Sunday, November 29, 2009
You've heard of Michel Legrand...well, somebody had to tutor him on the finer points of the piano, and that was Genevieve Joy (and also Nadia Boulanger...he studied at the Paris Conservatoire for nine years!)
That's about as close to the world of "popular" music as she got, which is why her death was not well covered. Genevieve (October 4, 1919-November 27, 2009) died in her sleep in a Paris hospital.
In the classical world, she's known for her partnerships with pianist Jacqueline Robin and composer-husband Henri Dutilleux. She was such an influence on Henri, that he composed a piano sonata during the first years of their marriage (1946-1948) and he considered it Opus #1, deciding that anything he wrote earlier was not worthy.
Oddly enough, he didn't exactly follow it up with a lot of other piano pieces for her to perform. This was fine with him: ""She never reproached me for not writing more for the piano, and never tried to influence me on that score."
Others, including Darius Milhaud and Andre Jolivet, composed music for Genevieve Joy and her musical partner Jacqueline Robin. Over many decades, they entertained audiences with dual-piano concerts. Genevieve also recorded solo work for the Erato label, and had her regular teaching work at the Paris Conservatoire. Michel Legrand was by far her most famous student, creating Oscar-winning soundtracks to dozens of films and writing "Windmills of Your Mind" among many other hits.
As you might expect from a 20th Century classical composition, Dutilleux's piano sonata is not purely romantic, even if the inspiration was his wife. The piece explores the delights, both intellectual, physical and spiritual, of the union. In other words, on listening to this you might get the idea that Genevieve was a pretty complicated chick. She recorded the piece, so she must've agreed. Husband Henri, 88, survives her.
Go ahead, download some 20th Century classical piano from Genevieve and Henri. Challenging music didn't begin and end with Zappa.
Here's eleven familiar songs rendered a bit strange by the beguiling Amanda Lear.
One of the most colorful people I've spent an hour with, Amanda Lear was seriously tongue-in-cheek, mock-flirty, and a racy raconteur having wicked fun with the whole game of celebrity.
Like her mentor Salvador Dali, she knew the value of glib ad-libs, outrageous remarks, and controversial opinions. Just as Dali's vivid paintings were commercial but intellectual, Amanda's disco music pandered to the least discriminating taste but often had intelligent lyrics. Her non-dance tracks were influenced by both the decadent Marlene Dietrich and such provocative provocateurs of contemporary perv-pop as Lou Reed, Bryan Ferry and David Bowie. On her very first album, title track "I am a Photograph" poetically referenced her work as a model (notably the album cover for Ferry's Roxy Music album "For Your Pleasure.")
A logical addition to the illfolks blog, Amanda was not appreciated by rock critics when she began recording, while Bowie's disco dance stuff was breathlessly reviewed as well as anything from Ferry or Reed. All three guys could get away with gender games, too. They were still men. Amanda, with transsexual rumors swirling, had renounced manhood completely, which was a little too frightening. We think of rock writers as liberated, edgy and glad to go beyond boundaries, but at the end of the day they went from the office to the bar for a beer like everyone else.
Amanda's voice was really no more peculiar than Neil Young's. Johnny Cash sometimes sounded a bit off key. Tom Waits was the Cookie Monster. But Amanda's vocals still aren't taken seriously. Listen to the cover versions collected, and you'll hear how valid most of them are...either as simple diversions or as intellectual statements.
Before meeting her (pre-Internet era) I'd heard the rumors of Amanda being transsexual, but there wasn't concrete photographic evidence available. Recently, vintage pix have surfaced including the one below, showing the still boyish Amanda gravitating to glamorous French sex-change chanteuse Coccinelle. As Peki D'Oslo, Amanda first began performing gender-bender song and dance in Paris nightclubs where the entertainers were all boys-as-girls.
I wondered how convincingly female or how stark and obviously male she'd be in person. That became as pointless as a critique about whether she is or isn't a good singer. She was a great personality and the hour went by very quickly. I suppose that given yesterday's (November 28th) news about the suicide of Mike Penner (the sports columnist in L.A. who tried to become "Christine Daniels") it's worth mentioning that Amanda has survived and flourished with her aura of mystery and gender "confusion," while others, only confused, have perished.
