Sam Cooke | Blowing In the Wind

Written by Bob Dylan in 1962, “Blowing In The Wind” was ranked at #14 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time published in 2004. The song evolved into a protest song during the Civil Rights movement. Sam Cooke’s biographer, Peter Guralnick, claims that Cooke loved the song but wished it had been written by a person of color, and quickly incorporated it into his repertoire. This rare footage of a live performance shows how deeply he connected with the song’s message. Modulation at 0:46.

Diane Birch | Photograph

“Diane Birch has an earthy and ethereal articulation, somewhat reminiscent of Stevie Nick’s Fleetwood Mac material.” (Popmatters). “The singer-songwriter passionately croons of love and life using everything from dubstep beats to her solo piano playing to accent the emotionalism of her voice. Her vocals suggest dust and wonder, experience and naivety, the ache of one who yearns for something not within reach and the satisfied grin of one who has made it.”

From NPR’s profile of Birch: “The singer, songwriter and pianist had an eclectic musical upbringing. Her music is filled with the language and sounds of gospel and church music — her father was a preacher. She also lived in Zimbabwe and Australia, where her parents constantly played classical records, as a child. ‘I’d wake up to [soprano] Joan Sutherland screaming in my ear,’ Birch says. ‘It’s an amazing alarm clock — that’s the best kind of scream.'”

The relaxed waltz of Birch’s 2009 release “Photograph” starts in F major, but shifts to D major for the chorus at 0:40; 1:08 – 1:16 brings an gradual and oblique shift back to the original key. There’s an instrumental bridge in Bb major from 2:28 – 2:58, but at 3:33, a gospel-heavy outro appears out of nowhere, with a completely new meter and yet another new key: A major.

Utopia | Style

Popshifter‘s review of Utopia’s final album, P.O.V. (1985), muses about Todd Rundgren’s “musical twitchiness,” stating that he “jumps from style to style, from Philly white-boy blues to synth-pop, from down and dirty rock and roll to salsa. Never knowing what he’ll do next is exciting for some, laborious for others.

In the late Seventies, Rundgren formed a band called Utopia. It was designed to be his big foray into progressive rock, exploring grand concepts and incorporating deep philosophical lyrics. As it gradually shrank from seven members to four, Utopia became one of the sharpest New Wave bands of its time, delivering perfect three-minute pop songs, deliciously textured with soaring, shifting harmonies. Utopia was never as gritty as The Cars or as raunchy as Blondie. It’s feasible to consider them as a bridge between New Wave and the New Romantics, with their ‘Shape of Things to Come’ fashion sense and lyrics ranging from sweet to snappy.”

“Style,” features wall-to-wall everything: layered vocal harmonies, shiny synth work by Roger Powell, crunchy guitar from Rundgren, and a few brief shuffles through keys of the moment. Keeping Kasim Sulton very busy with both lead vocal duty and a rangy syncopated bass line, the track starts in F minor and shifts up a whole step to G minor at 2:36.

Carly Rae Jepsen | Curiousity

“Curiosity” is featured on Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen’s eponymous 2012 EP. The track has a similar feel to “Call Me Maybe,” Jepsen’s breakout hit from the same EP. “[Curiosity] brings the same lighthearted vibe while touching on a more personal note,” said critic Jen Appel. “This song encompasses the feelings of a girl fighting to keep her relationship alive while struggling with the ever-present curiosity of “what ifs.”

The tune begins in E and shifts suddenly up to F# at 2:12.

Eydie Gormé | Blame It On the Bossa Nova

Eydie Gormé and her husband Steve Lawrence were fixtures on radio and television during the 1960s. Known mostly for their “easy-listening” renditions of songs, occasionally they reached out of their comfort zone, with varying results. Both Steve and Eydie released material individually, and also as a duo.

The tune here, “Blame It On The Bossa Nova”, which became her last Top 40 solo hit, was written by Brill Building denizens Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann (Songfacts). The song was well out of Eydie’s comfort zone. She disliked it so much, she tried to hamstring the recording with some intentionally fluffed notes (in particular, listen to the passage from 1:26 to 1:34), hoping the execs would decide against releasing the record. Despite her best (worst?) efforts, the record was a smash, reaching no. 7 on the Billboard charts. The public may have found the vocal flaws part of the charm of this “novelty number”.

The song begins in C#, and modulates to D at 1:18, following a slightly-out-of-tune instrumental passage.

John Bucchino | I’ve Learned To Let Things Go

“I’ve Learned To Let Things Go,” with music and lyrics by John Bucchino, was included in It’s Only Life, a concert revue of Bucchino’s music that was performed at Lincoln Center in 2006. It is performed here by cast member Jessica Molaskey, and modulates from A up to C at 2:25.

Dane Vannatter | The Best Part of Me

Cleveland-based cabaret vocalist Dane Vannatter “is the recipient of two BackStage Bistro Awards, for Outstanding Vocalist and for his second CD Flight,” (The Music Settlement). “The Boston Globe acclaims Dane for ‘ … a style that blends facets of cabaret and jazz with intelligence and care, and a distinctive style that leaves an imprint on whatever music he sings.’

