Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wendy and the art of minimal yet effective contribution

It is usually a sure bet that any indie track featuring well-arranged backing vocals and nifty harmonies (usually female) is going to grab my attention. Belle and Sebastian use this. As do The Beautiful South and even The Shins on parts of their new album. Duets are cool too - especially guy v. girl romps like the Ballad of Tom Jones or Ciao! Also nice are lofty numbers with the “I’d-like-to-buy-the-world-a-coke” type choral harmonies as performed by hugely populated bands like the Polyphonic Spree and I’m from Barcelona or even just your regular-sized band, but with a gospel choir in the background, such as Blur circa Tender

For me, one of the best examples of a band utilizing backing vocal tracks to perfection is Prefab Sprout. Specifically, former member Wendy Smith whose minimal on-paper contributions should not be scoffed at (and she did a lot of hair tossing and some dancing during live performances as well). As a backing vocalist whose style blends intricately with Paddy’s McAloon’s lead (and Paddy's own backing falsettos), Wendy sings harmonies during choruses but often also sings parts without accompaniment and can play off the lead vox with some expertly timed “ah, ah, aahs”, “sha-doobie-doobies”, and “la,la,las” (that’s official music-speak; the FiL would be proud!).

I appreciate Wendy Smith, the female Art Garfunkel (minus the critically dismissed solo career… or the curly, receding hairdo) and I imagine her restfully puttering about with her babies in rural England, living off the royalties of a brilliant career (ha! I don't think PS made any money) and occasionally pining for the day when she was in one of the most essential bands of its time.

Here is Wendy Smith in all her subtle, wispy, ethereal “ah-ah-aah”edness:

VIDEO: Prefab Sprout - We let the stars go

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wendy has been doing her thing in new context check out where you can hear her on sevearl tracks but unfortunatley can't see her hair flicking or pouting!!