Thursday, November 15, 2007

“That’s How Strong My Love Is” /
Alan Price and Georgie Fame

I love Alan Price. I love Georgie Fame. So imagine how bowled over I was when I learned that the two of them recorded together for a while in the early 1970s. They even had a TV show together; I’ve seen a few clips from it (of course we never heard of it in the States). It is kinda surprising that they’d team up, considering that they’re both keyboard players, but I guess they just hit it off and thought, “Why not?”

Listening to their 1971 album Fame & Price Together (which I only got hold of years later—it’s hard work being an American Alan Price fan), I deal out most of the tracks as being either Georgie songs or Alan songs. This one, though, is definitely a duo effort—they sing in equally balanced harmony for nearly the entire thing, with Alan’s smoky voice on the lower part, Georgie’s wispy tenor going falsetto. Alan’s hitting the electric organ in majestic sustained chords (exactly the same sound he’d pull out later on O Lucky Man!) while Georgie counterpoints with splashes of honky-tonk piano. The result is magic.

Otis Redding did this song first, in 1965, but I’d never heard his original when this Price-Fame cover got planted on my turntable. The Rolling Stones did their own bluesy version on Out of Our Heads, but I didn’t know that one either. (I was a true-blue Beatle girl, remember?) Both Otis and the Stones make it snappy, playful and seductive; Alan and Georgie, however, drive theirs into a fervent gospel sound – which inevitably comes off like something you’d hear in a damp church basement in Northern England. In other words, just my cup of tea.

Okay, maybe it’s because this is the version I know best. Or because the very sound of Alan Price’s voice renders me weak-kneed. But you can’t deny it, this one’s a much more earnest pledge of devotion, as if the singers really do believe all their extravagant promises: “I'll be the moon when the sun goes down / To let you know I'm still around”; “I'll be the rainbow when the sun is gone / Wrap you in my colors and keep you warm”; and in that momentous bridge, Alan’s solo vocal, “I'll be the ocean, so deep and wide / I'll dry the tears when you cry / I'll be the breeze when the storm is gone / To dry your eyes and keep you warm.” Sure, so that string of nature images (that’s all this song is, really) is a little hokey, half Metaphysical poetry and half Tin Pan Alley. But those stately organ chords sell it to me just fine.

In my opinion, anybody who does a cover version of any song should bring something new to it. Price and Fame simply transform this song, and I think for the better. Oh no -- a cover version better than Otis? Believe it, oh my brothers and sisters.

That's How Strong My Love Is sample


Michael said...

Holly, I love your description of this Price/Fame number. You capture the exquisite and gently powerful nature of the recording beautifully. Thank you! If you get a chance, stop by my Georgie Fame Blog,

Anonymous said...

Holly, this has been my absolute favorite Fame & Price song for over... 30 years! Price's organ work on this track simply knocks me out! And the lyrics are sung with such heartfelt emotion! Thanks for blogging about this beautiful song.

Best wishes, Tony Concatelli

Anonymous said...

I am an avid lifelong fan of Alan Price and so of course also a fan of Georgie Fame. This song is wonderful but then I would say that wouldn't I?

Thanks - and keep blogging :)