If it’s Sinatra’s world and we just live in it, how come he didn’t take us with him when he died?

Posted: July 28, 2018 in music, Record reviews
Tags: , , ,

gang

Plenty of classical and jazz musicians have crossed over to rock ’n’ roll, but not many crooners. Where are the interpreters in the style of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett?

There’s a stream of jazz musicians interpreting rock today, and as for classical musicians, that stream is a Class 5 whitewater adventure. You can’t swing a sackbut in a concert hall without hitting yet another eager band of classical musicians who are ready to step up and throw down: 2Cellos, The Harp Twins, The Vitamin String Quartet, and, my favorite, Bella Electric Strings.

Qualifications for membership in Bella Electric Strings:

1. Must be white, female, and under 30
2. Must dislike food
3. Must play the violin

But who is performing the rock (and hip-hop) repertoire in a lounge/swing style? In this, Part I of a four-part investigation by our Spotlight Team, we look at our first competitor: Pat Boone.

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In a Metal Mood released in 1997

Boone, who made his reputation defusing black music for white teenagers in malt shops, goes for broke on 12 hard-rock classics, from Judas Priest to Led Zep. Sorry, Pat, no sale. The 1950s big-band arrangements and the chorus of women from the lite-rock channel are silly. Boone’s voice isn’t suited to this work; it’s smooth, seamless, and not at all steamy. Mitt Romney could’ve recorded this disc.

Of the 12 songs here, Dio’s “Holy Diver” works best as a bouncy lounge number, but Boone’s bland voice gets in the way. He doesn’t do too badly with Nazareth’s “Love Hurts”; the original moved at a Boone-like stroll. Unfortunately, that lack of speed makes the original and the cover boring.

His version of Van Halen’s “Panama” achieves some warmth, probably because Van Halen gave us a show tune with killer guitars. But when he gets to the spoken-word part about driving a car on a hot night and reaching down between his legs, he reminds you that he’s Pat Boone.

In a Metal Mood is not bad for a man who released his first record way back in 1956 (it was called Howdy!, the most inoffensive title in the history of titles), but, also, not good. I will say this for Pat: I’m convinced he was serious when he conceived this project. Plus he’s got titanium balls (though no common sense) for covering Metallica and Jimi Hendrix.

Am I experiencing a jab of guilt, or is it just an undigested bit of beef?

Sometimes even Run-DMSteve must be fair. Pat Boone in his prime had a fine-tuned voice with some power behind it, and he made what changes he could to keep his career going for decades. He had a record in the Billboard Top 40 every week for four consecutive years. In the decade of the ’50s there was only one artist who outsold him and that artist was somebody named Elvis. I don’t care for Boone’s music and this particular project was ill-advised, but look, he tried.

This is more than I can say for the 14 or so artists who put together Lounge-A-Palooza in the same year, all of whom should’ve been stopped at the border and incarcerated in wire cages and separated for months from their instruments. Sadly, this includes Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, who covered Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” Compared to them, Pat would’ve thrown up his rawkfist.

 

Comments
  1. mikener says:

    Sorry I showed up late to your lounge party.
    I have to admit that I can’t really disagree with any of your Pat Boone assessments. Unfortunately, I love “In a Metal Mood” anyway. Hey, I’m no Pat Boone fan, but in my mind-canon of Pat Boone’s career, “In a Metal Mood” is neither a pathetic money grab or desperate ploy at extending a career. I look at the album as a public service announcement. As you pointed out, Mr. Boone made his reputation “defusing black music for white teenagers.” This is no different, defusing scary metal music for senior citizens. Sure, milquetoast come to mind when hearing these renditions. I guess in this rare case, I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy. I love these songs so much, any form that they are able to re-enter the world in, is a pleasure to me. Even if it’s a player-piano version of “Black Hole Sun” in HBO’s pilot episode of Westworld.

    Speaking of (and maybe this is a future target sighted through your lounge scope) Paul Anka’s “Rock Swings” is an answer to the question asked in your opening paragraph. Not only does he cover the Soundgarden song, but also does lovely interpretations of Nirvana, Van Halen, the Cure, and so much more.

