“We Can Work it Out” covered by Tom Jones

A few days ago SiriusXM launched a Beatles channel and since then it’s basically all I’ve been listening to while driving. I heard “We Can Work It Out” on there today and it reminded me that this cover by Tom Jones exists:

If you can get past the puzzle piece jumpsuit visuals and focus on Jones’s singing, it might actually be a contender as a better version than The Beatles. Hearing The Beatles’ version after hearing Jones’s version, it really does feel like the song was written for Tom Jones.

A Frustration Dream for a Modern Era

I don’t have many dreams, or at least I don’t remember many. That’s actually been a goal of mine, and it seems to have worked, but that’s a story for another post. Last night I had a dream that I did remember, and it seemed pretty memorable for an unusual reason.

Do you ever have one of those dreams where what you’re trying to do keeps getting frustrated by some unknown force? For example, you’re trying to reach something, walk up to a sink or something, but for some bizarre, unknown reason you can’t reach it? This was like that, except I was trying to play a song for someone, but I couldn’t find the song at all. Google and YouTube were giving no results. I would try different spellings and alternate titles and get nothing. It was like it had disappeared from the internet entirely, even though it was a song I’ve listened to many times before.

Incidentally, the song I was trying to share was by Sonny J. Sonny J’s debut album was titled Disastro, and it was one of the last new Big Beat albums I remember hearing. I think he would’ve become more famous had he come along about a decade earlier, at the height of Big Beat’s popularity. As it stood though he scored a few minor hits on the UK charts. Most of his buzz centered on his song “Can’t Stop Moving”, largely due to a fan putting it to video of a young Michael Jackson singing (it really does fit).

What’s funny is if you read through the comments on the video, people are like, “oh, I remember when they did this song!” No you don’t; it’s a brand new song, sampling The Hues Corporation, among others. Here’s the actual music video for “Can’t Stop Moving”:

Somewhat ironically, the video from the official Sonny J YouTube channel has a copyright claim against it by WMG and has been blocked in the United States.

I know I have watched it on that channel in the past, so this is a new development, and is in a sense almost exactly what I dreamt about. It’s also strange that the song is totally fine coming from another account

A few other good songs from Disastro are “Enfant Terrible”:

“Handsfree (If You Hold My Hand)” which is more or less a remix of Donna Hightower’s “If You Hold My Hand” and I think it’s the song I was trying to find in my dream:

“Sorrow” which doesn’t fall in with the Big Beat sound of most of the album, but is lovely:

Finally I’d point you to “Sonrise” which concludes the album:

I first heard this album when I was a music director at my college radio station, and this was one of the standout albums I heard. I wish there was more from Sonny J, but his website seems to have been taken over by SEO “experts” and his Twitter page hasn’t been updated since 2009. Frankly, I wish there was more Big Beat still being made. But I’m really surprised and disappointed to see a music label hiding music from its old artist, and I hope this is one dream that doesn’t come true. Actually, I hope most of my dreams don’t come true; that’s why I try not to remember them.

Featured Image Credit: “Insomnia” by Paul Lofeodo, via Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.

Joey Alexander

Friday night I went to an outdoor performance of the North Carolina Symphony, part of their Summerfest series. I hadn’t really paid much attention to what was on the schedule, just that they would be performing some Gershwin, in particular “An American in Paris”. I’ve enjoyed their Gershwin performances, so I wanted to be at this performance. This time the symphony did not bring in Timo Andres, who was a guest the previous two times I heard them perform Gershwin. Instead, the guest was a pianist named Joey Alexander along with his Joey Alexander Trio. I hadn’t heard of him, but I’ve also somewhat stopped paying attention to modern jazz groups, much preferring the jazz of the mid-20th century. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve largely found more modern efforts somewhat lacking. One theory I have is that as jazz training moved out of the clubs and into college classrooms, it lost some of its life as it became institutionalized. It doesn’t feel as energetic or organic, that it perhaps must now conform to structured rules and lesson plans, innovating in a prescribed manner.

In the case of Joey Alexander and his trio, though, I have been missing out. I was surprised when the conductor announced that the pianist joining them was a 12-year-old from Bali, Indonesia. I was a little skeptical at first, wondering why on earth they would bring in someone so young to perform with the NC Symphony. He quickly changed my mind, though, and by the end of the night I was wondering how the NC Symphony had gotten him to little ol’ Cary, North Carolina. His performance has that life and energy I’ve been missing, both as the trio performed works from George Gershwin and Thelonious Monk as well as Alexander’s original compositions. It is for good reason Alexander became the youngest person ever nominated for a Grammy. He is the level of good that seeing someone at such a young age be so accomplished already leaves you thinking about all the time you’ve wasted over the years and what you might have been able to accomplish had you only applied yourself more. While I’ve been writing this post I’ve had this concert playing in the background; check it out to see what I mean (the concert actually starts 11:30 in):

During Friday’s concert the conductor mentioned an anecdote from when George Gershwin first heard Ethel Merman perform in Girl Crazy. Gershwin allegedly advised her to never take a music lesson because they would ruin her natural talent. I kind of feel the same way about Alexander and hope he doesn’t attend a college for music. Perhaps one reason his performance has the energy of a bygone era is that much of his training has come from listening to old recordings and jamming with professional musicians in Bali and Jakarta. On the other hand, two other members of his trio, bassist Dan Chmielinski and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., both attended Julliard, so perhaps there is hope of attending college and still keeping the life in jazz (Friday’s performance featured the talented Kyle Poole on drums, who does not appear to be a Julliard student, so that’s a point in favor of learning in the clubs; I’ve found several drummers listed with the trio so it seems like that position has had some rotation). I want to keep track of Alexander and his trio and look forward to hearing what the future brings them!

“Closing Time” Has a Hidden Meaning

More than likely you’ve heard the song “Closing Time” by Semisonic. Like me you probably took the lyrics at face value and thought it was about last call at a bar, but some of the lyrics might have seemed a little odd. There’s a reason for that: the song’s not really about that at all. Check out this video for an explanation from Semisonic’s Dan Wilson:

You’re welcome parents.

I discovered this by way of Nate Johnson who shared this blog post by Kavin Senapathy.