Song Of The Day 8/15/2016: Lou Christie – “Beyond the Blue Horizon”

The Hidden '70s, Part 2 – In the month or so since I first heard Lou Christie's rendition of the '30s standard "Beyond the Blue Horizon" (#80, 1974), it's become one of my favorite songs of all time. That's how quickly things get pushed through these days. The song dates back to 1930, when early movie actress, singer and Nelson Eddy psalm recipient Jeanette MacDonald introduced it in the film Monte Carlo. A couple of versions, including MacDonald's and bandleader George Olsen's, were national hits in 1930.

Lou Christie, one of the most under-appreciated singers ("Two Faces Have I," "Lightnin' Strikes") of the '60s, recorded what sounded to me like a Hawaiian version of this song in the early '70s. But then I found out this was supposed to be a country version, which would lead us to a discussion about those two music forms' sharing of the pedal steel guitar as a prime instrument. Christie's version was also featured at a prime narrative moment in the Dustin Hoffman/Tom Cruise vehicle Rain Man. It's a beautiful song.

But then, I went looking around, and discovered that former Monkee and correction fluid scion Michael Nesmith recorded "Beyond the Blue Horizon" in 1970 with his National Steel Band for his brilliant, prescient Magnetic South album. At about the two-minute mark in that link there, you'll hear the song kick into gear. The rhythm is more directly country, but other than that it's kind of obvious how much Christie, well, referenced Nesmith's older version. Primarily in the straight matching of Nesmith's vocal approach, which begins sort of absent-mindedly, then goes relatively straight, then goes into a full-on Nesmith belt, then settles back down to a gentle fade-out. It's pretty much a conceptual Xerox of Nesmith's approach, placed on an arrangement which I still contend is more Hawaiian. Anyway, should my funeral happen in the near future, use Christie's version as they're shoveling dirt on my unmarked plot.

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