Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stardust... versions... second use of the word plangent this week...


Betty said that she liked Coltrane's version of 'Stardust' – and I suddenly got an idea for a quick blog today (working on Super Friday at the moment – noise terror to come)... to put up a few different versions of Hoagy Carmichael's song – one of the most endearing and most-recorded in the twentieth century American standard book. An awkward melody for a singer to negotiate – but some superlative performances have resulted. (As an aside for the perverse – Ringo Starr has a version... ). The first selection is the original by Carmichael -a charming, easy-going performance. He manages to sound older than his years – which is essential to the performative success of this song. Even the whistling seems to work(!) oddly enough: I can imagine someone strolling under the stars, thinking of lost love, perhaps whistling plaintively in the twilight. (Or maybe I'm just feeling overly romantic today...)

The Louis Armstrong is weird – a jaunty tempo and almost perfunctory run through the words – either side of which is the usual masterful trumpet playing. Listen to his placing of notes just so, in contrast to the rather lumpy rhythm of the accompanying band.

Then one by the young Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey, which I'll deal with further down.

Nat Cole's take on the song is held by many to be the definitive version. And Cole is sublime, using his musical skills (a brilliant jazz pianist before his singing career took over) to ride the lyrics perfectly through the melody with an urbane wistfulness.

Willie Nelson is a singer I like a lot – transcending the usual saccharine shitkicker country music with his wider musical horizons that come in part form his Texas origins (the State that produced Ornette Coleman, Lightnin Hopkins, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Guy Clark to name a few...) where boogie, jazz, blues, rock, country and Tex mex (not to mention German polka) all come together in a real not ideologically constructed multi-cultural music scene. The guitar solo and obbligato behind the vocal points this up – a combo of folk, spanish tinges and jazz furthered by the long organ notes and brief snatch of bluesy harmonica, as he delivers the lyric in his quintessential country drawl – he doesn't hide his musical origins, rather exploits them to give the song an honest twist in a different direction. Stardust regrets in a pickup truck up in the high hill country...

Pipping Nat Cole – or at least drawing up to him nose to nose – is the later Sinatra version. Almost symphonic strings usher it in. Sinatra has some deep regret in his voice – poignant and yearning, a middle aged man's remembrance of love lost – 'the music of years gone by.' Ends on a plangently sombre dark brown brass chord. Compare and contrast, as they say, with the younger Sinatra's interpretation with Dorsey – and, I think, Jo Stafford. You can hear the technique of the young crooner to full effect- and he actually sounds older than he was at the time of recording. Along with the bitter-sweet Dorsey muted trombone solo – not bad. But this song is not a young man's vehicle, working best with the darker edge that his later version provides, where he truly gets inside the song. Yet he only sings the verse – the chorus is omitted, almost as if he can't bring himself to sing it... a fascinating conceit...




Hoagy Carmichael


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Louis Armstrong

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Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey

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Nat King Cole

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Willie Nelson

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Frank Sinatra


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8 comments:

Molly Bloom said...

Absolutely fantastic post Rod. I loved, loved, loved this post. It really cheered me up and the use of the different versions of the song were brilliant. You are fantastic, you really are.

A very large smilexxx

Anonymous said...

Nice !

Very well done...

Rod... said...

Cor! Thank you folks... Super Friday Noise terror might tip the balance the other way though into howls of execration!! Actually - maybe I'll put up the complete 'Howl' by Ginsberg as well...

Molly Bloom said...

Wasn't that picture of Miles on the last post absolutely terrific as well?

So, where can we hear this CD then?

And where is super Friday going to be?

Thankyou again for this post. Wonderful stuff.

Rod... said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rod... said...

goddamnit! Start again...

just put up a pithy reply and somehow wiped it... such is blogging...
Super Friday will be... on friday! Wahoo... most of the music is finalised but I run off accidents and improvisations so no doubt things will be added...cd out within a couple of weeks hopefully - may post a couple of samples as a teaser (or to put people off completely! It's a rather uncompromising set of tracks - mainly improvised using a set bank of samples which include field recordings of gospel choirs white and black and of local street scenes and all sorts of wonders bent and twisted by yours truly - tentative title; Carnivals and Choirs unless I can think up something more pretentious (and I'm sure I can!)
We're all supposed to hate Miles these days as he was allegedly a terrible human being who duffed up women and treated everyone abominably - sort of a thinking man's Ike Turner. Which does make things problematic... but I've been listening to his music since I was twelve or even younger and it provided solace and much pleasure down the years. What I liked about him was his propensity for change... he never stayed still... unlike sad bastards such as The Who and Rolling Stones still lumbering around playing the same old tripe - talking about their generation, I'm always trying to put them down - just because they don't get around but still come off the sixties vibe which is long gone - I should know - I first saw the Stones at the Imperial Hotel in Richmond back as they in the day - but that's a long time ago to be still trotting out music which relies for its force on the culture of forty years back... weird... well, not really, I like weird - and they are not... just rather dull. Contrast MES - who could be running round with some dreadful revival band like the rest of them but seems to age in a way that doesn't make him look stupid...

although

maybe I'll lose some weight (go on an amphetamine diet) and put together a Fall tribute band... offers for names please...

Middle Class Revolt anyone?

St Anthony said...

That Miles, he was a bit of a bastard, wasn't he? But I suppose genius hadrarely goes hand-in-hand with being a nice bloke (well, apart from Coltrane and Coleman).
Like Lou Reed, who seems to have made a career being a shit to John Cale, not a nice man, but great at what he does.
I always say, vis a vis the Stones et al, good for 2 years, shite for 38.

Rod... said...

'Hope I die before I get old' must be a line that came back and haunted various people...