Friday, March 16, 2007

Songs This Morning

BILLIE HOLIDAY – "Moanin' Low" – I'm starting off moanin' low, with a weird song choice for first thing in the morning. This is a dusky, midnight song, from the CD "Blue Billie." There's quite a long musical introduction, piano and low-key combo, shuffling along. Billie starts singing with about a minute and a half to go out of over 3 minutes. "Moanin' low, my sweet man I love him so, though he's mean as can be." There's a yacky horn that comes in like it's meant to be the man's voice, very squawky. Her man treats her so poorly and makes her troubles double with his worries when she ain't deservin' of none, but she's also the kind of woman he needs. So her sweet man is going to go, putting her in a state of moanin' low.

I'm in the B's, so what is there? ...

BILLY WARD AND THE DOMINOES – "St. Therese of the Roses" – I like St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, sending roses from Heaven. She's my favorite saint. Of course I'm basically ignorant on saints but I've claimed her anyway. This song is from a Decca record in the '50s. And here we go: Starts with a heavenly choir. Then Billy strongly sings to St. Therese (he says it 'Theresa'), he will come to her by night by the altar in the chapel, praying by candlelight. What's he going to pray for? "Give your blessings to my sweetheart, and the love that we both share." So it's a romantic need, for Therese to guide, protect, through the years that lie ahead. He prays that she'll fill their hearts with sunshine on the day that they are wed. So nice, she's the "Little Flower of Heaven, guiding all that come to you." She'll make his prayer come true. Instrumental break, with horns and violins, and a combo behind, with the heavenly choir again. Then he repeats some of the lyrics of before, with a swelling ending, "I know you'll make my prayer come true," with the choir taking us out in majesty and devotion. This is a very nice song, which puts me in mind of my other St. Therese song:

THE DEJOHN SISTERS – "Theresa (The Little Flower)" – This song is available on a CD, "The Complete DeJohn Sisters." But mine is from the original Epic 45 rpm, 1950s. It's a scratchy record, but one of the few records I've made into an MP3 because it's so good. So, here goes, 2:40... Guitar intro with organ in the background. Then vocal, "Theresa, the Little Flower, she loved the roses so, the symbol of her love." That is so beautiful. Then repeat her title, and "she watches tenderly each hour from above." Chorus: By the hill, by the sea, wherever the devotee is, Theresa's prayer guides. The organ in the background is cheesy but nice. "I trust her sheltering arms and everlasting love." Then repeat of the chorus, with an answering guitar. This is a pretty song, even with the scratchiness. Big finish on trusting her sheltering arms and everlasting love. I don't know what all else the DeJohn Sisters did, but this is a great one.

Speaking of 45 rpm records, I'll be self-indulgent and go for an obscure one:

THE PETE KLINT QUINTET – "Walkin' Proud" – This was a '60s group from Iowa, one of the ones like Dee Jay and the Runaways who broke into the national market, however small an impact it actually made. I don't know much more about their history, but I'm sure they're in the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. They were played quite a bit on the best teen music station in Des Moines, KIOA in the '60s. Including this song, of course, which was released on Mercury Records. I don't know what it did nationally but it was popular in Des Moines. OK, I just looked it up. It peaked on the Billboard chart at Number 98 and was on for three weeks, which is barely anything. But it's on my MP3 player and it's in the Top 10 today: Such a cool combo beginning, and a strong vocal. "Well, you're tellin' everybody that you're puttin' me down. And they're all waitin', they want to see me frown." You can tell by the title that he's not going to BE put down. No, he's got news for them. All your so-called friends are never going to see him cryin'. Great chorus with background vocals. "Everything's going to look the same, I'm going to keep on talkin' loud, walkin' proud." "Baby, I'm going to shout." High ooos in the background. He does feel an ache in every step he takes, but he's going to keep walkin' proud. I assume that's Pete Klint on the vocal, and he has a nice voice for a song like this. It's not overdone or over-expressed, and it's not punk. It's a clean recording too, very crisp, and not cliché like a lot of teen records, like of the "Little Latin Lupe Lu" variety. It's an oldie I never get tired of, so there.

