Friday, July 29, 2005

XM in depth, Channel 4

The trouble with XM is that the choice is overwhelming. It's easy to flip around all the time in the hopes that there must be something better on some other channel. It takes some discipline to sit and try something new. And when it comes to radio, I don't have that discipline.

So I'm going through a little experiment. I'll go channel-by-channel through XM's music offerings, giving each channel an hour or 10 songs of uninterrupted listening (if I can stand it). We'll start at the bottom ... Channel 4, the 40s.

I've always been a "limited doses" guy when it comes to big band music, and that's the predominant fare here. Of course, the music all brings to mind some great old cartoons and some wartime nostalgia that somehow seeped into the consciousness of us Generation Xers.

And the XM call signal, done in a different style on each channel, is great here -- played on a clarinet with a bit of swing.

I heard more songs than I've listed here, but because songs were short in those days, they flew by quickly, and XM's online connection struggled to keep up with the song identities.

Here goes ...

Gene Krupa, It All Comes Back To Me Now -- Krupa was a great drummer, but the drums are pushed far into the background on this one. That's a shame. It's a rather dreary ballad sung by a guy whose voice drips with sap. (Hey, I'm cranking these out quickly -- excuse the metaphors.) The woodwinds play some adventurous progressions, and there are some pretty melodies in the bridges.

Mildred Bailey, I Go For That -- Gotta love a song that works in a reference to "Dubuque" because it fits the rhyme and meter. The horn-and-xylophone setting is a little corny, but the lyrics are clever. I'd love to hear a rapper do a cover version.

Guy Lombardo, When My Dreamboat Comes Home -- A muted trumpet plays a melody that sounds like an old spiritual before the singer takes over. Good sentimental song for wartime.

The Andrews Sisters and Vic Schoen, Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar -- I won't knock it for a title that wouldn't fly in today's more sensitive times. I'll knock it because it's just plain silly and full of obnoxious boasting that makes Eminem look modest.

Bob Crosby and His Orchestra, In a Little Gypsy Tea Room -- For some reason, I was picturing a smiling Elmer Fudd setting out on a hunt just before things went horribly awry. It's a bouncy little tune with the flute handing the melody off to other horns. Amiable, but forgettable.

Louis Armstrong, Lazy River -- After listening to a succession of guys trying to make up for the lack of character in their voices with excessive vibrato, Armstrong is a welcome relief. There are better Armstrong songs, but this isn't bad -- half ballad, half scat.

Frankie Carle, Sunrise Serenade -- And after a succession of songs in which the horns drowned out every other sound, this piano-driven tune is a welcome relief.

Dinah Shore, I'll Walk Alone -- Never been a fan. The background chorus is a little creepy.

Vaughn Monroe, That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day) -- The oddest tune so far. It's a gospel tune with occasional swinging bursts from the horns, a string finale and some harmony vocals that overwhelm the lead singer's distinctive baritone.

Peggy Lee, Manana (Is Soon Enough for Me) -- Very nice change of pace with some prominent percussion and a cool, detached female vocal, albeit with some overdone Latin inflections. Forty years later, she'd have been a great lead singer for the Waitresses. Cool guitar solo, too. We'll close on an up note here.

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