Bluesy album and a hot, sweaty, intimate setting had been in the works for a while. The Rolling Stones: Live at the El Mocambo, 1977 captures the best of the performances over the course of those two shows. For any true Stones fan, this collection is a must-have. Here is a sample of those concerts…”Rip This Joint” can be listened to here.

Madonna: Finally Enough Love: 50 Number One Hits.

Imagine having a career that saw you have not one, not two but fifty #1 hit songs! Wow! That is one impressive musical resume. But, then again, Madonna isn’t one of the top selling musical acts in history without reason. Her discography travels from her heyday in the 1980s, all the way into the 2000s and includes every song that made it to #1 on the music charts, regardless of which chart it was (the Top 40 chart, the Dance Charts, the Electronic Dance Charts, the Movie Soundtrack charts, the Adult Contemporary charts and so on). Madonna is a very talented singer and performer but she is even a better business person. This collection remains faithful enough to the original way her songs were recorded so that casual fans will love what they find here. But, there are also songs that fall into niche categories such as extended dance versions of her hits that will please those of you who dig that sort of groove. In short, there will be something here for everyone who considers Madonna to be their G.O.A.T. From this album, here is Vogue. You can listen to it here.

Blondie: Against the Odds: 1974-1982.

The band, Blondie, don’t always get the credit they deserve for having their musical fingers so clearly on the pulse of the time as the 1970s rolled into the 80s. They were one of the biggest bands to transition from the start of the Disco craze, to Punk Rock as it began and then, to Hip Hop and Reggae, as both of those genres of music began to take off in popularity. They were part of it all and this new album, Blondie: Against the Odds: 1974-1982 chronicles those times in great detail. This is an album for true collectors because it is filled with rare outtakes, alternate recordings, secret live performances, remixes and extended plays and other such nuggets that have been kept hidden in the musical vault for over forty years now. For the casual fan searching for the recording of “Heart of Glass” that they loved as a younger version of themselves, they might find this album to be frustrating. However, for those true devotees of the band, the album will be like finding treasure. So go explore and have a blast but beware, this is not a typical “Greatest Hits” album. Here is the version of “Heart of Glass” as found on this album.

Modern Day New Releases

Just like those musical titans listed above, there are many modern day acts who have released new material just in time for the holidays. Here is a rundown of just a few.

Tegan and Sara: Crybaby.

Crybaby is the tenth album from Calgary-born twins, Tegan and Sara Quin. They burst onto the music scene a few years ago with their hit, “Closer”. Since then, the sisters have used their fame to support various LGBTQ causes, as well as other female-oriented acts. Like many musical acts, the COVID pandemic affected their career and limited their ability to travel and perform. However, they used this time to good effect by familiarizing themselves with the latest technological developments and by writing lots of new material. The combination of the two have taken shape in the form of a new album called Crybaby. There are lots of radio-friendly tracks here such as “Whatever That Was”, which you can listen to here. Enjoy.

Carly Rae Jepsen: The Loneliest Time.

There is a very strong tendency among casual fans to label Carly Rae Jepsen as being a one-hit wonder. But, what a one-hit wonder! She is known around the world as the Canadian girl who sings, “Call Me Maybe”. That one song ended up selling over 20 million copies and placed her in a position where she could afford to be choosy about what her next steps would be. So, instead of rushing back out with a new album that may or may not contain songs of the quality of “Call Me Maybe”, Jepsen decided to step away from the world of Pop music and, instead, took her vocal talents to Broadway, where she starred in several productions of major plays such as Cinderella and Grease. That time on stage allowed Jepsen to take a bit of a break from the media frenzy that enveloped her and gave her the time to refocus on her music and the writing and crafting of new material that spoke to her own heart. The result of this time away from the spotlight is a new album called The Loneliest Time. The first single from this album is the title track and it features the magnificent Rufus Wainwright. You can check out the awesome video for this song here.

Meghan Trainor: Takin’ It Back.

