i put a spell on you

i put a spell on you

[Screamin' Jay Hawkins "I Put A Spell On You" 1966 Decca Version: J Toubin's Daily Party Platter]

6d ago
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[A few weeks ago I came across this Decca version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” at Detroit’s People’s Records. Since “All Night,” one of my favorites, is also the same label from the same period, and since, what the heck, he’s the best singer/performer/musical personality of all time (I always buy even his worst stuff!), I adopted this puppy and gave it a home with me back in New York City! And it’s been driving the dancers wild ever since! I’m definitely aware that this comes nowhere near the incomparable first couple of versions in terms of quality. And I admit that the competent vanilla studio band chugging through the glossy arrangement may as well be Blood Sweat and Tears (the arranger was later not surprisingly responsible for the sound of The Main Ingredient - "Everybody Plays The Fool, "etc). This time Hawkins’ signature song has been reassembled and locked onto a fast enough grid that you can finally turn “I Put A Spell On You” for the dance floor! In that sense this one''s conceptually similar to the contemporary remix - given a more danceable makeover one one hand at the expense of losing focus and being nowhere near as good as the original on the other! But what the heck, in this case the disparate aesthetically questionable ingredients have their own perverse magic when combined. It just works. Plus the intro and awkwardly introduced mid-section here finds Screamin' Jay at his weirdest and wildest. Nearly one third of this short spin is devoted to the beatless stops and starts in the break - showcasing Screamin’ Jay’s trademark grunting and shrieking. Its long enough and weird enough to make anybody dance floor uncertain of what they should be doing and, in general, very uncomfortable. The decadent tedium of this section's length, combined with the freakishness, dissonance, and frustrated anticipation of a return to rhythm, insures that when the beat finally hits again, the floor will commence the dance with the type of universal shared relief and excitement you witness when geriatrics hear a wedding DJ drop the Four Seasons on the heels of an extended Iggy Azalea megamix... Maybe I’m so hypnotized by Screamin' Jay's hoopin’ and hollerin’, that “I Put A Spell On You” ’66 may in fact be the worst record of all time. And next week I may well regret bringing this platter to your attention. But I know that in this life (as well as in any other life) you might as well go out on a limb at the risk of looking ridiculous. There’s a fine line between the worst and the best so I’ll just take my chances, go way beyond the safety zone, and irresponsibly proclaim this the best record ever made… by anybody… EVER… of all time! And even if this track, which I just heralded the preeminent exemplar of the art of recorded music, doesn't even measure up to Screamin’ Jay’s top twenty sides, his most humdrum nostril booger is more resplendent than Drake’s chef d’oeuvre (or his coffee cake for that matter). Like Louis Armstrong before him, Screamin' Jay proves here that his distinctive musicianship can swing even the squarest of musical combos. And what the heck, the man dabbled in schmaltz since day one and I'll take this curiosity over his classic version of, say, "I Love Paris" any day. If archeologists in the not-so-distant future dive down, deep down below the ocean, into the submerged ruins of New York City and find a random box of records and they drop the needle on this firecracker, they would no doubt assume that this must be the voice of god speaking to them. What’s left of civilization would try to talk and sing like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and they would spend the rest of eternity trying to figure out the meaning of his words and sounds, what he looked like, how he dressed, etc. This shiny little piece of black petroleum would herald a new awakening and change the course of humanity the same way Poggi’s discovery of “De Rerum Natura” helped spark the renaissance... Or at the very least our progeny ...