Posts Tagged ‘Vocal Duos’

Charlie Louvin

January 25, 2010

Charlie Louvin was still touring as of last spring. Read this interview by Wade Tatangelo in the St. Petersburg (FL) Times.

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Frustration!

October 15, 2009

The Everly Brothers recorded four sides for Columbia in 1955. Two of those were released: “The Sun Keeps Shining” (written by Don) and “Keep A-Lovin’ Me” (written by Don and Phil). In music historian parlance, we might say these represent some of their juvenalia. I know from their own comments and the remarks of others, the songs lean more heavily on their country music roots than later songs do. So I want to listen to them and try to describe how they adhere to “country” as it was understood in the late 1950s.

Therein lies the problem, though. These two songs are not on any of the reissue CDs or download services in the US. I found them in a $90 box set that includes a lot of what I already have. I also found them as downloadable files on amazon.co.uk, but not surprisingly I can’t buy them and download from here. All of this leaves me wondering why they are so hard to obtain in the US. Are the Everly Brothers themselves controlling this access and if so, why? And why are acceptable for UK audiences? And how am I going to get them???

I did find a set of unreleased recordings from the 50s and 60s that is reportedly demos and maybe some outtakes (user hyperbolium includes a good description of them under the reviews). Most of the cuts feature just Don and Phil and acoustic guitars. While I still want the other two songs, these recordings will certainly provide insight into how they perceived and conceived their own songs and how the songs transitioned from there to the finished product. The vocal harmonies will be much more exposed and less polished, allowing me another glance into this part of the creative process. It might be a stretch to suggest this, but recordings like this are somewhat akin to examining the sketchbooks of composers who work mainly in the written form.

I’m also sightly tempted by the $27 CD of outtakes but not enough to twitch for the moment. I’m sure they have value, but they will be so carefully selected that they may not demonstrate much more than close approximations of the releases. I would be interested in knowing what other popular music scholars have made of outtakes and alternate takes.

Everly Brothers Fan Survey

October 14, 2009

I have created a survey for Everly Brothers fans, hoping to capture some interesting viewpoints and data to use in my dissertation. I was restricted to 10 questions, but I think that will be enough. If any of my fellow musicologists are listening, let me know if the questions seem reasonable or what tweaks need to be made.

Hall & Oates

October 12, 2009

Daryl Hall and John Oates are releasing a 4-CD retrospective box set of the career, which began in the late 1960s. CNN has a short article on them with audio clips if you need a refresher. I admit to listening to them a lot in junior and senior high school and maybe even a bit into the 80s, but I don’t think I ever bought their albums (as in LP…as in the near-dinosaur era). And I know I never bought their CDs (new or reissues). It’s not that I don’t think they had a good sound or that their music wasn’t important to the pop music sound and production of that era. I’ll admit that many of their melodies were quite singable. Some of their lyrics were clever–maybe not in the intellectual, high brow way, but in the roll-off-your-tongue way. But somehow their music never jolted me enough to spend money. It may have been that the production was too ornate, too studied, too controlled, and consequently too unemotional (or sometimes too cloying). Their songs resonated with a lot of people during that era and so it is important to uncover the reasons. But I think I’ll leave it for others to discover.

Because probably one reason I didn’t like them so much was there just weren’t enough opportunities to harmonize.

Best Duets Ever

October 5, 2009

A few years ago, the Telegraph published a list of the 50 best duets ever. And yes, they included one by the Everly Brothers, “Let It Be Me,” chosen, it seems, for its significant role in their reunion concert in Albert Hall in 1983.

I particularly like the “key moment” analysis included with most of the songs on the list. It is instructive to see what resonates with people about duets. The critics who compiled the list believed at the time (2003) that the duet was making a comeback, but that is because of a number of hip-hop and pop songs pair different individual stars. To me, they seem present but not together in the recording.

To complement their best-of list, of course, they also provided a worst duets ever list. No commentary, though.

When It Pours, I Blog

July 9, 2009

It’s been raining, or at least cloudy, for what feels like months here in New England so most of us have resorted to rain metaphors.

I go for days, weeks, or months with nothing to blog (or rather, nothing coherent or interesting), then suddenly my cup runneth over, my drain clogs up, the bath water spills over, and I have lots of tidbits and longbits.

I just found a brother duo, the Thompson Brothers, who actively perform and place themselves within the tradition of brother duos. Their website contains some interesting information about gospel music, brother duets, and the connections between the Ulster Scots and the Appalachian region of the southern United States. I think maybe I’ll try to contact them.

Road Trip

April 17, 2009

I’m heading to NYC for a few days with my son. We plan to see a Broadway show (of course), do some of the touristy things, and eat fun and exotic foods. I’m also going to drag him to the New York Public Library so I can spend time with the Billy Rose Theatre Collection. I’m hoping to find the name of at least one duo from the minstrel or vaudeville era or to find examples of people singing duets in the shows. When I return, I’m also planning to visit the Harvard Theatre Collection in the Houghton Library. They have programs from both minstrel and vaudeville shows. Ideally I would love to find descriptions of how the duos performed, but absent that, I may be able to make some extrapolations if I know what songs, what shows, what theaters, and so on. Actually I think I have a good how idea how the vaudeville acts performed from listening to numerous recordings of duets in the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Brian Eno on singing

January 29, 2009

Brian Eno wrote this essay on a capella group singing earlier this year. His points about the power of group singing are important, but I’m more interested in his views on harmonizing. He notes that songs with complex chord progressions are not conducive to spontaneous harmonization and that long vowels are where the opportunities are for the harmonies to express themselves. His also describes the experience of harmonizing:

It’s thrilling to get the rhythm of something tight and sing it well together. The second is tone. To hit the same vowel sound at a number of pitches seems unremarkable, but it’s beautiful when it happens.

His reaction is similar to the one I’ve had when singing with a group and everything comes together just right on a particular note or phrase. I think some listeners experience the thrill and beauty, too, and that that is what draws them to particular kinds of songs, especially ones by groups like the Everly Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel, Loggins and Messina, etc.

Making the connection between American musical theater and duos

January 26, 2009
Muttering to myself…
  • Vocal duets are inherently dramatic. Two voices suggests two people. The voices interact, even if they sing in unison. That interaction defines the dramatic elements and adds a layer to the interpretation of the text. 
  • Duets can be found throughout opera and other forms of musical drama but less so in other forms of vocal art music, such as lied or chanson. Duets in American popular music are directly connected, historically and paradigmatically, to musical theater. This is due in part to the fact that popular music in America, at least until the advent of rock and roll, was intertwined with musical theater–Broadway, revues, variety, vaudeville, minstrelsy.
  • Musical theater, for a long time, provided the model (as well as the material) for the musical and rhetorical structure of duets. For example, voices in alternation suggest a dialogue. If the same text is sung by both, then two viewpoints (possibly in opposition) exist. The point at which the voices join implies a connection or a reconciliation.

Singing Duo

January 21, 2009

Singing Duo

I saw this license plate in New Hampshire. I wanted to hop out of the car and rush up to this person and ask about it, but the line of traffic behind me presented a problem.