Sunday, 19 March 2017

Gods Die, Too

"I Got To Find My Baby," as performed by Chuck Berry 
He really is one of the greats. Between my daily non-musical spells and moments, I've been listening to him, and reading about him, all day. He was all twangy, hilarious, insightful, lyrically nimble brio. He pretty well invented rock 'n' roll, which is definitely one of the happier complications of simplicity we've got. 

What a guitar player! What a songwriter! What a singer and showman and master of elemental rhythms! And what a poet! (You heard me.) I began the day convinced that "Too Much Monkey Business" was my favourite of his tunes (it is utterly brilliant fun), but by noon I was no longer sure because by then there were just too many others vying for top spot. A lot of the Euro-descended boys who copied him became much richer and more famous than he ever was, but that's white supremacy for you. 

In the end, I decided on a straight blues number he covered in 1960, when he was thirty-four and still in his prime. I was still just a kid then, and knew more about Elvis Presley than about him (there's that white supremacy again). 

His rock 'n' roll songs were great because he understood the blues, as "I Got To Find My Baby" so deftly demonstrates.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Still Alive At Ninety-Five

"Do It Again," as sung by Shirley Horn

George Gershwin (music) and Buddy DeSylva (lyrics) came up with this beautiful thing in New York City back in 1922, and about forty years later, also in New York City, Shirley Horn (music and lyrics) sang it. That's some pretty good integration. As a rule, I hate big cities, but I gotta admit they're good melting pots that hold things like human ingenuity, human dexterity (musicians!), and human female voices like Shirley Horn's doing this number till you think you might just melt into some kind of longing goo. She's the one in charge and she's the one not in charge, she's the seducer and she's the seduced. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the way Eros is supposed to dance its way through human populations?  

There are many other lovely versions of this song by many other great singers and ensembles, but this one is easily my favourite, not just because of Ms. Horn's superb performance, but also because of the band's gently swinging support. There's a horn -- I think it's a trumpet -- that provides some particularly impish, naughty punctuation here and there throughout the glorious three-minute spell that you're under while you listen to this New York City miracle.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Pretty Fly For A White Guy

"Come Fly With Me," as sung by Frank Sinatra

Any song that uses the word "rarefied" correctly and naturally is a song you've gotta listen to at least once. And because it's Sinatra still at the height of his wizardry, my bet (and suggestion) is that you might repeat the experience a few times. A great orchestra in juicy, fleshy, swinging form (those horns! those strings!) lifts the voice and the words to "where the air is rarefied" -- i.e., way up there above the rest of us who aren't in love with anyone. The song is a sunny, romantic fantasy that touches down in faraway places like Bombay, Peru and Acapulco (Ac-apulco, as the singer sharply phrases it), but what's wrong with that for a few minutes once in a while?

Myself, I wouldn't get into an airplane for anything in the world (not money, not love, not nothing) unless everything on the ground was on fire, but when I put on "Come Fly With Me" by Frank Sinatra and his musical co-pilots, I'm ready to get on board, put my seat into an upright position, and fasten my seatbelt.    

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Shoo-Bop, My Baby? Yup. Shoo-Bop, My Baby It Is

"Hello Stranger," by Barbara Lewis

Over the last two days, I've watched the miraculous movie Moonlight twice, the first time on my daughter's recommendation (she called it "stunning," and she was absolutely right), the second time on the recommendation of my compulsion to repeat ecstatic experiences. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen and it's still bouncing around in my head like a little ball made of light and truth and brimming life. "Hello Stranger" comes near the end, in a diner, out of a jukebox and straight into the bloodstream. The song is simplicity itself, but if it doesn't make you swoon (or sway, or maybe even get swept off your feet), you might want to check your pulse to see if you still have one. The singers, lead and background both, are all velvety longing and love, the organ flows through it all like a serene, necessary river, and even the drums (busily simple, if that's possible) are all tasteful charm. I vaguely remember it from my teenage years, but I was too tone-deaf to pay it close enough attention back then.

"Hello Stranger" isn't profound, but it's lovely and sweet and honest, and it helps buttress the profundity of a great piece of cinematic art. It also helps me remember why I've always loved jukeboxes.