Sunday, September 11, 2011

Listening Notes: 1983 Part 1

Randy Newman - Trouble in Paradise

There's a corporate sound to this album that gives these meant to be satiric (but no one told the LA boosters who took "I Love LA" at face value) songs an extra oppressive air. I don't know, maybe that's the point. More likely, Randy simply always wanted the best musicians to play on his records and wanting anything else is some kind of folkie fallacy. It just makes it hard to believe that he doesn't secretly sympathize with the, well, overdogs in his songs.

UB40 - Labour of Love

I'm not sure this is the first of the "let's do an album of covers", but it turned out to be a marketing coup. Even if it took forever for the US to pick up on "Red, Red Wine". Now that time has diluted the band's politics by distancing us from the context, what's left is a well played, wanly sung bunch of reggae songs. Not as good as the original versions, but nice enough on their own terms.

Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual

I think one of the original charms of the album was that you didn't expect it to be so good. Take the first song, the Brains' "Money Changes Everything". She starts out singing it in a fairly low register, as if the song's been arranged for a male voice. It's only on the play out that she sings loudly in a high voice, signifying the pain involved in the song's choices. It's a nice arrangement and it wasn't even one of the big singles. The trouble is that if you're going to make pop singing a career, it doesn't show off your voice well. Or maybe I'm reading too much into a happy accident.