IT’S A WOMAN’S WORLD.


Throughout my record collecting life I’ve always catalogued my albums by type, consequently I have by now about 6+ ft of vinyl catalogued as ‘Women Vocals’ plus I have a similar 6 ft of CD’s. of the same subject, in contrast my ‘Men Vocals’ is about 2 ft. I mention this only to indicate my obsession with this genre. So it seemed totally normal that I select a playlist from those: but that was easier said than done! It started with 40+, it became 20+, it painfully became a dozen plus; those last few edits were impossible! But of course it happened. So here’s eleven cuts from my list of favorite ‘women vocals’, sadly missing, so many of the rest of my favorites.

OK, the above is a portion of what I originally wrote about two weeks ago for a totally different playlist, and then I read Carole’s post and the comments, particularly Bish’s and Amy’s and they made me realize that what I’d produced was a very safe playlist, one that I think most of you would feel comfortable with, but it wasn’t what I had in mind originally so I scrapped it and went back to square one. Not that I wanted to create any discomfort but I’d wanted to introduce some potential unknowns that I love. So what I’ve created is a compromise of well knowns and less knowns and sadly there’s still dozens that should be on the list.
I want to make a special plea concerning number 11 on the playlist, I realize that it might be thought totally out of place but it’s something I’ve loved for many years and have always wanted to share it with the Spill audience and this seemed like a perfect opportunity; she’s from Corsica singing to her God in the Corsican language, alone in a chapel. I’ve never been able to find any info about her.
OK, you know what to do, have at it. Highs and Lows!


1. This House Is On Fire – Natalie Merchant
2. Turn Me On – Norah Jones
3. Uma Neguinha – Daude
4. Cold Blue Steel and sweet fire – Joni Mitchell
5. O Si Keka – Kaissa, World Reggae
6. The Hammond song – The Roches
7. Poetry Man – Phoebe Snow
8. Young Men – Busi Mlongo
9. One too many mornings – Joan Baez
10. Thirsty Boots – Judy Collins
11. Dio Vi salvi Regina – Jackie Micaelli

Album notes are in ‘comments’

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40 thoughts on “IT’S A WOMAN’S WORLD.

  1. Notes.
    This house, Natalie Merchant, Motherland, 2001 Elektra records.
    Norah Jones, Come away with me, Blue Note, 2002, top jazz artist of decade, billboard,
    Daude, album, Neguinha Te Amo which means ‘Little Black Girl, I Love You’. 2003, Daude is pronounced dar-oo-jee
    Joni, live concert with LA Express, Tom Scott, Miles of Aisles, dbl vinyl 1974, Universal Amphitheater LA
    Kaissa, Cameroon, now lives in NYC, World Reggae.
    The Roches, Three sisters, Maggie, Terre and Suzzy ‘The Roches’ 1979, Robt Fripp producer. The song’s a dialog between the sisters warning one about ‘that fella’.
    Phoebe Snow- 1975, 1st album, ‘Phoebe Snow’. Her career was disrupted by the birth of very retarded child.
    Busi Mlongo, South African, mixes contemporary western music with trad SA Zulu, died 2010, album ‘Babhemu’, Sterns music
    Joan Baez, ‘Mornings’, Any Day Now, 1968, double LP – about 18 Bob songs, it’s on spotty.
    Judy Collins, Thirsty Boots, by Eric Anderson, Fifth Album, 1965 on Elektra, “the song was written to a civil rights worker-friend. Having never gone down to Mississippi myself, I wrote the song about his coming back.”, it’s dedicated to Phil Ochs.

  2. I love the exotic instrumentation at the beginning of the first track, unfortunately the vocals don’t excite me. I think I’m almost opposite to you about the gender of vocalists in my music collection though, I’ve many more male vocalist and tend to be more critical of women. I am working on this though.

    Norah Jones does have a very pleasing voice, not quite my style, but I can see the appeal to other people.

    Now Daude interests me much more, I hadn’t heard of her before and I like this. I will investigate her further.

    I’m afraid Joni leave me cold, always has. Kaissa is better, this might sound strange, but the love the noises in the song, it’s quite fragmented, odd musical sounds here and there that I really like.

