Friday, February 29, 2008

New Insight

Here I go again, exposing my irreverence. I'm sure, were I the kind of person to sell my darkest secrets on national television, that every American and Canadian would come to find and beat me senseless. Here it is: I just can NOT get into Neil Young's voice. He's revered and his song writing and lyrics are close to extraordinary. His vocals aren't as grating in an ensemble---CSNY is spectacular. Everyone who values rock and roll as a genuine musical gift in addition to its sweeping cultural impact needs to pay attention to CSNY.

Away from Her
In the recent round of Academy Awards, this movie produced a nomination in the Best Actress category for Ms. Christy. I queued it up on Netflix and watched it the other night. Christy was good but the movie really didn't hit its mark. Its a shame, too, because the story is a very poignant one. I don't think it was told well at all.

However. During one sequence, ever so faintly I heard what I thought must be Neil Young's Helpless but with a female vocalist, very different arrangement and instrumentation. Maybe k.d. lang? Wow. So I watch through the credits and, sure enough, that was k.d. lang singing SO beautifully and simply--aching. Honestly, I never listened to the lyrics of that song before because Young really gets on my nerves. But everyone recognizes the chorus and I have wondered what the song was about...the lyrics, then:


There is a town in north Ontario,
With dream comfort memory to spare,
And in my mind
I still need a place to go,
All my changes were there.

Blue, blue windows behind the stars,
Yellow moon on the rise,
Big birds flying across the sky,
Throwing shadows on our eyes.
Leave us

Helpless, helpless, helpless

Baby can you hear me now?
The chains are locked and tied across the door,
Baby, sing with me somehow.

Blue, blue windows behind the stars,
Yellow moon on the rise,
Big birds flying across the sky,
Throwing shadows on our eyes.
Leave us

Helpless, helpless, helpless


Stunning, don't you think? Heartbreaking, maybe. Man, I'd give up a great many things I love to be able to sing like that. I own, and LOVE, k.d. lang's Absolute Torch and Twang album. She went on to do other things that I found overdone and not likeable, really, so I've just really treasured T&T. I'd heard a teeny bit about the album that her cover of Helpless comes from (Hymns from the 49th Parallel) and she now has a new one that is being reviewed kindly by the critics. I was impressed enough with what I heard to plunk down music money that I'm guarding very carefully these days.

With the new season of American Idol and its constant criticism of "karoake-like" performances, many folks, like me and Special K, have been chatting about the distinction between a great rendition of an established song and a simple copy-cat performance. Timely it was, then, to stumble on this cover of Helpless. Lang's instrumentation is simple, as is CSNY's, but very different. And to my ear, much more lovely and reflective of the song's lyrics. I keep hitting the repeat button on this one.

Hope you enoy.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

is it just me or is that Stanley Tucci rocking the upright?