Where have I been all these years?
Under the Covers, Day 5/5
Up for Review: The Glory of Gershwin, 1994
While the rest of this week's features looked at albums done in this decade, today we go back to 1994, which I still consider "modern" because for the life of me, I just cannot believe that it was already 13 years ago.
Anyway, The Glory of Gershwin works as a two-fold tribute album. One, of course, as a means of paying tribute to ol' George and Ira with a bevvy of (1994) certifiable stars and Beatles producer George Martin overseeing the whole affair. The other way is as a tribute/showcase of Larry Adler, a harmonica virtuoso who actually used to play with George way back when. As it goes, Adler features on every track on the album and while sometimes the harmonica breaks just go on a tad too long, it's also hard not to appreciate the fact that, well, here's this 80-odd year old dude blowing away while having to share space with the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and Cher, and at least equalling, if not overshining, some of that "respectable" talent he was made to play alongside.
While Gershwin tributes and covers are not at all a rare breed (I ask you, who HASN'T covered "Summertime" yet?), this whole affair served as a nice meshing of modern talent with a first hand connection to the man whom they were all paying tribute too. Martin's production ear still worked nicely (which makes me wonder why he used it as a cop out on producing "Free As a Bird" and "Real Love" over the next year), and suffice to say, I found things on this album by artists that I never dreamed I'd enjoy otherwise.
As for Grandma Cyd? Well, here what was said about today's three selections...
Sting - Nice Work if You Can Get It
Grandma Cyd: (checks to see who’s singing) Really?
Paul: Yeah. I’ll tell you, I’m not a big Sting fan, but this one I kind of like. It works nicely.
Grandma Cyd: It kind of sounds like Rod Stewart, that certain timbre. Why didn’t you pick any of the Rod Stewart stuff for this week?
Paul: (rolls eyes) Because…
Grandma Cyd: Oh yeah, you said he became useless after 1977.
Paul: Right. Maybe a bit before that even.
Grandma Cyd: Well, he slurred the first part of the song. You couldn’t really tell what he was singing. But it’s nice, it’s kind of got that Fats Waller, toe-tapping feel to it.
Paul: Yeah, I think the banjo helps that. The bass is nice too. It sounds like a stand-up. Could be a little busier, but…
Grandma Cyd: This reminds me of Cybil Shepherd.
Grandma Cyd: She sang this.
Paul: On her show?
Grandma Cyd: Yeah.
Paul: Never saw it.
Cher - It Ain't Necessarily So
Grandma Cyd: Oh. My. God.
Grandma Cyd: I wonder if she was wearing her butt-less leotard when she did this?
Paul: Oh right, from the “Turn Back Time” video?
Grandma Cyd: I don’t know. She wore it on her last tour.
Paul: I think it’s from the video. Showed off the flower tattoo on her ass.
Grandma Cyd: Eh?
Paul: Yeah, well… I remember "Pop Up Video."
Grandma Cyd: Oh, I miss that show.
Paul: I do too. I really do. Anyway, the director thought she was wearing floral underwear.
Grandma Cyd: I don’t remember the tattoo being in the show I saw of the tour.
Paul: Maybe she had the tattoo removed when Sonny died.
Grandma Cyd: I don’t think I’ve ever heard this song.
Paul: I’ve heard one other version, I can’t remember who did it though. I don’t know, her voice annoys me. But the one thing I will give this credit for – and maybe it’s George Martin’s doing in that he didn’t know how to do it – but there’s not that infuriating warble that was in those songs like “Believe” in that.
Grandma Cyd: Oh yeah, a lot of Bing Crosby’s songs end with warbles.
Paul: Well, he was doing it vocally though, hers are all these horrible digital effects.
Grandma Cyd: Ah. (song ends) Yeah, I don’t know about that one.
Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora - How Long Has This Been Going On
Paul: I’ll tell you what, I hate Jon Bon Jovi. There isn’t one song he’s done that I’ve been able to go “I like that,” but this I actually do kind of like.
Grandma Cyd: Who’s Richie Sambora? Why does that sound familiar?
Paul: His guitarist.
Grandma Cyd: Oh right, I just saw them on “Saturday Night Live.” I’m trying to determine who he sounds like here. Is his voice always that scratchy? There’s a song on the “Sleepless in Seattle” soundtrack, “Makin’ Whoopee” that’s a duet… the voice kind of reminds me of that. [Ed. Note – that’s Dr. John]
Paul: Don’t know. His voice gets like that on slower songs. He did one for one of the Very Special Christmas albums, “Please Come Home For Christmas” which is about this tempo. His voice got scratchy there too.
Grandma Cyd: I don’t know. I don’t really care for this song in general. It’s a bit too whiny.
Paul: This version? Or just the song?
Grandma Cyd: The song. Ella Fitzgerald does a version that’s a bit more upbeat, but it’s still kind of like… this.
Paul: Well it’s whiny subject matter, isn’t it? You can’t do an upbeat “Hey! How long has this been going on! Hey! How long you been screwing around on me?”
Grandma Cyd: Right. Well it’s not “Heavy Petting Zoo” material.
Paul: Well… someone’s getting lucky, though. Just not the singer.
Grandma Cyd: Well it should be about me. Me being the listener.
Paul: Gotcha. I’ll tell you what nearly ruins this for me though is Sambora’s guitar at the beginning and end. I don’t think electric guitar fits in this kind of music. If it’s done in a jazzy way, but not this masturbatory rock star posing.
Grandma Cyd: (laughs) Are you going to use that word on your blog?
Paul: Sure. (mimics Sambora playing)
Grandma Cyd: Well it brings up an interesting debate. If you’re doing this kind of music, do you just try to emulate the originals or do you put your own stamp on it.
Paul: Yeah, but I mean, if Sambora wasn’t on it, this would be great. I don’t know. I understand taking your own touch to it, but I think if you’re doing it for the right reasons – that is, paying homage to the music you love – you should try to stay pretty faithful.
Grandma Cyd: But see, then the thing is, you’re going up against Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra, you know? How can you top that?
Paul: Right. I mean this is all nice, but at the end of the day, I’d rather put on Dean or Frank or Bobby.
And personally, I think that's a great sentiment to end this week on. But what do you think?
Don't forget to listen to "The Heavy Petting Zoo" tomorrow night from 8-10 p.m. CST as the good grandma plays some of the regular repertoire in addition to doing a week-end review to this series. You know how these songs sound on your iTunes now, but ah... how do they sound on the radio when played alongside the real stuff from that bygone era? You can listen online at WSUM.org and you can listen to the show every Saturday night, so I suggest you make that a habit.
And of course, read this blog every day. It's like a daily apple. Only without the necessary vitamins and nutrients. But great music. You can't deny the music.
Have a splendid weekend.