Friday, July 29, 2005

Kat's Korner: Beware when Carly invites you along a Moonlight Serenade

I blame Carly Simon.

I also blame Maggie.

And I also blame Sumner and his sexy self.

But most of all I blame Carly Simon and her latest CD Moonlight Serenade.

One thing's for sure, I ain't taking the fall for it.

We were tired. It had been a nice Sunday. The sun had set, Dak-Ho and Toni were off to a club, Maggie was buzzed and still swearing she was up for anything. Sumner had Monday off so he wasn't ready to call it a night.

No sooner are we back at my place and Maggie parked on the couch than she's out like a light while Sumner's digging through my discs trying to find something he hasn't heard in awhile or, better yet, not heard at all.

He pulls out Carly's latest. It's her fourth album of standards. I'm luke warm on Film Noir. I really like Torch, but I love My Romance. Moonlight Serenade is in the new format, the one that's supposed to save the music biz, dual disc. Maybe it will save the biz or maybe it will go the way of 3-D movies, who knows?

But the DVD side of the disc contains an interview with Carly and producer Richard Perry. During that, as an aside, Carly offers that maybe the album will help people make love and not war. It's a moment, an aside, but it demonstrates once again that Carly Simon's very much a part of the world around her. You can hear that on her finest songs which don't just explore her own landscape but add to your own. And when everyone was choosing sides during the primaries, she proved once again where she stood by coming out in favor of Howard Dean. The photos of Carly and Howard from Yahoo news quickly filled my inbox last year as various friends e-mailed them. Carly and Dean were a perfect fit because, to use an old term, the two of them together was just so organic.

And when Carly does an album of standards, it's a very organic process. There's no sense that she's trembling before the microphone, fearful of being overshadowed by a big band sound or by the weight that comes with the standards. There's no sense that she's a little miss who's going to be plucky and proud like the worst of Shirley Temple meets the worst of Julie Andrews as has been the case with so many of her peers who've mined the standards. With Carly, it always sounds like she's comfortable and that probably has a lot to do with the nature of her voice but it may also have to do with the fact that, unlike some, she's proven she can write songs so she approaches the torch songs without the desperation bid of "I can't sing what they're writing these days anymore and this may be my last shot!"

While others look up after the songs with a knowing grin that they fail to hide behind false modesty and wait for the expected applause, Carly's just being Carly. Her approach is probably closer to Sinatra's than any of her peers will ever get because, like Sinatra, she makes you think she's completely at home in each song.

When the second track started playing, "I've Got You Under My Skin," Sumner jokingly suggested we should dance. Why not? It was a great version of the song and we long ago entered the safety of just friends, right?

Hadn't planned on "I Only Have Eyes for You" following. As Carly breathed new life into a song that's grown tired from too many bad versions performed at wedding receptions, something else was going on.

By "In the Still of Night," we were kicking off our shoes, Sumner was pulling up my blouse and I was undoing the button on his pants.

Though both of us had long ago moved beyond bed buddies, here we were again, years later, fumbling around with each other and "stumbling into false starts" (Carly's "Make Me Feel Something" off Spoiled Girl) as the simmer emotion captured on the disc came to a boil.

The rest of the album served as our own personal soundtrack as we got, as I would put it, reaquainted or as we got, as kids today would put it, busy. Amidst the panting and movement, somewhere I threw my head back as Carly was singing "Where or When" and we both stopped for a moment to hear, really hear the song, before resuming our devouring of one another.

Side by side, catching our breath and reflecting on what had just happened, it seemed appropriate to hear Carly ask the musical question of "How Long Has This Been Going On?"

Now nobody worry, there won't be any wedding registry you have to sign up for. It was a moment, only a moment. A relapse. But the album should come with a warning label advising you not to listen with someone with whom you think the fires of passion were long ago extinguished.

Maggie passed out in the living room or not, I can't imagine the above happening if we were spinning, for instance, Linda Rondstadt's What's New? With that, we might nod to each other and say, "Nicely done." With one of Rod Stewart's albums of standards, we'd probably shurg. But Carly doesn't show boat. Her comfort level lets her delve into the actual emotions of the songs so don't be surprised if things heat up when you listen.

That's what Sumner and I told each other as we quickly put back on our clothes and returned to the living room where Maggie was stretching her arms out above her and yawning.

"That was really nice," she said nodding to the CD player. "Let's listen again."

"No!" Sumner and I both exclaimed causing Maggie to raise a suspicious eyebrow.

"We just listened to it," Sumner mumbled as I went in search of a less passionate disc and avoided making eye contact with the curious Maggie.

Beware the power of Carly, kids, beware the power of Carly. Moonlight Serenade should come with a warning label: Listening may induce bursts of passion.