    Back to listen to the rest in a minute, I am enjoying the list so far, GoneForeign, thanks for posting it.

  3. I like the mix of cultural influences in the Busi song, it’s like sherbert to my ears, in a good way.
    I love Joan Baez and I adore this song, so the stand out winner for me, have to say I prefer the original though, she’s smoothed it a little.

    My son spent 2 years learning the harmonica, I still rarely appreciate the sound. Judy Collins has a great voice though, I haven’t listened to much by her, I should do something about that.

    The last track is wonderful. Such a powerful voice and such conviction. Very glad to have heard it. Where did you find it?

    The one to go (I’m assuming we’re still doing that?) would be the Roches.

  4. Oh gawd, I’m never gonna get a job at this rate… Too many distractions!

    Ooh, Natalie Merchant starts off all full of Eastern promise. Liking so far. I know what Beth means about the vocal though. Seems a bit strident to me – and I usually love Natalie. “In My Tribe” is one of my very favourite albums. I think I was hoping for something a bit more sinuous. But then, my benchmark for songs with this sort of instrumentation at the start is probably Kylie’s “Confide In Me”, so I’m perhaps not the best judge… Yeah, I’m a bit less excited by it now it’s slipped into a reggae-ish groove. But definitely interesting enough to stay.

    I’ve never really got Norah Jones, but the old-school backing on this track makes it for me. Reminds me a bit of Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me”. Probably shouldn’t. Yeah, this is rather lovely. Stay.

    Loving the instrumentation on the Daude track – and her voice is fabulous. Yeah, favourite so far. I’m now dancing. Sort of.

    Not a Joni Mitchell song I know (although that doesn’t exactly narrow things down). I dunno why but those swoopy things she does vocally don’t always work for me. Very distinctive and everything, but… What else? Interesting lyric. Yeah, I think this might be a grower. Keep.

    Yeah, I’m with Beth on Kaissa (too). Lovely sound(s). I’m sure I’m completely imagining it (no idea what the lyrics are about), but she sounds beautifully, movingly proud of something.

    The Roches: Hm, the vocals/vocal harmonies aren’t really doing it for me. Dunno why. I feel like I’m simply copying Beth, but this is the least interesting to me so far. I’m still enjoying it enough to listen through though.

    I’m going to stop reading Beth’s comments – I’m too easily influenced. Phoebe Snow doesn’t sound that dissimilar to Joni to me. Nice though. Keep.

    Busi Mlongo: I seem to have turned into a World Music fan. Don’t tell my parents; I’ll never live it down. All those teenage car journeys spent griping about having to listen to Ladysmith Black Mambazo… Not that we talk about World Music any more, do we? It’s a bit of a patronising blanket term. But I digress. This is my favourite so far. (Do I keep saying that?) I absolutely love it – making me feel quite emotional. I’ll even forgive it its length. The more the better.

    Joan Baez has one of those voices I occasionally find a little too pious-sounding. Something about its clarity. But that is quibbling – and this is gorgeous. Totally keep.

    Judy Collins: I only really know her take on “Both Sides Now”. What a voice. I’m sending her nowhere. Keep keep keep.

    Jackie Micaelli is a bit godly for me, but a very powerful voice. And it’s definitely spine-tingling stuff. Stay.

    So yeah, I’m gonna have to concur with Beth: it’s The Roches that go.

    Thanks for posting these, gf – a lovely, moving playlist. Now I really must get back to jobhunting…

    • Sorry for being one of the distractions, Bish.

      @ GF – really looking forward to listening, but my newly-self-assembled PC has its first problem: sound has stopped working and won’t reinstall or recognise any speaker output. Worse, neither iTunes or MediaPlayer will even start, as those programs are effectively shrugging their shoulders and saying “Whassapoint?” at me!! My tech-expert Man-Who-Can has been summoned, but isn’t available for a day or two to dig me out of my hole, sadly.

      However, I promise I’ll get to this list when I can, because I only know half the names, and don’t think I own any of the songs at all. (Natalie & Joni are the only possible suspects, but off the top of my head I don’t know the song titles.)

