Any Major Babymaking Music Vol. 1

March 14th, 2019 5 comments

The term “baby-making music” describes the sonic complement to the carnal act, and the stages preceding it, which is usually applied to create an ambience which facilitates the arousal of heightened sensuality. The purpose of such music does not necessarily require the objective of procreation, nor indeed the initiation of the carnal act, but its use may not, by definition, preclude these.

The selection of suitable music for that purpose is, by its nature, subjective. However, the following are not universally considered appropriate propositions to qualify inclusion under the genre “baby-making” music: Marilyn Manson’s This Is The New Shit, Aqua’s Barbie Girl, Sgt Barry Sadler’s Ballad of The Green Berets, Billy Ray Cyrus’ Achy Breaky Heart, Lawrence Welk’s Baby Elephant Walk, Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of, The Buoys’ Timothy, Michael Jackson’s Ben, Insane Clown Posse’s Miracles, Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters, Toby Keith’s Courtesy Of The Red, White and Blue, the Carpenters’ Sing, Michael F Bolton’s opera album, anything by Creed, the Birdie Song, and others.

Should you find yourself in a situation where a lover cranks up the sounds of any of the above without the display of any discernible irony, then you might be in the company of a serial killer. Don’t wait to find out where the moment might lead you, regardless of what your libido tells you. Run!

If, however, your partner digs out a CD with the home-smooched cover you see above, you have a reasonable expectation of experiencing the best sex ever.

I do not wish to plant uncomfortable mental images in your head (though, since very few of you know what I look like, such mental images may take the form of the tanned and toned Adonis that I am), so I won’t reveal which of these songs I have made figurative babies to. But all of these songs here make me want to make figurative babies.

 

Actually, I’m overegging the point. I think these songs are not so much humping-music (though none preclude that notion either) as they are suited to setting the mood for intense romantic moments, when two people share a deep intimacy. Some songs can express such intimacy, as anybody who has ever made out to, say, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face will know. Such songs are sexy because they feed that intimacy, that essence of being-in-love that is fundamental to the act of making love.

This is why this mix includes tracks like Isaac Hayes’ version of The Look Of Love (the live version on which he is dealing with love on a more personal basis) or Bob Marley’s Turn Your Lights Down Low, but none of Barry White’s advertising jingles for his baby-making prowess (great though these songs are). But if you need some Barry to get you into the groove, don’t despair: he’s doing his thing on Quincy Jones’ star-studded The Secret Garden, alongside the likes of James Ingram, El DeBarge and Al B. Sure.

An automatic choice would have been Earth, Wind & Fire’s I Write A Song For You, but that featured recently already. But if the stand-by is the glorious live version of Reasons, then the baby-making agenda remains uncompromised. The obvious song-choice by Billy Paul is deferred to the inevitable Volume 2.

Of course, the mix can be cheerfully played outside the setting of intimate relations. It’s just as great to listen to when driving, with no hopes of having sex in sight.

So, what are your baby-making songs?

As ever, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-smooched covers.

1. Al Green – Let’s Stay Together (1972)
2. Isaac Hayes – The Look Of Love (live) (1973)
3. Earth, Wind & Fire – Reasons (live) (1975)
4. Heatwave – Always and Forever (1977)
5. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Turn Your Lights Down Low (1977)
6. Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey (1971)
7. Joan Armatrading – Turn Out the Light (1980)
8. Roberta Flack – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (1969)
9. Randy Crawford – Tender Falls The Rain (1980)
10. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Help Me Make It Through The Night (1972)
11. Luther Vandross – If Only For One Night (1985)
12. Curtis Mayfield – Do Be Down (1990)
13. Derek and the Dominos – Bell Bottom Blues (1970)
14. Santana – Europa (1976)
15. Quincy Jones – The Secret Garden (1989)
16. Marvin Gaye – After The Dance (1976)

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R.I.P. Hal Blaine 1929-2019

March 12th, 2019 4 comments

 

 

Yesterday we lost a giant in music history, one of the greatest drummers in pop, a hitmaker, a true legend — and most people don’t even know his name. Hal Blaine was the fulcrum of The Wrecking Crew, that great collective of LA-based session musicians that played on an incredible number of pop classics, backing anything from Pet Sounds to The Partridge Family.

Blaine’s death comes just four months after that of bassist Joe Osborne, which means that the trio of musical masterminds who helped Simon & Garfunkel create masterpieces like Bridge Over Troubled Water or The Boxer are now gone (keyboardist Larry Knechtel die in 2009).

