Sunday, June 14, 2015

Kat's Korner: Steve Grand's perfect summer soundtrack

Kat: The first of Cher's two biggest music mistakes (only two? yes, only two) can be blamed on Sonny.

Sonny & Cher ended their chart run in the 60s with "The Beat Goes On" in 1967.  There were some strong recordings ("It's The Little Things" mainly) but that was it for them in the 60s when it came to the top 40.  1967 was also Cher's last solo top 40 hit for the 60s ("You Better Sit Down Kids").

The 70s found the duo becoming the stars of their own TV show and MCA (Cher's new label) paired her with legendary producer Snuff Garrett and Cher returned to the top forty: "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves" (number one on the charts), "The Way of Love," "Living In A House Divided," "Half-Breed" (number one on the charts), "Dark Lady" (number one on the charts) and "Train of Thought."

Snuff also brought the duo back into the top forty giving Sonny & Cher three hits: "All I Ever Need Is You," "A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done" and "When You Say Love."

But Sonny, who'd produced all the duo recorded hits and solo Cher hits of the 60s, wasn't too thrilled with Snuff's success and he fired him (the duo would never have a hit again and Cher would be absent from the top forty after 1974's "Train of Thought" until 1979's "Take Me Home").

Before he fired Snuff, Sonny turned down "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia."  Snuff thought it was the perfect song for Cher, Sonny didn't think it was a hit.

The song went on to become a number one hit for Vicki Lawrence and, while she does a fine job with it, listening to it even now, you know it was perfect for Cher.

Again, that one's on Sonny.

Then there's "All American Boy."

Steve Grand's internet sensation was also the perfect song for Cher.

Ripped Jeans, only drinks whiskey
I find him by the fire while his girl was getting friskey, ohh
I say we go this road tonight

He smiles, his arms around her
but his eyes are holdin me, just a captive to his wonder, ohh
I say we go this road tonight

Now I know that that's your girl, I mean no disrespect
The way that shirt hugs you chest boy, I just won't forget
I'll be sittin her, drinking my whiskey
I won't say goodnight unless I think ya might miss me, ohh 

Be my All-American boy tonight
where everyday's the 4th of July
and its alright, alright
And we can keep this up till the morning light
and you can hold me deep in your eyes
and its alright, alright
be my, be my
my All-American boy 

Tell me that doesn't make for the perfect Cher song -- tell me it doesn't capture both the story-song past of her discography as well as her post-bagel boy reputation.

And Cher was recording an album when, in 2013, this song swept the internet.

Instead, she did another dance album.


Now it wasn't a bad album.

But the "yawn" is because, someone break it to her, her audience is more than dance club fans.

"Just Like Jesse James," for example?

Not a dance song.

Few of her hits were dance songs.

So not recording "All American Boy"?

That mistake?

It's all on her.

Steve Grand released his first album this year and was smart enough not just to include "All American Boy" on the album but to make it the title track.


And if that's all it offered, it would have been enough for me to pick it up.  I loved that song.

But All American Boy offers much more to love.


The upbeat "Stay" for example:

Summer wind blows in again
Sometimes I wonder where we lost it
My good intentions, your favorite weapons
And still I've yet to learn my lesson
No, I don't need much for anything
But a shady tree,  a couple pulls of whiskey
To write me songs of love and life and loss
And just a few bout you
So if you'll hear me out out
Stay with me, we might never have to leave
You my southern king, we live it for the daydreams
So don't you laugh, Notre Dame he had his chance
And he's a good, good man, but there's some things he just won't understand
You know my old man's out of town for a couple days
I think that you should stay 
With me
All summer
Stay with me
Under the covers
Stay with me
And be my lover 

It's a number perfect for summer.

And one you have to hear because Steven Grand is a singer-songwriter who handles lyrics and music equally well.  Something "Soaking Wet" makes very clear -- where the music is everything.

On the throwdown "Whiskey Crime," the lyrics and music vie for dominance and the wrestling results in a strong ode to the strong stuff (Appletini drinkers may be left insulted).

There are deeper meditations on the album such as "Back To California,"

So you're getting married
I hope he's nothing like our daddies
When we were young
And love was something so f**ked-up
That it sure had its toll on me
And so it's back to California in my mind
Petty arguments on bus rides in muted sunlight
We belong to California, young and free and wild
Where our dreams grew big as your yellow eyes
As they looked into mine

There are so many wonderful songs on the album but it's the love songs like "Time" that really make it for me.

Twenty two, I was made for you
Steels eyes and blinders too
We were right on track
To burn out fast
Winter moved along
Sun rays through a morning fog
No space or time
Just you and I 
Tangled in sheets, while your body heat's 
Keeping me warm.

And the longing in the faster number "Say You Love Me" ("'Close the door,' he says, 'this will only be a minute,' but sometimes minutes can get lost in suspension") nails it when you have the misfortune of falling for a friend who not only doesn't feel the same but also has no clue what you're feeling.

And for 13 songs, Steve nails it.  All American Boy is the perfect album for summer, one that will resonate even more as summer draws to a close.

You can download it at Amazon currently for just $7.99 but it's a must-have at any price.