Sunday, 25 January 2015

Fab Four

"Take Me To The River", written by Al Green and Mabon "Teenie" Hodges, and performed by Al Green (and a crowd of wonderful musicians);; and also performed by Talking Heads;
There certainly are a lot of covers of this great song, which isn't surprising. I mean, c'mon -- it's a great song, and one which I fell back across for the first time in a long time a couple of days ago. You see how hard it is for great songs? They get forgotten for long spells, even, I daresay, by people with brains and ears younger than mine because even great songs are joyously multitudinous and just too hard to keep track of. (Singing is universal, and one of my favourite things about our species.)

Cute story: In the course of my finding a song that captured the elation of having a fresh baby in the family, "Stay Up Late," by Talking Heads seduced me, which led to my hearing "Take Me To The River," which is a heavenly (i.e., beautifully earthy) combination of intense musical talent, blunt adolescent impulse, and the pleas (that word isn't part of "pleasure" for nothing) of a lonely soul who, if he isn't looking for God, is at least looking for a girl to be saved by, which led to my discovery that Al Green had written it (I guess I should've known this), which led me to the splendid experience of his original version. Once the dust had settled, I realized I'd listened to four variations on a miracle.

In chronological order, then: 1) a live version by Talking Heads; 2) the Al Green studio version; 3) one of his live versions; and 4) the studio version of those Heads that Talk (and Sing, and Play) -- each rendition at least twice, of course. I'll listen to more versions when I have time, but that'll just be me icing my cake more than it actually needs. All four of my citations are guaranteed to fill your body and your brain and a nice chunk of your day with a sharp musical pleasure. Number Two is my Number One because you get to hear Al Green and because all the players are magnificent (bonus: it even has strings that, near the end, nestle themselves into a cosy place right beside the groove of the horns!). Number One and Number Three are my Number Two (they're both endlessly soulful, funky, and drenched in sweaty ecstasy, so, hell, it's a tie). Number Four is my Number Three (it has a slower tempo, and gets a little sludgy -- barely enough to notice, really, because all the playing still manages to rivet you right to your heartbeat, and David Byrne's singing will tingle any spine or elevate any pulse within hearing distance.)

Confused enough yet? Relax: A great song will fuck you up every time.

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