Category Archives: Music

They Can’t Take That Away From Me

Rat Pack Cocktail Hour

With George and Ira Gershwin’s They Can’t Take That Away From Me, we move from the realm of the pure torch song to wistfulness world. It was introduced in the Astaire-Rogers movie Shall We Dance. In that 1937 classic, Fred and Ginger do not dance after or during the number. Heresy. They did so in their 1949 reunion flick. The Barkleys Of Broadway, which is where we begin:

The song is often identified with Sinatra, especially after Bill Zehme’s book. The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin’ was published in 1997. That’s why we present two versions by Old Blue Eyes:

 

What would the Friday Cocktail Hour be without an instrumental by a Jazz great?

Both Billie and Ella recorded swell versions of this song. I flipped a coin and it landed on Ella. The next coin toss will go to Lady Day:

Finally, the oddest and quirkiest version of They Can’t Take That Away From Me. It comes from Brian Wilson who reimagined it as a bouncy Beach Boys tune:

Pour yourself a drink and toast the end of a grueling week. Cheers from Bogie, Betty, and Frank:

Cocktail Hour Closer

 

 

Thank You

It’s been a tough week in New Orleans. Paul Drake’s unexpected death has taken a toll on his people. Shorter Adrastos: Since this is the second time this has happened in 14 months, I don’t feel like writing today.

I would, however, like to thank everyone for the kind words here and on social media. It means the world to Dr. A and me.

What’s a cat post without a picture or two?

Here’s a previously unpublished picture of the krewe of cats named for Perry Mason characters: PD and Della Street. We miss them both.

The last word goes to Sam and Dave and Paul Rodgers:

 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Rick Springfield

I’m just as surprised as you are to see Rick Springfield’s name atop this post. Here’s why: I did a search for “album covers with animals on them”and these doggone covers topped the list. It was destiny or some such shit.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Band On The Run

The Bird, The Cage & The Forest by Max Ernst.

I’ve gone on about NOLA rain in this space this summer. It was the wettest July in recorded history, and it happened without any tropical systems getting too close for comfort. That much rain can be inconvenient, but it keeps the temperatures down. That concludes this brief weather report. If I had a green screen, I’d go on longer, but we don’t have the budget for it.

Like everywhere else in the country, life has been grim in New Orleans of late. Small businesses, especially restaurants have been failing daily. It’s estimated that up to 50% of restaurants here will close for good. They need help and since the government ordered them to close, it should come from them. I am not optimistic that Moscow Mitch and his merry band of miscreants will reconsider and ride to the rescue. In the immortal words of Mel Brooks:

This week’s theme song is an ironic choice for this moment in time: ain’t no bands on the run or even on the road.

Paul McCartney wrote Band On The Run in 1973. It was the title track of Wings’ smash hit album, Band On The Run. Was that a run-on sentence? Beats the hell outta me. I’ll stick a band-aid on it just in case.

We have two versions of this Macca classic for your listening pleasure: the Wings original and a raucous cover by Foo Fighters.

Let’s run to the other side of the break. I think I hear band music in the distance.

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Angel Eyes

Since I wrote about demons yesterday, it only seems fair to write about angels even if demons are more fun.

There are several songs titled Angel Eyes. I’m talking about the 1946 torch song written by Matt Dennis and Earl Brent. We specialize in torch songs during the Friday Cocktail Hour, after all. I’ve always thought that sad songs are the best songs. This is a time for sad songs, y’all.

First up is Nat King Cole with a version arranged and conducted by the great Billy May:

Friday Cocktail Hour regular Ella Fitzgerald often said that Angel Eyes was her favorite song. She proves it here:

The brilliant and irascible New Orleans pianist James Booker recorded an instrumental take on Angel Eyes in 1982:

The Chairman of the Board often closed his live shows with Angel Eyes, which he called the “ultimate saloon song.” The last line suited his sense of drama, “Excuse me while I disappear.”

Here’s the original studio recording arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle.

