the Buzz for August 2011


Sinead O’Connor — “Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home”
(from So Far: The Best of Sinead O’Connor) — Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home - So Far... The Best of Sinéad O'Connor

Oh, Sinead. My sweet, sweet Sinead. Sinead, Sinead, Sinead! Darling, I wrote in this very space back in April — in a profoundly sincere, extremely heartfelt plea intended to help you to recapture at least some of your dignity (to say nothing of your good sense, boo!) — that it was long past time to release the crazy and head on back to the land of sane and rational thought and judgment, and you respond by pulling crap like this?! By unloosing relentlessly goofy statements like this upon an unsuspecting public that I force myself to believe wants desperately to like you, honey! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, have you just flipped it, woman?! (Suffice to say, I doubt seriously that I’ll be able to stroll through the produce section at Whole Foods and look at a poor, innocent sweet potato the same way ever again, and, if for nothing else but that, I don’t know if or how I’ll ever be able to forgive you.)


Gin Wigmore — “Dying Day” (from Holy Smoke) — Dying Day - Holy Smoke

My beloved Ms. Wigmore lands the song of the day today because: a) I just love this kooky (and improbably powerful) little tune, still and every bit as much as I did the first time I heard it; and b) I just read that today is the final official day of production for ABC’s classic soap opera All My Children, which wraps its television run on Friday, September 23, just a few months shy of its forty-second birthday, and this song just feels strangely appropriate for marking such an occasion. (True enough, Children, along with sister show One Life to Live, is slated to continue as a web-based series with new full-length episodes — via a revolutionary deal with a production company called Prospect Park — beginning next January, but it feels highly likely that, whatever form the show happens to take in its new incarnation, it will look, seem, and feel radically different from the daytime drama that we’ve known and loved for four-plus decades. We soap fans have a right to feel sad today.) (And, Lord love a duck, don’t even get me started on how wrenched and rolled I know I’m gonna feel in a few months when it’s curtain-call time for my forever-favorite show, One Life, which is slated to complete filming around Thanksgiving and its television run in mid-January. The mere thought of it is enough to make me want to crawl under my desk and bawl like a babe.)


Oleta Adams — “I Just Had to Hear Your Voice”
(from The Very Best of Oleta Adams) — I Just Had to Hear Your Voice - The Very Best of Oleta Adams

Lady Aretha — who is a force of nature and in her own lane, cleanly and clearly — obviously excepted, when it comes to those pure soul divas of, shall we say, a certain age and level of élan and expertise (which is to say: sorry, Rihanna, but you’re not in this one, girl), they tend — at least to my highly trained ear(s) — to fall into two categories: the astonishingly gifted Adams in one corner, and everybody else in the other. (I had the profound pleasure of welcoming Miss Oleta to Brandon’s Buzz Radio a couple of years ago, and if you missed that career-spanning conversation, I highly recommend you catch up with it here.)


Roy Orbison — “She’s a Mystery to Me” (from Mystery Girl) — She's a Mystery to Me - Mystery Girl

Written specifically for Orbison by U2’s Bono and the Edge (and recorded just weeks before his untimely death in late fall of 1988), “Mystery” gave Roy a final chance to wrap his booming, brillliant baritone around a miraculous lyric and create something riveting and real. A quietly haunting masterpiece.


Shannon McNally — “The Worst Part of a Broken Heart”
(from Geronimo) — The Worst Part of a Broken Heart - Geronimo

McNally is my hands-down favorite singer-songwriter that you’ve never heard of — most seriously, her ferociously rendered full-length debut record Jukebox Sparrows continually gets my vote for album of this young century’s first decade — and I’m such an unyielding and conscientious fan that I just now, this moment, found out that a new project bearing Shannon’s name went on sale all the way the hell back in March. I failed miserably to convince A that a quick trip to Waterloo Records was in order last night — times like these are why I need Sherry Ann (who would have beaten me to the car!) to live here! — but rest assured that by the time you read this, I’ll have a copy of Western Ballad in my hot little hands. And in the meantime, I am enjoying, at full volume, an unsung classic from McNally’s magnificent second record.


Tori Amos — “Little Earthquakes” (from Little Earthquakes) — Little Earthquakes - Little Earthquakes

I find watching all this nonstop news coverage of people in Washington, D.C. and New York City go apeshit nuts over this afternoon’s 6.0-ish earthquake much more amusing than I ever should (if only because, as big a baby as I am about such things, I know damn well I’d be losing my shit with just as much vim and vehemence as the people I’m watching in Times Square are and have been ever since the ground first shook hours ago). My unsolicited advice on sailing through this crisis (which is, essentially, identical to my advice on sailing through any crisis, regardless of its ultimate import) is as follows: crank up the volume on some Tori, paste a smile upon your glorious face, and allow the wind to carry all your troubles downstream.


