12 Songs for Carnival
This has been a cold weekend for Carnival lovers but Eric Montfort tries to warm us up with a list of old, and not so old Carnival songs and rekindles fond memories.
Alan Price Set - Don’t Stop The Carnival
Alan Price hails from Washington, Co. Durham in England and just around 12 miles away from Newcastle. He comes from the same home town as Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music and is amongst the most popular of the Geordie fraternity. A leading figure in the UK Blues Boom, he was part of the legendary Animals. He would eventually leave The Animals and form The Alan Price Set, as well as working with Georgie Fame. Don’t Stop The Carnival, appropriately featuring a brass section, captures the carnival mood within an r&b style. It reached number 13 in the UK charts back in 1968.
Duran Duran - Rio
This million selling album was also known as Carnival, and 30 years ago, it was a huge seller. One of the songs, My Own Way, even featured a carnival mix. It remains one of Duran Duran’s best works and arguably, a great 1980s album too. Its alternative name had a lot to do with Rio’s carnival of course!
The Hawkettes - Mardi Gras Mambo
One of the unofficial anthems of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, arguably the most colourful carnival in the world. It was originally written as a country and western single by Frankie Adams and Lou Welsch and originally recorded by Jodie Levens back in 1953. New Orleans band The Hawkettes, then featuring a 17-year old Art Neville, decided to justifiably give it a rhythm and blues feel, with the Crescent City’s unique trademark jazzy sounds. It was a huge regional hit back in 1955.
The Band - Life is A Carnival
This song opens Cahoots, The Band’s 1971 album. It features horn arrangements from New Orleans legendary artiste, Allen Toussaint, and as expected, it does give a very good impression of another hugely popular carnival and an inspiration to so many talents in this unique port and birthplace of jazz. Carnival in the USA also refers to the gaudy, travelling circuses and The Band also refer to a song about these popular shows in their song The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show, from their 1970 album, Stagefright.
Paul Simon - Take Me To The Mardi Gras
I would not be surprised if Paul Simon got his cue from The Band, but then, Paul Simon, like The Band, also had a wide-angled view of popular music. There Goes Rhymin Simon featured good-feel songs and this was truly Paul Simon’s first eclectic world-music album, and full of catchy pop songs too. The song hit number 7 in the UK back in May 1973.
Tony Christie - Queen of the Mardi Gras
This was actually an entry for UK’s Song for Europe back in 1976. His powerful and crisp voice is present here, though the song is typical festival fare. Brotherhood of Man won that festival with Save Your Kisses, and represented Britain with what ended up as a Eurovision winner.
The Futureheads - Carnival Kids
This song has anything but Carnival overtures. Brash, direct and refers to teen aspirations and disappointments, inspired by punk and indeed having a blunt edge. Anything but carnival joy! Lifted from their self-titled debut album and released in 2004.
Nick Cave - The Carny
Another song which makes use of carnival as a reference to insanity. Dramatic, and very eerie, not least with Nick Cave’s projection of sinister carousel and circus imagery. Yes, life can be a carnival and a carousel of ups and downs, and one must be careful about dealing with life’s pitfalls, if he/she does not want to go insane. Lifted from Nick Cave’s Your Funeral, My Trial back in 1986.
Camille St. Saens - Carnival of the Animals
Beautiful, light classical music, intended for young children. More to do with the beauty and diversity of nature than carnival itself, though there are indeed, instances where the bouncy eight note rhythms are reminiscent of the New Orleans carnival. It was standard fare in many French schools just before the start of Lent. Still sounds fresh more than 125 years since its composition.
The popular Maltese carnival anthem, written by Jimmy Dowling and Johnny Catania. The song says so much about the Valletta scene during carnival, and has such a bright and breezy feel. It has seen many interpretations even among the new generation of artistes.
Azymuth - Jazz Carnival
Leading Brazilian jazz-funk trio have been around for more than 40 years and this is arguably their highest point in their career. Cool and breezy yet so faithful to the Brazilian style. This was a UK hit early in 1980, and was lifted from their album, Light As a Feather released in the previous year. Sadly, keyboards player Roberto Bertrami died last year, aged 66. He plays a crucial role in this song, which was also the theme of a RAI-TV music programme called Mixage, back in 1982.
The Seekers - The Carnival is Over
Judith Durham and co. make a superb arrangement out of an old Russian folk song written back in 1883. This Australian folk-pop band reaped big dividends when they recorded it in 1965. Judith Durham’s voice is simply splendid. She would influence the likes of Annie Haslam of Renaissance in later years.