Tuesday, July 23, 2013

For Music Obsessives and Bargain Lovers

The Beatles' "Yesterday" is one of the most recorded songs, and although I love it, I'm not particularly curious to hear other interpretations, which I fear might be saccharine. The song "On Broadway" is another matter. I can't get enough of it, and, fortunately for me, I can download multiple versions of it--to keep!--from Freegal, the library's free music download provider, available via our website.

The song, which has one of the catchiest opening riffs ever, and in which the singer dreams of making it on Broadway, has been interpreted by, among others, The Drifters, 80s synth pop singer Gary Numan ("Cars"), Sly and the Family Stone, Frank Sinatra, Neil Young, and Jennifer Hudson and Katharine McPhee (on the tv series Smash).

On Freegal I was able to download one of the earliest recordings--and my second favorite--by the girl group The Crystals. A haunting, atmospheric version that opens with just  piano, castanets, and (I think) a cornet, it swells to include strings as the small town heroine of the song sings: "I swear I'm gonna get there or I'll die." In this version, with the pathos of a Tennessee Williams play, you're not convinced the girl's going to make it to Broadway.

My favorite version is the jazz-inflected George Benson recording, which won a Grammy for best male R & B vocal performance and was used to impressive effect in the movie All That Jazz. (Younger viewers may remember an instrumental version from the Kevin Spacey movie American Beauty.) Benson has an amazing voice--in his lower register he sounds like a more sultry Stevie Wonder--and this is a triumphant rendition in which he tells the nay-sayers who insist he'll end up on a Greyhound bus for home: "But they're wrong, I know they are/'Cause I can play this here guitar." It also boasts an eerie synthesizer line that looms over and contrasts with Benson's joyous scat singing. (I'm not a fan of most scat singing, but  it sounds as natural as speech here, frequently doubling Benson's guitar lines.) Although this recording isn't available via Freegal, several of the libraries in our system have it on CD.

Among the many other versions available on Freegal are an awesome instrumental performance by the Tito Puente Latin Jazztette and Jennifer Hudson and Katharine McPhee's duet, a great showcase for Hudson's powerful voice and emotional range.

Whether you're into rock, rap, classical, or something else, you can often find multiple recordings of favorite songs and compositions on Freegal. Des Plaines card holders can download up to three songs a week, and they're yours to keep, to transfer to your iPod, etc. (Note to Windows users: if you have iTunes, after saving a Freegal song to your computer, search for the song via the Windows Start button and click on the song, after which it will show up in your iTunes library.)

Do you enjoy listening to multiple versions of a particular song? If so, which one?

Photo of George Benson: http://www.last.fm/music/George+Benson/+images/2779771

1 comment:

Linda K. said...

My least favorite interpretations are usually concert orchestras playing instrumental versions of songs by ABBA or the Beatles. (aka elevator music) On the other hand I love Rod Stewart's American Songbook interpretations of the golden oldies. The arrangements and orchestrations in those songs are terrific.

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