A few years ago, Meghan Trainor burst onto the music scene with a big hit song entitled, “All About the Bass” which wasn’t necessarily about musical notes, if ya know what I mean?! In the time since then, she has had a fair degree of success with songs such as “Lips Are Movin’”, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” and “No”. She won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist and has released music in the Pop, Doo Wop, Dance and Hip Hop categories. Now, Meghan Trainor is back with a new album for the holidays entitled, Takin’ It Back. Like Lizzo, Meghan Trainor is becoming known for promoting body positivity in her music and, as a result, she supports many causes that promote this issue for young girls and women. Her latest single is called “Bad For Me” ft. Teddy Swims. It is about dealing with toxic relationships. You can listen to this song here.

Vance Joy: In Our Own Sweet Time.

Vance Joy is the stage name of Australian singer James Keogh. For the past decade, Vance Joy has been releasing hit album after hit album and enjoyed much success with a string of hits starting with “Riptide” and extending onward through “Georgia”, “Mess is Mine”, “Fire and the Flood”, “Lay It On Me”, “We’re Going Home” and his latest single, “Missing Piece” from his third album, In Our Own Sweet Time. Both of Vance Joy’s first two studio albums reached #1 on the charts. His current album sits at #3 as you read these words. Vance Joy is known more as an Alternative artist but I think most people who like Pop music will be very much at home with his sound and his on stage persona. The song, “Missing Piece” is about being separated from the one you love (as many of us were during the pandemic). This song has already been used on the TV show, Grey’s Anatomy. It won the award for Best Music Video in Australia and is the most-played song in Australia so far in 2022. It is a really sweet song that you can listen to here.

Taylor Swift: Midnights.

Taylor Swift has a new album out and apparently it is a bit of a big deal.

Like Madonna, Taylor Swift is a woman who knows how to write a clever Pop song but, more importantly, she knows how to build and market her brand. She is arguably the most powerful female performer in the world so when she starts dropping hints on social media that a new song/new look/new relationship is brewing, her army of fans go wild. The release of Midnights was a significant social media event when it dropped this past Friday. The premise of the album is that each song represents a moment in her life when she lay awake in bed at midnight pondering the state of the world with regard to things going on in her life. Taylor Swift is clever enough to make it seem as though the things she is dwelling upon are universal in nature and, as such, what she feels is important, you should feel that way, too. Her fans, known as Swifties, are an economic and political force. So, when Taylor Swift ruminates on “feeling fat”, social media trending topics immediately focus on body image issues. When Taylor Swift speaks out about political issues, her fans respond in kind, such as registering in record numbers to vote in the upcoming US midterm elections. Midnights sold over a million copies the first weekend it was released. All of the tracks on the album have been downloaded and dissected ad nauseum online so I will spare you my track-by-track analysis. Her first official release from the album is a song called “Bejewelled” which is a take on the Cinderella story but, according to the Swifties, refers to many other songs and videos that she has made throughout her career. For me, I will simply give the lady her due. “Bejewelled” is a pure Pop song which contains a message about self-esteem and empowerment that I am sure will resonate with young girls. Taylor Swift is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the power and influence she wields. That can clearly be seen in how Midnights has debuted at #1 on the charts and has blown every other new release out of the musical water, in terms of sales and media attention. “Bejeweled” may be the first song released from the album but, I guarantee you, it won’t be the last. You can listen to the song, “Bejeweled” here.

***The cover photo comes from the website of a music school called C & S Music. The link to their website can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Tomorrow’s Top 40: October 20, 2022…Harlem Gospel Travelers, Dropkick Murphys, Brandi Carlile and Beth Orton.

Editor’s Note:

For the past few weeks I have grown increasingly frustrated with the format I have been using to create my “Today’s Top 40” posts. Using the Top 40 charts of radio stations and streaming services has proven ineffective as the charts have become stagnant, with the same artists occupying the same places for weeks at a time. So, starting today, and continuing for the next little while to see how it goes, I am abandoning the use of Top 40 charts as a source of material for this blog series. Instead, I am going to concentrate on new releases. There are tons of artists and bands who release new material each week so, starting today, I am going to mine that seam and see what nuggets I can find. As a result, I am also changing the name of this blog series from “Today’s Top 40” to “Tomorrow’s Top 40” to better reflect the potential of these new releases. In all cases, I wish the artists and bands the best of luck. I applaud their creativity and hope that you enjoy their good work. Let’s quit the chatter and git at ‘er! Here we go!

