Monday, March 10, 2008

Shuffling the Ipod
Five Songs at Random

1. Michelle -- The Beatles
This song has double meaning for me. One is a private memory, about a girl I once knew who inevitably returns to mind when the song plays. The other memory is from my time in a jazz choir some nine years ago. I loved to sing, and still do. But I was singing vocal jazz, which I think I can admit now I never liked much. The premise to me seemed to be to take great rock songs and strip them of authenticity. The music I have always responded to was the kind that was written and sang with genuine emotion. But in vocal jazz, we were singing this great somber track from Rubber Soul with painted on grins. I hated that.

2. Captain Soul -- The Byrds
This is the instrumental track, a glorified jam session that the Byrds released as a single. There's little doubt the Byrds were strong musicians, so the track isn't a throwaway. Still, the Byrds strongest attribute (to me, at least) was the vocal work they did. The harmonies on a Pete Seeger or Bob Dylan song added dimension and helped spur on a movement. There's none of that here.

3. Indiana Wants Me --R. Dean Taylor
Ah, a track from the Time Life collection I bought almost entirely because it had Dobie Gray's Drift Away on it. This is a pretty good track, though I could do without the overdubbed siren and commotion. But it's catchy and not unlike some of the four-chord songs I'd put together some 30 years later. This is only the second song I can think of with Indiana in the title. The other is a song I heard at a concert by a band I have since forgotten. But the song remains.

4. Drift Away --Dobie Gray
Speak of the devil. I'd put this song up there with Charlie Rich's Behind Closed Doors as one of the best recordings of the 1970s. Gray's voice was perfect for the song, which stretches into country and pop. The soulful sound of the voice, meshed with some fine orchestra mixing, make the simple song epic, but unforced. The closing, with Gray singing to only percussion and bass, make the song work on yet another level. Basically, I could listen to this song all day. It's a brilliant performance.

5. Here, There and Everywhere -- The Beatles
Revolver is considered by many to be the best Beatles album. I think there are superior albums by the group. But this may be the best song Paul McCartney ever wrote, and that covers a ton of ground. But it's simple and beautiful, with wonderful vocal harmonies. The song wouldn't work today, because they would try to overdo it. But that was the genius of George Martin -- knowing when to get elaborate, and when to stay simple. Just fantastic.



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