Playlist

The Perfect Playlist: Goodbye 1990

The modern playlist is the descendant of the mix tape. And like my mix tapes, I make a significant effort to make sure they are right—and by right, I mean that there is a certain cohesion and shared texture that inspires me. What I love about digital versus tape is the great flexibility for experimentation (though, sometimes I do miss walking around Manhattan with my old yellow cassette Sports Walkman).

Thirty years ago, tonight, the world bid farewell to 1990. It was quite the year for me.

I will never forget how 1990 started: I was working for The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) and was stationed alone in Tompkins Square Park at the stroke of midnight. PEP was part of the disgusting war, fostered by gentrification (i.e., the wealthy), on homeless people. PEP’s presence in Tompkins Square Park was part of the aftermath of the 1988 riots. I am deeply ashamed of essentially working against the homeless and working indirectly for the gentrifiers, but I will save that for another blog entry.

My life changed a lot in 1990, notably marked by a devastating heartbreak. Thirty years later, I reflect on this key year in my life with the music that defined the time as I am once again facing devastating heartbreak. Not all of the songs on this playlist are from 1990; some are from 1989 and 1991, but they embody what I was going through, the heartache with moments of exuberance.

On December 31, 1990, I was thankfully off from my job with PEP and was able to spend time with my friends. Earlier that week, I had visited Tower Records and picked up the album, Red Hot + Blue, a compilation album from the Red Hot Organization dedicated to fighting AIDS through pop culture. I first listened to the album while getting ready to go out for the coming New Year. The last song, “Do I Love You?” by Aztec Camera was perhaps the best way to conclude that year as well as 2020.

I am proud that I was able to put this playlist together. Just a few years ago, I could not listen to some of these songs because of the memories they stirred. Today I embrace them as  a comprehensive part of the soundtrack of my life.

Let The Beat Hit ‘Em” by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam from Clivillés and Cole Greatest Hits

Bad Beats Suite” by Sybil from Walk on By

I Wanna Be Where You Are” by Sybil from Walk on By

Power of Love” by Deee-Lite from World Clique

Strike it Up” by Black Box from Dreamland

That’s The Way of the World” by D Mob from That’s The Way of the World

Dancing On The Fire” by India from Breaking Night

The Breeze” by Two Without Hats from Two Without Hats

Together Forever” by Lisette Melendez from Pure 80’s Dance

Come Into My House” by Queen Latifah from All Hail The Queen

Good Life” by Inner City from Good Life

Vogue” by Madonna from I’m Breathless: Music from and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy

A Dream’s a Dream” by Soul II Soul from Vol. 2, A New Decade

Body To Body” by 2 In a Room from Wiggle It

Tell Me Why (Remix)” by Expose from Arista Heritage Series: Expose

Love Will Never Do (Without You)” by Janet Jackson from Rhythm Nation

Someone In The Dark” by TKA from Scars of Love

Promise Me” by The Cover Girls from Show Me

To Be With You” by Noel from Noel

Here We Are” by Gloria Estefan from Cuts Both Ways

Love Will Lead You Back” by Taylor Dayne from Can’t Fight Fate

I Don’t Have the Heart” by James Ingram from It’s Real

Till the End of Time” by Mariah Carey from Emotions

The Wind” by Mariah Carey from Emotions

Do I Love You?” by Aztec Camera from Red Hot + Blue

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The Perfect Playlist: The Best of Amy Winehouse

The modern playlist is the descendant of the mix tape. And like my mix tapes, I make a significant effort to make sure they are right—and by right, I mean that there is a certain cohesion and shared texture that inspires me. What I love about digital versus tape is the great flexibility for experimentation (though, sometimes I do miss walking around Manhattan with my old yellow cassette Sports Walkman). The playlist featured in this blog entry was easier to compile because it features one artist.

Amy Winehouse. I still miss her.

It has been nine years since she passed away and I often contemplate her missed potential. She was concurrently gruff and tender, but soulful and true. If you think about the state of the pop scene when she rose to prominence, she was a truly authentic voice, not a manufactured cookie cutter. She was the real deal.

She only gave us two albums (Frank and Back to Black), but they were nothing short of extraordinary. A posthumous compilation album (Lioness: Hidden Treasures) was released that contained unreleased songs and a new one that was completed by Nas.

I put this playlist together in January of 2012 and have not changed it once. It is one of the few playlists I have ever gotten right on the first try. The first time I listened to it was on the express bus home and I arrived at my stop just as the last song was playing. I remember I got off the bus and stood there until the song finished. And even after it was over, I stood there for another minute in silence.

The last song on this playlist is “Love is a Losing Game.” I consider this to be her masterpiece. And while this song is indeed an achievement in songwriting, arrangement, recording, and voice, I will always wonder about what could have been.

