Monday, February 24, 2014

The Lost Art Of Everything





On Saturday morning I received a small package, a 45, from my pal Sal Maida.  A few weeks ago he asked if I had heard of a tune by Sam Hawkins called "Hold On Baby."  I said no and so now, here it was and here it is.

A Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich tune that, as another friend put it, is a bit of "The In-Crowd meets 1-2-3," "Hold On Baby" stayed on my turntable for most of the day. Greatest record ever? Of course, not. But man, what a record!

I immediately went into my tired old rant to no one in particular. "They just don't make records like this anymore" followed by a couple of "it was so much better back thens" and "pop music sure stinks todays."

When I got my BP back down to a healthy level, I put on Sly & The Family Stone's debut "A Whole New Thing" because why not?  Do you know this tune? Track 3, Side 1.



Jeez Louise! What a record! I mean, who makes records like this with real musicians these days?

Not this guy--




"The Man" by Aloe Blacc has officially become the most irritating song in recent memory, mainly because there are millions of people who are more than fine with it. Here's how it goes: steal a line and melody from a classic, create something that is unoriginal and ultimately lousy and cash in. That's how you do it. Shamelessly.

This wasn't supposed to be another "get off my lawn" post. I really only wanted to share the two tunes up top as a follow-up to last week's post about terrible songs and ask for some of your favorite "records," as opposed to songs.  But you can't watch a sporting event without hearing Aloe Blacc's "The Man" at every break and I needed to vent.

Where and when did it all go wrong?

MTV? Right?

Something else?

We need more good records!

Like this one--


Man! What a record!


15 comments:

vanwoert said...

"Clean up Woman" by Betty Wright is like that. Not a great song, but a great record.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Real musicians playing real music can be easily replaced with special effects nowadays, and most people seem to be okay with that.

Gene Oberto said...

All week long with one eye on the Olympics (over here presented in its entirety it's easy to get into) I've been spinning three retrospectives, Bettye Swann "The Atlantic Years" where, unbelievably she couldn't drum up a hit on one of the best R&B labels ever. It's not because the Miss Swann was not working. This woman could sing the phone book.

The second was K%per's look back at Mike Bloomfield, "From His Head to His Heart to His Hands." It's easy to see that Al loved this guy and he uses mostly live takes to show off why Bloomfield deserves more than a "Oh, yeah...the guy on Super Session."
Finally, "The King of Soul" a four disc collection of Otis Redding that will satisfy the true believer and will blow the minds of any new comer who is looking for the definition of soul. Studio or live the sound of Otis, Booker and the MGs is amazing.

Finally, one of the reasons that the pop of today is "not as good as when I was a kid" is because the incubator of the soul singer is no longer a factor. Today's R&B singers are not coming out of the Church Gospel as they once did. Look back at ALL the great ones, they have one thing in common. Gospel.

Shriner said...

So considering this is the first time I've ever heard this (I don't watch that much sports, apparently).

"The Man" did not offend me.

I'm assuming EJ/BT get some kind of royalties from this (which a quick google search said they did...)

The familiar hook obviously sucks you in -- and it's not his by any means -- but the rest of it is. And he was clearly obvious about it and didn't try to hide a stolen lick anywhere and pass it off as his own.

Would I like it if *all* new music was built around hooks from older songs? Not at all.

But once in a while? Especially rom rap songs (a genre I don't really follow that much but from what I can tell it's not uncommon for new words to be put on top of samples?) I can live with it, listen to it once and then turn the dial to go listen to the original again.



Sal Nunziato said...

Here's the one thing that seems to come up when anyone defends current pop music, albeit in some variation--

"I can live with it, listen to it once and then turn the dial to go listen to the original again."

Seems at best like damning with faint praise and at worst, calling it lousy.

I wasn't really accusing Aloe Blacc of not paying or crediting Elton John, I was really just pointing out the disparity between the days when people wrote and played music versus now, and the bells and whistles and quite frankly, lack of talent needed to create a hit.

Dave said...

Hope this makes you feel better, Sal. I hadn't listened to this in 20 years, until a friend posted the video on his FB page: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfCBxfF8pUE&feature=share

Shriner said...

Well, sure -- there is a lot of "lousy" current pop music. I'm not saying otherwise.

However, there is (at least to my ears) *so much more* music available at your fingertips now than there was in the pre-MTV years (and pre-Napster years for sure), that it's hard for me to get worked up over yet-another rapper sampling some old song and making money doing that.


Sometimes, I wonder what the Beach Boys/Beatles would have sounded like if ProTools/GarageBand was around in 1965. It was certainly probably around 1977-1979 that songs were created with "loops" more and more (the disco years, for sure, had multiple songs created that way...)

Four of my favorite "pop hits" from last year (as came up on the discussion of the Grammys) were "Get Lucky", "Blurred Lines", "Locked Out Of Heaven" and "Royals". Only one of them (the latter) might I consider required a lot of "talent" to *write* (as an original melody/song)

That doesn't mean I didn't love the other three for being throwbacks to a different time. I think it actually takes even more talent to make a pastiche that's not an actual melody ripoff *and make it a hit*





Anonymous said...

