Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Tumbling Dice” by The Rolling Stones:

“Tumbling Dice” might be my favorite Rolling Stones song, though why bother having a favorite Rolling Stones song? There’s too many great ones. Anyway, it’s one of the ones that I really like a whole bunch, yeah? So but anyway I was very happy to find this essay by Bill Janovitz earlier this week. Take some time to give it a read; Janovitz follows the song from its origins in “Good Time Woman” to its completion, and sets it in early 1970s context, and beyond.

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Song of the Week: “Back Stabbers” by The O’Jays

by Douglas Cowie on 9 November 2018

Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Back Stabbers” by The O’Jays:

A couple of things I’ve been rereading and teaching recently mention “Back Stabbers” by The O’Jays, which was a huge hit back in 1972, though in each case, the song is positioned in relation to other, more well known songs from the same era (“Papa Was a Rolling Stone”, “Superfly”, “Living for the City”…). Somehow “Back Stabbers” holds a position of great song that everybody mentions, but nobody talks about in depth in the same way they do those other songs. I guess I’m not really doing anything different here, but I think we ought to all listen to “Back Stabbers” more than we do. We should all be wearing suits like the one Don Cornelius is sporting here more often, too.

 

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Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Caravan” by Duke Ellington, Charlie Mingus and Max Roach:

“Caravan” was written by trombonist Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington, and has been performed and recorded a billion times (give or take) since the first recording in 1936. This version gives you a chance to hear three great musicians across two generations, including Duke Ellington himself, breathing their own life into the song. I really like Duke’s playing on this one, and it’s kind of a marvel to hear a song’s composer playing a song he’s been playing for almost thirty years as though it’s brand-new fresh.

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Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “I Can’t Be Satisfied” by Muddy Waters:

In his book The Third Coast, Thomas Dyja describes the results of the April 1948 recording session that produced “I Can’t Be Satisfied” as “the musical equivalent of watching a prehistoric fish climb out of the primordial ooze, sprout legs, and run,” which is about as good a description of almost anything I could hope to read. In this case it also accurately captures the thrill of listening to music history changing forever on the genius of a single performer. If you listen to “Good Lookin’ Woman” and “Mean Disposition” you can hear exactly what Dyja is talking about. They’re good, solid recordings of standard blues, but don’t sound, with Sunnyland Slim’s piano and Big Crawford’s bass accompanying Muddy’s guitar and voice, too many steps down the road from “Memphis Blues,” which swims in something not far removed from Dyja’s primordial ooze. “I Can’t Be Satisfied” is all guitar and voice, all sex and menace, all electric charge flying around inside a bottle and threatening to smash it to pieces, a whole new way of playing and singing and listening to the blues flying out of the studio and onto your record player and back out again in a million different ways.

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