Frank’s Faves on Fridays

February 18, 2011

I’m quite happy to call this week’s suggestions “Frank’s Faves on Fridays: The Girl Edition”. And I’m going to try to be much more succinct this week, because my comments have been getting way out of hand lately. (Last week’s efforts – especially the first two – were such marathon essays that I wouldn’t wish them on anybody. I can’t even imagine anybody having the patience, or the inclination, to read all of that nonsense. And now I’m prattling on again… Stop it, Peter.)

Lesley Gore – “That’s The Way Boys Are” (1964)

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This song gets my vote for Best Use Of Hand Claps In A Pop Song. I love this song. However, in the lyrics I wasn’t especially keen on Lesley wanting to die (“When I’m with my guy and he watches all the pretty girls go by-yi-yi / And I feel so hurt deep inside, I wish that I could die-i-i”). But I guess when you’re a teenager, everything becomes a matter of life and death (as in: “How COULD he???” or “He LEFT me!!!” or “My life is RUINED!!!” etc). Aurally, the most notable aspect of this song for me is that I think it sounds exactly like a Phil Spector song but without the army of musicians that Phil Spector employed on his productions. (“That’s The Way Boys Are” is sort of Spector-Lite.) But it doesn’t matter to me that Phil Spector had nothing to do with this song. I love it.

Phoebe Snow – “Poetry Man” (1974)

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Nice. Sensitive. Poetic. Etc. Actually, the instrumental backing from the musicians is much busier than I remembered: the acoustic guitarist’s fingers are very frisky; there’s plenty of triangle action; someone’s fiddling with various small cymbals (possibly thumb cymbals); someone’s playing a cabasa throughout the entire song (well, I think it’s a cabasa); there’s a saxophone solo (accompanied by synthesizers); a harp pops up from time to time. That’s a lot of instrumentation there. As for the song, I sort of like it. When I’m listening to it, I get the sensation that it’s static, and not moving forward as songs usually do (i.e., a song that starts, progresses a while, and then finishes). This song just sits still, and I find that disconcerting. As for the singing: I must admit that I don’t like Phoebe Snow’s voice, but I think she’s a great singer. (I feel the opposite about Whitney Houston: a great voice but a dreadful singer.)

Connie Francis – “Don’t Ever Leave Me” (1964)

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I enjoyed this, but I kept comparing it to Lesley Gore’s excellent song. (I try not to compare your suggestions to each other, but Lesley’s and Connie’s songs are in very similar territory.) It’s an enjoyable Forlorn Teenage Girl song, but it’s no “That’s The Way Boys Are”. I did like “Don’t Ever Leave Me” (and the tack piano solo, which I thought was unusual for this kind of ditty), but for me it didn’t have that extra something that elevates it to Great Song status. The singing was OK, the playing was OK, the production was OK etc. It was OK.

Carole King – “Sweet Seasons” (1971)

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When this song started, I thought I was going to hear “Thank You Being A Friend” by Andrew Gold. But then it got going and the bass-playing (and its tone) made the song sound a bit Motown-ish. And as it was tootling along, it also reminded me of Fleetwood Mac‘s “Say You Love Me“. I can’t really think of much to say about “Sweet Seasons”. It doesn’t do much for me. As I was listening to it I was waiting for a great Carole King chorus to appear, but it never did. Ah, well. Carole’s written plenty of great songs elsewhere. I don’t know why – maybe it’s because I was listening to a female singer-songwriter – but as I was listening to “Sweet Seasons” I wanted to listen to Karla Bonoff’s “Lose Again”. Actually, I think I will:

[A non-Frank suggestion]
Karla Bonoff – Lose Again (1977)

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Now, listening to that song reduces me to a puddle of goo. Every single time.

Uninteresting Admission: I’ve never owned or listened to Carole King’s unbelievably successful Tapestry, an album that is apparently owned by every person in the English-speaking world over the age of 45. Except me.

Bonus instrumental:

The Nirvana Sitar And String Group – “Sunday Will Never Be The Same” (1968)

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This is without a doubt the most bizarre thing you’ve ever sent me. I have to get my hands on the album*. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that many musical instruments out of tune in the one song. (I know that sitars often play microtones, but acoustic guitars and basses don’t.) That acoustic guitar is the most out-of-tune instrument of any instrument I have ever heard on a recording. I was amazed by the audacity of the musicians just playing that one tune over and over again. Once they’d finish the eight bars of the tune, they’d go back to the start and just play it again – with no variation (well, none that I could detect). Actually, that’s not strictly true – they did put a middle eight in the song (from 0:38 to 0:57), but it wasn’t that much different from the tune they played over and over again. The musicians may have put another middle eight in the song, but it’s hard to tell. Overall, I found the whole thing mind-numbing. And astounding. I laughed out loud when the musicians presented the song’s false ending (starting at 2:05, or 2:07, or 2:09 – I just can’t tell when they start that false ending), and then started up again, playing that tune over and over again. Excellent.

Update: Fabulously informative commenter Old_Davy (howdy, young ‘un!) has told me (and you) that The Nirvana Sitar And String Group track is actually a cover of a song by Spanky And Our Gang. Here’s the original for comparison:

[A non-Frank suggestion]
Spanky And Our Gang – “Sunday Will Never Be The Same” (1967)

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(*Done.)

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