Last Night When We Were Young

10 07 2012

Last Night When We Were Young—H. Arlen/E.Y. Harburg, 1935 (Recorded July 10, 2012) Harold Arlen told Alec Wilder that he wrote this song expressly for opera singer/actor Lawrence Tibbett. Tibbett’s performance of the song was cut from the movie, Metropolitan, though, but the tune lived on in well-known pop versions by Sinatra and Judy Garland, among others.

I love the song, and tried my best to do it justice. Represented here is version 10 of my recorded efforts, so, yeah, I tried and tried! Since there is a loud vocal part toward the end, I kept getting the levels wrong, blowing out the recording during the lung-busting measure. This cut turned out ok, technically and performance-wise, although I still sing it better in the shower. ;°)


Over the Rainbow

30 04 2012

Over the Rainbow—H. Arlen/E.Y. Harburg, 1939 (Recorded April 5, 2012) One of my favorite ukuleles is currently (almost) out of commission because, careless me, I let it stay too long in a dry environment, causing the bridge to begin to separate from the sound board. It’s my famous Glyph Dias-homage soprano uke, so excellently designed and fabricated by Dave Means of Annapolis, MD. Dave gives a lifetime warranty on all his instruments, and he offered to fix it for me if only I would ship the thing to him. Here enters another of my many foibles: I procrastinate. I might have sent the uke to Dave months ago. By now I would have had it back repaired and good as new, but, no…there it lies, still in its glorious, hand-made coffin case, awaiting the tender, loving care it so deserves—and one day shall receive, as soon as I find a way to increase my time-management skills, or with luck and fortune, even sooner than that.

Glyph Dias-replica soprano ukulele and hand-made case, created by Dave Means.

Anyway, back to this recording. My good friend, J Boy Shyne, requested that I do a version of “Over the Rainbow.” You’ll notice something unusual about the song. I used the hibernating Glyph ukulele, but in order to prevent the bridge from popping off all together, I tuned it 2-1/2 steps lower, from “C” to “G,” which decreased the tension of the strings. [“G” is the typical tuning for the largest member of the ukulele family, the baritone.] As a result, the uke has a slack, boingy sound that is quite different from its usual, bright, taught voice. I adjusted my singing lower to agree with the sub-tuned pitch. In effect, the whole thing sounds as if I reduced the pitch using a digital auto-tune filter. It’s real, though—rubbery, deep, and slightly mad.

“Over the Rainbow” often comes out at the top of lists of the greatest popular songs of the 20th Century. It won an Academy Award as best song of 1939 for Judy Garland’s standard interpretation in the film, The Wizard of Oz. In 1993, Hawaiian singer and ukulele master Israel Kamakawiwo’ole released a distinctive (and quite different-from-the-original) take on the old chestnut. The popularity of “Brudda” Iz’s “OtR” helped usher in the current wave of ukulele popularity.