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Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:11 am

IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER!

That's important, because when you get to a high level, it's impossible to "rank" them, really. Since I have been working with the song "The House I Live In" for a couple months, both in Gold Wave, and in gathering and taking photos for it, and working using a digital darkroom on with the photos, I had to choose between versions.

For that song, it was either the Sinatra classic, or Sam Cooke's magnificent version (which seems to have influenced the arrangement and sentiment of "A Change Is Gonna Come"). There's NO WAY to "compare" in terms ranking, which version is "better," but I can tell you why each is magnificent in and of its own right. Each one chooses to phrase in the way that is most meaningful for him, and in both cases, it works beautifully. The lyrics have different meanings for them, personally, and you can hear that. The singing is equally majestic and soaring. The versions are not pious, and not, in any way, false. They both seek truth, and reveal truth. I basically flipped a coin.

So, I want to whittle it down to three, which is totally unfair.

And it's who I'm hearing right now, of course. A year later, it might have a somewhat different look.

By last name.

Cooke, Sam.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjtcOh4hmyE

Presley, Elvis
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EC4PZOhmXQA

Strong, Nolan
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIVKaayaNaY
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Why these three? Well, Cooke's vocals soared on even "high school" material, and gave it dignity. On truly great material, he raised the bar for just about everyone, and without worrying words to death. That's something that generally annoys me. As much singing as needed, and that's it. With Cooke, all you can say is that he hit the bullseye. Never oversang, nor undersang. And his voice simply soared like an eagle, carrying you aloft. You cannot tire of him.

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As for Elvis Presley, well, there were quite a few of "them." I like several, which I will not name. Beauty, joy, grace, power, fun, despair, hope, desire, desperation, yearning, rage, pain, bliss, explosive pleasure . . . every human emotion expressed and embodied in a way that enables the listener to express themselves through his voice. I think it was connection that made Elvis as great as he was. Whitman put it this way:


I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.


Song of Myself

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Nolan Strong. Just discovered. (Thanks, Doc!) So, I'm really stoked over him. His vocals? Otherworldly. A unique voice, ethereal, literally carrying you along with The Wind. Exciting is an understatement: he makes you want to breathe the air he once breathed, and celebrate being alive in a world that had such people in it.

Now, your turn. Keep 'em comin'!

rjm
Last edited by rjm on Sun Apr 08, 2012 12:43 am, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:36 am

Jones, Tom
Orbison, Roy
Presley, Elvis

No one else comes close (as far as I'm concerned) !

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:19 pm

It depends what you look for in a singer, and what you want to get from them.

Do you want your singer to have a beautiful voice?
Do you want a singer who can move you with their voice?
Do you want a singer who wears their heart on their sleeve
Do you want a singer who can sing a diverse range of material?
Do you want a singer who lives their life through their music?

We all want different things. Tom Jones has a great voice, but it's very rare that he moves me in any way. There are exceptions, such as a Boy From Nowhere or Sometimes we Cry, from the Reload album. But I don't often believe what he is singing about.

As for Roy Orbison, I confess that I have never "got" it. He does nothing for me, and if I never hear another Orbison recording, I won't be upset. He just leaves me cold.

Was Presley a great singer? Technically he wasn't. He'd take breaths in strange places, often sing with lazy phrasing. But we all know that nobody sang with a sweeter tone than Elvis in the early 60s. But if that is great singing, how can the recordings from the 68 comeback also be great singing, with its wild overtones and huskyness?

Do you need a great voice to be a great singer? We are told that Johnny Cash and Billie Holiday were great singers, but neither had great voices in the traditional sense, and yet they made their listeners feel every word they were singing.

