Thursday, April 5, 2018

Steps & Stairs: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - One Step Over the Line

purchase [One Step Over the Line]

<One Step Over the Line> is not to be confused with the better known <One Toke Over the Line> despite the fact that the syllabication and hence - to some extent the application to a musical format -is pretty similar.

The latter by Brewer and Shipley, the former by John Hiatt.

But the choice for the theme is John Hiatt (and Rosanne Cash) performing with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

The Dirt Band first appeared mid 60's doing Mr Bojangles among other pieces. And then they sort of faded into the background until they came back with their <Will the Circle Be Unbroken> albums, the 2nd of which includes this piece.

I read somewhere that the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was the group that made country music appeal to rock music fans.
That's certainly true for me (although I do like Country music of a certain style with or without the Dirt Band).

This song seems to appear most often with a female backup vocal. Rightly so. John Hiatt has an inimitable style, but his crooning improves with a female side-kick on vocals.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Steps & Stairs: Steppin’ Out

Joe Jackson: Steppin’ Out

When Joe Jackson released his debut album, Look Sharp! in 1979, he was usually lumped in with Elvis Costello and Graham Parker as “angry young men,” and that comparison was not terrible, at the time. And while Look Sharp! and it’s similar successor, I’m The Man were filled with intense, uptempo rockers that fit with the narrative of the emerging New Wave style, there were hints that there was more to Jackson, that his musical palette was broader.

What I certainly didn’t know at the time was that Jackson had been, from his youth, a multi-instrumentalist, a lover of classical music, jazz and progressive rock, and had studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London, on scholarship. (Also, his first name is really David). Or that he was in a band named, variously, Edward Bear, Edwin Bear, and Arms and Legs, before becoming the pianist and musical director at the Playboy Club in Portsmouth.

Beat Crazy, Jackson’s third album, began to meld more styles, including reggae, dub, and soul to the formula, and it was followed, seemingly out of nowhere, by the swing and jump blues cover set, Jumpin’ Jive. By this time, it was clear that Jackson could no longer be pigeonholed. But when he released the Cole Porter and Gershwin influenced Night and Day, filled with Latin and other decidedly not-New Wave rhythms and sounds, it was a bit of a sensation. The album went high on the charts, and the first single, “Steppin’ Out,” a sleek, synth and piano driven tune about, yes, going out, promoted by a modern-day Cinderella themed video, was also a hit.

Whenever we hear it, or even when it is discussed, my wife says, “I love that song.” Because, she does. The album was released as we were graduating from college in 1982, and not only was it on the radio and on MTV all of the time, it was a time when she, and most of us music lovers, still listened to whole albums, and this whole album was filled with good music. So, I’m guessing that my wife heard “Stepping Out” approximately a zillion times over the next year or so, and maybe a gazillion times since then. And that’s OK, because it is an excellent song.

Jackson has continued his eclecticism, releasing albums that would be generally considered to be rock, soul, jazz, classical, pop, New Wave(ish), and has written soundtracks, to mixed reviews since Night and Day (even releasing a sequel to that album). It is fair to say, though, that Night and Day and “Stepping Out” represented Jackson’s commercial peak. The song is, because of its appeal to both fans of rock, and fans of less manic music, likely to remain part of the “classic rock” pantheon as long as there is such a thing.