Thursday, July 9, 2015

"Games People Play"

I've actually only heard the Joe South version of "Games People Play" once. It's a decent song, and not one that I would choose to arrange as an instrumental on my own. I have King Curtis to thank for that, whose Grammy-winning version featured a young session guitarist named Duane Allman on slide guitar and, oddly enough, sitar. The tune appeared on the first Duane Allman Anthology, which was a gateway for me to all kinds of music - Johnny Jenkins' Ton-Ton Macoute, Delaney & Bonnie, Cowboy, John Hammond, Aretha Franklin's "The Weight", Wilson Pickett's "Hey Jude", etc.

But it was King Curtis' sweet and soulful take on a pretty standard pop hit by Joe South that struck me. Listening to Joe South's version, it could be Harry Nilsson or BJ Thomas-lite - it's fairly forgettable. In King Curtis' hands the strings, steady strut, and none sense singing are replaced with Muscle Shoals' soul-drenched horns, a steady swing, and of course, a sweet alto sax. King Curtis' version resonated with me and quickly became one of my favorite tunes and it wasn't long before I adapted it to slide guitar. Naturally, it seemed like the logical next tune for this acoustic project.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

"Ain't Wastin' Time No More"

The piano part for The Allman Brothers' "Ain't Wastin' Time No More" is one of the only complete songs I know on piano (much to the dismay of many friends who wish I'd learn another) so it was naturally the next in line for me to record. Gregg Allman wrote the song in the wake of his brother Duane's death, and it kicked off the Allman Brothers' next album, Eat A Peach. Duane Allman is known as a spectacularly talented guitarist, but it was his reinvention of electric slide guitar that made the biggest impact on aspiring guitarists listening at home and in the crowds. That's why it's quite a statement that the first guitar you hear on Eat A Peach is Dickey Betts' slinky slide. It has been well documented that Dickey was uncomfortable playing Duane's electric slide guitar parts, but the band wanted to prove they could soldier on, and electric slide was such a big part of the band's sound at that point.

"Ain't Wasting Time No More" would be a regular part of the band's set lists until their first break up in 1976. It wouldn't be played again by the band until 1995, where Warren Haynes took over slide duties and the band added a nifty patented Allman Brother guitar harmony line to close out the tune. During the most recent lineup of the band, the band took advantage of being loaded with not one but two talented slide guitarists by giving slide solos to both Derek Trucks and Warren and dropping the harmony part.

I really recorded it into the ground, it is a really tough song to translate to acoustic. When played live by The Allman Brothers, it is a slide guitar show case, usually soaring into the upper register of the instrument. Since I couldn't hang out at the 21st fret on my tricone and spider cone, I had to rely on melody. Also, I really had to let this song breath in between its crescendos, as opposed to "Albatross", which needed a little more production throughout. Also, my singing hasn't gotten much better...

UPDATE: A few years passed and I could no longer cringe at the sound of an upright piano and an electric bass recorded on a clip-on mic so I retooled this track. Still the same arrangement, just an increase in fidelity.