Saturday, May 12, 2018

ST14R3 Reviews - Dave Leigh

ROUND 3! Awesome challenge, awesome responses! I'm in Thailand business this week, so I got a lot of listening done while winding down after work.

When ranking these, I had a number of things in mind. First, that the classical tune was recognizable. Also, that all of the aspects of the challenge were met, including the fact that we asked for a contemporary song. To me this means that the work should be significantly transformative. I wasn't looking for you to set words to the tune as-written. Rather, it's taking the tune and making it your own. I also considered whether it was a "qualifying tune"... that is, did it meet the time and genre constraints we placed on it. If it was written on or after January 1st, 1900 it would be immediately disqualified. Beyond that, it's all personal taste and listenability, folks. I did listen to the original composition and the submission.

I should point out that I don't like eliminating any of these competitors. But it's a game, and games have rules. As in Highlander, There Can Be Only One.


Bubba and the No Longer Amiable Kraken - Revolutionary Love
based on: Etude Op. 10, No. 12 in C Minor, by Frederic Chopin (aka "Revolutionary")
Before even listening, I had to laugh at the pun in your title, as Chopin's piece is commonly called by the title "Revolutionary". And this is a brilliant adaptation. We wanted classical, and you picked a genre-defining piece by Chopin, no less. We wanted it recognizable, and you included one of the most recognizable keyboard arpeggios in all of Western music. We wanted contemporary, so you gave it a drum-machine beat and squashy synth for a danceable, club-worthy song, as well as a nice repackaging of the tune itself.
I love the easy listenability, the lyrical humor, and the excellent balance of the classical tune with the contemporary aspect of the challenge. And way to hold a note! You go, boy! As far as I'm concerned, this knocks it out of the park.

Megalodon - Magpie
based on: Hungarian Dance No. 5, by Johannes Brahms
I love this for all the same reasons as I love Bubba's number (with suitable allowances for instrumentation). Only personal preference separates them, and then mostly because Bubba picked a harder tune to adapt. The varied string instruments in Magpie grab me instantly. Lyrically, there are some really fun rhymes in here. Some of the figures make for some light-hearted transitions, and that's just what I needed to hear this week.
Fun fact: my sister actually has a collection of dolls with missing heads. I swear it on my mother's eyes. So if Edric wants to know why you're ranked higher than him, he can stop wondering. You have better spies.

Edric Haleen - With You
based on: the second (“Largo”) section of Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, by Antonín Dvořák
You tear-jerker, you.

Boy on the Wall
 - Yesterday

based on: Pavane, Op 50, by Gabriel Fauré
Overall, I enjoyed it. ;)
I was tempted to leave my review at that, but damn, you did a fine job. If you're curious as to what caused others to rise higher in my rankings, it boils down to your lyrics being less intricate and more repetitive.

Tenmere
 - Revolution

based on: Egmont Overture - by Ludwig van Beethoven
When my kids heard your style they told me they hoped you would pick "Ride of the Valkyries". That said, you picked the right song to match your chops. It's hard to find a piece with more in-your-face attitude than this. That said, you stepped up the attitude by wrapping it up in hard rock. Talk about transformational. I can actually imagine this as background music in a 1980s-style shoot-em-up arcade game. That's not a dis. Kudos. 

Governing Dynamics - Forty-five
based on: Asturias (Leyenda), by Isaac Albéniz
Some of the best vocals I've heard from you. And a great choice of tune. Although I most often hear Leyenda played on guitar these days, it was written for piano, so I've linked to that above. I mention that because it's nice to see you take it back to guitar, but in a completely different direction. Everybody else plays it on Spanish guitar, whereas you whip out the amps and the ebow and streeeetch and slur those notes like you own them. I wish we could have ties in the rankings so I could put this higher.

Micah Sommersmith - I Sing for Clara
based on: Piano Trio in G minor, movement 3, by Clara Schumann
You are the king of the near-rhyme. Nice job in not only picking a suitable tune, but also in making the lyrics hark back to the original composer, the wife of Robert Schumann. This should inspire anyone who listens to look up her Wikipedia page and listen to a few songs. 
This might come across as a backhanded compliment, but I think you did such a good job picking a tune that it hurt you in my rankings. Piano Trio in G minor is one of the most emotional pieces I know. It's one of the very few that I can get moist-eyed just from being exposed to a performance. Your adaptation of it is so faithful that I can't help but notice that this rendition falls short of the emotional range of the original. Nevertheless, this is a fitting tribute.

