Saturday, April 19, 2008

"Any Day Now" / Alan Price

Apparently Mr. Alan Price turns 67 today, which I just can't believe; anybody who's seen him in concert lately (I had that privilege a little over 3 years ago) knows that he can still wail the blues and tear up and down a keyboard like nobody's business.

Price's career has followed a funny road, from those early days with the Animals through collaborating with Georgie Fame, covering loads of early Randy Newman songs, providing peerless soundtracks for most of Lindsay Anderson's films, and gigging away as a versatile singer-songwriter. Most folks in the States have no idea who he is, which is why so few of his albums are even available on Amazon -- there were about a dozen tracks I wanted to honor on this occasion, but couldn't locate MP3s for.

Still, there's no need to apologize for introducing you to "Any Day Now," if you don't already know this honey of a song. It was one of his early hit singles (1965) with his first post-Animals outfit, the Alan Price Set, a band that deliberately aimed for a non-Animals sound with a full horn section -- and no competing lead singer. With the Alan Price Set, Alan finally moved into the spotlight and up to the mike, and anybody who doubts that he deserved to sing more with the Animals only has to listen to the vocals on this number.

Written by Burt Bacharach (though with lyrics by Bob Hilliard instead of Hal David), "Any Day Now" was a 1962 hit for American R&B singer Chuck Jackson. The song's about a man anticipating being left by his restless girlfriend, and Jackson's version is underlaid with dread and regret. In Price's hands, the whole song brightens up, with a perkier tempo, brass fanfares, and a cha-cha organ syncopation. Jackson sounds like he's laying a guilt trip on the girl; Price is putting her on a pedestal, glorying in her free-spirited nature. (Think Julie Christie in Darling.) Now tell me, ladies, which would you rather hear?

And then there's Price's vocal performance, which is smoky and incredibly sexy. Enhanced by echo effects, he plays up his huskiest tones, dropping down to a whispery hush on the lines "goodbye my love," "meet someone new" or "you'll call it off," giving a throaty flutter to the words "bird" and "flown." "Any day now / I will hear you say / 'Goodbye my love' / And you'll be on your way" -- he knows what's coming, but he's fatalistic about it; he accepts that that's the price a man pays for spending any time with such a lovely creature.

"I know I shouldn't want to keep you / If you don't want to stay / Until you'll gone forever / I'll be holding on for delight / Holding you this way / Hoping you will stay," Price tells us in the bridge, the heart of the song. With that hint of gruffness in his voice, he sounds earnest and earthy all at once, and I get lost in dreaming about what "holding you this way" means.

Well, I know it's an old song -- Alan Price was in his early 20s when he did this, and he's now in his late 60s. (Still hard to believe.) But believe me, he's still got the magic. Happy birthday, Alan, and many many more.

Any Day Now sample

1 comment:

Uncle E said...

I am loathe to admit that I am not familiar with Mr. Price, but you make a compelling argument for his talents. I shall investigate...