  1. Body and Soul” (Duet with Tony Bennett) from Duets II
  2. “Tears Dry” from Lioness: Hidden Treasures
  3. In My Bed” from Frank
  4. “Some Unholy War” from Back to Black
  5. “Me and Mr. Jones” from Back to Black
  6. “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” from Lioness: Hidden Treasures
  7. “The Girl from Ipanema” from Lioness: Hidden Treasures
  8. “Valerie” from Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse
  9. “Rehab” from Back to Black
  10. You Know I’m No Good” from Back to Black
  11. Fuck Me Pumps” from Frank
  12. “Like Smoke” (Featuring Nas) from Lioness: Hidden Treasures
  13. “A Song for You” from Lioness: Hidden Treasures
  14. Back to Black” from Back to Black
  15. “Wake Up Alone” from Back to Black
  16. Love is a Losing Game” from Back to Black

https://www.amywinehouse.com/

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The Perfect Playlist: The Best of Basia

The modern playlist is the descendant of the mix tape. And like my mix tapes, I make a significant effort to make sure they are right—and by right, I mean that there is a certain cohesion and shared texture that inspires me. What I love about digital versus tape is the great flexibility for experimentation (though, sometimes I do miss walking around Manhattan with my old yellow cassette Sports Walkman). The playlist featured in this blog entry was easier to compile because it features one artist. I first created my “Best of Basia” playlist in 2005, and have updated it with each new album.

I have been a fan of Basia since 1990, when she released her second solo album, London Warsaw New York. I became aware of her because of her superb cover of “Until You Come Back to Me.” I remember using one of the listening stations in Tower Records to listen to the album, which I purchased on vinyl. London Warsaw New York had other remarkable songs such as “Cruising for Bruising,” “Brave New Hope,” and “Baby You’re Mine.” Four years later she followed up with the brilliant The Sweetest Illusion, which features, what I consider to be her masterwork, “Yearning.” Around this time, I finally picked up her first solo album, Time and Tide, which features the title track as well as “New Day for You.”

In 1995 Basia released a live album, Basia on Broadway— a vocal tour de force! Three years later, she released a greatest hits album with several new songs.

Basia would reunite with her Matt Bianco bandmates (her first band) in 2004 on Matt’s Mood and finally release another solo album in 2009 with the beautiful composed and arranged, It’s That Girl Again. Her latest release is Butterflies, which is nothing short of outstanding. I recently updated my Best of Basia playlist to include tracks from Butterflies. Let me know if you like this combination!

  1. “If Not Now Then When” from It’s That Girl Again
  2. “I Must” from It’s That Girl Again
  3. “From Newport to London” from Newport to London
  4. “Matteo” from Butterflies
  5. “Just Another Day” from Peter White’s Caravan of Dreams
  6. “From Now On (Live)” from Basia on Broadway
  7. “Half a Minute (Live)” from Basia on Broadway
  8. “Yearning” from The Sweetest Illusion
  9. “There’s a Tear” from It’s That Girl Again
  10. “It’s That Girl Again” from It’s That Girl Again
  11. “Liang & Zhu” from Butterflies
  12. “Butterfly” from Butterflies
  13. “Waters of March” from Clear Horizon
  14. “Go for You” from Clear Horizon
  15. “Astrud” from Time and Tide
  16. “Where’s Your Pride” from Butterflies
  17. “Baby Your Mine” from London Warsaw New York
  18. “The Prayer of a Happy Housewife” from The Sweetest Illusion
  19. “An Olive Tree” from The Sweetest Illusion
  20. “Reward (Live)” from Basia on Broadway
  21. “Until You Come Back To Me” from Basia on Broadway
  22. “Brave New Hope” from Basia on Broadway

Click here to visit Basia’s website!

edwinroman.com

 

 

The Perfect Playlist: E’s Spanish Jazz 3

Not too long ago my best friend from college sent me a picture of a mix tape that I made for her in 1988 which she remarkably still has. I titled it “Past Tense” after a poem I had written back then. I lost the notebook where I had written that poem, but remembered some of the lines. I also remembered some of the songs on that tape, most notably on all of side a.

vader tape

Social media humor.

The playlist is the descendant of the mix tape. And like my mix tapes, I make a significant effort to make sure they are right. What I mean by right is that there is a certain cohesion and shared texture; it takes me on a journey and inspires. What I love about digital versus tape is flexibility for experimentation. Though, sometimes I do miss walking around Manhattan with my old yellow cassette Sports Walkman.

Interestingly, I made some mix tapes that I thought were so good, that I remembered them and they now exist as playlists on my iPhone / iPod. I thought I would share some of my favorite playlists on my blog. Here is my first one called “E’s Spanish Jazz 3.” It mixes several Spanish language genres. It is also the third and my favorite version of the “Spanish Jazz” playlists. I have included links to YouTube so you can hear the songs for yourself and maybe add it to your own device.

