Archive for the ‘Ella Fitzgerald’ Category

The Fun Boy Three / Bananarama

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Listen: It Ain’t What You Do… / The Fun Boy Three & Bananarama
It Ain't What You Do... / The Fun Boy Three & Bananarama

Maybe this parallel is way off base, but The Fun Boy Three were always what Big Audio Dynamite claimed to be, as I recall it at least. Their whole idea seemed to focus more on marketing themselves as a politically correct, multi cultural amalgamation than actually sounding like one. Unfortunately Don Letts’ worthy musical taste as a dj/radio presenter never spilled into Big Audio Dynamite’s music nearly enough, despite being a member.

Meanwhile, The Fun Boy Three jungled along, actually basing their sound around a consistent tribal rhythm. Even when dragging the overkill fashion conscience vocal church mice, aka Bananarama, into the mix, they still managed to pull it off.

Covering Ella Fitzgerald’s 1939 calypso based hit, ‘It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It’, proved an educated song choice and an astute career chess play, providing them with their biggest UK chart placing ever, #4 in ’82. It continued the band’s authenticity, first started via their debut single ‘The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum’.

Ella Fitzgerald

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Listen: Sunshine Of Your Love / Ella Fitzgerald
Sunshine Of Your Love / Ella Fitzgerald

Always found a weak spot for 60′s jazzy covers of then popular Top 40 hits. A lost art nowadays I suppose.

Right through to the mid 70′s, there seemed an abundance of them tailor made for cocktail lounge jukeboxes. No idea how many versions of ‘Misty’ I own, and certainly have even more pressings of an all time favorite, both as an original and a cover, Bobby Hebb’s ‘Sunny’.

My guilty pleasure Ella Fitzgerald track has to be ‘Black Coffee’, which was never issued on 7″. Not that I know her work extensively, but I do recall hearing it, just one time, on the radio, in a friend’s parent’s car, with both of them smoking upfront. Nasty but a time period snapshot still vivid in my brain.

Her rendition of ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ comes pretty close. Hey, it’s flip is ‘Hey Jude’, imagine that. But hands down, this A side documents an, at times, raspy vocal that I find most uncharacteristic of Ella Fitzgerald. And then there’s the song choice, The Cream! Come on, that’s pretty funny.

Wouldn’t be surprised if it was “Alright, give me the lyrics, I’ll sing it already. Let’s just get this over with.”

Chris Montez

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Listen: The More I See You / Chris Montez
The More I See You / Chris Montez

It was as if the guy who recorded ‘Let’s Dance’ a few years earlier was a completely different person. That song fit easily into both the surf and farfisa bubblegum spaces perfectly. A fit that suited The Ramones just fine, they covered it from nearly day one.

Along comes ‘The More I See You’ in ’66, and the first time I remember hearing it was at Carmen’s Barber Shop, the little dive my Dad took me for haircuts. The hour or so we’d spend there was rather fascinating, with me trying to figure out some of the coded adult talk amongst them all, yet with most attention being paid to the MOR station Carmen had permanently affixed on his little sound system. I believe the station call letters were WSEN or WSYR, but can’t be sure. What I am sure of is it would make for industrial strength hipster listening if only some of those shows had been air checked. Lots of Julie London, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jackie Trent with husband Tony Hatch. Seems they were the British Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, and most of their singles, both together and separately, are worth picking up if you stumble on them.

Tony Hatch in fact wrote ‘Call Me’, not only the Chris Montez single that preceded ‘The More I See You’, but the title of the album from which it came.

Turns out when switching to his A&M label in ’65, Herb Alpert suggested this more soft rock sound, possibly looking for his own version of Astrud Gilberto, who despite the slight technicality of being a different sex and therefore looked much better, sounded quite similar.

Al Grey

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Listen: Salty Papa / Al Grey AlGreySaltyPapa.mp3

Ella Fitzgerald’s version of ‘Black Coffee’ is classic. Some adult radio station spun it while riding in a friend’s parent’s car back in the early 70′s. His Dad was driving us somewhere or another, a couple of hours away, and everyone was well fidgety trying to tolerate the music. Indeed, it was a challenge until this came on, then suddenly worth the struggle.

Soon after, I found a promo of her then current Reprise album, THINGS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE, in a used shop for $1.00. Not only was ‘Black Coffee’ included, but her rendition of ‘Sunny’ was as well. Perfect.

Al Grey featured on the trombone. Although not one for brass, it was hard to ignore his post-swing era style, almost muzak or bachelor pad. You couldn’t have matched a better player to the songs.

Fast forward to September 2010. While rummaging through a Detroit junk shop, I came across a fairly beat copy of Al Grey’s ‘Salty Papa’ on Argo. A no brainer at 25ยข.

Somewhat more in the Lionel Hampton or Dizzy Gillespie pocket than I was expecting, ‘Salty Papa’ has still settled nicely into the Seeburg’s C4 slot, parked between The Marvelettes’ ‘I’ll Keep On Holding On’ and Lee Perry’s ‘Roast Fish And Cornbread’…and sounding perfectly at home.


Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Listen: A Satisfied Mind / Bobby Hebb BobbyHebbASatisfiedMind.mp3

I hated his hit ‘Sunny’ when it was current in ’66. Absolutely loathed that sucker. Got rammed down everyone’s throat, plus being so safe and mellow it managed to cross all the formats – you literally couldn’t get away from it. Logically it peaked at #2 during it’s healthy fifteen week US chart run.

Yet ‘Sunny’ was so strong that everyone from Ella Fitzgerald and The Electric Flag to Georgie Fame and Les Mc Cann were covering it too. Now I wish I’d had better taste at the time. Not only has it become a favorite through the years (I’ve collected over 30 covers on 7″) but I’m hooked on his voice as well. Like Jon Lucien years later, and probably Mel Torme prior, he has this calming tone that appeals to my valium side. His follow ups were pretty great too. I think he should’ve been around a lot longer.

The followup single, released just after ‘Sunny’, was a great double sider. ‘A Satisfied Mind’, despite possibly being a bit ‘Sunny’ sounding, has held up – I know cause it’s on my jukebox and plays a lot. I never tire of it. Not so with the public, peaking at #39, and lasting only six weeks total on the Billboard Top 100.

Listen: Love Love Love / Bobby Hebb BobbyHebbLoveLoveLove.mp3

The B side, ‘Love Love Love’, is now considered to be his ‘other’ hit – having gained UK Northern Soul success in ’72. When re-released there due to demand, it sold well and charted at #32. Most tracks on his one and only Philips LP, SUNNY BY BOBBY HEBB are worth many listens too. Get it if you can.