We danced together as old lovers do.

April 19, 2011

Alright, picking right up from where we left off yesterday, it’s the next 3 tracks for your consideration on Grandma Cyd’s playlist. Remember to swing by The Heavy Petting Zoo’s Facebook Page on Friday to vote on which of all the tracks posted this week you’d most like to hear played alongside classics from the 1930s-1950s on “The Heavy Petting Zoo.” And if nothing else, at least remember to listen to the show on WSUM 91.7 in Madison and online Saturday nights from 7-9 p.m. CST.

Which modern songs deserve placement alongside the classics?

Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra with Sam Brown – Valentine Moon (from 2001’s Small World, Big Band)
Paul: 2 olives
Grandma Cyd: 1 olive.

Grandma Cyd: Loading … OK.
Paul: Now I’ll start this off with an interesting fact. Sam Brown is Joe Brown’s daughter—Joe Brown being the dude who did your favorite version of “I’ll See You In My Dreams.”
Grandma Cyd: Ah, I see! I had to let that name sink in and ring a bell. So, as I listen to this song, I have to ask: What makes this seem like a song played in “the old style” versus simply being a ballad?
Paul: I think it’s the big band backing. The orchestration. I know that seems like a copout, but the Jools Holland band, it’s a proper big band thang. This song does feel like something out of the 1950s to me.
Grandma Cyd: Hmm. For me, it feels like something out of a “A Prairie Home Companion.” I mean that in the best of ways. And there’s something that irks me about her gringo French. Even though I’ve heard it’s not PC to say “gringo” anymore (I can’t keep up—how Granny is that to say?).
Paul: Yeah, the French bit is a little pretentious. British people like doing that I think. Not enough that they already have an accent. They’ve got to show off the foreign language too.
Grandma Cyd: She and Joe Brown are British? The things I don’t know about pop artists post-1965!
Paul: Yes she and Joe Brown are British.
Grandma Cyd: I wouldn’t have guessed from “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” Or this, actually. Maybe I’m deaf to that or something.
Paul: Really? Joe’s got a bit of a cockney bite. She doesn’t.
Grandma Cyd: Oh wait… yes. Now that I’m listening for it, I hear it. I never picked up on it before. And now I hear hers too.
Paul: So you think it veers toward a typical ballad than proper “standard” type fare?
Grandma Cyd: Yeah, typical waltz ballad. I just don’t hear the distinguishing characteristics that some of these other selections have. But this could totally pass for a guest spot on “A Prairie Home Companion.” It’s just missing Garrison Keillor’s off-key “harmonization” that he insists upon doing.
Paul: Fair enough. So then don’t play it again, Sam, eh.
Grandma Cyd: Haha, yeah, I give this a 1. Not a bad song, but not a fit for HPZ.
Paul: Alright, I’ll give it a 2-olive rating.

Natalie Merchant – The Janitor’s Boy (from 2010’s Leave Your Sleep)
Paul: 5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 2 olives

Grandma Cyd: So, I kind of forgot she existed.
Paul: Yeah, a lot of people did. This album came out last year and people were like “Oh, wow. I think I remember her.”
Grandma Cyd: And I can kind of see what she’s going for here. There are some throwbacks to the old New Orleans style. Kind of like Connick’s “A Wink and a Smile” arrangement. This just came out this year? I assumed you dug it out of some heap. Dust heap.
Paul: No, she did this album last year. Basically composed a bunch of music to old children’s poems. The story about this poem is that it was written by a 10-year-old girl in 1924. So she got Wynston Marsalis to do this old jazzy backing, suiting it to the era.
Grandma Cyd: Last year—that’s what I meant.
Paul: I don’t know if I believe a 10-year-old wrote this. I know there were some poetry critics who were really pissy about it. “There’s no way a 10-year-old could write this!” I think the line about “The only thing that occurs to me is to dutifully shiver in bed.” Maybe she was just talking about being cold.
Grandma Cyd: Ha!
Paul: But this is a song about being in love with a red-haired boy. So…
Grandma Cyd: So, it’s that a 10-year-old wrote these lyrics as a poem, or that a 10-year-old wrote a poem and [Natalie] based the lyrics upon that poem?
Paul: Lyrics as a poem.
Grandma Cyd: If it was the latter, maybe someone took some liberties with the plotline.
Paul: No, you can look up the original poem. Who knows, though? Maybe things were different in the 1920s. I don’t think I even got the innuendo for “Dutifully shiver in bed” until about 3 years ago. Very sheltered upbringing, you know.
Grandma Cyd: I’d be cold if it were the 1920s. They had crap for HVACs. In fact, they had no HVACs and had to crap in outhouses. So …
Paul: So it would be your duty to shiver.
Grandma Cyd: On the old sateen.
Paul: Anyway, onto the delivery, and this just occurred to me as I was listening to it today. The delivery REALLY reminds me of Peggy Lee. And I thought, you know… you’ve got men like Buble and Jaime Cullum and all these popular dudes trying to emulate some crooners. But no women really try to go for Peggy. The more in-thing seems to be like what the Ditty Bops (who incidentally sing on this song) do where it’s more Andrews Sisters-type harmonies. Or Lily Frost like, where you’re just singing fast over an old timey backing. That slow, clear, “hint-hint” delivery, you know, it’s not like that. It’s all about vocal acrobatics if you’re a popular female singer, isn’t it? Or is my idea of a diva still rooted in 2001 or so when I stopped watching VH1?
Grandma Cyd: My idea of diva involves the opera, so I’m not even sure what you’d be referring to regarding this VH1 business. We had divas in the 90s? I always thought that was code for, “Over-privileged pop princess.” I only hear seconds’-worth of hints of Peggy Lee, though. I mostly hear Natalie Merchant being Natalie Merchant. Which isn’t a bad thing.
Paul: Nah, I think this tune is great. I’m a huge Natalie fan. This song actually almost made the 15 of the Best list… but it was knocked off at the last second. I say 5 olives. Solid.
Grandma Cyd: Wasn’t there another song by her in your list? I’ve forgotten.
Paul: No. This would’ve been the one, but you know, Icarus Himself had to go and do “Digging Holes.” Which you had to introduce me to.
Grandma Cyd: I give it 2 olives. I appreciate the effort and the arrangement, but I’m still not quite buying it. I’m awful that way.
Paul: Wow, only 2?! I am under no obligation to dutifully shiver in bed with you.
Grandma Cyd: Maybe if you had, I’d be more inclined to give a higher rating. Isn’t that how this works?
Paul: Not at all. My taste is impeccable. Those who disagree with me must be banished.

