This week, I found a set of songs to post, but I didn’t know why they made a set. As I worked with them, the songs told me why they wanted to be together. These songs are rescue missions. Two are songs that I feel should be better known. One is known better than the movie it came from, so it is the movie that is being rescued. And the last song is one that the original artist rescued by recording it again.
Thomas Dolby: Budapest by Blimp
Thomas Dolby made a splash with She Blinded Me With Science on his debut album. His second album was very different, but still yielded the hit Hyperactive. But Dolby’s third album, Aliens Ate My Buick, is one that many people don’t even know exists. It almost seems that Aliens was an album that Dolby wanted to use to chase his fans away. Suddenly, Dolby got funky, even working with George Clinton. But Budapest by Blimp is another matter. There is a groove here, but it simmers, not cooks. The lyrics sound like a screenplay to an old movie. The song has a coolness that, ironically, allows the emotions of the piece to really come out. I wonder if Erika Badu has ever heard this one, because some of her work reminds me of it.
The Balancing Act: Generator
The Balancing Act was a group that recorded an EP and two albums for the IRS label in the 1980s. When the label went under, so did the band. They deserved better. The Balancing Act had great energy, and wonderful pop instincts. They blended acoustic and electric instruments perfectly, and they had a gift for using vocal harmonies in just the right places. Generator is one of their slightest lyrics, but that’s not the point here. This song is about hooks, and Generator has them galore. Try and sit still as you listen to this one, but don’t be surprised if you find your toe tapping.
Benoit Charest: Belleville Rendezvous
Do you remember this one? Bellville Rendezvous was the title song from the animated film The Triplets of Belleville. The song was an Oscar nominee, and was the hit of the Oscar broadcast in its year. Ah, but who ever saw the movie. You have to be crazy to make an animated film for adults only, especially one that tells its story almost entirely without dialog. But The Triplets of Belleville is a great piece of work that I am very happy to have in my personal DVD collection. And I love the song as well.
Paul Simon: Late in the Evening
Speaking of movies, Paul Simon was in one once. Wrote the music for the soundtrack too. The movie was One Trick Pony in 1980, and by all accounts, it was pretty bad. The album did yield a hit, Late in the Evening, but I always felt that the song was missing something. In 1991, Paul Simon revisited the song for his concert in Central Park, and he showed me exactly what I had been missing.
Simon had released Graceland, and followed it with Rhythm of the Saints, in which he explored the music of Brazil. In 1991, he was playing many of the songs from these albums live, and he needed a band that could handle the tricky rhythms. So Simon’s band for that concert included musicians from both South Africa and Brazil. They didn’t simply lay down the rhythm for Late in the Evening and let it sit there. These musicians had the talent to play with the rhythm without losing it, so they loosened the song up. And now it really cooks. That was the missing ingredient.
Spotlight Song of the Week:
Kingsley Flood: a little too old
Kingsley Flood is a rock band with five musicians. There is a drummer, bass player, and rhythm guitarist. So far, so good. Then there is a lead guitarist who also plays fiddle, mandolin, and banjo. So it gets interesting. Here is a band that can rock out with the best of them, but they can also sound like a folk group. And Kingsley Flood also has a jazzy side. The fifth member of the group plays trumpet. The thing is, the band shows all of this on their album dust windows, and it all works. On a little too old, you will find all of these elements in one song. And you will hear that it works. Naseem Khuri writes the songs, and shows himself to be a fine writer. He can summon an image, or create a great turn phrase, but always in service of the song.