Tuesday, August 02, 2005
The Avantis: Keep On Dancin'/I Wanna Dance (Argo 5436)
The annals of rock 'n' roll are full of stories like this: a doo wop/soul group records a song. It maybe sells to a few kids, lights up a few dance floors, then peters out. Then a few years later, a group of high school kids recording their first record need something to put on the back of their single. They dig up this old dance tune they heard from a couple of years back. They cover it for the flip. The DJs hear the flip and go ape. The B-side becomes the A-side and the A-side becomes a top 10 smash. Sound familiar? Well, I'm sure you all know The Gentrys' one-shot hit. But here's the original in all it's doo-wop glory. The major difference is while The Gentrys are doin' the jerk and wantin' you to show 'em how you work, The Avantis are doin' the twist and shakin' it like this! The farfisa so prominent in the Gentrys is downplayed in The Avantis' in favor of saxes and trumpets. In fact, the organ breaks you're familiar with (you know, dum-dum-da-dum-dum-da-dum-dum-da-diddy-diddy) are played with horns here. Plus, the Avantis' version is a bit slower and in a different key. Even so, it's still a workout of a version. The Avantis get wilder on "I Wanna Dance" when they decide to pick up speed a bit. So now you have a choice with "Keep On Dancin'": The Gentrys' more frantic frat version, or The Avantis' more soulful one. Personally, I dig 'em both. I don't see the point in this case of sweeping one version to the dustbins of history in favor of a more popular one. After all, Bruce Willis' version of "Respect Yourself" hit #6 while The Staple Singers' original only made to #11 (on the Billboard pop charts, that is). You think I'm going to downplay The Staple Singers in favor of Bruce Willis? No. (In fact, I'd rather forget Willis's version, if you don't mind. If you have a brain, so will you.) So, let's bask in the glow of two great versions. I mean, why not?