Monday, April 21, 2008

Irving Berlin Revisited

1983 was undoubtedly an exceptional year for pop music in general. I mean it had a lot to live up to following on from the brilliance of 1982. It was the year in which I moved to a new State and a new school, made new friends and tried new things. It was a memorable year for a lot of reasons, not least of which was the music.

One of the years highlights for me was a song called 'Puttin' On The Ritz' by an artist called Taco. At first I thought Taco was a very tasty Mexican dish, then I thought it was a group, but in actual fact Taco was the name of a man. Well, his first name to be precise, his full name being Taco Ockerse. Taco was born in Indonesia to Dutch parents in 1955 and eventually based his career in Germany - a virtual United Nations of the recording biz!
Given the dominance of the new wave and power pop sounds in 1983, and the emergence of rap as a strong musical force in its own right, Taco arguably took a risk in releasing 'Puttin' On The Ritz'. But let's face it the song had impeccable pedigree, penned by the legendary Irving Berlin and already having topped the hit parade (albeit 53 years earlier) for Harry Richman. But Taco took the brilliance that was at the heart of the tune and added an all new layer of contemporary nuance to it, and the song soared to the top of the chart menu reaching #4 in the U.S.

'Puttin On The Ritz' featured on Taco's album 'After Eight' which featured several other reworked classics of the 30s as well as some original compositions done in a similar style. The promo clip helped to sell the whole retro-package , with Taco attired in full 'Fred Astaire-esque' garb.

I purchased the song originally on 45 when it charted here in Australia in late '83 (#5), and later scored a few different versions on various CD compilations. The version available at this link seems to be an extended mix (compared to the others) and is taken from a Readers Digest box set circa mid 90s.
And check out Taco's style in this promo clip:

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