Frank’s Faves on Fridays

December 10, 2010

I must say, Frank, that due to the non-horrible nature of all the songs on offer here (i.e., I like everything you’ve suggested this week), my responses may not be terribly lengthy or detailed. (“Hooray!” I hear someone shout.)

Blues Image – “Ride Captain Ride (1970)

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This has a nice, relaxed West-Coast feeling to it, and the slightly flat vocals just add to it feeling laid-back. Actually, the bongos really add to that mood, too. And the lyrics. And the acoustic guitar work. And the little twangy, country-ish electric guitar fills. They all contribute to this song being an enjoyable way to spend 3 minutes and 43 seconds.

Looking Glass – “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl) (1972)

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I’d say that this is definitely one of my favourite songs from 1972. It might be my favourite imported American AM radio hit from 1972, but at the moment I can’t remember any other imported American AM radio hits from 1972. I’ll take the safe way out and say that it’s in my top 327 for that year. There are only two things I can think of to say about this song:

1) I’m not especially fond of the middle eight (from 1:46 to 2:15). I think it’s fairly weak melodically, and it just gets in the way of those superb verses and choruses. Each time the song gets to the middle eight it makes me impatient for the verses and choruses.
2) There’s a production quirk that puzzles me: when the song fades out, it fades to the right channel. Odd.

The Spiral Starecase – “More Today Than Yesterday” (1969)

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I like this song, but there’s one thing in it above everything else that makes it especially noteworthy: the bass drum. The bass drum is hyperactive. It’s something I find highly unusual in a song like this (a Tom Jones-esque, Las-Vegas-act pop song). The drums are usually more subdued in this kind of up-tempo-ballad-with-brass, so I was moderately shocked when I heard the rampant bass drum work throughout the song. Now whenever I hear the song, that’s pretty much all I’m hearing: a frisky bass drum. Everything else sort of fades into the background as I focus on the bass drum.

Pointless interlude:

Incidentally, those three songs all appear on that gargantuan 26-disc compilation Super Hits Of The 70’s: Have A Nice Day I’ve been listening to. (I’ve listened to it all the way through twice now. All I have to do is set aside another 16½ hours to listen to it one more time.) I’m very pleased to say that those three songs are still fresh in my mind – and I’m glad they’re there.

Now back to your other suggestions…

R. B. Greaves – “Take A Letter Maria (1969)

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This is another song I’ve always liked. Alas, it doesn’t appear on Super Hits Of The 70’s (but at least there are 300 other songs to take my mind off of its non-appearance). I haven’t heard “Take A Letter Maria” in years, but for me it’s one of those stuck-in-your-brain-since-childhood songs that never quite leave you, so it was nice to hear that it was virtually identical to how I remembered it. Now that I’ve heard it again, it’s just occurred to me that this is the kind of song that would have been perfect for Gene Pitney to sing. It’s right up his alley: a story song about a man discovering his woman is cheating on him, sung in an overwrought way, and with a Herb Alpert-styled brass accompaniment. I hope Gene Pitney recorded it. Hang on, I’ll have a quick search… …nope, it looks like Gene never recorded “Take A Letter Maria”. Oh, well.

Bonus instrumental:

Count Basie and his Orchestra – “April in Paris (1955)

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Ah, time to relax. This is the sound of Swing when it takes it down a notch. And it makes me want to find an easy chair and a bourbon on the rocks, baby. Apart from the general “Take it easy, fellas” vibe of the track, my favourite aspect of it is the standard of playing – it’s exceptionally high. And I love the false endings, with the Count’s little “let’s play it one more time, guys” suggestions just when you think the track’s finished. Excellent. Oh, and I also love the little reference to “Pop Goes The Weasel” in the trumpet solo (at 1:15). Cute. By the way, when looking for more information about this particular version of “April in Paris” (it’s a jazz standard that’s been recorded by piles of people) I found out that it made an appearance in Blazing Saddles. Now, I thought I’d remembered most of Blazing Saddles, but I must admit that has been a while since I last saw it (about three decades I’d say), so I zoomed over to YouTube to see just where in the movie “April in Paris” appears. It appears here. Fabulous.

Five out of five, Frank. Yay!