Well, after three straight lists of nothing but dudes, my 1973 list blew up with the ladies. I told you I never forgot about them – I never forget about The Ladies. (I’m trying to figure a way to make that sound more sexist without using profanity, but I can’t.) The point is, 1973 is perhaps one of the best years for women in soul, let alone women in other genres of music. But I’m mostly interested in soul and jazz, so that’s what Cassie is gonna be forced to listen to.
“Call Me (Come Back Home)” by Al Green
God, if I could go back in time, I would amend my “Top 5 Album Openers” post to include this song. It sets the tone for perhaps the greatest soul album of all time. I’m Still In Love With You perhaps has the greatest sentimental value for me, but Call Me is just a better album. And the title track is without a doubt one of the best things Al Green has put out into the world. It has the majesty and grace (and Debbie) and sublime subtlety of Mona Lisa’s upturned half-smile, all wrapped up in a much slicker and hotter package. Those reading closely there: Yes, I did compare the Mona Lisa and “Call Me” and came down on the side of the latter. Mad? Tough shit. It’s way better. Plus, you can get down to “Call Me.” Try getting down in front of the painting – I doubt the Louvre guards would be much into that. (Or would they?)
“Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack
I would’ve been amiss had I not mentioned this song, for two reasons: First, it’s a great song; second, it was perhaps the most popular song of the year in ’73. The lyrics are heartbreakingly beautiful and the music is simple but breathtaking. It does have that half-cheesy sound to it, what with the overdrawn organ and nylon-string guitar, but the drummer really hangs you on for dear life. It’s why The Fugees’ 1995 cover works so well: They stripped the song down to its roots and were left with that thick, thick beat. Though I really could live without without fucking Wyclef Jean saying “One time” a hundred times.
“So Very Hard To Go” by Tower of Power
I have talked about this song many times before. But like a lot of things that are overplayed, it’s because it’s simply that good. It’s in my list of Top 5 Breakup Songs as the ultimate accepting-your-fate song. I wish I could, just once, go into a breakup with the kind of dignity and grace the singer does. You can ask any of my exes, they’ll tell you how that wasn’t even close what I did. Perhaps it would help it was soundtracked by Tower of Power with that kind of fat horn section. I think life, in general, would be better if we all had that fat, fat horn section playing in the background at all times. Think about it. Work would be better, driving around would be better, sex would definitely be better, and the horn sections would be better. That’s right: recursive horn sections. Horns in horns in horns!
“Angel” by Aretha Franklin
Ok, I know I’ve come out before on hating spoken word introductions to songs. I’ll be honest, I have to suck it up and just get through it every time I listen to this song. But once I do, and get to the meat of the song, I realize this song is The Goddamn Batman. In fact, Claire and I coined using that meme as a phrase replacing “it’s the jam” specifically because of this song. I know “Respect” gets far, far more airplay than this song, but I think this is the quintessential Aretha song. You know what? I can’t do this song justice talking about it. You have to just hear it. Now.
“Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips
This is perhaps a bit oddly specific, but I totally have a thing for a female vocalist with mixed-sex backup singers. I can’t get enough of it. I mean, how awesome would, say, The Temptations have been if Aretha Franklin (no disrespect to Ms. Knight, but Aretha just has better pipes) sang lead and Ms. Knight, Mavis Staples, and The Temptations sang backup. Oh god, I think my ears just came. (Gross.) The point is, this song has some serious chops, and it’s only enhanced by the mixed-sex backup singers. And by the by, it also is featured in one of the best musical moments on tv ever. (The best part is just how earnest Tracy Morgan sounds apologizing to Ms. Gladys Knight.)