Roots: Part Two

…but first, AACPS  (an andrae crouch post script)

Most of my playing, piano-wise, has been as an accompanist… church, choir, soloist or classroom. Every once in a while I’ve been asked to play solo… and, as much as I’m fairly comfortable playing for someone else, I’m less at ease when I feel like the focal point. I do remember, about twenty years ago (twenty years ago????) playing Praises by Andrae Crouch for a church service. It’s been a long time…. but, as I remember it, my arrangement of the song went something like this… a little rough around the edges...

 

 

Part Two  The Association

So, how about an Association welcome…

As I mentioned in my previous posting, I did grow up in the sixties and, like most of my peers, have had my musical tastes shaped by the decade. I liked many bands and individual artists but, if you had asked me my favourite song (from 1966 onward), I’d have immediately replied, “Cherish”.

An interesting choice. I recall that I was not especially enamoured of the song when I first heard it. Thanks to the airplay format of AM radio at the time I had opportunity to hear the song frequently (it helped that it was eventually #1 on the charts) and I soon found much to attract my interest. First, there was the male teen angst so aptly expressed in the lyrics. Then there was the weaving of vocal harmonies… I’m a sucker for that element of music… and The Association knew something about vocal harmony!

In case you haven’t heard the song, or haven’t heard it recently, here it is.

One thing I  noticed in replaying the song was how so much of it is written on a single note or short melodic pattern while the harmony beneath (and above) shifts… maybe another aspect of its appeal. I’ll play a bit (simplified) and you might notice this more on the piano.

I have had the opportunity to see the band on several occasions. The first was in 1970 at Alumni Hall in London. It’s been a long time… but I well remember how good they were live (and how bad the opening band was… but that’s another story***). My favourite recollection was about 1982 (I think) after the band had regrouped. I saw them in Toronto at a night club in a weeknight performance which had not been well publicized. We were two of a small number of patrons who had ringside seats for the concert. Between shows I managed to talk to Terry Kirkman (the one who wrote Cherish) briefly… he was hungry, the canned music playing in the background was far too loud and I was your stereotypical tongue-tied fan. Still, it was a special moment… and I have as evidence his autograph on a serviette somewhere amongst my Association souvenirs.

There is lots of debate about the merits of the Internet. One of its great benefits is that it allows you to communicate with virtually anyone anywhere. And so it is that I have had occasional correspondence with Terry in the past few years. I try not to email too frequently and he often graciously replies…and has even initiated a missive or two.

If you asked me my favourite song now, I’d struggle because I have many. But, for sentimental reasons, if pressed, I’d probably make the same choice.

Here’s a quick retrospective of the Association in performance…

The Association singing Windy in 1967… (you’ll love the girl cameo in the middle… it’s so sixties..)

And now… the group in its 80’s incarnation… Requiem for the Masses is one of their signature vocal arrangements. That’s Terry (the song’s composer) on lead and flugel horn.

In sum, a goodly portion of my penchant for vocal harmony can be traced to my exposure to the music of the Association. Much of their material was written by the band members themselves and their albums (like other good groups of the period) show a remarkable diversity of musical styles.

One other thing…  I learned that sometimes you can’t improve on a little musical gem. I always loved this brief piano introduction to Love Affair (from The Association, a self-titled album) and made a point of learning the exact notes…

(For the rest, get the album…)

For those wishing to explore further…

This is Across the Persian Gulf… from the group’s 80’s incarnation.  The song again features their particular brand of harmonizing based, I believe, on the music of one J.S. Bach.  Not Bach’s lyrics however… (cue mildly humourous response).

I always appreciated the songwriting ability of Jules Alexander (one of the original Associates and composer of Love Affair).  Here he is singing the lead on Dubuque Blues, another of his compositions.

*** I know, you’re asking “How bad was the opening band?”  The two things I remember…

1. The mix was so bad, all we (in the audience) heard was the far too loud sound of the lead guitar.  Several males commented (in the washroom between acts) that it was probably a deliberate plot by The Association to enhance reception of their own performance (cue further humourous response).

2. The other thing I remember was the lead singer’s solitary joke.

Q: What’s brown and sounds like a bell?

A: Dung.

I’m still trying to forget that one. (Cue no humourous response)

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