Any Major Soul 1976 Vol. 1

June 22nd, 2017 4 comments

The year 1976 was a great year for soul. Even as disco made its influence felt, there was still a lot of music that built on the foundations of what had come in the years before, the more clinical sounds of the 1980s still in the future.

To exemplify, the opening track, by former James Brown sidekick Lyn Collins, has a vibe that would not have been out of place in 1968. The track that follows it, by the Brothers Johnson, follows Collins’ track quite naturally but also nods vaguely in the direction of disco, in a funky kind of way. Philly Soul, which is richly represented here, was in many ways part of the disco movement, but it always referenced the heritage of soul.

The most bizarre background story of acts featured on this mix concerns Spice, who recorded on the TSG label. Trouble was, TSG wasn’t really into making money, never mind making stars of their signings; their racket was to create tax write-offs. So Spice saw a single — the featured track — released, to no success. An LP was also produced, but it seems the band members didn’t know about it until about seven years ago when the singer’s octogenarian mother heard a track from it on a blog and recognised the voice of her son, Richard Brown Jr.  Brown was mentored by the Main Ingredient’s Donald McPherson in the craft of songwriting and arranging. Before too long they came to the attention of singer and label owner Lloyd Price, whom they also backed. But one night the band threw in the towel after another inadequate pay check. Their pretty good LP was never distributed, so the few copies that were circulation became a sought-after collector’s item — one that not even its singer would be aware of for almost 35 years. It finally was issued on CD in 2013.

Alas, I have virtually no information about Revelation. I can find no biographical detail other than the members’ names and producers, despite their having released five albums between 1976 and 1982. Revelation’s 1976 debut appeared on RSO, but most of the backing musicians where from the Philly Soul scene, and the album certainly sounds like it — which is a recommendation.

The Chi-Lites feature on this mix; a couple of songs later we encounter Maryann Farra & Satin Soul, for whom former Chi-Lites leader Eugene Record did arranging, though not on the featured track. That song is a gender-adapted cover of the Chi-Lites’ Living In The Footsteps Of Another Man, which featured on Any Major Soul 1972 Vol. 1. Farra and her band also covered Stoned Out Of My Mind, a great song which I’ve just realised inexplicably has never featured on any major mix. I really thought it had…

There have been many acts called First Class; the most famous of whom may be the lot that had a hit with Beach Baby (featured on Should Have Been A Top 10 Hit Vol. 3). The incarnation featuring here was from Baltimore, and enjoyed only limited success, mostly on the east coast. Their sound drew from Philly, with falsettos and the works.  By 1980 the band was done recording albums. Don’t be alarmed by the abrupt end to the song, and therefore to this compilation). The lyrics explain why.

As always, CD-R length, home-souled covers, PW in comments.

1. Lyn Collins – Me And My Baby Got A Good Thing Going
2. Brothers Johnson – Free and Single
3. Earth, Wind & Fire – On Your Face
4. The Drifters – You’re More Than A Number In My Little Red Book
5. Archie Bells & the Drells – I Could Dance All Night
6. Lou Rawls – Groovy People
7. Anthony White – Where Would I Be Without You
8. Ronnie McNeir – Selling My Heart To The Junkman
9. Revelation – We’ve Gotta Survive
10. Chi-Lites – Happy Being Lonely
11. The Ebonys – Mr. Me, Mrs. You
12. Maryann Farra & Satin Soul – Living In The Footsteps Of Another Girl
13. G.C. Cameron – Include Me In Your Life
14. Margie Joseph – Hear The Words, Feel The Feeling
15. Tommy Hunt – Loving On The Losing Side
16. David Ruffin – Good Good Times
17. Bo Kirkland & Ruth Davis – I Feel Love In This Room Tonight
18. Terry Huff – I Destroyed Your Love, Pt. 1
19. Spice – Everything Is You
20. Diana Ross – I Thought It Took A Little Time
21. Rose Royce – I Wanna To Get Next To You
22. First Class – Coming Back To You

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Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s

June 15th, 2017 10 comments

The release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50 years ago rewrote the rulebook of pop music. It’s not that it was the first concept album (in as far as it was even that in the sense we’ve come to understand the idea now), nor the first to dabble innovative studio tricks (The Beatles themselves had done so on Revolver, and Brian Wilson was perhaps even more innovative at the time). But for contemporaries, the album changed everything.

Perhaps it was also the cover that had such an impact. It was not usual to create artworks for LP covers — the Beach Boys were still goofing about with animals on snapshots for the sleeve for Pet Sounds. One could study Peter Blake’s collage for the duration of Side 1 and while away the inferior second side studying it some more,, and return to it over and over again. Even today, it is a significant piece of 20th-century art.

But the thing is, Sgt Pepper’s is greater in its context than it is within the canon of Beatles albums. Of course, there are mighty tracks on it. A Day In The Life is a masterpiece, but I know few Beatles fans whose life would be poorer for the absence of Lovely Rita, or, indeed, Within You Without You (cleverly sequenced to start Side 2, for easy skipability). It doesn’t require clever revisionism by deliberate iconoclasts to regard Sgt Pepper’s as not the greatest album the Beatles made. But it does require the revisionism of fools to call it overrated. Sgt Pepper’s is a great album, especially the first side, and its historical impact cannot be overstated.

And if the later rule of already-released singles finding a place on albums had been in force, imagine how much better Sgt Pepper’s might have been with Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. In the event, EMI insisted on releasing the songs, which were recorded as part of the Sgt Pepper’s sessions, as a double a-sided single.

A poster of The Beatles in Sgt Pepper’s uniforms in the German youth magazine Bravo in July 1967. (see www.bravoposters.wordpress.com for daily vintage Bravo posters)

Just a couple of weeks after Sgt Pepper’s was released, The Beatles recorded All You Need Is Love. The boys — Ringo was just turning 27; John was 26, Paul was about to turn 25, George was 24 — were on a hot streak.

Of course, Paul McCartney will turn 75 this month. But 50 years ago he was already dead, and long-standing research shows that Sgt Pepper’s provided the proof we’d have confirmed by the Abbey Road cover, by way of very clear clues. To start with, there’s a new band with one Billy Shears as the singer (well, Ringo is Billy Shears, but let’s not have Failing Fake News disturb us). In A Day In The Life John sings: “He blew his mind out in a car”, indicating the method of Paul’s death. And if you play the song backwards, you apparently can hear the phrase, “Paul is dead, miss him, miss him”. At the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, John says, “I buried Paul”. Lennon claimed he mumbled “cranberry sauce”, but why would he say “cranberry sauce” when Paul is dead and he buried him? Wake up, sheeple!

And then there’s the cover. In the foreground is clearly a grave — Paul’s grave! Look at the wax figure Young Beatles: Ringo is sad, very sad, as he looks at Paul’s grave. John is putting a comforting hand on Ringo’s shoulder (George seems glad though. Was he involved in the plot to kill Paul?). On the back cover, “Paul” turns his back; even Fake Paul is trying to give us a clue, apparently trying to escape the conspiracy. And here’s the smoking gun: Place the cover in front of a mirror, and the words “Lonely Hearts” on the drum read, “1 ONE 1 X HE DIE 1 ONE 1”, as you can see very clearly below. It’s so obvious, folks.