I made a big deal out of Sinatra performing Angel Eyes so here’s a live version from 1974. His voice cracks but the introduction is hilarious:

At the beginning, I mentioned other songs of the same title. Here’s my favorite of the bunch:

Hiatt’s Angel Eyes was also covered by the Jeff Healey Band but it’s not torchy enough for the Friday Cocktail Hour. But this totally unrelated song is torchier than hell in a prog-rock kinda way:

I still miss John Wetton.

That’s it for this week. Pour yourself a drink and relax. Excuse me while I disappear.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Hair

Hair is on my mind as well as on my head. I’ve done some self-trimming and Dr. A has taken a few whacks at the unruly curls that cluster at the back of my head but I haven’t had a haircut since before Carnival. I wish I could say that I had long luxurious locks, but I do not.

That brings me to this week’s album cover. Its full title is long as was the fashion in 1968: Hair- The American Tribal Love Rock Musical.

I used to have the original Broadway soundtrack album, but it got misplaced in one of my moves. I’m not sure that I’d play it very often in any event. There are some good songs but there’s a lot of filler. The cover, however, is a hairy classic:

I’m also fond of Milos Forman’s 1979 film version. Here’s the poster:

If you’re ready to let your hair down and let the sunshine in, here’s the album in the YouTube playlist format:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Higher Ground

Blue Night by Edward Hopper.

The tropics have been busy this week. There are two named storms in the Gulf. Neither is headed our way, but it’s been a wet week. Oh, to be on the dry side of a storm.

It was qualifying week for the 2020 election in the Gret Stet of Louisiana.  Senator Double Bill Cassidy gained a name opponent when Democratic Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins filed to challenge him. He has his work cut out for him: he’s not well known in South Louisiana. The spineless incumbent remains a heavy favorite.

The most interesting local race is for Orleans Parish District Attorney. Incumbent Leon Cannizzaro is retiring, which makes it a wide-open race. City Council President Jason Williams looked like a very strong candidate until he was indicted on federal tax charges. The funniest moment of qualifying week was when Williams told us not to be distracted by his indictment. Dude, you’re running for DA. You need a better argument than that.

This week’s theme song was written by Stevie Wonder for his smash hit 1973 album Innervisions.  It’s about reincarnation or some such shit but I like it for the funky groove.

We have two versions of Higher Ground for your listening pleasure: Stevie’s original and a 1989 cover by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Glad I was able to funkify your lives today. I took lessons from the Meters:

That George Porter Jr. bass line makes me want to jump…to the break. See you on the other side.

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Miss Otis Regrets

As a songwriter, Cole Porter was not known for his social conscience. Miss Otis Regrets is an exceptional exception to that rule.

Cole Porter composed this song in 1934. Miss Otis the heroine of the piece is unable to lunch because she was accused of murder then lynched. That’s pretty strong stuff coming from the man who wrote Anything Goes.

We have four versions that are posted in chronological order. The first one comes from Ethel Waters in 1934:

Miss Otis is one of the highlights of Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook:

I’ve never understood why Bryan Ferry didn’t become THE rock star who sings standards, but that crown went to Rod Stewart who doesn’t have the voice for it. His rasp is more suited for blues, R&B, and rock but life can be strange.

Here’s Ferry’s take on Miss Otis from 1999:

Finally, a Hammond B-3 heavy version from Van Morrison:

Van also has a voice made to sing standards

Have a drink. Relax. It’s the Friday Cocktail Hour. Cheers.

Overkill/Alone In The Dark

Insomnia day continues here at First Draft. I’ve long thought that Colin Hay is an underrated singer-songwriter. His solo work is even better than the music he made with Men at Work in their 1980’s commercial heyday.

Colin Hay wrote Overkill for Men at Work’s 1983 album Cargo. It was a monster hit Down Under and charted in the US as well.

We begin with the Men at Work version followed by a solo acoustic rendition by the songwriter.

