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May 31, 2009

Horns Phil Likes, Vol 1.

Note -- these liner notes are still in progress, but I've been distributing the CD so now I have to post it.  There will be updates, but feel free to click the many video links now.

14th Street - Rufus Wainwright. Rufus performs 14th Street live at the Fillmore in SFO.  At ~3'10" and other places notice how the women sing loud and low while the men provide falsetto "woo". :-)  See 2'05" for a cute facial expression.

Special_Beat_Service I Confess - English Beat.  Back in ~'98, My office mate Tom wondered why there weren't more cover bands that focused on the late New Wave.  I dunno.  I Confess is a boppy song strangely matched with dark lyrics that are hard to understand without help from the internet.  I love the solo that starts at 2'27" on the CD.  The solo in the video isn't as nuanced, but you can still watch it here.  I dig the opening ~10 seconds just before vocals.  No it's not a joke / It's cards on the table time. 

Papa Was a Rolling Stone - The Temptations.  Speaking of bass lines... this song has what some consider the mother of all bass lines.  Was (Not Was) does a fine cover of and somewhere (not here) there's a great story about how they decided who should sing the parts. Part of Was (Not Was) also performed with Lyle Lovett.  Now check out this extensive cultural and musical analysis, excerpted below:

"In ‘Papa was a Rollin’ Stone’ the bass line is absolutely unrelenting. It is uncompromisingly fixed in the minor 7th/minor 3rd axis that ‘announces’ the climate of blues. The bass line never stops. There is no let up in this situation which is about the eternal consequences of sin which just cannot be brushed under the carpet."

Strangely, it does not make the top 50 bass lines of all time in this article.

Solo Te Echaron Un Medio - Irakere.  Song performed by José Miguel Meléndez, (possibly the author, as well).  Irakere was founded by Chucho Valdés (whom I've mentioned elsewhere). The best translation I can give for the title is "They only gave you the half of it." Check out Sylvia and Lisa's Onda Carolina blog if you're interested in Latin-origin music, especially if you live near Durham NC.

Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen.  A confession: one afternoon in the summer of '86 or '87, my mom and I were listening to the radio while driving home on Durham's Constitution Dr.  I explained that Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp were both chroniclers of blue collar America, but that Mellencamp was the more sophisticated writer.  Argh.  I accept that I'll never write with a 1/16th of Springsteen's strength and creativity.  I'm just glad I can listen to the genius at work.  The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves / Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays / Roy Orbison singing for the lonely...  Man, what a break between "plays" and "Roy".  Of course, the miracle is how he puts these words with the music.  Here's Thunder Road in a duet with Melissa Etheridge.

Penguins - Lyle Lovett.  I have seen him in concert and you should, too.  Go for the cello player.  Here's the first Lyle Lovett video I ever saw, She's No Lady, She's My Wife.  Junior year in college.  I was living in two closets at Crew House, whose residents were kind enough to take me in.  My three-hundred-percent favorite video from that time was George Michael's highly polished Father Figure. So Lyle Lovett's tune, gone 180 the other direction in terms of costume, models (and color) was a real awakening for me.  "Wow," I might have thought, "you don't have to do a stupid Phil Collins video to get away from slick hotties."  If you still need slick, check out the little cadenza at 2'27" in the video.)  Come to think of it, why didn't I put She's No Lady on this CD instead of Penguins?  Probably because of the too-fun five-part entrance: crowd, announcer, drums, horns, backup singers and bass player.  And yes, I jab my finger at the speakers just as the horns come in.  Every time.

Francine reed Wild Women Don't Get the Blues - Francine Reed.  Sure, we don't get to hear her tell Lyle Lovett, "Well you ugly too," but in this track she gets to sing more.  Do you wonder how singers (and comedians, etc.) keep track of what city they're in so they don't yell "Are there some wild women here in Baden Baden" when they're actually in Brussels?  And do they ever forget their bandmates names when they introduce, mid-song?  Watch Francine do it up here: Wild Women Don't Get the Blues

I Just Want to Make Love to You - Etta James.  Isn't it a shame that she didn't like Beyonce covering At Last for one of Obama's inaugural balls?  I just hope she was more offended by the TV commercial that used this song.  Here's a later-Etta performance of At Last. And here, an unexpected rendition of I Just Want to Make Love to You.

