11 February 2017, No. 236, The Hues Corporation, ‘Rock the Boat’

This is one of those sleeper singles driven eventually to the top of the charts by the nascent New York disco scene, and its strings and schmaltz were still sweet and soulful in 1973, before they were replicated ad infinitum to make a buck off a trend. The Hues Corporation would like to know where you got the notion in No. 236, “Rock the Boat.” The cut was so popular, they put the single version on their second album too.

Soaring strings and record sales aside, I’ve always found the title of this song to contradict its core message, and maybe deliberately so. The participants in the stichomythic hook are diametrically opposed, with the chorus urging boat-rocking while a plaintive Fleming Williams countermands such capsizing silliness. As much as I hate falling on the side of the hoi polloi, I’m with the group on this one. Rock that boat. Provided you know how to swim.

One could swim in the horn lines in “Rock the Boat,” which sound like they’re being poured from a pitcher. Somewhere in the vicinity of sonorous and mellifluous there’s a word for this texture. Sonifluous? Syrupy, really, but still able to be poured from a pitcher and perhaps even swum in, once properly pooled. Just be sure to retain the services of salvage divers to go after that cargo of love and devotion what sunk to the bottom of the sea.