Saturday, December 8, 2018

And Now For Something Different

I have no burning topics tonight, so while I'm listening to my favorite Sirius channels, I thought I would try something different. From among my favorite channels, I will choose a song that is currently streaming and offer my critique. The only rule is that it has to be a song I've heard before. I'm not in the mood to write a review of an obscure Bobby Rydell track.

My favorite channels essentially consist of all the decades from the fifties through the eighties, plus Prime Country, Willie's Roadhouse, The Bakersfield Beat, The Garth Channel (which rarely plays anything good), The Beatles Channel, and a couple of odd ones ~ Red, White and Booze and (currently) Country Christmas, which has been a vast disappointment.

First up:

Carrying Your Love With Me ~ George Strait (Prime Country)

This was released as a single from the album of the same name. George Strait's seventeenth album does not rank among his best. It contains approximately three good songs and seven forgettable ones. What stands out on this track is its chorus's sing-along-ness. The casual radio listener can pretend she actually knows this song just by chiming in on the chorus. As a piece of songwriting, it comes across as an idea that didn't know where it wanted to go. I imagine the writer came up with that first line ("All I've got's this beat-up leather bag") and then added some filler lines that don't exactly ring and don't bother to rhyme. The chord progression is run-of-the-mill. George apparently liked what he heard, however, and found a way to spiff it up with a nice steel guitar riff. I imagine he also liked the images the song conveys. The second verse does improve considerably. I would have advised the writer to polish Verse One before pitching the song.

Everything Is Beautiful ~ Ray Stevens (70's on 7)

This song was a huge hit in 1970. It's one of the few serious songs, unfortunately, that Ray ever recorded. Ray apparently found his niche doing novelty songs and was very successful with them, but they overshadowed his lovely voice and songwriting. This is a song of its time. The sixties had barely slipped away and people were of the notion that peace, love, and flower power would magically prevail. Nevertheless, Ray is a masterful songwriter ~ the song flows perfectly. Like a lot of songs from around that time, this one begins with the chorus, which is impactful. The verses that follow carry more weight once the primary theme has been established. If you want to hear a beautiful voice, search out Ray's "Misty" album (or CD, I guess). Ray's singing has been sorely underestimated over the years, mostly due to his emphasis on comedy. He should have had more confidence in the beauty of his voice.

Hungry Like The Wolf ~ Duran Duran (80's on 8)

I was a major MTV watcher in the eighties, but for unknown reasons, this track did not resonate with me at the time. It was only later, with the volume twirled up on my car radio, that I came to love this song. I don't know much about Duran Duran. I know they had other hits, but this is what they will be remembered for. Most of the lyrics are unintelligible to me, but I do know they rhyme. It actually doesn't matter what the words are ~ this is a "feel" song, as most good songs are. The most memorable lyrics are (and you know it), "Doo doo do dit, do doo dit, do doo dit, doo do dit, doo do".

I also like the "ow-www" that injects itself into the chorus, even though I did read "Small Sacrifices" and realize its significance in the story, but I choose to ignore that and just rock out to the song.

Please Please Me ~ The Beatles (60's on 6)

Please Please Me was released as a single in 1963, about eight months before I ever knew about this band that would change my musical life forever. The song is quite elementary, but delivery, boys, delivery. John wrote the song as a paean to Roy Orbison, which, regrettably fails in its endeavor. I've even written a song more reminiscent of Roy Orbison than this one, but perhaps it's all in the ears of the beholder.

Please Please Me was featured on the Beatles' debut album, which must have been recorded in a great hurry, because if you listen closely, Paul and John are singing completely different lyrics from one another in one of the verses. I don't know why Sir George Martin let that slip by, but maybe he figured this was a lose-lose proposition, so why bother?

The element that makes the song stand out, other than the fact that no one had ever heard anything like this group ever, ever; is John's low register "come on".

Other high points include Paul's bass and Ringo's drumming. The low point is John's harmonica. I would have vetoed that if I were George Martin, but again...The bridge is excellent ~ the staccato lyrics and the renowned falsetto "ooh's" of Harrison and McCartney. As a song that established The Beatles, it passes muster.

I'm Still Standing ~ Elton John (80's on 8)

I'm hard-pressed to find an Elton John song that I don't like. This song was ostensibly written by Elton alone, unlike every other song of his for which Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics. As much as I've loved Elton John over the decades, there was always a disconnect between the lyrics and the music; or should I say, the lyrics never made any sense. I shouldn't say "never" because sometimes they made sense, but mostly they didn't. It really didn't matter, though, because Elton is another "feel" artist. He could sing practically any nonsense words and listeners would swoon. His voice is warm honey. 

I Got You Babe ~ Sonny and Cher (60's on 6)

Sonny Bono was not the world's best songwriter, but he gets points for tenacity. Cherilyn Sarkisian was sixteen years old and, as the world turned in the sixties, living with Sonny, who was miles older than she. Sonny was a hanger-on at Phil Spector's studio and thus convinced the wall of sound producer to record the duo in '65.

It's really only thanks to Spector (the murderer) and the Wrecking Crew that this track shot to Number One. Cher (as she was now known) did have something; a spark of serendipity. The song itself was a rip-off of Dylan. Bono sang his part as if he was Dylan. Steal from the best, they say. There is no denying that the song is memorable, even if only due to kitsch. 

Dion and The Belmonts ~ Lovers Who Wander (50's on 5)

The fifties are sorely underestimated. Doo-wop is a thing that the world needs more of. Doo-wop is an art. It requires the perfect mix of background guttural noises and a lead singer whose voice can soar. Doo-wop is all about sound. Lyrics actually don't matter. Dion was a doo-wop king. He was adept at doing the fills. It wasn't so much what was said ~ it could have been anything, but mostly it was about romance gone bad. Doo-wop was, like Elton John, all about the "feel". Don't, whatever you do, discount the fifties.

You Didn't Have To Be So Nice ~ Lovin' Spoonful (Oldies Party)

The first time I heard the Lovin' Spoonful was in 1965. "Daydream" fueled my downtown meanders with Cathy, my fifth-grade best friend. I've opined about how "Do You Believe In Magic" is the most glorious rock song ever, thanks to (the late) Zal Yankovsky and his utter musical joy. Zal was a man who consecrated music ~ the lone man I've found whose pure delight makes my heart soar. That doesn't happen. I didn't know it at age eleven, but I do now.

Hours have passed since I began this experiment. I'm rather sleepy now, but I think it was a success.

I'm keen to do it again. As the kids say, it was kinda groovy.

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