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Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White – Gentlewoman, Ruby Man

January 14, 2017


I have been a Matthew E. White fan since his 2012 release Big Inner.  White has amazing pop sensibility – he is Lee Hazelwood updated for today’s ears.  I was not familiar with Flo Morrissey. This album is all covers  – some pretty famous songs and some not so famous.

This album has a great back story. White saw a review of Flo Morrissey’s album in the U.K. newspaper Guardian (it was next to a review of White’s own album). He was intrigued and reached out to her – and the rest is history.

“Look At What The Light Did” – I am not familiar with Little Wings who did the original.  Listening to that original (I have added a playlist of all the original songs), I feel like Morrissey and White have given it an upgrade. They took a simple folky arrangement and reinvented it into a full-out pop song.  It now has that late 70s Laurel Canyon pop feel.

“Thinking ‘Bout You” is a Frank Ocean cover from his brilliant debut Orange. Morrissey and White’s duet shows how brilliant Ocean is. It takes their two voices to duplicate the original’s brilliance. Having a man and a women sing this song makes it more obvious that this song was meant to be a duet (the Ocean’s original is his normal voice accompanied by his falsetto).

“Looking For You” – Nino Ferrer is another new one for me.  Morrissey and White’s cover is pretty straight. This song really stuck in my head and I was compelled to find out who the hell Nino Ferrer is.  Turns out he was an Italian-French singer songwriter in the 60s and 70s – a reluctant French pop star on the scale of Serge Gainsbourg.  I dialed up the original song “Looking For You” that  appeared on: Nino and Radiah.  Listening to that album for the first time, I was delighted to discover the album is nothing short of brilliant. If you enjoy White and his peers, for example Father John Misty, you are going to dig Nino and Radiah.   I have not explored the rest of Nino’s catalog. I have a feeling there will be a future blog post dedicated to Nino.

“Colour of Anything” is by  James Blake.  Blake has never resonated with me, but after listening to Morrissey and White, I have new appreciation for Blake’s songwriting and voice.

“Everybody Loves the Sunshine” is by Roy Ayers.  Ayers made a name for himself with his funk, soul and jazz compositions (and by being one hell of a vibes player too).  Both the original and this cover are funky quiet storms.

“Grease” is the theme song from the movie of the same name. It was written by Barry Gibb (of the Bee Gees) and was originally sung by Frankie Valli.  The original has a watered down pop disco feel. The Morrissey/White cover is more funky and soulful than the original. The original was a bit of a kitschy ear worm and the cover is too – but much subtler.

“Suzanne” – White takes the lead vocals and he channels Leonard Cohen (the singer-songwriter of the original). The arrangement mimics the original with Morrissey’s voice substituting for the strings in the original.

“Sunday Morning” – Morrissey takes the lead on the Velvet Underground classic. The original is one of the most conventionally beautiful songs in the VU and Lou Reed catalogs. White and Morrissey muddy it up and give it a punk Beach Boys treatment.

“Heaven Can Wait” – This  Charlotte Gainsbourg cover is my favorite song on the album.  It has a dark psychedelic feel to it.

“Govindam” is from George Harrison’s Hindu devotional production of The Radha Krsna Temple (a UK branch of the Hare Krishna movement). This is the only cover that does not fully work for me.  The original is better.  But it is a good ending to the album as the ghost of Harrison haunts Gentlewoman, Ruby Man.

This is the first album of 2017 that I can absolutely guarantee will be on my top ten list for this year.  I insist you give Gentlewoman, Ruby Man and the source material a listen.

 

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