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Zharth's Music Log

Week 33: Vocals

Preface: Although I pretty much ignore the lyrics when I listen to music, I'm not unaware of the vocals. I can tell when a singer's really getting into a song, and I like that. The meaning of the words doesn't matter so much, but the voice can still be used as a powerful instrument to drive a song. This week I'll post some of my favorite examples of songs that have such impassioned vocals, that at times I feel they could actually bring me to tears.

Monday (3/03/08): Janis Joplin - Work Me, Lord [I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, 1969]
Comments: When it comes to impassioned vocals, Janis is the Queen. It's a shame her life was cut off so short, but in the time she had, she made an impression on many people. You can't listen to Janis sing one of her soulful numbers and not be moved, unless you lack a heart. This track, I think, is both one of her best vocal performances caught on record, and a song with a powerful meaning that goes a little bit farther than the usual blues between a man and a woman.

Tuesday (3/04/08): Cheryl Barnes - Easy To Be Hard [Hair (Musical), 1979]
Comments: Listening to this song, I get the idea that I might be able to get into gospel music. It's a thought I've entertained for awhile, but I've never really had much of an 'in'. Not that I'd be so much a fan of the typically religious-minded lyrics, but I like the idea of a gospel singer that really gets into her songs. Of course, just like there are fast and slow blues, there are probably happy and sad gospel songs, and it's the slower, sadder ones that I think I'd be interested in.

Wednesday (3/05/08): Pink Floyd - The Great Gig In The Sky [Dark Side of the Moon, 1973]
Comments: The quintessential beautiful vocalization song, and proof that the voice can be an instrument without even using words; an inimitable performance by guest vocalist Clare Torry; and the dramatic close to the first side of one of the greatest albums ever recorded, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. If I was to start an ambient band, these are the kind of vocals I'd want to have.

Thursday (3/06/08): Electric Flag - Sunny [A Long Time Comin' (Bonus Track), 1968]
Comments: This amazing track by the Electric Flag, the band formed in San Francisco by blues guitar virtuoso Michael Bloomfield, features drummer Buddy Miles (who also played with Jimi Hendrix) in his occasional role as vocalist - and he sure can belt out that emotion. This song floors me every time I listen to it. The pure passion in Miles' strained voice, and the innocent message of simply being happy for a person's existence, whose presence alone can bring such joy... It fills my heart with light.

Friday (3/07/08): Crosby Stills Nash & Young - Almost Cut My Hair [Deja Vu, 1970]
Comments: David Crosby proves on this track that he has an amazing singing voice. But in addition to the beautiful harmonies characteristic of Crosby Stills & Nash, Crosby also has the power to belt out a soulful and passionate number like this paranoid song. "I feel like letting my freak flag fly."

Saturday (3/08/08): The Who - Love Reign O'er Me [Quadrophenia, 1973]
Comments: There have been any number of impressive wailers among the top ranks of classic rock bands (Robert Plant, Ian Gillan, I'm looking at you), but among them all, it is this Who song, the breathtaking (literally) closer to the double album/rock opera Quadrophenia, carried by Roger Daltrey's stirring cries for love that strikes me in the heart the hardest, in regard to the vocals.

Sunday (3/09/08): Johnny Winter - Tobacco Road (Live) [Live At Royal Albert Hall, 1970]
Comments: Maybe less so on the tear-jerking meter, but the vocals on this track are so amazing, I had to include them. Though it's Johnny Winter's band, I believe the incredible vocals on this track belong to his brother Edgar - they played together at first, before Edgar went off to pursue his own fame as a rock star (while Johnny largely remained among the relative obscurity of the blues).

Honorable Mention: Hannah, by Robin Trower, from Twice Removed From Yesterday [1973], which I already used during Week 10 (Love In Vain).