Sinatra was technically a great singer, and yet the voice itself wasn't particularly strong or powerful.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Sat Apr 07, 2012 9:07 pm

I'm surprised you don't find Sinatra's voice to be one of great strength and power, PMP. In my opinion, his was one of the strongest voices of all popular singers. Especially when with Columbia; the vocal range he possessed and notes he could reach - both up and down the scale - was most impressive. And that's something he did maintain into old age -- versions of New York, New York springing to mind. And part of Sinatra's great vocal power came from his astonishing breath-control and superb timing. And in listening to the likes of All or Nothing at All, Where's My Bess? or Ol' Man River (to name but a few Columbia sides) one can certainly appreciate the range Frank had. But you're certainly right in saying that different singers do different things and affect the listener in different ways because of that.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Sat Apr 07, 2012 9:16 pm

greystoke wrote:I'm surprised you don't find Sinatra's voice to be one of great strength and power, PMP. In my opinion, his was one of the strongest voices of all popular singers. Especially when with Columbia; the vocal range he possessed and notes he could reach - both up and down the scale - was most impressive. And that's something he did maintain into old age -- versions of New York, New York springing to mind. And part of Sinatra's great vocal power came from his astonishing breath-control and superb timing. And in listening to the likes of All or Nothing at All, Where's My Bess? or Ol' Man River (to name but a few Columbia sides) one can certainly appreciate the range Frank had. But you're certainly right in saying that different singers do different things and affect the listener in different ways because of that.


+1

rjm
P.S. -- Now, back on my laptop. I'm generally not going to comment on entries that say who they "don't" care for, but on entries that say who do like, love. This is truly music appreciation! And which explain why. (Let's stay on the positive tip!) Good one, Greystoke! (You must be able to come up with two more, but this was an excellent case for one. Exactly on-point.) And I agree with you on this one; a lot people hear a "small" voice, and I don't know quite what they're listening to! Perhaps, as I have discovered, it is the recording quality. I have heard earlier recordings than Sinatra's 40s stuff that sound better, so I don't understand it. On the record with which I was working, the sound quality is distressing: the wind instruments are crippled almost beyond repair, the sound of the orchestra does not at all capture the beauty that must have been present in the studio, and in the recording as released, it's harder to really hear the vocal for what it was. I think I did a pretty good job of bringing that out on my remix. (Or whatever you want to call it.) I made sure not to change the pitch one iota: it had to be as he sounded in 1945, not 1965. And yet, when his voice is brought forward - and a lot of crud cleaned away, you hear more of the "later" Sinatra: his voice "sounds" deeper, but is the same voice, same pitch - and not deeper, but more what it actually must have been like, in the studio (I hope). You can more easily hear the sheer power of it on a song that he really sang powerfully. First time I heard this recording on CD, I said to myself: "this is a rock singer!" His phrasing is unquestioned, of course, but that was his thing, but he had a power that is generally unrecognized. He would practice holding his breath under water! And on a number of recordings I have heard, he had a great pair of lungs!

If you really, really dig Sinatra, go around the 'net, and DEMAND good remasterings! (Sometimes they "remaster" unnecessarily. I do not at all like what they did to "Double Fantasy," for instance, and don't know why they did it. Sounds really like remixing to me, and I absolutely do not want it. Not having the CD, I am going to rip my vinyl to MP3 is all. I just need new software, probably new drivers. It was a good USB turntable, but when my desktop crashed, I disconnected it, and have to reload software, which I don't like. Need new software. And everything I ripped into the old ITunes is gone, and got wiped off my IPod, too. So, no vinyl left; must start over.)

I'm waiting to see if anyone chooses Lennon. Or Patsy Cline . . .

Now, there must be two more for you . . .

________________

As for one of my three choices: some records may have had "lazy" phrasing, as EP recorded so many different things in so many different ways, but when he wanted to, his phrasing was anything but "lazy." I could name a hundred songs with brilliant phrasing. (Gotta go check out Lucky's List, for reference! :idea: ) "Indescribably Blue" jumps to mind, but there are so many more where every turn of phrase, every moment counts. As I said, his gift was "connection," and without great phrasing, that connection cannot happen. Even when shouting, he shouted with a point. (I will exclude "movie songs," if you know what I mean, and most anything from the July, '73 sessions.) I think the records really do bear this out: power, grace, soul . . . Won't comment on anyone I didn't name. But folks, this is not a long list: only three, so feel free to explain.

As pointed out, "power" is generally overrated a lot of the time; there are moments - just moments, when Bob Dylan 'nearly bout cuts Sinatra on phrasing! I'm serious. An example is necessary, because a lot of people just won't be able to accept that:

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There are other examples. Sometimes, true love travels on a gravel voice. (And, to continue the thing, sometimes hearts are in danger on smooth throats, paved with gold. I won't mention any, but it should be clear . . . the original singer of Twelfth, for instance. Ah, no: positive, positive!!)