Sexy M.F.- Prince.  The song that inspired this mix CD theme.  "Horns, down please." is what I -think- Prince says in the middle.  Very frustrating that I can't be sure. I've never seen Prince in concert.  I feel like I've deprived myself for that.  Xta and Mary and friends have, and that makes them -even cooler-.  Lately people are asking whether Prince has jumped the shark.  I remember a Keyboard magazine article that said...  No video because, you know, it's Prince.

Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves.  I remember watching this video on a small TV set in the kitchen of my aunt's Indonesian restaurant in Chambersburg, PA, summer of 1982.  I knew even then that the song was cheesy.  But good!  In '84 I met a girl who I thought looked a lot like Katrina, in a very nice way.  A decade later, I remember noticing it on the radio one afternoon while exiting the parking lot of my old place at Five Oaks.  "Gee, I like this song," I said to myself.  Because I do.  Another song that gives me a similar smile: Don't Get Me Wrong.  I think that because the Pretenders are doing it, DGMW is actually cheesier than WoS.  And yes, I still like it.  Nobody plays either of these songs on the radio any more, but you can play Katrina on YouTube, and Chrissie Hynde live from 2007: Don't Get Me Wrong.

Dos Gardenias - Ibrahim Ferrer.   You heard this on Buena Vista Social Club, yes you did.  when Dave and I were in Cuba, we wondered how often we'd hear people covering the tunes.  I think we heard them only once, in Havana Vieja (the tourist side of the capital).  Ferrer sings on stage in a rendition that features the piano more than the horn. A tu lado viviraaaaan!

El Calderito - Compay Segundo.   The original source is gone so I've put them here. El Calderito -- lyrics took forever to find.  They are here now (must link to my own site).  A silly song if you sang it only in English.  Folk songs and children's songs.  OK to be simple.  Is simple OK for others as well?  A sketch.  Not even a scene.  Just flashes of what's there in the story.  I don't normally like the "quack/beep" style of horn but in this song it works just great for me.  Horns aside, I love the guitar in this song, especially the short set of chromatic descending chords at ~2'16", echoed at ~2'45". Sorry no video available for El Calderito, but here's a neat Compay Segundo performance of Como La Avellaneda (aka Camagüey ?) with dancers.  It's not Segundo's best music, but the dancing is fun.  For a better Segundo track online, try Es Mejor Vivir Así with subtitles so you can sing along, even if you don't speak Spanish.

My Brain is Like a Sieve - Thomas Dolby.  My housemate David Kamp introduced me to this album our junior year in college when somebody (Steve? Me?) cooked a spicy dinner that made Kamp think of Hot Sauce while we were living at this neat house. I overplayed the hell out of it senior year in this beautiful house, and never got tired.  Along with Joe Jackson's double Live 1980/1986 album (and Body and Soul which includes Happy Ending), they were the first pop albums that I seriously listened to for their musical structure and technique. It may be because I'd taken a music theory course the previous semester.  Pal Dave says, "you know, of course, that you don't listen to Joe Jackson for the singing." But I digress. What I loved about this song was the harmony, with the alto singing harmony on top of the title words.  Can you tell whose voice adds the one word "murder"?  You know him.  I know you do.  Live performance (unappealing to me) here.  Studio version (the one I love) here. Harmonies begin at 0'17".  Previous blog on backup singers.  Enrevanche's blog on backup singers.

Toledo - Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach.  I think this album is stunning and thought about finding a way to do one of its tunes at karaoke.  But a very cool person I was seeing at the time suggested, "You'd have to do it as an "over the top" cover."  Huhn?  Apparently she thought it was too cheesy for the "younger generation" of which was she was.  I considered her advice and decided to leave well enough alone. Pal Dave who introduced me to this album has family in Toledo.  (Ohio, that is.)  Toledo, from Sessions at West 54th.  Did you know that Elvis Costello is married to Diana Krall?

