Saturday, October 23, 2010
Yearning, Just For You: Leon Redbone- Champagne Charlie (1978)
This has been in my record collection since childhood, and by God, it's never lost its sparkle. Champagne Charlie is a collection of early 20th century blues, jazz, and popular songs, recorded with remarkable taste (for 1978), and sung with a massively empathetic bullfrog croon by Mr. Redbone. Simply put, it's damn near impossible to find something to dislike about this recording, the songs being as eternally endearing as they are, the band's playing damn near perfect, and the sound quality simultaneously fresh and murky. An old noise yodeling and howling its way out of the deep past and into your Now.
Never less than mournful even at his most exuberant, Redbone veers between deep-hole depression blues and yearning romantical ditties, with plenty of droll, dry humor abounding. Of the former, "I Hate A Man Like You," cuts deep with its bracing directness, and "T.B. Blues" qualifies as the best song sung by a white man about T.B. since Van Morrison's "T.B. Sheets" (and Jimmie Rodger's original, of course).
"Alabama Jubilee," a dixieland jazz rave-up, is a real highlight, sounding like a slow-motion party on a Mississippi riverboat cruise, full of banjos, clarinets, and croaking multi-tracked vocals. Also a lot of fun is ""Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)," a comical ditty about the changes occurring in a town badass under the tyranny of marital bliss. But perhaps the finest song is "Sweet Sue," which features extended whistling and an interjection of sax-n-banjo raving before Redbone gets to the utterly mournful declaration of romantic devotion, a potent combination of impossibly deep love and impossibly deep sadness that works wonders on subsequent songs, such as "One Rose (That's Left in My Heart)" and "Yearning (Just For You)".
Perhaps what I'm getting at is that all the songs are good, here. Grab this record now, and get your gin fizz on to this Sweet Old Man Music.