What was important, and is important, is the art itself, and if the entertainer entertains. Amanda always has (although I avoid all the hardcore disco numbers, which do delight fans of that genre).
Bryan Ferry was quite amusing with his cover versions, whether it was his tremblingly zomboid "Times They are a Changing" or the deliberately effeminate "It's My Party." Amanda gets an easy laugh with "The Love Boat Theme," and gives a predictably punk-disco knee in the groin to "Wild Thing." She's more than campy on "These Boots Are Made for Walking." But she does a credible, if dark take on "The Look of Love," a strangely good "You Were Always On My Mind" (Willie Nelson's hit), and goes "straight" on the Charles Aznavour and Roy Clark (and dozens more) ballad "Yesterday When I was Young," free of the drag queen melodrama one might expect. Draw your own conclusions on "Fever" or the M*A*S*H theme song "Suicide is Painless."
Amanda's been at it 30 years now, and her brand new CD even covers Amy Winehouse. Yes, a line like "kept his dick wet" (from "Back to Black") suits Amanda very, very well. Have "serious" rock critics reviewed it as they would Bowie or Ferry? Of course not. The new one is well produced, with plenty of excellent tracks that don't rely on disco beats. She's survived for so long by doing what Bowie, Reed and Ferry have done...relying on a strong personality and varying the material just enough to avoid committing the worst sin of all...being boring.
11 AMANDA LEAR COVER VERSIONS OF HIT SONGS
Posted by Ill Folks at 7:48 AM
As requested, here's a second helping of Soupy...this time, both sides of an obscure single that wasn't on any of his ABC-Paramount or Reprise albums. A bit on the kiddie side, but fun for all ages, below you'll find download links for "Use Your Noggin" and "The Backwards Alphabet."
Soupy's last album, "Still Soupy After All These Years" (1981) is the one that captures his stand-up act. Yes, he tosses in some lines from his old show ("You show me a sculptor who works in the basement and I'll show you a low-down chiseler") but there's some material he certainly couldn't have told the kiddies in the 60's, silly though it might be.
Like the one about the woman who goes to see a druggist. She wants some hair remover to put on some ingrown hairs on her poor doggy:
"The druggest says, "If you're using it under your arms, take my advice, don't use any deodorant for two days. It could irritate your arms." She says, "it's not for my arms." So he says, "if you're gonna use it on your legs, don't wear stockings for three days, it could irritate your legs." And she says, "I want to put it on my Schnauzer." And the druggist says, "in that case, don't ride a bicycle for a week!"
USE YOUR NOGGIN
THE BACKWARDS ALPHABET
Download the above Soupy songs or listen to them on line. No captcha codes, porn ads, pop-ups or wait time.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
There were two big "Teen Tragedy" car wreck songs in 1960. First, "Teen Angel," hitting #1 in January. Second, "Tell Laura I Love Her," which reached #7 in June.
"Teen Angel" sung by Mark Dinning is an ode to his high school sweetie. Their car stalls on a railroad track, he pulls her to safety, but she runs back and gets crushed to angel dust. Turns out she'd gone to retrieve the ring he gave her, which must've been dropped amid the Kleenexes and Trojans in the back seat.
"Tell Laura I Love Her," wailed by Ray Peterson, tells of his pal Tommy, who was too young to enter a stock car race, but did it anyway to earn enough prize money to wed his beloved Laura. Crushed and burned when his car speeds out of control, he painfully screams his last words: "TELL LAURA I LOVE HER...Tell Laura not to cry. My love for her will never die."
Huge hits, both. Melodramatic, sentimental and ridiculous, both. But...
Only one of them has spawned dozens of cover versions.
The likely reason is that "Tell Laura I Love Her" gives a singer a chance to emote; starting out as the observer, ending up voicing the anguish of the main character. "Teen Angel" is just a traditional (written by Dinning's big-band singer sister) love ballad, wimpy and sweet even though the theme is morbid.
