Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 13: Bert Kaempfert Double Album and Filo Machado "Cantando um Samba"

There are different criteria that go into what CDs you'll take home versus CDs you'd pay money for or even bother downloading, though I imagine the latter is a lot similar. The key difference is the opportunity and how that comes about.

Today's selection reflects that with differing degrees of success. Both CDs represent something I ultimately didn't know that much about but thought I should. One is unopened, and the other I don't remember, so I don't know how much of a success there was in that...

Bert Kaempfert and His Orchestra
The Wonderland of & Dancing in Wonderland
I had mentioned this before, but part of the 'design' of the Albatross, before it became clear that the beast would become unsearchable, was to have a wide selection of music that might be appropriate for whatever situation came up, sort of a musical Swiss Army knife. It's unclear now what situation it was that I was thinking of where I would need this, but I diligently collected music that I normally wouldn't have but gladly did when it was free.

Towards the end of my time at the record store, I had already made the transition from music to film, and my last few years there coincided with my time writing plays, so maybe I imagined being in on someone's rehearsal while they mused, "Were can we get some really cheesy easy-listening dance band music?" and then, like a hero, I would jump in and say, "Why yes, I have this collection of Bert Kaempfert music!" and everyone would swoon.

Alright, I didn't really believe anyone would swoon.

But the reality is, aside from the unsearchable nature of the Albatross, you have to have listened to this stuff to know what you had, and if you've read previous posts you know that there is music I genuinely like that I haven't listened to. So I never even got around to opening this one.

I have to say, five tracks in, I've been really unfair to this CD in my head. I mean, it is cheesy dance band music of that Lawrence Welk variety (no accordion so far) but it's not really that bad. It's actually pretty listenable. There's nothing really over the top, no outlandish instrumentation that you would expect from a composer that uses "Wonderland" so often in his album titles. In fact, this might not have worked for my intended purposes, it might not have been cheesy enough.

I'm trying to think of a way to describe the sound. It's fairly close to a less bombastic big band. It really is just a dance band that you might hear after a particularly well attended bingo night.

For combined pricing it is a bit of a champ, new is $49.99 and used is $54.99. Opening it apparently made it worth $5 more...

Ah, there's a signature of this kind of music, the choir. I don't know how to describe it except as that undefined mass of voices that sing in unison and sound like they are standing across the room from their mics. And that mall organ sound. (I'm not sure that this is a universal phenomenon, but mall based piano/organ stores around me would generally have someone sitting and playing one of their organs to entice people inside to buy one of these wonder devices.)

This is also a champion in 'greatest juxtaposition' in what I'm listening to and what's playing on the TV. Usually I just didn't bother to turn the TV off before I put the headphones on, but today there is something I am actually watching on purpose, the Rolex Grand Am Series Montreal 200. So while hokey (but again, listenable if not actually enjoyable) dance music plays, endurance sports cars 'dance' around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. It kind of gives the whole race a surreal look, reminiscent of the 'ballet' sequence in the movie Grand Prix. If you're not a racing fan, none of that made sense to you, but I'm okay with it.

No music collection is complete, really, without a Musak-esque version of Unchained Melody.

Filo Machado
Cantando Um Samba

This was almost another fatality, but I was able to save it at the expense of the liner notes.

Another Brazilian CD release perhaps in the wake of Buena Vista Social Club, or at the very least more vigorously promoted as a result of it.

I initially thought this would be a lot more of a contrast with ol' Bert up top, but two tracks in I'm seeing a lot more similarities than differences. Both are easy going, light sounding albeit in different ways. There are a lot more synthesizers in the first track than the cover would suggest. The second track features just voice (literally going "La da de di dum", guitar, and soprano sax. But it's followed up by a group of singers with lots of phase shift in the beginning. It seems to bounce between heavily produced and folksy simplicity.

Ultimately both albums are dance-y in their own way, gentle. Even the close choir of voices are present. Machado doesn't have the large orchestra that Kaempfert has and more or less (for obvious reasons) confines himself to a samba feel all built around his guitar, but I suspect that I could play both CDs together without it being all that jarring. Just every once in while the music would have less instrumentation and be in Portuguese.

I enjoy this a little more, I don't know if it's the instrumentation, or the way the music is put together, or if it's just pretentiousness that makes me instinctively look down my nose at the 'easy listening' Kaempfert. It feels groovier, I guess, I find myself nodding my head to the kind of manic scatting Machado is doing.

But then come back the synthesizers and heavy mixing (the sounds of party goers) on the track Pam Pam. Makes it sound like the front office lobby.

For a sharper contrast of what I'm hearing and what I'm seeing, the sports cars have given way to sprint cars at Knoxville. Good Ol' Boys in big V8s throwing themselves around a dirt track to the docile sounds of samba... awesome.

There are far more 'over-produced' tracks on here than the cover would lead you to believe. I've found my interest wandering waiting for something like that second track. And here it is, a scatted samba rendition of Paul Desmond's Take Five. This has made everything worth it. Simple guitar rhythm and a nonsense scat sped through the deceptively difficult melody.  This is one of the first jazz songs I liked, long before I knew what jazz was and was just pulling records out of my parents' collection to listen to. Deep in there I found a compilation with Take Five on it and the catchy piano figure and strange feel (I didn't yet know what a time signature was, much less that 5/4 was an odd one) got me hooked on it. This is about as far away from that as you can get, and yet it is still incredible cool. Made the whole thing worth it.

And now we're back to heavy production, sound effects, and electronic instruments. It was fun while it lasted.

The last track, Babaluê Babaluá, was pretty cool in that weird Bobby McFerrin kind of way.

More similarities than contrasts. The Albatross continues to surprise.

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