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The Temptations – The Definitive Collection – Classic Music Review

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An essential collection of great soul voices. Click to buy.

Hey!

Wanna fuck me?

Measurements: 5’4″, 115 lbs, 34C-25-35 (metric = 162.56cm, 52.163kg, 90D-63.5-89). Firm, natural tits; great legs and a beautiful, firm ass perfect for love slaps! Skilled at many common and uncommon sexual techniques! I’ll even promise to keep the whips in the closet! Offer available to over-18’s of any race, gender, ethnic background, tit or dick size!

Avid readers know that I require future partners to go through background checks, health screenings, personality testing and all kinds of red tape before they get a whiff of my pussy. My lifestyle and aversion to safe sex practices requires a cautious approach. But now, for the first and only time, I’m going to reveal a secret: there’s a shortcut to my sweet spot! Follow these simple instructions and I guarantee you the time of your life:

1. Buy a copy of The Temptations: The Definitive Collection or equivalent in CD format or a digital copy for the iPhone/iPod and keep it with you.

2. Go to Paris, France. I live in one of the apartments there.

3. Ring the buzzer, wait for the click, enter the building, find the apartment and either my partner or I will let you in. She’s the brunette, I’m the blonde. You’ll want to fuck her too, but that’s another procedure entirely.

4. Ask if you can borrow my audio equipment to play me a song. I will grant your request.

5. Play the song “I Can’t Get Next to You.”

By the end of the opening piano run, my clothes are on the floor. By the time you hear the first falsetto, so are yours, probably in shreds. After I get down on my knees and turn you either rock hard or dripping wet, I’ll throw you on the bed halfway through the second verse. If I have to strap on a dildo, I won’t get to the fucking until the instrumental break; for men, expect me to start riding you on the second chorus. When you hear Eddie Kendricks rise in falsetto to sing, “And I . . . Oh I . . . ” you’ll see an evil twinkle in my eyes; then after they sing, “CAN’T GET NEXT TO YOU!” I’m either going to fuck you until your dick breaks or extend the depth of your vagina by several centimeters. Sound like fun? Hey, it may be the last fuck you ever get, but it will be one for the ages!

No song in the history of music activates my libido like “I Can’t Get Next to You.” Just listening to it three times in preparation for the review required tension relief assistance from my partner, who possesses the most talented tongue in the world. When my mojo cools a bit—it never cools entirely—I can listen to the song and appreciate the perfect blending of five marvelous voices and the superbly wrought tease-and-build pattern of the structure. But it’s the sum of the parts that matters, and this song makes me fucking drip, grind and percolate with a vengeance.

Excuse me, I need some relief. Back in a sec. Here: watch the video.

Ah, that’s better. Shit, now I have to review the rest of the album. Oh, well, after a shot of vodka and a cigarette I should be sufficiently rational to accomplish my task. Excuse me.

There!

The Temptations had one hell of a long run in the public eye, largely due to the diversity and blending of their individual vocal talents. There are times when listening to The Definitive Collection I can hardly believe that the group doing the song I’m listening to now also did the song just before it. The Supremes always sounded like The Supremes, but The Temptations varied sound and style with ease. They also seemed to get better and stronger up through the early 1970’s, even as their musical style diversified and expanded and even while dealing with changes in the lineup. Like The Supremes, they had the gifts of perseverance and Berry Gordy’s patience, releasing six singles that went absolutely nowhere before joining the hit parade right around the time The Four Moptops first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, with a song called . . .

“The Way You Do the Things You Do”: The origins of this song lie in a uniquely American experience: making up games to help you pass the time on a long road trip. I remember playing The Alphabet Game, The License Plate Game and The Fast Food Game and my favorite, First Name Baseball, on road trips with my parents. Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers of The Miracles used their play time on bus trips a bit more productively, engaging in simile-and-metaphor challenges. The lyrics for this song sprouted from those poetic games . . . some more punningly painful than others:

You’ve got a smile so bright, you know you could have been a candle
I’m holding you so tight, you know you could have been a handle
The way you swept me off my feet, you know you could have been a broom
The way you smell so sweet, you know you could have been some perfume

Smokey was frigging brilliant at developing the hooks that pulled everything together, and the refrain, “Well, you could have been anything that you wanted to/And I can tell: the way you do the things you do” is an uplifting and validating message for women. Yes, it’s a feel-good song, but what the fuck is wrong with feeling good? The groove is fabulous, and the syncopated delay at the start of the chorus is a masterstroke. And, man, could these guys sing! It’s not just the rich harmonies and timbres you can create by having falsetto soprano, tenor, baritone and bass at your disposal, but the little touches that each of the group members throw in from time to time when they’re feeling it. The Temptations were tight but never monotonous or robotic; they never lost the feel of a song. Kudos to Eddie Kendricks for grasping the playfulness of the lyrics and shading his lead vocal accordingly.

