“Time and Tide” is a song that epitomizes everything I love about music. Polish singer Basia Trzetrzelewska is best known for her upbeat, jazz-pop songs that sound right at home on a cruise ship, but her first hit in the United States was the charming “Time and Tide,” a slower, dreamy standard that always leaves me smiling.
The song begins with standard jazz fare, as Basia’s voice finds a beautiful melody over some complicated chord changes. Backup singers join her on the second verse, singing in harmony, and then the chorus takes a sharp turn: an almost-New Wave sound, simpler, with Basia singing to a piano in simple intervals. First she sings the root, then up a third, then back to the root, and then a fourth, then the root again, and up all the way to a fifth as she tells us, “We’ve got time, oh baby, there’s no rush / Gonna be a better day for us / Hang on, and I will wait for you”
You have to know something about chord progressions to truly appreciate this song. Basia throws everything but the kitchen sink in there — no simple I – IV – V progressions in sight — but it all makes sense. The bridge features a key change and a piano instrumental, laced with those beautiful harmonies again. Then there’s another key change, but it’s hardly noticeable since she’s been changing chords every half measure.
The song grows only slightly in intensity, but again, you hardly notice it until the key change, and then as the chorus repeats itself, it settles back down, going through the chorus and ending on that perfect fifth interval.
I guess it’s not cool to like this one-hit wonder — how many Basia fans do you find nowadays? — but I still marvel at the complexity and beauty of this song. I usually like my songs simple, but this is one exception.