Saturday, December 8, 2018

McQ's Best Of 2017 Vol 17 - Sugar Rush: A Tragi-Comic Teen Angst Musical

Okay, I've really gone off the deep end here.

This mix, which aggregates much of 2017's best, bounciest punk-pop, indie-pop, and angsty emo, is sequenced as a fictitious soundtrack to a cliche-ridden, High School Musical-styled teen-movie -complete with a battle of the bands, a rise to stardom, an ugly duckling into swan transformation, sisterly and romantic betrayal, a state championship caliber basketball team, heartbreaking tragedy, and a feel-good reconciliation, all then capped off with a ominous "trouble looms again" easter egg coda after the main end credits. A silly lark for a blogger with too much time on his hands, but oh well...

Here's the link to the mix...!

And Here's The Synopsis And Notes On The Artists/Albums/Songs:

1. The World's Best American Band - White Reaper: White Reaper is a garage-punk quintet out of Louisville.  This song is the title track to their second full-length release.

For the purpose of our story: We open our tale of love, loss, and betrayal at a mall plaza in stunning Spokane, Washington, where a quintet of charismatic, photogenic teenagers(who strangely all look like they're in their mid-to-late-twenties) have just taken the stage in a local battle of the bands. Up front are three key players in this tale - on rhythm guitar, towering, achingly likable high school senior SEAN MCGARRIGLE, on electric keys (because when doesn't the girl in these teen rock movies get stuck with the keyboards), Sean's gorgeous, brilliant, super popular twin sister SUSAN, and on lead guitar and vocals, the town's brooding, mysterious dreamboat DERISON BAINES, who in addition to being the driving creative force behind the band, also happens to be Sean's best friend and Susan's boyfriend and soulmate (though, as is always only true in movies like this, the most popular couple in school hasn't done it yet). After some brief, impossibly endearing intro banter with the crowd from all three, they rip into their most popular number, The World's Best American Band. Will they win? 

2. I Love You Like A Brother - Alex Lahey: Yes! Hours later, Susan returns to her Gonzaga professor parent's amazing, alone-amid-the-pines home with trophy in hand, and before entering, exchanges pleasantries with our final player in this tale, younger tomboy sister SHONA, who as always this time of day, is putting in extra work on her soccer skills.  But though Susan loves her sophomore sister (who's already a three sport varsity starter), she and her liberal-minded parents have been too quick to assume what so far chaste, ultra-competitive, world-class-athlete Shona's eventual sexual-orientation will prove to be, assumptions that have quietly infuriated Shona ("what, straight girls can't be great at sports?"), and that will soon prove painfully wrong for all involved.

Reality: I Love You Like A Brother, from Aussie punk-pop Alex Lahey's 2017 album of the same name, was actually one of the year's most revered indie singles, though in the correct interpretation of the song, she's talking to her actual brother as they deal with their parent's looming divorce.

3. No Halo - Sorority Noise: Tragedy strikes! Unbeknownst to Susan, while the rest of the band is on their way from their battle of the bands victory to basketball practice (because in what high school musical movie are our male protagonists not also key members of a state championship-caliber sports team?), Derison's car is hit by a drunk driver. Derison and the band's drummer and bassist escape unharmed, but Sean, sitting shotgun right where they were blindsided, is killed instantly. Later that week, as everyone reals from the tragedy, Derison is so devastated, he can't bring himself to attend Sean's funeral, summoning the courage only to make the reception after at the McGarrigle's home. Needless to say, this doesn't sit well with Susan, and she and Derison have words.

Reality: No Halo was the lead single for this now defunct Connecticut emo-act's third release You're Not As _____ As You Think.

4. Silver Velvet - The Courtneys: Still at the funeral reception, after Susan storms off, Derison wanders out onto the back patio and stops dead.  Crying alone with her back to Derison in a stunning figure-hugging dress is one of the most strikingly statuesque girls he's ever seen. Sensing his presence, she turns, and shock of shocks (not to mention providing the requisite ugly duckling to swan transformation moment every movie of this type demands), it's Shona, whom Derison is witnessing scrubbed clean for the first time ever. Righting himself, Derison shakes off the sudden twinge of attraction, and gracefully comforts Shona in her moment of need. But when he leaves her to return inside and try to make amends with Susan, it's Shona who is overtaken with attraction. She bursts into song, skipping through the outlying pines as the sun sets around her, declaring that no matter how wrong, her heart now belongs to Derison.

