EML’s Favorite Songs – “I Only Have Eyes For You” by The Flamingos

One of the most romantic love songs ever written has to be “I Only Have Eyes For You”. The song was written by composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin for the 1934 film Dames, starring Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell. Powell sang it in the film and several artists also recorded their own versions of the song in 1934, including bandleader Ben Selvin, (with vocals by Howard Phillips), pianist Eddy Duchin, and singer Jane Froman. But the version released in 1959 by R&B/doo wop band The Flamingos is without question the most captivating of them all. It’s among the earliest songs I ever remember hearing as a very young boy, and I’ve loved it my entire life.

The song was the biggest hit for the Flamingos, reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #3 on the Hot R&B Songs chart, but it should have been #1 in my opinion. Their version has endured over the years and is recognized as an important work. The song has been included in numerous ‘best-of’ lists, and in 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #158 on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. It was also featured in the 1973 film American Graffiti.

The song is perfection from start to finish, with a dreamy arrangement and that sultry doo wop groove that’s so damned enchanting. I love the repetitive piano riff that establishes the mesmerizing percussive rhythm for the song, as well as those tasty little guitar notes sprinkled throughout. Then there are the fabulous silky vocals by Nate Nelson, backed by echoed vocal harmonies of the rest of the band that almost have the effect of another instrument in themselves. God, what a magnificent song it is!

My love must be a kind of blind love
I can't see anyone but you

Are the stars out tonight?
I don't know if it's cloudy or bright
I only have eyes for you, dear
The moon may be high
But I can't see a thing in the sky
I only have eyes for you.

I don't know if we're in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
You are here, and so am I
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

Other versions of the song were later recorded by numerous artists, including Frank Sinatra in 1962, The Lettermen in 1966, Art Garfunkel in 1975 (who’s version went to #1 in the UK), Carly Simon in 2005, and Michael Buble in 2018. But the best will always remain the one by the Flamingos.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #98: “Love on the Brain” by Rihanna

Rihanna (born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in Barbados) is an international music superstar, fashion designer, actress and businesswoman who emerged on the music scene in 2005 at the tender age of 17. Since then, she’s racked up an impressive string of monster hits and earned numerous awards and accolades. I love many of her songs, especially “Only Girl (In the World)”, “Stay”, We Found Love” and her duet “Love the Way You Lie” with Eminem, but my favorite of all is “Love on the Brain”.

The song is from her eighth studio album Anti, and features a sultry doo wop/R&B vibe in the style of many great R&B songs of the late 50s and early 60s that strongly appeals to my mature music sensibilities. It’s a stunning torch song that beautifully showcases her considerable vocal talents. Though it was a sizable hit, “Love on the Brain” peaked at only #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, a relative disappointment considering how many of her singles reached #1.

The song was originally written by Norwegian songwriter and producer Fred Ball and American songwriter Joseph Angel in late 2013. They wanted an old school soul feel with modern lyrics, and did not write it with Rihanna in mind. After hearing the song, however, Ball’s manager Jay Brown loved it and thought it would be a great song for Rihanna. He sent it to her and she loved it too, adding some additional lyrics to make the song her own. The explicit lyrics speak of a romantic obsession with another person who treats her poorly, but her feelings are so intense that she’s willing to endure whatever hurt and pain he doles out so long as he loves her. Some believed the song referred to Rihanna’s tempestuous relationship with Chris Brown, though she’s never confirmed it one way or another.

Oh, and, babe, I’m fist-fighting with fire
Just to get close to you
Can we burn something, babe?
And I run for miles just to get a taste
Must be love on the brain
That’s got me feeling this way (feeling this way)
It beats me black and blue but it fucks me so good
And I can’t get enough
Must be love on the brain, yeah
And it keeps cursing my name (cursing my name)
No matter what I do
I’m no good without you
And I can’t get enough
Must be love on the brain

Baby keep loving me
Just love me, yeah
Just love me
All you need to do is love me yeah
Got me like ah-ah-ah-ow
I’m tired of being played like a violin
What do I gotta do to get in your motherfuckin’ heart?

A BLUE FLAME – Album Review: “The Secret Breeze”

British singer/songwriter and musician Richard Stone – who goes by the artistic name A Blue Flame – tells compelling stories about life, love, heartache and loss through poetic, thoughtful lyrics and sublime melodies. His music reflects an eclectic range of influences from doo-wop and old-school pop to easy listening ballads, folk, jazz and rock, delivered with sophisticated and utterly pleasing instrumentals and his smooth, clear vocals. The passage of time and the challenge of keeping the faith – both in God and oneself – are recurring themes in his songs, and while a lot of his lyrics are sad or bittersweet, they’re also lovely to listen to and rarely depressing, offering glimmers of optimism and hope. Stone also has a wry sense of humor that shines through on some of his songs.