So happy birthday to you, Sir Paul McCartney, whoever you are!

Which brings us to this selection of cover versions of songs from Sgt Pepper’s, in the proper sequence. The selection is eclectic, yet it all flows. You’d expect otherwise from a sequence that goes from psychedelic rock of Jimi Hendrix (recorded in concert in Stockholm) to bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs to soul singer Natalie Cole to rockers Status Quo to old comedian George Burns to folkie Richie Havens and so on. And still, it all fits together well. It helps that Scruggs isn’t banjoing the hell out of With A Little Help From My Friends, and that Natalie Cole rocks harder than the Quo, who sound more like Burns. On the LP, the closing song is the crowning glory. The same might be said here of War’s epic take on A Day In The Life.

I have added covers of Strawberry Fields and Penny Land to the mix. The best cover of the former is that by Richie Havens, but he already features with She’s Leaving Home. In any case, Havens’ version has featured before on one of the many mixes of Beatles covers.

Coming in at under an hour, the mix fits on a standard CD-R. Covers are included. PW in the comments section (the purpose of which is not really to declare passwords but for readers to say something).

1. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1968)
2. Earl Scruggs – With A Little Help From My Friends (1971)
3. Natalie Cole – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1978)
4. Status Quo – Getting Better (1976)
5. George Burns – Fixing A Hole (1978)
6. Richie Havens – She’s Leaving Home (1968)
7. Eddie Izzard – Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite (2007)
8. Sonic Youth – Within You Without You (1989)
9. Claudine Longet – When I’m Sixty-Four (1967)
10. Fats Domino – Lovely Rita (1968)
11. Micky Dolenz – Good Morning Good Morning (2012)
12. Stereophonics – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (2007)
13. War feat. Eric Burdon – A Day In The Life (1976)
14. Peter Gabriel – Strawberry Fields Forever (1976)
15. Amen Corner – Penny Lane (1969)

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More great Beatles stuff:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Any Bizarre Beatles
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 1
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 2
Beatles Reunited: Everest (1971)
Beatles Reunited: Live ’72 (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Smile Away (1972)

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In Memoriam – May 2017

June 8th, 2017 4 comments

The death of alt.rock legend Chris Cornell came out of the blue, as suicides often do. When successful celebrities end their lives, one is tempted to question the reasons, perhaps even to moralise. It’s not our job to do either, unless the suicide was the result of evading the consequences of one’s evil acts. But in Cornell’s case there seems to be the unusual dimension of a number of pharmaceuticals interacting to have impaired his judgment, leading to his death by hanging. According to his wife, Cornell had been excitedly making plans for the future just hours before his death; he had just come off stage after a successful gig with Soundgarden when he died. At 52, and off alcohol and proscribed substances, he was still young enough to make plans, to thrill his audience with that immense voice which could do anything, from rock screaming to soulful falsetto. We are right to mourn that this voice has fallen silent. And we may now hear Soundgarden songs like Pretty Noose, The Day I Tried To Live, and Like Suicide in a different, poignant way.

In January we lost Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, also to suicide. Now the last of the three founder members of the band has died. Gregg Allman and his brother Duane gave their name to the group. After Duane died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, there was no question about renaming the band: they remained the Allman Brothers, even if Gregg was the only Allman in it. Gregg was something of a contradiction. On the one hand, he was content to bury his head behind the keyboard and let others take the centre of the stage. On the other hand, he was truly a rock star, with the charisma and the looks and the love life that are part of the job description. He was, of course, also a gifted songwriter. Gregg was still performing until last year. In November he announced the cancellation of all tour plans for 2017, citing vocal cord damage. He promised he would tour again. Death broke that promise.

Of the five Womack Brothers who first shot to fame as The Valentinos, only one, Friendly Jr, is still alive, after the death of Curtis Womack. Curtis, or “Binky”, was the second-oldest, and when the brothers began playing as a group, the ten-year-old was the nominal leader. As Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers they released their first single, Buffallo Bill, in 1954. Two years later they were discovered by Sam Cooke, then still a star in the genre of gospel. Now led by Bobby, who switched lead vocals with Curtis, the Womack Brothers released a few gospel records, which flopped. Cooke then advised them to go secular. The group took the name The Valentinos. Success came soon: they reworked their gospel song Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray to Lookin’ For A Love. When they cut their song It’s All Over Now, it was covered to huge success by the Rolling Stones. The group slowly fell apart following Cooke’s death and the scandal surrounding Bobby’s marriage to Cooke’s widow. By 1968, the group was only a trio – Curtis, Friendly and Harry – and released one final single, Tired Of Being Nobody, before breaking up.

With her smoky voice, Israeli singer and actress Daliah Lavi was a massive star on the German Schlager circuit in the 1970s, trading in songs that were rather more sophisticated than the clap-along fare that were the standard on that scene. Two of her biggest hits — Wann kommst Du and Willst Du mit mir geh’n — were German covers of songs by South African singer-songwriter John Kongos; another was her take on Melanie’s What Have They Done To My Song Ma. Before that Lavi had enjoyed a career as an actress in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in Hollywood, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her part in Vincente Minnelli’s 1962 film Two Weeks in Another Town. Other notable parts included roles in Casino Royale and opposite Dean Martin in The Silencers. The end of her thespian career coincided roughly with her breakthrough as a singer in Germany in 1971. Despite her accent, the language doesn’t seem to have been a problem: her mother was a German Jew who emigrated to Palestine in the 1930s. Lavi said she never experienced anti-Semitism in Germany and made it clear that she didn’t hold the young people who made up her audience responsible for the Holocaust.

A blind singer being motivated by another blind singer to become a professional musician, and then making it big in his genre: it sounds like a Hallmark movie plot. That’s how it went with Jamaican reggae star Frankie Paul. Born blind, Frankie had his sight partially restored on a hospital ship. One day Stevie Wonder visited his school, and Frankie sang for him. Impressed, Wonder encouraged the boy, who then decided to make his career in music. Frankie went on to become a superstar in Jamaica, and one of the leading voiced in dancehall reggae, releasing 55 albums between 1982 and 2011.

On his deathbed, knowing the end of leukemia was near, English session drummer Jimmy Copley recorded a final EP to raise funds for the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre and Royal United Hospital in Bristol. In his career Copley had played with acts such as Jeff Beck, Tommy Iommi, Pretenders, Tears For Fears, Go West, Paul Rodgers, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Magnum. Early in his career, he was the drummer of UPP, the jazz-funk band featuring Jeff Beck. The guitar legend and other well-known musicians joined Copley on his 2008 solo album. As the end neared, musician pals came to his hospital room, which had been converted to a temporary recording studio, to record the Psyche Funk EP. Copley said: “I’m making the EP to give something back to the wonderful people at the NHS wards that have treated me. It gave me something to aim at during the dark days. I feel good about leaving some new music behind.” The NHS is the British National Health Service, which guarantees health coverage for the population something Theresa May’s Tories are aiming to destroy, finishing the job of the previous Tory government.

A contender for the longest music career ever must be gospel musician Rosa Nell Speer, who has died at 94. She was only three years old in 1925 when her father, George Tomas “Dad” Speer, roped her and older brother Brock into his full-time band which would be variously known as The Speer Family and The Speer Family Gospel Choir. Rosa Nell became a gifted pianist, and was still playing weekly at the First Church of the Nazarene in Tennessee until just shortly before her death, bringing to an end an almost 92-years-long life in music.