Reality:  The Courtneys are a crack, all-female power-pop trio out of Vancouver. Both Silver Velvet here and Virgo, which we'll hear a few tracks later on this mix, are taken from their second full-length The Courtneys II.

5. Hiding With Boys - Creeper: A few weeks have passed, and tensions have only gotten worse between Derison and Susan.  On an intellectual level, Susan knows her brother's death was not Derison's fault, but can't stop herself from feeling anger towards Derison all the same. It all reaches a peak when Derison, frustrated over their lack of communication, shows up unannounced at Susan's house to talk and finds her hanging out in her bedroom with the rest of their band, doing exactly what she refuses to do with him, talking through her feelings on the loss of Sean. Furious and feeling betrayed, Derison storms out of the room...

Reality: Though it receive little attention in the states, British goth/metal/emo/hardcore-punk act Creeper's Eternity, In Your Arms, was to my ears, the best emo album of 2017.  Fans of My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade should love this one. 

6. Percolator - Charly Bliss: ...and right into the arms of Shona, who having just stepped out of the bathroom shower, wears only a towel. Flustered, Derison apologizes awkwardly, but Shona says nothing.  Instead, after letting him squirm for a moment, she takes his hand with a provocative smile, walks him into her bedroom, and closes the door. 

Reality: Albums just didn't come more 90's power-pop sugary in 2017 than Guppy from the Eva Hendricks-fronted Brooklyn quarter Charly Bliss. A strong player in 2017's year-end polls, most of the Guppy's songs zeroed in on moments of extreme emotional conditions, such as Percolator here, which finds its female protagonist ready to go all-in on a potential sexual encounter. The longer-term ramifications of that decision are explored in another Guppy song a few tracks later on this mix.  

7. Boyfriend - Marika Hackman: The next morning.  Derison has just slipped out of the house sight unseen, clearly conflicted over what has gone down. But as she dresses for the day, at this moment the always competitive Shona is feeling nothing but triumphant, having just surpassed her prim, unwittingly condescending older sister in the sexual experience department, with her sister's beloved boyfriend no less. 

Reality: The attitude of Boyfriend fits this story beat, but I'm twisting the lyrical intent of this widely lauded song from Marika Hackman's 2017 release I'm Not Your Man, as the song is actually written from the perspective of a lesbian woman who's just stolen away clueless lunk's bisexual girlfriend and mocks the boyfriend's unsuspecting obliviousness to what has just gone down. 

8. I Broke Up In Amarante - Los Campesinos!: Wracked with guilt over his actions and how it will impact not just Susan, but the entire McGarrigle family, Derison decides the only marginally acceptable course of action is to break up with Susan and start dating Shona proper.  So he convinces Susan to meet him at their favorite tapas restaurant and gives her the news. Susan is crushed. When Derison starts getting defensive and states "But you stopped talking to me!" She replies heartbreakingly, "but I never stopped loving you. I just needed time." 

Reality: I Broke Up In Amarante comes from long-running, witty Welsh indie-pop act Los Campesinos sixth studio release Sick Scenes.

9. Glitter - Charly Bliss: The aftermath. Susan returns and confronts Shona with a forcefulness Shona hadn't anticipated. The argument concludes with Susan declaring she will never, ever forgive Shona, and that Shona's as dead to her now as their brother Sean. After Susan leaves, Shona sits and wonders if she's thrown everything away for a moment with a guy that probably doesn't love her as much as she hopes. 

Reality: Our second selection from Charly Bliss's candy-confection debut Guppy asks that universal question that's probably crossed the mind of just about every girl once she's given herself fully to a boyfriend - "Am I the best,... or just the first person to say yes?"

10. Why We Won't - Grandaddy: And things start to get bleak for Derison and Shona right away. Word has spread around school, their mutual friends all take Susan's side, and Derison and Shona find themselves outcasts when they used to be two of the most popular kids in school. Worse, Derison, who still really loves Susan, is becoming an increasingly difficult and controlling boyfriend to Shona, laying down all sorts of rules on their relationship, which the still romantically inexperienced and smitten Shona accepts... for now.

Reality: After a ten year hiatus, Modesto, California's early-aughts indie-darlings Grandaddy returned with their fifth full-length Last Place.