Dinning shows little emotion in "Teen Angel," but Peterson is anguished, histrionic and adenoidal. In fact, he was apparently too emotional for England, where the "tasteful" and gentle Ricky Valance version went #1 on September 29th, 1960. Jeff Barry, co-author of the tune, is not so sure that the choice of Valance was anything but record label "politics."
The morbid the merrier: in order to stay within Rapidshare's comfy and speedy 100MB, you get 17 covers (as well as Ray's original). Among them: Dickey Lee, John Leyton, Jody Wayne, Ken Levy, Albert West, J. Frank Wilson, Johnny Tillotson and The Rocking Boys. You get foreign language takes by Rex Gildo, Richard Anthony, Italy's Michele and Chile's Ray Palaviccino. There are even some fairly recent versions such as a campy-gay cover from Nessie And Her Beard and a foreign language parody version from Rhodes Rockers, chosen over the more common Billy Connolly live parody version (which you can see for yourself on You Tube).
Back when singles were so much more popular than albums, and radio play was vital, it was also fairly common for "answer songs" to try and cash in on a hit. Yes, you get the two "answer song" versions: "Tell Tommy I Miss Him" from singer/impressionist Marilyn Michaels and one with lyric variations by country crossover queen Skeeter Davis.
Jeff Barry wrote many great hits with the late Ellie Greenwich. This isn't one of them. Before he married her in 1962, Jeff worked with Ben Raleigh. Together they wrote "Lonely Lips," which 20 year-old Jeff recorded himself on RCA.
It was RCA label-mate Ray Peterson (April 23, 1939 – January 25, 2005) who got to sing "Tell Laura I Love Her." Peterson had one last hit ("Corrina Corrina") in 1960, though he continued to sing and make nightclub appearances for decades. Even at the turn of the century, he was not averse to taking part in an oldies show once in a while and singing his teen hit. He was also a Baptist minister in Tennessee.
The cover versions down below are many, and amusing, but even with all the competition, that song still belongs to Ray Peterson. Doesn't it?
TELL LAURA, TELL TOMMY 20 Tunes in your zip file.
Update- As with many files on this blog, Rapidshare deleted it for not having enough downloads within a specific time limit. OK, this blog doesn't throw around Rihanna and Adele stuff, but jeez! Have some respect for minorities! Old and odd "Tell Laura" versions re-upped via another company:
TELL LAURA I LOVE HER, TELL TOMMY I MISS HIM Once again available for download.
Edward Woodward starred in the TV hits "Callan" and "The Equalizer," and was an Emmy-winner for 1990's "Remembering World War II." Though mostly a television actor, he also was memorable in the films "Breaker Morant" and "The Wicker Man," the latter including a vivid bit of defiant and robust singing.
Woodward actually gained some initial fame as a singer. Among his first important credits were roles in the Broadway musical "Blithe Spirits" and back in the U.K., a musical version of "A Tale of Two Cities." He sang regularly in clubs well before "Callan" gave him TV stardom. With a strong, traditional vocal style, he was no stranger to the recording studio, putting out strangely compelling work. His albums include "Love is the Key" "An Evening with Edward Woodward,""Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "The Jewel That was Ours" "It Had to be You," "Thought of You," "Woodward Again" and "This Man Alone." He didn't avoid contemporary songs, feeling that his unique, older sensibilities could bring out the best in the lyrics.
One obvious choice for this tribute, which comes 3 days after his passing on November 16th, is "Sound of Silence." As an actor concerned with his lines, he decides to change the emphasis in one of the sentences. While Paul Simon was more concerned with the rhythm and rhyme of the song, and sang "and echoes in the wells of silence," Woodward alters the cadence: "And echoed in the wells of silence."
But let's add another song: "The Tide Will Turn for Rebecca," which Woodward chose to record even though its author, Elton John, did not. At the time Woodward immortalized it on vinyl, only a few fans owned a bootleg of Elton's demo version. Both tracks come from "This Man Alone," which also featured his versions of "Eleanor Rigby," "A Taste of Honey" and "Scarborough Fair," as well as the catchy "Today I Killed A Man I Didn't Know."
