Exodus – Bob Marley’s Masterpiece

*I am a music lover, have been all my life, and I have written here about various compositions and productions that I enjoyed over the years. Exodus by Bob Marley is one of the most hypnotic pieces of music I have ever listened to. If it plays somewhere, I will hear it in my head for days later. I guess it has to be the beat because there seem to be only about eight words to the whole song.*

Exodus is the title song of a giant selling album of Marley from 1977. Rolling Stone reports, “The Marley Family, Island Records and UMe have announced a massive set of Exodus reissues to mark the 40th anniversary of Bob Marley & the Wailers’ landmark Exodus album, which was released on June 3, 1977.” So it is special to more than just me.

Here is part of what the Rolling Stone reviewer said of the tune back then.  “Exodus doesn’t reach these heights, nor does it seem to aim for them, save on the seven-minute title performance, which sounds like War on a slow day and wears out long before it is half over. If I didn’t have more faith in Marley I’d think he was trying to go disco — the tune is that mechanical.” 

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Album cover

The following is from the Oberlin College Library – Radical thinkers and movements in the Caribbean by David V. Moskowitz

While the lyrics are very poignant, the structure of the song itself also enforces the song’s motivational purpose.  Both the bass and guitar provide a driving groove that feels like it’s constantly moving forward. This stands in stark contrast to the float-y feel that many attribute to a stereotypical reggae song.  Additionally, the song’s central repeating verse “Exodus: movement of Jah people” is sung by a chorus in addition to Marley which makes it easy to sing along. Singing along with a piece of music calls attention to the lyrics in a much deeper way than does passively listening. Repeating the lyrics to oneself forces one to analyze and interpret their meaning. Furthermore, many songs used politically have lyrics that are poignant but also easy to commit to memory and sing in a group. “Exodus” has a very simple song structure that lends itself to this purpose. It is unknown whether or not Bob Marley intended this song to become a political anthem, but the structure of the song implies Marley made it to be easily accessible.”

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I do.

Tony

 

Sing, Sing, Sing

*Another seminal song in my musical upbringing is the famous Sing, Sing, Sing, written and performed by Louis Prima. I probably heard it at home on the radio because my father was a fan of Prima who had recorded it in March 1936. I became more aware of the song in my later years after hearing the Benny Goodman version at his famous 1938 Carnegie Hall jazz concert.*

Louis Prima version 1937

Of course, to my unsophisticated ear, the most stunning performance on the piece was the pulsing, primal Gene Krupa drum solo. It wasn’t till I was older that I got into appreciating the wonderful Benny Goodman clarinet work as well.

Here is what Wikipedia has to offer on the song: In their 1966 book Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story Of Jazz As Told By The Men Who Made It, music critics Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff quote Goodman as saying, “‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ (which we started doing back at the Palomar on our second trip there in 1936) was a big thing, and no one-nighter was complete without it.” Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall jazz concert was different from the commercial release and from subsequent performances with the Goodman band. The personnel of the Goodman band for the Carnegie Hall concert were the same as in the 1937 recording session, except Vernon Brown replaced Murray McEachern on trombone, and Babe Russin replaced Vido Musso on tenor sax.

12 Min Version From Carnegie Hall 1938

I wanted to include this last one because seeing two other artists add their interpretation to it adds a further level of enjoyment. And, who doesn’t love Fred and Ginger?

Tony

Patchwork (1971) – Bobbie Gentry

More on Bobbie Gentry.

Junkie in the Attic

Gentry’s first collection of entirely self-written material, the fittingly titled Patchwork is a piecemeal work of country, gospel and show-tune motifs, not to mention filmic interludes. Sounds exhausting, but as ever Gentry is more than up to task. No dark narratives of prostitutes or suicides this time, but still THAT voice. She colours each genre with her effortless soul inflections that manage simultaneously a vibe of lazy and alert. It would be difficult to say which of her voice or words her biggest asset is; she often gets full mileage out of both, and whilst the lyrics are lighter on Patchwork, they are still enjoyable. “You may know my body/But you cannot know my mind” quotes Gentry from the archetypal stripper with a heart “Belinda”. Caricatures or counter-stereotypes is what she has gone for here; the traveller in “Benjamin”, the misunderstood rebel in “Billy The Kid”, the spiritualist in…

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Bond – Classical Crossover

If you love hot music and beautiful women, or possibly beautiful music and hot women, Bond may be right up your alley. It certainly is mine. They are an Australian/British string quartet that specializes in classical crossover music.

The group consists of Tania Davis (first violin, formerly viola, from Sydney, Australia), Eos Chater (second violin, from Cardiff, Wales), Elspeth Hanson (viola, from Upper Basildon, England)[4] and Gay-Yee Westerhoff (cello, from Hull, England). Hanson replaced original band member Haylie Ecker (formerly first violin), who left in 2008 to have a child.

