This song from C.W. Stoneking‘s last album is maybe one of the strongest songs he’s ever written. Strangely, he tried to write the perfect Hawaiian sunset crooning tune before, and almost succeeded with ‘Jungle Lullaby’ in 2008.
Anyway, here are the mystery chords of ‘On A Desert Isle’: all natural minor chords are replaced by diminished chords. In the intro this is very apparent as he actually plays C – Em – F – Em-Ebm-Dm – G7 – C.
In the first line C – Edim – F Fdim – C both diminshed chords function as (and can be replaced with simple minor chords Em an Fm). The first (Em) is absolutely natural, and the second is in fact a standard blues and jazz move: making the IV minor (i.e. Fm). Otis Span uses it here (from F to Fm on “we’s allright” and “shoot my baby, etc..). This same progression even made some nineties kids millionaires, it’s so fucking special…
- E dim: I – IIIb – Vb or E – G – Bb played 312XXX — is indeed not as CW remarks a Gm6 but an Em chord. And can be substituted for a simple Em chord!
- F dim: F – G# – B played X213XX
- B dim: X869XX
- Dm7b5: played X5656X
- C9/E is the best way to describe the XX233X chord leading into the chorus. C9 by itself would be a great way to go to F, but putting the E note in the bass makes so much sense.
For now, I only transcribed the basic chords for the two sections, not the details, which I will bring in later.