Song of the Week – These Days, Nico, Gregg Allman, Ian Matthews, Mates of State

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

One of my favorite artists in the singer-songwriter genre is Jackson Browne. I know, in these times when women are fighting to save themselves from sexual assaulters, coming out to pay tribute to Browne might not be politically correct. (He was accused of domestic violence against his then-girlfriend Daryl Hannah, since retracted – but the damage has been done.) I’m focused on the quality of his songs, not his personal life. Besides, he has been a solid citizen throughout his life, fighting for the environment and many other political causes that are important to him (and me).

Early in his career, his songs were recognized as gems by many prominent artists that recorded his songs long before he did. The list includes Tom Rush, Joan Baez, The Byrds, Eagles and Linda Ronstadt.

Today’s SotW is another installment of the “evolution” series, “These Days,” that is such a wonderful composition that it has been captured in outstanding performances by many artists.

Browne wrote “These Days” when he was about 16 years old. The first recording was done by Nico of the Velvet Underground on her solo album, Chelsea Girl (1967). Browne, who was at the time linked romantically with her, played electric guitar on the track.

Another outstanding version was laid down by Gregg Allman on his first solo album, Laid Back (1973). Browne himself said of Allman’s arrangement “that he really unlocked a power in that song that I sort of then emulated in my version.”

Allman learned the song when the pre-Allman Brothers band The Hour Glass was plying their trade in LA. His bluesy voice wrings out every drop of emotion that the song’s lyrics of sadness and regret have to offer.

Another fine version was recorded about the same time by Ian Matthews on his 1973 release Valley Hi – an album that Rolling Stone called “a sensuous delight.”

Matthews’ take has a little more of a pop feel, but still retains the song’s disconsolate sentiment.

A more modern approach was recorded by Mates of State. I prefer the live-in-studio track they cut for Daytrotter in 2006, but it’s not available on YouTube. So here’s the officially released version that was on the soundtrack to the film Wicker Park.

Mates of State are a husband and wife duo from CT via CA via KS. The simplicity of their keyboard, percussion and harmony version is charming.

Browne finally recorded his own version on his second album, For Everyman (1973). What else can I say about “These Days” other than it ends with one of the most poignant lines EVAH!

Don’t confront me with my failures / I had not forgotten them

The self reflective tone of the lyrics of “These Days” seems especially relevant as we near the year end.

Enjoy… until next week.