Colin Hay did a guest shot on the surrealist medical comedy Scrubs in 2002. He sang-you guessed it-Overkill:

Our next song, John Hiatt’s Alone In The Dark is a two-fer. It’s about both insomnia and loneliness. Since it’s a two-fer, we have two versions fer your listening pleasure:

It’s hard to top either Ry Cooder or Sonny Landreth on lead guitar so I won’t try.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: The Clown

Sad clown? Funny clown? Evil clown? It’s unclear what the great Jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus and designer Marvin Israel were after with this cover. Perhaps it’s crappy clown thrown out of the circus for lazy makeup application. Beats the hell outta me.

Mingus described the title track as follows in the liner notes:

“The Clown” tells the story of a clown “who tried to please people like most jazz musicians do, but whom nobody liked until he was dead. My version of the story ended with his blowing his brains out with the people laughing and finally being pleased because they thought it was part of the act. I liked the way Jean changed the ending; leaves it more up to the listener.”

That sums up my attitude about clowns. They creep me out. The Jean Mingus refers to is Jean Shepherd a writer/actor/radio and tv personality who is best known for A Christmas Story. Holy leg lamp, Batman.

Here’s the whole damn album:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: This Forgotten Town

Subway Portrait by Walker Evans.

The weather in New Orleans has been almost as crazy as President* Pennywise this week. We’ve had record heat as well as torrential rain that caused some street flooding. There were thunderclaps so loud that they interrupted PD’s beauty rest. Now that’s loud.

It’s also lizard season in the Crescent City. They’re everywhere. I have to look down as I descend our front stairs to avoid stomping on them. The cat is obsessed with capturing and tormenting lizards whenever they get inside. I’ve rescued several already this year. Leapin’ Lizards.

A new Jayhawks album dropped last week. XOXO is more of a collaborative effort than past records. It features songs and lead vocals by band members who are not named Gary Louris. Tim O’Reagan and Karen Grotberg’s lead vocals are a welcome addition to the Jayhawks’ musical arsenal.

This week’s theme song, This Forgotten Town, is the opening track on the new album. It was written by Gary Louris, Marc Perlman, and Tim O’Reagan. We have two versions for your listening pleasure:

This is not Gary’s first town tune. There’s also this unforgettable song from Smile.

Let’s leave this town and jump to the break.

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The Man That Got Away

It’s Friday afternoon so it’s torch song time. Raise your glass to Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin who wrote this wonderful song for the equally wonderful Judy Garland-James Mason-George Cukor version of A Star Is Born.

I’ve already posted the clip from the movie multiple times, so we begin with Judy Garland live at Carnegie Hall:

You don’t hear as much about Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Harold Arlen Songbook as you should. It’s one of the best of the series featuring arrangements by the great Billy May.

Who among us can forget Sammy Awards? Sammy gender swaps gal for man despite the listing below.

Finally, some West Coast cool jazz with Cal Tjader:

That’s it for today. Have a drink or three. Bottoms up. Cheers.

The last word goes to Dean, Sammy, and Frank. I had no idea until recently how Rat Pack toons there were out there. Here’s another one.

Stepien Up

There’s a lot of punditting to be done and only so much time. Hence this potpourri post. It’s hard to keep up when things change so rapidly. Here’s some sage advice from Dwight Yoakam:

We begin with a humble brag. I noticed I was getting a lot of hits on a post from late October of 2019: The Latest Smear Campaign. It was about attacks on Col Vindman and I mentioned Rick Wilson’s role in smearing Max Cleland.

I took a closer look and realized that all the hits came from a piece Charlie Pierce wrote about The Lincoln Project. I nearly swooned when I realized that Pierce had linked to little old me. My life is now complete. Thanks, for inviting me to the shabeen, Charlie.

Let’s get back to business for, as you’re aware, the business of American is business so let’s take care of business with a song written by a Canadian:

Tweets Of The Day: We’ve all had beans on our minds because of what one could call the Goya Annoyas. Team Trump decided they hadn’t violated the Hatch Act enough recently, so the Princess posted this in support of the Trumper who owns Goya food products:

The Kaiser of Chaos posted his own ad for Goya on Instagram but I’m not on it because I waste enough time on two social media platforms. I’d rather show Chris Cuomo’s response to the presidential* message on the Tweeter Tube:

I’ll never call Chris Fredo again.

