Friday, September 19, 2008

Ill-Ustrated Songs #15 Slaughter on Tenth Avenue Al Caiola

Here's the brilliant Al Caiola version of "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue."
Lounge. Too often, this term is abused by the un-hip.
If you're in a record store and you see a guy with stooped shoulders hauling a backpack, wearing a sloppy plaid shirt and khaki pants and Hush Puppies, you damn well know what bin he's hunched over: "LOUNGE." He'll squint through his glasses at any name he's been told is cool to like (Esquivel, babe) and maybe even take a fearful glimpse at those Julie London album covers that say, "You couldn't even put me on a spindle properly."
And he'll probably overlook the Al Caiola albums. Good. He's missing tracks like THIS, from Al's "Spies and Private Eyes" disc.
On this arrangement of "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" gunshot percussion and a blast of brass let us know that we're in a bad part of town on a dangerous night; West Side Story without chorus boys or Sondheim. Al Caiola hauls out his twanger and seems to count the number of punches being thrown.
We're barely a minute into the tune when the neighborhood really starts to rumble; organ blasts to one side, gasping horns on the other. And then, soaring over it all like a police helicopter, one hell of a trumpet. Blow, Gabriel, because some devils are gonna be swoopin' the planet tonight.
Too often it's easy to overlook how calculated "charts" can be, and how perfectly they can produce some sonic sock. This is a textbook example on how to pull out all stops in tempo, juxtaposition of brass vs percussion, and the texture of hard bongo skin and twangy guitar, to produce an audio picture of mixed-neighborhood mayhem.
The tune cues the warning wail of a trumpet again, a police siren howl. The organ weeps and shudders, but the relentless drums don't stop, and with 40 seconds left, Al Caiola picks up the body count with his guitar pick, till the squealer brass section calls the cops and there's a final stuttering step-away from the crime by the drums.
That was one helluva slaughter. Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.

GEORGY GIRL - Sung in German Conny Froboess

Ach du lieber, what can you say about Conny Froboess? Really...if you have anything to say, leave a comment, 'cause this entry is pretty scant.
Frankly, I got an album of hers just because the cover looked nice, it was cheap, and I rightly figured she'd cover some hit tunes in German, which is always fun. I had little idea who she was when I bought this 10 years ago, and I haven't gained much ground since. But...
...she does a sprightly job with "Georgy Girl," which is a teut uncommon.

Born Cornelia Froboess, October 28, 1943 (I've given you time to get her a present), Conny was a precocious child star thanks to a hit tune called "Pack die Badehose ein" (pack your swimsuit). As a precocious teen, she starred in such classics as "Hula Hopp, Conny" (1959) as well as "Mariandl" (1961) and "Mariandl's Heimkehr" (1962). In her 20's, she was recording pop albums. These albums, if you hunt them down, have lilt. After all this time, they may also have lint.
Conny's film career stretched through the 20th century, and if you can find 'em, you'll see her in such varied and tantalizing offerings as "Der Musterknabe" (1963), "Crazy Total Verrukt" (1973), the fabulous Fassbinder's "Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss" (1982) and "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" (1997).
A kindly German friend told me that indeed, Conny was a very big star, is still very well remembered, and the reason the disc and film credits have gotten less over the years is that Ms Froboess has concentrated more on her stage career, and performing for a live crowd.
der German GEORGY GIRL

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

ILL-USTRATED SONGS #14 VALERIE - Marshall Crenshaw

The Ill Folks blog anthem could well be Marshall Crenshaw's "You're My Favorite Waste of Time," so let's perversely choose "Valerie" instead. One of many "off" artists (a contemporary of Jonathan Richman and Greg Kihn), M.C. never exactly became a chart success with his odd punk and rockabilly mixes.

No doubt the labels who kept pushing oddballs like Loudon Wainwright, Nick Lowe or Randy Newman knew they'd eventually get at least a fluke novelty hit, but Crenshaw? His labels kept trying but none of his quirky numbers ever nicked the Top 20, did they?

Crenshaw's put out many an album, and each has some truly catchy tracks.
OK, maybe he never ran over a skunk, laughed about a dead actress being nibbled by her dog, or cracked a verse about short people...but he did sing this Buddy un-Holy ode to "Valerie," who might be short, might be capable of eating human flesh, and might smell to high heaven, too.