THE FABULOUS FLIPPERS – Pete Klint and KIOA put me in mind of another record they used to play a lot. But I don't have it on my MP3 player. I was at a thrift store the other day and there was an album (1970) by the Flippers (a Kansas group). But it was beat to absolute death so I didn't get it, deep gashes, must have made a great Frisbee for someone! The big song by them that was played was "Harlem Shuffle" and it's great. But it's not presently available for listening to.

I'm going to listen to something that's not an old oldie, checking through here...

GWEN STEFANI – "Early Winter" – This was a constant player for me a couple months ago or less. It's off the "Sweet Escape" CD, the new one. It's track 4, and what I'd call an album cut. It's a great song for winter, and it has some good intensity. I like Gwen's songs pretty much all of them, but I definitely think songs like this are better than something silly (and kind of offensive) like "Yummy." Anyway, let it spin: The track will sound like it's mildly distorted. I can't figure that out. But anyway: "You know how to get me so low, my heart had to crash when we spoke, I can't fix what you broke." So it's immediately introspective and examining. "I always was and always was one for cryin,' I always was one for tears. The sun's getting cold, it's snowing, looks like an early winter for us." I love that. The music in the background is thick and distorted. "The seasons escape you," so there's the word 'escape' again. She says, "I never was one for lyin'." Early winter = metaphor for the chilly relationship, came on a bit quickly. Will any of it be redeemed? I like the "Why, hy, hy, hy...." Then with a minute to go she's getting intense with summary repetitions. I'm getting too analytical, like legs in stirrups or something. Now here's a cool part, "Starting over and over and over again." Maybe that's somewhat redemptive, but I would say not, it sounds more like problems of the past repeated now. Great emotional song, great song to supplement any downer, dour day. Enjoy your depression!

A couple more. Hmm, a Pure Prairie League song:

PURE PRAIRIE LEAGUE – "Amie" – I don't think I ever consciously owned a PPL album in my life. I knew about them vaguely, never who they were, but knew they had some kind of country rock thing, like the Byrds or Michael Nesmith or Poco, which, except for Michael Nesmith, I was never into. But with Napster downloads these days, you can tap into all kinds of stuff. So I was listening to Ozark Mountain Daredevils and went over to get something kind of like that from other groups. So I have a few PPL albums that I still haven't gotten into. But there's this song "Amie" that I've heard before (it was a chart hit, I believe) but couldn't have guessed who it was if I had four guesses and three of the clues were Pure, Prairie, and League. It's recognizable though, so it's in the air: Here goes: Crisp guitars interplay, picked out cleanly, then, a clearly country voice, basically the generic "You're off with someone else and I'm alone" story. The chorus is the killer: "Amie, what you wanna do? I think I could stay with you for a while, maybe longer if I do." Then back to the generic verse. If it weren't for the chorus this song would've been an album cut only. Very pretty guitar playing and shuffling in the background with the rest of the group. It's a refreshing, nice song, blessed with a dynamite chorus. The end is nice too, "Falling in and out of love with you," the tempo changes and the instruments become more minimal. Good one. This is country music for those who might not like country that much. But I can picture people in a bar, going "uh uh uh uh" on the verses and singing loudly and proudly on the chorus.

Now it's time for a killer finish, maybe a nap (not really), but I need first to be sedated:

THE RAMONES – "I Wanna Be Sedated" – Turn it up. What's his name, Joey? A basic Ramones' classic, with the usual sound. "Just put me in a wheelchair, get me on a plane... I can't control my fingers, I can't control my brain." Neat cookie cutter instrumental. I like the whole idea of a song like this, the lyrics are so beautifully dumb, like no one would think of writing a song like this but someone did! "Hurry, before I go loco." How many songs have 'loco' in the lyrics? "Ba, ba, ba, ba," I can't think what song I heard that in originally, the ba's, but there is one, or maybe not!

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