Attuning: old music

I always listen to old music. it’s like the sonic equivalent of stargazing. The sounds (light) may have taken a while to get here, but it still sounds cracklin’ fresh to me (twinkles brightly). I’m lucky to have fallen in with musicians that share the love of classic song-craft with virtuosity that enables us to compose and play new music that draws on its power. It’s a dream come true for me to be able to contribute to the writing & playing of the songs we make.

If I started writing about some of the antique music I love I’d never stop. It’d be a ‘Coldest 100’.  These are just some tracks I’m into right now, even though they’re not ‘now’ at all.

The Mills Brothers – How’m I Doin’, Hey, Hey

This song is so stylishly arranged and performed it drives me nuts. Once it’s in your head it stays there. In this period you don’t have to look very far to find a brilliant popular song soaked in innuendo. Today it’s the opposite: songs that seem rude are actually soaking in conservatism: the apparently revolutionary is actually reactionary. None of that stuff is cool. This is cool.

Al Bowlly –  Careless

I’ve written about Al Bowlly before, and I still listen to him all the time. Careless features a rare example of him scatting, but beyond that I just find the song very moving, especially the lyrics.

Jerry Lewis Does the Dishes

Not strictly music in performance, more music as performance. I only stumbled on this recently, and I wish I’d found it when I was 19 and trying to do the same thing to violin concertos. I recognise the impulse to physicalize music, though I’m not sure my nostalgia extends to watching a whole Jerry Lee Lewis movie.

Boswell Sisters  – Rock and Roll

Samuel Vincent pointed me in the direction of this group, and I’ve been thinking of them as I’ve been writing lyrics for The Pockets. There’s a lot of good Boswell Sisters songs out there: I chose this one for the highly theatrical vision. THIS is REAL rock and roll.

Frank Sinatra – Deep in a Dream

In the Wee Small Hours is a great album, but it’s a tough listen from beginning to end. Sadder than Nick Drake. The songs are perfectly curated, the arrangement subtly (or not so subtly… listen to 1:58 here) providing the atmosphere where these songs, and that voice, evolve into something beautiful. That these songs were performed live with an orchestra adds to their remarkable quality as audio artefacts.

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