A Blue Flame2

I first featured Leicester-based A Blue Flame on this blog back in October 2016, when I reviewed his beautiful debut album What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains. In January 2018, I reviewed his equally superb follow-up album When Your Whole World Turns to Dust, which he released in September 2017. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the “Related” links at the bottom of this page.) Now he’s about to drop his third album The Secret Breeze, set for release on August 17th, and which I’m previewing today.

Stone writes all his songs, sings vocals and plays guitar, and arranges them with assistance from Adam Ellis, who co-produces and also plays guitar. Other session musicians adding their skills to the album included Damon Claridge on drums, Tony Robinson on horns, Glenn Hughes on piano and Hammond organ, Tom Bull on upright bass and Jo Preston on flute. Though some of the songs were written prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, others reflect these trying times, as he explains: “One of the album themes (as ever) is loss, as I suppose that’s what I feel so keenly. I think the brightness of the 1960’s casts a long shadow to mix metaphors somehow. All that hope and positive change seems like it almost never happened.”

The Secret Breeze features 12 tracks, all of them very good to excellent, but I’ll touch on the ones that resonate with me. The opening track and first single released in advance of the album is “With Love from a Friend“, a bewitching song that beautifully showcases A Blue Flame’s superb songwriting and arrangement skills. The delicately strummed acoustic and chiming electric guitars, sparkling piano keys and jazzy upright bass notes are exquisite, and when combined with the languid tempo and lovely vocals, the song has a dreamy, atmospheric quality. The lyrics seem to be about an inability or fear to fully act on one’s true feelings: “I’m writing a letter that I’ll never send. From the edge of my memory, time without end. And I’ll write at the bottom, ‘with love from a friend’.” It’s a gorgeous song, and instantly one of my favorites on the album.

It’s Raining All Over the World” speaks to the sorry state of current events the world over, what with a global pandemic, rising authoritarianism and social unrest causing anxiety just about everywhere. A Blue Flame fervently laments “What have we done my friends? Looks like the end. Now it’s raining all over the world.” Despite the rather depressing lyrics, the music is great, especially the infectious doo wop melody, terrific guitar work and vibrant piano keys.

Another favorite of mine is “Too Fast“, both for its wonderful instrumentals and relatable lyrics. The song starts off with a gentle acoustic guitar, then a marching drumbeat ensues along with Spanish-style guitar notes as A Blue Flame sings of the rapid passage of time (something that freaks me out on an almost daily basis anymore): “We were too young to know what we were doing. Its just how it is. It’s how we all live…way too fast.” Eventually, the music expands to a carnival-like vibe, with exuberant flutes, horns, and more of those lively marching drumbeats that contrast with the pessimistic and timely lyrics: “The world’s a great big mess. It’s mad. And we can’t catch the truth as it rushes by. So, so, so, so sad.”

The bittersweet “The Moon Obscured the Sun” sounds like a song Harry Chapin and Burt Bacharach could have written together. The lyrics speak to a love that might have been, except that the two never had the courage to act on their feelings: “I remember you from a lifetime long ago. We were frightened into silence, by the things we didn’t know. We couldn’t find the words to say a love we should have spoken yesterday.”

Tiny Little Thing” is a poignant anthem about not allowing others to bring you down with their negative thoughts and hurtful words, causing you to curl up into a ‘tiny little thing’ a kinder and gentler metaphor for the fetal position: “These could be the good old days, if you decide to make them so. Don’t turn yourself into a tiny little thing. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, who hurt you, or who you hurt. Don’t turn yourself into a tiny little thing.” I like the jangly guitars and crisp percussion, but the highlights for me are Hughes’ wonderful piano and organ work. And it goes without saying that I love A Blue Flame’s highly emotive vocals.

The standout track for me is the dark and sultry “Your Mother Said Everything Was Beautiful“. It’s a brilliant song, with an edgier vibe than many A Blue Flame’s songs, and I love it. The lush instrumentals are absolutely fantastic, especially the gnarly surf guitars, Hughes’ mournful organ and Robinson’s blaring wah wah trumpet that brings chills. The lyrics seem to speak to the conundrum of how people with the most wealth and power are often the most unhappy in life: “Your mother said everything was beautiful. Everyone had everything. They saw themselves as queens and kings. They had the keys to the secret breeze. They owned the wind in the trees. So please now tell me why, did all the people cry?

