Review: Ballads and Love Songs

Warning: I’ve no doubt that certain folks will find these songs “corny”, and for that matter maybe this entire post as well. That said, if you’re not into this type of music, better stop reading now. But bear in mind, always explore every musical genre you can find. Otherwise, you’re likely missing out on some wonderful stuff you’ve never heard before, and your loss will be a shame.

As a reminder, if you subscribe to this blog via email, you may need to read posts which contain video content using your web browser. In this case that’s especially important, as you’ll want be able to listen to the music being described. A direct URL is included at the bottom of every new post notification you receive, so you can load it into your browser with a single click.


Perhaps it’s a matter of realizing I have far less years in front of me than behind, then again maybe it’s not… People close to me know I’m an old softie at heart to begin with anyway. A lot of these songs had a huge impact on me in my younger days as well, especially after meeting the love of my life, Grace in 1975.

Unfortunately, shortly afterwards she traveled among family around the US for what wound up being several years. Although we kept in touch via snail mail during all that time, I still feared I’d likely never see her again.

I was the happiest man on Earth when she returned to me in 1978, when we completely melded as one and married shortly afterwards. We’ve been together ever since, for over 40 years now.

These ballads are some of my personal favorites, and really tug at my heartstrings. They’re all magical in their own, unique way. Many of the artists have recorded far more famous love songs that I also enjoy, but they’re so overplayed I’ve avoided them in this post to keep things more interesting.

Lyrics to ballads and other love songs are so very important, often more than the music itself.

That said, I’ve also tried to present the most well-done lyric videos I could find, as singers are often misheard.

Hope you enjoy, perhaps find something completely new to you that you’ll like, and maybe even learn a thing or two about the artists involved in the process.

On to my list, ordered by artist name

“Amanda”

Boston; “Third Stage”; 1986

A ballad about a man who is apprehensive about confessing his love, because he fears doing so will actually drive the one he cares for away. The lyrics near the end of the song are especially soul stirring:

“You and I
I know that we can’t wait
And I swear, I swear it’s not a lie girl
Tomorrow may be too late
You, you and I girl
We can share a life together
It’s now or never
And tomorrow may be too late”

Of course, the voice of Brad Delp adds to that feeling of longing so perfectly. As with every Boston album recorded when he was with the band, he performs all lead and backing vocals, which blend together beautifully.

While simple, the short but soaring lead guitar solo by Tom Scholz also adds tremendous depth to this song. Sometimes less is indeed more.


“Thunder Road”

Bruce Springsteen; “Born to Run”; 1975

This is definitely my #1, for so many reasons.

It’s Springsteen in his prime, and the opening song of the album which is no doubt his finest work. In my opinion, he really went commercial and downhill in a hurry after releasing his next album, “Darkness on the Edge of Town” (also excellent), way back in 1978. It’s really a shame considering how great his early work is, and after that I completely lost interest.

Not only a ballad, this song is also an inspirational anthem about escaping the doldrums of Jersey. Since that’s where I grew up, I connected with it immediately. Finally, in 1979, Grace and I did just that, for good.

There are no choruses, there are no verses. It’s just one, continuous inspiring story, conveyed via pure poetry.


“Because You Loved Me”

Céline Dion; “Falling Into You”; 1996

After a career that I took great pride in for some 32 years with one of the largest companies in the US, out of the blue I was forced into retirement after becoming afflicted with a serious health problem, one that I’m still dealing with to this very day.

I felt I had totally lost my reason for existence, hitting rock bottom depths I never even dreamed existed, and despised myself for it. Literally, it nearly killed me.

Addressing it was a seemingly endless process… So many MD’s and specialists, as well as enduring agonizing hospital treatments, all over the course of three years. If it wasn’t for Grace never leaving my side through all of that for even an instant, I know wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post right now.

This song sums that up, better than I ever could. To be honest, most times I can’t bear to listen to it because those memories touch me so very deeply, and I’m not at all ashamed to say it gets the tears flowing. She truly was and remains my strength, and the love of my life.