Bruce Hampton, 70, avant-garde musician and actor, on May 1
Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit – Satisfaction Guaranteed (1994)

Erkki Kurenniemi, 75, pioneering Finnish electronic musician, on May 1

Kevin Garcia, 41, bassist for indie band Grandaddy, on May 2
Grandaddy – Laughing Stock (1997)

Saxa, 87, Jamaican-born British ska saxophonist, on May 3
The Beat – Mirror In The Bathroom (1980)

Daliah Lavi, 74, Israeli singer and actress, on May 3
Daliah Lavi – Oh wann kommst Du (1970)
Daliah Lavi – This Is My Life (1973)

C’el Revuelta, tour bassist with Black Flag (1986/2003), on May 3

Bruce Tucker, bass player of garage rock band The Mustangs, on May 4
The Mustangs – That’s For Sure (1965)

Clive Brooks, 67, drummer of English prog-rock groups Egg, The Groundhogs, on May 5
Egg – While Growing My Hair (1970, also as co-writer)

Almir Guineto, 70, Brazilian samba musician, on May 5

Dave Pell, 92, jazz musician, on May 8
T Bones – No Matter What Shape (My Stomach Is In) (1966, as leader of the Wrecking Crew)

Robert Miles, 47, Swiss-born electronic dance musician, producer, on May 9
Robert Miles – Children (1996)

Joy Byers, 82, songwriter, on May 10
Timi Yuro – What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You) (1962, as writer)
Elvis Presley – C’mon Everybody (1963, as writer)

Bill Dowdy, 84, drummer of jazz trio The Three Sounds, on May 12
Gene Harris & The Three Sounds – Put On Train (1971)

Jimmy Copley, 63, English drummer, on May 13
UPP – Friendly Street (1975) (1975)
Jimmy Copley – It’s Your Thing (2009)

Tom McClung, 60, jazz pianist and composer, on May 14

Keith Mitchell, drummer of Mazzy Star, on May 14
Mazzy Star – Fade Into You (1993)

Derek Poindexter, 52, bassist of Indie-rock group The Waynes, on May 15

Rosa Nell Speer, 94, singer with gospel group The Speer Family, on May 16
The Speer Family – I Believe In The Old Time Way (1960)

Kevin Stanton, 61, guitarist of New Zealand rock band Mi-Sex, on May 17
Mi-Sex – Computer Games (1979)

Chris Cornell, 52, frontman of alt.rock groups Soundgarden, Audioslave, of suicide on May 18
Temple Of The Dog – Hunger Strike (1991)
Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun (1994)
Audioslave – Be Yourself (2005)

Frankie Paul, 51, Jamaican dancehall reggae singer, on May 18
Frankie Paul – Sara (1987)

Curtis Womack, 74, singer with the Womack Brothers/The Valentinos, on May 21
Bobby Womack & Womack Brothers – Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray (1961)
The Valentinos – It’s All Over Now (1964)
The Valentinos – Tired Of Being Nobody (1968)

Jimmy LaFave, 61, folk singer-songwriter, on May 21
Jimmy LaFave – Not Dark Yet (2007)

Tulsa Pittaway, 42, drummer of South African rock band Watershed, in car crash on May 21
Watershed – Shine On Me (2000)

Mickey Roker, 84, jazz drummer, on May 22
Sonny Rollins – On Green Dolphin Street (1965)
The Mary Lou Williams Trio – Free Spirits (1976)

Saucy Sylvia, 96, singer-comedian, on May 25

Gregg Allman, 69, singer-songwriter, keyboardist of Allman Brothers Band, on May 27
Allman Brothers Band – Whipping Post (1969)
Allman Brothers Band – Statesboro Blues (1971)
Gregg Allman – I’m No Angel (1987)

Marcus Intalex, British bass & drums musician, DJ, producer, on May 28

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Any Major Night Vol. 2

June 1st, 2017 4 comments

Any Major Night Vol. 2

Having played the megabytes out of the first Any Major Night mix — as I did with the Any Major Morning mixes (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 ) — it is time to go nocturnal again.

Regular readers will know my aversion to featuring artists more than once in a themed series, but like there was an exception in the Any Major Summer series for The Beach Boys, so must there be one for the habitually night-dwelling Bruce Springsteen. He was on Volume 1, and here he is twice: on his own and as the writer of Patti Smith’s 1978 hit.

Elvis Presley could feature here, but as last time I ran the original of his hit One Night, here I am including the original of Such A Night. Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters’ version, released in January 1954, was a hit on the R&B charts. Johnny Ray cleaned it up for the white folks and topped the charts with his version.

Charles Brown’s blues classic Black Night, on the other hand, features here in a cover version by Arthur Alexander, an artist who was at home in soul, blues and country. He was the first singer to record Elvis’ hit Burnin’ Love, and his song Anna was covered by The Beatles, who close this collection.

As always, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-moonlit covers. PW the same as always.

1. The Boomtown Rats – When The Night Comes (1979)
2. Patti Smith – Because The Night (1978)
3. Steely Dan – Night By Night (1974)
4. The Pogues – A Rainy Night In Soho (1986)
5. The Cure – A Night Like This (1985)
6. Josh Rouse – It’s The Nighttime (2005)
7. Keni Stevens – Night Moves (A Dark Secret) (1987)
8. Bill Withers – I Want To Spend The Night (1977)
9. Freddie North – Rainy Night in Georgia (1975)
10. Mitty Collier – I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night (1964)
11. Anna King – Night Time Is The Right Time (1964)
12. Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters – Such A Night (1954)
13. Betty Everett – June Night (1964)
14. Arthur Alexander – Black Night (1964)
15. Them – Here Comes The Night (1965)
16. Sandie Shaw – Till The Night Begins To Die (1964)
17. Bob Dylan – One More Night (1969)
18. Dylan LeBlanc – Tuesday Night Rain (2010)
19. Joe Ely – Every Night About This Time (19982)
20. Bruce Springsteen – Drive All Night (1980)
21. The Beatles – Good Night (1968)

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Any Major Flute Vol. 4

May 25th, 2017 12 comments

This is the fourth flute mix. When I first posted these eight years ago, I declared myself officially fluted out. But I think there should be at least a fifth mix. I bend my one-artist-per-series rule a bit: the Carpenters, Gil-Scott-Heron and The Beatles are allowed to reflute on this compilation.

As ever, CD-R length, flutilicious covers, PW same as always..

1. Carpenters – This Masquerade (1973)
Flute moment: 2:40  The flute is there right at the beginning, stays with us, and then, at 2:40, takes charge with a hard-rocking solo. Leon Russell’s original also has some flute, but nothing on this, one of the great flute tracks in pop.

2. Julie London – Light My Fire (1969)
Flute moment: 0:01  The only song featured twice, though quite a few might also have qualified. The flute sets Julie up to do with the song what the Doors couldn’t — make it as seductive as the words suggest. Go on, kiss somebody while the solo (starting at 1:58) plays.