And if I had room, Billie Holliday would be in my top ten, and I could go into detail. In some cases, the notion of "power" can be irrelevant to greatness. In other cases, it can sometimes be a detriment; Patti LaBelle has "power." Not for me. (I know, I know: keep on the positive!)

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Sun Apr 08, 2012 1:51 am

The remastering of Sinatra's material has been quite excellent, rjm. And remains to be so, with frequent reissues and upgrades of his Reprise material. Frank's Capitol albums were remastered to stunning effect in the late '90s whilst Columbia Legacy have done a great job with his Columbia recordings and V-discs. There are drawbacks with the age of Sinatra's earlier recordings, but that's to be expected. Still, seeking out the outstanding box set Sinatra: A Voice in Time is something I highly recommend.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:01 am

poormadpeter wrote:It depends what you look for in a singer, and what you want to get from them.

Do you want your singer to have a beautiful voice?
Do you want a singer who can move you with their voice?
Do you want a singer who wears their heart on their sleeve
Do you want a singer who can sing a diverse range of material?
Do you want a singer who lives their life through their music?

We all want different things. Tom Jones has a great voice, but it's very rare that he moves me in any way. There are exceptions, such as a Boy From Nowhere or Sometimes we Cry, from the Reload album. But I don't often believe what he is singing about.

As for Roy Orbison, I confess that I have never "got" it. He does nothing for me, and if I never hear another Orbison recording, I won't be upset. He just leaves me cold.

Was Presley a great singer? Technically he wasn't. He'd take breaths in strange places, often sing with lazy phrasing. But we all know that nobody sang with a sweeter tone than Elvis in the early 60s. But if that is great singing, how can the recordings from the 68 comeback also be great singing, with its wild overtones and huskyness?

Do you need a great voice to be a great singer? We are told that Johnny Cash and Billie Holiday were great singers, but neither had great voices in the traditional sense, and yet they made their listeners feel every word they were singing.

Sinatra was technically a great singer, and yet the voice itself wasn't particularly strong or powerful.


I just want to know one thing (regarding three singers):

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rjm
P.S. -- And why?

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:39 am

Greystoke, you know how I have a deep passion for Sinatra, but his voice was never as powerful as, say, Presley's in the 70s. That big powerful voice wasn't there for Sinatra. Sinatra turned in hundreds of powerful performances, but that wasn;t due to his voice but due to his phrasing and internalising of a lyric. Yes, he could belt out when he chose to (as in new york, new york), but that's not the kind of singer I see him as. But I believe every word Sinatra sings, and for that he had much in common with Billie Holiday, for whom he had great respect. Sinatra singing Didn't We in a quiet, restrained way is something I find more powerful than Elvis singing Hurt, for example. The performance is powerful with Sinatra, but not necessarily the voice itself.

As for the three greatest singers. It would probably change from day to day, but I would suggest Ella Fitzgerald. I love how her voice and timbre changed from decade to decade and how she worked around that and used it to her advantage until her final few years of performing when her instrument occasionally let her down. Sinatra would be there too because of the way I can believe every word he's singing. He was a great actor, and he uses that within his vocal performances to get totally inside the song. My third choice would be Chet Baker - a leftfield choice, and one that most would disagree with, but I love his vulnerability. Even in his vocal albums from the 1980s, when his voice is cracked and broken, there is still something ultimately moving within his performances. I like music to move me, and those three singers do that for me consistently, although in different ways.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:52 am

I know you are a passionate fan of Frank, PMP. No question about that in my mind. Although, I think we have to differ on this one, as I believe Sinatra to have had a more powerful voice and greater vocal range than Elvis.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:56 pm

greystoke wrote:I know you are a passionate fan of Frank, PMP. No question about that in my mind. Although, I think we have to differ on this one, as I believe Sinatra to have had a more powerful voice and greater vocal range than Elvis.


