Tuesday, April 19, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: MADMEN - A MUSICAL COMPANION
While the kids were about to go crazy with The Beatles and The Stones in North America in the early 1960's, adults were still shying away from Rock 'n' Roll. In those days pop music still meant crooners, a leftover from the Big Band era when the vocalist was often the star. There were still plenty of radio stations playing non-rock, and much of it dominated the charts and airwaves. That's what we find on this two-disc set, essentially the music of the Don Draper-type people. But it wasn't just slick admen listening, this was the stuff I heard constantly on the only radio station in my town in the daytime, where the governing rule was no electric guitars before 6 PM.
I still have a soft spot for some of this, and I'm not the only one. A song such as Jack Jones' Wives And Lovers is despicably sexist today, but fit in with the prevailing attitudes about wives in the post-war era. Hate the lyrics, but that gentle melody is an earworm-wormhole that leads directly to my preschool memories. Many of these songs had long passed out of even my trivia-filled brain, and until I heard Billy Vaughn's instrumental A Swingin' Safari again, I could never had named but I must have heard it 300 times back in the day. In fact there are several instrumentals here I'm thrilled to have, from cheesy organ sounds to hard-to-find classics, such as James Booker's Gonzo. Occaisionally the set slips out of Draper-land for a trip downtown, with funkier numbers such as Something's Got A Hold On Me by Etta James, but mostly it's the safer stuff.
Once the compilation moves into the '63 - '65 time period, it gets more familiar, as that's also when the kids completely took over the radio and kicked Dad's music onto the living room hi-fi where it belonged. Some of the cuts chosen are a little too familiar, such as I Only Want To Be With You by Dusty Springfield, Shotgun by Junior Walker and Marvin Gaye's Ain't That Peculiar. But kudos for Sam The Sham's Wooly Bully and the Sir Douglas Quintet's She's About A Mover. Plus, there's some Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, and a somewhat obscure Lesley Gore, so even collectors are well-served. I'm making another martini and playing it again.