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Any Major Cole Porter Vol. 2

September 24th, 2020 5 comments

Cole Porter - Any Major Collection Vol. 2

Rarely will you hear a vocal performances that merits a good flogging (not literally, of course. We are not savages). I’m not talking about bad warbling to a bad song. I mean singers who have the talent to sing a good song well but deliver a performance of such monumental abomination that the only reasonable punishment would be the metaphorical violence.

I am talking the territory of Michael F. Bolton murdering soul music and then molesting opera territory (though since he appeared on John Oliver’s show I have softened a little on Bolton). But the man I would be leading to the flogging post personally is our old friend Bono. What is Bono’s offence? His part in the duet with Frank Sinatra of I’ve Got You Under My Skin, recorded for the mostly deplorable Duets album in 1993.

Rarely has there been as risible a performance as when our smug friend revealed the full range of his jackassery by croaking his part in tandem with Sinatra and then proceeding to assault the big band break with an aggressively tuneless falsetto. In his delusional mind, Bono doubtless imagined he was improving on a perfectly good instrumental arrangement with what he might describe as harmonies, but which we readily recognise to be a wretched effort at attention-seeking.

Of course, the blame for this is not Bono’s alone. Bono tried his luck, as any one of us might in his position. Bono was just like the fools who stick out their tongue or make goofy handsigns when they take selfies with celebrities. The Duets producer ought to have told Bono, politely but firmly, as you would indulge an overacting child: “That was all very interesting, Bono, and I’ll see how we can use that in the final mix. But no promises, all right champ?” And yet, Bono’s disharmonies made it into the final mix. It is too late now to ask Phil Ramone or Sinatra for an explanation to shed light on what possessed them to submit to the kind of vocal stylings of the sort you or I could do better while driving in the car or crooning drunkenly in the shower, for both men are now dead.

The scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime.

The stupid singing is enough to convict Bono in the Supreme Court of Music. But a merciful judge might take pity on the fool in the way that witlessness is sometimes applied as an extenuating circumstance. What makes the severest sentence absolutely inevitable, however, is one of the most egregious instances of an egomaniac singer changing the words which the writer, in this instance Cole Porter, so carefully chose in his endeavour to convey the song’s full meaning. Bono croakingly croons:

“Don’t you know, Blue Eyes, you never can win…”

Bono had form with this kind of stuff. At Live Aid, held on a hot mid-summer day in July 1985, he ad-libbed during the Do They Know It’s Christmas finale the insane words: “Do they know that springtime is coming?” Yes, the Ethiopians did. Even extreme hunger could not rob them of the necessary ability to tell apart the seasons. “Springtime is coming” nine months from July, though. It is an extravagant prediction to make when spring is still to be preceded by the end of summer, and the full duration of autumn and winter.

Bono had sung this spontaneous ad-lib at every U2 concert throughout early 1985. By July, singing these words presumably was the unconscious reflex of an unthinking mind. There is no such excuse, however, for “Don’t you know, Blue Eyes, you never can win…”

Changing the lyrics to address a third party — in this case “Blue Eyes” — doesn’t make any sense in the song. In that line the singer is referring to himself, not to somebody else. The words for I’ve Got You Under My Skin are not Bono’s lyrics. They are Mr Porter’s lyrics. Even if he has been dead for a long time, Bono had no licence to turn his carefully crafted lyric into ingratiating doggerel, unless his intent was to satirise them in the manner the comedian Richard Cheese did with the U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday (“Tonight we fiesta while tomorrow they die”). Was Bono trying to be a funny guy when he was singing with Frank Sinatra?

Moreover, I doubt that Sinatra was called Ole Blue Eyes by anybody else but the press and those entertaining the illusion of his friendship (he also hated being called the “Chairman of the Board”).

Frank Sinatra tenses up as a man with an earring hugs him.

Frank Sinatra tenses up as a man with an earring hugs him at the 1994 Grammys.

