Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summertime: Dancing in the Street

Jimmy Barnes: Dancing in the Street


The time is right for this one. Apparently, Ella Fitzgerald absolutely nailing Summertime is proving to be a hard act to follow. So, I created this mess, and I get to fix it, (I hope). And why not do it with this classic workout in praise of summer partying.

The classic version is, of course, by Martha and the Vandelles. And that’s a fine version. But I thought, “This song is such a bar band classic. Surely there are many interesting versions to choose from.” So I went shopping, and the results surprised me. First of all, there are many versions which try to slavishly recreate the original. Why do people bother? Then, there was a flurry of disco versions, including a very unfortunate one by the Grateful Dead. To my ears, the version by Mick Jagger and David Bowie has not aged well; it sounds to me now more like a stunt than a song. There’s a jazz version without words by the Ramsey Lewis Trio, but it slows the song down and loses the spirit that makes the song work for this week’s theme. I almost gave up.

Then I found this version by Jimmy Barnes. Who? I had never heard of him either, and I almost ignored this one. But our Australian readers could have told me. That’s right, I had to go to Australia to find a version that was what I wanted. Barnes doesn’t change the music much. What makes this one is the performance. Barnes finds a way to outdo the intensity of the original by miles. On this, he is a top notch soul shouter, and the band cooks behind him. When I first came of legal age, I didn’t want to get drunk. I went to a bar to hear a local band. At its best, seeing a bar band offers an electrical connection, with the energy flowing from the band to the crowd and back. It’s very difficult to capture this experience on an album. Jimmy Barnes does it here.

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