A (yet again long overdue; mind you, until last week’s tame effort, I don’t think I’d changed the poll at all in 2010) new TTOTDOWOHOHCBATCI for y’all; a cover of Hank Williams’ country staple “Jambalaya” by The Carpenters.
Synonymous for many with saccharine over-produced mawkishness, I actually love the Carpenters - admittedly they sometimes crossed the line into barf-o-rama territory (e.g. their horrible cover of “Ticket to Ride”), but their best stuff is brilliant. I’ll even go so far as to say that Karen Carpenter had one of the finest voices of any female singer in popular music ever, and I’m including all yer Franklins / Fitzgeralds / other soul / jazz divas in that assessment (John Lennon apparently agreed with me). It’s a fantastically pure yet rounded sound; never forced, always completely natural-sounding through an impressive 3 octave range (Mariah Carey allegedly has 6 octaves, but the top bit of that is audible only to bats and the rest is only useful for dispersing teenagers). Carpenter’s vocal skill was all the more impressive for the fact that she was initially a (very good) drummer by trade, and only left the drum stool to stand behind the mic 6 or 7 years into her musical career.
I actually find it difficult to listen to some of their stuff (e.g. “Yesterday Once More”, “Goodbye to Love”) without getting a significant lump in my throat - this is partly because I’m susceptible to what others might describe as schmaltz when it’s of the highest quality, and partly because of the tragic circumstances of Karen’s death, but mostly because of her utterly wonderful voice.
“Jambalaya” is hardly a tearjerker though; it’s good harmless fun. Infectious rhymes, semi-incomprehensible lyrics (unless you happen to be rattlin’ my Cajun), slick production which presages a lot of modern country-rock crossover stuff, and some excellent harmonies, mostly in sixths (my favourite interval). Old timers’ cheesy listening perhaps, but then I AM nearly 40…