As anyone who’s seen “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” or read Anita Shreve’s book “Where Or When” knows, nothing sings romance like a mix tape. With that in mind, here are 10 songs guaranteed to put a little spark in your lover’s fire this Valentine’s Day.
Wonderful Tonight, Eric Clapton – 27 years of marriage has taught me that there’s only one answer to the question, “how do I look?” (besides pretending you didn’t hear). Don’t flub it, and your date starts on a good note.
You Turn Me On I’m a Radio, Joni Mitchell – This one works for a girl who wants to woo her guy, and is particularly effective in reverse. It’s a sensitive chap with some Joni in his collection.
What a Wonderful World, Art Garfunkel – Sam Cooke did the original, but this slow, smooth reinterpretation, with James Taylor and Paul Simon joining the honey-throated Garfunkel, wins the prize.
Save the Last Dance for Me, Drifters – Written by Doc Pomus, this tune began as notes scribbled on the back of a napkin as the polio-stricken songwriter watched from a wheelchair while his new bride danced at their wedding.
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), Marvin Gaye – Truth be told, you could make a whole mix tape of nothing but Motown (or, for that matter, Holland-Dozier-Holland) hits, but this oft-covered Marvin Gaye number tops the list.
Something in the Way She Moves, James Taylor – So good it spawned another song, when George Harrison lifted the opening phrase and built one of the last great Beatles ballads around it. His plagiarism problems didn’t begin with “My Sweet Lord”.
When You Say Nothing At All, Allison Krauss – Keith Whitley’s version went to number one on the country charts before his tragic death in 1989, but it’s Krauss’s lilting and gorgeous tribute that lingers in my mind.
If I Needed You, Townes Van Zandt – The Emmylou Harris/Don Williams duet is the definitive version, but the Texas troubadour’s ode to love, as raw and real as the codeine fog that birthed it, is the one that belongs on the mix disc.
Just The Way You Are, Billy Joel – Joel almost dropped this from “The Stranger” (his band hated it) until Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow, who overheard the recording session, convinced him otherwise. Good call.
My Funny Valentine, Chet Baker – The “Stairway to Heaven” of February 14.
Good luck, fellas. These choices may help too:
Thursday: Tableside Crooners, Canoe Club – Get an early start on Saturday as a capella singers make their way from table to table singing requests, in a modern update of the barbershop quartet idiom. This novel notion was no doubt born from the success of Marko the Magician’s tableside magic exploits. The fun begins at 6, followed at 8 PM by guitarist Paul Rivers.
Friday: East Bay Jazz Ensemble, WRJ American Legion – This dance benefits CareNet of the Upper Valley, and features not only one of the best swing jazz combos in the area, but dance instruction from John & Sandra (with an assist from Sheila Larsen), and a great spread of hors d’oeuvres. There’s nothing quite as romantic as dancing, is there? This is a semi-formal event, and advance purchase is required (call CareNet @ 603-298-6123).
Saturday: High Ground, Newport Opera House – Part of the 93rd Winter Carnival celebration, this band should heat things up with a lively country rock sound. High Ground has a steady following at places like Shenanigans and Electra, where their mix of covers and originals gets the crowds dancing without fail. They’re a nice addition to this old tradition.
Sunday: Larry Dougher & Adam McMahon, Quechee Club – An après-ski show featuring some first-rate blues. I caught McMahon for the first time last Saturday at Sophie & Zeke’s, and he plays some crackling guitar. Teamed with Dougher, one of the best axe men in the area, should be a real-barn burner. The Quechee Club also welcomes Carlos Ocasio tomorrow and Juke Joynt Tuesday.
Monday: Metal Show, Stone Church – Amarcosa, Shores of Tundra, Aseethe, Imaginary Friends Club, Before the Sky perform an all-ages show at this Brattleboro venue, located at the corner of Main and Grove Streets. Intense music at a fair price (five bucks), and judging from photos on the promoter’s web site, the shows draw a good crowd.
Wednesday: Newpoli, Colby-Sawyer College – This group of Berklee graduates brings the neglected world of Italian folk music to life which, with the exception of a small number of Neapolitan songs, they feel has not received its deserved attention and recognition, neither in Italy nor abroad, Well played and researched, these traditional styles, introduced to the audience often for the first time, expose the joy and beauty of this music, as well the ancient stories and rituals described in the lyrics.