3. Roberta Flack & Quincy Jones – On A Clear Day/Killer Joe (1973)
Flute moment: 5:04   Sammy Davis Jr introduces Roberta and Quincy at the Save The Children concert. Flack sings On A Clear Day better than Streisand ever did, and when Quincy’s Killer Joe comes in, the medley rocks. In between, there’s a one-minute flute solo.

4. Gil Scott-Heron – The Bottle (1975)
Flute moment: 2:49   Brian Jackson’s flute in Scott-Heron’s songs are the sound of the ’70s ghetto and blaxploitation. Introducing the solo, Gil calls on Stick to “hit me one more time”. Funny that the Poet Laureate of the ghetto, the English popsters and the whitebread siblings should share the honour of being featured twice in this series.

5. P.P. Arnold – It’ll Never Happen Again (1968)
Flute moment: 0:15  Vastly underrated soul singer, who should have been given the entire Bacharach catalogue to sing. The flute accompanies us throughout this gorgeous song.

6. The Beatles – The Fool On The Hill (1967)
Flute moment: 2:43  Flute AND recorder, Paul? Well, it works.

7. Gilbert Bécaud – Nathalie (1965)
Flute moment: 0:19   C’est la flute.

8. Cat Stevens – Katmandu (1970)
Flute moment: 1:43  Flute interlude by Peter Gabriel, fact fans.

9. The Four Tops – Still Water (Love) (1970)
Flute moment: There is none. The flute is floating in the background. I included the song only because it is so lovely.

10. Fantastic Four – I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love (1967)
Flute moment: 0:09   There is, however, flute on this 1967 soul track, which sounds a lot like a Four Tops song. Again, the flute gets no centrestage time, but among the backing instrumentation, it stands out.

11. Left Banke – Walk Away Renee (1966)
Flute moment: 1:22  On my first draft of this playlist, I unconsciously paired the Left Banke with the Four Tops, who covered Walk Away Renee to fine effect.

12. Boz Scaggs – Lowdown (1976)
Flute moment: 0:18  The song has a funky bassline, a great guitar part, and a fantastic flute riff which bosses the tune and occasionally heckles poor Boz…

13. Nicolette Larson – Lotta Love (1978)
Flute moment: 1:35  The flute solo takes us to the bridge.

14. Smokey Robinson – Quiet Storm (1975)
Flute moment: 1:52  The song that started a genre which provided the soundtrack for the conception of millions of babies. When Smokey commands: “Blow baby!”, he presumably means the flute.

15. Neil Sedaka – Bad Blood (1975)
Flute moment: 0:40  A pretty mediocre song is redeemed by a bit of fine flute.

16. The Blues Project – Flute Thing (1966)
Flute moment: the whole song. Well, it does take nine seconds for the flute to start.  It is so flutish, the band needed no better title than Flute Thing.

17. Genesis – Get ’Em Out by Friday (1972)
Flute moment: 1:59  It starts off terribly prog-rockish. But it gets bearably pleasant when the flute comes in to accompany Peter
Gabriel (who presumably is not playing the flute at the same time). Then, after two minutes it becomes proggish again, and when the song slows down next, no flute! I blame Phil Collins, the bald man’s Bono. Happily, the flute returns at 4:57, for more than a minute.

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Any Major Flute Vol. 1
Any Major Flute Vol. 2
Any Major Flute Vol. 3

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Stars Pick Your Songs Vol. 1: Musicians

May 18th, 2017 12 comments

What would happen if you had a party of famous people and let them play their favourite records? This mix has 20 musicians from a time span of 75 years choosing music “for you”, one song each.

In putting together this mix – which was tremendous fun to compile (and, I hope, is tremendous fun to listen to) – I drew from the thousands of episodes of BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs programme, which first aired in 1941 and is still going.

The programme’s format is simple: a well-known studio guest is interviewed and in the course of the often revealing conversation presents eight songs he or she would take to a desert island (to be played in the past on a wind-up grammophone and lately on a solar-powered record player). They then also choose a book and luxury item to take with them, but this won’t concern us here.

There are hundreds of recordings of Desert Island Discs available for download, and the record choices of every single “castaway” ever is listed as well. Which is where I drew the present selections from.

Of course, many songs have been listed several times; I ascribe them to only one guest. So here we have Yoko Ono choosing a Lennon song in 2007 which in 1982 was picked also by Paul McCartney. But McCartney will feature on a later mix with a different song choice.

There were other songs on this mix that were popular choices: Van Morrison’s Madame George is attributed here to Joan Armatrading. But it also was a choice of Joan Baez and Bruce Springsteen (both represented here with other songs), as well as by sculptor David Wynne and author Bernard Cornwell, neither of whom will feature in this series.

Some castaways have appeared more than once over the years; often they don’t repeat their song selections from previous appearances. But Petula Clark, who was cast away in 1982 and again in 1995, stuck with one of her choices: the Doobie Brothers’ What A Fool Believes. That song also featured in the selections of composer Marvin Hamlisch, footballer David Beckham, and the late UK comedian Victoria Wood.

The oldest song selection here is by Richard Tauber, the exiled German singer who in 1942 went for a Marlene Dietrich track from 1930, the oldest on this mix. His choice is followed by the youngest track on this mix, by Amy Winehouse, chosen in a show 65 years after Tauber by George Michael.

Tauber died in 1948, long before George Michael or Amy Winehouse were born. All three died fairly young. One castaway to feature here recently celebrated her 100th birthday: Vera Lynn. It’s her song-choice from 1951 that features here.

Lynn’s choice was a contemporary hit – and Edith Piaf song recorded just a year earlier – and many Desert Island Disc guests go for contemporary hits, maybe in a flash of excitement about a current favourite, maybe to show off how hip they are to the groovy music in the hit parades. I have mostly ignored those choices and picked songs which I suspect have been long-standing favourites by the respective celebs. But I have a suspicion that Brian Eno’s choice in 1991 of a 1950s track by gospel singer Dorothy Love Coates was the result of the Roxy Music musician having just bought her re-released albums, issued the same year.

And that’s the fun too: if one hasn’t heard the guest explain in the programme why they chose a particular song, we can ponder and imagine what that song means to them.

More mixes will follow, with actors choosing their songs as well as general celebrities and politicians & authors.

So, here’s the obvious question: what would be your eight Desert Island Disc? Tell me in the comments.

As always, this mix is time to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-marooned covers. PW in comments.

