I've been toying around with an entry here for about six months. I started out planning to pick my favourite blue-eyed soul performance (not *singer*, just *performance*), but that spiralled completely out of control; before I knew it I was juggling Lowell George, Todd Rundgren, Boz Scaggs, Tom Johnstone and Michael MacDonald, Robert Palmer, Paul Rodgers, Rod Stewart, Jack Bruce, Dan Zanes of the Del Fuegos and about a hundred others.
See, if this blog teaches me anything, it's that there is no science to this music appreciation business. I can't be one of those pipe-smoking critics who talks about the technical aspects of singing, traditions and the like. I either like a song or I don't. If I like it, watch out! I start reading up, doing my research on Wikipedia, AllMusic etc until I know just about everything there is to know about a song.
Somewhere I remember reading a quotation on trying to analyse humour: "It's like dissecting a frog," the quote goes; "It can be done, but the frog tends to die in the process." And sometimes I feel like that about my occasionally obsessive approach to the simple, harmless act of appreciating a work of music.
Why analyse, why obsess?
Having said all this, what I seem to be describing is an extended teenage phase. I mean, we all lay on our beds with the headphones on and the lyrics sheet in our hand when we were teenagers, right?
So this is normal. It's dragged on a bit, but it's normal.
So, as part of the intense research I described at the start, I have spent a lot of time listening to Messrs Marriott, George, Palmer, Rundgren et al over the past few months, in an effort to try and pick what I think is the best blue-eyed soul performance of all.
Any great soul voice has something unusual about it: Rod Stewart had his sandpaper, Lowell George had the beautiful southern inflection (just listen to the way he sings the word "southern"), Michael MacDonald has his falsetto, Steve Marriott had his passion. They all *work*.
That's the reason they're all SongsWithoutWhich. Because they travel with me all the time, they come around on random shuffle at the strangest moments and they make me smile, sway, tap my feet. I just have to stop being anal about it.
And for that reason I wimped out. I can't pick a favourite: I'd choose a different one every time. But what I *can* do is share a performance that I treasure. I remember loving this when it was first released, enjoying the idiosyncratic vocal (it sounds vaguely gargled, doesn't it?), and the unstoppable rhythm.
Boz Scaggs hasn't been a prominent mainstream name, unless you're into Steve Miller or Donald Fagen, but by God he has a voice.
The first video shows how much fun you can have making music, even if it isn't the best performance of the song.
The second is an older, wiser Boz and a slower, much more menacing version. I cna't imagine how many years separate the two performances - a lifetime, it seems, but they're both fantastic.