It might be argued that numbers such as "Sounds of Silence" and "The Tide Will Turn for Rebecca" flourish best when done by an actor who sings, rather than a singer who doesn't act. Both tunes are, in their way, more colorful than the Paul Simon and Elton John versions. It takes an actor to try and make sense of these Taupin lyrics:
"Can you hear the floorboards crying in a room on the second floor, that used to be owned by someone who's no one, but he don't live there anymore
"Only Rebecca clasping her head on her knees, trying to work out what is about
And why someone had to leave.
"But dry up your tears, stop counting the years. Don't worry what's coming. Forget all your fears. And the tide will turn for Rebecca. Her life will change, her hopes rearrange into something that might really matter
"She's all alone in a world of her own with a key that fits her lonely world. You won't need a crowd to shout out aloud what she says deserves to be heard."
Here's to the long career of Edward Woodward (and don't call him "Ed Wood" for short).
EDWARD WOODWARD: SOUND OF SILENCE/TIDE WILL TURN FOR REBECCA
Blonde Irish singer Beverly O'Sullivan was killed in Bharatpur, India on November 2nd, the passenger in a car driven by her boyfriend, Steve Reeves.
They were on vacation at the time, the reward for Beverly finishing a film role that included six songs on the soundtrack.
She was beginning a promising solo career, after being a member of "Fifth Avenue," an Irish pop band.
Back in September of 2004, they were hoping to make money off tweens via generic pop music and band members who looked cute. Beverly was the Barbie Doll blonde, there was also a brunette, plus three pretty-boys with varying amounts of short, gel-gopped hair and pubescent stubble.
Their try for a hit single was the ethnic "Spanish Eyes," showing the way too obvious influences of Shakira, Michael Jackson, and sound-alike boy bands. Beverly's solo turn comes about 2 minutes into the tune. You get both the U.K. version and the thumpier dance version. Each had its own music video.
The dance version (www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6FvkLxRmcM) has the band doing basic, club-footed aerobic moves and posturing. Two minutes in, coinciding with her solo turn, Beverly does the orgasmic-moan bit, there's a gratuitous cleavage shot and then a moment for her to press her hand near her crotch, as a sign of lust or cramps. Mostly all five stand around doing the traditional Irish dance known as "dead from the waist up."
Beverly O'Sullivan was capable of more than Riverdance in a Colombian Brothel, or spoiling her smooth vocals with Britney moans, but she spent several years with "Fifth Avenue." She also guested on a piece of generic trance: "Don't Look Back," a noisy number from John O'Callaghan's album "Never Fade." Beverly's vocalise is buried in the mix and disappears quickly in favor of the usual thumps and electronic noises.
It'll be your headache. Beverly's years of pop and trance caused even worse headaches for the lady herself. Aside from being on stage with a loud tween-aimed band, airplane travel aggravated her hearing problems and she suffered an extra 10% loss of hearing while touring with "Fifth Avenue."
"I haven't heard of any other popstars with a hearing aid," O'Sullivan told The Guardian, but the reporter pointed out Pete Townshend, completely deaf in one ear and suffering tinnitus, and Fatboy Slim, Ozzy Osbourne and Phil Collins, all suffering hearing loss. Only Beverly was born with the problem.
Beverly, who routinely took painkillers, and had to be careful while washing her hair to avoid any water getting into her ears, admitted to having a 45% hearing loss in one ear, and 30% in the other. Technically, "unilateral conductive hearing loss" was the problem, which her £2,500, hearing aid somewhat remedied.
At three, she had "glue ear," (wax build-up) and ended up with a perforated eardrum, the hole getting larger over the years. The delicate bones in her middle ear began to give way as well. She recalled, "I had really bad earaches. I was only about three or four and I was screaming my head off...I was always in pain as a child...I can't hear great now either. Things are a bit mumbly."
Able to manage a conversation one-to-one in a quiet room, if her "good ear" was facing the speaker, O'Sullivan joined the band without giving away her secret. It was only after about six months that she had to explain why she needed the monitors to be turned up loud during rehearsals, or why she was sometimes in distress after a long night of music.
O'Sullivan was eager to move on to solo work, singing music more in line with her real interests. With her good looks, she landed a role as a cabaret singer in the film "Happy Ever Afters," singing a half dozen songs on the soundtrack. The film will be released Christmas Day, 2009.
