Monday, December 26, 2005

music retro

Over the holiday I had a splurch of nostalgia, as sometimes happens when I'm in my hometown. This manifested itself in, of all strange things, an album someone gave me: Alfie Zappacosta's debut album from 1984. At the time I'd never heard of the guy by name or music, so it's not something I would have bought for myself. It turned out pretty good, and I listened to it a lot! My singing range was close to his, too. Being something of a Luddite, or at least unwilling to give up old technologies, I still have a record player, and put it on to spin.

It was kind of fun and funny to see the changes in my musical taste. From my present level of musical sophistication, the quality of playing is pretty good, not the best. Zappacosta's range was good, and had a pleasing richness, but was slightly unstudied, occasionally sliding into a note rather than striking it perfectly the first time. The melodies, however, remain fresh and interesting despite a slight tendency to repeat similar cadences across songs.

The lyrics are, well, quite inane. It's definitely eighties stuff, self-absorbed, I'm-sexy-hot-shit (which worked quite well for the teenage me, thank you.) I cannot think of any lyrics that use the word "I" so much, and it's apparent that forming a rhyme was more important than saying something sensible. Exceptions to this are "Can't Let Go" (straightforward story), "Passion" (straightforward attitude) and, if you view it as dryly humorous rather than earnest, "Start Again."

A little websearch on this guy turns up a career of modest fame and the hiring of so-so web designers who didn't bother proofreading his lyrics. He's had some health problems and his appearance is not aging gracefully. I listened to one of the MP3s and it seems like his voice has lost its old power. Nonetheless, he's remained employed, still singing, and acting on both stage and screen – something that cannot be done without sufficient talent (or, for creations, a lot of backing).

My favorite band, I admit without embarrassment, is Toto. They've always been session musicians: their employment depends on delivering precision sound and understanding music on many different levels. They've had good singers, though I personally think their choice of voice range tends to be too high (meaning both I can't do it, and it's not always what I want to hear.) I prefer hearing Paich or Lukather first; then Bobby Kimball, Joseph Williams, and Fergie Fredricksen in that order. Over the years they have changed, been experimental, played with other musicians' signature sounds. They have their winners and losers, but far more of the former than the latter. Listening to them spoils me. Same thing goes for Jean-luc Ponty.

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