My greatest joy in music comes from arranging and orchestration. Arranging is taking an existing song and coming up with a new approach to how it should be scored and performed. For those readers uncertain of what I mean, a great example of taking a song, turning it on its ear, and delivering a truly brilliant arrangement may be found in Earth Wind and Fire’s version of “Got to Get You into My Life.”
I’m always on the lookout for creative re-renderings, and one of my bandmates told me recently of a novel cover of The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.” I have to agree that this slowed-down, acoustic, and sparsely-produced recording by Lake Street Dive is terrific. BTW, you’ll notice that they keep the Wilton Felder bass line from the original version (and the bass line is one of the best parts of the song.)
Okay, raise your hand if you listened to this a second time (one, two,… yeah, lots of hands.)
While The Top Shelf may not perform this particular song on a given night, when you come out to see us perform you will hear novel arrangements of one or more songs, guaranteed.
The Top Shelf has a fun show coming up on February 7 at DROM called From Booker T to Beyoncé: 50 Years of Motown, Soul, and R&B. We will be performing songs that span five decades including songs from Booker T and the MGs and Beyoncé:
Widely popular in the 1960s, Booker T and the MGs were the Stax Records house band that played on hundreds of recordings by great soul artists including Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and Eddie Floyd. The group also released a number of instrumental albums under its own name and had a huge hit in 1962 with “Green Onions.”
They were also one of the first racially-integrated groups — and they were based in the Deep South!
Here’s a clip of the group performing in 1966 on the show Shindig! The clip starts with the group playing “My Babe” but then switches to “Green Onions”.
You’ll also note Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass. The original recording featured Lewie Steinberg on bass; Dunn took over in 1965.
The Top Shelf plans to perform our own take on this tune, but we’ll of course do our best to be true to the source material.
So, I was really looking forward to NOT writing any new arrangements and NOT transcribing any horn parts / rhythm parts for our upcoming performance at DROM on January 10.
Then I made the mistake of listening to Seal’s cover of “Knock on Wood” and I simply *had* to have it, as it were.
Realize that we already have an an arrangement of the song in our book that is faithful to Eddie Floyd’s recording — and I really like Eddie Floyd’s recording! — oh, and Wilson Pickett’s, too.
So, why add more to my workload? Because this version is both faithful to the idiom and at the same time fresh and playful.
In particular, keep an ear out for the following:
- The horn / snare “dat-at, dat-ats” starting around 0:51.
- The tension-creating bar of rest around 1:42.
- The chromatic 13th chords and syncopation in the brass around 1:58
- The Robert Palmer-like vocal harmonies at 2:06
- The horns from 2:30 to the end.