Why didn't the Young Rascals ever cover Hold On Baby? What a killer track. How has this remained unheard by me for so long?
I've seen the commercials with that The Man song. I always assumed it was just a cover of Your Song. I didn't know it was considered an Aloe Blacc song. Ridiculous.

William Repsher said...

You can look at it a few ways. I like that first track you have on this post ... but honestly, that type of soul was old hat and on its way out by the late 60s, surely the early 70s, when stuff like Al Green, or Marvin Gaye in What's Going on phase, or Isaac Hayes, or Stevie Wonder doing "Living for the City" was the shit. That's what I recall about that second Stax Volt box set ... a lot of the pure soul of the 60s that older artists were still making, just wasn't registering, commercially or creatively. It had run its course after a brilliant 5-8 year run that we're all still listening to today.

In my mind, soul went bad when synthesizers became the instrument of choice as opposed to real bass and drums, real horn sections ... shit, even real singers with un-auto-tuned vocals. It went bad after disco. Disco turned into another form of bad unto itself, but don't kid yourself, early disco was and is fantastic pop music, and still had plenty of listenable hits in its prime.

I'm not so down on soul these days. People are trying. You have Sharon Jones doing her thing. The first album by Fitz and the Tantrums wasn't bad at all -- "Moneygrabber" sounds like a lost Hall & Oates 80s classic. Just last week, St. Paul & the Broken Bones put out an album that has a few winners on it. Late last year, Har Mar Superstar put out a great track called "Lady, You Shot Me" and a few other good songs.

I can live with the guy ripping off Elton John ... much as I can live with an asshole like Robin Thicke. I must admit, even knowing this stuff is a complete rip-off, it doesn't bother me that much. They're ripping off really good shit, so I'll give them (or their producers, or team of six songwriters) credit for being smart enough to steal good stuff. I think musicians are just a little more blatant and lazy now - they'll just lift something outright instead of trying to shift a few chords around.

A walk in the woods said...

Sorry, I'll be one of the odd men out here (with a couple of other commenters) but I don't get it - what's so bad about Aloe Blacc's "I'm The Man"? I also don't get what it's derivative of, I'm missing that...

I actually.. kind of... (clunk) like it. My apologies. :)

But yeah, Sally Go Round The Roses and that Sly song are great. Have you ever heard Tim Buckley's version of "Sally" - it's awesome.

A walk in the woods said...

OK so I googled it and found out what it supposedly copies... geez, if this counts as a rip-off of "Your Song," gosh, I think he created his own song off the riff, really.

And here's a video of him playing with real musicians and stuff... isn't that part of what you don't like, that it's too pre-programmed? This looks real enough for me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGcA9OQT3pk#t=118

Sal Nunziato said...

Here's the thing--

the difference between then and now, Sly Stone and Aloe Blacc, Al Green and Robin Thicke is like the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it.


Shriner says, "I think it actually takes even more talent to make a pastiche that's not an actual melody ripoff *and make it a hit*."

Maybe. You know what, that Daft Punk album was one of my favorites of the year. "Paul's Boutique" is one of my favorites of all time. Period. So this isn't about creative borrowing.

Let me go in a different direction for a second.

I watched the movie "Nebraska." I really disliked it. Thought it was a lot of nothing, a short film at best. Bruce Dern was fine, not tremendous. Will Forte was horrible. It was repetitive. Smug even, with tired stereotypes and a few good moments amid a really boring script. I refuse to LOVE this thing just because it's an antidote to Vin Diesel and Katherine Heigl. I'm not going to "not mind" this movie because it's better than other absolute shit.

That's how I feel when the occasional non-offensive pop tune comes my way. There's a difference between good and "not bad." The Aloe Blacc tune, at least to my ears, doesn't even sound like it's trying.

William, I agree with all of this:


"I'm not so down on soul these days. People are trying. You have Sharon Jones doing her thing. The first album by Fitz and the Tantrums wasn't bad at all -- "Moneygrabber" sounds like a lost Hall & Oates 80s classic. Just last week, St. Paul & the Broken Bones put out an album that has a few winners on it. Late last year, Har Mar Superstar put out a great track called "Lady, You Shot Me" and a few other good songs."

I'm pretty sure this is not what I am down on.

soundsource said...

yes

Bill said...

My kids are now of the age when they're asking to listen to Top 40 radio instead of the music we've played for them. So that's been hard. And the thing that bothers me the most about the top hits today is the auto-tuning that's present on pretty much every song. I know voices aren't perfect, and those imperfections are what make the world go round.

It's such an impersonal sound, and it really makes me unhappy.

Bill

A walk in the woods said...

I think I'm starting to see your point about this song... after another listen or two I agree, it's pretty thin on ideas.

I think it's my liking of another Aloe Blacc song (a Stones cover) that predisposed me to want to like this.

Check out this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tE-iiruXEc