Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Blame It On The Dells

So I find this Dells record in New Orleans. "Love Is Blue," and it kills me.  It's filled, head to tail, with overwrought and hammy readings of pop tunes, including a particularly treacly "A Summer Place." And I love it. I'm not being hipster ironic. I don't think it's so bad it's good. I love the emotion and performances, even if it occasionally makes me laugh. (You can grab the whole thing here, if you dare.)

I shared "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" with you last week to mixed reviews. This made me think of a few more pop tunes turned into oversouled melodramas.

Millie Jackson's version of the Bad Company classic is pretty straight forward. Nothing too dramatic here, unless you picture her on the toilet when singing it.

Junior Parker absolutely floored me with his haunting version of George Harrison's "The Inner Light," which you can listen to HERE.

This time, he takes on another George classic, "Taxman." There ain't nothing cooler than when he says, "And if you take a walk...and this is awful...I'll tax your feet." (Actually, he says "And this is awful" a few more times, and every one makes me smile.)

Lyn Collins' version of the Gershwin classic "A Foggy Day," is not quite as over the top as The Dells, but when it kicks in with the groove at around 1:25, I could plotz.

Words fail me, actually, with the track from 24 Karat Black. They recorded for Stax, and thanks to the splendid Numero label, have been reissued. But, this is too much. It's an original, but it is hall of fame bound. Please, for me, listen to it.
(H/T to Sal Maida for this one.) 

Finally, it's back to The Dells, and another masterpiece of exaggeration, with a version of Bobby Russell via Bobby Goldsboro's sick-making tune, "Honey."  Just read these lyrics without selling a few buicks.

See the tree, how big it's grown
But friend it hasn't been too long
It wasn't big
I laughed at her and she got mad
The first day that she planted it, was just a twig
Then the first snow came
And she ran out to brush the snow away
So it wouldn't die
Came runnin' in all excited
Slipped and almost hurt herself
And I laughed till I cried
She was always young at heart
Kinda dumb and kinda smart and I loved her so
And I surprised her with a puppy
Kept me up all Christmas Eve two years ago
And it would sure embarrass her
When I came in from workin' late
'Cause I would know
That she'd been sittin' there and cryin'
Over some sad and silly late, late show

And honey, I miss you
And I'm bein' good
And I'd love to be with you
If only I could

She wrecked the car and she was sad
And so afraid that I'd be mad
But what the heck
Though I pretended hard to be
Guess you could say she saw through me
And hugged my neck
I came home unexpectedly
And caught her cryin' needlessly
In the middle of the day
And it was in the early Spring
When flowers bloom and robins sing
She went away

And honey, I miss you
And I'm bein' good
And I'd love to be with you
If only I could

One day while I was not at home
While she was there and all alone
The angels came
Now all I have is memories of Honey
And I wake up nights and call her name
Now my life's an empty stage
Where Honey lived and Honey played
And love grew up
And a small cloud passes overhead
And cries down on the flower bed
That Honey loved

And see the tree how big it's grown
But friend it hasn't been too long
It wasn't big
And I laughed at her and she got mad
The first day that she planted it, was just a twig

Check out the line "slipped and almost hurt herself" at around 0:52. (This time, you're allowed to laugh.)

Again, I'm serious. I love this shit.

Millie Jackson

Junior Parker

Lyn Collins

 24 Karat Black

The Dells


Anonymous said...

I'm totally with you on this. I LOVE the Dells version of Honey.

Not to play "top this", but I nominate Isaac Hayes' gargantuan cover of By The Time I get To Phoenix - all 18+ minutes. Finding the song's lyrics insufficient to express his feelings, he composed a nine minute spoken word introduction followed by music, music and even more music. It's Homeric in its scope. Here's the youtube link; just make sure you empty your bladder before you hit "play":


FD13NYC said...

Very interesting, as Arte Johnson would say. The songs actually are so bad that in a funny way they're kind of good in the warped interpretations these artists attempted to execute.

Made me laugh too, hilarious post. Especially Taxman by Junior Parker and Honey was a hoot.

James A. Gardner said...

The Dells' version of "Whiter Shade..." just fascinates me.
What an eccentric arrangement (presumably by Charles Stepney, the only arranger I've seen credited on the album).
Much as we like R&B harmony groups at our house (*do not* mention The Whispers at our house unless you've got an hour for my wife to rhapsodize over them), I find the arrangements on the Dells' Love Is Blue album as compelling as the vocals.
Thanks for this post, and big thanks for acknowledging a non-ironic love for this music.

jeff kisseloff said...

Honey! This reminded me of the great Smothers Brothers parody, and it's on youtube!

Anonymous said...

I know I should post this to your chat-thingy, but I'm logged on from work and our IT Department blocks all chat apps. However, this shouldn't wait until I get home. Just saw a YouTube video that makes me take back ANY bad thoughts I may have ever had about Paul Simon. I mean, you gotta see this - it's a true fantasy come true and, in my mind, speaks very well of Mr. Simon. If someone could watch this without having a HUGE smile on face, well, I just don't know...


Anonymous said...

The Dells' "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" made me smile too. You can't say they don't make the song their own. Exuberant plus!

Bruce H.

Anonymous said...

Wow, cool. You know, I was so intrigued when you mentioned that that I had to go find the album right *now*, and the only live link I found off captaincrawl was to some scratchy, crappy vinyl rip. So it led me to try some site:mediafire googling for the first time, and holy dang! I had no idea how much stuff was indexed on there with real album names! A gold mine.

So yeah, not a huge fan of the rest of that album (easy to see why Love is Blue was the hit, and why I remember it from the radio when I was, what, 3? Which seems weird, but maybe it stuck around for a while.)

But my initially-fruitless search for that album led me to download some greatest-hits type stuff- somehow I'd never listened to the Dells at all- and holy cow, hearing The Glory of Love for the first time, that was something else. What a song!

And I tell you what- you know what sounds great, is playing that back-to-back with the version of Coney Island Baby from Take no Prisoners. Everybody's favorite 104-yr-old Death Dwarf, in what has to be his most believable EVAR stab at portraying human emotions other than anger or ennui.

Seriously- I remember reading it was an acknowledged influence, or whatever, but hearing him and those amazing backup singers going ON and ON about "the glory of love"... right next to what, maybe, they were shooting for? Sublime. Check it out!

So anyways... what I've also been digging lately is the Isley Brothers versions of stuff- Fire and Rain, Love the One You're With, seriously kickass. But then they were always *sort* of a rock group, so it doesn't count as pure crossover stuff. Still and all though- how about Summer Breeze? Who in the (%^# thought there was a soul deep down inside *that* schlock? Don't know if it's the best link, but-


cmealha said...

Reall? The only thing worse than these covers may be the Junior Parker album cover.

DeepKarma said...

I listened to "Honey" and even though I was expecting it, I laughed out loud at the "slipped..." line. I mean a belly-laugh!

Loving these over-the-top covers is something akin to a having a real appreciation for B-movies. That said, I think the 24 Karat Black is my favorite of the bunch. I'm guessing a few adult beverages and some mind-altering substances were involved with creating this masterpiece.

Sal Nunziato said...

@cmealha Really? Not one of these hit you.