Monday, September 11, 2006

Song of the Week 9/8/06

World Party - "Sweet Soul Dream"

Whew, that's one bitter entry below. Sorry about that. Thankfully this week features something that can be in short supply in these parts -- hope and positivity.

My co-worker Dave raved about the World Party show he saw in early August out in Los Angeles. So I took the initiative to get myself on the guest list for the band's show at Irving Plaza Saturday night. I've been a big fan of the band--basically frontman Karl Wallinger and whomever he chooses to play with--ever since I heard "Ship of Fools" on PYX 106 20 years ago. I saw them once before, way back in 1993 opening for 10,000 Maniacs. And all I can remember from that show is that most fans at SPAC seemed to not know who World Party was and they wondered why I was standing up and cheering when they broke into "Way Down Now."

My interest in the band waned a bit with their 1997 album Egyptology--and that's because I was a moron and didn't realize that "She's the One" is quite possibly one of the best love songs of the past decade. "She's the One" is one the library cuts that WFUV plays regularly (and with them that means once every two to three weeks) and it drive me nuts not being able to get it because the album was out of print. Thankfully my co-worker Dave had a copy and in January was able to send me the song for my Ipod.

Last year Wallinger got the rights back to all of his albums, including 2000's Dumbing Up which was available stateside only as an import. In the spring he reissued all of them and came to the U-S to do some acoustic shows to promote them. This in itself was miraculous, considering the man had a brain aneurysm five years ago! I don't know all the facts about his recovery, but from all accounts Wallinger is very lucky man to be on the planet right now, and even luckier to be able to speak and sing again.

I can't even imagine what it must feel like to get a second chance after staring down death, but I can now say I can see how it can impact a person's take on their own songs. During Saturday night's performance at Irving Plaza, Wallinger had a grin etched on his face for 90 minutes straight. The pure joy the man got from playing with what is a kick ass band (drummer Chris Whitten is great secret weapon) came through in every song he sang. Wallinger's vocals on the studio versions of songs such as set opener "Put the Message in the Box" and "Is It Like Today" always seemed to me a little bit detached, as if he needed to put some distance between himself and his words. Not on this Saturday night. Wallinger's passion for these songs rang through loud and clear.

Saturday's set went deep on Goodbye Jumbo songs, with seven cuts played. And with many lyrics in those songs about not letting life pass you by ("See the world in just one grain of sand/You better take a closer look/Don't let it slip right through your hand") it was obvious that the meanings to many of his own word had changed for Wallinger. Even "Way Down Now," which is not the most uplifting song, came across now as anthem of carrying on. And damn, this audience was glad Wallinger carried on. Irving Plaza wasn't sold out, but the rapturous ovation Wallinger and company got throughout the evening was so loud I thought I was at the Garden. And it was obvious that Wallinger was touched by all of it. Someone left him a bouquet of flowers at his feet, and I could have sworn that he looked a little choked up when he went to the mic to thank the anonymous fan who had left them.

(Here's a sample of Karl in action today. The audio is pretty poor, but the feeling is still there.)

As for our Song of the Week, "Sweet Soul Dream" has always been my "buried on side 2" gem of Goodbye Jumbo. I didn't think Wallinger would play it, especially after one guy yelled out for it three times during one gap between songs. (And no, it wasn't me.) But that dude and I got our wish, and Wallinger sang it with, well, pardon the pun, a whole lot of soul. I think he especially dug into these lines that open the second verse:

"I don't need a body
A body's nobody to me
I'm just a cell
I'm leaving well
When I get you to give me the key."

Welcome back Karl, to your body and soul.

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