“My Girl”: There are so many reasons why Smokey Robinson is on my short list of favorite songwriters, and this collaboration with fellow Miracle Ronald White is a big one. The lyrics were written with his wife Claudette in mind, but the music was specifically designed for David Ruffin’s “mellow but gruff” voice, which Smokey thought was a natural hit maker. Smokey also produced the song, but let The Temptations figure out their own backing parts, “because they were so good at it.” The result is one of the great balladic odes in music history, one that has been covered many times but never with the same breakthrough feel of the original. David Ruffin’s lead vocal melts me like butter and the background vocals more than live up to Smokey’s expectations. I wish Smokey would have been hired to produce all the Motown hits that feature strings, because he showed much more restraint than others and never let the strings drown the vocals or the groove. Here’s a two-song video featuring both of these first hits in reverse order . . . with a snippet of Raquel Welch finishing up a song. I had no idea she sang, but jeez, what a bod!

“It’s Growing”: Smokey Robinson wasn’t infallible, and this song has too many echoes of “My Girl” and too many players in the mix to float my boat. In addition to The Temptations, Motown backing group The Andantes are enlisted to fill every bit of an already crowded soundscape. I do like the opening with the toy piano, though.

“Since I Lost My Baby”: Ah, that’s better. When you’ve got The Temptations, give them plenty of room to do their thing! Melvin Franklin’s bass touches are marvelous and I love how his voice is so prominent on the harmonies. A fab slow dance song, perfect for a flickering tongue in your lover’s ear.

“Don’t Look Back”: The compilers of this collection make an interesting choice here, taking the B-side over the A-side (“My Baby”). I’m glad they did! I think “My Baby” is a bit too close to the “My Girl” formula and this song gives Paul Williams a chance to sing lead (only fair since he was the original lead singer). I love his baritone: it has the rough feel of the great blues singers with depth to match. You can certainly hear the gospel influence in his phrasing and in the way he holds the notes: this man was imbued with the spirit! I’m aghast that this song didn’t get the attention it deserved at the time, but thrilled to have it in my collection. Thanks again to Mr. Robinson and Ronald White for another wonderful song.

“Get Ready”: This was the first of four #1’s in a row . . . on the R&B charts. Its “failure” got Smokey Robinson bounced as The Temptations’ producer and was the last song he would write for them. What the fuck? I always thought this was one of The Temptations’ best up-tempo numbers, full of verve and excitement. Eddie Kendricks is as smooth as silk here, and the rest of The Temptations are on fire. Why it only made it to #29 on the pop charts is a mystery for the ages. Rare Earth would resurrect it and make it to #4 in 1970, but I’ll take this version any time.

“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”: Motown politics and corporate structure provide the backdrop for this song, repeatedly rejected at the weekly Quality Control meetings by Lead Inspector Berry Gordy. The Temptations trudged back to the studio and the new producers decided to raise the key to the utmost limit of David Ruffin’s range. Otis Williams said that Ruffin was “drowning in sweat and his glasses were all over his face” at the end of the session, and you can definitely hear the strain in his vocal, in stark contrast to the smoothness of “My Girl.” He sounds vulnerable, and we chicks love men when they’re vulnerable, especially when they’re singing delightfully submissive lyrics:

If I have to sleep on your door step all night and day
Just to keep you from walkin’ away
Let your friends laugh, even this I can stand
‘Cause I wanna keep you any way I can

Sweet humiliation! Lick my boots while you’re down there, honey! My man!

“(I Know) I’m Losing You”: The compilers wisely excluded the pop hit, “Beauty’s Only Skin Deep” from this collection, a song that I always felt was way too cute for this group. This is a much stronger piece, with exceptionally strong background vocals, a tight horn section and rock guitar sharpening the groove. The one benefit of the move away from Smokey Robinson as producer was that it allowed The Temptations to move into harder, rougher territory, where they could display their full range of vocal talent.

