Joel Goldenberg: The Singing Nun and others

Sister Sledge

Before we continue the S list with this series' most irritating entry since Short Shorts, a plea to the Beatles' organization.

Please consider, as part of your 50th anniversary release of The White Album, putting out a separate DVD and Blu-ray edition of the surround mix, rather than making it exclusively part of the expensive deluxe edition coming out Nov. 9.

The Beatles should never be viewed as elitist, after all.

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A further note — BOWIE LIVES, a David Bowie tribute concert featuring vocalist Michael Bell of Peterborough, Ontario, takes place 8 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Dollar Cinema in Decarie Square in Côte St. Luc. The proceeds go to Hope and Cope, which helps people cope with cancer.

And now to the S list.

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The Singing Nun: I'm not blaming the unfortunately late (by suicide) Jeanne Deckers for the irritating aspects of this song. She sings the verses rather nicely.

It's those tittering background singers! "Dominique-inque-inique!"

Arrgh!

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Sister Sledge: This group's two biggest hit, We Are Family and He's The Greatest Dancer, were part of the second biggest hot streak of the 1970s (and early 1980s).

The first was the Bee Gees , who came back from a fallow period in the early 1970s big time not only with their own hits (Jive Talkin', Staying Alive, Tragedy, etc.) but also hits they wrote and/or produced for other artists, like Samantha Sang (Emotion), Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers (Islands in the Stream), and in the case of Barry Gibb, the entire Barbra Streisand Guilty album, in my opinion her best LP. (Streisand's entry is coming up soon.)

The second was the team of Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers from Chic, as producers and writers, together and separate. Their hits for Chic and Sister Sledge were some of the best disco had to offer (and there was a lot of junk in that genre-Disco-Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes is my least favourite group), and they (mostly Rodgers) also provided huge danceable hits for Madonna (the Like A Virgin album) and David Bowie (the Let's Dance album.)

Anything from these guys resulted in quality.

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The Six Teens: This group's 1956 recording of A Casual Look is ultra cute and charming. Unfortunately, The Beach Boys' 1976 recording, despite being produced by Brian Wilson, is weighed down with over-production and has a kind of smarmy Mike Love lead vocal. However, the other lead vocal by Al Jardine improves things immeasurably part way through.

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Skylark: I'm not at all a big fan of David Foster's past "icy keyboard" style of production, although Chicago's Hard to Say I'm Sorry has grown on me over the years. And I'm still angry at him for telling Neil Young and Joni Mitchell how to sing when they were making the Tears Are Not Enough fundraising song and video.

But earlier in his career (pre-1980s), he had a few worthy songs, such as the very soulful After the Love is Gone by Earth, Wind and Fire. And before that, he was partially responsible for the fairly big hit Wildflower by the Canadian group Skylark. It has a nice atmospheric production, and whenever I hear the lead vocal, I think it's Tom Jones. Would have been funny if Jones actually did a cover version.

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Percy Sledge: Yeah, I know, When A Man Loves A Woman, blah, blah, #1 hit, blah, blah, blah, see it in this movie or TV commercial, blah, blah, blah. It's a good song, but I can't get past the very gritty (in a bad way) and primitive sound of the song, which was never mixed in stereo (except for the fake variety). And it's been played over the years ad nauseum.

And when it comes to deep soul stars of the 1960s, Sledge was usually on the lighter side of the spectrum, with at least one important exception.

It Tears Me Up was also quite primitively mixed, and is also only mono (and fake stereo). But in this case, the grittiness of the sound fits the song perfectly. Sledge's vocals are at their most intense, and the horn charts pretty much hit you in the chest. Add the backing singers and you have quite the song.

Next time: Some of my favourites, Sly and the Family Stone, Millie Small and, especially, the Small Faces.

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