Album closer “If Tomorrow Ever Comes” is an interesting and dramatic song about contemplating the end of the world. It has a complex melody and powerful, varied instrumentation that make for a fascinating listen. It starts off like a folk tune, with sounds of waves crashing onto a beach, accompanied by a gently strummed acoustic guitar and reverb-heavy electric guitar chords. An organ soon enters as Stone croons “If tomorrow ever comes, I’ll be waiting there for you. You can take my hand and say ‘we did all that we could do’.” The music continues to build with jangly and distorted guitars, bass, heavier percussion, tambourine and glittery synths, while his vocals become more impassioned: “And if our sorrow ever leaves. We’ll dance into the sky. Looking down upon the earth, we’ll hold each other tight./ But we’re stuck inside a clock, wishing it would stop./ And you can’t tell what is real, when you’re turning on a wheel./ For if the world should end. We’ll not be there my friend./ If tomorrow never comes.” The music rises to a powerful crescendo, then fades as the song ends with the same crashing waves we heard at the beginning. It’s a fine finish to an outstanding and thoroughly satisfying album.

Connect with A Blue Flame:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play 

A BLUE FLAME – 3-Track Single Review: “Blueprints For Time Machines”

A Blue Flame EP art

I’m not quite sure what’s behind the current flood of creative energy, but it seems that nearly everyone is putting out new music in 2019. At least that’s the case for a large percentage of the artists and bands I’ve featured on this blog over the past three and a half years. Another one of them is A Blue Flame, the music project of British singer/songwriter Richard Stone, who’s just released a new three-track single “Blueprints for Time Machines“, the first of four releases that will comprise his upcoming album due out this summer.

A Blue Flame’s songs tell compelling stories about life, love, faith, loss and heartbreak through poetic, heartfelt lyrics and sublime melodies. The passage of time and the challenge of keeping the faith – both in God and yourself – are recurring themes in his songs. Musically, his songs feature an eclectic range of styles from doo-wop and old-school pop to easy listening ballads, folk and rock, delivered with his smooth, pleasing vocal style. I first featured him on this blog in October 2016, when I reviewed his beautiful album What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains. In January 2018, I reviewed his equally stellar follow-up album When Your Whole World Turns to Dust, which dropped in September 2017. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the “Related” links at the bottom of this page.)

A Blue Flame

Stone writes all his songs and plays guitar on all the tracks. He arranges them with assistance from Adam Ellis, who co-produces and also plays guitar.  Other session musicians add their skills to the mix as needed, including Damon Claridge on drums, Andy Robertson on bass and keyboards, and Tony Robinson on keyboards and horns. About these new singles, Stone explains: “Blueprints has the interesting concept that if you went back in time to improve what you’d done, you’d make the past better than the present you have already created through mistakes made in the past!

The exhilarating first track “Blueprints for Time Machines” is short, lasting barely over two minutes, but makes quite an impact with a thunderous mix of roiling riffs and hammering percussion, punctuated by staccato bursts of stabbing guitars and punchy drumbeats. Stone’s passionate vocals are commanding as he loudly proclaims “Blueprints for time machines. I need designs and plans and schemes. So I can make yesterday better than I made today.”

A Blue Flame keeps the energy flowing with “You Blink and it’s Gone”, an exuberant song with a wonderfully complex melody incorporating elements of rock’n’roll, Latin and pop music. The intricate layered guitars are fantastic, and I love the lively trumpet work and backing vocal harmonies. The lyrics speak to a relationship that’s lost the initial spark that drew them together in the beginning, and now looking back with sad resignation: “I wish that I’d known then what I know now. I would have held you high above the crowd. / Feels like forever, then you blink and it’s gone. You need to let go, but you’re still holding on. And you can’t even tell if you’ve lost or you’ve won. You blink and it’s gone.”

Things turn melancholy with the languid “Pull for the Shore”, a track that almost sounds like two songs melded together. It starts off slowly, with acoustic guitars and gentle snare drum, then a smooth organ riff enters as Stone sings in a rather sad tone: “You’re lost again. You feel like you’re running on the spot again. Reached inside and given all you’ve got again. You think you may be headed for the drop again. You’re down my friend.” Eventually, the pace of the music quickens and music builds as he urges self-preservation: “Hey ho, don’t take anymore. Pull for the Shore.” Two-thirds of the way through, the tempo abruptly transitions to a faster rock vibe, with heavier guitars, organ and drums. Stone repeats the affirming line “Hey ho, don’t take anymore”, ending the song on a positive note.

A Blue Flame continues to deliver music that’s meaningful, interesting and always a joy to hear. All three tracks are marvelous, and a great start to what will surely be another superb album.

Connect with A Blue Flame:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  cdbaby / iTunes