“You’re My Everything”: Eddie Kendricks is in fine voice indeed, but this is a cliché-filled love song drowned in string syrup, not interesting in and of itself but much more so in the larger context. A tragic backstory begins here: staff writer Roger Penzabene wrote these words to express his love for his allegedly wonderful wife. As things turned out, his wife was cheating on him, the bitch. When I hear the happiness in Roger’s lyrics—as cliché as they may be—I get very angry about that. No one deserves to suffer from that kind of deception. Roger may not have been able to achieve originality here, but there is no doubt he felt happy and genuinely lucky to have found his true life partner. The next song continues the thread.

“I Wish It Would Rain”: Roger Penzabene now saw romance through a darker, cloudier lens. What he writes here expresses genuine pain and defeat, transforming the words to “You’re My Everything” into the wishful thinking they turned out to be. Sadly, Penzabene would commit suicide a few months later. David Ruffin delivers one of his most sensitive vocals, expressing sadness, confusion, isolation and the terrible loss of self and other that comes with a shocking end to a relationship. The backing group is equally sensitive with their vocal approach: subdued, soulful and empathetic, supporting the grief in Ruffin’s tone. The difference in the quality of the lyrics seems to be a human tendency: it’s much harder to write convincingly of happiness than sadness. Shakespeare’s tragedies are much more memorable than his comedies. As a twinned pair, “You’re My Everything” and “I Wish It Would Rain” form a moving statement about human relationships. I wish it had only been art instead of real life.

“Cloud Nine”: In one fell swoop, The Temptations swap David Ruffin for Dennis Edwards, change their sound from string-laden soul to Sly Stone psychedelic, and introduce socially conscious lyrics to the mix. There was no question that Ruffin had to go with his oversized ego demanding Diana Ross-type billing and his reliability in question. Dennis Edwards had been courted by The Temptations for about a year before the change was made, and this turned out to be a wise approach and an excellent choice. As good as David Ruffin could be, Dennis Edwards added a power and range better suited for the group’s edgier new direction. The guy who really shines on this track is Paul Williams, who belts out the verse about the shiftless, abusive father with genuine indignation. The song frigging rocks, thanks to a combination of The Temptations’ collective ability to get into the groove of the song and the sheer musicianship of The Funk Brothers. James Jamerson’s bass runs sound like the work of an accomplished jazz musician, which he was (as were many of The Funk Brothers). The Temptations claimed that the song is not about drug addiction, but Barrett Strong’s lyrics lead the objective observer to no other conclusion:

It was a one-room shack
That slept ten other children beside me
We hardly had enough food
Or room to sleep

It was hard times
I needed somethin’ to ease my troubled mind

After this song, The Temptations went into a weird hibernation, doing a Christmas single and peeling off group members for duets with Diana. When they regrouped, they came back with a vengeance.

“I Can’t Get Next to You”: Wanna fuck me? See instructions above.

P. S. Dennis Williams is irreplaceable on this song. David Ruffin simply didn’t have the power to do this number justice. And I was thrilled to learn that this most erotic song made it all the way to #1—and the fact that it knocked “Sugar, Sugar” out of the top makes it that much . . . sweeter.

“Ball of Confusion”: Dear Compilers of The Definitive Collection: Where the fuck is “Psychedelic Shack?” The song has historical significance both as a period piece and one of the first hits to rely on sampling technology! Harrumph! “Ball of Confusion” isn’t so much a protest song as a long list of all the shit that was going on in the world back then, including good stuff like “The Beatles’ new record’s a gas” (terrible timing, as they’d just broken up). It sounds like the people of the 1970’s were feeling terribly overwhelmed and that big problems that seemed solvable only a few years before now seemed like one big ball of crap. The Temptations give an energetic performance mirroring the frantic anxiety of the time, but the song is a little tiresome to people of the future who are dealing with the same old shit coming at us one hundred times faster.

