Frank’s Faves on Fridays

November 26, 2010

Van Morrison – “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile) (1972)

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Superb. (I’m probably going to overuse the word “superb” describing this song.) Pretty much everything about it is superb to me. Great tunes, great drumming, and an even greater horn arrangement. I never noticed before just how splendid all those horns are. I’ve heard this plenty of times on the radio, and have it on CD (The Best Of Van Morrison), but never really paid much attention to what’s actually going on in the song (e.g., those amazing horns). Now that I’ve listened intently to the inner workings of the track, I’m mighty glad that I’ve acquainted myself with it properly. Superb. By the way, I want to mention something I’ve not always been keen on in a Van Morrison song: Van Morrison’s vocals. Although I’ve liked a lot of Van’s songs, I’ve usually been slightly averse to Van’s vocal tics. To me, he’s always seemed to me to have a tendency to meander vocally. Some people take it to be like the musical equivalent of speaking in tongues (I’d call it “mumbling spiritually”), but whenever I listen to him it sounds to me like Van’s slightly drunk. Having typed that, I think that Van’s vocal meanderings suit this song perfectly.

Sophie B. Hawkins – “Lose Your Way” (1999)

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This now brings the official number of Sophie B. Hawkins song I’ve heard to a grand total of two. (The other one is “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover“). Having listened to “Lose Your Way”, I must admit that it doesn’t do an awful lot – positive or negative – for me. Overall, I thought it was pleasant, but nothing more. I don’t know if it was the banjo, but “Lose Your Way” reminded me of Stevie Nicks‘ “Landslide” as performed by The Dixie Chicks. Some aspects of Sophie’s song irritated me, though. For example, Sophie’s vocals – they were a bit too whispery/breathy for my liking. And I thought the wah-wah guitar (in the left channel at 2:25) was pointless and didn’t add anything to the song at all. I don’t know who decided to put that in the song (maybe the producer), but I thought it was a poor choice of something extra to add to this particular song. And one other thing I found irritating was the cello – I would have much preferred to hear a string section. To me, this song cries out for strings. It doesn’t have to be a lot of them, either – just a string quartet, or even a string trio, would do the trick. Had Sophie given me a call I would have been happy to provide a string arrangement (I’m much better at arranging than composing). But I’m not a woulda-shoulda-coulda kind of guy, so I won’t lose any sleep over what “might have been…”.

The Spongetones – “Every Night Is A Holiday” (1994)

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I have a sneaking suspicion that you chose this song because of the drum beat in the introduction (and the middle eight). I’m a complete sucker for that drum beat. This is another song I’d call pleasant and not much else. Despite its pleasantness, two aspects of this song prevented me from enjoying it a little more: 1) the slightly-out-of-tune guitars; and 2) the out-of-tune vocal harmonies. This is a song I’m rather tempted to call “unremarkable”. I was trying to think of something that would sum up how I feel about what I’ve heard of The Spongetones so far, but Stewart Mason in his All Music Guide review of Always Carry On: The Best Of The Spongetones 1980-2005 said it for me: “Of course, not everyone can be the Beatles, and as Always Carry On: The Best of the Spongetones 1980-2005 proves, there’s something to be said for being the Dave Clark 5.”

Every Mother’s Son – “Come On Down To My Boat” (1967)

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Groovy. A bubblegum song with blues riffs. My toes were a-tappin’ and my head was a-noddin’ (although I wasn’t able to do both simultaneously – I haven’t mastered that ability yet). Out of the five tracks on offer this week, this was the one I played most often. Groovy.

Bonus instrumental:

Les Brown & His Orchestra – “Leap Frog” (1957)

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Loved it. When I’m in the mood for it – which is often – swing is just the bee’s knees. (Or the cat’s whiskers.) And this track has everything a swing fan could want: plenty of tunes; plenty of horns; driving beat; short’n’sweet drum fills; vocal interjections from excited band members etc. Man, oh man. I dig swing.

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