CLASSICS: RE-INTERPRETATIONS (SINGLES)
Alright….. I wasn’t a huge Isaac follower. My only real favorite to be honest, was his iconic “Shaft (1971)” theme to the movie “Shaft (1971).” Just a side note, this may sound bias but… Of all the Shaft remakes we’ve had, I think the original with Richard Roundtree was the best. Anyway, I remember a LOT of Black folk having this particular Isaac album. And that includes my mom. Personally, I wasn’t particularly drawn to this album, and I wasn’t sure what people really liked about it. I think maybe people just liked the sound of his voice! LOL. Sometimes I hear good beats from him, but I never thought that some of those songs warranted being 15-20 minute long. There’s a song on this album called “By The Time I Get To Phoenix (1969),” I felt was a nice soulful and romantic song, it was just way too long for my taste. Quite a few artist reinterpreted this song, including the legendary Johnny Rivers, and the legendary Engelbert Humperdinck. Do you remember this album? Was it one of your favorites?
Esther Phillips is one of the many many forgotten artists. I absolutely love her distinct, sassy voice. She did a reinterpretation of one of my old time favorites called “Alone Again, Naturally,” that was originally written and performed by Gilbert O’Sullivan in 1972. Esther took this song to a whole different level in my opinion. I’m sorry but, it’s a fact that when you add a little bit of soulful voice to any melody (never mind the music), it changes both it’s meaning and energy. I’ve heard a LOT of reinterpretations of this song by many artists (and that even includes Neil Diamond’s version). However, I think Esther did it best, even better than O’Sullivan (Sorry). Now, according to the billboard charts, this song only reached the 177th position, on the Top 200 Charts. However, that’s misleading because there are different positions for every category. In fact, I’m not even sure if that was an “album position,” instead of the actual position of the song. I had a heard time finding more data for this song. I’m not going to believe that people disliked the song that much for it to have peaked that low. If you’d like to listen to O’Sullivan’s original version, you can listen here.
O.k. guys. I haven’t been a huge Willie Hutch fan. However, I did like some of works he produced during the Blaxploitation era; most famously the work he did on the “Foxy Brown” soundtrack released in 1974, under Motown Records. I was listening to an internet oldies radio show not too long ago (I don’t remember the name of the station), but they shocked me by playing a song I haven’t heard in ages!! It was Willie Hutch’s reinterpretation of “Stormy Weather.” Now, I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but, I usually don’t listen to certain male love songs, that were originally/traditionally sung by women. I know that may sound stupid. But, as a music lover, I don’t think they always translate the same. It’s like when you’re translating a song from one language to another, it just doesn’t always sound the same, or make sense. However, I feel Willie done an outstanding job on this song, and I really recommend that you take a listen. Singer and actor Ethel Waters first sang the song in 1933. In fact many, many people have reinterpreted this song. But the artist that became most famous for her rendition of “Stormy Weather” was the legendary Lena Horne in 1943. Lena also appeared and sung in the movie called “Stormy Weather” in 1943.
So, in 1986, the madly popular group New Edition, recorded a 50s/60s album called “Under The Blue Moon.” I have to be honest, although I loved New Edition back in the day, I hated this album. I didn’t like it because most of the songs on this album sounded very karaoke(ish). I really do hate albums that sound like that, especially from groups like New Edition, simply because they were very talented young men. But then again, these guys were young, and probably really didn’t know how to sing these types of songs. However, one song they’ve re-interpreted called “Tears On My Pillow,” which was first recorded (I think) by Little Anthony & The Imperials in 1978, was done quite well. They should’ve left out that little rap session out of the song, but it was kind of their trademark back then. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, this was shortly after Bobby Brown left the group to go solo.
I have to tell you, I was very disappointing to discover that Patti Drew’s version of “Hard To Handle,” released in 1968, only reached 93 on the Hot Billboard Charts. In my opinion, this was a badass song! How could people not like it. This was a soul sister that not only meant business when she sang the song, her vocals took this song to the next level. Who the hell knows why it wasn’t a hit? Another sad interesting fact, the late Otis Redding, Al Bell, & Allen Jones, all came together to write this awesome song. I think Otis recorded “Hard To Handle” first that same year, and the song only peaked at 51. Over 22 years later, it was reinterpreted again by a rock group called “The Black Crowes.” Not only did the song hit #1, it stayed number one for two weeks! WTF??
How many of you classic music fans knew that, in 1959, the legendary late Dinah Washington recorded the unforgettable song, “Unforgettable?” This is why I love blogging; because sometimes while researching, we come across interesting things we never knew! The song was written by Irving Gordon in 1951. The song peaked at #17 and stayed on the charts for about 13 weeks. I really love Dinah’s version of the song, although she sang almost every song as if she was on a Broadway stage. But that’s not a bad thing.
Now the interesting part of this is, originally Nat King Cole recorded Unforgettable in 1951, the song hit #12 on the billboard. Dinah’s recording did very well, she was only 5 positions shy of Nat’s, yet I don’t recall ever hearing Dinah sing this song on the radio. Now granted, it’s impossible to remember everything, but at the same time, this is considered a “song standard.”
In 1991, through the magic of audio technology Natalie Cole was able to sing with her late father again. Natalie paid a touching tribute to her father by recording “Unforgettable.” In 1992, she gave a stunning performance on the Grammy awards, with coordinated video of her late father. It was beautifully done. Surprisingly, her reinterpretation of the song didn’t do as well on the charts as I thought it would have. However, interesting enough, in terms of album sales, the album “Unforgettable: With Love” hit #1. I have a feeling the reason the song didn’t do well had to do with the fact, the song was a personal tribute (in comparison to her other work).
In 1991, three of the biggest legendary female artists (Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, & Dionne Warwick) came together to record a new interpretation of a then popular song. The song was called “Super Woman,” and I first saw them perform the song on the Oprah show, and it was an awesome performance I’ve never forgotten. I was in awe watching the three on TV, I could only imagine what the audience was feeling watching them live. There voices are so completely different, the genres they sang were different, yet the harmonized together is if they’ve practiced the song a million times. Not only that, do you realize just how hard it is to get 3 huge celebrities to sing on one stage? It was almost impossible with the kinds of work schedule most of them had. The song was originally sung by Karyn White in 1988 for her self-titled album, which peaked #8 on the R&B Charts. This song became just about every Black woman’s anthem.
You know, ever since I was a child, I’ve always been aware of remakes. However, it wasn’t until I became a serious blogger and started researching, I would come to understand just how many songs have been redone, and redone multiple times! So, that ol’ saying “nothing new under the sun,” is literally true. In fact, some of these songs, such as a song called “Our Day Will Come,” have been redone by so many people, if it were not for the internet, it would have been impossible to know who were the original artists. Now, as a kid, I’ve only heard the song sung by the original performers, Ruby And The Romantics, because that’s all I remembered hearing on the radio as a kid (and mind you, I’ve listened to just about all the stations). The song was number one on the Hot 100 and R&B charts; it had also risen to #11 in Australia.
This song was so popular that, coming to find out, this song has been done by more than 40+ artists, and that includes the late Amy Winehouse (which I LOVE the deep reggae overtones). But the group I wanted to write about today, is a group called Spiral Starecase. This particular album should have been named the remake album, because there are several of them. The Spiral Starecase’s version of “Our Day Will Come,” is a smooth pop song with the typical sound that many of the male groups in the 60s. I felt they’ve recreated a danceable love song (in essence), and it was well done. The lead singer at the time, I think it was Pat Upton, always reminded me of the group Air Supply. The biggest hit from this album was a song called “More Today Than Yesterday,” which I like very much.