 

And all this leads us to a mix of covers of Cole Porter songs. The first Cole Porter Collection comprised performances from the black-and-white era of music; this one covers the technicolour era, with tracks ranging from the 1970s to the present. Some of them go for Nelson Riddlesque arrangements, other reinvent Porter songs in more modern genres.

As always: CD-R length, covers included, PW in comments.

1. John Barrowman & Kevin Kline – Night And Day (2004)
2. Barbra Streisand & Ryan O’Neal – You’re The Top (1972)
3. Bobby Caldwell – I Get A Kick Out Of You (1993)
4. Conal Fowkes – Let”s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love) (2011)
5. Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – Anything Goes (2014)
6. Bryan Ferry – You Do Something To Me (1999)
7. Dionne Warwick – I Love Paris (1990)
8. Grady Tate – Don’t Fence Me In (1974)
9. Jane Birkin – Love For Sale (1975)
10. Alex Chilton – All Of You (1993)
11. Lisa Stansfield – Down In The Depths (1990)
12. Freda Payne – You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (2014)
13. Helen Reddy – Blow, Gabriel Blow (1998)
14. Claire Martin – Too Darn Hot (2004)
15. Cybill Shepherd – Let’s Misbehave (1974)
16. Dianne Reeves – I Concentrate On You (2003)
17. Simply Red – Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye (1987)
18. Robbie Williams – It’s De-Lovely (2004)
19. Rosemary Clooney – Get Out Of Town (1982)
20. Linda Ronstadt – Miss Otis Regrets (2004)
21. Carly Simon – In The Still Of The Night (2005)
22. George Harrison – True Love (1976)
23. Seether – I’ve Got You Under My Skin (2009)

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Any Major ABC of Soul

September 10th, 2020 2 comments

 

These ABCs of… mixes are a great way to spend some time: making them and, I hope, listening to them.

The concept is simple: one artist per letter (with solo artists going by the first letter of their first name), from A-Z. And that’s where the fun comes in: for most letters there are so many different acts one can choose, and from those so many different songs. My method was easy: instead of surveying every soul artist beginning with B or S, I went for the acts that first came to mind. For X, the search went on for a bit longer…

I set myself a challenge: it was my goal to limit the running time of the mix to fit the whole thing on to a standard CD-R. All the while keeping in mind that I’ll have to enjoy the end result. Well, I’ve listened to the result many times over, and I do enjoy it very much.

PW in comments.

1. Arthur Conley – Sweet Soul Music (1967)
2. Blackbyrds – Walking In Rhythm (1974)
3. Chairmen Of The Board – Pay To The Piper (1970)
4. Denise LaSalle – Trapped By A Thing Called Love (1972)
5. Earth, Wind & Fire – Sing A Song (1975)
6. Flirtations – Nothing But A Heartache (1969)
7. Geno Washington – Michael (1966)
8. Honey Cone – Want Ads (1971)
9. Irma Thomas – It’s Raining (1962)
10. Jimmy Ruffin – Its Wonderful (To Be Loved By You) (1970)
11. Keni Stevens – Never Gonna Give You Up (1988)
12. Laura Lee – Wedlock Is A Padlock (1972)
13. Marlena Shaw – Liberation Conversation (1969)
14. Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators – If This Ain’t Love (Don’t Know What Is) (2005)
15. O’Jays – Love Train (1972)
16. Peaches & Herb – Close Your Eyes (1967)
17. Quincy Jones – Betcha’ Wouldn’t Hurt Me (1980)
18. Randy Crawford – Tender Falls The Rain (1980)
19. Sly and The Family Stone – Everyday People (1969)
20. Temptations – Since I Lost My Baby (1965)
21. Una Valli– Satisfaction (1968)
22. Velvelettes – Needle In A Haystack (1964)
23. Windjammer – Tossing And Turning (1984)
24. Xscape – Who Can I Run To (1995)
25. Yellow Sunshine – Yellow Sunshine (1973)
26. Zulema – You Changed On Me (1974)

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In Memoriam – August 2020

September 3rd, 2020 7 comments

This month we lost one of my favourite contemporary singers, and one of the last survivor of the 1921 Tulsa pogrom. The latter died at 100 on August 18, when this list records seven music deaths in one day.