1. David Bowie – Changes (1971 – Neil Tennant 2001)
2. The Band – Up On Cripple Creek (1969 – Emmylou Harris 2003)
3. Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (1968 – Annie Lennox 2005)
4. George Jones – The Door (1974 – Randy Newman 2008)
5. Bob Dylan – My Back Pages (1964 – Bob Geldof 1992)
6. Colin Hay – Beautiful World (2000 – Kylie Minogue 2015)
7. Doobie Brothers – What A Fool Believes (1978 – Petula Clark 1982/1995)
8. Roberta Flack – I’m The One (1982 – Johnny Mathis 1987)
9. James Brown – Out Of Sight (1965 – Bruce Springsteen 2016)
10. Dorothy Love Coates – Lord, Don’t Forget About Me (1950s – Brian Eno 1991)
11. Muddy Waters – Got My Mojo Workin’ (1957 – John Lee Hooker 1995)
12. Sarah Vaughan – Deep Purple (1955 – Dizzy Gillespie 1979/Tony Bennett 1972)
13. Edith Piaf – Hymne à l’Amour (1950 – Vera Lynn 1951)
14. Marlene Dietrich – Falling In Love Again (1930 – Richard Tauber 1942)
15. Amy Winehouse – Love Is A Losing Game (2006 – George Michael 2007)
16. John Lennon – Beautiful Boy (1980 – Yoko Ono 2007)
17. Jackson Browne – Late For The Sky (1974 – Joan Baez 1993)
18. Damien Rice – Volcano (2002 – Ed Sheeran 2017)
19. Nick Drake – River Man (1970 – Paul Weller 2007)
20. Van Morrison – Madame George (1968 – Joan Armatrading 1989)

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Should Have Been A UK Top 10 Hit – Vol. 3

May 11th, 2017 4 comments

 

Best hashtag ever? #sheeranalbumparty. I’m sure I was not alone in being dismayed when it turned out that the hashtag for Ed Sheeran’s new CD was just a gag made up by a journalist. The anal bum party marked the startling fact that the British singer — whom I regard as the ultimate in white bread — had 14 of the Top 15 hits in the UK charts in March.

It’s impossible to say how impressive that is, for the nature of the charts has changed completely. To me, there are no more charts, because there are no more single releases. But there was a time when the UK charts were like sport: I’d study them and would celebrate the success of a favourite record or take the success of a loathsome record as an affront to common decency. Often enough, the latter would prevail over the former.

And this is the third mix of songs that fall in the former category: singles that climbed up the UK charts without ever reaching the Top 10.

The strangest case of all of these is Blondie’s Union City Blue, which many Blondie fans would consider strongly for inclusion in their Top 5 of Blondie songs. It peaked at a disappointing #13, following five consecutive Top 4 singles , including two #1s, for Blondie. More than that, Union City Blue was followed by three consecutive chart-toppers and a #5 hit. And it’s not like Union City Blue was the fifth single of an album. In the UK, it was the second of three single releases from the Eat To The Beat LP. The first, Dreaming, reached #2; the third, Atomic, even #1. In fairness, there were many very good songs ahead of Union City Blue (see that week’s charts).

Likewise, A-ha’s quite excellent Manhattan Skyline followed six Top 10 hits, including the awful Cry Wolf, and was followed by two more. Manhattan Skyline reached only #13 in March 1987 (that #13 was unlucky for a lot of acts here). There were three soul tracks from the 1960s in the Top 10 that week, including numbers 1 and 2. And the rest doesn’t look intimidatingly brilliant: Freddie Mercury’s entertaining version of The Great Pretender, Boy George’s Everything I Own, Level 42’s Running In The Family, Crush On You by The Jets (no, me neither), Male Stripper by Man 2 Man meets Man Parrish, Live It Up by Mental As Anything, and  Curiosity Killed The Cat’s Down To Earth (which isn’t bad). Surely there was a place for Manhattan Skyline in the Top 10!

Poor Nick Heyward never enjoyed a solo Top 10 hit, after a run of four of them in 1981/82 with Haircut 100. At least two should have been Top 10 hits: Whistle Down The Wind and Blue Hat For A Blue Day, both from 1983. And in the case of the latter, which features here, we can claim a genuine grievance: while Heyward stalled at #14, novelty crapmeisters Black Lace moved into the Top 10 alongside The Rock Steady Crew.

Labi Siffre’s It Must Be Love stalled in the same position, in the first week of January 1972. It later was a Top 10 hit in the cover by Madness in 1981, but poor Labi — a quality guy in many ways — had to see his original struggle up to #14 (after two weeks at #16) while being outsold by Benny Hill’s grotesque Ernie The Fastest Milkman, Sleepy Shores by the Johnny Pearson Orchestra, The New Seekers’ I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing,  Softly Whispering I Love You by the Congregation, and a couple of forgettable efforts by Cilla Black, Gilbert O’Sullivan and Elvis. What were you thinking, 1972’s Britain?

I could have sworn Murray Head’s One Night In Bangkok, from the musical Chess, was a Top 10 hit. Turns out, it peaked at #12 in December 1984. It was about to be overtaken by Nellie The Elephant by the Toy Dolls and by Black Lace (those fuckers again) and their revolting Do The Conga.

I’m not sure I am entirely convinced that Ester & Abi Ofarim deliciously nasty One More Dance should have been a top 10 hit. The folky arrangement for the English version of the song is awful, certainly in comparison to the German version, with which I grew up. In Britain the song, the follow-up single to chart-topper Cinderella Rockefella, reached  #13 in July 1968. There were some very good songs ahead of it.

I cannot think of many songs that sound as 1974 as Beach Baby by First Class does, nor many that sound as self-consciously summery. And it was a hit in the summer of 1974. Peaking at #13 in the middle of summer. Not in early summer, having ejaculated prematurely. Not at the end of summer, when everybody has had enough of beach babies. But in the middle of July. And again, it’s not like Beach Baby was up against hot competition. Sure, there was Rock Your Baby, The Six Teens and Band On The Run. And The Drifter’s Kissin’ In The Back Room had a nice seasonal vibe. But Beach Baby should have been a Top 10 hit. As it should’ve been all of the songs here.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-recorded covers. PW in comments.

1. Blondie – Union City Blue (1980  #13)
2. Split Enz – I Got You (1980  #12)
3. Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy – Icing On The Cake (1985  #14)
4. A-ha – Manhattan Skyline (1987  #13)
5. Wet Wet Wet – Temptation (1988  #12)
6. Jonathan Butler – Lies (1987  #14)
7. Sherrick – Just Call (1987  #23)
8. Delegation – Where Is The Love (We Used To Know) (1977  #22)
9. Labi Siffre – It Must Be Love (1971  #15)
10. First Class – Beach Baby (1974  #14)
11. Harpo – Movie Star (1976  #25)
12. Harley Quinne – New Orleans (1972  #19)
13. Chris Spedding – Motor Bikin’ (1975  #14)
14. Judas Priest – Breaking The Law (1980  #12)
15. Murray Head – One Night In Bankok (1984  #12)
16. Nick Heyward – Blue Hat For A Blue Day (1983  #14)
17. Suzanne Vega – Marlene On The Wall (1986  #21)
18. Sally Oldfield – Mirrors (1978  #19)
19. Kate Bush – Wow (1979  #14)
20. Donovan – Atlantis (1968  #23)
21. Esther & Abi Ofarim – One More Dance (1968  #13)

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In Memoriam – April 2017

May 4th, 2017 6 comments

Mr Tambourine Man is gone. Bob Dylan has cited folk music guitarist and percussionist Bruce Langhorne as the inspiration for the song which would become a huge hit for The Byrds (sorry, not LSD after all). Langhorne, who had lost three fingers on his right hand as a child, played his jingle-jangle electric guitar on the Dylan version of the track (he takes care of the counter-melody). When Langhorne wasn’t playing the guitar, he’d do percussions on a large Turkish frame drum, the tambourine whereof Dylan speaks. He worked with Dylan on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Bringing It All Home. Notably, Langhorne also played the guitar solo on Subterranean Homesick Blues.