Jordan Carroll - Work It
based on: Turkish March, by Mozart
Way back when I was a larva practicing my piano lessons, I hated playing Mozart's Turkish March due to the mechanical precision of timing required and relative lack of dynamics (typical of Mozart, who apparently makes babies smarter). Later I associated it with the game "Jawbreaker" on the TI-99/4a. Mozart's pieces make great retro video game music for all the same reasons that they're insufferable for humans to play.
Why did I mention all that? Because I appreciate the fact that you broke up that mechanical feel with the off-kilter, slow drums. They give the piece a completely different feel even though you're playing it at roughly the right tempo as-written.  

Glen Raphael
 - Yippee Ki-Yay

based on: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (aka "Ode to Joy"), by Ludwig van Beethoven
I hate putting this one here. But I have to rank them somehow, and I picked my criteria in advance. Honestly, Glen, I think this one's a little light on the "contemporary" part of this challenge. And given that it's pretty much a straight rendition plus lyrics, it comes across sounding more like a parody number than something you've taken and made your own. That said, it's a pretty good parody. I enjoyed it. And I'm going to be dodging blows from my son for ranking it last.


SHADOWS
(in submission order)

Dr. Lindyke - Far Away (SHADOW)
based on: The Beautiful Blue Danube, by Johann Strauss II
A mini-bio instead of a review: We had a lot of fun making this one. The Blue Danube has been my favorite bit of classical music since I was 6 years old, and since Hoover wanted me to re-do a set of lyrics I'd done years ago, I took the opportunity to shadow. So technically it's a DQ (since it's not "new" new). I set the tune to 4/4 time, and originally imagined it with a vaguely Caribe rhythm, but it kept wanting to be Mack the Knife, and to an extent it finally won. I passed this adaptation around a little bit for feedback, and everybody thought the original horns stunk. So I minimized the brass ensemble, scaled back the piano in the opening verses to let it build, and threw on some trumpet and trombone solos. It's mostly trumpet because I'm blatantly pandering to Paul. I'm really happy about the piano on this one. I'm also thrilled with the Doris Day quality vocals Heather provided. She keeps it grounded when I'm tempted to overdo the nightclub cheese.

Boffo Yux Dudes - Sirens (SHADOW)
based on: Canon in D, by Pachelbel
The portion of Canon in D that you used is pretty much all chord changes and light on melody. And we asked for melody. Sigh. Since it completely coincidentally has sirens and contains the phrase "trial by fire" I would suggest submitting it to Nur Ein... it might have better luck there.

Boffo Yux Dudes - Ode to Marcel (SHADOW)
based on: 4'33", by Jon cage
I'm pretty sure you guys know this is a DQ, for several reasons. First, the original piece was written in the 20th century, thus failing the time restrictions. Furthermore, despite replacing "orchestra-ready" background sounds with passing traffic, I don't think I found your silence to be significantly transformative enough to count as a contemporary piece. Also, it contains no lyrics, in a blatant violation of our submission guidelines. Couldn't you at least have submitted lyrics and claimed they were performed in ASL? This is what you get for not bringing me in to collab. You should feel bad... very bad... for having submitted this.

Menage a Tune - Springtime Promenade (SHADOW)
based on: Pictures at an Exhibition (Promenade), by Modest Mussorgsky
Mussorgsky's Promenade is a stately number, transformed here into a light and bouncy celebration. It's the tune, alright, but in a completely new setting. That's what this challenge is about. The main (constructive) criticism I have of it is that it's too restrained for what it needs to be. A fuller piano sound would be nice (this one's a bit tinny); the drums and bass are too muted, when they should be driving the emotion; and probably both of you should be singing as a duet. And when you sing, back off the mic and just belt it out like you want your neighbors to bang on the walls. Perform it with as much joy as the arrangement allows.

Jerkatorium - Today's the Day (COVER)
based on: Today's the Day, by Inverse T. Clown
Bravo! That is all.