Sunday, February 15, 2004

About 7pm last night, eating bbq chicken nachos at a soulless corporate chain bar/restaurant (the kind that serves nachos exactly the way I like them), reading a magazine (The Believer, gets better every issue, swear to god), overhearing music piping in. Specifically, hearing a bassline--it seemed to honk, probably the cutting-thru-the-ambient-muck that made it that way, but it was essentially four notes heading downward, like a loop of someone descending a small stepladder after fixing a lightbulb. Sounded familiar but couldn't quite place it till I began noticing the voice on top of it: Van Morrison's. The song was "Into the Mystic," off Moondance, from 1970--a great album, an early favorite of mine if you can term a "favorite" a record you play a lot but never attach specific undying love to, meaning it's never been a particular emotional favorite though I'd never disagree with the idea that it's Morrison's best album, because it probably is. What struck me is that the vocal, drums (heavy on hi-hat), and b-line were all I could hear. No piano, no horns, no guitar, just the rock-solid basics, backing instruments, no melodic embellishment. It sounded fucking great, and especially as someone who's always resisted back-catalogue tampering like it was Ted Turner movie colorization, it made me wonder whether I wasn't perhaps a little hasty there. I mean, look at Panthalassa or the undubbed version of Al Green's "Love Ritual," or, a more recent example, the "pre-mix" bonus cuts on Captain Yaba's Yaba Funk Roots, a 1996 album that RetroAfric' reissued last year, whose final version is a solid, grooveful, highly polished evocation of Afrofunk-turning-Afrodisco only more modern and whose "pre-mixes" are RAW AS FUCK and shred mightily. Maybe someone oughta open the vaults and tamper some more. It might just be useless, like the countless Ibiza comps riddled with boom-boom-boom-boom versions of disco songs that didn't really need thicker bottoms to get your ass in gear. But maybe not.