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A new Christmas tune, from CeeLo Green and the Muppets

Generally, I’m very much a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas tunes: carols and Nat King Cole, that sort of thing.

But this hits my sweet spot.  What it has is sincerity.  CeeLo is not snarky.  He digs the Muppets, and he’s singing from the heart.  It may be somewhat slight musically, but it comes from the heart.

As they say, it’s the thought that counts. Mostly we don’t really “buy'” that—because we want someone to buy us that particular something tasty. But CeeLo and the Muppets remind us that all we need is love… Christmas can get pretty clichéd, but what sets the same old tunes, stories and so on apart is sincerity, heart.  And CeeLo’s got a big heart.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  If we put our thoughts and our heart into it.

(Jeez—am I sappy or what.)

Filed under: Music, , ,

Song of the Day: Ray Charles, “(Night Time Is) The Right Time”

Ray Charles, “(Night Time is) The Right Time” – from volume 4 (1957-1960) of the massive compilation/collection Atlantic Rhythm & Blues 1947-1974 – originally released as a single in 1958.

When that voice comes up screaming “Baby!” – wow. It knocks your socks off, eh?

You know, you always hear about Ray Charles – even before that bio-pic with Jamie Foxx – but I somehow never really warmed to him, never really got grabbed. I think I kept hearing stuff that sounded too… smooth. Too easy listening. Not R&B enough. Even his appearance in The Blues Brothers didn’t really change my stance. But when I heard the stuff by him on the Atlantic Rhythm & Blues compilation – well, like I said, it knocked my socks off.

This song in particular. One thing I love about it is you can hear it looking in both directions – if you will allow me to mix my senses/metaphors in that way. On the one hand, a very powerful blues influence, an underlying structure of twelve bar blues, and on the other clearly looking forward to rock n roll, particularly when that screaming voice comes in, raw and powerful. One listen to this song and I understood why I kept hearing about Ray Charles – and I wanted to hear more from him. I can’t believe I wasn’t listening to him all the time, all along.

It makes sense that it would be “looking back” at the blues since in fact the song is an old blues standard:

“Night Time Is the Right Time” is a blues standard that has been interpreted and recorded by a variety of music artists. First recorded in 1937 by Roosevelt Sykes, a.k.a. “The Honeydripper,” the song features the memorable refrain “Because night time, is the right time, to be with the one you love” towards the end of each twelve-bar verse. (via Wikipedia.)

The rock n roll element – well, I guess it is there in the way Ray Charles makes it swing and screech – makes it, in fact, rock and roll – and again in that amazing voice that comes in – which belongs to Margie Hendricks, the lead in Ray Charles’ regular group of backup singers, the Raelettes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Song of the Day, , ,

Song of the Day: “Walking the Dog”

must – resist – urge – to post – another – Janelle – Monáe…

I want to start by acknowledging our pet psychiatrist, Dr. Blues – family friend, decent head shrinker, my stepfather’s best friend (a major feat of tolerance), and above all a mean harmonica player and dedicated aficionado of great soul and R&B. It was Dr. Blues who prompted me to pursue a burgeoning interest in Stax Records, which led to…

Rufus Thomas, “Walking the Dog” – from The Stax Story collection

For more on Thomas: Rufus Thomas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Recently, working my way through the back catalog of The Rolling Stones – getting beyond the songs I grew up with from Big Hits (High Tides & Green Grass) – I ran across their cover of this tune, on their debut album from 1964.

The Rolling Stones, “Walking the Dog” – from The Rolling Stones (1964)

This won’t be news to anyone really – we all know that much of The Stones’ early work consisted of R&B covers. But listening to the two songs side by side really provides some insight into what made The Stones, and made them great – where they learned their chops. For me, at least, it also shows that when you want The Stones, you should put Let It Bleed on the hifi, or Beggars Banquet. When you want R&B, you’re better off going to the teachers rather than the students…

Filed under: Song of the Day, ,

Song of the Day: Janet Jackson, “If”

One of Janet Jackson’s best. It has a very different vibe from the spunky, pop-y, chubby-cheeked fun of her earlier album Control (1986)—which featured songs such as “What Have You Done For Me Lately” and the title song, “Control” (great ‘performance’ video). Although she sings about being “all grown up” in “Control,” she’s still just a cute teenager on that album.

By her fifth studio album, 1993’s janet., from which the song “If” comes, she really is all grown-up, a mature and very sexy adult—as she makes clear with the cover. And that mature, sexual woman is all over the album’s two big hits, “If” and “That’s the Way Love Goes”—both of whose success got a considerable boost from having great music videos, which displayed to full advantage her new adult and hip, rather than kid and cute, persona.

It’s impossible for me to separate the song “If” from its music video. Probably like most people, I first encountered the song on MTV—which was possibly at the height of its powers in that period—and the video is so striking that there’s no getting away from it. Maybe I wouldn’t like the song so much if it weren’t for the video; we’ll never know.

It was directed by Dominic Sena, who got his start doing videos for Jackson, but has since gone on to feature films, including Gone in Sixty Seconds (fun) and Swordfish (embarrassing). The setting for “If” is a cyberpunk fantasy, like something out of a William Gibson novel, Idoru for instance—a futuristic, postmodern nightclub, in which people lounge around indulging in voyeurism through a web of surveillance, sporting clothes and haircuts that are a melange of Asian and punk.  It’s very stylish, and Janet’s dancing has seldom been better.

The video for the other hit off janet., “That’s the Way Love Goes,” was directed by René Elizondo, Jr and features then-unknown Jennifer Lopez dancing and doing backing vocals:

Filed under: Song of the Day, , ,

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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Upcoming Bay Area Films of Interest

  • Vertigo (w lecture) at BAMPFA February 22, 2017 at 3:10 pm – 4:10 pm BAMPFA
  • Bitter Victory (Ray) at BAMPFA February 25, 2017 at 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2155 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
  • One-Eyed Jacks at BAMPFA February 25, 2017 at 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm BAMPFA
The 400 Blows

zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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