    In a final note, only tangentially related to this topic, is an album I’ve always wanted to recommend but could never find the right window to toss it though.
    William Shatner “Has Been”.
    Only one rock cover, the Pulp’s “Common People,” but all the other original songs swirl around the heart of the thesis you have presented here.

    Peace. Out.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      You are the only person I’ve ever met who stands ready to defend this album. Actually, you are the only person I’ve ever met who’s even heard of this album (or the only one willing to admit it). Although I plainly think it’s atrocious, as I made clear, the man tried. That counts for a lot. As for you, mikener, if you love something this much, let it go. If “Smoke on the Water” comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be. As Judas Priest declaimed, “You got another thing coming.” And don’t tell me you don’t love the Priest!

      A player-piano version of “Black Hole Sun” in a Western setting sounds BRILLIANT. I won’t rest until I’ve heard it.

      • mikener says:

        Do you remember the 24th Annual American Music Awards airing 27 January 1997?
        No?
        MC Dick Clark paired up Pat Boone & Alice Cooper to present the award for Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Artist. Dick Clark also proposed that Pat and Alice “switch images.” Both men agreed. The 63 year old Boone, frighteningly buff, came onstage bare arms bare chested, wearing an open black leather vest, spiked dog collar and iron-on tattoos. My idol, Alice Cooper, wussed out at the last minute, unable to find the courage to don a simple white suit.
        Pat Boone became the darling of the day.
        But not without a cost.
        Pat Boone got fired from his own weekly show on the Trinity Broadcast Network. Unwilling to apologize in the groveling manner that got Jimmy Swaggart reinstated back on TBN, Boone simple said, “Christian’s need to lighten up.”
        When reporters asked why he made “In A Metal Mood” in the first place, Mr. Boone answered,”I describe myself as a midwife at the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.”

        For once, I have to disagree. Pat Boone, you were a doula at the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, a companion and supporter, but not an actual participant. But I love your album anyway. Anyone who can create the image of old christian folk’s swing dancing to Judas Priest is ok by me.

      • Run-DMSteve says:

        Do I remember the 24th Annual American Music Awards airing 27 January 1997? I don’t remember where I left my car keys.

        If ‘In a Metal Mood’ got Pat Boone fired from his Xtian broadcasting gig, then the man has just improved 500% in my eyes. Pat Boone has risen! Lift up thine eyes!

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      But I’ve had it with Shatner and his alleged music career!

      In the ’90s, some co-workers and I kicked around the idea of a William Shatner film festival. We only came up with the name: Shat Upon Con.

      • mikener says:

        Ya. I hear you. But this one is different – dark, insightful, even self-effacing. No schtick (well maybe just a touch here and there). It’s a Ben Fold’s project that Shatner was recruited into. Along with Joe Jackson, Aimee Mann, Adrian Belew, and country singer Brad Paisley. Oh, and Henry Rollins. If you do not get a kick out of the one high energy number, with Shatner and Rollins poetry slamming each other on “I Can’t Get Behind That” then I will step away and leave you alone.

        Unless you actually do host: Shat Upon Con. Then I am so there.

      • Run-DMSteve says:

        All right, all right, I’ll do it. I’ll listen to it, if only to hear Shatner and Rollins. Either they are secret geniuses or they have no shame. Possibly both.

  2. Jerry Kaufman says:

    In your listing of classical musicians crossing over, you have left out the parents of this “genre,” the Kronos Quartet. They finished early concerts with “Purple Haze.”

  3. Philip Dickey says:

    Fascinating stuff, Steve. You are brave to enter in this territory inhabited by Lounge-A-Palooza and their ilk. I look forward to reading the subsequent chapters. One minor nitpick (OK, a nitpick is minor by definition): I don’t think you can bring sackbuts into this discussion. Unlike trombonists in general, they have a safe gig in the 17th century literature and don’t need to “step up and throw down” with the groups you mention. And now I realize that I have reached the limits my expertise and yield the microphone and the mouse to you. Bravo!

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      My opinions are formed from a lifetime of listening, for better or worse! But thank you. As for my expertise, I picked on sackbuts only because I like the name. Thanks for furthering my education.

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