Monday, January 7, 2008
I used to get mostly CDs for Christmas. This year I got one - Young@Heart Chorus' "Mostly Live". Young@Heart are a senior's choir who perform songs by the Talking Heads, The Ramones, Sonic Youth and other contemporary acts of the last thirty years. It's a spotty record, with many of the tracks wearing out their welcome quickly, but some are excellent. Outkast's Hey Ya and Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side never overcome the novelty factor, but Radiohead's Fake Plastic Trees and Schizophrenia by Sonic Youth both succeed.
Because the initial hook is the unusual selection of material, the obvious choices seem particularly redundant. Every Breath You Take by the Police has been covered to death, and Johnny Cash already wrestled the bombast from U2's One. Should I Stay or Should I Go? (my least favorite Clash song anyway) is particularly unnecessary.
Surprisingly, the choices that go for pathos are best. Reedy elderly voices carefully enunciating lines like "I was dreaming of the past" or "yesterday doesn't matter if it's gone" is heartbreaking.
The record makes a good companion to "Innocence and Despair" by The Langley Schools Music Project, which was recorded in 1976 in a school gymnasium in British Columbia and released in 2001. The 60-voice elementary school choir recorded songs by the Beatles, David Bowie, and the Carpenters with a Shaggs-meet-Phil Spector approach to arrangement.
The highlight is a nine-year old girl singing the otherwise awful Desperado.