I don’t often write these kind of basic, “snippet of my life” posts but I’m feeling kind of inspired to do so today so why not. The following are Youtube links to the five hottest songs on the Monzón Billboard 100.
As you’ll be able to tell, most of the songs here are instrumental tracks, usually covers of classical or pop songs rendered in a jazzy or fusion-ish taste. I’ve been in love with music like this since hearing Bob James’ “Angela”, which was the theme to a cheesy 70s sitcom called Taxi. To this day I’m not sure what compelled me to stick around for the rest of the genre, but I know for a fact that I like the music.
Why? Because when I listen to the horns blare, the strings ride, the saxophones blow and the piano play, I become genuinely excited by the ups and downs of the music, as if the instruments had a human voice of their own and were guiding me through their own emotional rollercoaster – just as songs with lyrics do. Call it weird, call it old fashioned – at the end of the day, it’s a big part of who I am.
5. “Pavane for a Dead Princess” by Deodato on Deodato 2, 1973
I discovered Brazilian artist Eumir Deodato around 2013 I believe, when I first listened to his milestone albums Prelude and Deodato 2 aboard a bus ride to Tallahassee, FL for a journalism camp at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University. One of my favorite cuts at the time was Skyscrapers, a guitar-heavy fusion-funk fest. But lately I’ve been replaying his rendition of Maurice Revel’s “Pavane for A Dead Princess.” Allmusic calls it a boring rendition, and while it certainly doesn’t match the energy of the rest of the album, it was clearly done on purpose – the strings are simply so majestic in this song, and I look forward to the opportunity to use this cut in a trailer or documentary film sometime in my life. That eerie beginning just adds to the atmosphere.
4. “Nostalgia” by Gato Barbieri on Ruby, Ruby, 1977
This is an artist and cut I discovered by way of Youtube recommendations, which are incredibly consistent with the “weird” stuff that I’m into. Gato Barbieri passed away just last year in New York, having traveled all the way from Argentina and throughout South America and beyond as he distributed his image of a fiery and impassioned saxophonist specializing in jazz, fusion and world music/Latin jazz. This cut is, as the name indicates, the subject of a nostalgic feel, with the saxophone work warmly reminding you of good times past and the strings adding to the grandeur of it all. I’ve already cheated, by the way, and used this in the trailer for my latest documentary film, “Sasha and The Cat.” I just couldn’t resist!
3. “Family Business” by Kanye West on The College Dropout, 2004
My ex-girlfriend actually showed me this song sometime in 2016, and I fell in love with it as soon as I heard it. Yes it’s a rap song, but first and foremost, it’s actually not about pussy or bling or getting back at your haters! Instead, it’s a warm portrait of a healthily dysfunctional family that’s just trying to have dinner together for a special occassion, with Kanye eschewing the importance of fancy things like diamond rings in favor of more wholesome reality like sleeping with five other cousins in the same bed and whipping out the family memory book. It appeals to love and unison and being accepted, all concepts I’m fascinated by and on the everlasting pursuit of. Needless to say, it sounds good too!
2. “Soledad” by Las Sabrosas Zariguellas on Las Sabrosas Zariguellas, 1995
In case you forgot or didn’t know, I was born in Argentina in 1994 before I immigrated into the United States with my mom and dad in March of 2001. Needless to say, my parents brought a lot of Argentinean music CDs with them on the plane, and one of those albums was Las Sabrosas Zariguellas, which is also the name of the group behind the effort, a mostly poppy and invitingly folkloric group whose cut, “Soledad”, talks about getting back up on your feet even when things don’t go your way. It’s a moving song both in rhythm and lyricism, making it one of my favorites when it comes to Spanish music. It also feels right at home in 2014 despite having been recorded more than twenty years ago.
1. “What’s Going On” by Quincy Jones on Smackwater Jack, 1971
I’d always heard of Quincy Jones as a producer that had worked with the biggest names in music, including none other than the King of Pop himself. But I had no idea he’d made a slew of fantastic jazz albums characterized by high production value and an immaculate understanding of music. I was blown away by his cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, which expands on the original considerably by adding fantastic string and brass work and making the song feel bigger and even more important than the lyrics would have you believe. It’s a fantastic rendition that feels anything but long even with its nearly 10-minute runtime. I think it’s going to be a personal favorite for years, just like Bob James’ “Angela” is to this day.