11. Silent Movie Susie - The Big Moon: Things get even harder for Shona when Susan, always a super ambitious student who has already accumulated more than enough credits, decides to finish high school a semester early and move to/start working in Seattle on the UW campus where she will begin classes the following fall. Entering her older sister's empty bedroom after the move, Shona realizes how much Susan really means to her and sings words of hope that Susan will change her mind and come back. 

Reality: In addition to serving as the backing band for Marika Hackman on her excellent I'm Not Your Man, London all-female indie-quartet The Big Moon also found the time in 2017 to release their own rocking debut Love In The Fourth Dimension.

12. Disappeared - Sorority Noise: A major development!  Derison, still despondent over the loss of Sean and all that's transpired since, pours himself into song, writing and home-recording the track Disappeared, then putting it up on Bandcamp. The response is huge, and before you know it, Derison is swept into the world of agents, managers, and hangers on, all looking to get a piece of this overnight indie-rock sensation. 

Reality: Here's one more angsty number from Sorority Noise's You're Not As _____ As You Think.

13. Virgo - The Courtneys: And with so much of Derison's time taken up with his burgeoning music career (as well as finishing high school), Shona finds herself growing increasingly anxious over all the time she spends waiting on him, and thinking about him.  She fears she's losing herself in the relationship, and for the first time, the sense that this treatment is no longer okay for her starts to surface. 

Reality: One more from the Vancouver jangle-pop up-and-comers from their sophomore album The Courtneys II.

14. Sandlot - Dropkick Murphys: It's late spring, and Derison is invited to Seattle to perform Sandlot, the lead single from his upcoming major label debut, on KEXP's Live On Air. He brings Shona with him and they share a now rare joyous moment as Derison and the group kills it. Meanwhile, alone in her campus apartment, Susan listens to the broadcast, weeping for the simpler early childhood times the hyper-nostalgic song calls to mind. 

Reality: For their ninth studio album 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory, Boston's Dropkick Murphy's shook things up, leaving their hometown city to record in a rural studio in Texas.  In addition to giving the band a short head-clearing respite from their active family lives, it allowed them to lock in on some very heavy material focused on The Boston Marathon Bombing and the band's dedicated community work with addicts, homeless veterans, and disadvantage children through their Claddagh Fund charity. The joyous Sandlot, then, is a brief respite from the heaviness and intense sense of purpose that informs the rest of the album. 

15. Your Dystopic Creation Doesn't Fear You - Deerhoof: But after the show, while Susan weeps for what was, Derison, Shona, the band and the KEXP DJ have dinner. And after a moment where Derison rudely dismisses one of Shona's harmless, small talk comments, Shona grows increasingly disenchanted with what is, finding herself less and less willing to put up with Derison's controlling, me-first ways. She excuses herself, and the DJ, correctly interpreting the situation, let's Derison know things aren't right. 

Reality: We been featuring tracks from San Francisco's inspiredly insane, twenty-years-running art-rock outfit Deerhoof since we first started doing these mixes over a decade ago.  This track comes from the band's fourteenth studio release, 2017's Mountain Moves.

16. Link In Bio - Diet Cig: Walking the streets of downtown Seattle alone, still seething from how she was insulted, Shona realizes that though young, out of Derison, Susan, and herself, she is actually the strongest, toughest, and most determined of three. In this moment, though she doesn't yet break things off, her opinion of Derison drops dramatically, and she subconsciously comes to suspect she and Derison are done. 

Reality: Diet Cig is a young, White Stripes/Japandroids-styled drums and guitar punk/pop duo with a female twist out of New Paltz, New York.  The so bright Link In Bio comes from their debut release Swear I'm Good At This.

17. Marine Tigers - The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die: Meanwhile, even while on the verge pop superstardom, Derison continues to slide into more negative and cynical thinking, and finds himself and the band cutting the positively morose Marine Tigers in the studio. After finishing the song, his bandmates let him know their getting sick of all the depressive material he's been coming up with lately. 

Reality: The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die is a indie-rock collective out of Willimantic, Connecticut with a constantly shifting lineup that's almost as expansive as the band's name.  Marine Tigers is taken from their third full-length release, 2017's Always Foreign.

18. Short-Fingered Man - Julianna Hatfield: Shona convinces herself to give Derison one more chance, and early in the summer, goes on the road with the band for a long weekend. But after a completely unsatisfying love-making session following a sold-out show, realizes that whatever attraction she once had for Derison, it no longer exists. She breaks up with him, and decides to return to Spokane on her own to get on with her own life, but not before she makes a quick stop in Seattle to make amends with her sister. 