    • Just realised I’ve actually got Joan’s “Any Day Now” album on my iPod – filched from my mother’s CD collection. I really must start listening to the music I’ve accrued…

  5. Having troubles posting, so hope this isn’t a dupe.

    This list has made my morning GF, so thank you for that. My only quibble is Joni, Phoebe and Judy cover the same genre, and I’d have liked to have heard one or two other voices.

    Special thanks for Daude. I’ve gone shopping! [Love the homage to Walk on the Wild Side

    Good to see Natalie Merchant here. She’s underappreciated as a feminist songwriter.

    I don’t get the deification of Norah Jones, which is a heck of a thing to say about a media darling and multi-Grammy winner. What I always hear with her is a competent stylist more concerned with hitting her notes than baring the soul of the song. Here, for instance, does she convey that she is desperate for him to come home and turn her on? Not to me, she doesn’t.

  6. All too easy for me, as I love pretty well everything that Joan Baez has ever done, especially her Dylan covers, and remain completely baffled by the ongoing popularity of Norah Jones.

  7. The best part of this is getting your responses, I did anticipate that there might be an anti-Joni contingent, I’m well aware that she’s definitely an acquired taste and that she has a unique style, I fell for both about 50 years ago. Plus I love the backing she chose for this album, jazz fits her so well; I bought the DVD of this concert last week.
    The response to Norah amazes me, is there something that I’m missing or that you lot are missing? I think she’s fabulous. My lifelong passion for jazz influences this and the previous choice, she’s a great vocalist plus an excellent pianist and on top of that she sold 26 million copies of the album and it garnered 8 Grammy’s, she must be doing something right. If she is deified it might be based on that public response to her first album! I usually don’t consider statistics and wasn’t even aware of them ’til your comments drove me to Wiki, I’m at a loss to understand so many negatives..
    Roches, perhaps also an acquired taste, I love ‘em. I know they’re odd and unpolished but there’s a big something there, they’re unique.
    Jackie Micaelli, Some years ago I bought a double CD, an anthogy of sacred music, stuff from all over the world, she’s on it. She may indeed be a bit godly but I don;t understand a word she sings so I don’t think about that part. Neither Wiki or Google offer much about her.
    Last week I finally figured out how to link to a Spotty playlist, my iTunes files are on my Spotty so it would be simple to post a link here to some of the other artists who didn’t make the cut, I’ll try it.

    • Citing Grammy wins as a measure of quality is a double-edged sword. We ridicule the choices when we disagree and embrace them when a favourite wins.

      In Norah‘s case, a closer look reveals that most of hers are in ‘lite’ categories – pop, and novelty duets – not jazz.

      You can win a Grammy here or a Grammy there by being the ‘flavour of the year’, but to have 9, as Norah does, is hard to ignore. That categories she’s won in, however, give added credence to the notion that she is very, very good and very popular, but a bit lightweight.

    • I don’t have anything against Norah Jones. She does what she does very well. I certainly wouldn’t turn her off if she came on the radio (or a playlist). There’s just not quite enough grit in her music for my taste. It’s very smooth, tasteful even, but I need more (or more obvious!) passion or pain to really pique my listening interest.

      I guess what I am probably missing is your lifelong passion for jazz, gf. If I were coming from such a background with such an ear, I might hear a little more to excite me in her music. As it is, I just find it kind of pleasant.

      I actually imagine that one day she will produce a song that blows me away. I felt equally unfussed about Sade, in some ways the mid-80s equivalent of Norah Jones (at least in terms of record-company marketing), until she released “By Your Side”, which I think is an absolutely phenomenal record. One day I may ‘get’ Norah in the same way… I’ll let you know!

  8. I am having serious problems with this playlist, because it is just so good. There aren’t actually any tracks I don’t like and some that I really, really love. The Jackie Micaelli one is amazing, the cadences of the song are like something from the Middle Ages, wonderful stuff, and the Corsican language also sounds pretty medieval. That is the one that is my favourite.

    If I have to expel someone from the playlist, it will have to be Phoebe Snow. Nothing against her, but she just seems a little bit underpowerd in this exalted company.

    I detect some Fripp plank-spanking in The Roches offering too, which is always a Good Thing.

    Overall though, solid gold stuff from all concerned, but bye-bye Phoebe, I’m sorry.

