“Distant Sun” by Crowded House (1993)

The first Crowded House hits collection, Recurring Dream, contains a nice little essay in which the writer tries to explain why the New Zealanders’ songs had such a great emotional impact on listeners. I no longer have the essay nor do I have the CD, but the gist of it was that Neil Finn wrote songs that were perfectly captured sadness and reassurance. “Distant Sun” is a perfect example of this. Hell, the line “I don’t pretend to know what you want/But I offer love” is sad and reassuring in and of itself. “Distant Sun” is also an example of Crowded House at their most Beatle-esque. Makes me wonder why Neil Finn & Paul McCartney never wrote and recorded music together. It’s not too late!

NOT QUITE FIVE STARS…

“Distant Lover (Live)” by Marvin Gaye (1974):  1973′s studio version of “Distant Lover” is fine. It’s better than fine, actually. How could it not be? A slow jam from peak-era Marvin? It’s hard to improve on that.

Unless it’s the live version recorded at the Oakland Coliseum in early 1974 and released a few months later.

Marvin was a notoriously reticent live performer, especially after Tammi Terrell collapsed into his arms in 1968. However, this performance pulls out all of the dramatic stops. Marvin plays right into the hands of his audience, and that (presumably mostly female) audience eats Marvin’s coos, moans and cries up. At least it sounds like they do, judging from the screams that permeate this performance.

Given that Marvin was a student of Motown’s school of impeccable performers; everything about this version of “Distant Lover”: band, background vocalists, Marvin himself, is note-perfect. This, folks, is how you do a slow jam beg. Lawd ha’ mercy.

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