Langhorne was already a name on the folk scene when Dylan turned up. “I thought he was a terrible singer and a complete fake, and I thought he didn’t play harmonica that well,” he’d later recall. He was converted when he heard Dylan’s writing. Langhorne went on to write several movie scores, mostly for Peter Fonda films.

I don’t diiiig this: with Cuba Gooding Sr, another one of the great ’70s soul legends is gone. The singer with the Main Ingredient had a great voice, of course, but his phrasing was even greater. Gooding joined the band after original lead singer Donald McPherson died in 1971 of leukaemia. They’d already had some success with Spinning Around and Black Seeds Keep Growing, but with Gooding they broke through thanks to the hit Everybody Plays The Fool, on which Gooding spoke the intro (“so you’re sayin’ you’re even thinking of dying?”). They had another million-seller in 1974 with Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely, but a year later band member Tony Silvester left to pursue a solo career, and in 1977 Gooding followed suit. Neither could replicate the success they had with the band.

The name Cuba was what his parents called him. Apparently, Gooding’s Barbadian father Dudley was involved in black liberation politics in Cuba when his first wife was mortally wounded in an assassination. On her deathbed Dudley promised to name his first son after the island. Oh, and, yes, Cuba Gooding Sr was the dad of the actor Cuba Gooding Jr. No paternity tests were ever necessary to prove that.

It’s fair to say that by his inventions, Ikutaro Kakehashi changed music. The Japanese engineer, who has died at 87, developed the Roland keyboards and drum machines that gave the 1980s much of its sounds. They are still widely used today, especially the Roland TR-808 drum machine that has scored songs for artists from Marvin Gaye (Check it on Sexual Healing) to Pharell. Kakehashi began his career in the electronics store he set up as 23-year-old, in which he’d repair, among other things, organs. This led to his decision in the late 1950s to specialise in electronic musical instruments, which found its first culmination with the establishment of Ace Electronics where he developed his first electronic drum in 1964. Eight years later he founded the Roland Corporation. In 1983, he helped introduce the MIDI standard which, in the words of Wikipedia, “a technical standard that describes a protocol, digital interface and connectors and allows a wide variety of electronic musical instruments, computers and other related devices to connect and communicate with one another”.

Thank Sylvia Moy for the career of Stevie Wonder. According to Berry Gordy, the child star Little Stevie was about to be dropped by the label after puberty changed the voice that had made Fingertips such a hit. It was Moy who persuaded Gordy to persist with Stevie, and who mentored the kid in the craft of songwriting — something he’d become pretty good at. For or with Stevie Wonder she co-wrote such classics as Uptight (Everything’s Alright), My Cherie Amour, Never Had a Dream Come True, I Was Made To Love Her, and Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day. With Holland-Dozier-Holland she wrote the Isley Brothers’ This Old Heart of Mine, and with Mickey Stevenson the Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston hit It Takes Two. Among the songs she wrote with Wonder (and frequent collaborator Hank Cosby) is 1966’s album track Sylvia. Soon Sylvia Moy would have to persuade Stevie to change the title of a track the singer wanted to dedicate to another girl’s name (I think it was Marsha). Moy suggested going French instead, and My Cherie Amour was born.

The early days of rock ‘n’ roll are replete with bizarre stories of violated ethics and protracted royalty battles. One such case concerned Rosie Hamlin, of Rosie and The Originals, who died at 71 on March 30 (her death was reported after the last In Memoriam was posted). As a teenager in San Diego, Rosie wrote a song about her boyfriend, titling it Angel Baby. She and her group recorded a master of the song in a private studio, and then persuaded the manager of a department store’s music section to play it. It proved popular and when a representative from Highland Records heard it, the group was signed — on condition that the songwriting credit would be changed to the eldest member of the group, David Ponci. Rosie agreed, unaware that she’d not collect royalties for what turned out to be a hit song which would be widely covered over many years. And, as always, what should have been fixed as a matter of honour instead turned into decades of protracted legal wrangling. Several singles followed, but Angel Baby remained Hamlin’s defining song. It was one of John Lennon’s favourites, even being covered during the recordings for his 1975 Rock and Roll LP. It was left off (it was eventually released on 1986’s Menlove Ave.), much to the fury of the publishing company that now owned the song — but that’s another story.

One day in September 1968, a 26-year-old Johnny Cash fan took his seat in a Fayetteville auditorium to see his hero perform a fund-raising concert for Republican gubernatorial candidate Winthrop Rockefeller. Due to flight cancellations, Cash found himself without a guitarist, so the fan, Bob Wooton, volunteered to fill in. He knew every line of every song, playing them perfectly. Within days, Cash invited Wooton to join his band. They’d go on to play together until 1997, though the most memorable performance came early: the gig at San Quentin State Prison in 1969 which has been elevated to cult status. Wooton also played the lead guitar on Bob Dylan’s 1969 remake of Girl from North Country, a duet with Cash. Wooton died on April 9 at the age of 75. Oh, and Winthrop Rockefeller, an anti-segregationist, won that 1968 election.

Of the three Jones Girls, the soul outfit that scored a few hits in the late 1970s and early ’80s, there’s now only one left after the death of Brenda Jones, killed by several cars as she was trying to cross a road. Valorie Jones died in 2001, leaving now only Shirley. The Detroit-born Jones Girls started out as a backing band, working with acts like Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Linda Clifford. They broke through in their own right with 1979’s excellent eponymous late-Philly soul debut album, and subsequently had hits with tracks like You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else and I Just Love The Man (on which Brenda sings a part solo). Shirley left the band in 1984 to pursue a solo career though there were reunion albums until Valorie’s death.

Strangely, I’d never really spend much time pondering what the J in the J. Geils Band stood for until the man who gave his name to the rock band died at the age of 71. Boringly, it’s John. He founded his band as a student in the late 1960s. Having released their debut in 1970, they traded in blues- and country rock, finding little sustained success though they did hit the charts occasionally (and their pretty good Cry One More Time was later covered by Gram Parson). Big success came when they switched to the kind of US new wave that would also work well for The Cars and The Tubes. Their biggest success was, of course, 1982’s Centrefold, an impossibly catchy and rather misogynist song, though the purists tend to cite Freeze-Frame as the better track. Within three years, the band split up, and Geils mostly retired from music to build up an automobile restoration business and to race cars.

The Funkadelic curse struck again in April: virtually every month, at least one person once connected with the Funkadelic/Parliament/Bootsy Collins collective dies. This month it was drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith, who once toured with Funkadelic. Smith had a varied career: he first had success with multi-instrumentalist Lee Michaels (drumming under the intentionally unwieldy moniker Bartholomew Eugene Smith-Frost, “to be sure I’d be seen on album covers”), then joined rock band Sweathog, whose song Hallelujah would be covered to great effect by Chi Coltrane. He then toured with a range of funk acts, which also included Sly & the Family Stone and Rare Earth, and later with roots-rocker Delbert McClinton. In the 1990s he returned to the charts with grunge act Soulhat, and backed various bands from Austin, Texas, where the Californian had made his home.

Just a few months before John Lennon’s murder, singer and political activist David Peel called in song for the ex-Beatle to be president. O’Neill used music as a vehicle for his activism, in the late 1960s to promote weed, then in the ’70s in the political domain, often shoulder-to-shoulder with Lennon (Peel appeared in 2006 film The U.S. vs. John Lennon), who produced Peel’s widely-banned 1972 album The Pope Smokes Dope.

