Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wish List ‘05: Polka CD

$5-$20

I came away from my one and only theme park experience with several things: an even greater appreciation for moving water, an even greater hatred for long lines, a sunburn (probably), a fair case of dehydration (definitely), and a thirst for German music.

A lot of hatred and scorn is reserved for polka amongst those who have never actually listened to it, I notice. I had never thought about the genre at all. But having heard it in all its glory, I proceeded to collect some now long-gone cassettes--most notably one called “Non-Stop Polka” (20 songs from Brentwood, not that “23 Hits” version now circulating) which included a full-lyrics version of “Chicken Dance.” Priceless.

If you’ve ever listened to good Tejano while driving you know what a beautiful instrument the accordion is. And while I have nothing bad to say about Tejano, if you haven’t heard the preceding accordion stylings of old Poland and Germany, you have yet to taste it‘s full sound. (And, no it is not polka when the accordion part is arranged for trumpet. The trumpet is a magnificent instrument, but let’s try to confine it to it’s proper musical styles.)

I just don’t get the fact that polka is considered a fringe style. A mass of art loved by a minority and perceived as a joke by everyone else. A major retail website has over 100 polka titles, but has them randomly categorized as everything from classical, folk, and jazz to country, rock, and disco. I mean, come on! A little respect as an art form, hmm?

While this haphazard classification system fails to meet any logical standards, it is interesting to note how many musical genera have been successfully adapted to polka rhythms. A cursory glance at some current polka titles reveals songs originally by the likes of Irving Berlin, Louis Armstrong, and Johnny Cash.
And “Walk the Line” as a polka isn’t half as bad as it first sounds.

Some songs to look for: “Chicken Dance,” “Beer Barrel Polka,” “Too Fat Polka,” “Henrietta Polka,” and (especially) anything actually in Polish or German.

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