A very personal list of acts that I like, that promote vocal harmony, pop riffs and lyrical quality.
as always... your mileage may vary (remember, I'm a middle aged white guy so obviously I'm biased by simply being who I am despite my best attempts otherwise)
1) Wings of a Nightingale - written by Paul McCartney vocals by The Everly Brothers.
Man their voices soar and McCartney knew exactly who this song was for. This bad boy was lovingly produced and the acoustic guitar was meant to be the instrument of choice when these guys sing together. This song has a spiritual significance for me and makes me cry whenever I sing along to it. It is, simpy put, beautiful to listen to.
Other faves from this artist
Walk Right Back, When Will I Be Loved, Crying In The Rain, Claudette, Problems
Bird Dog, Wake Up Little Suzie
2) Someday, Someway - Marshall Crenshaw, from the album with the same title.
It just has the bouncy certain something, doesn't it? It's not altogether memorable yet it's definately unforgettable. It's the ultimate song that everyone knows and says, "Oh yeah! I like this song!". This is like the character actor that you can never remember his name, but you've seen him in just about every fifth movie that you have in your DVD collection.
Other great tunes from Marshall - Mary Jean, There and Back Again, Cynical Girl, Whenever You're On My Mind
3) Go All The Way - The Raspberries (1st Album, The Raspberries)
Sung from the "girl's" POV, those harmonies simply can't be beat and Wally Bryson is obviously a guitar deity. In fact, all of the guys work so well as a team it is downright scary. I can't find a flaw in the song and it still stands the test of time after all of these years.
Also note: I'm A Rocker, Hard To get Over A heartbreak, Drivin Around, I Wanna Be With You, Starting Over, Overnight Sensation
4) Cruel To be Kind - Nick Lowe (album - labour of lust)
There is so much of this mans music that speaks to me. He understands what it means to be a man, the lusts, longing, stupidity and heartbreak of it all. The guy can write a lyric and can vocalize on his own quite effectively tyvm. This effort from his Rockpile days was still a total kick in the head because there was nothing like this being played on the radio at the time.
Other Notable Nick Knacks - Love So Fine, Wishing Well, Endless Grey Ribbon, Maureen, Half A Boy and Half A Man, Stick It Where The Sun Don't Shine
5) Another Nail In My Heart - Squeeze (album - argybargy)
Most folks pine for Pulling Mussels, but that one didn't get me like this one did. I had a hard time choosing between this one and my other favorite, Messed Around. Some folks like their singles, which are pretty good, but I tended to like the stuff that was just outside of true Poppiness.
See: Messed Around, Labelled With Love, Goodbye Girl, Hourglass, Tempted
6) Girl of My Dreams - Bram Tchaikovsky (album - Braim Tchaikovsky)
Whenever you hear that opening rift, you say....yeah, who did THAT song? It was an early 80's college radio classic and well, the voices, the guitars it just drops me into that reverie that brings a smile to my face.
Bonus stuff: Letter From The USA, Strange Man, Changed Man
7) Starry Eyes - The Records
This was their best, they did other good stuff, but nothing compares to this. I gotta guess it's on 15% of all mix tapes made between 1979 and 1983.
8) Laugh Laugh - The Beau Brummels
We have to give a shout out to the origins of the genre. The blend of the voices and iconic music refrain make it wonderous. Plus any band that got a nod from the Flintstones, well you just gotta have 'em on the list somewhere.
Groundbreaking stuff: Just A Little, Don't Talk To Strangers
9) Inside Out - The Mighty Lemon Drops
This one just gets me. Sorry I can't write more about it, it's simple, clean and heartfelt.
10) She Goes Out With Everybody - The Spongetones
Happened across this bad boy when I cadged a copy of Poptopia 80's edition. Never regretted dropping that dime.
11) Going Down To Liverpool - The Bangles
yeah, so they were popular, but they weren't popular for this one. On this one, Ms. Peterson had the lead chops and she's good. Not to say that Ms. Hoffs couldn't sing, but the band sounds pretty tight backing her on this song.
12) Midnight To Six Man - The Inmates
Do you know these guys? Maybe the Dirty Water remake, maybe from The Walk? or parhaps I Thought I Heard a Heartbeat? Do yourself a favor, if you dig guys who have solid full R&B voices (Blue Eyed Soul perhaps) and a straight ahead tap your toes, bang your hand on the steering wheel stuff, find this band.
13) The Kind of Girl I Could Love - The Monkees
Cheesy, but then again, I'm not picking the normal singles here. I'm talking straight ahead, knock your socks off teenage yearning from the 60's, okay? Entitrely different stuff. I really liked most of the Nesmith compositions and it seems like the band enjoyed playing them too.
14) Ups and Downs - Paul Revere and The Raiders
this one was also difficult (and you'd think this far in, that I'd be making some headway on not having so many tough choices) but ultimately this is one of the best "I'm gonna tough it out and move on" songs that provides a blueprint for every young man, who has just had his heart stepped on, to be able to pick himself up and move on.
15) Day After Day - Badfinger
How can a song this good be this far down the list? Well maybe I screwed up, maybe it's simply a list and not a ranking, maybe I shouldn't quit my day job. I know this much, Pete Ham died way too freaking early and it angers me to this day that these guys never got the money that they deserved and that greed took them from us before they had a chance to write more incredible music
Please see: Baby Blue, No Matter What, We're For The Dark, Denis, Watford John
16) Monster of Love - Sparks
I have to admit, I rarely heard this on the radio, but it stayed with me in that seminal scene from Valley Girl, because love and most often lust, can strike at a moments notice.
17) I Got Loaded - Los Lobos
This band makes some of the best music, check out this one and others from them and decide for yourself.
Also listen to: Let's Say Goodnight and Go Home, Rosalee, Be Still
18) Tomorrow Night - Shoes
My favorite least known band of all time. Maybe if they had been on the scene three years earlier, who knows. Good lyrics, good music, and the band sounds clean and yet.... they made records and no one bought them, or at least no one else I knew did.
Other gems: She's Fatal, You're Imagination, Susan
19) It's Getting Harder All the Time - The Mindbenders
You remember that second song done by the band in the movie "To Sir With Love"? yeah that one, the one that actually sounded like it should be a seminal hit 60's song but never was, yeah that one that has Mr. Poitier dancing with Ms. Geeson? Well I found it and remembered it for you here. No need to thank me.
20) Too Bad - Doug and The Slugs
Anyone who can name an album Cognac and Balogna is alright by me.
For those that didn't make my list, it doesn't mean that I love you any less, so apologies to The Buckinghams, Gary Pucket and The Union Gap, The Romantics, The Smithereens, Holly and The Italians et al