Saturday, September 19, 2015

'A Song Of Love Grows Up'

P.C. Lynch and P.C Steele, Z Cars January 1962
Remember that old BBC tv series Z Cars (1962-1978)? Well I do..barely. A long running police drama series it's early years have gone down in folklore because it was broadcast live. That's right, a whole hour of live drama with filmed exterior inserts in front of over 20 million viewers. The reason for this edge of your seat stuff was the live feel would add tension and urgency to what was (for it's time) a gritty and realistic drama. Mistakes were made, but those were to be expected. The biggest challenge of course getting away with those inaccuracies. It's later years when it was telerecorded and then went into colour are generally considered to be the weaker relation. But that's where the urban myth is incorrect. Instead of what in some cases were stiff performances, in their place came a more relaxed, natural style of acting. Taking time to rehearse, work on it and produce a piece of art worthy of the talents involved. Overall a balance was struck during the entire run. But what didn't diminish was the power of the writing. Wherever the location, whatever the method, good writing will always shine though. Irrespective of the constraints of the method of delivery. Some material works better in some places, sometimes by design or sometimes by chance the right pace is revealed.

Inspector Lynch and Sgt. Quilly, Z Cars September 1978
Another one of those commonly held opinions is that Elton live surpasses the studio edition. Which is a feat in itself. Most artists once outside the comforts of the egg boxes on the walls are all at sea. I had Tumbleweed Connection on the other day. Certainly in my top 10, it's a great album. But every time it gets to Love Song it's as if my ears have taken a skip. Because it sounds as if it fell off another album. Which in a way it did. It's mood and feel are out of step with the old west rustic vibe that flows right through the album. Oddly recorded, it has a slightly twee, almost virginal tone. Tepid at best, you get the sense there is something hotter bubbling under the surface. Magma hot wants to say more, do more, express itself more. Cut loose and grow up.

Outside of the studio confines, it gains its freedom and matures. Quickly. In the space of four years it goes into adulthood without any of the pleasantness usually associated on the road to it. Royal Festival Hall 1974 is where it comes of age. Right in front of us. Becomes a fully paid up member of the adult club. Having to 'make do' with the tools on hand, the band at the height of their 70's power if you please, they do what and how they want. Taking Love Song to another level. A level not achieved on either TC or by Lesley on her own version. 

Elton's piano intro gives a brighter, tenser approach than the acoustic guitar. Davey on Lesley (speaker not singer) guitar underscores the edge, his strokes and strums gushing like torrents of flowy hot liquid. The slow burning intro perfectly gauged, catching the mood in a bottle. The song is completely rejigged, the once steady unbroken rhythm has been pedaled back. But what really leaps out is the vocals. Totally re interpreting the lyric, both singers inject their delivery with a mature soulful passion. In order for that to happen the lyric is re examined. The simmering lust and desire is awoken. Words rephrased, the clever change of emphasis at certain times pile strength upon strength as the song progresses. When Elton sings 'But There's No Other Way' you can hear the deep seated passion come to the fore, his sharp intake of breath as clear and strong a message as any word can muster. Sometimes it's what you don't hear that says more than what you can hear.

The vocal delivery is sexy and sultry with no hint of sleaze required or exhibited. Modern singers take note. No need to strip off or ham it up to get the sentiment across. The belief of the words and the reworking of the songs delivery makes Love Song 'grown up'. No mistake is evident in this stunning live delivery, nor was any made in the studio or in the writing. It's just a case of finding the right balance; the same leads with different support can find the right method and then put it across in a way that was never envisaged in the first place. This version was only performed once but that's all we need. You can only grow up once. Being there is often better than getting there.

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