  9. Carole, I’m glad that Jackie hit the spot, as you can see I wasn’t sure if she’d fit so I’m glad she did, I love that cut. I was amazed to discover it on youtube recently. Like you I also had difficulty losing any of them, they’re all favorites.
    The Spill playlist isn’t as easy as I had thought, I can get it to open from my computer but the link isn’t active when I post it into ‘comments’. I did a test post to check it but so far no success.

  10. That was a lovely list, GF. Many faves in there, and some good newtomes too.

    Natalie stays, although that’s not one of her best for me. Some of her songs i love, and sometimes she’s a bit too earnest for me. That one was different.

    I actually get Norah Jones, she stays too. What i like best about her songs is the production, lot of space in there.

    Daude was nice, but a bit forgettable. Given the quality of many other songs, that might have been a contender for jettison, but it gets to stay.

    I’m an unabashed Joni fan. That definitely stays, but is beaten out for the one keeper.

    The Keissa was newtome and i loved it.

    I like the Roches ok, but this one might have been a contender for the scrap heap, didn’t do much for me.

    I knew the Phoebe Snow, it may be the only song i know by her though. Keep.

    Blusi Mongo i liked, but not well enough to look for more.

    Love Joan Baez. Stay.

    Judy Collins is the one i’d keep here if i have to choose, that was just gorgeous.

    And sorry, GF, but the Jackie Micaelli is going to have to go.

    Thanks GF!

  11. 1) Excellent – you know, I have never knowingly listened to Natalie Merchant before. Must’ve done so unknowingly I suppose. She sounded almost Nina Simone-ish here.

    2) Loved this too and I have only heard that “Don’t Know Why” song before.

    3) Ooh er – She’s singing in foreign! Lovely laid back feel to this and her voice is sublime. A definite keeper if ever there was one.

    4) I love a lot of Joni’s music. Especially the Blue album. Overdosed on it when I was in my late teens. Lost touch after selling my copy of Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter about two weeks after buying it. Took me a while to come back to her and then only sporadically. Anyway, I do have the Miles of Aisles album – bought a vinyl copy just before vinyl went out of fashion (and long before it came back again) and I play some tracks now and then but this one I quite like – no more.

    5) This is gorgeous. I could listen to this kind of thing all night. Great music great singing. Best so far.

    6) I think the Roches are on my Disney Songs CD doing a version of “Drip Drip Drip Little April Showers” along with Michael Stipe and N Merchant . This is the extent of my knowledge of them. This track didn’t make me want to investigate further. It was ok. I will admit I started to enjoy it more as it went on. Then it jolly well stopped and so did I.

    7) Now I know of her repute which in the seventies was v high indeed. Can’t see it to be honest. Voice is good but the song wasn’t really going anywhere for me.

    8) Bliss. You really don’t need to speak her language do you? Emotional and uplifting.

    9) Love the song but Joan Baez rarely engages me on any emotional level and she didn’t here. A better human being than Bob in many ways but that’s not what makes for the best music.

    10) I like her voice more than Joan’s but she still sounds a bit worthy to my ears. I liked it when the harmonica kicked in.

    11) Quite stupendous. Passion and vocal dexterity combining in a lovely way. I’m an atheist but I know real emotion when I hear it. Oh this one’s staying all right.

    I think, on balance, I would jettison Joan Baez.

  12. Schedule to date -

    Sept 25 – DsD

    Oct 2 – Bish

    Oct 9 – Ali

    Oct 16 – Fintan

    DsD – You’re up for next week, can you fit in the time? If not, now’s the time to look for a replacement. I’m here for you if you want help, you just can’t leave it until the day before. You have my email. Same for Ali and Fintan. Taking signups for after Oct 15.

    • Actually, Amy, if there is time to nominate a sub for next week, I think I’d better defer. Antivirus on my laptop still banning The Spill, and there’s obviously an issue with my self-built PC: it “lost” the soundcard yesterday, and now the keyboard’s packed up. If I don’t get it fixed tomorrow, I’ll be hamstrung until into next week.
      Sorry.
      Let me know asap. If I still have to make it work, I’ll have to write and email you a selection over the weekend, for you to post. That would be Preferred Option B; P.O. A is someone else steps in for me on the 25th.