“Blue Eyes”

Elmo Karjalainen; “Age of Heroes”; 2016

Elmo is someone I’m very proud to know personally, from the beautiful country of Finland. Make no mistake, this guy is certainly among the best guitarists in Europe. He was once even invited by Steve Vai for an on-stage jam. If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is.

His solo albums are completely instrumentals, but sometimes there’s no words required for love songs. This is truly one of those times.

Elmo’s primarily a shredder, whose hero is Yngwie Malmsteen. But, there’s a much deeper side to him which emerges from time to time, and one that I adore listening to.

He wrote “Blue Eyes” for his wife Sanna. What immediately grabbed me the first time I heard it were the fantastic bridges. The first in this video is at around 01:05 in, and others follow which increase in strength and intensity as the song develops and moves along. The final one at 04:30 leading into the song’s closing nearly rips the heart out of my chest… Such amazing emotion, without a single word required.


“Songbird”

Fleetwood Mac (Christine McVie); “Rumours”; 1977

Written and performed by Christine McVie, this is easily my favorite “Fleetwood Mac” tune. The reason I quote the band’s name is, this song really has nothing to do with them, other than closing side 1 of the album. She performs it solo on the studio version, and also during live appearances.

I don’t often prefer live performances over studio versions of any song, but this case is definitely an exception. Watching her sing and play it adds so much more feeling to this piece.

Personally, I think Christine is the most talented member of the band, with Lindsey Buckingham coming in a very close 2nd. Unlike Stevie Nicks (who sings like she’s got an entire box of Kleenex stuck up her nose), McVie has the voice of an angel, and is a very accomplished keyboardist to boot.

Trivia time: I’ve read this song came to her at 3 o’clock in the morning, when she composed it in its entirety in only a half hour.

Beside the fact it’s simply beautiful, it holds a very special significance for me. It was played at my daughter Nicole’s wedding reception for the father/daughter dance, and you can take a wild guess who selected it.


“Not A Dry Eye In The House”

Meat Loaf; “Welcome To The Neighborhood”; 1995

Of course, Meat Loaf is primarily known for his power ballads, the most famous of which probably being “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” from his masterpiece, “Bat Out Of Hell”. While that’s a great song, once again it’s one that’s been overplayed to death, which completely ruined the experience for me after a while.

Still, the amount of play it did receive just goes to show what a talented singer Meat is (or maybe I should say “was”, as the years have not been kind to his voice). Still, he belts out every one of his songs from the very depths of his being.

Written by Diane Warren, this is an especially interesting theme, paralleling a love affair with watching a film being shown in a movie theater. Most certainly, a very unique take on the subject of love.


“Love Of My Life”

Queen; “A Night At The Opera”; 1975

I’ve always loved Queen, and the recent movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” completely blew me away. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you do, even if you’re not a big fan of the band. I’ll wager that you’ll walk away as one afterwards.

I must have watched it a dozen times now, and this particular song has been stuck in my head ever since, although I had really never given it a close listen before. That’s curious for me as far as this legendary act is concerned, as I’d always preferred their rowdier stuff such as “Stone Cold Crazy” and “Tie Your Mother Down”.

However, hearing a crowd made up of tens of thousands singing every word in complete unison made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

This was the magic of Freddie Mercury, the heart of the band and a man of seemingly endless talent… Songwriter, singer, pianist, and one of the ultimate showmen in Rock history. There was something almost mystical about his ability to engage a crowd, and get them completely involved in Queen’s music.

The studio version above is perhaps his finest performance on piano, in addition to showcasing his incredible vocal range.

How does one person come up with a song which invokes such emotion, to so very many? You don’t, unless your name happens to be Freddie Mercury.