DON'T LOOK BACK trance No pop ups, captchas, pop unders or wait time.
SPANISH EYES, DANCE VERSION
SPANISH EYES, U.K. VERSION
Monday, November 09, 2009
The most successful cover version for a song co-authored by Judy Henske is probably "Yellow Beach Umbrella," from Bette Midler. If not, then "Sauvez-Moi" by the internationally beloved Johnny Hallyday.
Judy's lyrics have been re-written into French. The anthemic music remains the same. The song was originally sung by Henske's group "Rosebud," with Judy sharing the vocals with Jerry Yester and Craig Doerge. Monsieur Johnny does a good job by himself though some might be prone to side with Spike Milligan who said that "French singers are the bane of my existence!" Sapristi! The French, from Piaf to Aznavour and back, do have a habit of tattooing a tune with an indelible style of over-emoting, and Hallyday takes it to a rockin' new level of excitement.
Rather than do the same thing as he ages (and be called an Old Bean) Rowan Atkinson has taken on new challenges, including singing in a big London musical. Critics have been cheering his version of Fagin for, among other things, bringing out the pedophiliac angle of the old man's lack of character, which probably was something the very gay Lionel Bart chuckled about when he first concocted OLIVER.
Critics are also glad that throughout the show Rowan unloads every spare eye-pop and grimace that he might have been saving for a fresh Blackadder special. Considering that the show has the gimmick of a female lead chosen via TV reality show, OLIVER would have failed miserably without Atkinson's star presence.
Perhaps in a year or two, this new production will be made into a cable TV special or even a feature-length movie. It would be a welcome subsitute for the weak movie version that offered the bland duo of Shani Wallis as Nancy and Marc Lester as Oliver, along with the somewhat anti-Semitic job done by Ron Moody as Fagin. In the meantime, if you're curious about Rowan's singing abilities, here's one of the comic highlights from the musical, as nutsy Fagin finds himself "Reviewing the Situation."
ROWAN ATKINSON as FAGIN
A beloved singer who once had a million-selling album ("I Can Never Understand Your Love" in 1993), Chen Lin died after a fall from the ninth floor of an apartment in Beijing. It was the home of a friend. She had a bandage on her neck (caused, friends said, by a recent failed suicide attempt), and the corpse was wearing a mask, which might be ceremonial.
I doubt that Halloween is celebrated in China. Her masked pavement surfing on October 31st probably had nothing to do with pumpkins and black cats, and everything to do with that date being her ex-husband's birthday. He's not likely to celebrate his birthday quite so cheerfully for many years to come, which was no doubt her intent.
He's Zhu Shu Entertainment's powerful CEO Shen Yongge. They were married twelve years and it was for his record label that Chen Lin scored her biggest hits. She was newly married (in July to singer Zhang Chaofeng), but that was also the last time she posted anything on her blog. She put out a new EP in August, but the next few months were apparently full of disappointment and woe.
The death of Chen Lin (January 31, 1970-October 31, 2009) is the third major suicide of an Asian superstar in only a few years. This blog previously reported on the beautiful, irreplaceable actress-singer Eun-ju Lee, and the pop idol U-Nee. Those with long memories can add Jun Zi and Xie Jin, whose names, together when Chen Lin, Eun-ju Lee and U-Nee would form quite a grim eye-chart.
Chen Lin tried to do some good with her fame, as long as it lasted. In 2000, she used her popularity to become the "Green Ambassador" for the China Environmental Protection Foundation. Sadly, her new EP apparently didn't bring her much buzz, and her equally new marriage didn't fulfill her expectations. She wasn't about to cover Graham Parker's tune "Life Gets Better."
Chen Lin, like Jack Benny, will always be 39.
"Yu-Ye" is as timeless as a pop ballad can be, unmarred by the synths or dance beats or other production quirks that tend to render a song out of date. The other sample, another good one for Chen, is "Confiscate Your Love." Instant downloads or listen on line. No creepy captcha codes, no prurient porno ads, no time-waits from download "services" that want you to pay them for music they don't pay the artists to distribute.
YU-YE by CHEN LIN
CONFISCATE YOUR LOVE by CHEN LIN