Song of the Day #1,215: ‘The Greatest’ – Cat Power

Whenever my wife sees a business that remains open despite improbable odds, she announces “that’s a drug front.”

You see a neighborhood mom-and-pop store that has somehow weathered the tough economy. She sees a drug front.

By her logic, there is no more obvious drug front than the Spec’s record store across from the University of Miami campus on US 1 in Coral Gables. That store has remained there for decades despite the collapse of every other brick-and-mortar record store in the world. It sits next to the Swensen’s sandwich and ice cream restaurant (itself a monument to perseverance through hard times), occupied by more employees than customers most days. Drug front.

This Spec’s buys and sells used CDs in addition to the overpriced new stuff. So once in awhile I’ll stop in and look for a bargain. Recently I scored four quality CDs for less than $10 total, and I’m featuring songs from three of them this week.

First up is Cat Power’s 2006 album The Greatest. Cat Power is the stage name of Chan Marshall, an indie singer-songwriter who had released eight albums before I’d ever heard of her.

The Greatest, which sounds like a best-of but isn’t, won her enormous critical acclaim and showed up not just on 2006 top ten lists but decade top ten lists as well. It’s the sort of album that receives such effusive critical praise that it can’t help but disappoint.

I’ve listened to the record only once but I can already tell that it’s something special, even if it is doomed to fall short of the hype. It has a smoky, rich feel to it thanks to the cadre of Memphis soul musicians she recruited to back her up. The songs are sultry if a little bit sleepy. Her voice is divine.

Once I wanted to be the greatest
No wind or waterfall could stall me
And then came the rush of the flood
Stars of night turned deep to dust

Melt me down
Into big black armor
Leave no trace of grace
Just in your honor
Lower me down
To culprit south
Make ’em wash a space in town
For the lead
And the dregs of my bed
I’ve been sleepin’
Lower me down
Pin me in
Secure the grounds
For the later parade

Once I wanted to be the greatest
Two fists of solid rock
With brains that could explain
Any feeling

Lower me down
Pin me in
Secure the grounds
For the lead
And the dregs of my bed
I’ve been sleepin’
For the later parade

Once I wanted to be the greatest
No wind or waterfall could stall me
And then came the rush of the flood
Stars of night turned deep to dust

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,215: ‘The Greatest’ – Cat Power

  1. Dana says:

    Amy and I often make similar comments about local businesses here in Hollywood. In particular, there was a gelato store that stayed open for years on a prime corner in downtown Hollywood for years with seemingly no business. Nearly every time we passed and looked into the windows to see no customers, I would say “drug front.” The store did eventually close though, so perhaps it was legit after all?

    Specs may be an example of a drug front, though I somehow think they are managing to survive legitimately as a bit of an institutional record store and probably make money on the used CDs (since it is hard to imagine anyone buying the overpriced new ones). Still, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Specs close in the next 10 years as even the most stalwart of local record and book stores are having trouble staying afloat.

    Anyway, at least you were able to score some quality used CDs, including the one featured today. Nice sound here. I agree it’s a bit sleepy though and, if the rest of the album sounds like this, one might need to be in a particularly mellow mood to put this one on.

  2. pegclifton says:

    Definitely a sultry and sleepy sound; I like it very much. Her voice sort of reminds me of Dusty Springfield? I don’t have any “drug front” stories, sorry; I guess Vermont is above all that 🙂

  3. Dana says:

    Oh, please, Peg…how do you explain an Indian restaurant surviving for years in a town with a population of 85 non-ethnically diverse people?

    Drug Front? Oh, yeah!

  4. pegclifton says:

    Ha! We’ll find out when you visit 🙂

  5. Amy says:

    Love the sound of today’s singer, and I agree that Spec’s and the Indian restaurant in Vermont are likely not drug fronts, while the corner gelato store in Hollywood was most definitely one.

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