Friday, July 28, 2006

Doin' the Friday Shuffle

After the last two weeks of limiting the shuffle to 5-Star Rock and Musical Theater songs on my iPod, I thought it only fair to do the same with the stuff I've put in the Jazz Vocals genre (which I tend to use as a catchall category for stuff that's not Rock/Pop or Musical Theater. This is really not very representative, as I haven't rated much of my Jazz Vocal stuff as of yet, but here are the first ten 5-Star songs that come up:

1. "In the Darkest Place" - Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach - Painted from Memory
I love, love, love this album. This is the opening track, and it's got a great smoky, noir vibe going on.

2. "God Bless the Child" - Billie Holiday - Ken Burns JAZZ Collection: Billie Holiday

3. "The Weight" - Cassandra Wilson - Belly of the Sun
One of my favorite covers, this is an intensely soulful, languid rendition of the great The Band song.

4. "Strange Fruit" - Nina Simone - Compact Jazz: Nina Simone
I have several versions of this essential song, and this is perhaps my favorite (sorry Billie Holiday fans). The strident, righteous, fierce anger in Simone's voice is palpable here. (If you don't know the song, do, do, do check it out--in its simple description of a lynching, it's a stark and plaintive defiant scream of anger at the violence of racism.)

5. "Bird on a Wire" - K.D. Lang - Hymns of the 49th Parallel
Lang's album of Canadian songwriters overs is consistently great, but this is one of my favorite tracks, a sensitive, delicate reading of the Leonard Cohen classic.

6. "Little Girl Blue" - Nina Simone - Nina Simone's Finest Hour
The arrangement of the classic standard here is inspired - Simone plays a simple version of the Christmas chestnut "Good King Wenceslas" on the piano, which serves as the accompaniment to the "Little Girl Blue" melody. Enchanting.

7. "A Case of You" - Joni Mitchell - Both Sides Now
From Mitchell's album of torch-type songs, this is a strong, lush rendition of one of her own tunes.

8. "Both Sides Now" - Joni Mitchell - Both Sides Now
The masterful use of this song in the woefully underrated film Love, Actually is what turned me on to it. Stunningly beautiful.

9. "God Give Me Strength" - Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach - Painted from Memory
The song that kick-started the Costello-Bacharach collaboration. One of Costello's best-ever vocals--listen to how he teases us by using the falsetto for the high note on God the first two times through the chorus before letting loose by hitting it in full voice for the climax. I'm dying to hear Audra McDonald do this on her forthcoming album.

10. "Sinnerman" - Nina Simone - Compact Jazz: Nina Simone
Another song that a film turned me on to - this is used to superb effect in the finale to The Thomas Crown Affair. This is just a great song, almost tribal in its insistent, quasi-minimalist rhythm.

Until Whenever


Overworm said...

The Thomas Crown Affair (a darn fine movie) also turned me on to Sinnerman, by Nina Simone. Another movie, Le Femme Nikita got me started on Simone, but I never really went anywhere with the interest spurred by that movie. However, after hearing Sinnerman in the TCA, I started listening to a lot of Simone.

Roger Owen Green said...

Sinnerman is a song my father used to sing in performances - quite powerfully, I might add.
He listened to Simone and Belafonte, as well as Odetta, Pete Seeger and other more folky folks, and also gospel.