Friday, August 19, 2005

XM in depth, Channel 5

Yeah, the 50s channel was a little difficult, but not without its charms.

Nat King Cole, Send For Me: Actually not the first song I heard, but the first complete song to be identified. And it's a promising start. Good mid-tempo walking bass, a vocal that sounds self-assured but not obnoxiously so, good guitar work.

The Paris Sisters, I Love How You Love Me: Not a fan of strings and girl-group ballads in general. This one has a pretty, catchy melody, but the spoken section ("I love how you close your eyes when you kiss me ...") is a bit much even for this decade.

unidentified: Interesting how you can't really hear the "make" in "I'll make love to you." It comes across as "I'll may love to you." Scared of the censors?

Ray Peterson, The Wonder of You: From the album Tell Laura I Love Her, named after the car-crash epic for which this guy is known. That song is mentioned in passing in The Worst Rock & Roll Records of All Time. It's not officially part of that book's Bottom 50, but it's implied that it's actually worse. The actual entry (#48) is the Everly Brothers' Ebony Eyes. The authors say the Everlys' song isn't the worst of the "teen tragedy sweepstakes" because the protagonist doesn't decide to join his deceased lover (as in Dickie Lee's Patches) and the details aren't as gruesome as they're described in two songs, including ... Tell Laura I Love Her. I mention all this because it's better than describing the actual song, which is a particularly dreckful ballad.

Bo Diddley, I'm a Man: Another song with "I'll make love to you" in it. When were those days we keep hearing about before our "moral compass" went astray? Anyway -- this is basically an essential blues riff (later appropriated by everyone, perhaps most notably by George Thorogood) repeated ad infinitum. Classic song, but it could use a few good guitar breaks.

Tom & Jerry, Hey Schoolgirl: My knowledge of useless things is so vast that I knew this was Simon and Garfunkel, though I had to verify it at AllMusic. The guitar hints at something interesting; the vocals don't.

Dale and Grace, I'm Leaving It All Up To You: In that case, I'm changing the station. Seriously, this is pretty bad -- utterly mismatched male and female duet vocals over a bland 3/4 setting.

Bill Haley & His Comets, Dim Dim the Lights: And turn down the music.

Sam Cooke, Another Saturday Night: Thanks, I needed that. A classic singalong for the dateless. And we've all been there.

Huey "Piano" Smith, Don't You Just Know It: I actually don't hear a piano here, just a bass, drums and a few saxophonists obviously thrilled to be playing a riff instead of just sitting around waiting for the solo. The call-and-response vocals are fun. I'd listen to this again.

Cozy Cole, Topsy Part 2: Jazzy piano, organ and drums propel this instrumental. Actually, a lot of the guys revered as jazz legends should take a cue from this -- it's listenable, danceable and entertaining. OK, the drum solo goes on a bit too long without enough variation to sustain it, but Neil Peart was just a toddler around this time, so we can't expect too much.

Robert & Johnny, We Belong Together: I could've sworn I heard the drummer snoring before he missed a beat.

Thurston Harris, Little Bitty Pretty One: I forgot to listen. Sorry.

Bobby Darin, Mack the Knife: Ever catch the Bill Murray lounge singer impressions on Saturday Night Live? The vocal delivery is eerily similar. The horn fills were stereotypical a decade earlier.

The Heartbeats, A Thousand Miles Away: ... is where I'd rather be when all the doo-wop cliches kick up their ugly heads.

Elvis Presley, A Mess of Blues: Not as overwrought as some Elvis vocals, and the piano-based honky-tonk setting is palatable.

Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Ain't Got No Home: OK, that's enough. If I'd lived in this decade, I probably would've stuck with Beethoven.


Dave McLemore said...

I came up through that time. Even then the suicide ballads were more creepy than rockin'.

As hard as it may be to believe, songs by Do Diddley and Hughey Smith were dangerous music in the '50s. Strong beat that went straight to the groin. And you could dance to it.

The Everlys, among others, were important more than just for the harmonies. They were us. They wrote their own songs, instead of some old white guys in an office in New York. "Dream" still holds up.

There was a lot of dreck in the '50s, no doubt. I understand there's some pretty crappy music nowadays.

But the real revolution came in the early '60s. But that's another story.

bdure said...

Don't remind me -- I still have to work my way through the "today's top music" channels in the 20s.

I think this'll be especially interesting when I hit the world music channels. On current pace, that'll happen sometime in 2007.

Thanks for stopping by, Dave. Glad to see my Pressthink posts attracted some sane visitors.