“Just My Imagination (Running Away from Me)”: After four pretty intense singles, it was time to dial it down a bit, and this was the perfect song for that mood. The opening has a Brook Benton feel to it: laid back and smooth. From the first gorgeous set of harmonies on the “ooh,” you get the message that this is a song about beautiful voices coming together in song, and that’s exactly how things turn out. Eddie Kendricks never sang as beautifully and The Temptations never harmonized as sweetly. The cascading harmonies on the “I” in the “I can visualize . . . ” line are particularly special. Giving Paul Williams a solo line for the last time was another brilliant move. People have called this a throwback song reminiscent of their earlier days, but I hear a great deal more sophistication and clarity in the vocal arrangement. Wherever it belongs, it belongs: “Just My Imagination” is a thing of beauty that will last forever.

“Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”: After another long period of turbulence that saw both Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams exit the stage, The Temptations come back with an unusual long-form funk/soul song that proved to be both highly popular and heavily influential. Much of the credit goes to producer Norman Whitfield, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and The Funk Brothers for creating the instrumental passages that dominate the song and supply The Temptations with a rich sonic texture to blend their vocal talents. This is the “short” seven-minute single version as opposed to the original twelve-minute opus, and I really wish the compilers would have included the original because it is a much more satisfying composition. Whitfield must have realized this was his crowning jewel, for he pushed the group hard during the recording process, an act of assholity that led to his dismissal. The lyrics are a greater expansion of the issue of the African-American father first mentioned on “Cloud Nine,” and in this case, the man is just a myth to the narrator, who never saw his father alive. In terms of capturing both the loss and confusion of the abandoned child and exposing the greater social problem, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” is a moving and brilliant work.

“Shakey Ground”: The compilers sacrificed “Masterpiece” for this song from 1975, perhaps to show that The Temptations were running out of steam. Their last Top 30 hit of the decade, coming out almost three years after “Papa,” is not one of their best efforts: a tired funk number without the discipline and quality of their other numbers.

“Treat Her Like a Lady”: Fast-forward to 1984! Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin still survive from the classic lineup, but the rest of the crew joined at various times in the early 80’s. Opening with a cappella harmonies on the title line, the song opens up to a typically overproduced 8o’s funk beat—a little bit of disco and a whole lot of engineering. The song protests the notion that chivalry is dead and that feminism has imposed too many artificial limits on guys just wanting to be nice to their ladies. Hmm. We’ll see about that! Here’s a line-by-line, blow-by-blow commentary on the suggestions for post-feminist etiquette:

Now I like openin’ doors (Why wouldn’t you do that for anyone, regardless of gender? It’s a nice thing to do, especially when someone’s struggling with a cup of coffee, an iPhone, a briefcase and a croissant!)
Pickin’ up her hanky off the floor (Yuck! What if she’s just blown her nose into that hanky? Wait—does anyone still use hankies?)
Light her cigarette if she smokes (I always have my submissives light my cigarettes, male or female. It’s a natural erotic moment with special meaning. The submissives light their own. This is like, “duh” to me.)
Even (Help her with her coat) (Again, that’s a nice thing to do, period. Are you afraid that if you helped a man with a bulky coat you would become a homosexual? Or that the coat-wearer would turn impotent?)
In this world of liberation/It’s so easy to forget/That it’s so nice to have a man around/To lend a helping hand (A debatable point. Penises can be handy, I admit, but I can outshine any handyman on earth. I don’t drive anymore, so I don’t need my oil changed. I’m trained in the martial arts, so I don’t need a man to protect me. What else ya got?)

“Stay”: Now it’s 1998 and only Otis Williams survives. I had no idea The Temptations did anything in the 90’s, but I was very relieved that this was not another cover of Maurice Williams. It is a copy of “My Girl,” right down to the bass part and the guitar riff. It sounds like a Temptations cover band that you might see in Vegas.

Last three songs aside, the experience of listening to The Definitive Collection was both pleasurable and revelatory: I knew The Temptations were good, but I don’t think I appreciated how good they really were. I have a passion for groups that change and grow while adhering to high standards, and The Temptations certainly feed that passion: they were superb at ballads, superb at hard soul, superb at funk. Most of all, they blended diverse talents into vocal performances par excellence.

Okay, I’m now waiting to give you the hump of your life. When are you going to get here? What? What do you mean you’re lost? I gave you directions!

Patsy Cline – The Definitive Collection – Classic Music Review

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One of the most beautiful and expressive voices of the century. Click to buy.

Patsy Cline was my kind of woman.