I posted two mixes of songs on which Hal Blaine played, with some background on him, in 2014. It might be worth revisiting them:

 

The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1 

 

The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2

 

Other session musicians’ collection:
The Joe Osborn Collection
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 1
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 3
The Larry Carlton Collection
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Ringo Starr Collection

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In Memoriam – February 2019

March 5th, 2019 3 comments

In February The Reaper spared us superstar deaths, though the deaths of a Monkee and the incredible André Previn are notweworthy, as is that of the man who produced Roy Orbison and Kris Kristofferson in their early prime. What this list lacks in famous names it make up with some fascinating background stories.

The Musician Monkee

With the death of Peter Tork, there are now only two Monkees. In the TV series, Tork (who got the gig on recommendation of Stephen Stills, who had unsuccessfully auditioned for the role), played the simple-minded one, quite in contrast to his real personality which valued intellectual pursuit. It is often said that the four Monkees were inferior musicians, which is why the Wecking Crew played on their early records. But Tork was the one member who did play on those recordings. A guitarist, bassist and keyboardist, he was a serious musician with a Greenwich Village folk background. The instantly recognisable keyboard bars that kick off I’m A Believer are Tork’s work. Strangely, for a serious musician, his post-Monkees career was patchy, in terms of output and in success.

 

Producer to Dolly, Kris and Roy

As a young man in the mid-1950s, Fred Foster worked for Mercury Records, being a nuisance to the suits with his promotion of that newfangled rockabilly music. So when he recommended that Mercury sign this young singer Elvis Presley from Sun Records, Mercury made a half-assed bid. When RCA bid more, Mercury (like Atlantic) dropped out of the bidding. Foster proceeded to found Monument Records, for which he produced that great string of Roy Orbison hits such as Pretty Woman, Only The Lonely, In Dreams, Crying and so on. He signed the young Dolly Parton to Monument and helped her to fame, and he produced country greats such as Willie Nelson, Grandpa Jones; Ray Stevens, Larry Gatlin; Larry Jon Wilson, Kris Kristofferson (that incredible string of records from 1970-72, and the duet albums with Rita Coolidge); swamp rock acts like the recently late Tony Joe White; novelty acts (sort of, for he was deadly serious) like Robert Mitchum; instrumental acts like Boots Randolph; and soul acts like Joe Simon and Arthur Alexander. Kris Kristofferson gave Foster a co-writing credit for Me and Bobby McGee for suggesting the title.

 

The All-round Genius

Born into a Jewish family in Germany, André Previn’s family was lucky to get out in 1938. Having emigrated to the US, André was a precocious talent, already composing and conducting scores for MGM at the age of 18 — by which time he had already released a bunch of jazz records. He was not yet 30 when he had won successive Oscars for his scores of the musicals Gigi and Porgy & Bess in 1959 and 1960, repeating the feat in 1964-65 with his scores for Irma la Douce and My Fair Lady. He left MGM in the mid-1960s and became an acclaimed classical composer and conductor, also continuing his career in jazz as a performer and sideman, in which he also earned much acclaim, and continuing to write film scores.

 

No More Talk Talk

In the 1980s, Talk Talk were seen as the more sophisticated alternative to Duran Duran. Their sound rather fitted in alongside other synthy new wave bands like Tears for Fears or Blancmange. With Mark Hollis, who has died at 64, as the frontman, Talk Talk had minor but influential hits with tracks like the eponymous Talk Talk (which had its greatest success in South Africa, where it hit #1. Hollis had already recorded it as a punk version in 1977 with his previous group, The Reaction), It’s My Life, Today, and Such A Shame. Progressively Talk Talk became more experimental, scoring one more UK Top 40 hit in 1986 with Life’s What You Make It (and two more with re-issues of It’s My Life and the 1986 hit). Then Talk Talk fell silent. Hollis released a solo album in 1998, which was initially intended to be a Talk Talk reunion, and then retired from recording in 1998.

The Anti-apartheid Singer

One of brightest stars on South Africa’s vibrant jazz scene of the 1950s, Dorothy Masuka gave up commercial success for making political statements. First she released an anti-apartheid record titled “Dr Malan”, named after the first apartheid-era prime minister. Unsurprisingly, the record was banned in South Africa. She then played at the inauguration of Congolese president Patrice Lumbumba, who was later assassinated by the CIA. That forced her into exile to Zambia (where her father was from), working as a flight attendant, before returning to the country of her birth, Zimbabwe, upon its independence in 1980. She later returned to South Africa, where she had grown up from the age of 12. One of her final public performances was last April at the funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

 

Mind The Gap Band

In terms of producing classics, the track record of Lonnie Simmons isn’t massive, but when he hit, he really hit big. He is associated mainly with discovering the Gap Band, whom he signed to his Total Experience Records label. He produced, co-wrote and released their series of stone-cold classics such as Oops Upside Your Head, You Dropped A Bomb On Me, Early In The Morning, Burn Rubber On Me, and the copiously-sampled Outstanding — and he produced another timeless dance track in Yarbrough & Peoples’ Don’t Stop The Music.