There’s a lot great music to discover this month; I am surprised that the drum break that opens Steve Grossman’s Zulu Stomp has not been widely sampled. As in the last few months, I’ve created playlists in order of the listings below, and a playlist I have made for myself. This month’s is particularly good.

The Saint Of Lost Causes
The law of averages dictate that most of our favourites musicians tend to die when they are past their prime. It’s very rare that I’m looking forward to the next album of a newly-departed performer, even in the case of somebody like Prince. But in August I was devastated by the sudden death of Justin Towne Earle, one of the few contemporary singers I’d call myself a fan of, more so even than I am of his father, Steve Earle.

He never made a bad album I heard, and his Harlem River Blues album is a contender for my favourite of the 2010s, and Track 2 from it, One More Night in Brooklyn, one of my favourites of the decade. Last year’s The Saint Of Lost Causes was solid with some fine moments. It has his typical warmth and tinge of sadness, and is an agreeable companion. Justin Townes Earle’s music is generally classified as “Americana”, and Earle did justice to the concept: he drew his influences from almost every musical genre of the USA.

Earle was just 38, younger even than the fine musician he was named after, Townes van Zandt. Police say it might have been a drug overdose that claimed Earle, and reportedly he had been on-and-off drugs since he was 12.

The Texan Mexican
Strange paths crossed with Trini Lopez, the son of Mexican person growing up in Texas. In the mid-1950s, Lopez and is band played in the Dallas nightclub owned by Jack Ruby, who’d later murder Harvey Oswald. Then it was Buddy Holly’s father at whose advice Lopez and his band, The Big Beats, were recorded by Buddy’s producer Norman Petty in 1957. They released one instrumental single, and Trini tried his hand at a solo career as a singer. A long string of singles went nowhere, and an idea for Trini to succeed Buddy Holly as the singer of The Crickets fell through. So he returned to club singing — where he was discovered in 1962 by Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra signed Lopez to his Reprise label, and Lopez rewarded Sinatra with a hit, a live recording of If I Had A Hammer. He continued to have a run of hit singles through the 1960s. In between that he designed two guitars for Gibson, both models now much sought-after by collectors, and appeared in a handful of movies, including The Dirty Dozen.

The Rock Opera Writer
We can thank Mark Wirtz and his collaborator Keith West for the concept of the rock opera, one which they pioneered in 1967 with their unfinished A Teenage Opera, from which West released the track often called Grocer Jack, which became a #2 hit in 1967. Wirtz — who was born in in the French city of Strasbourg, grew up in Cologne and moved to England in 1962 — also wrote and recorded the infectious A Touch Of Velvet-A Sting Of Brass in 1966 under the moniker Mood Mosaic (with vocals by The Ladybirds). It later served as the theme of the legendary German music TV show Musikladen.

In 1970 he moved to the US, where he arranged for a number of big-name acts, but left the business in the late 1970s. He tried his hands at various careers: working a telemarketer, maître d’, blood-stock agent, interpreter, voice-over artist, undercover agent, seminar leader and sales manager. He then moved into comedy, with success, and also became an award-winning newspaper columnist and writer.

The Pogrom Survivor
As a toddler, Hal “Cornbread” Singer survived the Tulsa race massacre, when whites razed a whole thriving district in the black suburb of Greenwood in a pogrom against African Americans. When he died at 100 on August 18, he was one of the last survivors of that act of genocide.

Singer grew up in Greenwood before he became a jazz musician, especially as a tenor saxophonist. He played with acts like Oran “Hot Lips” Page, Roy Eldridge, Marion Abernathy, Coleman Hawkins and Wynonie Harris and recorded under his own name, scoring a 1948 hit with the instrumental Corn Bread, which gave him his nickname.

The Hard Rock Producer
Martin Birch, who has died at 71, was a Read more…

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