In the pre-feminist 50’s and early 60’s, when a woman’s career path was pretty much limited to the kitchen and the nursery, Patsy Cline forged a career through a combination of sheer talent and brazen assertiveness. She didn’t wait around for someone to discover her: she went to a local DJ and asked if she could sing on his show. Her first husband wanted her to stay home and raise a family—she said, “See ya, Hoss!” Even before she’d made the big time, she negotiated for creative control of her music, and while she made a few compromises along the way, she was always able to make her case. She didn’t wait for the Grand Ole Opry to call her—she called them and asked to join the cast. She absolutely refused to let concert promoters screw her or her fellow musicians out of their performing fees, a common occurrence at the time. “No dough, no show!” became kind of a motto for her. During her peak years, they stopped introducing her in traditional sexist fashion as “Pretty Miss Patsy Cline” but as “The One and Only.” Patsy simply didn’t fit the mold—she liked to hang out with the guys, have a few beers and tell dirty jokes. As her music morphed into something more sophisticated than country, she dumped her cowgirl get-up and performed in satin gowns or skin-tight gold lame pants accompanied by spiked heels.

Dottie West said of her, “It was common knowledge around town that you didn’t mess with ‘The Cline!'”

In contrast to the tough image she cultivated, she was terribly generous with her time and money. She’d spend hours after concerts chatting it up with fans, and became a mentor to many young women who were trying to break into the country field. When involved in a head-on collision that nearly killed her, she insisted that the EMT’s treat the others first. Also in contrast to her strong woman persona, most of her material consisted of torch songs: women holding out hope that the man would come back or at least stop screwing around. Whether that was empathy for the women in her fan base or capitalizing on her natural affinity with the style, it is a curious twist in the life story of a woman who didn’t take shit from anyone.

Sometimes her stubbornness got in the way of her potential. She resisted doing some of the songs that turned out to be her biggest hits because they wandered outside the parameters of country music. The timbre of her contralto voice contrasted mightily with the thin twang of most of the female country singers of the era and gave her a golden opportunity to extend her range into jazz and blues, but she only dipped a toe into those waters. Had she chosen to expand her repertoire, she might have prevented country music from getting stuck in a musical cul-de-sac by opening the field to new influences.

We’ll never know, as she died in a plane crash at the age of thirty.

The Definitive Collection is probably the best of many compilation albums summarizing her too-short career. What’s quite noticeable in all of her recordings is that the other musicians on the record are in deep background. The mixes and arrangements all focus on the star of the show. Given the strength of her personality, I doubt that any mix or arrangement could have contained her. Patsy Cline was a presence, and one of the greatest female vocalists in any genre of popular music.

“Walkin’ After Midnight”: Originally written for jazz-pop singer Kay Starr but rejected by her label, the song languished in nowheresville for a couple of years before one half of the songwriting team wound up working for the record company that had just signed a promising singer named Patsy Cline. Four Star Records wanted her to record “Walkin’ After Midnight,” but Patsy demurred. At this time Patsy had recorded several country and honky-tonk songs that had done next to nothing, but despite having no chips on her side of the table, she held her ground, refusing to do the song unless they allowed her to do another that she thought was more her style. They wisely decided not to throw her spunky little ass out on the street and agreed to her terms. Later she successfully auditioned for a shot on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts in January 1957, planning to sing the song she favored. The producers preferred “Walkin’ After Midnight,” and this time Patsy had to fold. Good thing she did—her performance caused the applause-o-meter to hit its peak and “Walkin’ After Midnight” was released to general acclaim, going all the way to #2 on the charts.

Artists can be awfully stubborn, even to the point of self-destruction, but Patsy’s stubbornness here is curious. The song isn’t that big of a leap from the country tunes she was doing and it’s absolutely perfect for her rich, folksy voice. Her phrasing is dead-on perfect, her articulation exquisitely balanced between clarity and feel, and that little growl that leads into the belt-out in the last verse is one of those wonderful little touches that make all the difference in music. Her feel for the blue notes gives her honeyed voice a depth and texture that commands your attention and thrills you with delight. Patsy Cline is one of the few great singers with exceptional talent whose talent doesn’t create distance between her and the listener; while her vocal talents are awe-inspiring, she still comes across as one of us. You can fall in love with her music and never have to worry that she’s gonna get too big for her britches.

