Thursday, 25 December 2014

Mother's Day

"You Can Leave Your Hat On" as sung by Joe Cocker
Joe Cocker died three days ago, which is the day my mother was born, ninety-eight years ago. He lasted seventy years, my mother about ninety-five-and-a-half. He was a much better singer, but I think it's pretty well impossible that he was a better person.
Anyway, for some reason, this is my favourite Joe Cocker song. I like how he and the band repeat themselves so often (not necessarily a bad thing). I also like -- no, I love -- the kick-the-shit-out-of-everything soulfulness of the vocal. It's just there, like the sky. And because of the day it was when I was loving all this, I started thinking about the soulfulness my mother brought to her life. She wasn't a singer (see above), but, oh my, did she have soul.
It makes not a shred of sense to believe that he and she are now residing in the same neighbourhood, but there should be some flights of fancy you get to allow yourself. Death may be real, but it's still unacceptable, and the only thing you get to fight back with is love. Joe Cocker wasn't talking about my mother (heaven forbid! -- this song is about erotic love), but you can't waste coincidences. Heaven seldom gets wedged open even a crack, so I'm taking what I'm getting while the taking and getting are good.

Monday, 8 December 2014


"It Had To Be You" as sung by Ray Charles
Why aren't there any schools or holidays or places of worship dedicated to Ray Charles? Why no Ray Charles Institute, no Ray Charles Day, no Church of Ray the Redeemer? There would be, I'm sure, if a lot more people listened to him singing this old chestnut, accompanied here by a big horn band's velvety, slowly swinging textures, which almost steal the show. (The singer's piano ain't shabby, either.) But this is Ray Charles we're talking about here, and even if he didn't mean it to, his voice, and how it shapes this silly little pretty song into a gemmy, two-minute brilliance, won't be pushed aside (his concluding, perfect falsetto stretches -- rises, even! -- right to the very end). I'd go to church every day if all the songs were sung by Ray Charles. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Rattling Walls

"It Makes No Difference" by The Band
This song makes me want to put on a cowboy hat and sing along, with my eyes closed (I always sing with my eyes closed anyway), and a glass of beer close at hand with enough room left in it to catch the tears. Take a sip, add a few units of salty, liquid DNA, sing along. Repeat, for about six minutes. Yeah, it's a long song, but the subject of loss can get complicated, at least (or especially) when you have a quintet comprised of guys like Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and Robbie Robertson taking it on. When it comes to showing us what we are, those guys knew what they were talking (singing, playing) about. It sounds like they're all in though, both numerically and emotionally. I hope Mr. Danko, the lead singer, didn't have to do too many takes because just my single rendition here at home under some pretty inclusive headphones knocked me for a righteous loop, and although I realize he was a professional singer and I'm not (I don't profess anything), singing this song too many times can't be healthy for anyone. In other words, Rick Danko sings the shit out of this thing. He sounds like every creature that has ever been injured. My favorite part of the vocal: Since you've gone/it's a losing battle/Stampeding cattle/they rattle the walls. Goddamn, those are some exquisitely lonely words. I love that battle, those cattle, those rattling walls, and how Mr. Danko stretches the last word of that sentence into more syllables than you're used to. It's just a lonely cowboy song, true, but it's more because you also get a wondrously wondering soprano saxophone (I think that's what it is) caressing the emptiness, especially after the singing has stopped. It fools around with the twitchily melodic, banjo-ish, respectful, lovely electric guitar during the lingering richness of the coda, at the end of which they melt into each other. But that soprano saxophone (I think) -- oh, my: it doesn't just sound like a cowboy under a big dark sky, it sounds like love and loss finally getting along with each other, it sounds like whatever beautiful thing you will want close by when you're dying.