Elvis Costello – When Did I Stop Dreaming (from 2003’s North)
Paul: 2.5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 1 olive

Grandma Cyd: But you banished me … I think you just killed the series prematurely. What ever will people do come Wednesday?
Paul: Yeah, banishment repealed.
Grandma Cyd: That was quick. OK, so the instrumental background on this track reminds me of something I’d hear off the Johnny Hartman Collection I play so often on my show. Something more along the lines of an actual jazz arrangement rather than what we think of as “big band.”
Paul: Now this song… Elvis is interesting, ‘cos he’s always gotta follow this random muse. “I want to do an old time jazz album,” “I want to write an operetta,” “I want to do another pop rock album,” “I want to do a piano album,” etc. So this was from his album North, which was supposed to be like a jazz piano album. I think it was around the time he was starting to see Diana Krall. But the interesting thing is he can’t really play piano well, so I’m imagining he was helped on the album.
Grandma Cyd: Doesn’t sound like this piece requires much piano prowess, though. Just a few chords here and there.
Paul: I got this album in college, ‘cos I thought it would be good and moody. I could be a moody little hermit in college. And this was really the only track on the album that I thought was any good. And I think even that assessment is kinder than what most critics thought of it.
Grandma Cyd: It does sort of drag on, doesn’t it?
Paul: Yeah, and I think the lack of prowess is pretty apparent. It sounds like a guy who’s just been shown a few chords on piano doodling around a bit.
Grandma Cyd: It’s not like—if we take the Johnny Hartman Collection as an example—Hartman’s version of “Lush Life” that he did with John Coltrane, where the song evolves and keeps you hooked, carrying you all along the way, of course with a wonderful sax solo by Coltrane. And who can beat that?
Paul: No one. This song could’ve used Coltrane.
Grandma Cyd: I agree. If you’re going to lay down a 5-minute track, I’d hope that it’s doing something to you emotionally along the way.
Paul: I think I used this song to fall asleep more than brood. I ended up using Sinatra’s Only the Lonely for brooding.
Grandma Cyd: You produced a family of small animals, such as chicks or larvae, from one hatching?
Paul: Brooding. Not breeding.
Grandma Cyd: “Definitions of Brooding on the Web: sitting on eggs so as to hatch them by the warmth of the body.” Granted, Google’s dictionary goes on to include: “Pensiveness: persistent morbid meditation on a problem” and my little Mac widget did not. But that’s neither here nor there.
Paul: Well you’re going to have to take my work that it means working through a period of unhappiness. I’m an editor, for chrissakes.
Grandma Cyd: Ha. P.S. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7d6_LUDa_Zw. As an example of how you do it.
Paul: I say 2.5 olives. I’ll go for my own personal sentimentality. Even though it never gave me what I wanted.
Grandma Cyd: I’m sorry to do this, Pabs. 1 olive.
Paul: Watch the readers vote this their favorite. Just you watch. This is going to be your albatross.
Grandma Cyd: As one who’s now crossed the mighty Drake Passage and watched the albatross soar along the sea, I still have yet to understand where that phrase comes from and what it’s supposed to mean.
Paul: Well, soaring across the sea is fine. You want the bugger hanging around your neck?
Grandma Cyd: Haha. If it saves him from being caught in the long lines of the Chilean sea bass fishing boats? What can I say, I’m a sucker for wildlife.
Paul: Fair enough!
Grandma Cyd: Anywhosies …

Check back for Part 3 tomorrow!

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