I don’t, however, regret making this image:

Back to the Goya Annoyas. I wonder if this happened at the White House last night:

Stepien Up: The Trump campaign made some major changes yesterday. There’s that C word again. In a sign of Slumlord Jared’s waning influence, his lackey Brad Parscale was removed as campaign manager and demoted to serving cocktails to Javanka. Parscale had never run a campaign of any sort before and was in way over his head.

This is what losing campaigns do: fire the campaign manager when the problem is a terrible candidate with a horrible record in office.  It can’t be the Impeached Insult Comedian’s fault; nothing is. #sarcasm.

In another sign of Slumlord Jared’s waning influence, Parscale was replaced by Chris Christie protege Bill Stepien. He’s best known for his role in Bridgegate, which was one of my favorite pre-Trump era scandals. Kushner, of course, hates former Governor Asshole, which is one reason the latter lucked out and wasn’t appointed to a Trump regime job.

There are only two reasons this story is of any interest to me: the chance to mention Bridgegate and the new campaign manager’s punny name, which makes for a snappy title. Bill is Stepien up, not out.

The last word goes to Fred Astaire and Oscar Peterson:

 

Hard Times

The New Great Depression is shifting into high gear. It’s obvious what needs to be done: the government should give households $2000 or so a month to help them survive the economic impact of the pandemic. It’s equally obvious that Senate Republicans will not go along with such a plan. The spirit of Herbert Hoover is alive in the land. Freedom, man.

This depressing news has inspired a new subset for this feature: songs of economic hardship.

We begin with a song from my favorite Ray Charles album, The Genius Sings The Blues. He also wrote this song:

Eric Clapton covered the Charles classic in 1989. Here’s a live version from the late great teevee show Night Music with host David Sanborn on sax:

Stephen Foster wrote Hard Times Come Again No More in 1854. Here are three 21st Century versions. I suspect you’ve heard of these artists.

Finally, yesterday was the 108th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birth. We have two versions of his Great Depression anthem Do-Re-Mi for your listening pleasure by Ry Cooder and the songwriter himself.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: 1984

In the Rick Wakeman segment of last Saturday’s Odds & Sods, I discussed his comeback album: 1984. It was released in 1981 and was a collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita fame. It’s almost as if Keith Emerson had collaborated with Oscar Hammerstein.

Oddly enough, Wakeman did not like Orwell’s book but made the concept album anyway. There’s no accounting for taste.

The album art was done by the ubiquitous Hipgnosis:

Here’s Rick Wakeman performing 1984 live:

What? No cape?

Better Be Home Soon

I’ve been working on my next Bayou Brief column, so I felt like keeping it relatively brief here. Shorter Adrastos: I don’t feel like writing about Roger Stone and the latest Justice Department horrors. Suffice it to say, I think Stone’s commutation sucks the big one. I’m also not a fan of those who use the words commute, reprieve, and pardon interchangeably. They don’t mean the same thing. There’s a wonderful thing that can even be found online: THE DICTIONARY. Use it.

An old friend who is familiar with my musical taste pointed out that there were two songs notably absent from different entries of Songs From The Pandemic. Woe-is-uh-me-bop.

I somehow managed to post twice about songs with home in the title Home Is Where The Heart Is and Bring It On Home To Me without using one of the homiest (homeliest?) songs ever written. It’s time to remedy that omission:

In the songs of mortality entry, I forgot one of my all-time favorite Kinks tunes, which is, in part, about cremation:

“I’m scattered here and scattered there. Bits of me scattered everywhere.”

