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

Recording and Mixing at Wire Road Studios

January 12, 2018
Richie Kaye with Bedell Revolution Prototype
Richie Kaye with Bedell Revolution Prototype

In the studio today, mixing quartet tracks with Tony LaVorgna and Andy Bradley (engineer Wire Road Studios in Houston) and recording a few new originals with my Bedell Guitars Revolution prototype. I’m recording voice into a Neumann U87. The guitar is going into a stereo pair of Schoeps Mikrofone CMC641. Great sound! Can’t wait to share it with the world and all of our friends.

Tony LaVorgna, Richie Kaye, Andy Bradley at Wire Road, Studio B, Houston
Tony LaVorgna, Richie Kaye, Andy Bradley at Wire Road, Studio B, Houston

The Woodside Sisters — A Video Tribute to An Old Friend

January 1, 2018
My dear friend and colleague, Alice Schweitzer, who passed away last year, was a member of the Woodside Sisters.  She was also friend and colleague of my recording/writing partner Tony LaVorgna.
We’d heard stories that the trio was competition for The Chordettes, but neither Tony nor I had ever seen the sisters in a live performance because they’d disbanded decades before we worked with Alice.
Until today, when I discovered this routine in a YouTube video.
You’ll see them introduced by the great and wonderful Fred Allen, filmed in 1953. The routine starts at about 19:01. Alice starts the routine, center stage. They really were the tops. And to think, just 65 years ago, the land was teeming with acts at this level of variety performance.

Classical Influence on Pop Music Composers

December 28, 2017

Missing also in the young person’s musical diet is a love of (or even mere exposure to) classical works. No allusion to the classics can be found in any — and I mean none at all — pop or jazz or showtune since 1968. This is something that must be remedied.

Sure you might find an exception to prove this generality technically wrong, like Disco Beethoven in 1976. But the point is this: the older writers of sophisticated popular music listened and learned extensively from great tradition.

Here is an example of wholesale copying! The music is ascribed to Paul Weston, but it’s clear where it comes from. When it was issued, I think most laymen who considered themselves musically literate would have known it is Chopin. And of course, the musicians, the composers, well, surely they did.

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