Results: The Comeback

Rob Baker

Player – Baby Come Back

Sugarblossom, what I’m trying to say is all men make mistakes.  We stay out late without calling, we forget important dates, we don’t take you out enough.  One time we set part of the couch on fire, which we apologized for as soon as you noticed.

The first time we forgot to pay the electricity bill, mmmm, yeah, turned that one around into an evening of romance.  By the fourth time the magic was gone, and you brought up that Sunday afternoon we came home with one less rear view mirror and blamed it on hoodlums.  You knew it wasn’t hoodlums, Honeypeaches, because we live in a district fortunate to have a low crime rate.  You always could see right through us, like the time you knew we weren’t sleeping in the fridge because “we didn’t want to wake you up.”

Listen, Giggleplum: we’ve figured out we can’t make it up by taking you out and letting you order something of equal or lesser value.  All the free breadsticks in the world can’t heal the hurt of explaining we taped over your period piece movie with Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and half a soft-core porno on Showtime.  We’re sorry, it was dark, it was 3AM, and light beer is delicious with the chicken salad you made for work.

And what guy hasn’t been here: She comes home from work, the door wide open, you lying in a puddle of Admiral Nelson Spiced Rum, which gave you the idea to tie her tiny dog to a plastic boat and set sail in the bathtub.  She asks how, if you don’t have time to find a job, you have time to craft a miniature pirate hat from an evening dress.  “‘Twas by the order of Captain BarkySnuggles,” but she ain’t having that.  No, sir.  She hates the sea and everytin’ in it.

Fellas, our ladies put up with a lot, but only so much.  So when things are at their worst, when the chips are down (literally, from losing $72 at the poker night you hosted and told her about 15 minutes before the guys showed up), there’s only one kind of comeback that matters.  When she’s leaving you, when your lady is walking out that door, you gotta say: “Baby, come back.”

Jake Mix

Arnel Pineda – Don’t Stop Believin’

For most people, the movies that stick in your head are the unlikely-but-true success stories of history. In Invincible, an average joe becomes a pro football player through perseverance alone.  In The Lord of the Rings, an unlikely young Hobbit defies an empire and saves all of Middle Earth against the odds. In Homeward Bound, a wayward pair of dogs and a cat traverse the American countryside and find their way back home to their owners. Then, in Homeward Bound II, they accomplish this unlikely feat yet again, defying the predictions of even the most theoretical statisticians.

But the greatest, most uplifting tale of success has yet to be captured on film: that of Arnel Pineda, Journey’s new lead singer. Originally part of Filipino cover band Zoo Band, Pineda is a vocal shapeshifter, channeling his energy into pitch perfect doppelgangers of the greatest classic rock frontmen history has to offer. Be it Don Henley, Freddie Mercury, or Robert Plant, Pineda can nail them all.

Journey, a shell of a band after Steve Perry broke his sacred pop music oath and quit, caught a video of Zoo Band’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” and called Pineda in for a two-day audition. And now, you know the rest of the story.

The best part of this amazing comeback is that Pineda is coming back to a place he’s never been before. To paraphrase renowned Ghostbuster Winston Zeddemore, when someone asks you if you’re a rock star, you say “yes.”

Noah Schaffer

Candi Staton – His Hands

In recent years a strange subgenre has developed in both the country music and R&B fields: comeback music.

Perhaps it started with Rick Rubin’s series of “American Recordings” for Johnny Cash, or maybe with the disc Arthur Alexander squeezed out right before his passing. The formula is by now a familiar one: take a once-heralded star who is long off the charts, give them a batch of songs by “young” songwriters they’re never heard of – Elvis Costello and Tom Waits will probably send some if you ask nice – and, presto, you’ve got an NPR feature.

On the country side, Charlie Louvin and Loretta Lynn have managed to attract fans who’ve never even heard of the Grand Ole Opry. The Anti label basically owns this genre thanks to their releases by Mavis Staples, Solomon Burke, Porter Wagoner and Merle Haggard. Soul singer Bettye Lavette is a much bigger star now she ever was in the 60’s. Sharon Jones has gone from guarding the Riker’s Island prison to filling large venues. Even folks people assumed were dead, like Betty Harris and Howard Tate, have made comeback discs.

The ones that work well – namely just about all the Anti releases, as well as Lavette’s two recent rock-leaning albums – do so because the producer takes the time to actually find songs that work well and mean something within the context of the singer’s stage in life.

In the weaker ones, the aging star comes off as little more than a puppet of the producer . Burke’s Don Was-produced “Make Do With What You’ve Got” just departed too radically from his strengths to work, and the Blind Boys of Alabama’s “Higher Ground” tried to get too cute with its idea that Stevie Wonder, Prince and George Clinton were appropriate for a group that had steadfastly refused to record secular music during its long-running existence. And why anyone thought Charlie Louvin, his voice severely weakened, should re-record Louvin Brothers songs with indie rockers is beyond me.

But the guy responsible for that mess, Mark Nevers of Lambchop, also was the mastermind behind one of the best comeback soul albums in recent years: “In His Hands” by Muscle Shoals vet-turned-disco diva-turned televangelist Candi Staton. I’m not sure why this album never got its due – perhaps Staton didn’t take enough time away from her TV ministry to properly promote it.

Staton had a soul hit with a cover of “Stand By Your Man” back in the day, so there was no question that she could master classic country tunes like Haggard’s “You Don’t Have Very Far to Go.”  “When Hearts Grow Cold,” a minor southern soul hit for Bobby Bland, gets a delivery that shows Staton knows what it feels like to look back on a failing relationship. (Perhaps she was channeling the pain of her marriage to Clarence Carter, or one of her other 3 ex-husbands.)

But the most devastating track comes from Will Oldham. It’s the title tune, a look at domestic violence no one would have dared write in the 60’s. At the end, as the narrator finds solace in her faith, there’s no doubt that Staton means every word she’s singing:

Did I say you could stop believing?



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Filed under Jake Mix, Noah Schaffer, Response, Rob Baker

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