That Thing You Do
The latest from Libertalia!
by Allene Lewis
(reprinted with permission)
Those familiar with the Jazz, Rock, Reggae and WorldBeat-influenced modern Amercian dance music of Libertalia will find most (though not all) of the usual suspects at work in That Thing You Do. There is no guitar solo and the piece is relatively short (3:23) at least by Libertalian standards.
The track begins with a Calypso-style drum melody played out on the toms of a well-tuned trap kit over a kick-drum repeating quarter notes. This establishes the basic rhythm scheme of the piece and also provides a theme which songwriter, arranger, producer Randell Young uses as both an intro and (later) as a solo break.
The electric bass guitar, rhythm guitar and keyboard all enter at once but not before vocalist Joni Margaux launches into her first verse in the unaccompanied space (otherwise known as a half rest) between the last tom hit of the drum intro and the first note of the bass line.
The Fender Jazz bass enters in typical Libertalian fashion with a thumb slap to the root on one and then continues on with literally every note thumb slapped or popped until we get to the bridge whereupon the piece abruptly changes character and relies on a tom-tom pattern to keep time until the band returns with full rhythmic force on the hook.
Also true to Libertalian form, the bass line is reinforced with a rhythmic melody which begins with a guitar riff and is completed by a keyboard figure. The bass line, guitar riff and keyboard reply maintain a basic flowing rhythm bed throughout the song. Further harmonic interest is created with vocal-supporting counter-melodies played by violins, violas and cellos and a trumpet and French horn riff that could be considered a hook in its own right.
Joni Margaux lays down the melody with her lush, always-in-perfect-pitch (though absolutely never AutoTuned) alto vocal which somehow manages to sound sultry and innocent all at the same time. She avoids that trap which ensnares so many pop and soul singers (abandoning the melody in search of some wild embellishment that shows off whatever they think is special about their voice) and, instead, interjects her personality by changing her timbre on certain words, working her big Joni Mitchell-like vibrato on certain key phrases and throwing in a little rock-a-billy-like improvisation closely followed by just a bit of very subtle blues-like growling on the last two lines of the tag. Also very Libertalian-like, the bridge and choruses get the full Court and Spark treatment with Joni harmonizing with herself in three and four parts.
Lyrically, That Thing You Do centers more on a burning desire to find a time and place for something rather than whatever it is the protagonist actually intends to do. The paired lines, “I could be wrong about you; I could be out of my mind,” are particularly poignant. Who hasn’t had this very thought creep into their consciousness from time to time? As for myself, I must consider this possibility at least several times a day.
The third verse of That Thing You Do reveals the whole point of the tune. “There is a day!” the voice of God (as portrayed by Randell Young) is heard declaring between Joni Margaux’s lines, “There’s a day,” and, “That I see.” As much as That Thing You Do is about finding a time and place for a relationship to flourish, it’s also an affirmation that there does exist a time and place for any worthwhile endeavor to be achieved.
And, given that Libertalia is all about the music, the message and the mission (of creating Libertalia), such a declaration is nothing if not a call to arms of everyone, worldwide, regardless of present nationality, that longs for “small corner of the earth where health, wealth and happiness might be pursued unburdened by the Dictates of Oligarchs or the Tyranny of the Masses.”
The technical competence and virtuosity of Libertalia are obvious from the very first few notes. A deeper dive into their brief body of work (now 13 tracks and about one hour in total length) will quickly establish with any intelligent listener the fact that Libertalia is, indeed, high art which operates successfully on multiple levels. That Thing You Do is the latest manifestation of the high art, music, message and mission of Libertalia!
About that I am certain; I am not out of my mind.