“A Poor Man’s Roses (Or a Rich Man’s Gold)”: This is the song Patsy won the right to sing in her negotiations with Four Star over “Walkin’ After Midnight.” It’s not a bad song or a poor performance but it is somewhat contrived and lacks the groove and natural flow of  “Walkin’ After Midnight.” On this song, Patsy was trying to be a singer; on “Walkin’ After Midnight,” she could just relax and let her voice work its magic. Capiche?

“Lovesick Blues”: This remake of the Hank Williams yodeling classic is not one of Patsy’s shining moments. The arrangement is all wrong: the tempo is almost frenetic, the instrumentation is more beach party than hillbilly. Technically she does a nice job with the yodeling in terms of glides and pitch, but the song is moving so fast you don’t really have time to appreciate it. As an aficionado of the yodel, I believe that a yodel must be savored like fine wine, slowly and deliberately. To truly appreciate the craft, you have to allow the yodeler time to drawl multiple permutations of each vowel. Patsy’s yodels approximate the experience of guzzling or—(gag)—chugging down a bottle of Boone’s Farm rather than sipping the luxurious overtones of a fine vin noir from Cahors.

We can give Patsy a pass because at this point she was still with Four Star Records, a subsidiary of a subsidiary that failed to capitalize on the success of “Walkin’ After Midnight” and severely restricted her musical options. She dumped them for Decca as soon as she could, and though this track was released by Decca, “Lovesick Blues” was actually from her last recording session with Four Star. The transfer to the major label hooked her up with the best producer in Nashville, Owen Bradley, and from this point, her career would really take off.

“I Fall to Pieces”: Her first great torch song from Decca is a slightly up-tempo shuffle that became her first #1 hit in 1961. At first, Patsy asked Bradley if she could record the song, then when she discovered he wanted more of a pop sensibility and The Jordanaires as her backup vocalists, she fought against it with teeth bared. Patsy thought her talents were more suited to honky-tonk country tunes that allowed her to growl and yodel. After reducing the men in the studio to tears on the fourth take, she had an epiphany and realized that the song and the style were tailor-made for her. What’s wonderful about her vocal here is her restraint; she never forgets she’s playing the part of a woman falling to pieces over a breakup and avoids the temptation presented by the melodic pattern to overdo it. She sounds like a woman who has cried herself out rather than one who is about to unload (and ruin the song in the process).

“True Love”: A Cole Porter number popularized in the movie High Society by the unlikely pair of Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly, this proved to be a great choice for Patsy’s talents. Several other artists of the day recorded this waltz, but I think it was more important for Patsy to do this song and flex her skills outside of the genre. Her version is warm nectar without a hint of sappiness; there’s almost a sacred feel to her interpretation, particularly when she hums the melody oh so sweetly. I love her interpretation simply for the opportunity to hear the beauty of her voice.

“San Antonio Rose”: Well, she liked to dress in cowgirl duds early in her career, so I guess she had to find something to go with the outfit. The signature song of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, I’m sure this made the people at the Grand Ole Opry very happy. What’s remarkable here is that Patsy could have turned this into more of a growler but instead delivers the song in the richer tones of her torch songs, giving us another chance to delight in her voice.

“Crazy”: Once again, Patsy’s first reaction to one of her most famous numbers was negative: she hated this Willie Nelson number with a passion. After Owen Bradley took what was originally a spoken word number and refashioned it into a melodic ballad, Patsy was willing to give it a go, but ran into a snag. A few months before, she had been involved in a serious car accident that put her in the hospital for two months and when she tried the song she couldn’t comfortably hit the high notes because she her broken ribs hadn’t fully healed. Once they gave her some time to recover, she nailed it in one take. This is a perfect song for Patsy Cline, a country song with a touch of jazz and a hint of blues with strong vertical melodic movement and a nice, slow tempo to allow Patsy to relax and let her voice ease into place. Her almost poetic enunciation of the “w” sounds on the bridge (worry, wondrin’, why, what) are entrancing, and I melt every time I hear that moaning “oh” between the bridge and the third verse. I wish I could have found a film of her performing “Crazy” at the Opry on crutches, but this will have to do:

“Strange”: A curious little number with a Latin beat and arpeggiated guitar chords, Patsy seems entirely comfortable with her new persona, but the song is, well . . . a bit strange.