I think even Sinatra would have disagreed with you on that statement.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Mon Apr 09, 2012 12:49 am

Bodie wrote:
greystoke wrote:I know you are a passionate fan of Frank, PMP. No question about that in my mind. Although, I think we have to differ on this one, as I believe Sinatra to have had a more powerful voice and greater vocal range than Elvis.


I think even Sinatra would have disagreed with you on that statement.


I'm pretty sure Sinatra would have thought he was a better singer than Elvis.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Mon Apr 09, 2012 1:17 pm

I wonder if there will be any votes for:

Roger Whittaker
Richard Harris
Sherrill Nielsen

All were a huge influence on Elvis in the '70s.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:12 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:I wonder if there will be any votes for:

Roger Whittaker
Richard Harris
Sherrill Nielsen

All were a huge influence on Elvis in the '70s.


I wonder if you will make a worthwhile contribution to the thread instead or rehashing your old jokes.

All of which were hugely funny in 2004.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:56 am

brian wrote:
Bodie wrote:
greystoke wrote:I know you are a passionate fan of Frank, PMP. No question about that in my mind. Although, I think we have to differ on this one, as I believe Sinatra to have had a more powerful voice and greater vocal range than Elvis.


I think even Sinatra would have disagreed with you on that statement.


I'm pretty sure Sinatra would have thought he was a better singer than Elvis.


I doubt it, judging from the 1960 Sinatra show and how much they paid Elvis to appear on it.

I'm not knocking Sinatra cause he had a fantastic voice but better than Elvis? No way.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Tue Apr 10, 2012 2:03 am

Bodie wrote:
brian wrote:
Bodie wrote:
greystoke wrote:I know you are a passionate fan of Frank, PMP. No question about that in my mind. Although, I think we have to differ on this one, as I believe Sinatra to have had a more powerful voice and greater vocal range than Elvis.


I think even Sinatra would have disagreed with you on that statement.


I'm pretty sure Sinatra would have thought he was a better singer than Elvis.


I doubt it, judging from the 1960 Sinatra show and how much they paid Elvis to appear on it.
.


Frank Sinatra's show was struggling in the ratings and they desperately needed a big name to appear.

That's why Elvis was paid as much as was.

It didn't mean that Sinatra thought Elvis was a greater singer than him.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Tue Apr 10, 2012 2:59 am

Sinatra's Timex shows weren't struggling with the ratings -- that's a misconception in Elvis lore. With the floundering 1957/1958 Frank Sinatra show being often confused with the Timex specials of 1959/1960, which were four one-off specials with individual themes. And one thing lacking wasn't a shortage of guests. But in 1960, Elvis was the hottest ticket for a Tv. special of this sort, and from that the highest ever figures for a Sinatra Tv. special were garnered.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:49 am

Technically, Sinatra was a better singer than Elvis. He learned his remarkable breathing techniques from watching Tommy Dorsey (IIRC) and employed them to remarkable affect in his performances and recordings, and meaning he could wring every last inch out of a lyric to devestating effect in a ballad.

Presley was a more instinctive singer, something which he used both to his advantage and his detriment. Had he not been that type of singer, That's All Right would not have been recorded, for example. However, while he was capable of great breath control (I'll Hold You In My Heart), he often simply didn't bother to employ it (taking a breath in the middle of words in Silent Night and elsewhere).

I would argue that Sinatra's power as a singer came from his remarkable ability to interpret a lyric, rather than the voice itself. Meanwhile, Presley's power, particularly in the later years, came from the sheer volume he could create with his voice. This is something I have criticised Presley for a lot on these boards. He seemed to get to the stage where he thought volume was the answer to everything, such as in the live and studio recordings of Hurt, and the studio rendition of I'll Never Fall In Love Again. Sinatra would never have been capable of such bombastic renditions, but then would never have aimed for them anyway. His My Way was self-reflexive; the original studio recording is hardly anthemic, it's actually a relatively quiet ballad. Presley's studio effort is quite similar in many ways, but this was abandoned for the coarser stage arrangement which gave Presley the chance to belt out the choruses at full volume. By this point, Presley was on auto-pilot for much of the time. In a live environment, that kind of vocal power is impressive but requires little in the way of performance or getting into the part of the character in the song.

