Charles Mingus: Mood Indigo
Let's take a moment to appreciate one of the least renown colors of the rainbow. It's not a primary color, or even a secondary one, but it's one we couldn't live a full life without. I'm talking about indigo, that mysterious lady of the night who bridges the gap between blue and violet.
This song's composer Duke Ellington knew the power of indigo, a color even "bluer" than blue itself. The bottom lines is that you ain't been blue until you've had that mood indigo. It's not a pushy color, but it can bring you down just the same, right down to your shoes...
For a standout vocal version, try Frank Sinatra's stellar rendition on Wee Small Hours. (When you've loved and lost like Frank has, you know a little bit about the blues, and indigo moods.)
Friday, July 24, 2009
Suzanne Vega: Small Blue Thing
Small. Blue. Thing. Three short words which combine to form an intricate puzzle. There is a sense here of small, as in insignificant. Blue here may represent sad. Or, taken together, this small blue thing may be something rare and precious. All of this is in Suzanne Vega’s lyric, for the listener to puzzle out. The solution to the puzzle changes every time I listen. And that makes this one of Vega’s best songs.
Bruce Cockburn: Red Brother Red Sister
Bruce Cockburn is a Canadian artist who made several albums there before anyone in the United States ever heard of him. So, we had a lot of lost time to make up for. Here, Cockburn addresses the topic of prejudice against Native Americans. We Americans tend to shunt this subject aside; we have “more important things to worry about”, seems to be the attitude. But, judging by the number of Canadian artists I have heard address the subject, the subject is much closer to the surface there. I would like to hear from our Canadian readers on this. Cockburn has delivered some strident political messages in some of his songs, but here he keeps it low key, and the song is better for it.
October Project: Sunday Morning, Yellow Sky
The original lineup of October Project only lasted for two albums. Then, Mary Fahl, whose lead vocals were so much a part of there sound, went solo and the group broke up. More recently, I heard that they got back together without Fahl, but I regard that as a different group using the name. The original lineup is heard here, with Fahl’s soaring alto at the front.
Sunday Morning, Yellow Sky depicts a man in desperate straits. His redemption lies in the dream of a lover, or perhaps the blessing of an angel as he sleeps. This song is also open to multiple interpretations. But the importance of dreams is clear. The song closes with a quote from Alice In Wonderland, as Alice falls down the rabbit hole. We the listeners know what dreams await her, but she does not.
Loretta lynn : Little Red Shoes
I asked my friends at Acclaimedmusic forum for suggestions, and they came up with very intersting proposals. Some of them were not my cup of tea, but I really like this Loretta Lynn monologue backed by a Jack White arrangement. The story is, in the old-school country tradition, sentimental almost to the extreme, but it works. The Lynn-White pair may seem odd, but in the end the result makes sense. Many thanks to BillAdama for picking this song.
Posted by Nicolas at 2:19 AM
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The Velvet Underground : Pale Blue Eyes
I have a special love for the third VU album, even if critics tend to praise the first two. Of course, Cale is gone but these more conventional pop songs are really sweet. After 1969 VU really sounds like the first Lou Reed solo albums, and Lou Reed IMO is one of the major American songwriters. Amazing guitar work.
King Crimson: The Court of the Crimson King
In the early seventies, AM radio was the home of the hits. There were forty songs, with ten emphasized, and you would hear them over and over in the course of the day. To escape this, my brothers and I listened to FM radio. This was where new music lived. And in the early seventies, new music meant art-rock. Nowadays, the label progressive rock is more often used, but art-rock was what we called it then.
In art-rock, the extended jams of sixties music had given way to longer compositions. Songs would shift rhythms mid-song, and unusual time signatures were often used. The arrangements emphasized a big sound. The worst results of this have aged poorly, and sound pompous and overblown to a modern listener. But the best of art-rock still sounds amazing today. And King Crimson were right at the top, along with Yes, Peter Gabriel era Genesis, and only a few others.
The Court of the Crimson King tells of a tournament and pageant at a medieval castle. The imagery is rich and multicolored, fittingly for our theme. The music matches the grandeur of the described events. There is no story, just a rich parade of images and a powerful evocation of mood.