Love of My Life – Live at Wembley Stadium – 1986:


“Entre Nous”

Rush; “Permanent Waves”; 1980

Unless you’re a huge fan of Rush like myself, I guarantee you’ve never even heard of this track. If that’s the case, you’ll definitely want to give it a start-to-finish listen, as it deserves nothing less. It’s a bit of a rarity, as they don’t write very many tunes which anyone would consider love songs.

The title is in French, and translates to “Between Us”. Leave it to their drummer and primary lyricist Neil Peart, it’s quite the nice touch considering the theme of the tune.

It’s an abstract love song, yet at the same time maintains complete clarity. The lyrics make analogies to love, in some very interesting ways. It’s hard to describe in writing, but when you hear those words for yourself, they’ll instantly click in your mind.


“I Remember You”

Skid Row; Debut album; 1989

Remember some of the first flames in your days of youth? This song will have those feelings rushing right back to you.

Although there were other excellent musicians in this band, the highlight for me has always been vocalist Sebastian Bach, with a range comparable to just about any singer I’ve mentioned so far.

Bach was originally spotted singing at Rock photographer Mark Weiss’s wedding by Jon Bon Jovi’s parents, who suggested that he try out for a friend’s band. After an audition in 1987, he was immediately invited to join that band, called Skid Row.

Their debut album, which includes this song, was certified five times platinum in the US alone.

Disagreements about the band’s musical direction led to Bach being fired in 1996. There have been uncountable requests by their fans for a reunion, but sadly the member’s negative feelings about each other still run deep. I can only conclude it’s just never going to happen. But, as my good friend, brother, and ex-band mate Ange always notes, “Never say never”.

In a post about love songs, it’s ironic having to note that holding such hatred in your heart throughout your lifetime is never a good thing. They simply need to let it go, and get back to producing this great music.


“It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference”

Todd Rundgren; “Something/Anything?”; 1972

A close friend of mine first introduced me to this song, because he knew I liked ballads. Sure enough, it immediately laid its hooks into me, along with a lot of other music by Todd. It contemplates the thought that sometimes, sadly even love itself isn’t enough to hold two people together.

The vast majority of this double album was recorded in Rundgren’s home studio, with him playing all instruments and performing all vocals, as well as producing. The finished product is excellent, from start to finish. It also contains some of his most famous songs, such as “I Saw The Light”, and “Hello, It’s Me”.

Trivia time: Todd wailed away on lead guitar on most of the aforementioned and iconic Meat Loaf album, “Bat Out Of Hell”, most notably the “motorcycle” guitar solo on the title track. He was also the producer of that album, which went on to sell an estimated 43 million copies worldwide.


“If I’d Been The One”

.38 Special; “Tour de Force”; 1983

.38 Special is a band with a strong Southern Rock influence, who later migrated to a more “Arena Rock” style of music. It was originally formed in 1975 by several Lynyrd Skynyrd related-artists such as Donnie Van Zant, the younger brother of the late Ronnie, who along with most of the key members of Skynyrd met a tragic end in a plane crash.

Although the height of their fame was short-lived, in their prime they produced many mega-hits such as this one, along with “Rockin’ into the Night”“Hold On Loosely”, and “Caught Up in You”.

This specific song is about something that probably everyone can relate to, that being dumped by someone they continue to love. As the lyrics reflect, that sort of pain never completely leaves your heart.

It never became very popular, but Donnie also wrote a song called “Take Me Back” as a tribute to Ronnie, which appeared on the band’s second album, “Special Delivery” in 1978.

Trivia time: The group’s name was thought up after an incident which occurred while they were rehearsing in a warehouse. When police arrived after noise complaints, the band members were unable to open the door they were banging on, because of a padlock placed on it to prevent stolen equipment. One of the cops yelled, “That’s all right. We’ll let this .38 special do the talking”, and shot off the lock.

Wow, and I thought I made a lot of noise.


When it comes to ballads and love songs, which ones really trip your trigger? I’d really love (pardon the pun) to see your comments about that below.

As always, thanks for reading!

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