Wikipedia says, Their debut album Born was removed from the UK classical chart, apparently owing to its “sounding too much like pop music”. Born later rose to the #1 position on 21 different charts around the world. Shine, their second album, went gold in six countries. Remixed, their third release, featured remixes from their first two hit albums as well as three new unreleased pieces. Their third studio album Classified was a popular and successful release: Classified went double platinum in Australia, reaching the number one spot on both the classical and pop charts. Explosive: The Best of Bond, their latest release, is a “best of” collection that includes three previously unreleased pieces. They also participated at the Miss World 2000 pageant in London.

The classical violinist Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra performed live on New Year’s Eve in Vienna in a set that includes many Strauss favorites, as well as an appearance from Bond performing “Victory”.

Bond-Play

More recently, Bond also performed “I Am the Walrus” alongside Russell Brand at the 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony.

Tony

Carmen Fantasy – Doc Severinsen

Carmen was the first opera I ever attended and it remains my favorite. I wish there were some fascinating video to go along with this music, but I consider myself lucky to have found it. I first heard this piece by Doc Severinsen on an airplane on my way to Las Vegas years ago. It took me over a week to track down the CD. Trumpet Spectacular has Doc doing only selections like this from operas.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the opera.

Carmen is an opera in four acts by the French composer Georges Bizet. The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, on 3 March 1875, and was not at first particularly successful; its initial run extended to 36 performances. Before this run was concluded, Bizet died suddenly, and thus knew nothing of the opera’s later celebrity. Bizet died on his sixth wedding anniversary, exactly three months after Carmen’s first performance

The opera, written in the genre of opéra comique with musical numbers separated by dialogue, tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naive soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen’s love to the glamorous toreador Escamillo after which José kills her in a jealous rage. The depictions of proletarian life, immorality and lawlessness, and the tragic outcome in which the main character dies on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial. After the premiere most reviews were critical, and the French public was generally indifferent. Carmen initially gained its reputation through a series of productions outside France, and was not revived in Paris until 1883; thereafter it rapidly acquired celebrity at home and abroad, and continues to be one of the most frequently performed operas; the “toreador’s song” from act 2 is among the best known of all operatic arias. Later commentators have asserted that Carmen forms the bridge between the tradition of opéra comique and the realism or verismo that characterised late 19th-century Italian opera.

Wikipedia continues, “The music of Carmen has been widely acclaimed for its brilliance of melody, harmony, atmosphere and orchestration, and for the skill with which Bizet represented musically the emotions and suffering of his characters. After the composer’s death the score was subject to significant amendment, including the introduction of recitative in place of the original dialogue; there is no standard edition of the opera, and differences of view exist as to what versions best express Bizet’s intentions. The opera has been recorded many times since the first acoustical recording in 1908, and the story has been the subject of a large number of screen and stage adaptions.”

I think every man has encountered at least one version of Carmen in his life. I know I did and it took me years to get over her. She is an archetypal character brought to life in this powerful opera.

Tony

Saint Preux – Concert Pour une Voix – Some Really Beautiful Music

I was introduced to Saint Preux’s Concert Pour Une Voix years ago by my then girlfriend, Joanne. I never new if Saint Preux was the artist, singer or composer. I only knew I had never heard anything as beautiful in my life. If you love it, there is an album by the same name.

Wikipedia says, “Saint-Preux (born 1950) is a French composer of contemporary classical music which also combines elements from popular music and electronic music.By 1968 he had already released several 45 rpm recordings of his compositions, including Une étrange musique (A Strange Music) which reached #71 on the French charts that year. In August 1969, he took part in Poland’s Sopot International Song Festival with his first major composition La valse de l’enfance (The Waltz of Youth). The song was Luxembourg’s entry in the festival and was sung by Henri Seroka with Saint-Preux conducting the symphony orchestra. The song won the Grand Prix de la Presse award at the festival and was released in that same year on Seroka (Festival FX 1583) and as a single on the EMI/Odeon label.[6][7] While in Poland he composed what was to become his biggest hit, Concerto pour une Voix (Concerto for One Voice).

When Saint-Preux returned to France, René Boyer, head of the music publishers Fantasia, took him under his wing and arranged to have Concerto pour une Voix recorded. Although originally written as a purely instrumental work for trumpet and strings, Saint-Preux heard the French singer, Danielle Licari rehearsing in another studio and decided to record it with her voice taking the part of the trumpet using a vocalise technique (similar to scat singing in jazz). The song, released on the Disc’AZ label in 1969, made both her career and his. In a few months it had sold over 3,000,000 copies in France alone, and gained recognition outside of France as well. In the week of August 22, 1970 it entered the charts in Mexico at #10 and Japan at #20, eventually winning a Gold disc and a Japanese “Oscar” for the best original music.