Jackie What the World Needs Now - Jackie Deshannon. Elvis Costello also does this Burt Bacharach tune in Austin Powers (music only), but I'm giving you the Jackie Shannon performance, since you already have a Costello/Bacharach collaboration.  I took this from the soundtrack to My Best Friend's Wedding, which is worth seeing if only for this awesome Main Title featuring Ani DiFranco's Wishin' and Hopin'.  The opening scene in the restaurant might be enough to put off anyone who knows -anything- about restaurant reviews, but really, the whole movie is pretty cool  (OK, Dermot Mulroney acts a poorly written part, but never mind).  The story line could have gone on a much lesser route.  Rupert Everett's character keeps nudging things the right direction.  BTW -- do you think we don't need any more mountains and meadows? I can't find the Jackie Deshannon version online, but here's another song of hers, When You Walk In the Room. Or "Put a Little Love in Your heart."  Which is also covered by Leanord Nimoy.

Nightswimming - REM.  Here's the video.(With some nudity.  Where did it run?) And here at Wikipedia, I learn it was an oboe, not a horn. I'm pining for the moon / And what if there were two / Side by side in orbit / Around the fairest sun? What does good art require?  Some blend of imagination, composition and technique are three of the first things that come to mind.  REM puts them together so well in this piece.  I seem to recall others that try to approximate the effect of Nightswimming, but the magic reaction never happens, and the piece doesn't bubble into greatness.


Bonus Track : If I ever do a volume 2 of horns, it will probably have Ain't Even Done with the Night, just so I can share the video again.

11:44 PM in Music | Permalink


Ok, you inspired me to finally get the English Beat greatest CD off of my Amazon wishlist and into the shopping cart. I threw in the best of The Motels and the Pixies' Doolittle which for some criminal reason I never owned. "I Confess" is one of my favorite songs, and I look forward to bopping down 15-501 to it every day once it arrives. :)

Posted by: etselec | Jun 1, 2009 8:33:20 AM

i'm a sucker for songs w/ a horn section. last night at Bull McCabe's we heard the original version of "Madness" by Prince Buster, which has awesome horns in that 60's rocksteady/Studio One style. The Swingin' Addis CD from the Ethiopiques series is loaded with killer horns. Also worth checking out: Radio Bemba Sound System - Manu Chao; la Luz el Ritmo - los Fabulosos Cadillacs.

Posted by: georg | Jun 1, 2009 12:26:58 PM

Phil, I'm late to this party, but I love this list. Many of these are faves of mine . . . the Springsteen, Lovett, DeShannon and Katrina among them. And I love My Best Friend's Wedding (especially the cast singing "Say A Little Prayer")--it's a guilty pleasure and I feel less guilty now about loving it!

Posted by: Lisa | Jun 14, 2009 12:49:28 AM

reminder: link at tinyurl.com/horns-phil-likes-1

Posted by: Phil | Oct 21, 2009 11:01:50 PM

Lyrics to El Calderito

Mi Calderito
Francisco Repilado “Compay Segundo”

Ayer salió Josefina
A buscar su buen caldero
En casa de una vecina
Pa’ tostar un buen café.

No, estaba en casa de Eugenia
Ni estaba en casa de Antonia
El caldero se ha perdido
Lo tienen otras personas.

Ay. Que dónde esta mi calderito
Calderito de tostar café.

Cuando me lo traigan lo tostaré
Calderito de tostar café

Se toma en Cueto y en Marcané
Calderito de tostar café.

Lo usa Pancha y la vieja Inés
Calderito de tostar café.

Posted by: Phil | Oct 21, 2009 11:23:27 PM

in my opinion one of the best interpreters and singers, soloists, composers active at the time, his best time is past but much of the still, I hope and do not show their talent and bring it to market something new or unpublished.
David P. Coleman
2983 Brown Avenue
Greenville, SC 29 607

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