      • Could someone remind me of the principle of selection – is this supposed to be a random selection of songs that we think everyone else will like, or – perhaps more appropriate in my case – a selection of songs that we like but have no idea how everyone else will respond?

      • I was about to suggest that I *may* be able to step in, but it’s just occurred to me that I’m away at a conference in Germany from Tuesday to Friday, so wouldn’t be able to participate. Perhaps put me down for a more distant slot.

      • It’s generally pick 11 songs of your choice, and we vote one out for a playlist of 10. Otherwise anything goes – it’s not so easy to choose an open ended playlist! Probably best to pick songs that you like though, not what you’d think everyone else would like. Sign up for any week that you want and have the time for.

      • Or I could do next week (or bishbosh’s week) – I was thinking I’d be too busy, but I’m just sitting here and I’ve made a playlist in ten minutes.

  13. Lovely stuff, gf! I’m another non-fan of Norah Jones, and I’ve never liked Judy Collins either for some reason – so looking at the list I thought it would be easy to pick the one to go…but contrary to my expectations it’s going to be Joan Baez for making such a beautiful song into a boring, lifeless smudge. (Love you usually, though, Joan.)

    And my top tune is the Busi Mlongo. Wonderful!

  14. Quite a nice list GF . Would have kept Phoebe as my keeper ( love that) but here’s me being turned by a new face. The Daube cut was enthralling & has been duly added to music worth pursuing list. (on hold till after my Daughter’s wedding). Loved everything about it. For all the reasons listed by previous detractors & the fact it struck me as lifeless the Joan Baez gets the boot.

  15. 1. Natalie Merchant. Like the vibe and the voice. Keep.
    2. Norah Jones. Maybe her voice needs a little more power to be completely convincing but she has the good taste not to be tempted into wailing. Keep.
    3. Daude. I’ll trust that her humour-inflected vocalisations are appropriate to the lyrics and simply enjoy them. Keep.
    4. Joni Mitchell. I’ve always struggled with the octave-leap and vibrato things she does, despite fully accepting what a good singer-songwriter she is. Love the soprano sax, though. We’ll see…..
    5. Kaissa. Nice sound to the backing and her voice, yet perhaps not that special. Keep though; I loved noodling along to it.
    6. The Roches. Sounds rather like a girls’ school choir blessed/cursed with a trendy music teacher. Not keen at all.
    7. Phoebe Snow. A Joni fan? She doesn’t improve on the original and the music gets a bit messy. Another one hanging around the door.
    8. Busi Mlongo. Love the rhythm. Like the voice. Goes on a bit but can stay in the room.
    9. Joan Baez. Her voice is too ‘good’ for many of the songs she sings, like a trained soprano singing Froggy Went A Courting on Radio 3. I wish she’d done more recording in the early hours when off her face on drink and drugs.
    10. Judy Collins. Almost Joan. But the voice matches the song and, as it’s a good voice, it can stay. I need to get my finger out of my ear now though.
    11. Jackie Micaelli. This is something very special. If it is a religious song, I’m glad I can’t understand the words. All I can hear is suffering and magnificent forbearance; if she’s thanking some imaginary power for delivering her from that suffering, I’ll be really pissed off. With that caveat, I’ll vote for Jackie Micaelli being Queen Bee.

    The Roches have to go. I like a lot of female voices – unless they go all X-factor power-ballady – so I’m slightly surprised not have been more positive.

  16. The last one had more passion than all the rest put together. Would be good to know what she’s singing. Winner.

    Loved the instrumentation on the Merchant track. Initially, the vocal wasn’t working for me – seemed like it belonged to a different song. She worked it out a bit further into it though. Keeper.

    Norah’s clearly very accomplished, but no emotional connection whatsoever for me. She can stay.

    The Roches are really Jeckle & Hyde. Sometimes beautiful; sometimes hideous. Like them restrained with Phillip Glass &/or Kronus Quartet. Have their Christmas album which (unfortunately) has both flavours. This one was somewhere inbetween & probably needs to go.

