I must warn you, Frank, that I feel the need to listen to The Merrymakers’ Bubblegun (1996) before I dive into your suggestions for this week. I don’t know how much that’s going to colour my responses to what you have on offer, but I have a slight suspicion that I’ll be looking for melody, melody, melody after The Merrymakers’ super-melodic power pop.
Right, I’ve listened to Bubblegun (and thoroughly enjoyed it for the ninth time), now on to your suggestions…
Bobby Darin – “If I Were A Carpenter“ (1966)
Now, this is a nice version of Tim Hardin‘s folk song*. It’s just occurred to me that song may or may not be an allegory about something. (The Vietnam War?) Or it could be a parable. (About the Vietnam War?) Or maybe it’s a metaphor. (Is it about the Vietnam War?) But whether or not it’s about anything other than wanting to be a carpenter**, I really liked Bobby Darin’s version. Admittedly, I’ve only heard a few of the apparently squillions of version of this song, but Bobby’s interpretation probably puts it up at the top of my (incredibly small) list of “If I Were A Carpenter” interpretations. By the way, Bobby’s singing in this video is absolutely magnificent:
(*Although it may appear that I’m terribly knowledgeable by mentioning who wrote the song, I only just found that out. Thank you, Internet.)
(**I’m very glad that I didn’t resort to making a joke about Bobby Darin wondering what it would be like if he was one of The Carpenters.)
Phil Collins – “Don’t Let Him Steal Your Heart Away“ (1982)
Despite the derision with which Phil Collins is awarded nowadays, I think this is a nice song. I’ve certainly heard it plenty of times. From the melodies to the playing to the production, everything about this song is very well made – and I can’t think of anything snarky to say about it. (That’s mainly because I’m not a very snarky person, and can’t really see the point in criticising someone for the sake of it.) It’s nice.
Johnny Rivers – “Swayin’ To The Music (Slow Dancin’)” (1977)
Oh, man. I haven’t heard this song in years. I’m surprised that it didn’t end up on the 25-disc Super Hits Of The ’70s: Have A Nice Day set. I think it’s a soft rock classic and would have fit right in with all the other cheesy songs on that compilation. (Maybe there were licensing problems. Or maybe Johnny didn’t want his song to be associated with 300 one-hit wonders.) I’m pleased to say that Johnny’s song is exactly as I remember it. And it’s as enjoyable as I remember it, too.
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – “Don’t Leave Me This Way“ (1975)
I was only familiar with two other versions of this song: the one by Thelma Houston (I love her singing); and the one by The Communards (I’d rather not talk about that one if you don’t mind). I didn’t know that this was the original (I’d always thought that Thelma’s version was the original), or had ever heard it before. Apart from Teddy Pendergrass‘ mighty good singing in Harold’s version (why wasn’t Harold singing it? And why am I too lazy to find out?), I didn’t like this an awful lot. I prefer Thelma’s version. I must admit that it was a bit of a chore to listen to it three times in a row, but now that I have I can say that my perception of it didn’t change at all. (At least I didn’t dislike it more than I did to begin with.) It is what it is: a song with a steady disco beat. But I liked the singing – it saved me from groaning “Oh, no” every time I played it.
Quincy Jones – “Soul Bossa Nova“ (1962)
Ah, so that’s what this piece of music is. I’ve never seen any of the Austin Powers movies, so I had no idea who wrote it, who performed it etc etc. Now that I know that “Soul Bossa Nova” is by the unnaturally talented Quincy Jones, I’m not surprised. As far as I’m concerned, Quincy is The Man. I won’t prattle on about Quincy or this track because I don’t want to spend the next five hours praising UTQ (Unnaturally Talented Quincy) to the skies. (And I don’t think you want to spend the next five hours reading it.) According to Wikipedia, “Soul Bossa Nova” has been used plenty of times, mostly in movies. I can’t say much about it, because I adore every single thing about it. I’ll just say that I find it irresistible. Non-interesting sidenote: Before finding out that it was by Quincy Jones, if anyone was ever going to ask me who composed it (I know, I know: that was exceedingly unlikely), I would have said Henry Mancini. It has the instant familiarity usually associated with Henry’s music. (Even if you’ve never heard it before, as soon as you hear Henry Mancini’s indelible music you’d swear you’ve heard it before.) But I’m glad it’s Quincy. The Man.