Though raised on a steady diet of classic rock and hair metal, Red Rocker still has a kinder, gentler side. From those sappy ballads used on mix tapes (‘member those?) for college girlfriends to some more recent stuff that still gets me all warm and fuzzy, I submit the 15 prettiest songs I know. The one caveat is that I chose to remain in the rock genre. Otherwise, this could’ve easily been a four-disc box set!
“Friend of the Devil,” Lyle Lovett (Deadicated -- A Tribute to the Grateful Dead)
Never been a huge fan of Lyle Lovett, but his take on the Dead classic is stunning. Made me want to buy a used six-string for $50 and learn at least four chords.
“The Ghost in You,” Psychedelic Furs (Mirror Moves)
Richard Butler’s voice used to be all you needed to woo a girl in college. That, and money. And looks. And a fraternity lavaliere never hurt.
“Valentine’s Day,” Bruce Springsteen (Tunnel of Love)
It’s a little-known gem from a largely under-appreciated album. Tunnel of Love has its share of “pretty” songs (“When You’re Alone” also deserves to be heard), but this one is gold!
“Hallelujah,” Rufus Wainwright (Shrek- Original Soundtrack)
Leonard Cohen wrote it and everyone from Tom Waits to Willie Nelson have made it their own. Wainwright’s version literally sends chills every time I hear it.
“No Blue Sky,” the Thorns (The Thorns)
Three-part harmonies the likes we haven’t heard since CS&N. Is it really too much to ask that these guys finish a sophomore album?!
“Mirror Song,” Live (Mental Jewelry)
“For the flower in the corner by the room in the window and the sun said it all.” Nobody ever said the prettiest songs had to be logical.
“Unknown Legend,” Neil Young (Harvest Moon)
Even the Godfather of Grunge knows how to unplug, slow down, and chill out. Finalist for best NY lyric: “I used to order just to watch her float across the floor.”
“Kid Fears,” Indigo Girls (Indigo Girls)
Before they got all Nazi-dyke political and crap, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray wrote some great songs. This gorgeous acoustic sing-a-long was made with a guest spot by Michael Stipe.
“Set Sails Free,” the Origin (The Origin)
One of the great one- or two-album unknowns of the early ‘90s, even the mega marketing efforts of Virgin Records couldn’t make the Origin popular.
“These Days,” Jackson Browne (For Everyman)
Oft-covered yet never duplicated (although Fountains of Wayne recently did a plenty respectable version), this classic has stood the test of 30+ years. A lovely rendition appears on last year’s Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1 release on Browne’s own label.
“Melissa,” The Allman Brothers Band (Eat a Peach)
Ironically, from the same year as “These Days,” the timeless Allman Brothers song resonates to all ages, all seasons, all geographies (even if the dusty back roads of southern Georgia claim it their own).
“Mama Says,” Billy Pilgrim (Billy Pilgrim)
Meg Ryan’s brother and one half of country sensation Sugarland used to make up this little-known Atlanta duo, touted in the region as the Indigo Boys.
“New Boy,” the Connells (Ring)
“Sometimes I get the feeling things seem pretty nice, then again, sometimes I’d like to leave you twice.” It’s the ultimate breakup song by the ultimate fraternity band.
“Thru with the Two Step,” Robert Plant (The Principle of Moments)
The lyrics couldn’t make less sense, but the lush ‘80s synthesizers and strings behind Plant’s magnificent croon makes this one an unforgettable entry from the early MTV years.
“Oh My Sweet Carolina,” Ryan Adams (Heartbreaker)
Saving the best for last, this is quite simply the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. I even named my first-born daughter after it, and the lyrics are currently framed on the wall of her nursery.