Releasing October 1, 2019, Blast-off! is an album of new compositions for voice, saxophone, clarinet, guitar, piano and bass, intended to accompany films, TV shows and commercials that haven’t yet been created. They’re playful and inventive and joyful and fun: music written to herald the new FutuRetro Age. We’re blasting off into the art of the future!
Please visit: www.funtet.com to hear the new album!
Some ask me how I can sing in Mandarin. Well, it just comes through me. I recently discovered another example (of a singer delivering something meaningful far from his instant venue). Yes, there is no linguistic disparity. English was his mother tongue, but not American English.
Thomas Fraser (1927-1978) was a fisherman in the Shetland Islands. Over many years, he recorded American country and folk music on his own tape recorder. His grandson discovered the tapes decades later. And what we hear is, well, this is the meaning and the intention of the original in the place it originated — not the Shetlands! Even his guitar playing is thoroughly “right.” Compare this to any Jimmie Rodgers from the 1930s.
“Genuine, authentic?” This is so much pish-tosh. No, it does not matter through whom it comes, or when, just that what it is, that it actually is, is expressed. And anyone might be able to do it.
Every once in a while comes along an album, finely produced, well-played, extremely well sung, in sum subtly seductive, clearly an epiphany of heartfelt expression to the performer.
But which comes off to the listener, for all its artisanal craftsmanship, as oppressive to listen to because of the ideas it conveys. I’ve encountered this rare specimen today, though I shan’t name it or its creator.
Surely, the performer of whom I speak is thoroughly convinced of her rightness (righteousness?) in “speaking from the heart,” that shibboleth all post-modernists employ to justify what they create. And even that her work is Art (so she has said in interviews), regardless of its intention or its effect.
We must be cautious when any performer claims to be an Artist. There are few, very very few, who ever reach that level of creative expression. And those few would rarely admit to such achievement, because they know how dear, how rare and striven for that attainment truly is. But we know the tree from its fruits.
Rather, I hear in this performer’s voice, an insistence, a dread of life and a sense of the innate superiority of her ideas, which, sadly, give little of substance to the audience other than emotive dissonance — clothed in harmonious tones, mind you. Such is not my life, nor any life I care to hear about.
This is a lot of fun. Demonstrates (to me at least) just how accomplished a performer Waylon was. The song is “Loving Her Was Easier” (Kris Kristofferson).
At about 1:32, he sings “Healing as the colors in the sunshine and the shadows of her eyes.” In the middle of the phrase, you’ll notice a very very tiny smile that comes to his lips and a curious split-second look in his eye. PROBABLY because he just realized he repeated the fourth line by mistake! But covered beautifully, unnoticeably on national television with all that pressure.
The lyric that should have been sung is: “Talking of tomorrow and the money, love and time we had to spend.” Instead, he naturally went with another “ea” sound that started the previous line.
Today’s song snippet: the opening to “I Never Mention Your Name” (Mack Davis/Don George/Walter Kent).
The couplet intro is less often recorded, with singers generally going straight to the hook, but it succinctly sets up the number.
So many things that I think of so much
But there is one memory my lips never touch
I never mention your name, oh no
I never dream of your eyes
I never go where we used to go
To hear the echo of your sighs
“I never” is the hook, repeated throughout the lyric, until the final couplet contradicts it. So there is a set-up (the couplet intro) for the set-up (the repeated hooks) for the final couplet. And the final couplet is:
Except for every minute of every hour
Of every night and day
An ingenious form for a song lasting under 3 minutes that keeps the attention throughout and makes the song very memorable. One might only remember this as “The I Never” song and still have marched in to a store to buy the record or the sheet music.
The melody is rather ordinary and the rhythmic content a bit lackluster, so the vocal delivery means everything. I tend to prefer Audrey Morris. Who was she, you ask? A Chicago girl singer in the 50s. Here in a Marty Paich arrangement (he was the bandleader as well).
“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.
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.
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