In Boston, Dane sang for Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary before a record crowd of 40,000. Dane is a nominee for four MAC awards and is a Nightlife Award finalist … (he) performs regularly in venues in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Boston and Cape Cod. Dane’s fourth CD Give Me Something Real was released in 2016 to much critical acclaim. Dane is currently working on a holiday CD It’s December with legendary guitarist Joe Negri.”

Released in 2020, “The Best Part of Me” gives Vannatter an opportunity to work with a pop ballad sound — one with a rich harmonic vocabulary. With music written by Alex Rybeck and lyrics by Bob Levy, the track features Daniel May on piano. After two verses in F major, 1:22 brings a fluid key change to D major; at 1:54, the tune reverts to its original key.

for Todd

Lene Lovich | Blue Hotel

Lene Lovich, born Lili-Marlene Premilovich, “is an American singer, songwriter, and musician of Serbian and English descent based in England,” (Sputnik Music). “Back in the autumn of 1978, when Stiff Records mounted its second major assault on the British music biz, Lovich stood out … with her outlandish dress, colourful coiffure and mannered, theatrical delivery, using her voice no differently than the sax she occasionally tooted,” (StevePafford.com) … (She was a) one time sculpture student at London’s Central School of Art … Lene’s leftfield output was at the perfect foundational example of the burgeoning New Wave. An amalgam of baroque and Euro-cabaret, her slightly pixilated pop arrangements laced with splashes of synthesizer and organ …

… What at the time seemed a bit outre, even gauche was, by the early Eighties, adopted whole or in part by rafts of aspiring bands. Where once Lovich was likened to Patti Smith for lack of even vaguely comparable new wave female singers, she now had her own ‘school’ of followers – although many people have no idea she was there first.”

Following on a cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” (1978), “Lucky Number”
(1978), and the Thomas Dolby-penned “New Toy” (1981), “Blue Hotel” was released in 1983 on Lovich’s album No Man’s Land. The video for the track was certainly not among those with the highest production values, but joins “New Toy” as a high point of the New Wave while capturing much of early-80s music video’s visual aesthetic. After a brief intro (and a hearty greeting to all) in A major, the tune shifts into A minor for the first verse; an A major interlude echoing the intro follows from 2:03 – 2:16); and a triumphant whole-step modulation up to B major hits at 2:40. At 3:30, the outro finds Lovich yodeling adroitly and proudly, as one does. No need to file a flight plan; Lene was there first, and knows the way.

for Maureen

David Crosby + Graham Nash | Guinnevere

“David Crosby, a founding member of iconic 1960s rock bands the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and one of the most celebrated musicians of his generation, has died at the age of 81,” (Spin). A tribute on Facebook from Graham Nash: ” … what has always mattered to David and me more than anything was the pure joy of the music we created together, the sound we discovered with one another, and the deep friendship we shared over all these many long years. David was fearless in life and in music. He leaves behind a tremendous void as far as sheer personality and talent in this world. He spoke his mind, his heart, and his passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy. These are the things that matter most … “

“The early 1970s BBC series In Concert featured some of the greatest performers of the folk rock / singer-songwriter era, including Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor, Cat Stevens and Neil Young in front of intimate crowds at the old BBC Television Centre in London,” (Dangerous Minds). In the case of each of the artists featured, the BBC sets are probably the very best records we have of these performers in their youthful prime. This is almost certainly the case with the gorgeous Crosby & Nash performance linked here. It’s a stunner.

After the success of their monstrously popular Déjà Vu album, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young,“the American Beatles” as they were often called (never mind that one was a Brit and another Canadian) broke up in the summer of 1970, with all four members of CSNY recording solo albums. Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name and Nash’s Songs for Beginners appeared the following year. In the fall of 1970, the two toured as an acoustic duo previewing tunes from their upcoming albums and singing fan favorites.”

Written in E minor overall, there are several short passages in G minor (for instance, 1:59 – 2:07).

Stacie Orrico | (There’s Gotta Be) More to Life

Contemporary Christian music (CCM) artist Stacie Orrico released “her 2000 debut album, Genuine, is a combination of Christian pop with an urban flare and has been compared stylistically to both Christina Aguilera and Lauryn Hill.” (AllMusic) She has worked with noted CCM artist Michael W. Smith as a producer and served as an opening act for Destiny’s Child. After the pace of the music business led her to take a break and get a restaurant job, she returned in 2007 to release another album.

Orrico’s 2003 single “(There’s Gotta Be) More to Life” is “an inspirational mid-tempo number with the chorus ‘There’s gotta be more to life than chasing down every temporary high to satisfy me,’ (MTV). ‘I think so many times we feel like we’re lacking something in our lives and we try to fill it with the wrong things,’ she explained. ‘Sometimes it’s drugs, sometimes it’s a relationship you shouldn’t be in.'”

Orrico clearly demonstrates the same pop sensibilities of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, who are her contemporaries. After a start in F minor, the tune shifts up a half-step at 2:03. Many thanks to our regular contributor Ziyad for this submission!