Reality: Though now in her fifties, former Blake Baby, Lemonhead, and I Don't Care Julianna Hatfield has never lost her youthful fire, as is clearly evident here in her 2017 take-down of lousy male lovers everywhere Short-Fingered Man from her fifteenth solo effort Pussycat.

19. Black Rain - Creeper: It's a few months later, on a rainy night on the Wash U campus.  The fall semester has started, Susan is now living in her new sorority house and face-timing with Shona, with whom she's reconciled.  Suddenly, she hears screaming outside, ends the call, and walks to her window.  Derison stands outside, soaking wet, screaming Susan's name over and over.  Susan tears up, but fortifies herself and lowers her blinds. Derison's screaming continues. 

Reality: Here's another one of Eternity, In Your Arms anthemic hard chargers.  Serious Streetcar Named Desire "Stella...." vibe to this one. 

20. Magazine - Slotface: The next day. Susan is at her local stylist's shop, getting her hair done, when she spots a picture of Derison and the band on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. All of her frustration and anger over his betrayal and his humiliating appearance at her sorority house the previous night, and the fact that despite all that, she can't shake her feelings for him, launch her into song -- as she recognizes her all-time favorite punk-hero would never put up with what Susan herself has allowed herself to endure. But just then, as she thinks she's resolved herself, there's a clamor of chatter from the other girls in the shop. She looks up to see Derison standing right in front of her. 

Reality: Slotface are a young Norwegian punk act just arriving on the scene, and the awesome Patti Smith name-dropping Magazine comes from their 2017 debut Try Not To Freak Out.

21. Pariah - Steven Wilson: Our big emotional conclusion. At a coffee house down the street from the hair parlor, Susan and Derison finally talk it out. She lets him know how badly he hurt her, but is then shocked at the depth of feeling coming from Derison, at how much he clearly loved and misses her brother, at how much he regrets all the pain he's caused her family, at how poorly he treated Shona, at how alone and lost he feels despite his career success, and mostly, how impossible it is for him not having his soulmate in his life. At this moment, Susan finds she is able to forgive him, and while not able to bring herself to rekindle the relationship - she still feels they have to move on - ends their conversation with words of comfort and love, encouraging him to fully seize the opportunity in front of him. 

Reality: Called by The Daily Telegraph "the most successful British musician you've never heard of," Steven Wilson has been a force in experimental and progressive rock for over thirty years, collaborating with the likes of Roxy Music, Jethro Tull, Opeth, King Crimson, Yes, Andy Patridge of XTC, as well as his own primary rock outfit, Porcupine Tree.  Pariah here, which serves as the emotional climax to our fictional rock and roll musical, is taken from Wilson's 2017 solo release To The Bone.

22. Tellin' Lies - The Menzingers: We fade to black on the previous scene, and then a title card "10 YEARS LATER."  Suddenly, we're in a packed concert venue just as a band takes the stage.  It's Derison and his basketball team bandmates from our opening scene, along with a couple new SUPPORTING PLAYERS. Derison fires up a riff, the crowd goes crazy, and then they go crazier even still when the final band member, a women, takes the stage.  It's Susan, now on guitar and also five months pregnant and sporting a wedding ring. She gives Derison a loving, spousal smile, and the band launches triumphantly into a rousing version of their latest nostalgia-driven hit as the end credits start to roll.

Reality: The Menzingers are an excellent veteran punk outfit out of The Office's hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.  The rousing, sing-along Tellin' Lies hails from their from fifth full-length release After The Party.

23. Crickets - Creeper: As the credits and concert performance end, and the crowds burst into cheer, we pull back and realize it's been a televised New Year's performance, and it's being watched in a luxurious Seattle home, by an older Shona, still dressed in her surgeon's scrubs after a long day as Seatlle's top orthopedic surgeon but looking absolutely fabulous. A Gold Medal from her stint on the US women's soccer team hangs on the wall behind her. She too is now married, with her husband and two young children sitting with her. He rises, kisses her on the cheek, tells her how Susan and Derison came off great, then says he'll get the kids down and whisks them away. Shona turns her attention back to the television, as Susan and Derison start another tune singing into the same microphone looking blissfully happy, and a dark expression forms on Shona's face. Her POV of the television tightens until Susan is squeezed out frame, leaving only Derison, looking charismatically alluring. When we cut back to Shona, it's clear her  competitive fire is surfacing again. 

