Take a sniff. Smell anything? That is Spring, my friend, and when Spring approaches, so does spring training and, well, baseball. Granted, the past year has thrown a bit of a pall on the game, denials from certain supposed supermen notwithstanding, but it is still baseball and it still holds the same fascination for the many of us who grew up with the sport and remember it is a game.
What does this have to do with music, you ask? This Spring Fever, you see, heightens senses and even the audio becomes enhanced. Thus, when someone records a song—say, Arlon Bennett—which revolves around a beloved sport—say, baseball—it is no surprise that ears everywhere hone in on the signal.
That signal comes in the form of Summer's Voice—the track, not the album. Add another classic to a growing list of songs regarding America's Pastime. A tribute to the longtime Voice of the Mets, Bob Murphy, it recounts days past when someone, probably Bennett himself, followed Mets' games through the airwaves. In this case, Murphy himself became to many the voice of memories, summer breezes and sizzling heatwaves produced with the cry, "It's a beautiful day for baseball!". The reverence Bennett feels for those days and That Voice will resonate with anyone who remembers Murphy or who just loves the game. May Bob Murphy rest in peace.
Summer's Voice is not an album of baseball songs, though, nor is it further sports-related. It is, though, a collection of Arlon Bennett's tributes to the times, so to speak. He is serious, as with Be the Change, a call to follow in the footsteps of those who demanded, in their own ways, that the world be a better place. Simple and straightforward, it essentially makes the case. Red Light Kiss, in its light and flowing rhythm and melody, captures the feel of many summer anthems like Bruce Channel's Hey Baby, the vision of a guy and girl kissing during a red light stop. The Viet Nam War may be behind many and a mere blip on the screen of the young, but Bennett keeps it alive with Bandana Man, a stirring song about a man forever changed by the fortunes of war. It is storytelling of the magnitude of a Harry Chapin or a Phil Ochs.
There are other songs of moment on the album as well, but why belabor the point. They change in mood from reflective to pure happiness, but always with the touch of, shall we say, creative intelligence? The foundation of Bennett's songs is intelligence, whether it be wit or just his angle of view. He has a way of taking something mundane and making it fresh. Not unlike the very early James Taylor, who took more lonely walks of import during those few years than did ninety-percent of the musicians in L.A.
You know what? If James Taylor wants to revive his career, he should consider doing an album of Bennett's songs—say, The Arlon Bennett Songbook. Taylor could do a decent enough job on half of what Bennett placed on this album and Bennett undoubtedly has plenty more, even if you consider only Bennett's first two releases, Fountain of Dreams and The Watch Man. Taylor fans may laugh but let me tell you, when Bennett wants to, he can take you back to those country roads.
Then again, it is hard to imagine anyone doing better versions of these songs. The production is topnotch and the musicians in tune with what Bennett wanted, and he obviously writes and performs for a reason, whether it be to inspire us all to be better people or to simply appreciate the bounty before us. Arlon Bennett tries and he certainly appreciates. To him, thanks to Bob Murphy, the summer will always be filled with beautiful days, for baseball and so much more. You nailed it, Arlon.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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