Thursday, July 6, 2017

Right: Something So Right

Jeanne O’Connor: Something So Right


Something So Right can be called a classic song by Paul Simon. It has certainly been covered often enough. But I had a hard time finding a version that came close to what I hear in my head. That has everything to do with how records were produced in the 1970s. The song originally appeared on Simon’s album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. It started well enough, but soon the production starts to swell with unnecessary strings that I have always felt provide a level of artificial emotion that this song does not need. The genuine emotion in the writing should be enough. Even so, the song does need a small ensemble to move it along. So, Simon’s live version on Live Rhymin’ suffers from the opposite extreme. Here, Simon strips the song down to just voice and guitar, but now the song sounds desolate in a way that still does not do justice to the lyric. So I went in search of the perfect cover, a version that heard what I hear. Phoebe Snow’s version is marred by the pop-jazz arrangement that worked so beautifully for Poetry Man, but became a cliché for her. Annie Lennox did a cover years later that Simon blessed with his backing vocals and guitar playing, but here again I find the production overdone. There is a DVD of Paul Simon and Friends where Dianne Reaves takes the song and gives it a promising small band jazz reading, but Reaves loses her mind at the bridge, and falls into the trap of oversinging the song. I was afraid to even sample versions by Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion with the Muppets.

Finally, I stumbled upon this version by Jeanne O’Connor. I had not heard of her before, but by this time I knew the version I wanted would be by an indie artist. It would be someone who avoided the temptation to overproduce the song by the simple expedient of not having the budget to do so. This is a small ensemble jazz take, which suits the song well, but O’Connor keeps her voice under control. By not forcing things, she allows the emotion of Simon’s writing to shine through as it always should have. O’Connor’s vocal has enough heart to make the song completely convincing, but she does not impose her will on a song that is too fine to need that kind of help. There is still room for someone to record the perfect version of the song, perhaps with guitar and a small folk combo. But until that version is recorded or finds my ears, this will do nicely.

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