Look Up! By The Harlem Gospel Travelers.

If you do nothing with this post other than click on this song link then your life will be richer and I will have provided you with an invaluable service. What an inspiring story The Harlem Gospel Travelers are! This group proves why properly funding The Arts in public schools is a valuable investment. The story of The Harlem Gospel Travelers began in an after school music programme located in Harlem, New York called Gospel For Teens. This was a volunteer-run music programme that aimed to teach children (who would otherwise be on the street) about choral singing and the history of Gospel music, in particular. Because this programme is aimed at school-aged children, there is only a finite amount of time each singer can spend in the programme before they “age out”, as the saying goes. That’s where this story begins.

The Harlem Gospel Travellers: Thomas Gatling, George Marage and Dennis Bailey.

As a teenage boy named Thomas Gatling approached the end of his tenure with the programme, he went to the organizers of Gospel For Teens and asked if there was any possibility that, instead of receiving instruction in singing for choirs, he and a few of his friends could receive instruction in singing as a quartet. A man named Eli “Paperboy” Reed stepped up and offered to help. The quartet became a trio over time and ended up consisting of Gatling, along with his two friends, George Marage and Dennis Bailey. Originally, the trio sang Gospel standards from the 1940s, 50s and 60s but, in time, they came to learn the craft of songwriting and began to sing and record their own material. Through Reed’s mentorship, the three young men learned the long rich history of Gospel music. Soon they felt confident enough to release an album of original work, which they did in 2019. This album was filled with Gospel songs and spirituals but it was also filled with catchy tunes that sounded right at home with any of the classic Motown tunes of the 1960s. The three teenagers came to the attention of Sir Elton John who used his platform to shine a spotlight upon them.

This past week, they released their second album. It is called, Look Up! The title track is the first single they are releasing. It is so positive and uplifting. For my money, “Look Up!” is a song that could easily have been taken straight from the catalogue of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. It is that good. But also for my money, the really big potential hit is nestled in the middle of this album track listing. It is a song called “Fight On!” While the boys wish to continue singing songs of praise and affirmation, they also wish to use their growing status to speak on issues that matter to their community. So, they recorded “Fight On!”. This song is meant to act as support for the Black Lives Matter protests and against racism in all of its forms. The video for the song blends archival footage of protest marches from the 1950s and 60s, with those happening today which makes a powerful statement about how so little has changed in society for people of colour. What a rousing song this is! You can listen to/watch “Fight On!” here. The future is very bright for these young men. Thanks to mentors like Eli “Paperboy” Reed and all who believe in the value of an Arts education.

Two 6s, Upside Down by The Dropkick Murphys.

The Dropkick Murphys.

I have absolutely loved the Dropkick Murphys since I first became aware of them almost twenty years ago. They have been a fun, party band for awhile now. They produce rousing, sing-along songs and are known for admiring and promoting personal qualities such as being courageous, loyal and principled. They have had a string of hits that really began with the anthemic “Shipping Up To Boston” that is played at all home games of the Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox. The Murphys, as they are known to their fans, have been together for 26 years now and have employed the same lineup for most of those years. They are like a brotherhood and their fans like a community and a fellowship.

The “Original Punk”, Woody Guthrie and his famous acoustic guitar.

In recent times, the Dropkick Murphys have begun to speak up about the politics of the times. In particular, they have come out as being strongly against the policies of former President Donald Trump, as well as the current politics as practiced by the Republican Party in the US. Not surprisingly, for their next album called This Machine Kills Fascists, the Murphys have decided to draw inspiration from a man they have dubbed as the “original punk”. Mr. Woody Guthrie. Guthrie, as you may know, wrote many politically-oriented songs back in the 1940s and 50s, including the seemingly innocuous but highly political, “This Land Is Your Land”. He was also known for a slogan that he wrote on the acoustic guitar he used. That slogan was “This machine kills fascists. The Dropkick Murphys were given special access to Guthrie’s archives by his daughter, Nora, who tapped the band as his modern day successor. From those archives came the lyrics and inspiration for their new album.

