Great Big Sea--"Mari Mac (live)" (mp3)
The genius of Frampton Comes Alive, which came out over 30 years ago (yep, even I owned it), was the most overt subliminal advertising that anyone has come up with. Overt? Subliminal? At the same time? How so?
Well, you take a so-so, well-recorded concert from a lesser artist and you doctor the audience tracks. You have them become a presence on every song. You make them sound like the simplest, slowest talk-box notes are inducing orgasms. You have the crowd go berserk over pretty little instrumentals. You make the whole show sound like it was the concert event of the decade and that if, by some misfortune, radio listeners weren't among the 2000 or so people there, then they will have to buy the record so they to can bask in the glow of the experience.
It worked. People bought the record by the millions, the only time Frampton ever came close to anything like that. Frampton Comes Alive became the greatest selling live album of all time. The record both jumpstarted his career and pushed it up to a level that he could never hope to attain again, because he was never meant to be anything more than a pleasant, minor artist.
So, here's the overt subliminalism: a listener hearing other listeners having such a wonderful experience is lured into wanting to be a part of that experience himself or herself. I suppose if you thought about it, it's really not that much different from putting a laugh track on a sitcom, but on Frampton's record, unlike that laugh track, the crowd is timed to sound like it was really there. Or, maybe it was really there and they just put the audience much higher in the mix than what would have reflected reality. I really don't know. The only thing I don't believe is that the group of concertgoers were as into Frampton's show as they were made to appear to be. This article on the matter suggests that the audience tracks were a combination of the actual audience turned up and canned audience tracks.
Here's something even more amazing, though. I came across another such CD a few years ago, and it has had a similar effect on me. Road Rage, by the band Great Big Sea, captures their tour across Canada circa 1999 in such away that it revives the basic feelings that Frampton's record did: who are these guys and how have I missed out on something that everyone else is already so into?
Great Big Sea is what I would call Celtic-lite. They play originals and traditional Irish songs, but not with great virtuosity. There are two lead singers, and they have different, engaging voices. The band knows how to play their instruments, but not like, says, the Chieftans, where you are blown away their skill. They're just a good, tight band with a lot of stage presence and maybe they're very good looking, because their audience seems to have a large percentage of women, all of whom know the lyrics to their songs.
Listen to the two songs I've posted. I'm telling you, they are infectious. Maybe GBS pulled a Frampton and somehow sequestered the audience for several days while teaching them the lyrics to the songs and plying them with liquor or offering them favors. But I don't think so. The level of audience identification seems to come from good-natured boys singing good-natured Celtic songs. And the boys know how to play the audience. You'll want to know the words, just so you can keep up with the fun.
If you're driving to work and you want to pump yourself up for the day that lies ahead, you could do a lot worse than "When I'm Up." If you have kids, try the songs out on them. Even though "Mari Mac" is about the narrator getting Mari Mac "on her back" and the scandal or pregnancy that results in both mothers pushing for marriage, I dare you to try to play the song more than twice before the whole family is singing along.
So how come I never heard of these guys?
Maybe it's a Canadian thang. Was.
Maybe it's a Canadian thang. Was.
Great Big Sea is available at Itunes.