Thursday, October 2, 2014

Crazy Horses

Okay. So it's easy (and largely justified) to laugh at the Osmonds. A very white version of the Jackson 5, with amazing teeth and less good songs (and dance moves).

It's also easy to single out "Crazy Horses" as one of the exceptions, given its critical re-establishment this century, due to (perhaps initially ironical) covers by younger bands.

But it also stands up. This is one badass jam.

The brothers wrote and played everything on this album themselves, in a bid for critical respect. It didn't seem to work much at the time, but history has proved kinder. And props to the boys for being pro-environmental, whether trendy or not. As my imaginary friend Chris said:
It really tries to be be "of the time" while also having a very dorm-room-at-3am vibe -- "Man, did you ever notice that cars are, like, really just a kind of crazy horse?"
The reason you don't see a drummer in this video is that they're lip-syncing to the studio version, and the drums you're hearing are really being played by lead singer Alan. Which, given that drummers are usually, you know, behind the drums, might explain his what-if-Joe-Cocker-were-in-great-shape-but-still-tripping-balls dance moves...except that Alan was also the band's (and The Donny and Marie Show's) choreographer.

Wayne, on lead guitar, looks remarkably like Jimmy Page. And if he's not got Pagey's chops—no sin, by any means—his solo is actually pretty cool. Not exactly a masterclass in technique, it's interesting in how catchy, yet slightly raunchy, it is, while not echoing any melody heard elsewhere in the song, but rather providing some sort of basic counterpoint. Not bad.

And then there's Merrill, playing the bass and singing the lines right before the chorus. Okay, sure, his teeth might be beyond perfect—boy, howdy, they sure look like they are, even by Osmond standards (which, apparently, are still considered The Gold Standard in dental school)—but homeboy sells this damn song, with range and grit. And check out the bit after the solo, where he repeated "what they've done" line: he sings that not four times, and not eight, but seven, holding on the final, a nice bit of asymmetry that works to build the tension for the final chorus.

The keyboard horse effect does get pretty old, though. But we'll put up with it, if that's the price to be paid for a guitar riff that awesome.

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