One moment he was a prolific singer-songwriter with a good life, then Brazilian musician Belchior suddenly disappeared in 2007. For two years nothing was heard from the man. Few thought he had died, but rumours abounded about what he was doing. He had gone into hiding in Uruguay, said some. Or hiding on a beach in north-east Brazil. Or cooped up in a secret location to translate Dante’s Divine Comedy into Portuguese. He became the subject of discussion on Internet forums dedicated to solely to his whereabouts. In 2009 a Brazilian TV station tracked him down. The Uruguay theory proved correct: he now lived in a small village in San Gregorio de Polanco, resting, composing and contemplating life — and apparently leaving Dante well alone. He didn’t return to public life. On April 30 Belchior left for good.

 

Rosie Hamlin, 71, singer of Rosie and the Originals, on March 30
Rosie and the Originals – Angel Baby (1961, also as writer)

Elyse Steinman, guitarist of hard rock band Raging Slab, on March 30
Raging Slab – Anywhere But Here (1993)

Lonnie Brooks, 83, blues guitarist and singer, on April 1
Lonnie Brooks – I Want All My Money Back (1983)

Ikutaro Kakehashi, 87, Japanese developer of Roland keyboards, drum machines, on April 1

Brenda Jones, 62, singer with soul trio The Jones Girls, on April 3
McFadden & Whitehead – I Heard It In A Love Song (1980, on backing vocals)
The Jones Girls – I Just Love That Man (1980)
The Jones Girls – Nights Over Egypt (1981)

Andre ‘L.A. Dre’ Bolton, producer and keyboardist, on April 3
Michel’le – Something In My Heart (1989, on keyboards and as co-producer)

Paul O’Neill, 61, producer, songwriter and manager, on April 5
Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Moonlight And Madness (2009, as producer)

David Peel, 73, singer and activist, on April 6
David Peel & The Super Apple Band – John Lennon For President (1980)

Ben Speer, 86, singer and pianist with southern gospel group Speer Family, on April 7

Keni Richards, 60, drummer of rock band Autograph, on April 8
Autograph – Turn Up The Radio (1984)

Kim Plainfield, 63, jazz drummer, on April 8

Bob Wootton, 75, country guitarist for Johnny Cash, on April 9
Johnny Cash – Wreck Of The Old 97 (1969, on guitar)
Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line (1969, on guitar)
Bob Dylan – Girl From The North Country (1969, on lead guitar)

Alan Henderson, 72, bassist of Northern Irish group Them, on April 9
Them – Here Comes The Night (1965)
Them – Mystic Eyes (1965)

Stan Robinson, 80, British jazz saxophonist and flautist, on April 9
Maynard Ferguson – Spinning Wheel (1972, on tenor saxophone)
Buzzcocks – What Do You Know (1980, on saxophone)

Banner Thomas, 63, bassist of rock group Molly Hatchet, on April 10
Molly Hatchet – Boogie No More (1979, also as co-writer)

Linda Hopkins, 92, actress and R&B/gospel/jazz singer, on April 10
Jackie Wilson & Linda Hopkins – Shake A Hand (1963)

Toby Smith, 46, keyboardist with British acid-jazz band Jamiroquai, on April 11
Jamiroquai – Alright (1996)

Scotty Miller, 65, drummer of disco band Instant Funk, on April 11
Instant Funk – I Got My Mind Made Up (1978)

J. Geils, 71, guitarist of The J. Geils Band, on April 11
J. Geils Band – Cry One More Time (1971)
J. Geils Band – Love Stinks (1980)

Mika Vainio, 53, member of Finnish electronic band Pan Sonic, on April 12

Barry ‘Frosty’ Smith, 71, drummer with rock bands Sweathog, Soulhat, on April 12
Lee Michaels – Who Could Want More (1969, on drums)
Sweathog – Hallelujah (1972)
Soulhat – Good To Be Gone (1994)

Tom Coyne, 62, mastering engineer (Rolling Stones, De La Soul, Beyoncé), on April 12

José Miguel Class, 78, Puerto Rican singer, on April 13

Bruce Langhorne, 78, folk guitarist and film score composer, on April 14
Bob Dylan – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965, countermelody on electric guitar)
Joan Baez – Farewell, Angelina (1965, on guitar)
Richie Havens – Just Above My Hobby Horse’s Head (1969, lead and acoustic guitar)

Sylvia Moy, 78, Motown songwriter, on April 15
Brenda Holloway – Hurt A Little Everyday (1966, as co-writer)
Dusty Springfield – Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone (1968, as co-writer)
Stevie Wonder – Never Had a Dream Come True (1970, as co-writer)

Allan Holdsworth, 70, English guitarist and composer; member of Soft Machine, on April 15
Soft Machine – Land Of The Bag Snake (1975, also as writer)
Allan Holdsworth – City Nights (1989)

Matt Holt, 39, singer of heavy metal group Nothingface, on April 15

Pat Fitzpatrick, 60, keyboardist of Irish rock band Aslan, on April 19
Aslan – This Is (1986)

Dick Contino, 87, singer and accordionist, on April 19
Dick Contino – Lady Of Spain (1954)

Cuba Gooding Sr, 72, singer of soul legends The Main Ingredient, on April 20
The Main Ingredient – Everybody Plays The Fool (1972)
The Main Ingredient – Work To Do (1973)
Cuba Gooding – Hold On To What You Got (1978)

Jerry Adriani, 70, Brazilian singer and actor, on April 23

Calep Emphrey Jr, 67, drummer for B.B. King (1977-2009), on April 25
B.B. King – I’ll Survive (1998, on drums)

Zoe Realla, 32, rapper, murdered on April 28

Belchior, 70, Brazilian singer and composer, on April 30
Belchior – A Palo Seco (1974)

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Any Major Springsteen Covers

April 27th, 2017 12 comments

 

When I was 14 I heard Hungry Heart on the radio. It was familiar and yet unlike any other sound I had heard. Looking back, I think it was the keyboards, which I still think are key to giving the E Street Band that distinctive sound (along with Max Weinstein’s booming drumming and, of course, Clarence’s sax). So I heard Hungry Heart and straight after school on a snowy day in February 1981 I rushed to town to find the new LP by this guy Springsteen. On my way home on the bus I could hardly wait to play it. As I held my new purchase, I liked the look of the face that filled the cover. This guy looked like a rock ‘n’ roll Al Pacino. Justice for all!

But before I could play the The River, I had an afternoon appointment with the optician who proceeded to shine a light into my eyes that virtually blinded me for a few hours. How auspicious that on the day my relationship with Bruce Springsteen began, I was blinded by the light.

I played sides 1 and 2 of The River to death. I rarely played the second disc. That first disc was perfect. With time I would become familiar with Bruce’s four previous albums, and come to regard Darkness On The Edge Of Town as one of the greatest LPs ever made. My loyalty to Springsteen began to waver in the 1990s, in as far as I didn’t rush out to buy every new album. But I have most of them.

So I was excited to read Springsteen’s autobiography. My biggest problem with it was the title. Could nobody come up with something less predictable than Born To Run? I like to think the title “Cars And Girls” would have been a great, even if very belated, riposte to the cutting Prefab Sprout song of that title from 1988. But that is my biggest gripe.

