Moody Blues and Reds and Golds
This chick loves an introspective tune any time of the year, but no time is better suited for moody melodies than fall.
As this mixtape revealed itself to me, I realized that I wasn’t looking for a one-note medley of melancholy tunes; rather, I’ve handpicked a spectrum of moods — from quiet to bold and everything in between!
Fall might be the most interesting time of the year for inspiration. It’s certainly not as bubbly and upbeat as summer. Obviously, it’s a time of transition and today’s picks reflect the layers of fall.
Maybe it’s heartbreak or impending heartbreak. Maybe it’s love — a quiet, more intimate interpretation of love. And maybe it’s simply a mood that captures cooler days, falling red and gold leaves, and blooming camellias.
I never realized that Better Than Ezra’s “This Time of Year” feels like a 90s rock update of something John Denver would have released circa 1974. Um, y’all hear that, too, right? Just me?
Anyhoo, this was actually the last song I discovered for today’s mixtape. I felt like I was missing something when I thought BTE might deliver the right vibe. It took a few tries, but when I landed on this song, I knew I had my winner.
I go through periods where I listen to Better Than Ezra a lot and others where I forget about them. I need to put them back in rotation!
Sometimes I’m caught off guard by my body’s reaction to a song. I’ll be honest. I was hoping this might be a decent version but was definitely not expecting to get chills.
Melissa Manchester is familiar to most Gen-Xers as a late 70s/early 80s radio pop staple. Her cover of “I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore” is a stripped-down, understated sultry surprise.
It’s a really pretty version but I’m mostly struck by the EMOTION behind this vocal. Listen to that vacillation between understated power and vulnerability.
We’re even gifted with Trevor Lawrence on sax. And I must note that Ms. Manchester herself plays the lovely piano. She may not be Elton John or Jackson Browne or Harry Connick, Jr., but it’s a solid style.
Good gracious — I had NO idea Randy Newman wrote this. I only discovered it within the past year or so and it’s become one of my very favorites. (I’ve previously featured my favorite cut by my crush, Scott Walker.)
Geez, this one has snuck up on me. I’ve hit repeat 4 times already and am in awe of the production, musicianship, and vocal choices. This sucker only gets better with repeated listenings. Brava, Ms. Manchester!
This is the type of discovery that motivates me to share music. This is so astonishing that I weep I have such a small following: not for me but for Marlon Solomon, the vocalist. Everyone should hear this voice!
One of the most perfect vocal performances I’ve ever heard. Exquisite. Confident but humble. Nuanced but not showy. It’s a triumph!
The Berklee College of Music is top-notch, leaning into the lush warmth yet desolate sadness of Joni Mitchell’s mature “Both Sides Now.”
Rufust Wainwright’s interpretation is more gut-wrenching while Mr. Solomon’s feels more hopeful. (I’m a fan of both versions, for the record.)
I’ve been a Nat King Cole fan since I was a kid, so his version of the super dreamy “The Very Thought of You” is my standard. But I accidentally discovered this live performance by Don McLean and found myself swept away by his interpretation.
Before the song was over, I realized I was teary-eyed. Sigh.
There is such an earnestness to this version. Old-school but timeless.
I have so little romance in my life. This song is so dreamy.
Oh, my! Where has this cover of “Since I Don’t Have You” been hiding?
Check out this fantastic live cut by the Brian Setzer Orchestra! Yowza!
Big band sound + a cocky Brian Setzer + a little rock n’ roll grind = a very turned on Bonnie
(This would make a great addition to a New Year’s Eve mixtape, too.)
Such a fresh interpretation — a wonderful update to a classic. My only quibble: my producer’s ear wanted a big, unabashed, over-the-top ending. The earlier swagger was so powerful and so intoxicating that the quieter pivot left me wanting a climax harkening to 3:35–3:48.
If someone wanted to understand new wave, I’d send them to this live performance from the Old Grey Whistle Test. Spandau Ballet perfectly encapsulates the hair, the fashion, the sound, and most importantly the je ne sais quoi of the era.
There are still those who think of bands like Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet (and a-ha, for that matter) as manufactured 80s bands. Au contraire!
I have yet to hear a bad vocal from Tony Hadley. This cut of “Gold” is infused with more passion and emotion — he almost snarls during parts of the song — than the studio cut. The back-up singers are on point and I especially dig the percussion.
Most of the fashion is pretty great, too — Spandau Ballet could really pull off the suits from the day. And don’t get me started on good, slightly floppy alt 80s hair! Regrettably, the keyboardist looks like an extra on Yentle rather than a part of an otherwise chic band.
Until her 40’s, Bonnie’s worst nightmare included writing and sharing personal stories publicly. At her friends’ suggestion, she bemusedly started Bonnie’s Mixed Tape on Medium in 2017. She remains shocked that anyone reads her stories and that P.S. I Love You, Assemblage, the Writing Cooperative, and the Ascent have published her work.
Bonnie loves all types of music, but really, really, really loves the 80s.
Thank you for reading this story
I know you are busy and have lots of ways you could be spending your time. you using your time to read my work means the world to me — my sincerest thanks!