Sinatra didn't have that big booming voice in the same way, and that was no bad thing, and why he suffered less as age slowly erased his actual vocal capabilities. Sinatra acted his songs, so even when his voice was at his roughest it didn't matter a great deal. He didn't need to belt out One For My Baby, his torch song about a man who hits a bar after his girl leaves him, and yet his heartbreak is much more real than that of Elvis when belting out Hurt for sheer effect. Sinatra is getting into the part; Elvis is doing a party trick.

This is why, of those Graceland sessions, it is a song like Danny Boy which stands out - Elvis sings rather than belts the song, something which he would have found much more difficult to do at that point considering the lack of vocal control he had at that point. But it's for that very reason that it is a recording which should be treasured among Presley's best. There are no vocal gymnastics here, just a song simply and quietly sung, and all the more effective because of it.

So, while Presley had the more powerful voice (in the 70s at least) he abused it repeatedly, resulting in songs losing their intended intimate feel (Help Me Make It Through The Night, First Time Ever I saw Your Face) or simply descending into parody (Padre). Sinatra, meanwhile, had a thinner voice but used it in a much more intelligent manner, making the quietest of songs have the most powerful effect on the listener.

Take, as examples, the following songs. The first is Presley's Hurt from the EIC special. Elvis may belt the song out at full volume, but he never gets inside it. He smiles at the musicians in the opening few lines, and again in the closing lines. He is singing the song as he has night after night. The lyrics no longer matter to him, he's just out there doing what he needs to do - reaching those top notes to impress the audience. That's all he wants and needs to do.

The second clip is Sinatra's I Get Along Without You Very Well. Sinatra was 55 when the performance took place. He sings quietly throughout, and the result is remarkably more affecting than Presley's effort. The words clearly mean something to him, this isn't just a performance by rote, he is feeling and living those lyrics.

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Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Tue Apr 10, 2012 8:57 pm

Good post, PMP. But when I compare the likes of Hurt to Sinatra singing Where's My Bess or Ol' Man River it's more than clear to me who possessed the greater vocal range, power and control of their voice -- and that's Frank Sinatra. To emphasise your point about how both singers differed in their approach to a song, a great example would be recordings of You'll Never Walk Alone. Sinatra's long vocal passages, fortissimo and stellar diction and breath-control are almost in stark contrast to Elvis's own good phrasing and reaching for notes; but Presley is seeking a feeling over creating a mood. We could also compare The Lord's Prayer, which Elvis may have sang half in jest, but in the same key as Sinatra's quite marvellous performance of the song, Elvis struggles.

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Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Wed Apr 11, 2012 3:38 am

greystoke wrote:Good post, PMP. But when I compare the likes of Hurt to Sinatra singing Where's My Bess or Ol' Man River it's more than clear to me who possessed the greater vocal range, power and control of their voice -- and that's Frank Sinatra. To emphasise your point about how both singers differed in their approach to a song, a great example would be recordings of You'll Never Walk Alone. Sinatra's long vocal passages, fortissimo and stellar diction and breath-control are almost in stark contrast to Elvis's own good phrasing and reaching for notes; but Presley is seeking a feeling over creating a mood. We could also compare The Lord's Prayer, which Elvis may have sang half in jest, but in the same key as Sinatra's quite marvellous performance of the song, Elvis struggles.

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Sad though it is, for once we are going to have to agree to disagree! Sinatra's vocal range was certainly wide - certainly much deeper than Presley's, and his control was certainly greater. It's with the vocal power that I disagree, but as I have said in the previous post, that's only important if you know how to use it or, more important, don't resort to abusing it. I just think that Sinatra's tone is thinner than Presley's later years, which I think is fuller. It would be difficult to imagine Sinatra tackling the likes of Just Pretend, for example. Having said that, my knowledge of the pre-capitol Sinatra isn't great, and I hadn't heard Bess in many years and it's highly impressive to say the least. I still prefer the later Old Man River over the earlier version, and prefer the one on the Ella + Jobim special to the Concert Sinatra LP. It's a remarkable four minutes or so of singing and that, along with any number of examples from any of Sinatra's eras, only goes to prove that he was a far better singer than Presley on a number of levels.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:50 am

Sinatra's version of Bess is quite special -- as is his other recordings and performances of songs from Gershwin's opera. And I enjoy the contrast of what Sinatra brought to a song over subsequent decades and various recordings or performances -- The Concert Sinatra was quite brilliant, however, and his version of Ol' Man River from both that album and A Man and His Music being truly marvellous. And although we may have to disagree here, I certainly understand and appreciate where you're coming from. And again, great comments above.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:57 am

Sinatra singing The Lord's Prayer?? Well, you DO have all his albums. But that just . . . I don't wanna be negative! Got to hand it to him for giving it a go.

