Saturday, June 19, 2010

All Apologies: Green Monster Edition

No, this post is not about a famous wall in Fenway Park in Boston. The green monster I refer to is jealousy. It is one of our most powerful emotions, and here it drives two very different women to an act that they feel compelled to apologize for later. But their apologies are as different as are the women themselves.

Kirsty MacColl: Miss Otis Regrets


Miss Otis Regrets is a standard by Cole Porter. Porter often focused on the foibles of the upper classes, but perhaps never as scathingly as here. The title character, driven by jealousy, has done something awful. So what does she apologize for? Through her servant, she sends regrets for missing a social engagement the next day.

Kirsty MacColl first recorded Miss Otis Regrets with the Pogues for Red Hot and Blue, an album created to raise money for AIDS awareness and research. That was a great version, but I did not feel that I could use it, because it was done in a medley with Just One of Those Things, which does not fit our theme at all. Fortunately, MacColl recorded Miss Otis Regrets again, this time as a stand-alone track. But this time, the Pogues were not involved. MacColl does just fine on her own though.

Tracy Nelson: Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair


Now here is another woman in the same situation. Driven by jealousy, she has committed the same crime of passion as Miss Otis. But her reaction is quite different. She cannot live with what she has done, and she apologizes for something she knows cannot be made right, by begging the judge to show her no mercy. She is sorry, and she wants to pay the highest possible price. For this, she commands far more of our sympathy than Miss Otis does.

Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair was made famous by Bessie Smith about 75 years ago. Since then, many blues and jazz singers, both female and male, have sung it. David Bromberg did a great version, and I would love to have an mp3 of Roy Bookbinder’s rendition. But, even though the arrangement is quite different, Tracy Nelson’s version strikes me as being the closest in spirit to Smith’s.

All Apologies: "Regrets? I've Had a Few" Edition

Susan Werner: Sorry About Jesus


Ani DiFranco: Superhero


Dory Previn: Left Hand Lost


Where does sorry end and regret begin... or vice versa? - there's a fine line between apologizing to someone else and apologizing to yourself for things you wish you'd done/said/thought differently... things which are unalterably life-changing, and indelibly mark a that-was-then, this-is-now crossroads...

Susan begs forgiveness for weird "Jesus freak" (we all knew one) behavior while in high school - "I'm hardly like the person that I was back then"...

Ani laments a relationship-induced self-transformation from strong to vulnerable, knowing she can never go back - "and now look at me, I am just like everybody else"...

Dory ponders who she would have been and what she might have accomplished, if she had not allowed the nuns in school to change her natural left-leaning inclination to the other side - "and I'll never be completely me again"...

I personally am sorry/regretful I don't post here as often as I used to, sometimes even missing a week altogether (very unlike me!) - I vow to do better in the future...

All Apologies: Glad and Sorry

"Glad and Sorry" is a bittersweet Ronnie Lane song from the last Faces album, Ooh La La. It's one of those songs that works better when you don't try to analyze it. It's all about the performance. You pick up the vibe from the music, and maybe a few words resonate, but that's all you need to know.

Twenty-something years later, alt-rock supergroup Golden Smog covered it on their first full-lengther, Down By the Old Mainstream. The main piano riff is rendered on electric guitars, giving the song a bit more edge, but otherwise their version is spot on. The loose, relaxed vibe that permeates the album made "Glad and Sorry" a perfect fit.

Friday, June 18, 2010

All Apologies: I'm Sorry I Love You

The Magnetic Fields: I'm Sorry I Love You


The driving force behind the Magnetic Fields, Stephen Merritt is well known in certain circles for his apt ability to evoke the complex emotions of the hipster set. Case in point: his delightfully imperfect three-volume 69 Love Songs project, which - like poet Pablo Neruda's 100 Love Sonnets - provides an intensely personal collective litany of the many ways that love manifests in our hearts and our lives.

The jangly, fuzzed-out eastern-toned surf-rock of I'm Sorry I Love You makes for an interesting apology/sorrow song, framing love as a temporary rose, fraught with its own passing, and the sorrow and pain that inevitably follows. The paired male-and-female vocals lend a rich layer of nuance to the universality of the message, too. Listen to the end, though, and the truth is revealed: roses bloom and die, but in this case, at least, the hopelessness and bitterness present in our narrator's lyric springs from the cavalier attitude of the gardner, not the rose inherent.

All Apologies: Forgive Me

Patti Rothberg: Forgive Me


The biggest part of saying you're sorry is so you can potentially get the offended party's forgiveness. Despite being the offended party in the scenario, this song became very pertinent to me after a break-up I had many years ago, when I felt like if I had just not played it so cool, if I had just not played hard to get, or had been faster in realizing I wanted to be with him, then maybe he wouldn't have gotten bored and moved on.