True, Bruce at times exceeds the waxing lyrical, and when he goes fan boy with CAPS LOCK switched on he sounds more like his fawning friend Bono than the poet laureate of a generation. But that’s minor quibbling. Born To Run is a welcome extension of the long prologues to songs in his concerts (usually The River). He is at once fully aware of his genius as he is also genuinely self-deprecating. Here is a man who knows his strengths and his limitations, and how to balance them. He knows his value and has no need for false modesty, even when he explains why he took the decision to be the boss of his backing band, the E Street Band. Incidentally, he says that he doesn’t like the nickname “The Boss”, much as Sinatra hated being called “Chairman of the Board”. I wonder what Bono calls Springsteen…

Born To Run mostly confirms that with Bruce, what you see is indeed what you get…mostly. I didn’t know about his battles with depression, and commend him for speaking about them with such honesty. I did know that Springsteen is a funny guy. Some of his songs are good comedy; take, for example, Sherry Darling. The book has some laugh-out-loud moments, such as when he describes his moves with Courtney Cox in the Dancing In The Dark video as “white-man boogaloo” and “dad dancing”.

Springsteen mentions a few memorable concerts he has played. To my delight, all three Springsteen gigs I have attended are included. His Wembley concert on 4 July 1985 might be the best of any act I have seen.

But I don’t want to write a book report on Born To Run, much as I recommend it. It rather serves as an intro to the mix I am presenting here: of covers of Springsteen songs. And it might seem easy to cover Springsteen. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band did so with Blinded By The Light. Patti Smith had a hit with Because The Night, and The Pointer Sisters with Fire. But Mann had his hit before Springsteen was famous, and our man hadn’t yet recorded the Smith or Pointer Sisters hits (the latter itself a cover of a record by Springsteen pal Robert Gordon, who sang it like Elvis might have).

It’s quite different covering Springsteen songs after Springsteen has recorded them, almost invariably producing the definitive version (differently to Bob Dylan). That is, I suppose, why so few dare to do that. It’s a risk, and it doesn’t always pay off. So, in absence of an abundance of any more quality choices, there most certainly will be no second mix of Springsteen covers.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-bossed covers. PW in comments.

1. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Born To Run (1984)
2. Nils Lofgren – Wreck On The Highway (1997)
3. The Band – Atlantic City (1993)
4. The Hollies – 4th Of July Asbury Park (Sandy) (1975)
5. Everything But The Girl – Tougher Than The Rest (1992)
6. Emmylou Harris – The Price You Pay (1981)
7. Cowboy Junkies – Thunder Road (2004)
8. Justin Townes Earle – Glory Days (2014)
9. John Wesley Harding – Jackson Cage (1997)
10. Raul Malo – Downbound Train (2000)
11. Patty Griffin – Stolen Car (2001)
12. Townes Van Zandt – Racing In The Streets (1992)
13. Richie Havens – Streets Of Philadelphia (1997)
14. Minnie Driver – Hungry Heart (2004)
15. Greg Kihn – For You (1977)
16. David Bowie – It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City (1989)
17. PJ Proby – I’m On Fire (1990)
18. Natalie Cole – Pink Cadillac (1987)
19. Big Daddy – Dancing In The Dark (1985)
20. The Flying Pickets – Factory (1984)

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Any Major American Road Trip – 6

April 20th, 2017 6 comments

 

It is high time we move on from beautiful St Louis, where we have been stuck since September (!) and begin our penultimate stage in the American Road Trip by going to Memphis. And we manage to do so without hitching a lift from Marc Cohn, much as I like his song.

To many, Memphis means Elvis, but I’ll leave him on the sidelines, too (other than by lyrical reference in the opening track). And still I was left with a broad choice of songs about Memphis — I should make a mix of Memphis songs at some point —which is only right, since Memphis is central to so many musical genres. One day I want to go there in real life…

Most of the songs here speak for themselves and have my endorsement. One, however, requires an explanation by way of caveat: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ I Care About Detroit was a civic exercise to calm racial tension a year after the 1967 riots and following the uprising that followed the murder of Martin Luther King (in the city where this mix kicks off).

Written by Jimmy Clark and Jack Combs — the former presumably was the Detroit soul singer; I have no idea who Combs was — the lyrics might as well have been written by Governor George Romney. Smokey was a bit of a stooge for agreeing to this exercise. Much as he declares his loyalty to his home city, Smokey soon joined Berry Gordy in upping sticks for sunny LA. The single had only one side — maybe the city was still waiting for Gil Scott-Heron’s song; maybe it was Gordy’s silent protest at the awfulness of the record.

One song here featured on the Right-Wing Pop for Bullshit Mountain mix I posted in happier times. The Pretender’s My City Was Gone, here to represent Akron, is not a right-wing song, of course. Quite the opposite. But it was hijacked, without permission, by the demagogue Rush Limbaugh (who, as it turns out, was not as harmless as those who tolerated his hate-filled propaganda claimed) for the theme of his radio show. In the end, Chrissie Hynde allowed its use because Limbaugh backed an animal rights cause. As I noted in the notes for the right-wing rock mix, Limbaugh has bragged about subverting the liberal Pretenders song, much like a misogynist who brags about having had sex with a woman he despises with the sole objective of defiling her.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes covers and a route-map (more detailed than the one above). PW in comments.
1. Bobby Charles with Delbert McClinton – Last Train To Memphis (2003 – Memphis, TN)
2. Nat ‘King’ Cole – Beale Street Blues (1963 – Memphis, TN)
3. Little Feat – Dixie Chicken (1973 – Memphis, TN)
4. Justin Townes Earle – Memphis In The Rain (2012 – Memphis, TN)
5. Johnny Cash & June Carter – Jackson (1967 – Jackson, TN)
6. Kris Kristofferson – To Beat The Devil (1970 – Nashville, TN)
7. Waylon Jennings – Nashville Bum (1966 – Nashville, TN)
8. Louis Armstrong & Bessie Smith – Nashville Women’s Blues (1925 – Nashville, TN)
9. The Andrews Sisters – Chattanooga Choo Choo (1942 – Chattanooga, TN)
10. Shel Silverstein – Boy Named Sue (1968 – Gatlinburg, TN)
11. The Louvin Brothers – Knoxville Girl (1956 – Knoxville, TN)
12. Leon Redbone – Big Bad Bill (1978 – Louisville, KY)
13. Aimee Mann – Ballantines (2007 – Lexington, KY)
14. Steve Carlisle – WKRP In Cincinnati (1978 – Cincinnati, OH)
15. Randy Newman – Dayton, Ohio 1903 (1978 – Dayton, OH)
16. Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – We Almost Lost Detroit (1977 – Detroit, MI)
17. The Kane Gang – Motortown (1987 – Detroit, MI)
18. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – I Care About Detroit (1968 – Detroit, MI)
19. Simon & Garfunkel – America (1968 – Saginaw, MI)
20. Sufjan Stevens – Flint (For The Unemployed And Underpaid) (2003 – Flint, MI)
21. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Prison Song (1974 – Ann Arbor, MI)
22. Ian Hunter – Cleveland Rocks (1979 – Cleveland, OH)
23. The Pretenders – My City Was Gone (1982 – Akron, OH)

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