The song “Two 6s, Upside Down” is a Woody Guthrie song about retribution and incarceration. It concerns the story of a man who kills another man who had been having an affair with his wife. In true Guthrie fashion, a straight-forward crime story becomes something more of a societal commentary. In true Dropkick Murphys fashion, “Two 6s, Upside Down” becomes a rousing anthem. If you have never heard the Murphys before then this song is a good introduction to their style. I like them a lot. If you want to know more about the band, they have oodles of videos up on YouTube that you can access. They will all range from silly to fiery but they are all awesome and lots of fun. A day listening to Dropkick Murphy songs is a day well spent in my humble opinion.

Right On Time (In The Canyon Haze) by Brandi Carlile.

Brandi Carlile.

It is difficult to find a female singer as respected and productive these days as Brandi Carlile. In the decade since she first appeared on the national music scene in the US, Carlile has won numerous Grammy Awards for her Folk and Country recordings. She has appeared on former President Barack Obama’s influential year end song list for her song called, “The Joke”. She has recorded an album called The Story and then redid the album by having singers such as Adele, Dolly Parton and Pearl Jam each pick a song, with all of the money raised by this cover album going to charity. Finally, as an indication of how connected and well-spected Brandi Carlile is within the music industry, she recently held a performance at the Newport Folk Festival that was billed, “Brandi Carlile and Friends”. Well, the most noteworthy of those “friends” was none other than the reclusive Joni Mitchell, who joined Carlile on stage for a full set of her greatest hits. *(including “Case of You” that you can listen to here. This is beautiful in many respects). As a way to say thank you, Carlile has released an album called Brandi Carlile: In the Canyon Haze which is an ode to those singers who called Laurel Canyon their home. Joni Mitchell being one of the most famous of these residents.

Brandi Carlile and the coolest 80 year old I know, Joni Mitchell.

It would be easy to go on and on about Brandi Carlile because she is such a talented performer and songwriter. But I will conclude this section of the post about her by saying a few words about her life beyond the stage. Very early on in her career, Brandi Carlile decided that she wanted to use her wealth and status as an entertainer to better the world around her. Thus, she has become widely known and respected for her philanthropic endeavours. Carlile and her wife, Catherine Shepherd, along with several others have formed a charitable corporation called the Looking Out Foundation. Funded by sales of her music and merchandise, Carlile has helped organizations around the world such as The Bridge School, War Child International, Doctors Without Borders and various local organizations focussed on poverty, racial justice and women’s rights. Carlile has raised her philanthropic funding in collaboration with a whos-who of the entertainment world such as Alicia Keys, Sam Smith, The Indigo Girls, Adele, MIranda Lambert, Dolly Parton (herself a renowned philanthropist), Michelle and Barack Obama and many more. So, hats off to this talented and compassionate woman. Brandi Carlile is the bee’s knees and then some.

Weather Alive by Beth Orton.

Last but, certainly not least…this would be Beth Orton.

Beth Orton has been one of Britain’s most respected singer/ songwriters since the late 1990s. She is known for combining elements of electronic music with those of acoustic ballads. She has been nominated for…and won….many of the UK’s top music prizes such as the Mercury Prize for Album of the Year and the Brit Award for Song of the Year. Because many of her songs have an atmospheric quality to their construction, they have been deemed as being well suited for inclusion as soundtrack material for movies and TV dramas. As such, her music has been regularly used on shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Dawson’s Creek, as well as movies such as Vanilla Sky. Orton’s latest work arrives in the form of an album entitled, Weather Alive. The first single is the title track. It is a completely lovely, dreamy song that I know will be a hit with audiences who like softer, more poetic and contemplative music.

Orton wrote this entire album under circumstances that I can completely relate to. She became a mother a few years ago. Her children are now old enough to be of school age. Thus, for the first time in many years, Orton would send her children to school and then return home to an empty house. Seeking ways to fill the empty space she suddenly found herself in, Orton bought a used piano and began to fill the isolation with song. The time spent alone, away from the hubbub of family life allowed Orton time to focus on her own thoughts and feelings in a way that isn’t possible when attention is required by tiny humans. Consequently, the poetry inside of Beth Orton was allowed to germinate and grow into an album’s worth of music that is very personal and completely lovely to listen to. The song “Weather Alive” is indicative of the music on this album. I am very hopeful that it will touch your heart and mind, as it did mine.

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