Posts Tagged ‘Blues’

Versus – Cash Rules

February 3, 2012

Money – Pink Floyd v. Money – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

On the surface, beyond sharing a common title and being the fifth track on the album they come from (at least on the CD version of Dark Side), there wouldn’t appear to be much in common between a Pink Floyd and SJ&TDK song.  Dark Side of the Moon is one of the highest selling albums while I Learned the Hard Way has achieved modest success since its 2010 release (it hit number 15 on the Billboard 200).  Pink Floyd is known as one of the preeminent purveyors of psychedelic rock and the “concept” album.  Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings are modern throwbacks to funk/soul bands of the late 60s and 70s known for their infectious live shows.

But when you get down to it, these songs are definitely in orbit around the same planet for me.  Both are essentially blues songs, dealing with a topic near and dear to many a blues song, wealth or the lack thereof.  And it’s really not too surprising.  Remember, Pink Floyd had roots as a bar band playing American blues until Syd Barrett took them off into outer space.  Check out some of the soundtrack work they did on More and Obscured by Clouds for examples of that background.  And for SJ&TDK, funk and soul often can blend into the blues genre, so it wouldn’t be surprising they would delve into blues, though it’s not something they do often.

So, there is definitely a blueprint (blues song about money) shared by both songs.  How they execute is fun to compare.  Starting with the intro, Pink Floyd’s sound effects of cash register, tinkling coins and tearing paper is iconic and leaves no doubt what this song is about.  Roger Waters was never one for subtlety, see Wall, The.  On the other hand, SJ waxes philosophic talking about our need for money and the state of the economy in 2010 before the song kicks off in earnest.  One strange connection I noticed is that the guitar in the opening bar of SJ’s Money sounded a lot like the opening bar of Fearless from Pink Floyd’s Meddle.  I’m positive this is unintentional, but something I never noticed until writing this.

Musically, Pink Floyd’s version is anchored by Roger Waters’ bass line and Rick Wright’s keyboards that pace along at a blues-appropriate gait, though Wright’s keys strike me as downright funky at times.  The Dap Kings are bluesy to the core during Jone’s monologue, but then they kick in a little more funk themselves as they bust into the core of the song.  One definite similarity between the songs is that saxophone is front and center.  The heart of Pink Floyd’s Money is really the extended saxophone and guitar solos by Dick Parry and David Gilmour, which accounts for the three extra minutes in Pink Floyd’s version.  While not giving them the same solo treatment, the Dap Kings have saxophones popping out throughout the track, as well as some killer trumpet.

And while I’m not always interested in lyrics, it is definitely interesting how the two lyricists approach their subject matter.  Roger Waters, in addition to a lack of subtlety, makes Morrissey seem optimistic.  Sharon Jones, on the other hand, seems, based on seeing her live a few times, a lady with a love for life and a sharp wit to boot.

So, Rogers, predictably, in an arc beginning with this album and continuing on through his departure with the band, views money and greed associated with money in condescending and mocking terms (“grab that cash with both hands and make a stash” and “think I’ll buy me a football team”).  In a way, he’s flipping the script on a traditional blues view of the subject, which would be to lament the singer’s lack of the green stuff.

Sharon Jones takes the traditional blues view, but puts a clever twist on it.  She is wondering why she doesn’t have any money, but money is personified.  Rather than moaning about “i got no dough”, instead she sings “money/where have you gone to/where are you hiding” and “money, why don’t you like me/was it something that i said/was is something that i done/i always loved you plenty/but you never liked me none.”  Money is no different than a person who’s ignored our advances.

Both also cover the “money is the root of all evil” maxim.  Waters sums up his mockery of greed and says “money so they say/is the root of all evil today/but if you ask for a rise it’s no surprise/they’re giving none away.”  Jones says “we say money is the root of all evil/but nothing evil about money/because we need that money/to pay the bills/ to pay the rent.”  In a way it’s an agreement with Waters in that she agrees that money itself is not evil, but instead of being envious of those who won’t “giv[e] none away”, Jones is just concerned with getting money so she can keep a roof over her head.  It’s an interesting dichotomy, Waters is able to philosophize about the evils of the rich (not their money)  since he himself is in a place of comfort; Jones doesn’t have the luxury of Waters’ ivory tower, she’s “scrimping” to get that money so she won’t be hungry and homeless.  The difference in view reminds me of the recent rant by Adam Carolla on Occupy Wall Street.

So, in the end, you have two songs that I really like musically, but it’s Jones’ witty take on the traditional blues formula that wins out over Waters’ envy and sarcasm.

Here’s the SJ&TDK version (since everyone has probably heard the Floyd version at some point in their life):

Amazing

April 16, 2010

Amazing Grace – Blind Boys of Alabama from Spirit of the Century

My dad is a big bluegrass, gospel, blues, and country fan.  I’ve dabbled in a little of each in my musical lifetime, but recently I’ve been systematically raiding his CD collection (dad hasn’t yet gotten to this whole mp3 fad) and downloading stuff.  Then I listen to it when I can.  A couple songs of the Blind Boys of Alabama had come up in my revolving Itunes shuffle, but then I heard this.

Whether you’re religious or not, you’ve probably heard Amazing Grace sometime in your life.  But you’ve probably never heard it like this before.  This is a bluesified Amazing Grace, which isn’t that out of the ordinary.  The interesting part is that it’s sung to the tune of another song I’ll be writing about someday, the Animals’ House of the Rising Sun.  Now that’s something.  And it works really well.  It makes sense that it does, House, at its core, is a great blues song.  Amazing Grace is a great hymn.  Thanks to the Blind Boys for thinking to put them together.  It’s like an old-fashioned mashup.

They change the key of the Animals’ original so that I swear the guitar sounds like the beginning of Metallica’s The Unforgiven.  The Boys, both lead and backing vocals, sound great.  Deep baritones give the song a gospel feel, while the lead guitar and drums definitely are on a blues tip.  I’m absolutely loving this song, one of the favorite songs I’ve heard this year, even if it’s almost 10 years old now.

Final note, if you’re a fan of the Wire, you’ve probably heard the Blind Boys and didn’t even know it.  Their cover of a Tom Waits song was the theme song of Season 1 of the show.  Damn, another reason for me to dust off the Season 1 DVD and begin my immersion in the Wire.

You can find the song here.