Music Monday: My Boy Lollipop

Millie Small’s version is unbridled fun:

This 1987 news segment is pretty interesting:

SHe seems to have spent time recently in the studio, but I don’t know whether anything will come of it.

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Music Mondays: Videos with Continuous Motion

Last Monday I dug up this video of a Take On Me cover by Reel Big Fish:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s just them “walking” through some tunnels with the illusion of mostly forward motion. And…I really love it. It made me thing of Supergrass’s Alright video:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(For UKers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

)

The forward, linear motion isn’t quite as continuous but it does dominate.

The Pretty Reckless’s Make Me Wanna Die has the lead singer walking forward with the camera while taking off her clothes and a bunch of other generic hard rock stuff (flames, etc.)

 

 

 

 

 

I tend to think that the simple walking while singing was the effective bit! (The Pretty Reckless have a bunch of interesting videos, but often kinda overdo it.)

In the Letter From an Occupant Video, none of the New Pornographers move much, but the camera does in an infiniteish zoom:

 

 

 

I could have sworn that the Dead South had some moving, but they just walk in place while the background shifts. It gives the feel of linear motion though:

Ingrid Michaelson’s Still the One doesn’t quite fit in this mold as we get a lot of different views and the motion is rarely into the camera, but the spirit seems similar. There’s nearly always forward motion of some kind. I think it’s pretty neat. The dancer is just so into it.

In comments on such videos there’s the complaint that some such videos are “low budget” which is maybe true? But the technique is effective and relatively few of these are truly super low budget or as low budget as people think. The Reel Big Fish probably had several takes and had to get folks like the flipping mascot on board. More to the point, who cares? It’s fun and feels “in tune” with the performance.

Music Monday: John Henry

The Smithsonian Folkways label is a treasure trove, for sure. It has a ton of great and historically important music. They have a lot of educational material, but not a lot of free material (alas). They are non profit, so maybe more money goes to the musician or supports their archival work. On the other hand, esp for their older stuff, it’d be great to have a large library of great work available to all. They should be optimising for access!

Alas, their free offerings are rather paltry. However, they currently have a nice “John Henry” Cephas & Wiggins available:

Ah, John Henry. A great story and great song. When we left North Carolina for Maryland, we through a farewell bash in our apartment complex’s social room. We billed it as a sort of “farewell concert/song round”. Tons of Zoe’s music buddies show up and we had a blast.

The absolute, bone shaking, heart exhilarating performance was our good friend Reagan Cole (RIP) playing John Henry. Here’s a recording that just does not remotely do justice to the performance I experienced:

I saw one of the most buttoned up people I’ve ever known pounding a table in time. I remember the vibrations of that performance. It was one of the absolutely finest musical experiences of my life.

There are a plethora of wonderful interpretations (BelefonteMississippi Fred McDowell <– GREAT video! among others), but for me it will always be that moment when leaving North Carolina banging on a table while saying goodbye.

Music Monday: Take On Me

“Take On Me” is a classic pop song with an distinctively awesome video :

The rotoscoping is amazing. The flickeriness with the extra lines make it so interesting and engaging to watch even though the rest is kinda meh and the “story” nonsense. The bits that aren’t rotoscoped stand in stark contrast as visually boring. And yet it doesn’t feel busy or seizure inducing. It’s a very obvious effect done with an exquisitely subtle touch.

Lake Street Dive did a very polarising variant:

That trumpet! It’s very very strange and it’s. It clear that it’s meant to be likeable. (The singer hits a few key notes flat too.) However, the rest is pretty fun. It is, overall, very much in sharp contrast to the unrelenting pop precision of the original.

It turns out that there are a lot more covers than I’d ever thought. Just swing covers abound:

There are quite a few punk or metal covers but they seem rather meh.

Anni B Sweet has a slowed down, acousticed up version without the iconic high notes:

There are several other similar versions (with or without the high notes) but by far the best is by A-Ha:

Stunning. Morten Harket can definitely still hit the final note in the chorus (at 55+) but the dramatic jump down is perfect for this contemplative version.

This parody version has one pretty good joke taken rather too far:

And of course, “Take On Me” inspired one of the two best literal music videos:

Music Monday: Guys and Dolls

We saw Guys and Dolls at the Royal Exchange last Tuesday. It was another collaboration with Talawa, the UK’s “primary Black led touring company.” We saw their Lear which was quite credible, but this Guys and Dolls was bliss from before the start until the finish.

The last time I saw Guys and Dolls was…never? Maybe only the teaser for a high school show. Whichever, it was memorable for me because the actor singing “Luck be a Lady Tonight” chose to draw out the “niiiiiiiiiiight” and he was flat. So very flat. It was the first time I had perceived a note as off key (and identified the direction) which proved I wasn’t “tone deaf” as my family was used to saying of us all. There was no comparable revelation from this performance, but it was still amazing.

It was an almost entirely black cast and instead of just playing it colour blind, they made some shifts: they relocated uptown (135th street), they jazzed and swung up the arrangements a bit, and they snuck in a bit of hip hop influence into the choreography. The set was perfect and a bit different for the Exchange…they built over one exit and, I think, some house seating. It looked like a freaking street corner.

Everything was great. The acting was a bit broad…but that’s how Guys and Dolls is supposed to be. This is now my Guys and Dolls.

While the press I’ve seen seems mostly positive, there was one review that was more negative:

The action has been shifted about 90 blocks north of its original Times Square setting to the heart of Harlem, at 135th Street and Broadway, a traditionally black neighbourhood. That relocation coaxes orchestrator Simon Hale to lend Frank Loesser’s gorgeous and tuneful score plenty of jazz-age inflections. This sometimes feels a bit too emphatic and distracts from the melodies we know and love; there are times when they have to fight to be heard above the underscoring.

