The first time ever I saw your face

May 6, 2010 9:29 AM

The Roberta Flack version of this song was #1 when I was born, but I decided instead to follow the lead of the Chi-Lites, a Chicago group that rivaled Philadelphia's Delphonics.

posted by umbú (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Ah! Then we were born in the same week. (Still haven't figured out how I'd do this song myself. Or if I will.)
posted by NemesisVex at 10:45 AM on May 6, 2010

Awesome. I was worried at first that you were never going to get to the beautiful melody, but when you finally did, wow.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 11:10 AM on May 6, 2010

awww yeah. la boludita digs it, definitely. Acoustic luddite question: how do you put a wa-wa on a synth like that?
posted by dr. boludo at 11:26 AM on May 6, 2010

Thanks, all. Doc boludo, it's a phaser, which sounds at times like a wah. You don't have to pump a pedal though. It just chugs along at the pulse that you set for it.
posted by umbú at 11:35 AM on May 6, 2010

oh i liked that. and i liked the way the intro was sooo long. and very chi-lites too!
posted by peterkins at 3:35 PM on May 6, 2010

Hey, umbú's gone all Quiet Storm on us!

Excellent use of the misspiggy tag.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:34 PM on May 6, 2010

Yeaaaaaah! Wicked sound.

I'd like to hear you sing with more confidence, though. In the intro BG vox, you're all belting it out there, and then you get all hesitant and there's not enough air coming through. Stand back and let loose!
posted by uncleozzy at 5:41 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks, uncleozzy. I think that hits the nail on the head. I had fun trying to recreate the "quiet storm" 1970s slow jam sound, or at least gesture toward it. But I consciously had to stop myself from putting lots of disclaimers in the original post, because this challenge led me to an interesting kind of failure.

I'm not saying that to be self-deprecating--I can see that lots of commenters chose their words carefully, following the tendency on this subsite to be unusually constructive and encouraging in their comments. The tune wasn't one that I would ever think I could pull off, and the May challenge gave me an excuse to try. And I think that I ended up getting caught in an in-between zone. If I had made it obvious that I was just half-assing it, doing a sloppy lo-fi version for laughs, or a parody of r n' b, that would be one thing. But Har Mar Superstar and Beck's Midnite Vultures record leave a sour taste in my mouth. So I decided to play it straighter and just do my best in a couple days to come close to the sound.

What's funny is that I think that by kind of doing it "three-quarters-assed," a listener's expectations are raised a little, and then it just ends up sounding like bad karaoke. But I did it, and I loved messing around with the strings and the phased wurlitzers and all of that, so what do you do?
posted by umbú at 1:16 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

umbú, it's not like those are EASY vocals to do. Man, I'm impressed. This has a great sound@! I'd like to hear more like this.
posted by snsranch at 1:52 PM on May 7, 2010

You are my hero. You should do mine as well, there's no way I can sing that.

Great ambiance. I've no clue how you manage to get that live-jam feel recording by yourself, but that's a great talent.
posted by micayetoca at 3:09 PM on May 7, 2010

I have heard you sing for a
couple decades now
and had not heard this particular voice until now. I think it's great. Tough song. Thanks for the fresh effort on this - what a treat.
posted by blue bar at 12:59 PM on May 8, 2010

I agree with uncleozzy, this is all kinds of awesome but you're totally holding back. And I hear you about the self-deprecating thing. Falsetto is a really hard one to do; honestly, that is; without the whole ha-ha, winking irony. I think you could totally nail it if you just opened up and let it out. But that's easy for me to say. A great effort nonetheless.
posted by chococat at 8:29 PM on May 8, 2010

I think that's pretty ballsy to do falsetto on only one track, so that alone deserves praise. I think the in-between place you talked about in your comment is completely legitimate. Not every cover has to be wink-wink or I'm-gonna-do-this-song-totally-different-than-the-original. Even the falsetto on this song and the one you do on that The Crane cover are pretty different from each other and both effective, which leads me to believe there is a lot you could do with your falsetto if you choose to explore that.
posted by Corduroy at 3:36 PM on May 9, 2010

Thanks for the support and honesty, all. Corduroy, I agree. I think the conventional wisdom of doing a cover totally different than the original is often, maybe most often a good way to go. At the same time, I like pop music cargo cultism--using the materials at hand to try to get as close to the original as you can, even if you know it'll inevitably fall short. It's like the assignment that is pretty common in art classes to do a copy of a masterwork. The process can be really instructive, even if the final product is kind of cringeworthy.
posted by umbú at 8:28 PM on May 9, 2010

OH DUDE that intro is SMOOOOOV and awesome.

The phased wurl is fantastic.

I see what people are saying; the song is definitely in two halves, and I admit I like the first half better. I don't think the second half is bad, but it's a weird tonal switch from first.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 2:36 AM on May 11, 2010

So I decided to play it straighter and just do my best in a couple days to come close to the sound.

Beautiful decision.

the tendency on this subsite to be unusually constructive and encouraging

To be constructive but also critical I would suggest that you are being a bit too straight, or a little too honest and earnest in your approach. A male falsetto is by definition contrived, so it could actually benefit from a bit more added drama, creating the eccentric character in your voice that the song demands.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 9:14 PM on May 13, 2010

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