Reality: In the middle of all the theatrical excess of Eternity, In Your Arms comes this nightmare acoustic ballad of romantic devastation. The perfect cliffhanging, "set-up-the-sequel" coda to our teen-angst tragic-comedy.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

McQ's Best Of 2017 Vol 18 - Nancy's Favorites!

We conclude our 2017 mix collection with this year's edition of Nancy's Favorites.

There are a few repeats here from the mixes that have come before, but as always, it's an amazing listen.

So until next year, enjoy!

Here's the link...

And for those that want to hear what Nancy loved in previous years...

Nancy's Favorites 2016
Nancy's Favorites 2015
Nancy's Favorites 2014
Nancy's Favorites 2013
Nancy's Favorites 2012
Nancy's Favorites 2011
Nancy's Favorites 2010
Nancy's Favorites 2009
Nancy's Favorites 2008
Nancy's Favorites 2007
Nancy's Favorites 1977
Nancy's Favorites 1967
Nancy's Favorites 1966

About The Artists/Albums/Songs:
1. Sail On - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings: Nancy might have loved the recently departed Sharon Jones even more than I did, which is saying something! Given that, there was no way Nancy wasn't including something from Sharon's last album with the Dap Kings, Soul Of A Woman. And, as is the case with just about every selection on Nancy's mix, it happens to be that album's very best song.

2. Brokedown Luck - Nicole Atkins: Speaking of best tracks from an album, our third and best inclusion from Nicole Atkins' Goodnight Rhonda Lee, the magnificently Dusty Springfield-ish Brokedown Luck.

3. Got Soul - Valerie June: As stated earlier, because Nancy got a late start putting her mix together, there are a few repeat selections from our earlier 2017 mixes, starting with The Order Of Time's so likable closer Got Soul.

4. Want You Back - HAIM: HAIM's 2017 sophomore-slump effort Something To Tell You left a lot to be desired, but amid all the substandard material were a couple of tracks like Want You Back that reminded everyone of what they fell in love with when the band first burst out of the gate in 2013.

5. Call The Police - LCD Soundsystem: American Dream's most popular track is a clear stylistic call back to the band's most popular song of all, Sound Of Silver's All My Friends.

6. Nothing To Find - The War On Drugs: Now we enter the "caught 'em at Coachella 2018" stretch of Nancy's mix, and this, the liveliest, most Springsteen-y track from The War On Drugs' A Deeper Understanding, was one of the best single song performances Nancy and I saw at the festival, until the band topped it just a few songs later with a remarkable version of Lost In The Dream's Under The Pressure.

7. Feel It Still - Portugal The Man: Coachella 2018 might as well have been Chernobyl as far as attendance at the event's rock shows was concerned, with two notable exceptions - Led Zeppelin near-parody act Greta Van Fleet, and Portugal, The Man, who rode the success of this monster single from their 2017 release Woodstock to one of the 2018 festival's biggest Main Stage crowds.

8. Last To Sleep - Fazerdaze: This delightful lo-fi bedroom-pop/C86 number comes to us from New Zealand's Fazerdaze (aka Amelia Murray) and her full-length debut album Morningside.

9. Brazil - Declan McKenna: The final Coachella 2018 selection on Nancy's mix comes from England's boyish pop charmer Declan McKenna, who put on a winning show for us with this hit and many other tracks from his 2017 release What Do You Think About The Car?

10. Two Pence Piece - This Is The Kit: Nancy's next favorite is our second song selection (the other appearing on Vol 2 - Hush) by English folk-rockers This Is The Kit and their compelling, low-key 2017 release Moonshine Freeze.

11. Something To Love - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: The first of three tunes Nancy has selected from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit's The Nashville Sound, Something To Love is inspiration, inspiration, inspiration all the way. 

12. Rollercoasters - Aimee Mann: Nancy and I recently caught Aimee live in tandem with Jason Isbell, and this track from Mann's 2017 release Mental Illness was Nancy's favorite song from the show.

13. Nice And Quiet - Bedouine: Under normal circumstances, thirty-two is usually viewed as a very late age to start a recording career, but in the case of Bedouine's Azniv Korkejian it sort of makes sense. Born to Armenian parents in Aleppo, Syria, she had an itinerant childhood that included stops in Saudi Arabia and all over the United States before the family finally settled in Los Angeles. From there, Korkejian began a career as a sound designer / music editor for feature films (last year's The Big Sick ranks amongst her credits) before gradually meeting a series of audio professionals who encouraged/helped her to pursue a recording career. This lovely track, the opener to her eponymous debut, is emblematic of the gentle, mature Natalie Prass-flavored folk and alt-country that informs the album.