Patti Rothberg had minor success with her single "Inside" from her debut album "Between the 1 and the 9" in the late '90s, but hasn't been able to recreate the magic since. This song is from that stellar debut that still remains one of the favorites in my collection, simple and affective songwriting that often touch on feelings that are slightly different than the typical love and lost that most are about.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

All Apologies: I’ll Say I’m Sorry Now

Shawn Colvin: I‘ll Say I‘m Sorry Now


Often, “I’m Sorry” means “I’ll change and try to undo what I have done”. But there also times when it simply means “I wish things had gone differently.” I’ll Say I’m Sorry Now finds Shawn Colvin’s narrator facing the fact that her relationship is doomed. She knows she can’t fix it, but she’s not quite ready to give it up entirely. She wants to apologize while she still can. And she does so beautifully. The arrangement on this one is suitably spare. There is no way to dress up what she has to say, no way to make it easier to take.

All Apologies: I Apologize

Billy Eckstine

Billy Eckstine : I Apologize


This 1950 hit for bop big band leader cum vocalist Billy Eckstine is a cover of an earlier Bing Crosby song. It showcases his smooth-as-butter baritone with a lush orchestra. And damn, does he ever sound sincerely sorry! I'd forgive him, wouldn't you?

Eckstine broke a lot of musical ground, both in the bop jazz world (working with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey…) and as one of the first black romantic singers interpreting American standards. His 1942 rendition of Skylark introduced the first black vocalist ever heard on US network radio. If not for the overarching racism in America at the time, he probably would've been as popular as Frank Sinatra, who recommended Eckstine as his replacement when his voice failed during the late 40's.

And now I'll offer my own apologies for not being able to post again for the next week – I'm headed for the east coast.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

All Apologies: Sorry


The English Beat: Sorry


I am sorry that I missed last week's challenge, being on vacation ("up north" in the vernacular of the natives) and away from my computer. This is kind of a two-fer, then, although I'd have chosen this song anyway.

The English Beat (or simply The Beat in Britain) was probably one of the better-known ska revival bands that popped up in England in the late 70's (as did The Selector, who Darius featured a few weeks back). They banged out albums in 1980, 1981, and 1982 and then broke up to form two new bands: Fine Young Cannibals and General Public.

This song is from their last album. What made the English Beat one of my favorite bands was not only their infectious rhythm, their sparkling vocals, and their tight arrangements, but their clever lyrics, e.g.:

Words are just another violence,
Nothing rings as true as silence.

Dave Wakeling, lead singer and nouveau Californian, has reformed the English Beat in recent years and tours the US regularly. They perform the old hits and are quite good if you have a chance to catch them live.

Monday, June 14, 2010

All Apologies: Criminal

Fiona Apple: Criminal


I would like to begin by assuring our readers that our One Word theme is indeed over. But it’s hard to apologize, to admit that you were wrong. So that explains the one-word titles to start the week. Sometimes one word is all you can manage.

Take Fiona Apple. Her character in Criminal knows she must apologize. But she can’t quite bring herself to do it. It’s never stated who is being addressed in the song, but it’s not the lover she has wronged. She has gone to friend, or maybe even a therapist, to help her find the courage to apologize. The remorse is already in place, so she’s just seeking that final push.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

All Apologies: Apology

The Posies: Apology


And I asked again
Would it be alright for me
To acquire someone else's disenchantment?
I could reconnect to another time and place
Reconsider letting loose and running rampant

Take me back
Teach me
Take me back
I never meant to be and I won't take much with me

Just an open mind and a second nature
Don't forget you might just drink the water
If it illustrates the nonesuch nomenclature

So push the button ring the bell
Behold your tongue it's served you well
Enough to bring you here, won't you please

If we fall to touch

There will be no backlogged time
You can make believe it
like a bunch of postcards
And the stones will read in a modest fashion
Don't expect too much - you might be disappointed

One Word / All Apologies: Sorry

Caitlin Cary: Sorry


And I am sorry, sorry, sorry for my arms.
I tried to protect you.
Sorry, sorry, sorry for my arms.
I have darkened all of your charms.

Caitlin Cary may be less famous than Ryan Adams, her better-known partner in Whiskeytown, but don't sell her short: the fiddle playing songwriter has a power that lingers, regardless of mainstream cachet. And she certainly knows how to play the strong one, as in this gentle Americana ballad, its lyric a litany of regret for the way her shadow and strength and well-intentioned protection stunted the growth of someone loved yet unnamed.

Odds are good that Cary's "other" here is a lover, not a child. But the potential is there, and it's a scary conceit, for a parent - so hard, in the end, to nurture without smothering, to protect without damaging, and almost impossible to know whether you've gone too far until it's too late to do more than regret. As such, I keep Cary's apology as a morality play, a bulwark against the balance, a reminder that love can kill. May we never need to step into her sentiment.