Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Isn't it Romantic?!

I'm FINALLY compiling my first list. I'm a little excited because this is one of the reasons I started a blog in the first place. When I was nine, one of my favorite books was Irving Wallace's "Book of Lists" and I would never have become the music geek that I am if I hadn't bought Dave Marsh's "Rock Lists" when I was 13 and then spent the whole Summer of '82 memorizing the darn thing (or near-memorizing it, heck it was 500 pages with something like 2,000 lists).

In honor of February 14th, I'm putting together a list of 20 of the most romantic songs of all time. I want to emphasize that these are not necessarily THE 20 most romantic songs of all time but just 20 that I felt made a nice compilation. There are plenty of great ones left for another list next year. Hence, these songs are not being ranked. Rather, I've listed them in a manner that I felt gave the order a nice flow. One that could be taken and played and the progression of songs would resonate with the ear of the listener.

Now I've been planning this post for weeks, but then earlier today I got my weekly copy of Entertainment Weekly in the mail and they decided to list what they felt were the 50 Greatest Love Songs of all time. I'll stick with my 20 for right now. People actually read lists of 20 items, but at 50 they're glancing and browsing at best. I also prefer to use the word "romantic" over "love" when discussing music. Romance describes an atmosphere or mood. Love is an emotion. Music can set the mood, but in the end the emotion needs to come from the heart. In the end our lists had two songs in common and a few others on their list just missed making mine. So, the next time that you need the perfect song to set the moment just right, consider one of these:

1) "Never My Love"----The Association

There's a reason why it's still the third most played song in the history of radio at nearly 7 million spins (surpassed by only "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "Yesterday"). The Association's 1967 recording of The Addrissi Brothers' tune is as relevant and refreshing as ever in 2005. My buddy Dave wondered how I could have chosen "Never" for my list over "Cherish." Well "Cherish" would have been a good choice (it made the Entertainment Weekly list) and it would have allowed me to tell my anecdote about meeting The Association and having them autograph my 45 of Cherish (see, I just managed to get that anecdote in anyway). "Cherish" could pop up on a future list, but in the meantime ask yourself the following question: If you were with your ideal mate, in the ideal romantic location, at the ideal romantic moment and you had to choose between hearing "Never" or "Cherish" at that moment, which would it be? Thought so.

2) "I Love How You Love Me"----Bobby Vinton

The Paris Sisters may have had the original and bigger hit with this tune, but it was Bobby who sang it like he meant it. There aren't too many guys who can seriously pull off a line like, "I love how your eyes close whenever you kiss me." Bobby did and the women swooned.

3) "We've Only Just Begun"----The Carpenters

Many couples have chosen this one for their wedding song. If I were making a movie, it would be the song playing the instant after the groom carried the bride over the threshold and closed the door.

4) "When You Say Nothing At All"----Alison Krauss

My friend Annemarie has a great story on this one. She had never really been into country music until one night when she was in a bar and this one came on over the loudspeaker. As the song played on, one of the couples dancing had their eyes lovingly glued to each other and were singing each word in unison. Needless to say, she's been hooked on the genre since.

5) "5-10-15-20 (25-30) Years Of Love"----The Presidents

For better or for worse, there are many more romantic songs about falling in love then there are about having stayed in love for a lengthy period of time ("Still The One" by Orleans is fun, but not what I would call romantic). When my parents celebrated their 30th anniversary on May 29, 1996, this was the one song I wanted to hear on the radio. Back then, WPLJ was still big on 70's music and I tried to get Scott and Todd to play "5-10-15-20 (25-30) Years of Love" for them. They didn't play the record, but they did wish my parents a happy anniversary on the air and then proceeded to make fun of me for another four minutes. Off the air, Scott Shannon and I dueted on a few bars of the song. Hey, I thought we sounded great.

6) "Sharing The Night Together"----Dr. Hook

This one gets into your senses even before the vocals start and, ever so subtly, becomes more intoxicating as it progresses. By the time the song hits the "We can bring in the morning light" part, your face definitely needs a splash of water.

7) "Here, There & Everywhere"----The Beatles

Might not even rank among The Beatles 100 biggest hits, but all-around this was probably their best love song.

8) "La-La Means I Love You"----The Delfonics

Here's one of the two songs that my list shared with Entertainment Weekly's. You can feel the yearning in the singer's voice all the way through until the final fade-out.

9) "On The Wings Of Love"----Jeffrey Osbourne

So soulful, yet so optimistic. Even on days that you feel unlucky in love, this one still sounds great.

10) "Faithfully"----Journey

Written by Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain as an anniversary present for his then-wife Tane. The fact that they later divorced in no way diminishes this immensely moving musical love letter.