  1. La Pluma by Bloque
  2. La nave del olvido by Buika
  3. Remedios by Gertrudis
  4. Sultanas de Merkaillo by Ojos de Brjuo
  5. Sabor a Mi by Bebo Valdes
  6. Lo Siento Mi Amor by Rocio Jurado
  7. Un Mundo Raro by Lila Downs and Diego El Cigala
  8. Awakeing by The Souljazz Orchestra
  9. Che Che Cole by Antibalas
  10. La Media Vuelta by Falete
  11. Romance de la Luna Tucumana by Diego El Cigala
  12. Tangos De Pepico by Estrella Moraente
  13. Sabor a Mi by El Chicano
  14. Quiereme Mucho by Linda Ronstadt
  15. Querido Emigrante by Milly Quezada
  16. Idiilio by Willie Colon
  17. Bajo La Tormenta by Sergio George’s Salsa Giants
  18. Perfume de Gardenias by Miguel Zenon

P.S. I have about ten versions of “Sabor a Mi”—it is amazing song that many recording artists have covered and I have yet to hear one I have not liked!

P.S. II La nave del olvido by Buika is in my top ten all-time favorite songs!

 

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Nina’s Way

Nina Simone: Red Hot and Blue.

My tribute painting to the High Priestess of Soul. I thought of what Picasso may have done if Simone had been a subject.

If I have any say regarding my last moments on this planet, the final song I would want to hear is Nina Simone’s recording of “My Way.”

I first discovered the song in 1988 during a visit to Tower Records. I was perusing in the Jazz section and a fellow patron strongly recommended Simone’s 1971 album, Here Comes The Sun. The album, which is a recording accomplishment, features an assortment of cover songs that notably includes “Angel of the Morning”, “Just Like a Woman”, the title track and the brilliant “My Way.” Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, first popularized “My Way” in 1969.

After hearing the 1967 French song, “Comme d’habitude” (“As Usual”), Paul Anka acquired the publishing rights at no cost (except for the rights to the melody, which the authors retained). A year later, while Anka was having dinner with Frank Sinatra, Sinatra declared that he was, “getting out of the business. I’m sick of it, I’m getting the hell out.”  Inspired by Sinatra’s frustration, he wrote the English lyrics (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_53Ygpgvuss ). Sinatra recorded the song in late 1968 and released it in early 1969. “My Way” reached number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 2 on the Easy Listening  chart. In England, the song achieved a still unmatched record: the recording with the most weeks in the Top 40, from April 1969 to September 1971 (http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?artist=%22My+Way%22).

Since Sinatra’s recording, there have been numerous and varied covers of the song. Elvis Presley’s live version during his satellite-televised concert from Hawaii showcases his remarkable vocal ability ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWStRiZ-OCM ). The Gipsy Kings covered the song using a traditional gipsy arrangement, with a Spanish translation of the English lyrics that is earthy and exuberant (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fsw2NQb5xSA ). Shirley Bassey does a mind-blowing live version that, like Elvis, showcases the full spectrum of her voice (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pjPTfygX3U ). Bea Arthur sang it on her breakout television series, Maude, to great comic effect and some rather fine vocals (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tTWjg74dis ). La Lupe released a Spanish translation of Comme d’habitude in 1970 with an awe-inspiring vocal and musical arrangement (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGgyIup3CVo ).

The lyrics of “My Way” tell the story of an older person reflecting on their life and taking responsibility for how they dealt with challenges while maintaining integrity. Nina Simone’s version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIkoeocWhcw ) is special because her re-arranged version of the song, which is more upbeat, melodic, and syncopated, feels like an affirmation and celebration and, for me, musically encompasses the message of the song. Simone’s version fiercely combines a lush orchestra, angelic backing vocals, and elements of Black Christian music that are all highlighted by an unexpected bongo drum. Perhaps my favorite part of the song is the way it ends: Simone sings the final lyrics (“and did it my way…”) and the orchestra keeps playing for two minutes. It is powerful, epic and eternal: something worthy of hearing as you cross into the great unknown.

Best of Nina Simone Playlist

Sinnerman (from the Inland Empire soundtrack)

The Pusher (from Just Like A Woman: Nina Simone Sings Classic Songs of the 1960’s)

Cherish (from Silk and Soul)

Keeper of the Flame (from Compact Jazz: Nina Simone)

Wild is the Wind (from Nina Simone at Town Hall)

Ne Me Quitte Pas (from I Put a Spell on You)

For All We Know (from Little Girl Blue)

Four Women (from The Complete Nina Simone on Phillips Recordings)

Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair (from Compact Jazz: Nina Simone)

To Be Young, Gifted and Black (from The Essential Nina Simone)

In the Morning (from Just Like A Woman: Nina Simone Sings Classic Songs of the 1960’s)

Angel of the Morning (from Here Comes the Sun)

O-O-H Child (from Here Comes the Sun)

To Love Somebody (from Sugar in My Bowl)

Just Like a Woman (from Here Comes the Sun)

My Way (from Here Comes the Sun)

Additional Reading

A New Yorker piece on Simone:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/11/raised-voice

Other Web Sites and Links

A musician who loves the bongo drum of “My Way” and plays along:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIS9UUAkSo0

Nina Simone’s Official Web Site

http://www.ninasimone.com/

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