 

The Transgender Pioneer

Soul singer Jackie Shane pioneered transgender issues 50 years before it became a big issue. Born in Nashville, Shane’s main area of success was in Canada, scoring a hit there in 1962 with Any Other Way. She realised that she identified as a woman when she was 13, in 1953. Remarkably, she said just recently that she never had any problems on account of being transgendered. Just a few weeks ago, Shane was nominated for a Grammy for a box set of her music.

 

From Doo Wop to Schlager

Singer Gus Backus was barely 20 when he joined the pioneering multi-racial doo wop group The Del-Vikings. But at the same time he was an airman in the US Army, and when he was transferred to Germany, Backus’ doo wop career came to an end. In West Germany he found a new life as a successful Schlager singer. For a time between 1960 and the mid-’60s, Backus was one of the country’s biggest stars, trading on his heavy accent — the Germans of the time loved foreign accents. He scored big hits with songs about Native Americans, and appeared in schlager movies. By 1967 his shtick was dated and the hits stopped coming. In the 1970s he gave up on music and went to work on oil fields in Texas. But Germany never really forgets its Schlager stars, and on returning to the country he made a career of singing in concert, popping up on TV and making personal appearances.

The Mover and Shaker

In his long songwriting career, Artie Wayne contributed mostly album fillers and b-sides, though these were recorded by big names, from Aretha Franklin to The Guess Who to Dean Martin. His best-known songs might be Michael Jackson’s The Little Christmas Tree, Joey Powers’ Midnight Mary, Joe Dassin’s Excuse Me Lady, and Helen Shapiro’s Queen For Tonight. But his stellar contribution to music was his discovery of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, whom he tried to sign while working for Scepter Records. When that was blocked, he introduced the future songwriting giants to Motown. Wayne later was a music journalist, director of creative services of Warner Bros., and generally a bit of a mover and shaker. He was among the trio of men who built up buzz for Jesus Christ Superstar when nobody wanted to know about it. Later he co-ran a songwriting course named after himself whose alumni include Diane Warren.

 

Strange Timing

Sometimes The Reaper has strange timing. On the very day blues-rock outfit The Tedeschi Trucks Band released its latest album, Signs, its keyboardist and flautist Kofi Burbridge died of a heart attack at the age of 57. A classically-trained multi-instrumentalist, Burbridge was a member of the Derek Trucks Band, led by the great slide guitarist. When Trucks married blues-rock singer Susan Tedeschi, his and her group amalgamated, with Burbridge becoming part of the merger.

 

The Covers Photographer

In his time, photographer Guy Webster committed many celebrities to film, but his lasting legacy resides in those photos that were used on the cover of LPs. And Webster created some iconic mages, perhaps most famously the one used on the cover of The Mamas & The Papas’ If You Can Believe… LP, which featured, to the horror of 1960s society, a toilet! I wrote a few years ago about the story behind the cover and some of the LP’s songs. Other great Webster covers include The Doors’ debut album, Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds Of Silence, other Mamas & Papas releases, The Rolling Stones’ Aftermath, Tim Buckley’s Goodbye And Hello, and many more (see below. A large version of the collage is included in the DL package).

 

 

Ayub Ogada, 63, Kenyan singer and musician, on Feb. 1
Ayub Ogada – Chiro (1993)

Bill Sims, 69, blues singer and guitarist, on Feb. 2
Bill Sims – Time Out (1999)

Tim Landers, 28, guitarist and singer with rick band Transit, on Feb. 2
Transit – Nothing Lasts Forever (2013)

Detsl, 35, Russian rapper, on Feb. 3

Giampiero Artegiani, 63, Italian singer-songwriter, on Feb. 4
Giampiero Artegiani – Acqua alta in Piazza San Marco (1984)

Lonnie Simmons, record producer, label founder on Feb. 6
The Gap Band – Oops Upside Your Head (1979, as co-writer and producer)
Yarbrough & Peoples – Don’t Stop The Music (1981, as producer)
Kenny Thomas – Outstanding (1990, as co-writer)

Cadet, 28, English rapper, in car crash on the way to a gig on Feb. 9

Guy Webster, 79, LP covers photographer (see below), on Feb. 9

Harvey Scales, 76, soul singer and songwriter, on Feb. 11
Johnnie Taylor – Disco Lady (1976, as writer)

