Friday, December 30, 2011

On Repeat: You're Too Strong Not to Keep On Keepin' On

I discovered this during my recent (and likely to rouse itself again soon) obsession with Soul Train line dances.

It's been stuck in my head for about the last month, with plans to pay January rent.

Two observations to tap out with its syncopation and grit. Okay, three. First: I love how it builds. Masterful.

First-point-five: this particular line dance pulls the ain't-nowhere-to-go-but-up joy out of the song and makes its butt shake. In bellbottoms.

I've been trying to figure out a way to recreate it on a stage with just myself. I need the technology behind those commercials in which Fred Astaire is lifted from Royal Wedding and dances with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner. I suppose more recent technology would serve me better--whatever made Tom Cruise "climb" the Burj Dubai in that new Mission Impossible movie I saw last week.

Second, I haven't really been familiar with Gladys Knight beyond "Midnight Train to Georgia" (which, by the way, was originally "Midnight Plane to Houston." I always thought LA to Georgia was a long way to go on a train.) and other slow burners that I probably heard on the radio with my wee ears while in the back seat of the car. I was never that attracted to Gladys, or, rather, Gladys through those tracks, because the mournful my-man-done-me-wrong, the party's over isn't much my cup of tea. But at the risk of making a no-shit parallel, I'd say Sharon Jones owes as much to Gladys (or at least this performance) in her recordings as she does to James Brown and Tina Turner for her live show. She just doesn't have some Pips; she has Dap-Kings that don't sing. To wit: "If You Call." Gladys eventually lost that grit you hear in "Imagination;" she moved onto 80s drum-machine soul, the kind of stuff that you'd skate to at the roller rink in the middle of that decade, and dropped the Pips. She even made a James Bond theme, a forgettable Timothy Dalton one at that.

And third--what was third? Oh yes. I wish that whenever I sing (which is not often enough any more), I could have three guys smoothly backing me, subtly hyping me, and reminding me that I'm too strong not to--you know.

No comments: