On Tapestry, King’s singing, sincere and strong, is quite good in “I Feel the Earth Move,” which has a driving rhythm and engaging melody, and uses earthquake as a metaphor for a stirring love. The song is more dramatic than romantic, as it contains energy and hunger. It is followed by the ballad “So Far Away,” in the album’s regular pattern of an uptempo song followed by a ballad. One can hear a little jazz in “It’s Too Late,” a rock song about a failing relationship, the rhythms of the song matching the intensity of the situation.
Tina Turner: hair, eyes, mouth, teeth. Glowing brown skin. Breast, hips, legs. A burst of dazzling energy. Honesty and passion. Dignity and sexiness. Tough history, tougher spirit. Serenity sought and found. A new telling of a woman’s story, of an American life—and the evolution of an international artist and entertainer. In “I Might Have Been Queen,” a song that she sings with sorrow and pride, with resignation and triumph, Tina Turner looks out over time, looks at and through history, and sees no tragedy.
On Beautiful Mechanical, the title song has a nearly comic frantic energy, something the strings both soften and deepen, before going off on their own quick currency against a droning beat. The piece is actually hard to grasp, to think about, as it contains much frequently fast textured movement. “Proven Badlands,” featuring cello and horn, is slow, sonorous, and has a cinematic quality, especially in the rise of the horns in repeated phrases. The high, mellow but still sharp, soaring trumpet playing, and a three-beat rhythm, and a scraping against strings, distinguish it.
So much for failure in love. Mariah Carey’s voice can sound hammer-strong or feather-light, and she uses different parts of her voice in “Breakdown,” which opens with a man’s chanting voice (the voice, appearing in different instances in the song, makes the song nearly a duet, which is odd since most of the lyrics focus on separation). It is a song with texture—layers of sound, and rhythms going in more than one direction.
The eastern-sounding “Alabi” begins Mark de Clive-Lowe’s Renegades, followed by an invocation to dance, to communal pleasure, “Get Started,” which has chanting, and features soul singer Omar and a lot of Shelia E.’s percussion. Is the pleasure only in being together and dancing? Is there any other connection or purpose?
The music listener heard references to family, church, and school in Gaye’s work, those early educators and touchstones, the expected resources for affection and knowledge, and often what must be left behind if life is to be lived fully or honestly. Leaving them behind meant freedom—and risk, if not trouble. There is a female choral arrangement in “Pride and Joy,” and it is somewhere between male doo-wop and the call and response of a church choir.
Zara McFarlane’s voice can be really pure or take on a husky quality, and her inflections are subtle, varied, as in “Captured (part 3), a song about the memory of a woman, with a swinging rhythm. Delivered with syncopation, the lyrics of “Mama Done” suggest something ominous: “she talked herself right into the ground.” McFarlane’s voice floats in the air in the song “Until Tomorrow,” which seems to be about an impasse in a relationship that time and distance might ease. Her voice could be a sound alive on the wind, without a body.
The production quality of the Havana Cultura music is quite good; the current development of technology facilitates first-rate recording sound, no matter where one is recording, something very different from the anthropological work of decades ago. The horn sounds official, triumphalist in “La Vida Interlude,” but the beat in the song is great.
They are keepers of a tradition that includes Dewey Balfa, Michael Doucet, Feufollet, Wade Fruge, Doc Guidry, D.L. Menard, Dennis McGee, Steve Riley, and Horace Trahan. Yet Joel Savoy went on to explain that he listened to popular music: “My mom has very diverse taste in music, and we heard all kinds of stuff growing up. She used to make me mix tapes of all kinds of things like Django and Billie Holiday and lots of Cajun stuff—old-timey Cajun fiddlers, even some rock ‘n’ roll.” Savoy learned to play some of what was on those tapes; and, subsequently, he has performed with T-Bone Burnett, Allison Krauss, Steve Miller, and Linda Ronstadt.
On the album Kid Man Blues, an album recorded in Sweden, Thailand, Germany, and the United States over a period of years, Bert Deivert does the Paul Jones song “Rob and Steal,” and there’s something very head-down-and-focused about the energy in the song, as if something burning in the music matches the intensity of the scavenging character being described. Downbeat, haunted, “Come Back Baby” is a moodily dramatic request for a lover’s return, featuring blues-rock guitar (that is, Dulyasit Srabua on electric guitar and John Dooley on electric bass).