11) "Truly Madly Deeply"----Savage Garden

I was being to think that the sweet pop song had become extinct when this one came out in 1997. It shook me from the first time I heard it and within a couple of days it seemed that everyone had discovered the record. I remember walking past a row of cubicles in the office when the song was playing and one of my co-workers was glowing, as if she had never heard a song that made her so happy.

12) "What You Won't Do For Love"----Bobby Caldwell

The first time I ever went to a karaoke bar was in Washington, DC on New Year's Weekend 1995-96. My turns at the mike were less than memorable, but towards the end of the night a guy got up and tried his hand at "What You Won't Do For Love." The hostess noted that the number of women in the room doubled during the course of his performance. I would pay good money for voice lessons if the teacher could guarantee me that I'd sound half-decent singing this one by the end.

13) "Love Is"----Vanessa Williams & Brian McKnight

We always knew Heather Locklear was sexy, but we never realized how much we ached and longed for her until that night in January, 1993. It was the middle of Season 1 of Melrose Place and Billy and Amanda were to about to make love for the first time. The scene wouldn't have hit home like it did without the then just-released "Love Is" playing in the background. It wasn't the first time I wanted Heather, but it was the first time I cried at the sight of someone else kissing her.

14) "All I Know"----Art Garfunkle

An all-around beautiful tune written by Jimmy Webb ("MacArthur Park," "Galveston," "Worst That Can Happen," "Wichita Lineman"), that gave Art Garfunkle his first major hit as a solo artist. Just a few years earlier, Art had sung about how love calms all in "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The message and tone of "All I Know" was almost a complete U-Turn. Love hurts and has more than its share of disturbing moments, but in the end the reward is worth the pain....usually.

15) "It's Your Love"----Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

It seems that most die-hard country music fans have a great story on how they became attached to the genre (see #4 above). Here's mine. I was flying SwissAir to Israel in the Spring of 1998. There was no movie on the Zurich-Tel Aviv leg, so I checked out the various music-listening options. One of the channels was offering an eclectic mix of mellow tunes including some I hadn't heard in quite awhile. I was especially excited to hear Linda Rondstadt's "Heartbeats Accelerating" and a few songs that were following shortly thereafter in the program. But I was also curious about the tune that was scheduled immediately after "Heartbeats Accelerating." I knew who both Tim McGraw and Faith Hill were (Tim's father, Tug "Quick Draw" McGraw had been the star closer of my beloved Phillie teams in the late 70's and early 80's), but I didn't think I had ever heard any of their songs in entirety to that point. I didn't even know they were married until hearing it from that program's emcee. I never expected to be blown away by the song like I was. I was actually hoping that the flight would be long enough for the program to wrap around to the song again (it was). Eight days later, I got the same program again on the Zurich-New York leg and I made sure to catch "It's Your Love" everytime it came up in the program. I also knew that if even a fraction of country music could affect me even a fraction of the way "It's Your Love" had, I was going to be listening to a lot more of it when I got back to New York.

16) "You're The Only Woman"----Ambrosia

Ambrosia's blue-eyed soul never quite reached the popularity of The Doobie Brothers or Hall and Oates, but their tunes had a sweetness to them that was unmatched by their more prominent counterparts. What makes this song so extra special is that it's so well thought out. Limited backing vocals on the first chorus, only to be added later on. The sensual "Don't speak....Shhhhhhhhhhh," at the start of what would be the third verse. The intrumental that follows with the volume fluctuating ever so slightly up and down. One of the last great songs to come from The Golden Age of Lite Rock.

17) "Baby, I Need Your Lovin' "----Johnny Rivers

Originally a #11 hit for The Four Tops, it was Johnny Rivers who took the song into the Top 5 three years later and made it the romantic masterpiece that it is. My friend Ivan who's written with the best of them, said that one time Jimmy Webb (see song #14 above) was in a car when this song came on the radio and he had to pull to the side just to compose himself.

18) "Follow You, Follow Me"----Genesis

One moment Genesis and Phil Collins would be dark and deep, the next sappy and sweet. Rarely were they able to mold the two together into a truly romantic song that at the same time wasn't whiny. They got the balance just right with "Follow You, Follow Me." One time, back on Dave Herman's morning show on WNEW over a decade ago, they were bemoaning the fact that so many couples were using Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" as their wedding song. "Follow You, Follow Me," was the one they pushed for as the more appropriate choice.

19) "I'll Never Break Your Heart"----The Backstreet Boys

Put all your biases about The Backstreet Boys aside, they did just fine on this one. I wouldn't have smirked if someone included "More Than That" on one of their lists either.

20) "When A Man Loves A Woman"-----Percy Sledge

This was the other song to appear on both mine and Entertainment Weekly's lists. Simply too obvious to be left off.