Bill Frisell – Chain of Fools. saying goodbye to the fools with some easy difficult listening.
Bill Frisell is a guitarist and this is an instrumental version of the song I started this months’s ‘fool’ theme off with – a chain of fools.
Bill Frisell is a jazz guitarist and this is a jazzy version of the song. but jazzy in a way that rocks out in a noisy way. I like Bil Frisell because he seems to be on the edge between different musical worlds – jazz and rock (as here) and country, folk and most importantly for me, pop. This song is a bit of a crowd-pleaser. It’s done in a suitably Frisell-like ‘angular’ way, but there’s enough of the original song melody in it to be recognizable to people who know the Aretha Franklin version. you can’t really dance to it, but nod your head in an agreeably engaged way.
Some songs try to be difficult, or should I say, don’t make an effort to engage the listener – ‘find your own way in, mate. It might take you hundreds of listens, and you might not even like it when you are familiar enough with it to know what’s coming next. But I’m an uncompromising artist…’
That doesn’t seem to be the case with Bill Frisell – there’s a warmth, a comfortable welcome, a light touch in his music (the pop sensibility), that doesn’t deny depths that can be appreciated from repeated listens. I first came across him as a supporting musician for Hal Willner’s delightfully eccentric ‘Stay Awake’ Disney tribute album. Fairly faithful covers were given a sightly unfamiliar and satisfyingly melancholic extra dimension from Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitz.
As it is here. The instruments potter along, roughly in line with the song’s melodies, but there are elements of frenzied fret fests, noodly picking and muso- lite drum and bass rhythms. It is the somewhat sterile muso elements of what sound like self-imposed ‘musical quality’ which detract from the rough and ready feel I would like more, but that’s a quibble. A pop sensibility requires a bit of easy listening to sweeten and leaven the complicated jazz rock doughy pudding.
I know next to nothing about Bill Frisell, but from his music he seems like the sweetest of fools to end the chain with – skilled enough a musician to play with other musical experts, but aware of the limitations of that approach not to take himself or the canon too seriously, and willing to engage a wider audience through catchy pop numbers like this one.
I will continue being a fool through the rest of the year, throwing caution to the wind in my use of cliche and untested ideas and over-familiar thoughts – all in the pursuit of the essence of the fun in music and what it can mean. I’m not sure that I’ll bother with a theme next month, though. Just see where the music takes me.
A pinch and a punch!