Putting it together
We sought out songs with ‘good bones’. We tried to look beyond the original treatments to check for great tunes and interesting stories. Then, we let each song speak for itself with simple arrangements using just voice and Simon’s beautiful full sized grand piano, enhanced here and there with sounds from his magic box of electronic tricks.
Sometimes we stayed reasonably close to the original pop arrangement and simply performed it with the quite different point of view that time brings.
That worked well for many songs. For example, Neil Sedaka’s ‘Laughter in the Rain’, a song of young love, has quite a different resonance sung from the perspective of looking back.
In other cases, the passage of time has done the work for us, giving relatively ‘straight’ interpretations new meanings.
The introduction to ‘Aquarius’, once a clarion call to peace and love, now seems just poignant. As does the whole idea of going to San Francisco with flowers in your hair.
Similarly, singing about ‘The times they are a-changing’ when you’re my age has extra meaning. (Although that is one of the songs we did a little more to, by changing the time signature from ¾ waltz time to straight up and down 4/4).
Actually quite a number of the songs were given more radical surgery. Generally that involved stripping away the dance beats and other embellishments that were required for commercial success at the time. to reveal the song underneath.
A great example is ‘I Who Have Nothing’. That’s normally associated with vocal histrionics and overblown orchestral backings. As a young man I used to perform it that way myself. But behind all that is a very simple, plaintive song of unrequited love waiting to be released.
‘Bus Stop’, originally filled with jangling guitars and close Hollies’ harmonies is another beautiful gem that has benefitted from a ‘less is more’ approach. Underneath, it’s a gentle song with echoes of the English folk idiom.
And ‘My Eyes Adored You’, masquerading as a Vegas-style pop ballad, is actually a charming little love story.
It was all a matter of letting go and letting the songs speak for themselves.