14. If We Were Vampires - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Despite the unusual title, Nancy's second selection from The Nashville Sound - also the album's most critically celebrated track - cuts to the heart of how precious our time with our loved ones really is like few songs in recent memory.  

15. Carin At The Liquor Store - The National: This song from National's Sleep Well Beast was already reviewed in our Vol 3 - The Usual Suspects.

16. Long Lonely Road - Valerie June: One last cut from Valerie June's The Order Of Time, which was to both Nancy and I's ears the best roots-rock/folk album of 2017. 

17. (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano - Sampha: This sad, lonely song of loss - the emotional centerpiece of Sampha's debut Process and one of the very best songs of 2017 amidst all these best songs of 2017 was written shortly after the passing of the artist's mother. 

18. Rican Beach - Hurray For The Riff Raff: Another winning number from the New Orleans-based Hurray For The Riff Raff's breakout album The Navigator, Rican Beach is an impassioned protest song with a science fiction premise, one in which lead-singer Alynda Segarra imagines a New York future where all the city's ethnic neighborhoods have been gentrified out-of-existence, stranding their-one-time-residents citizens on a destitute strip of beach outside the borders of the city they had at one time helped create. 

19. White Man's World - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: "There's no such thing as someone else's war / Your creature comforts aren't the only thing worth fighting for." That might be the best (not to mention best sung) political lyric of 2017, from one of the year's most pointedly direct and timely protest songs.

20. Bamako - Songhoy Blues:  If you wanted to truly get funky in 2017, you had to look to the Africa.  And no African band brought the funk better in 2017 than Songhoy Blues on their sophomore effort Resistance. This song, named after the town in which this young, protest-minded Malian Blues outfit met and formed before having to flee after the imposition of Sharia law, is, surprise, the album's best.

21. Freedom Highway - Rhiannon Giddens: Nancy has chosen to conclude her mix, as well as our 2017 collection, with this rousing cover of the Staples Singers' 1965 classic, which also serves as the title track to country-folk star and Carolina Chocolate Drop's front-women Giddens' excellent, multiple-award-winning second solo release.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

McQ's Best Of 1977 Vol 14 - Soft Rock Nights (The Be(wor)st of WLS Pt 3)

Continuing our look at some of 1977's most nostalgia triggering tracks as filtered through the programming sensibilities of Chicago AM giant WLS, we conclude the three part series (as well as our entire 77 mix collection), with Soft Rock Nights.

If WLS mornings were for the moms, and WLS afternoons were for the boys, WLS nights were for couples. The music got softer, the music got more sophisticated, and the music got better, as the radio station tried to hook in young lovers going about their evening plans.

Not surprisingly, this is probably the smoothest listen of all our 1977 mixes.

Here's the link...

About The Artists/Albums/Songs:

1. The Chain - Fleetwood Mac: Hitting two more tracks from Rumours on this mix, giving them seven tracks in this collection (second behind only Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced for the most songs we've ever included from one album).  This track, probably Rumours' most instrumentally sophisticated, is a perfect tone setter for what's coming in this mix.

2. Deacon Blues - Steely Dan: Finally, we get to Steely Dan's Aja, the last genuinely great album to be profiled in our '77 collection. And while I've always preferred the songs on the band's singles-oriented debut Can't Buy A Thrill and '75's Katy Lied a little more, there's no denying that on certain evenings, no album other than this one-of-a-kind, jammy, Eros-driven masterwork will do. Deacon Blues has always been my favorite from this one.

3. Just The Way You Are - Billy Joel: Joel's first top-ten hit of his career almost didn't see the light of day.  According to Joel, neither he or his band cared for the song after laying it down, and weren't going to include it on The Stranger, but at the urging of Linda Rondstadt and Phoebe Snow who were both recording in the same building at the time, Joel acquiesced. Joel's producer Phil Ramone had a different take on the issue, stating no matter how hesitant Joel and the band were about the song, or how much Rondstadt and Snow loved it, Joel hadn't written enough material for the album to ever consider cutting it. Either way, I came back to this song for this first time in years expecting to dislike it, but was actually surprised at how well it has held up.

