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.

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