Spring Cleaning the Musical Mind

So today was opening day at Fenway Park (Sox won!) and it was an absolutely perfect spring day with sunshine and temps in the 70's. These kind of days are much appreciated after the epic winter we just experienced in the Boston area. I'm one who really enjoys all four seasons including winter. But this year? All I can say is: so glad it's over!

So with spring upon us, I'm downloading the thoughts I had while being cooped up in my study practicing and dreaming of sunnier times. To wit:

  • Urge for Going by Joni Mitchell is one of the best songs from the past fifty years; period, end of story. I grew up listening to the Tom Rush version which was a bigger FM hit. I always assumed he wrote the tune but then heard Joni's version a number of years ago and was bowled over. Like many of her songs; the melancholy runs thick but the beautiful tone of her voice juxtaposed with the simple, sad poetry of the lyrics is perfection. To me the song encapsulates the passage of time and things coming to an end in a way no other music quite captures.  I have a hard time not getting choked up every time I listen.
  • Another song that has that effect on me is Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tarrega. Played on nylon string guitar by many but none better than John Williams. My roommate at Berklee many years ago used to practice that song for hours trying to master the tremolo technique. I never got tired of hearing it even as he worked at it.
  • The version of I Can't Stand the Rain by Ann Peebles might be the most soulful vocal ever. Ann Peebles is a very underrated singer. You generally don't hear her mentioned when the top soul singers are discussed but in my book, she's one of the greats. If only more singers these days would emulate her understated emotion and effortlessly smooth tone. Unfortunately that style of singing just doesn't reap big rewards today. Everyone is impressed by the power singers with the unending melismas and over-the-top delivery.
  • Can anyone tell me exactly when recording became "tracking"? Was it around the same time that invitations became "invites"?  Not exactly sure why but "tracking" has a pretentious air to my ear.
  • Another annoying trend is the ubiquity of puerile sing-song syllables in just about every pop song these days. I'm talking about things like "uh-oh" and "oh-ee-oh-ee-oh" and stuff like that. Those used to be reserved for  Old MacDonald's farm and such to please the ears of tiny tots and little kids. I know these phrases have been around for a while and used in more than a few classic rock tunes like TVC15 by David Bowie and Love Comes to Town by Talking Heads. But seriously, on the pop satellite station they play at my gym every other song has some version of this ear wormy attempt to embed some phrase in your psyche for their commercial benefit. My PRO is BMI and I get their monthly newsletter. The last one had an article about songwriting where this technique was mentioned as a must. Count me as not a fan.
  • And finally, so sorry to hear that the great Stan Freberg recently died. He was a favorite in my family and a real pioneer in postwar musical satire. I remember as a kid hearing radio commercials for Salada Tea and other brands with his comedy bits and songs used to promote the products. They were as entertaining as anything on TV or radio and I'm sure he helped sell a whole lot of tea and other products with his talents as a comedy songwriter. RIP


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