FFWDing to the Best Part: “I Drove All Night,” Cyndi Lauper (1989)

Why is Cyndi Lauper so unusual? Because she’s just genuinely awesome and universally adored by the world’s good people.  She’s smart, compassionate, philanthropic, sassy, and a consummate professional. One of my favorite recent stories — and by “recent,” I apparently mean nine years ago — was how Cyndi was performing outside, had a bird defecate INTO HER OPEN MOUTH, and just kept right on effing singing.

Those divas in Kings of Leon could stand to learn a lesson or two.

And quite frankly, I don’t think Cyndi is recognized for her sheer vocal talent as much as she should be. Probably because her biggest hit is her stupidest, and was part of every bouquet-tossing spectacle until “Single Ladies” emerged. (Does Cyndi resent Beyonce, or thank her, one wonders.)

Sure, “True Colors” and “Time After Time” get their due commendations, but to me, her pipes have never sounded better than on “I Drove All Night,” from her third studio album. The song was intended originally for Roy Orbison (if he’s considered a crooner, then he’s my favorite crooner of all), so you know there are some challenging vocal runs inherent in the thing.

Best part? 4:13 – 4:38. There are a lot of good demonstrations of Cyndi’s skillz here. The progression out of the final pre-chorus, the sheer octave range from fore and aft, and her controlled dynamics throughout.  But what gives me pause — and a scorching case of envy — is that note she holds into the fade-out.  For a full 25 seconds.  It’s possible that they looped it, but I don’t think Cyndi would have such shenanigans.  Roy would be proud.  Celine Dion would cover it later — OF COURSE SHE WOULD — and well, it sucked in that sterilized but still-very-pretty way that most Celine music tends to do.



FFWDing to the Best Part: “Handle With Care,” Traveling Wilburys (1988)

Tuesday’s Damn Yankees post got me thinking about so-called “supergroups.”  Of course, my all-time favorite is Tinted Windows — Smashing Pumpkins, Fountains of Wayne, Cheap Trick, HANSON, represent! — but the most impressive, from an A-List-possessing standpoint, is obviously the Traveling Wilburys.  These superstars (and, ahem, Jeff Lynne) got together through happenstance, good fortune, and perhaps a little boredom, and seemed to have a damn good time making music together (even beyond Roy Orbison’s untimely passing).

“Handle With Care” essentially gives you three songs in just over three minutes.  You have the perfectly pleasant, old-time-rock-and-roll verses (led by George Harrison).  Then in comes Roy Orbison, all plaintive and soaring and talking — as he does — about loneliness.  Finally, Bob Dylan/Tom Petty join forces for a semi-snarling, almost accidentally melodic bridge.

The song is catchy, folksy, and sweet, and stands the test of time.  But the …

Best part? 2:30 – 2:45. In the last regular stanza of the verse, the harmony takes greater focus, and the story comes to a conclusion with the acknowledgment of “the sweet smell of success.”  Oh, George.  You are missed.

RUNNER UP: 3:03. After a semi-hard stop, the opening musical theme returns to play us out, this time with harmonicas!

P.S. Who’s that poor bastard playing drums?