“She’s Got You”: This is one of the few times Patsy and Owen Bradley would agree from the get-go that a song was destined for the top of the charts. Hank Cochran wrote many hits for the country stars of the day and the story is he called Patsy and told her he’d written her next #1 hit. Patsy must have been feeling right neighborly that night and invited Hank to bring the song and a bottle of booze and play it for her and Dottie West. She recorded it at her next session and yes, it made it to number one with lighting speed.

The story is told from the dumped woman’s perspective as she looks at her ex’s picture and the “little things” she has, while expressing slightly-repressed bitterness towards the woman who stole her man:

I’ve got the records that we used to share
And they still sound the same as when you were here
The only thing different, the only thing new
I’ve got the records, she’s got you

Patsy begins in the lower part of her register, moving up rather quickly to mid-range and then back to the lower notes for the clincher lines. Patsy develops her excellent sense of phrasing even further on this song, going almost conversational in the bridge in the line, “I’ve got your memory . . .  or . . . has it got me?” We’re hearing Patsy at her peak now, comfortable in her own skin and in full command of her material.

“Heartaches”: Although technically still a lost-love number, this old standard doesn’t really fit the category of torch song because of its quicker tempo and snappier feel. The song itself dates back to the 1930’s and was more popular because of the whistling in the Ted Weems number than the words. Around the time Patsy recorded it, The Marcels had resurrected it just like they’d resurrected “Blue Moon.” Even though the words are all about heartaches, Patsy sounds almost gleeful by the end of the number, making you wish she would have added some more cheerful songs to her repertoire . . . until you hear the cheerful song in this collection.

“Half as Much”: Hank Williams popularized this ditty about an imbalanced relationship, and it was perfect for Patsy and the album Sentimentally Yours, primarily a set of interpretations of standards designed to solidify her status in the pop market. Opening with a harmonica in the campfire-on-the-prairie style, the song pretty much tracks Hank’s version except for one big difference: the singer. Hank’s version is more plaintive and emotional; Patsy’s is almost detached in comparison. What gives Patsy’s version an edge is a combination of her ability to get more out of the melody and her one-of-a-kind phrasing skills. Hank’s version is more earthy; Patsy’s more sophisticated. While you wind up feeling sorry for Hank, Patsy’s rendition expresses more regret than failure. Both versions are classics and should be a part of every Music Appreciation 101 curriculum, in the section on “song interpretation.”

“When I Get Through with You”: Girls named Sue must have left the 60’s with horrible self-esteem problems. Dion more than implied that Sue was a slut; Johnny Cash poked fun at a primitive gender-bender named Sue. Here Sue is the evil competition for a young stud’s attention. This is one song where I think Owen Bradley’s drive to crossover into pop went too far; the song is more Lesley Gore than Patsy Cline. Françoise Hardy gave the song a French twist during her “ye-ye” years with “Quel mal y a-t-il à ça?” which literally translates, “What Harm Is There in That?” Edge to Mme. Hardy.

“Imagine That”: Ah, back to the twangy guitars, tinkly pianos and deep strings of the early 60’s Nashville Sound. Patsy goes further down the conversational phrasing route on this track, giving her performance more of a “you are there” feeling, especially when she introduces the natural stuttering we all do when the words want to come out before our brains have wired the instructions to our vocal apparatus. The laugh at the end of the song is both sincere and not a little jarring, but it gives you some idea of where Patsy might have taken her music had she lived longer . . . more in the direction of Peggy Lee than Kitty Wells.

“So Wrong”: Here the torch is passed to the object of the song and Patsy is filled with remorse and regret that she dumped him. Full of conversational touches and glorious glides, the crescendo is a masterpiece of rising emotion ending in the always hesitant admission of fault. Although written by Mel Tillis, Carl Perkins and Danny Dill, the arrangement is clearly Manhattan, providing another hint of Patsy’s potential.

“Why Can’t He Be You”: Hank Cochran gives Patsy the chance to explore the concept of settling for the nice guy who loves you while holding out for the one who twiddles your diddle but doesn’t respond to your feminine wiles. I love the way Patsy takes a good long pause on the line “He’s not the one who dominates . . . my mind and soul,” implying that the those stiletto heels she had might have been meant for activities that took place off-stage. She then admits that “his kisses leave me cold,” further affirming that the delights of sexual pleasure are much more compelling than flowers and candy. My take is that her current flame may be a nice guy but there ain’t no way a nice guy is going to earn the devotion of a woman as strong as Patsy Cline. Biased personal interpretation aside, this is one of my favorites on the album.

