Two by two

Two by two


I was thinking about musical duos... the ones I like of the ones I know or am familiar with.

This is not about the greatest or the best, just my personal tastes. I'm sure everyone has his/her own preferences.

Off hand, I discounted a couple of soul artists, not because they aren't talented or I don't like their songs, but because I find soul music less appealing than other genres (though I do really like blues).  The soul duos I'm familiar with would include Sam & Dave, Ike & Tina Turner,  I've heard songs, however, by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell that I thought were awesome. 

Next to be discounted are some pop duos like Wham,  Jan & Dean and Sonny & Cher. Again, not because I don't like some of their songs, but rather because they fall on the lower strata of my preferences.

Lennon & McCartney would be near the top of my list but I don't consider this pairing a duo, even if they both signed their names to songs obviously written by one or the other. To me they are the Beatles, not really a duo (of course, I discount John & Yoko and Paul & Linda).  The Lennon & McCartney clones, Chad & Jeremy and Peter & Gordon, both duos very pleasant and competent,  barely rise above that level.  If I'm looking at song-writing duos, there are a few that I appreciate: Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings who wrote the best Guess Who songs and Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA fame. I could add Mick Jagger and Keith Richards but I really don't care for the Rolling Stones - it's hard for me to separate the writing with the performance.   I would put Felice and Boudleaux Bryant at the top of songwriting duos.  And that leads me to my favorites performers.

The Bryants wrote a number of hit songs for the Everly Brothers. If there is one duo that stands head and shoulders about the rest, at least from an influential perspective, Phil and Don fit that bill.   Interesting enough, I found the Chapin Sisters' cover album, "A Date with the Everly Brothers"  to be a charming and faithful homage:

Here are the Everlys doing "Crying in the Rain"

One of the two-person groups heavily influenced by the Everlys was Simon and Garfunkel, another of my favorite duos. While I'm more enamored with Paul Simon, Arthur Garfunkel's angelic voice has its own undeniable appeal.

Here's the Simon and Garfunkel cover of the Everlys' Bye Bye Love:

I've always found Ian & Sylvia, singers with a western bent, rather appealing.  I'm not a fan of today's country music.  One can argue convincingly that the Everlys and Ian & Sylvia were country singers, but I find their styles as dissimilar to modern country as that of Chet Atkins or Hank Williams.  

Ian & Sylvia performing Gordon Lightfoot's "That's What You Get for Loving Me"

But speaking of heavenly voices (as with Artie Garfunkel), few voices compare to that of Bobby Hatfield of the duo, the Righteous Brothers.  I might even list them among my favorite duos except what makes them good, the counterpoint pitting Hatfield's tenor against Bill Medley's powerful low baritone, also seems to limit their style.  Counterpoint is good, but there should be more variety.  Also, to me Phil Spector's heavy handed, formulaic recording style wears thin after a while.

About 10 years ago friend of mine introduced me to the recordings of Rodrigo y Gabriela. I mention them because they are an instrumental (acoustical guitar) duo playing a fusion of rock and flamenco.  I haven't really followed them, but what I've listened to is fantástico.

Rodrigo y Gabriela playing the "Red Devil"

Les Paul & Mary Ford, Ike & Tina Turner, Hall & Oates , Loggins & Messina, Seals & Crofts all come to mind as duos with a certain appeal, though they don't particularly rate high on my personal preference list.

How can someone not like Les Paul's guitarwork?

My favorite duo, ever since I first heard them, has always been the Indigo Girls - Amy Ray and Emily Saliers.  They infuse their instrumental skill and unique vocal blend with their individual, even contrasting. writing styles to make each song a study in originality.  They have always had this weird effect on me - as a rule, their songs/albums that don't appeal to me right away usually end up being among my favorites.  

Everyone is different.  The popular music universe is filled with seeming endless styles and tastes, enough to suit anyone's preferences.   What could be nicer?