More importantly, Ray Davies wrote Scattered in honor of the deaths of his mother and sister:

Scattered was also the final track on the last album of new Kinks material, Phobia. There have been rumors of a reunion recently but I’m not holding my breath after 27 years. The bad blood between brothers Ray and Dave runs deep as you can see from this lagniappe song from the same album:

Frankly, it’s a miracle that Ray let Dave drive the car in the Scattered video. As the youngest child in my own family, I identify with Dave who’s in the same boat.  So it goes.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Heart Of The Sunrise

Wheatfield with Rising Sun by Vincent Van Gogh.

It’s been a difficult week in New Orleans. Mayor Cantrell has, quite wisely, rolled back the “reopening” to what amounts to Phase 1.5. Here’s hoping that people get the message and stop acting as if we’re back to normal. Even Gamaliel wouldn’t find this normal and he lived through the last great pandemic. That’s great as in big, not good. Pandemics are never the latter.

I’m trying to bring some beauty to an ugly era with this week’s theme song. It was written by Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, and Bill Bruford for Yes’ 1971 Fragile album. It was the first track they rehearsed and recorded with Rick Wakeman.

We have two versions of Heart Of The Sunrise for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a 21st Century live version.

Before jumping to the break, another song from Fragile:

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Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

 

In the last Songs For The Pandemic post, I wrote about my hatred of cigarette smoke. That does not, however, extend to the classic Jerome Kern-Otto Harbach tune, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

There are oodles of outstanding versions of this 1933 song. Here are five of them; beginning with the great Billy Eckstein who had the deepest voice in human history.

Billy Eckstein and Sarah Vaughan went way back. They met while both were in Earl Fatha Hines’ big band. Eckstein formed his own band and asked Sarah to join. She did. They worked together many times over the years but this recording of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is all Sarah.

The Platters hit number one on the pop charts with their doo wop version:

Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry loves standards as much as I do. He recorded Smoke Gets In Your Eyes for his 1974 solo album, Another Time, Another Place:

Finally, an instrumental interpretation by the great Clifford Brown with a little help from arranger/conductor Neil Hefti:

That’s it for this week. Pour yourself a belt of your favorite adult beverage but whatever you do, keep the smoke out of your eyes.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Sammy Awards

I’ve been looking at a caricature of Sammy Davis Jr. for the last ten Fridays. It’s time to see him on a Wednesday.

Sammy Awards has a deeply weird cover featuring the singer as an Oscar-ish statue. It’s unclear if it’s real gold or merely gold leaf. Whatever it may be, it’s weird.

There was method to the Sammy Awards weirdness. All the songs on the album were written directly for the screen and nominated for the Best Song Oscar. They all lost. Sammy was a card.

The album itself is not that weird. In fact, it’s not bad at all but not award winning or losing stuff.

 

Close Up The Honky Tonks

I live in a city where bar culture is important. I stopped being a barfly because of smoke: Dr. A is allergic to it and I hated smelling like an ash tray every time I went to a bar. New Orleans finally banned smoking in 2015, but my  affinity for bars was diminished. But I understand the importance of a favorite watering hole for others.

I think that bars being open during the pandemic is madness, especially with the recent surge of COVID cases. One New Orleans dive bar owner agrees with me, Dave Clements of Snake and Jake’s:

“I’ve been telling everyone this since day one: I’d rather stay closed a month too long unnecessarily than open a day too early,” Clements said. “We’ve been through all this and of course I want to reopen, but trying to reopen even at 50%, I have no idea how we would do that.”

Clements, who was adding space to the Snakes and Jakes backyard on Monday to prepare for a time when he could reopen, said policing his clientele to abide by the governor’s restrictions might be too difficult, even if he could reopen.

“We’re not really known for our responsible behavior here, so I don’t know how much people who are drinking heavily are going to listen,” Clements said.

Wise choice. Wise man.

Let’s move on the music. Close Up The Honky Tonks was written by Red Simpson. It was first recorded by Buck Owens and his Buckeroos in 1964.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Buck’s original, the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons, and Dwight Yoakam from Dwight Sings Buck complete with a video. Yeah, boy. Bow, howdy.