Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Phoebe Snow, "Poetry Man" (1975)

April 8, 1975, #5

I understand how telling it is that "Poetry Man" was a #1 hit on Billboard's easy listening (aka adult contemporary) chart before it ever crossed over and went to #5 on the big chart. But if this song is an example of bad taste I don't want to have good taste—I adored it even before I was an adult contemporary and I think it's easy listening without the judgment. If I am ever lucky enough to hear it on the radio it is a fine day. Those circumstances to date have seemed to be on the order of road trips or errands in rented cars, at strange times of day and night, on radio stations I will never hear again. It is one of the great wintertime hits, warm and wordy and gushing and tender. It's at least as enamored of the Beats as I ever could have been, swooning in its ladled-on visions of the literary art and its healing, redemptive powers. It's sweet as hell yet so much more than that yet always sweet again. The players are loose, freewheeling, and tentative, striking lovely notes, touching for and sliding around them, in concert with Snow's warbly delicate vocal style. It's from the best album she or nearly anyone else has ever made. It's meandering and sloppy yet never loses its way. The sadness is palpable even as it declares its joy, and by the time Zoot Sims uncorks his pure pro saxophone solo, riding a gentle stream of strings, the mood is rich with suggestion—about music, poetry, love, time, and stuff like that. "You're the poetry man," it says. "You make things all right."

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