Saturday, March 27, 2010

After Midnight: After Midnight

JJ Cale: After Midnight


I'm unafraid to post the obvious this week, given how rare it is after all these years: JJ Cale's '71 version of his own composition After Midnight, first recorded as a demo in '66 and subsequently made famous by Sir Eric Clapton.

Thanks to pop radio repetition, After Midnight generally clings to the cultural memory in Clapton's fast-paced runaway train cocaine tones, but Cale's take on the song remains my favorite by far: bluesy and blurred with muted tictoc drumkit and guitar strings, aided and abetted by subtle barrelhouse piano, yet quiet enough not to wake the house. If you've never heard the "original", prepare to be surprised by its sultry subtleties.

After Midnight: The Vampire Edition

Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Vampire


Toadies: Possum Kingdom


I am attempting to be healthier in all areas of my life, so a midnight bedtime these days is my attempted-but-not-always-achieved goal - however, my true nature is noctural, long after everyone else has gone to bed. In the wee hours of 2 and 3 a.m., I can more easily tap into my full creativity and inspiration - I've always called it keeping "vampire hours"...

Given the fascination lately with "creatures of the night", Buffy Sainte-Marie's eerie and mysterious melody, with her vibrato voice telling a story of innocence turned to desolation, is goosebump-inducing - it's a cautionary tale to keep one's rosary close at hand...

I always thought Possum Kingdom was about a vampire, but read recently that's not the case - I will continue to believe my theory, immersing myself in the insistent beat and the erotic pull of danger... and promises of eternity...

After Midnight: The Nightfly

Donald Fagen: The Nightfly


I’m not sure where everyone is this week, but this post proves that, notwithstanding our theme, posts can be done in daylight hours. The Nightfly was the first song I thought of for this week’s theme. Donald Fagen recalls a time when a late-night DJ was a friend who informed his audience and played music you wouldn’t get to hear otherwise. It’s the same role we bloggers try to fill now.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

After Midnight: Green Door

Cannonball Adderley with Ernie Andrews : Green Door


I usually tell my mother-in-law about our new theme every week. She often has suggestions for songs, and I almost never take them. But we have fun with it. She has a remarkable memory for hit songs from the late 50s and early 60s, songs she often has barely heard since then. This is one of those, sort of.

Green Door was a #1 hit for Jim Lowe in 1956. His version, in the way it is performed, is a plea from an innocent teen who wonders about a party at a club he isn’t old enough to enter. But I went looking to see who might have covered it. It turns out that the song has become a signature tune for Chrystal Gayle. There are also versions by Shakin’ Stevens and The Cramps. But I was most intrigued by this jazz version by the great Cannonball Adderley, with Ernie Andrews. In these hands, the song depicts a man who doesn’t have the password to enter a speakeasy. Not a word of the lyrics has been changed, but Adderley and Andrews have given the song a completely new meaning just because of how they perform it. This flexibility probably explains why the song endures.

Cannonball Adderley was one of the best known jazzmen of the 1950s. Ernie Andrews is not nearly so well known, but he is still at it.

I hope I may be permitted a brief moment of self-promotion. If you enjoy this music, you should know that I just launched jazz singers week on my blog, Oliver di Place.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

After Midnight: Pissed Off 2 A.M.

Alejandro Escovedo & Vin Scelsa: Spoken Intro

Alejandro Escovedo: Pissed Off 2 A.M.

[purchase original version]

I have a lot of friends who are really into music, and they've turned me on to a lot of great stuff over the years, but the person who is responsible for the biggest chunk of my music collection is probably New York radio legend Vin Scelsa. His long-running weekly free-form radio show, "Idiot's Delight" is a beacon of light in New York City's radio wasteland.

Since at least the early '90s, his show has been on at night, starting at 8pm. These days, it's a comparatively concise four hours, but in it's heyday, it would often run until 2, 3, or 4 in the morning. And those long after-midnight sets were always the most magical. So somehow it's appropriate to include something from his show this week.

In the mid-'90s, Vin also curated a CD series, Grooves, of current-but-under-appreciated music that lasted all of 14 volumes. At some point during the series, he started tacking on a bonus track to each CD, recorded live on Idiot's Delight (or "Vin Scelsa's Sunday Night", as it was called for a short time). Vol. 13 featured this late-night rocker's lament from Alejandro Escovedo, just one of the many musicians Vin has turned me on to. It's from Al's June 16, 1996 visit to the show, promoting his then-current album, With These Hands (which is what the "purchase" link will take you to, and the Grooves CDs were only available through a subscription service).

I don't need to say much about the song itself, as Vin and Al do a fine job of summing it up in the intro. I will say this: It's a beautiful song for such and angry title.

After Midnight: Walkin' After Midnight

Patsy Cline: Walkin' After Midnight


Somebody needed to get this late night party started, and the obvious (and perhaps namesake of the theme) choice is this Patsy Cline classic. I was surprised to see that Patsy hadn't been posted at all here already, so it's certainly due, and what better chance than the perfect theme for my favorite song of hers.

The song is odd in theme, really. A woman walking along the highway in the middle of the night searching for her man. Not sure what she's trying to find, but it makes for a catchy song, and one of my all time favorite car sing-a-longs.