What do you think?

Tony

Fun Bicycling Videos

You don’t have to be a cyclist to enjoy these.

When I was in the news business one of our axioms was that if the readers didn’t know a fact, it was news, no matter how old. So, I consider these videos as very fun news. They have been around a while, but are brand new to me.

I don’t know who Robin Moore is (the guy in the vids), but I am his newest fan.

Tony

Ode to Bobbie Gentry

I have Sirius Satellite Radio in my car and my presets include music from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. On a recent ride, Ode to Billie Joe came on and I found myself haunted by the writing as well as being transported by the eerie music backing it. I was really happy to learn that Bobbie Gentry, the singer, wrote it and this was her debut recording.

Although it was created just short of 50 years ago, I doubt that any current readers are not familiar with the song.

Here is the first verse:
It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And Mama hollered out the back door “y’all remember to wipe your feet”
And then she said “I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge”
“Today Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

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Look at how specific the phrases are: The third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day. Lovely alliteration with the d sounds, too. Very strong images. She paints such a clear picture for us to immerse ourselves. Great verbs in the next line Choppin‘ cotton and balin‘ hay. Very specific and also very vivid. In seconds, the listener is transported to the Delta on a summer day doing field work. And, then the day is done and we have a leisurely walt back to dinner. I love the introduction of Mama who runs the house reminding them to wipe their feet. And then the refrain … the horrible news about Billy Joe MacAllister.
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Toccata and Fugue For Glass Harp

Let me say in advance that I love music, but don’t care much for gimmicky performances of it.

I saw Walt Disney’s Fantasia as a child and was blown away by it. One of the songs in particular, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor took my breath away. I have it on my iPod to this day.

A friend sent me this You Tube video of it and I loved it.

I hope you feel the same.

Tony

Bumble Boogie by Jack Fina

This one has roots all the way back to my childhood. I first heard this incredible piece of music in the 1940’s and it electrified me then as a child. I would always stop whatever I was doing to give it my full attention and move to the beat. As with all things we love, it is impossible to put into words why we love them. Love is emotional and comes from the heart not the head. I can’t explain why I loved it as a child nor today as a grown up, I only know it makes me feel alive in a special way.

Before you hear it, though, you need to learn a bit about its genealogy. Bumble Boogie actually has classical roots. It is based on The Flight of the Bumble Bee an orchestral interlude by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for his opera The Tale of the Tsar Saltan in 1899-1900.

Wikipedia says, “Flight of the Bumblebee is recognizable for its frantic pace when played up to tempo, with nearly uninterrupted runs of chromatic sixteenth notes. It is not so much the pitch or range of the notes that are played that challenges the musician, but simply the musician’s ability to move to them quickly enough; because of this and its complexity, it requires a great deal of skill to perform….

Flight of the Bumblebee was featured, along with other compositions by Rimsky-Korsakov, in the fictional 1947 biopic Song of Scheherazade.

“The radio program The Green Hornet used Flight of the Bumblebee as its theme music, blended with a hornet buzz created on a theremin. The music became so strongly identified with the show and the character that it was retained as the theme for the later TV series, Wikipedia reported.

Enter Jack Fina, New Jersey born musician and composer. Born August 13, 1913. Fina played in a number of bands in his life, including the Freddie Martin band in the 1940’s. It was with this group that pianist Fina composed his version of Flight of the Bumble BeeBumble Boogie. It was so popular that Walt Disney included it in his 1946 Melody Time which took my breath away when I saw and heard it on the big screen in a movie theater as a child.

I am including a You Tube video of a recording of Jack playing his version in the 1940’s. It’s obviously dated and not up to current standards of acoustics, but I thought you ought to hear the composer play his song.

It’s important to understand that while the Rimsky-Korsakov original has a frenetic pace, Fina tones that down and lets the listener feel the music. After all, it’s Bumble Boogie, not Flight of the Bumble Bee. A lot of pianists get caught up in playing this as fast as they can and it becomes little more than an exercise in fast fingering. I have also included a version by Luis Coloma and his trio. For my money Coloma understands and performs it exactly correctly. Again, this isn’t the greatest recording acoustically, but I think you can get the idea. The version available on iTunes is superb.

I have bought a number of versions on iTunes and the one available by Coloma is my favorite. There are several other good ones which I will let you find and enjoy for yourself. Enjoy the hunt. You can also buy the DVD of Melody Time on Amazon. Disney had it removed from You Tube, so you can’t sample it there. But I recommend buying the DVD just for this tune.

Tony