2002’s Blacklisted was singer-songwriter Neko Case’s third solo album and the one that really struck a nerve with critics. This album introduced the dominant sound of her next several releases, including my favorite, 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.
Case is the whole package. She pens memorable melodies and evocative lyrics, creates soundscapes in a ghostly alternative bluegrass style that sounds like nobody else, and has one of the best voices in the game.
Here’s a track from Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 album Come On Feel the Illinoise!, the second installment in his stated goal to record an album about each of the 50 states. The first was about Michigan.
He later admitted that he was joking about the project, but I continue to think it’s a wonderful idea.
Now we arrive at the song that started me down this theme week on The Call.
The 1990 album Red Moon was the band’s final release before a 7-year hiatus, and marked a shift into Americana. I don’t remember how I stumbled across this album — maybe I heard it playing in a record store — but I responded to the sound, Been’s vocals, and the evocative lyrics. It’s funny how it faded from my memory so completely all these years later, but once my sister sent me the song title and I tracked it down, the whole thing came flooding back.
The Call’s lead singer and songwriter Michael Been considered 1987’s Into the Woods the band’s best album, but it was the follow-up, 1989’s Let the Day Begin, that became their biggest hit.
Both albums are available on streaming services and worth checking out.
The title track of Let the Day Begin made it all the way to #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart and #51 on the Hot 100.
The Call released a third album, Scene Beyond Dreams, in 1984 and then split from their label over a legal disagreement. They signed with Elektra Records and released 1986’s Reconciled, an album considered their best by many fans.
Both albums have themes consistent with lead singer Michael Been’s Christian faith, though The Call is not typically claimed as a Christian band. They fall more in the category of U2, a band that weaves explorations of faith into their secular music.
The Call’s second album, 1983’s Modern Romans, landed on Billboard’s albums chart and gave the band their first Hot 100 hit with ‘The Walls Came Down,’ which peaked at #74.
This was an urgent, angry and political album, and unfortunately another one not fully available on streaming services. I was able to listen to it by finding the individual songs on YouTube, where they have been uploaded in excellent quality.
Quarantine has given us the time for many a household project or pasttime. People are baking bread, assembling puzzles, tackling long postponed home improvements.
In my sister’s case, it gave her an excuse to create playlists from a bunch of old mix-tapes I made her. The cassettes themselves are long since discarded but she still has the tracklists and an Apple Music subscription, and that’s all you need in the age of streaming.