Ashford & Simpson — “Solid”
(from The Very Best of Ashford & Simpson) — Solid - The Best of Ashford & Simpson

I was so sorry to hear about the tragic passing yesterday of the great Nick Ashford, who, along with his wife Valerie Simpson, co-wrote a handful of true Motown touchstones — the Supremes’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and Gaye & Terrell’s “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” to name but two — before he and Valerie decided, in what turned out to be a brilliant move, to take their own shot in front of the microphone. My beloved 1984 wouldn’t have been the same without this, their best-known smash, and the world won’t be the same without him. (Rest in peace, Nick.)


The Grateful Dead — “Touch of Grey”
(from The Very Best of The Grateful Dead) — Touch of Grey - The Very Best of Grateful Dead

“. . . Cows are giving kerosene /

kid can’t read, he’s seventeen /

the words he knows are all obscene, but /

it’s all right . . . .”


Alan Jackson (with Patty Loveless) — “Monday Morning Church”
(from What I Do) — Monday Morning Church - What I Do

The chorus is rather awkwardly phrased and clumsily articulated, but it doesn’t much matter: the imagery here is indelibly shattering, and Jackson manages — with able assistance, of course, from the, uh, peerless Loveless, who turns in a haunting harmony vocal that can only qualify as angelic — to create a compelling, richly terrific tableau of a man swallowed whole by untenable grief.


Michael Bolton with Eva Cassidy — “Fields of Gold”
(from Gems: The Duets Collection) — Fields of Gold (feat. Eva Cassidy) - Gems: The Duets Collection

I normally wouldn’t advocate this type of thing: let’s face it, Miss Eva’s original performance of “Gold” is so profoundly spot-on that even Sting — himself no slouch when it comes to crafting a memorable vocal — freely admits that she stole the song right out from under him, and there could be no sensible reason to try to improve upon that sort of pristine perfection. But in the oddest way, this kinda sorta works and works brilliantly: Bolton now seems (and sounds) a lifetime removed from the days when his tremendous tenor was capable of operatic, ceiling-shattering high notes, but his wearier, more weathered instrument suits him quite nicely on his new album, and especially here, where he is exceedingly careful not to try to upstage Eva — and seriously, who in blue hell could? — but rather, just like Natalie Cole duetting with her late father a generation ago, sidles in beside Cassidy to humbly offer her a quietly thrilling (if gruffly charged), oddly compelling counterpoint.


The Cure — “Pictures of You”
(from Galore [The Singles 1987-1997]) — Pictures of You - Galore

Over the weekend, I happened to get myself sucked into Pedro, the surprisingly moving docudrama that MTV made of one of its own pioneering reality stars — The Real World: San Francisco‘s Pedro Zamora — a couple of years ago. (Credit the quality of this film to the screenplay, courtesy of Milk‘s Academy Award-winning writer Dustin Lance Black, and to Alex Loynaz’s incendiary lead performance in the title role.) This song plays over a rather mesmerizing romantic scene in the movie, and of course I immediately thought of Sherry Ann (the biggest Cure fan I know), who will no doubt feel a little smile in her heart when she discovers that her beloved band has finally given the Buzz its song of the day.


Michelle Branch — “Crazy Ride”
(from Everything Comes and Goes) — Crazy Ride - Everything Comes and Goes - EP

Not at all to say that I haven’t immensely enjoyed her extended detour into decidedly crunchy territory, or that said detour hasn’t produced some material that is quite striking in its own right — allow me to offer up this sweet tune, an unfailingly optimistic lullaby for her daughter, as exhibit A, and let me additionally entreat you to not overlook the largely stupendous work she turned in as one-half of short-lived Nashville duo The Wreckers — but I know I can’t be the only one thrilled beyond expression that the bold, brilliant Branch is finally coming home to the pop world this fall after an excruciatingly long eight-year hiatus. (For you uninitiated, Branch’s fabulous first two albums — 2001’s The Spirit Room and 2003’s Hotel Paper — might just be the two finest pop records of the decade (yeah I said it!), and if what I’ve heard so far from September’s West Coast Time is any indication, it sounds like my girl’s just itching to pick up right where she left off.)


Jennifer Hudson & Leona Lewis — “Love is Your Color”
(from Sex and the City 2 [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]) — Love Is Your Color - Sex and the City 2 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

A potently riveting (if beautifully restrained) face-off between two of popular music’s premier divas (and, notwithstanding the brief appearance of the terrific Nicholas Rodriguez in the film’s opening scene, easily the best thing about this misbegotten movie).