Monday, July 7, 2008

Scotch And Soda x 4...Plus Later Additions

The slow, hot days of summer, indeed - no new posts in a few days. Well, the extreme heat wave here in Southern California has finally broken (only in the 90s today) - and maybe the creative/expressive logjam here vat Xroads will likewise be broken.

My contribution to the same is this little set of videos. Now - and I say this categorically - there is no single song of the 400 + recorded and performed by the Kingston Trio in its 51 years of existence that is as thoroughly and completely identified with the group than is "Scotch and Soda." Even "Tom Dooley," as I and others have noted here before, has its cadre of partisans who don't at all like the Trio's take on the Warner-Lomax-Profitt copyrighted version of the song and prefer the Grayson/Whitter original take on the number, the greatest living exponent of which is probably Doc Watson, who is from the same NC county as Thomas Dula and whose wife's grandmother knew Anne Melton's family.

But S&S is wholly owned by the Trio going back to the 1954 date that Guard had with Katie Seaver and that Shane doubled on when Mr. Seaver trotted out the old jazz/blues piano number that the elder Seavers had heard on their Phoenix honeymoon around 1930. For those who don't know it (am I repeating myself here?)...the full story is told elsewhere here on K3P, on Jerry Kergan's Liner Notes, and in KTOR.

That the song resonates through the decades is self-evident. Many hear have possibly not heard Nick Reynolds' commentary on the song that he delivered at every Fantasy Camp (the last five) that I've been to - hearing Nick tell the Luciano Pavarotti part is priceless. (Pavrotti and the Reynolds-Shane-Grove trio was performing in the 80s at a benefit for the SF Opera House. Shane always did S&S alone on stage, and Reynolds related that when he and Grove were in the wings, Pavrotti shushed his entourage, saying that he wanted to hear "what may be my favorite singer singing what may be my favorite song." I'd add that unlike Bob, Nick was not given to creative exagerration.) And while I think that Sinatra's ego was big enough (he did after all cover Shane on "It Was A Very Good Year" and "Love's Been Good To Me") not to be bothered at all by the brilliance of Shane's version, his reasons for not recording a song so perfectly suited for him done initially by a fellow Capitol Records' recording star are still obscure (the "I couldn't do it as well as Bob" being completely apocryphal and likely an inference from the fact that ol' Blue Eyes did not in fact record it).

But Frank's hesitance is clearly not shared by a wide variety of other singers, so - acknowledging that Bob at any and every point completely OWNS this song (except the copyright - sorry Bob! ) here are some other interesting versions currently out there.

Here is the original studio track, recorded in early February, 1958:

Next, Laurel Masse, an entrancing female vocalist from Manhattan Transfer, a fusion vocal group who were open and articulate about the influence the KT had on them:

R&B/pop superstar Lou Rawls with a very different take, completely his own:

Here's the full-on blues-sounding nightclub version done in the way you can imagine Sinatra doing it by vocalist-keyboardist Mary Davis:

For another completely different take - one of those many vocal groups from Yale, a capella and with another young lady on the lead:

And finally - and there are dozens more - a really fine street performance with a delightful guitar part:

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Bob can be more than flattered. And note - of these versions, only Mary Davis looks to be approximately of Bob's generation. Looking at those Yalies - Bob's song will be around for a long time yet to come, I think.

Appendix - 7/4/09 and 12/21/10

And two more - Bob Shane in 2007, age 73, sitting with KT mates John Stewart and Nick Reynolds in what would be the group's last joint appearance (Stewart died five months later, Reynolds thirteen) - demonstrating that he still has the chops after fifty years:

Bob at Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp in Scottsdale AZ, August 2010:

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