“Leavin’ on Your Mind“: The arrangements rarely differ on Patsy’s torch songs and you know what? It doesn’t fucking matter. You’re there for the voice, not the stuff going on in the background. Here Patsy’s dealing with a guy who’s keeping another woman on the side, so she confronts him about it. When Patsy sings, “hurt me now, get it over,” her voice sounds tired of the game, but she’s obviously still playing it because she is tossing a little guilt his way. She finally lets it go in the last line, and her power and sense of injustice is astonishing. Patsy Cline could capture emotions as well as any singer who ever lived, and she nails the complex and contradictory feelings that go with a relationship where jealousy and desire are in perpetual conflict. Sadly, this would be the last single released before she died.

“When You Need a Laugh”: Hank Cochran must have been Patsy’s soul mate, because the songs he wrote for her are eerily perfect. Here Patsy takes it a step further, shifting to bitter passive-aggressiveness in response to becoming something of a joke to the man in question. The humiliation is obviously strongly felt, and when she sings, “So even if the laugh’s on me, I don’t mind at all,” you know she’s lying through her teeth. This song has not received the attention it deserves, as I think it’s one Patsy Cline’s smoothest and strongest vocals, and her interpretation incorporates deep insight into the psychology of women with abysmal self-esteem. I find “When You Need to Laugh” one of the most moving songs in her catalog.

“Back in Baby’s Arms”: If you want to know why they kept feeding Patsy torch songs, this happy little number will explain it all. The over-the-top arrangement doesn’t work and Patsy sounds almost superficial in contrast to her work on “When You Need a Laugh.” I think Patsy would have benefitted from some more upbeat songs in her catalog, but this is not what I had in mind.

“Faded Love”: This old western tune is another interpretation of a Wills number, and for the first time on this record, I think Patsy goes over the top with her performance. The song simply can’t bear that much drama; it’s a fucking cowboy song, for chrissakes!

“Always”: Now we reach back into the Irving Berlin catalog for a song covered by everyone from Guy Lombardo to Phil Collins. I haven’t heard all the interpretations, but I’m sure that Patsy’s interpretation would rank near the top. Her vocal is both touching and sensitive; her timbre is smooth, rich and sophisticated. This is more of a pure and positive love song, and lo and behold, she excels at it. “Always” demonstrates that she could have easily crossed over into jazz standards if she had lived longer and chosen to do so.

“He Called Me Baby”: Released posthumously, this is one of Patsy’s more daring songs, as the subject deals with a woman who allowed herself to succumb to seduction and now finds herself abandoned and alone. “He called me baby, baby, baby all night long” is the refrain, modified at the end of the verses to a phrase that she now only hears in her dreams. Patsy’s performance is exceptional, especially when she allows herself to mock the man’s voice and tone as he fills her ears with “baby, baby, baby.” You can hear the emotional struggle so clearly—the pathetic clinging to the belief that he really meant all those sweet-nothings. If nothing else, the last two tracks on this collection indicate that Patsy Cline was hitting on all cylinders when tragedy struck.

“Sweet Dreams (Of You)”: The perfect close to a near-perfect album, “Sweet Dreams” is as much a signature song for her as “Walkin’ After Midnight” or “I Fall to Pieces.” Patsy rarely sung with more sustained power; the vacillation between love and hate in the text is dramatically expressed in her voice, as is the sense of exhaustion from the struggle that burns in her heart. The only other version I’ve heard that comes close to matching the emotional intensity of Patsy’s interpretation is Roy Buchanan’s guitar masterpiece. While it’s tempting to believe that she let it all out in what she foresaw would be one of her last recordings, I’d rather listen to “Sweet Dreams” as another indication that Patsy Cline went out on top.

It’s unnerving for me to realize that I have already outlived Patsy Cline by two years. I look at my future and see all kinds of possibilities, in complete denial that one day my plane might go down or a chance meeting with a lunatic could result in my death or that I might wind up with a rare and incurable disease. I embrace that denial, because I firmly believe that you have to live life without regard to its inevitable end or you won’t live life at all. Patsy Cline lived life to its fullest and left behind a catalog that will enchant people for centuries, proving that you don’t have to live that long to make a difference in people’s lives if you give it your all.

Still, I really wish Patsy Cline had lived to a ripe old age. As an old lady, she would have been a hoot!

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