 

There are some further odd choices. A Bushel and a Peck, the show’s hilarious first act nightclub number for Miss Adelaide, is replaced with Pet Me Poppa from the 1955 film version. This is a mistake, as is the rather bizarre rendering of Adelaide’s Lament (“a person could develop a cold”) as a fierce and defiant torch song, instead of a comedy number.

 

The show should be as mythical as it is magical, but taking Guys and Dolls out of Times Square – and away from the usual neon hoardings that designers typically try to recreate – also takes the show away from a fantasy version of New York and grounds it in somewhere more realistic. Designer Soutra Gilmour’s set instead provides more gritty urban environments, losing some of the magic en route.

But even these unnecessary interventions can’t entirely disrupt or extinguish the golden-hearted generosity and spirit of this quintessential Broadway masterpiece, the single greatest achievement of all the classic golden age musicals.

None of this makes sense. At all. The set is more realistic, in some sense, but has a big old nod to neon in the pharmacy shop sign. More importantly, I did find it more mythic and magical that realistic. It was Jazz Age Harlem. Similarly, “Adelaide’s Lament” sure worked for the audience I was in as both torch song and funny. (Partly funny because torch song!)

This is the parochial review of someone with a fixed notion of what Guys and Dolls should be and unable to see the very things they were looking for (even if they didn’t like the manifestation).

To be fair,  I suspect I’m going to feel that way of other productions going forward!

For example, I find myself cold about Brando’s “Luck be a Lady”:

Even Sinatra’s…meh:

Give me Talawa!

Similarly, for “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat”, I loved Talawa’s (esp the choreography) (seen here in bits and pieces):

The one from the Brando film just seems sowrong. First, all those white people! I found that incredibly jarring. Second, it’s so static:

Even the 2016 version which is less static doesn’t have the exuberance of the Talawa one:

Anyway, there you go.

I didn’t realise that this was the first ever black Guys and Dolls in the UK. I wonder what the US ones have been like.

 

I hope they have a cast album. I hope to listen to the original cast recording to compare.

Music Monday: Rhiannon Giddens’s At the Purchaser’s Option

I saw Giddens perform for the first time on Thanksgiving, 2017. Zoe knew Rhiannon from over a decade ago when they were roommates at the Swannanoa Gathering. (Zoe’s also is friends with another member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops…Zoe is the main source of entertainment world glamour in my life!) Giddens was mostly playing from her new album, Freedom Highway (highly recommended; see this review which is interesting). “At the Purchaser’s Option” was inspired by an add she found during research:

I’d write more but I have to work on a Zoe video! I will note that back in the day, Giddens did a cover of a Zoe song, the American Wake:

(The Irish accent is perhaps not ideal.)

Zoe released a fully produced version on her second studio album, Roadside Saints:

You can find a number of live versions:

But also, there was another recorder version on the MP3.com album, “As Soon As I’m On Top Of Things”. I believe that was the version Giddens was working off of.

Interestingly, I’ve been hewing out Zoe’s dad’s attic where there was way too many boxes of our stuff (it is much reduced now!) and I found an interesting piece of American Wake history from 2003. (Zoe, Margaret, and Claire, you probably want to stop reading now!)

In 2003, Zoe was raising money to help fund her first “real” studio album, Travelling Moon. This was well before Kickstarter, natch. Zoe’s Aunt Margaret, being a good aunt, sent out a fundraising letter to friends and family. It was a very nice letter. Alas, one of Margaret’s circle was not a very nice person or even a nice person. Instead of just ignoring it, he wrote back a really stupid screed. I found it in an box in that attic! Before I give the silliness, note that in the letter, Margaret wrote:

“American Wake” tells the story of a wake given for a young Irishman  emigrating to American with no expectation of returning again to his home.

It’s clear, right? The song is also clear. But we get the following:

Hard to believe that in America things are so bad…No work to be found or bread to be had? [Ed: that’s a line from the song describing…Ireland which is why the narrator is going to America]

It’s not aboutyoung artists. [Ed: Margaret wrote about supporting young artists.] It’s about Zoe Mulford. [Ed: You know, Margaret’s niece.] Too negative! Not my cup of tea. [Ed: Well obviously the too negative just isn’t true, but it’s fine for someone not to like Zoe’s music, but why write this nasty little note?]

No doubt she’s talented and has a beautiful voice and an engaging style, but content is too dark [Ed: if you don’t understand it even a little], negative, and left wing for me! [Ed: Zoe, while pretty far left, put no leftist content in either album] She reminds me of Dori Previn in the 60’s [Ed: dude, you didn’t listen to more that 15 seconds of anything Zoe recorded.], also very talented and creative, but you don’t hear about her anymore. [Ed: Unlike you, she has a Wikipedia page and a career that continued until at least 2008]

There’s this feminist attitude of victimhood. [Ed: Ok, we get it. You don’t like Zoe because she’s female.]

Why aren’t the feminist proclaiming outrage about the Muslim treatment of women.

That last classic bit of standard right wing bullshit randomly inserted just cracked me up.

People are weird!

 

Music Monday: Welcome in Another Year

 

It’s 1 Jan, 2018! And a Monday. One perennial resolution is to blog more.

But obviously, the song of the day is “Welcome In Another Year“:

I’d forgotten there was an attempt at a “arty” video for it:

Doesn’t do a lot for me.

We’ve been working on a video for “One Little Partridge”—Zoe’s arrangement of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” But it’s not done. It’s further along than ever before, though, so that’s something.

This performance is nice:

Here’s hoping that next year is better both personally and for the world.