4. Just A Song Before I Go - Crosby, Stills & Nash: Surprisingly, given all the other classic rock staples in their catalog, Graham Nash's parting words for his family and friends, written on a bet in 20 minutes before heading back out on another tour, is taken from the band's 1977 release CSN, and was the biggest hit of the their career!

5. Takin' The Time To Find - Dave Mason: Definitely felt we needed another number from Dave Mason's '77 guest-star-loaded release Let It Flow, but with Nancy already thieving the album's title track for her Favorites mix, I went with this rocking, AWBish number here over the album's biggest hit We Just Disagree.

6. Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue - Crystal Gayle: Originally released on Gayle's fourth studio album We Must Believe In Magic, the country singer's signature hit would end up the #71 selling single of 1978.  I considered it for Lujack Mornings, but there's just a touch more late-night sophistication to this number that suggested it was a better fit here.

7. Dreamer - Dennis Wilson: Though it wasn't one of the two singles issued from Dennis Wilson's '77 solo debut Pacific Ocean Blue, it was this surprisingly gruff, bluesy number built around a super cool bass harmonica passage that has, over time, emerged as the album's most popular song.

8. April Sun In Cuba - Dragon: One of New Zealand's biggest rock acts during the mid-to-late 70s, Dragon's April Sun In Cuba, from their fourth studio release Running Free, was one of the band's biggest chart successes in the United States.

9. Baltimore - Randy Newman: While Short People got most of the airplay and attention, the best song on Randy Newman's Little Criminals was its oft-covered, bleak portrait of a dying city Baltimore which, like most of Little Criminals, featured members of the Eagles (in this case Glen Frey and Joe Walsh) in instrumental support.

10. Lovely Day - Bill Withers: From the bleak to the buoyant. Released in December, 1977, the lead single for American soul singer Bill Wither's sixth studio release Menagerie also owns the distinction of holding one of the longest-sustained vocal notes ever put down in recording history, with one of Wither's final "days," clocking in at eighteen seconds.

11. Handy Man - James Taylor: Though the seventies singer-songwriter movement was already in decline, genre-icon James Taylor enjoyed his most successful year in 1977 powered by his eighth studio album JT, which in addition to being the best-selling album of his career, also featured two of his biggest charting hits.  Handy Man here, and Your Smiling Face, which Nancy has already featured on her Favorites mix!

12. Smiling Stranger - John Martyn: While not a huge name here in the states, British singer/songwriter/badass guitarist John Martyn had a prominent five-decade career overseas from the late sixties until his death in 2009, and his daring, idiosyncratic combination of blues, reggae, jazz, and folk and have led many to dub him the father of 90s trip-hop. His 1977 seventh studio release One World is one the most popular of the 22 studio albums he left us, and contains two of him most famous songs in the title track and the Lee "Scratch" Perry collaboration Big Muff. But as cool as those songs are, I found Smiling Stranger to be even cooler. So all you Portishead / Massive Attack fans, this is where some of it started.

13. Slip Slidin' Away - Paul Simon: After deciding not to include Slip Slidin' Away on 1975's Still Crazy After All These Years, Paul Simon decided to include it two years later on his 1977 greatest hits collection Greatest Hits, Etc. to give that album a lead single. The ploy worked, as Slip Sliding' Away ended up as the #48 single of 1978.

14. Like A Hurricane - Neil Young: Though not horrible in its own right, when compared to the spectacular quality level of most of his 70s output, Neil Young's 1977 studio release American Stars N' Bars is a straight-up dud... until one gets to this song towards the end of side two, a contender for the title of the greatest song in Young's entire, mind-bogglingly prolific career.

15. Songbird - Fleetwood Mac: Like Dreams, I thought Nancy would claim Christine McVie's best Rumours' song Songbird for her mix, but she did not, giving this mix one last gorgeous come down before its big closing stretch.

16. Peg - Steely Dan: One more from Steely Dan's all-time best seller and audiophile sacred cow Aja.

17. & 18. The Load Out / Stay - Jackson Browne: Following the tremendous success of 1976's labored-over The Pretender, Jackson Browne chose to lighten things up in 1977 with his fifth album Running On Empty. A record about life on the road recorded on the road (either live, or on the tour bus, or in hotel rooms, etc.) it's not one of Browne's most accomplished works, but it does possess a killer set of bookends in the opening title track (already featured on Vol 2 - Nancy's Favorites) and the closing tandem of The Load Out / Stay included here, which just felt, not like the perfect ending for this mix, but this entire 1977 collection as well.  Hope you enjoyed it all.