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In Memoriam, Alice Schweitzer

February 23, 2018

Here’s to the grand dames who once walked the stage
Thrilling the throng, the trumpets outbrassing
Then the curtains alight on the vanishing age
Will we ever see like on their passing?

–Richie Kaye, 2/22/18

Great Opening Lines: You Call That a Mountain

Today’s opening lines:

I always heard about the great Atlantic

How it humbles you to stand upon its shores

So I thought I’d take the time to go and see it

’cause I had no ties upon me any more

But I don’t know what I wasted my time for…

“You Call That a Mountain”
(Michael Garvin/Bucky Jones)

Reading this aloud, one finds it prosaic, but with melody, it is anything but. This opening skillfully and conversationally sets up the form of the song: the singer visits a new natural wonder in each stanza. In the bridge, the singer then praises the incomparable wonder of his now lost love. The natural wonders pale.

Rhythmically, the lyrical cadence is grasped immediately by the listener. In the verse, sung in 2, the emphasis is on the 2. In the bridge, on the 1. This reversal of emphasis, making the bridge the definitive commentary on the more passive observations made in the verse, is, I think, simply some of the finest artisanship I’ve seen in Nashville classic country.

Definitely, a song I will record for the next EP.

Opening Lines in My Repetoire — Lost in the Stars

February 20, 2018

I’m going to share snippets of what I consider fine opening stanzas from songs in my repertoire. Only opening lines (or the verse that precedes the opening line) because these set up the entire number and are the best clue to the skill of the writer.

Here is my first selection:

Before Lord God made the Sea and the land,
He held all the stars in the palm of His hand,
And they ran through His fingers like grains of sand,
But one little star fell alone…

Lyricist: Maxwell Anderson
From the 1948 show, Lost in the Stars, based on Alan Paton’s novel, “Cry, the Beloved Country.”

In the show, this song is sung as an adult’s explanation of Life to a child. But, of course, it is really the exposition of the character’s heart, sung to the audience.

There are many fine recorded versions of this song by all the great singers of the 20th c.

Why I Prefer Singing the Older Songs

February 18, 2018

Occasionally, I’m asked why I favor singing the older songs. After listening to 1,000s of songs, here are the differences I hear in the popular male love ballad, to take one example.

Male love ballads composed in the period 1930 to 1960:

• The singer regales the woman with an ode to her beauty and glamour. He tells her all that he will do for her until the end of time, if she would but love him a half as much as he adores her. Feminine ideal placed on a pedestal and worshipped. The male as the servant to her beauty, which deserves his adoration by its mere existence.

• ‎Ideas develop from a premise to a conclusion, usually a request on bended knee.

• Complex, memorable, singable melodies with just enough subtle repetition to encourage memorability of the number.

• Lyrical ingenuity. Seemingly commonplace language, made by invention unusual and delightful.

• Variety in time, in 2, 3 and 4, some swung, or waltzed or cha-cha’d, etc.

Male love ballads composed in the past 20 years:

• The singer implores the woman of his neediness. She has to love him or he will fall even farther without her. The male is the focus; the female attends to him.

• One idea, stated at the top, unchanging throughout. No attempt at persuading the listener, but the appeal to the love ideal is pity.

• Short repetitive phrases of only a few varying pitches, often only one bar long. Changes limited to full major and rarely minor chords, no maj7, diminished, 13s, etc.

• Always in 4, straight-ahead. Variation in feel restricted to volume only, with softer implying tender intimacy and louder usually representing anger or intensity of neediness.

Of course, there are exceptions, but this is my take on these two generations of songwriters after decades of listening. I think women would rather hear how they are to be adored, don’t you?

Perhaps the maturity of the song is somewhat a function of the age of the writer, since the older songs were written by primarily older, more experienced men, whereas newer iterations of the popular love ballad seem to be written by 20 somethings.

I surely do hear mature songs recently written by older guys (like me), with fine meaningful lyrics, easy to grasp musical complexity and melodic subtlety. The first who comes to mind is my friend, Ken Gaines.

Anyhow, this is why I generally prefer the older numbers. But my mind is open to the possibility of new numbers to sing and I’m looking for them all the time.

New Richie Kaye Recordings in 2018

February 16, 2018

Next week, I’ll be at Wire Road Studios to record a few gemstones. These are 60s Nashville back-catalog classics that are rarely if ever recorded any longer. Some made the top 100 or even better, but a few of them were recorded once, maybe twice and then were forgotten. But they’re still real fine numbers that audiences I play today enjoy hearing. I’ll issue this as an EP with artwork before summer comes. Name still up in the air.

I’ve gotten to the point now where I have enough new original material I think is ready for the next album. The next few months I’ll be arranging, to begin recording mid-summer, partly in Houston, but also in New Orleans with both Houston and NOLA talent. I’ve a title for this work already and artwork in mind. It’s to be a vocal album with acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, organ, bass, strings and reeds. A bit complex, looking at a release date may be the end of 2018.

Why Did I Tell Ya I was Going to Shanghai? — Songs Added to the Repetoire

February 12, 2018

New songs in the repertoire:

Six Days on the Road (Dave Dudley)

Why Did I Tell Ya I was Going to Shanghai? (Peggy Lee)

Ridin’ on the Gravy Train (Jo Stafford)

I can guarantee you no one has been playing these great numbers for a loooooong time….

This is the forgotten hit, “Why Did I Tell You I Was Goin’ to Shanghai.” Doris Day had a lot of success with it, but, much as I love Ms. Day, I prefer the lesser known Peggy Lee rendition, here sung live in 1951 on CBS radio and fortunately preserved. Bob Hilliard, who wrote the lyrics to “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” wrote these as well.

It’s real cute, so I’ve added it to my repetoire. I first heard it when I was singing in Japan ages ago, on a cassette tape of American jazz I bought in a tiny cassette tape shop in East Osaka (really). Try finding some Japanese enka recordings in Houston…

More Great Songs Added to Richie’s Repetoire

January 26, 2018

New songs in the solo repetoire:

Up, Up and Away (5th Dimension) — thanks for my friend, Texas songwriter Van Buchanan for his recent post that reminded me!

We’ll Be Together Again (Sammy Davis, Jackie Paris, many others)

A Satisfied Mind (Marty Stuart)

You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles)

New Nashville Solo Album in Progress

January 24, 2018

I’ve a new project on the near horizon, in addition to the jazzy quartet work and my forthcoming album of originals. The new project is an album of classic Nashville covers from the 1960s, solo voice and steel-string guitar.

Initial demos sounded good to those who listened and, most importantly, I did, too. Something has changed in my delivery of vocal material.

The twist is that none of the songs on this album will have been very well-known, even when they were issued. But they are gems, every one of them. As you probably already know, I love to mine the American back catalog and have come up flush every time.

My Bollywood Life

January 21, 2018

In my performing life, I’ve sung Japanese enka on Japanese TV and Taiwanese pop songs in Mandarin on Chinese state television, but I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I would be asked to sing 1950s Bollywood songs in Hindi in Houston, Texas.

I just did, to wonderful reception. And I have a witness!!

New Recording: Richie Kaye with Tony LaVorgna, Ernesto Vega and Thomas Helton

January 19, 2018
All I can say at this point about our session last week at Wire Road with Tony LaVorgna, Ernesto Vega and Thomas Helton is that it was fantastic.  I can’t share any audio of it yet with you because there is more writing and recording to come in this project in 2018. But let me share my favorite picture of the day.   Tony and Ernesto in the studio. I love this image very much. (I think they’re talking about reeds, funny enough…)

Tony and Ernesto
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