Friday, January 30, 2015

Bette Midler It's The Girls! 2014

Bette Midler is a fine vocal talent that has been wasted on middling material and just plain wrong production for much of her career. That hasn't stopped her from winning Grammy's and having big hit singles, but it has made much of her material come off as product, and pretty standard product at that. Of course, things got started in fine style with her stellar 1972 debut, The Divine Miss M. But the soundtrack work, and much of Arif Marden's later productions left me wanting. I came to think of her as an actor (and a darn good one) as much as a singer. Then there was that last Carson show when she serenaded him with One For The Road. I mean, you almost have to love her even if her recordings seemed so, I don't know, schlocky.

What made The Divine Miss M so great were the songs, many of which would fit right in with this new recording. There were girl group sounds all over Miss M, with Chapel Of Love and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. And there wasn't any padding on the record.

Well, I'll save you any suspense and just tell you that Bette Midler has finally made The Divine Miss M Part 2. It is a delight to hear Midler tackle these fabulous, and mostly true to the original, girl group classics. The song selection is spot on, with plenty of obvious choices, but also some rarities. When the songs get new arrangements, they're really great choices, like the slow, heartfelt version of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. Heartfelt is a good choice of words, really, because Midler sounds more invested in this material than she ever has sounded. Wow.

Be My Baby, One Fine Day, Tell Him, Baby It's You, He's Sure The Boy I Love, You Can't Hurry Love, all done just different enough from their sixties originals to sound fresh. The tracks from the forties "original" girl groups are particularly fine, with The DeCastro Sister's close harmony version of Teach Me Tonight just breathtakingly beautiful.

I didn't really care much if there was ever going to be another great Bette Midler recording, and I certainly didn't expect it. What a lovely surprise!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Grapes Of Wrath These Days 1991

A fairly successful eighties folk-rock band from Canada, The Grapes Of Wrath presented a somewhat harder rock sound on These Days than they had previously displayed. While critics and fans may have been less than thrilled with the direction change, the two singles still charted higher than any of their previous efforts.

And today, the CD comes off like some lost classic jangle-pop gem. The two singles, I Am Here and You May Be Right are both timeless mid-tempo rockers packed with melody, great hooks, fine vocals, and hot guitar.

And the whole thing holds up surprisingly well. The songs are strong, the lyrics worthy, and the band is talented. It turned out to be their swan song after an EP and three other CDs throughout the eighties. I think they went out on a high note.

Most of the band continued to play through the nineties as Ginger, and they reformed for new releases in 2000 (Field Trip) and again in 2013 (the solid High Road). But their strongest moment may have been These Days. It was a nice change of pace in 1991, and a delightful treat today.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The battle with loudness at live performances

There's some fairly recent science that supports what many of us have believed for a long time, that is, that Most Rock 'N' Roll Bands Play Too Loud.

Especially the bass and bass drum, which almost always seem too loud in the mix compared to everything else. And it seems to get worse as the night progresses.

This could be due to an already deaf sound guy.

It could also be quite purposeful, to make sure your chest rattles with the beat. That way you know it's really rock 'n' roll.

And the "get louder as the set progresses" deal could also be individual band members slowly creeping their volumes up until it's all just too much.

Or it could be alcohol. Follow that link to read an interesting article (and comments) supported by this research.