Monday, November 13, 2006

Wussy Sea Songs

I purchased a couple of discs by veteran Canadian songwriter Marc Jordan recently and I've really enjoyed them. I love his voice, and most some of his songwriting is excellent decent (although there are some bummers). His sound has changed quite a bit over the years, but he's been pretty consistent quality-wise. I don't know for certain, but I don't think he's ever had a solo hit in Europe. Rod Stewart had a big hit with one of his songs, though, Rhythm of My Heart, in 1991. Pre-listen to some of Jordan's songs on Amazon.

A few months ago I came across jasonhare.com. He has a regular post entitled Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold, in which he covers a couple of soft rock tunes every week. He carefully considers every aspect of the track he's covering, down to hairstyle, make-up and clothing. He mocks our heroes in hilarious fashion (and rightfully so), no doubt about that - but deep down he has a mellow heart, I'm sure. A key aspect of Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold is the wussiness of the music.

To fully understand this term, start off with AOL's list of the 111 wussiest songs of all time. Then you should take a look at Stereogum and Down with Snark for an in-depth discussion.

"Yacht Rock" offers a brilliant take on the L.A. studio musician's scene in the '70s and early '80s. We get to meet Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Christopher Cross, the guys from Toto and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter behind the scenes, there's lots of beautiful, smooth music and some really interesting footage. Excellent show!

As far as I'm concerned, this show single-handedly redefines the entire genre. The creators define yacht rock as the more polished, up-scale productions with studio aces like McDonald, Loggins, Lukather. But there's also the term marina rock, dedicated to the not-quite-so-polished acts, such as Rupert Holmes and possibly Jimmy Buffett. The nautical references are thoroughly appropriate - it's a recurring theme both in the lyrics and in the cover art of these musical acts (Christopher Cross - Sailing, Loggins & Messina - Full Sail, Pages - The Sailor's Song, Peter Allen - I Could Have Been a Sailor, Lionel Richie and Commodores - Sail On.)

To prove the point further, I just realised that one of the songs on my new Marc Jordan disc is entitled Let Me Be Your Boat (from Cool Jam Black Earth, 1996).

5 comments:

Mulberry Panda 96 said...

Ever heard "Blue Pacific" by Michael Franks? Not yacht rock exactly, but it is mellow and smoooooth.

Terje Fjelde said...

I sure have. That album was in fact my first encounter with Michael Franks. He's one of a kind. And the song is really soothing, a far cry from winter in Northern Europe... I have acquired most of his albums by now, and apart from some synth-heavy stuff in the 80s I think he's been amazingly consistent throughout his career. I have a soft spot for his 1975-80 releases, though.

Mulberry Panda 96 said...

Same here. The only albums of his I own are "The Art of Tea," "Sleeping Gypsy," "Burchfield Nines," and "Tiger in the Rain," but I heard some songs of his from the '80s recently and realized I should explore more of his stuff from that decade. I think I first heard of him through his video for "The Art of Love" back in 1990. And then I realized my dad owned "The Art of Tea," and that's what got me hooked on his '70s material. "Tea" is a near-perfect album.

Terje Fjelde said...

I agree. It's always interesting to think back to how you discovered music. My route to Franks started with an episode of 30something in the late 80's.

In a party scene they played "Hey 19" by Steely Dan, and I was immediately hooked on that groove (I always loved the synth "blues harp" sound). I didn't know anything about Steely Dan back then, they were never really all that big over here. I went out and bought "Gaucho" and played it to pieces.

An avid liner notes reader, I naturally jotted down all names involved. And when I recognized Walter Becker as one of the producers on "Blue Pacific" some time later I reckoned that was reason good enough to buy the album. Good call.

Mulberry Panda 96 said...

I had no idea Becker produced "Blue Pacific." Always learning ... I knew about Steely Dan early on in life because "Hey Nineteen" was on Top 40 radio in early '81, which is when I first started remembering the songs I was hearing on the radio. In sixth grade I started buying their albums on cassette, then realized a year later that I couldn't really get into the non-singles as much as I'd hoped. I think I was expecting the lyrics to not be so damn obtuse. Many years later I ended up buying the albums again on CD and liking what I hadn't liked so much the first time around.