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Monday, August 26, 2013

Brenda Lee: Emotions

BRENDA LEE: EMOTIONS (1961)

1) Emotions; 2) Just Another Lie; 3) If You Love Me (Really Love Me); 4) Crazy Talk; 5) When I Fall In Love; 6) Around The World; 7) Swanee River Rock; 8) Will You Love Me Tomorrow; 9) I'm Learning About Love; 10) Georgia On My Mind; 11) Cry; 12) I'm In The Mood For Love.

Same stylistics, same production team, same relentless perfectionism (seven different recording sessions now, after the six of This Is... Brenda), same balanced mix of bearded oldies, recent oldies, and freshly written corporate material. The only difference: out of 12 songs, two-thirds are ballads, fair and square, bringing that train still farther and farther away from the girl's rockabilly past — and, considering that the title track predictably made it into the Top 10, this line of deve­lopment only seemed more and more viable as the months and years went by and the «little Miss Dynamite» was all set to grow into a «mature» Nashville queen.

Fortunately, the Nashville production team still keeps a firm grip on the limits of good taste, so that the strings are rarely overbearing, and sometimes actually border on delicious — ʽJust Ano­ther Lieʼ, a new number loosely based on some of Chuck Willis' tunes, instead of formulaic or­chestration, has a haunting solo violin part that comes in through an imaginary archway midway through, and gives the tune a little bit of a Stephane Grappelli feel.

The title track does have such a powerhouse delivery that its choice for a single was understan­dable: the musical backing is non-descript, but this is the first time in Brenda's career when she seems to perfectly understand the power of dynamic modulation, and, true to the song's title, tries to convey not one, but several different types of emotions over those three minutes — listen to the big kick of "EMOTIONS, please set me free!..." after the first few quiet bars of the chorus, and you'll see what I mean.

Elsewhere, she takes on Edith Piaf (ʽIf You Love Meʼ), understandably, with little success, but then again, one shouldn't necessarily be aware that the song is originally a French tune; the Shi­relles and Carole King (ʽWill You Love Me Tomorrowʼ), with far more success, even though I do believe nobody ever invested as much personal feeling into that song as its original author; and Ray Charles (we won't be saying «Hoagy Carmichael», really), with ʽGeorgia On My Mindʼ — a competent version, but only weathered old men can really do justice to that song (or, at least, those who successfully pretend to be weathered old men, like Richard Manuel from The Band).

Of the four upbeat tunes, ʽCrazy Talkʼ is a fun little wannabe-classic, where guitar, sax, and vo­cals do indeed come together in a bit of «crazy talk»; and the B-side ʽI'm Learning About Loveʼ, despite the suspicious title, is in fact a jumpy pop-rocker, with the most vivacious tone on the album and a welcome return of the old «pirate growl» from Little Miss Dynamite.

So, on the whole, one might subtract one or two of the more faceless ballads (like ʽWhen I Fall In Loveʼ), or smirk a bit about such childish cover material as the theme tune from Around The World In 80 Days, but Emotions still delivers... well, emotions. feeling glossy, but lively and cheery, and for that, gets its duly thumbs up.

Check "Emotions" (CD) on Amazon

6 comments:

  1. I don't know... By the time The Band did "Georgia On My Mind", you could call them weathered old men (by the standards of the '70s, 33 years was pretty old... remember that whole crisis Pete Townshend went through when he was three years younger than that on The Who by Numbers?)

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  2. Yeah, or how during the Stones' 70s tours the media were fixated on how they were rocking in their 30s.

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  3. I don't care what Rolling Stone or anyone else has to say about it; when you're 33 you are not old. How could you be, you're not even middle-aged!

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    1. That all started with the "don't trust anyone over 30" BS in the 1960s. Nowadays it's just "don't trust anyone", lol.

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  4. By the way, Ray Charles was only 30 when he recorded his classic version of "Georgia", meaning that if Richard Manuel was only pretending to be a weathered old man when he sung it, Ray must have been pretending even harder.
    Of course, we might say that being born poor and black in rural pre-war America, going blind at an early age and having your mother, father and brother die before you're 16 will tend to both weather and age a man prematurely.

    Or maybe we can just say that "weathered old man" is more of an emotional state than a physical one, one which actually weathered old men might have easier access to than say, wide-eyed young girls, but which they by no means have exclusive rights to.

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  5. Call me weird, but my absolute favorite version of "Georgia" is Billie's, and she was around 30 at the time as well.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFtENRFrpRQ

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