May 08, 2005

Perfect Songs

Every so often I hear something I call a "Perfect Song"--though that's a woefully imprecise name for it. What I mean by a Perfect Song is a recording which is so perfectly itself that it couldn't possibly be altered without breaking it. The music and the singing mesh perfectly together, and the whole thing usually has a unique feel to it. Any other recording of the same song is going to have take an entirely different approach, because these recordings can't be beaten at their own game.

These aren't necessarily my favorite songs, mind you; just recordings whose perfection I've noticed over the years. Anyway, here are a few of them.

  • I Heard It Through The Grapevine, as recorded by Marvin Gaye--the copy I have is on the Big Chill soundtrack. This is the first recording whose perfection I ever happened to notice.
  • Take Me To The River; the Talking Heads' version. With all due respect to Al Green, his version lacks that killer bass riff.
  • Down On The Corner, by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Plus, it's just so dog-gone happy!
  • Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy; the Andrews Sisters, of course.
  • Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress), by the Hollies. This song is entirely unlike anything else they did, and it's by far their best song. I'm told that this was a throwaway B side; instead of overproducing it to death and making it sugary, they just cut loose and wailed. That's not always a recipe for success, but they made it work.
  • Good Vibrations; The Beach Boys--ooooo-eeee-OOOO-oooo-oooo.

There are others, of course; these are just a handful that came to mind at the moment.

Posted by Will Duquette at May 8, 2005 07:08 PM