Sick Sundries

While home sick yesterday, I watched three movies: The Secret Window (disappointing; Johnny Depp and John Turturro are always fun to watch, but the script was just kinda . . . ehhhh), Live Forever (pretty good documentary about BritPop in the ’90s, a musical movement that does virtually nothing for me, but was actually made kind of engaging when put in local context via this film) and When We Were Kings, which I’ve watched before.

It’s one of my all-time fave documentaries, about “The Rumble in the Jungle” between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. It’s always amazing to me to be reminded and remember that a professional fight could have seemed (and been) so important to so many people once upon a time. And it’s always amazing to me that a professional fighter could have once been a leader and a philosopher and an entertainer, as Ali was. I can actively remember most of the heavy weight title fights of the ’70s . . . I’m sure lots of those guys were thugs, sure, but somehow the sport still seemed a bit more noble than it does today, when sociopathic killing machines of the Mike Tyson model are unleashed on each other, fighting for one of half-a-dozen belts that don’t mean anything to the general public anymore.

When We Were Kings also had some concert footage by (among others) James Brown, Miriam Makeba and the Spinners. I hadn’t heard the Spinners in ages, and they sounded darn good . . . so I had to do some online shopping to pick up some of their best tunes, and that got me going on all sorts of other classic vocal soul pieces, so I’ve been having a sweet day listening to a mix CD filled with the likes of the Spinners and the Temptations and the Four Tops and the Manhattans and Al Green and Marvin Gaye and the O’Jays and lots of others from the days of my youth. Nostalgia’s nice, sometimes.

While the melodies of all those songs are imminently familiar, I was struck as I listened to them at how rich so many of their arrangements were. That’s probably a lost art in the era of ProTools and loops and sampling, the ability to figure out which of 30 some odd orchestral instruments would add just the right flavor to the little gem you were crafting. It’s interesting to listen to differences between Motown and Philly production styles, between things that Marvin Gaye meticulously arranged and performed himself and things that you know were banged out in an afternoon, along with a dozen other similar pieces, no one knowing at the time that one of them was gonna bit a big, big hit that “everyone” would remember decades later.

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