    The rest were all perfectly pleasant, but didn’t manage to hook me in either

  17. What an interesting bunch you all are, I’m constantly aware of your musical acumen both here and at RR. I’m surprised and intrigued by many of the comments, they do indeed show the diversity and perception of our tight little group. As Beth said, ‘we are all different, after all.’
    I mentioned earlier my not being aware of any statistics re. Norah Jones, I think I must have heard her on the radio, been impressed, and gone out and bought the CD; I loved it and have played it often. I’ve long thought that she’s up there in the top echelons or wherever gods and goddesses lurk so it definitely came as something of a shock to discover that my feelings were not universally shared. Damn! even my wife said she’d vote her off! Though she did say it was because she’d heard that song so often, so when I asked ‘well if it was Billie or Nina, would the same rules apply’: then she started hedging.
    I’ll tell you one more thing that intrigues about the Norah Jones question, we’re a fairly sophisticated and educated group, we might dismiss and ridicule multi million album sales by groups and singers catering to children and adolescents, but Norah’s 25+ million were worldwide sales and were definitely not driven by teenage buyers, this was adult music, bought by adults. So what’s the difference between us and them?
    Another surprise was Joan Baez for a variety of reasons. I bought this one also when it first came out and back then there was a flurry of hostility and criticism that slightly bothered me, I loved Bob and Joan so how could this marriage made in heaven go wrong. I ignored the dissenters and enjoyed the album for the next 40 odd years, and then tfd reignited those memories. And she is right from her side and I am right from mine. She also surprised me re. Norah and Judy.
    Severin’s comment made me realize that Motherland was the first thing I’d ever heard with Natalie Merchant, same story, I probably heard it on radio, bought it. Grew to love it and her voice and particularly the backing arrangements which is often a major influence in my musical favorites. It’s what Amylee said about Norah, ‘the production, lots of space in there.’
    Slightly sad that the Roches didn’t click as I’d hoped but they are an odd group so maybe it’s as well that it’s just the few us, our little cult group of appreciation.
    Daude; I’ve wondered if the ‘colored girls’ references to ‘Wild-side’ are also related to the title of the album, ‘Little black girl, I love you’?
    Another thing I enjoy here is having the ability to find almost anything instantly on Spotify, so when Bish recommends a cut by Kylie or Bill Withers or Sade I can be listening to it as I read his comments., and I did.
    Thank you Chris, you always seem to put your finger on it and to say all the right things, and Shoey, I always appreciate your comments, hell, I appreciate ALL your comments.
    It’s been fun to participate in this and I want to thank all who’ve contributed their opinions, it’s been interesting and very revealing how tastes and attitudes differ. If the opportunity ever comes again there’s a totally different playlist I’d like to try.

  18. Wasn’t around to listen last week – so glad the tunes are still online.

    Predictably, I loved this list. I don’t really want to ditch anything – if I had to, it might be Phoebe Snow for being a little less interesting than others, but that would be harsh. Particularly enjoyed the foreign language ones, and you can’t go wrong with Joni, Joan and Judy.

    Jackie Micaelli was the one that made me stop what I was doing, close my eyes and listen (luckily, I’m at my desk, not driving). Wow. (Corsican sounds very like Latin though…?)

    I must seek out more of Natalie Merchant’s solo stuff. I was listening to 10,000 Maniacs on YouTube the other day, and the songs they did after she left the band – with a new, perfectly competent singer who sounds a bit like her – attracts a surprising degree of venom. I guess a voice like that inspires strong feelings in even mild-mannered Maniac fans.

    The only track by the Roches that I know is the Winter Coat one that I posted as an Earworm a few months back. I thought this was intriguing, and I’d like to hear more.

    I like Norah Jones, though I’m not blown away by this. GF, you ask: Norah’s 25+ million were worldwide sales and were definitely not driven by teenage buyers, this was adult music, bought by adults. So what’s the difference between us and them? I think the perception is that the people who bought her album were mostly people who only buy one CD a year, from Tesco’s. That’s obviously an unfair generalisation, and absolutely no reflection on her as a musician – but it does colour opinions. It’s also inoffensive – which, ironically, offends lots of people.

    (If I had to choose one of Ravi Shankar’s daughters, I’d go for Anoushka.)

    Anyway, great stuff – thank you.

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