Friday, January 30, 2009

Cole's to Manhattan

Malcolm, doing a routine task, with inevitable iPod accompaniment, was about to conclude that no lyricist came close to Cole Porter:

Let's reprise that:
You're the top, you're Mahatma Gandhi!
You're the top, you're Napoleon brandy!
You're the purple light, of a summer night, in Spain.
You're the National Gallery! you're Garbo's salary!
You're cellophane!
Followed by [cue Miss Holiday!] Porter's harsh observation of:
When the only sound in the empty street
Is the heavy tread of the heavy feet
That belong to a lonesome cop,
I open shop.
When the moon so long has been gazing down
On the wayward ways of this wayward town
That her smile becomes a smirk,
I go to work....

Love for sale,
Appetising young love for sale.
Love that's fresh and still unspoiled,
Love that's only slightly soiled,
Love for sale.
Or, again, for sheer joy:

Malcolm has a very soft spot for that one: it was one of the great moments in the 2001 Broadway revival. That closed soon after 9/11, and transferred to London; so Malcolm saw it twice.

There is, as it happens, a complete video of the earlier, 1999, London production of Kiss Me, Kate (in 6' 40" episodes, and all for free on YouTube):

That all goes to show why Malcolm reckons Cole's Kate is better theatre than Will's rather dreary Shrew. Malcolm reckons, when the 2001 Broadway production transferred to the West End, it simply redeployed the set in that video.

This is all subjective and personal. Therefore, as always, complications crept in.

So, who's in Malcolm's second place?

One contender might be Ewan MacColl:

Who else but Roberta Flack? She was probably responsible for that song being voted, surprisingly, the BBC's soul song of the century in 1999. Purists may prefer the original:

No, let's not rule out MacColl: he did so much more.

Or what about Billy Joel?

We ought to have Piano Man at this juncture, but YouTube have disabled the link. He achieves something of that natural realism as Love for Sale.

Malcolm could half-doze the seven hours of LHR-EWR of VS001 to a playlist of Joel's oeuvre. He might even keep Miami 2017 on repeat, recollecting this:

But we went right on with the show: indeed. That has personal resonance with Malcolm, because of reasons he has mentioned before (as far back as the 14th September 2007) . For once the YouTube audio is clearer than the original CD.

Joel also gave us Scenes from an Italian Restaurant:

and, another Malcolm favourite:

What's this?

At the last moment, Malcolm's order of choice is thrown into confusion. The iPod throws up something different, straight from 52nd (now on 44th) Street:

Down them stairs, lose them cares -- where?
Down in Birdland.
Total swing, bop was king - there!
Down in Birdland
Bird would cook, Max would look - where?
Down in Birdland,
Miles came through, 'Trane came too - there!
Down in Birdland
Basie blew, Blakey too - where?
Down in Birdland,
Cannonball played that hall - there!
Down in Birdland
Yeah !

Does it ever get better?

Well, possibly (You might as well admit it,/ we're the best who ever did it) on Four Brothers:

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yourcousin said...

Must admit that I was always moved by Johnny Cash's rendition of, "The First Time I Saw Your Face" (Though I would say that wouldn't I). I'm sure that from a purely musical stand point it was probably inferior to other recordings but when one thinks of the love between him and June one can't help but be moved. As with other covers that he did on American (though many others do fall short) his very lack of nuance add something that more refined original versions lack.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

I reckon that must be the all-purpose love song. It works in almost any genre.

I suppose I hanker for the original MacColl version. It's been done to death over (what?) half-a-century, rippling out from the smokiest, pub-back-room English folk club -- and still it works, has value and catches you by the throat.

That, in my count, is the mark of a great song. And, above all, it's the kind of "traditional" ballad that MacColl could carve afresh out of almost anything.

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