The Chet Baker guy, as purely "jazzy" as he is, brings an odd thought of another singer to mind, when he finally starts singing, of course. I should post which one.

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Can you guess?


Brian Wilson! I swear . . . it's who I thought of. Can't put it into words, exactly. Brian did some lovely things with his voice, on the greatest material. This one is my favorite. (Love comes in on the bridge, and at the end, but Brian is predominant.)

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More of Brian's voice, and you can see him:

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rjm
P.S. -- Elvis didn't "create a mood"; he embodied it. He was the words, he was the melody, he was the arrangement . . . he WAS THE SONG! When you listen to him at his best, and I don't mean to drool, you are listening to IT, the song in its totality, as real as the fabric of the chair you're sitting in, or the person who is sitting next to you in it, or you, yourself. That real, that present. Which is not to say he didn't "think." He did. It's just that when he got going, he was at one with the music, and thus, so is the listener. (There's a passage that James Agee wrote in "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," about listening to Beethoven, which tells you how to "become" the music. Turn the speaker volume up past lethal limits, and the put your ear on the speaker. And you and Beethoven are one. (And then, like Beethoven, you're deaf! :lol: I wonder if Agee considered that??)

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:30 am

I'm serious about what Agee wrote. And HE was serious, believe it or not.

And THIS was the prophecy of Elvis Presley, who was a baby when this was first written, about very poor and white tenant farmers not far over the Mississippi border.

James Agee wrote:Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee (photographs by Walker Evans). Page 12-13.

Copyright 1939, 1940. Renewed, 1988. First
Mariner Books edition, 2001.

Get a radio or a phonograph capable of the most extreme loudness possible, and sit down to listen to a performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony or of Schubert's C-Major Symphony. But I don't mean just sit down and listen. I mean this: Turn it on as loud as you can get it. Then get down on the floor and jam your ear as close into the loudspeaker as you can get and stay there, breathing as lightly as possible, and not moving, and neither eating nor smoking nor drinking.

Concentrate everything you can into your hearing and into your body. You won't hear it nicely. If it hurts you, be glad of it. As near as you will ever get, you are inside the music; not only inside it, you are it; your body is no longer your shape and substance, it is the shape and substance of the music.

Is what you hear pretty? or beautiful? or legal? or acceptable in polite or other society? It is beyond any calculation savage and dangerous and murderous to all equilibrium in human life as human life is; and nothing can equal the rape it does to all that death; nothing except anything, anything in existencce or dream, perceived anywhere remotely toward its true dimension.


rjm
P.S. -- Don't try this at home!

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:22 am

Peter's arguments could just as well be made for the whole of pop music as well as singing. I noted on a previous thread that pop enthusiasts of different stripes include "Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine," "Stan," "The Way You Look Tonight," "Surfin' Bird," "Land of a 1000 Dances," "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," "Moon River" as great recordings or songs. It's a pretty wide tent.

Elvis more than anyone was responsible particularly in regards to singing in making more various types of styles and less technically proficient performer seen as accessible. The big downside of it to me though is that ears raised on rock n' soul seem to have ignored the very fine voices and styles that dotted the pre-rock landscape. Other than Sinatra and maybe the other members of the Rat Pack and a few pop performers that emerged during the rock movement like Barbra Streisand and Bobby Darin, these performers seem to have gotten short shrift from most listeners these days. To me, there's still a lot to hear in the likes of Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Dick Haymes, Doris Day, Al Martino (who also scored big in the '60s), Joni James and many others.

