Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Nobel Prizes That I've Never Won

I admit I never knew much about the Four Freshmen, and thought of them (if I did at all) as a bunch of college glee-club frat boys, the kind of musical blandness that rock'n'roll happily left in the dust. (Or the dustbin of history, while I'm tossing my cliche salad here.)

But this morning my community radio station's pre-rock program, "Golden Age Radio," made me reconsider by playing this song by the current incarnation of the Freshmen.

Who was that? I wondered, and made sure I was paying attention when the DJ read off the playlist. When I found this video later, I realized that they were playing their own instruments, and quite well too. Further research revealed that this was not a new development -- the original group did the same, as shown by this 1952 version of "Poinciana", which does look like it was filmed in a frat house. (I prefer Ahmad Jamal's instrumental arrangement myself, but never mind.)

Anyway, I liked this version of "If I Only Had a Brain," partly I think because the glee-club harmonies are reserved for the bridge; it's a good musical decision on the group's part. Besides, taken out of its original context this becomes a song like "What a Wonderful World" or "Mayor of Simpleton," two other favorites of mine. It doesn't happen too often at my age that I hear a song and have the Who is that? reaction, so my day got off to a good start.