On the answer to your thread question Elvis and Sam Cooke, number three revolves daily RJM. Elvis above all because that emotion that he communicated just gets through to me, cuts me one to one. I mean I love the sound of his voice and that's a big part, but there's a personal connection in his style that just moves me in a way that few other singers touch. Cooke kind of the same thing, but maybe just a degree removed.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:54 pm

likethebike wrote:Peter's arguments could just as well be made for the whole of pop music as well as singing. I noted on a previous thread that pop enthusiasts of different stripes include "Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine," "Stan," "The Way You Look Tonight," "Surfin' Bird," "Land of a 1000 Dances," "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," "Moon River" as great recordings or songs. It's a pretty wide tent.

Elvis more than anyone was responsible particularly in regards to singing in making more various types of styles and less technically proficient performer seen as accessible. The big downside of it to me though is that ears raised on rock n' soul seem to have ignored the very fine voices and styles that dotted the pre-rock landscape. Other than Sinatra and maybe the other members of the Rat Pack and a few pop performers that emerged during the rock movement like Barbra Streisand and Bobby Darin, these performers seem to have gotten short shrift from most listeners these days. To me, there's still a lot to hear in the likes of Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Dick Haymes, Doris Day, Al Martino (who also scored big in the '60s), Joni James and many others.

On the answer to your thread question Elvis and Sam Cooke, number three revolves daily RJM. Elvis above all because that emotion that he communicated just gets through to me, cuts me one to one. I mean I love the sound of his voice and that's a big part, but there's a personal connection in his style that just moves me in a way that few other singers touch. Cooke kind of the same thing, but maybe just a degree removed.


I totally agree with the idea that people are missing out on so many of the singers you mention. Sadly, we live in a world where we are spoon-fed our music, with it being bombarded at us not only on the radio and TV, but also in shops etc. We only buy what we like, but we only like what we hear. Which is why i think it is such a shame that music curriculums in schools (in the UK at least) barely, if ever, touch on the history of pop music or jazz. I remember being quite shocked when I walked into HMV last year and the music coming out of the speakers was the new Doris Day album. Sadly, most people won't or don't explore music other than what they already know - one of the reasons why i get so annoyed on here when people with a small knowledge of music compare Elvis to everyone else and say how everything he did was a masterwork.

One would at least hope that the world of illegal downloads might encourage people to explore music they don't know, but I don't think this has happened to any great extent. Often our knowledge of music depends on what our parents listened to as we were growing up. With older parents than most people my age, Mum used to play the likes of Doris Day, Teresa Brewer, Dick Haymes, Kay Starr and the like - although, oddly, never Sinatra or Bobby Darin, of whom I became big fans. But when I left school I worked for a short time in a second hand record shop and played a Sinatra LP for a customer one day. I liked it, so explored what else was in the racks by him. Both the Count Basie and Duke Ellington collaborations were there, opening my ears to those sounds. I liked the Ellington sound and so explored him and discovered the wonders of the Newport 56 album, and after that there is no turning back. He collaborated with Ella, who collaborated with Louis Armstrong, Joe Pass and Oscar peterson, and my love of jazz was born and it's gone from there.

Picking up on a couple of names you mention - the two Dick Haymes Capitol albums from the mid-50s are remarkable works, with that deep booming voice sending shivers down your spine, especially on the bass-heavy radiogram we had when I was kid. The Doris Day catalogue is a joy, particularly during the LP era with albums such as Young Man With A Horn, Latin For Lovers and Duet some of the best albums ever made in my opinion. The same goes for Julie London and Rosemary Clooney, particularly in her renaissance with Concord Jazz. My love of Bobby Darin is well known here and, again, here is an artist who makes it so easy to explore the music of others. I remember buying the If I were A Carpenter album directly after discovering That's All and wondering what the hell was going on. But who was this John Sebastian chap who wrote these songs...let's check out the Loving Spoonful, and so on. It's easier to broaden our musical knowledge if there is something familiar from one step to the next - hence why the threads highlighting covers (or earlier versions) of Elvis songs are important here.

I don't have anything against those who listen to only a handful of artists, but they are missing out on so much.

Re: Three Greatest Singers, and Why

Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:06 pm

Roy Orbison
Tom Petty
Elvis
these are my favorites
but thats just my choice