Olli Lindholm, 54, singer and guitarist with Finnish rock band Yö, on Feb. 12

Joe Hardy, 66, producer and engineer, on Feb. 12
Steve Earle – The Other Kind (1990, as producer)

Deise Cipriano, 39, singer with Brazilian band Fat Family, on Feb. 12

Willy ‘Willy’ Lambregt, 59, Belgian rock musician, co-founder of Vaya Con Dios, on Feb. 13
Vaya Con Dios – Just A Friend Of Mine (1987)

Connie Jones, 84, jazz trumpeter, on Feb. 13

Marisa Solinas, 79, Italian singer and actress, on Feb. 13
Marisa Solinas – Vai Suora Vai (1981)

Kofi Burbridge, 57, rock flautist and keyboardist, on Feb. 15
Tedeschi Trucks Band – They Don’t Shine (2019, as member)

Ken Nordine, 98, voice-over and recording artist, on Feb. 16
Billy Vaughn with Ken Nordine – The Shifting Whispering Sands (1955, spoken voice)

Ethel Ennis, 86, jazz singer, on Feb. 17
Ethel Ennis – My Foolish Heart (1957)

Skip Groff, 70, producer and DJ, on Feb. 18

Artie Wayne, 77, singer, songwriter, producer, on Feb. 19
Artie Wayne – Where Does A Rock & Roll Singer Go? (1963)
Joe Dassin – Excuse Me Lady (1966, as co-writer)
The Guess Who – Use Your Imagination (1972, as co-writer)

Fred Foster, 87, producer and label founder, on Feb. 20
Roy Orbison – Only The Lonely (1961, as producer)
Dolly Parton – Dumb Blonde (1967, as producer)
Robert Mitchum – Ballad Of Thunder Road (1967, as producer)
Kris Kristofferson – Just The Other Side Of Nowhere (1970, as producer)

Gerard Koerts, 71, member of Dutch pop band Earth and Fire, on Feb. 20
Earth & Fire – Weekend (1979)

Peter Tork, 77, musician and actor with The Monkees, on Feb. 21
The Monkees – For Pete’s Sake (1967, as co-writer)
The Monkees – Goin’ Down (1967, as co-writer)
Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork – I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone (live, 1987)

Gus Backus, 81, member of doo-wop group Del Vikings, schlager singer, on Feb. 21
Del Vikings – Cool Shake (1957)
Gus Backus – Bohnen in die Ohren (1966)

Jackie Shane, 78, transgender R&B singer, found on Feb. 21
Jackie Shane – Any Other Way (1962)

Dorothy Masuka, 83, Zimbabwean-South African jazz singer, on Feb. 23
Dorothy Masuka – Khauleza (1959)
Dorothy Masuka – Pata Pata (1991)

Marcos Antonio Urbay, 90, Cuban musician, on Feb. 24

Mac Wiseman, 93, bluegrass guitarist and bass player, on Feb. 24
Mac Wiseman – Tis Sweet To Be Remembered (1951)

Mark Hollis, 64, singer-songwriter of Talk Talk, on Feb. 25
The Reaction – Talk Talk Talk Talk (1977)
Talk Talk – Such A Shame (1984)
Mark Hollis – Watershed (1998)

Magnus Lindberg, 66, Swedish musician and songwriter, on Feb. 26

Andy Anderson, 68, English drummer, on Feb. 26
The Cure – The Love Cats (1983)

Doug Sandom, 89, first drummer of The Who, on Feb. 27

Ed Bickert, 86, Canadian jazz guitarist, on Feb. 28

André Previn, 89, German-born composer, on Feb. 28
André Previn – What Is This Thing Called Love? (1946)
Sammy Davis Jr. – There’s A Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon For New York (1959, as conductor)
Andre Previn and his Trio- Almost Like Being In Love (1960)
Doris Day & André Previn – Give Me Time (1962)

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(PW in comments)

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Any Major Music from ‘The Sopranos’ Vol. 2

February 28th, 2019 2 comments

 

 

This is the second mix of songs featured in The Sopranos, a show that helped pioneer the use of eclectic song selections to help drive the plot, sometimes by featuring as part of the story, or to create an atmosphere in the way of a traditional score, or to narrate the story (the first mix lives here).

The music tells us about the characters. Think of Tony Soprano singing along to classic rock tracks like Smoke On The Water or, featured here, Steely Dan’s Dirty Work when he is driving, much as you or I might. Of course, Tony Soprano is not, I hope, like you or me. And yet, he isn’t all that different from you or me.

Songs narrate the state of mind of characters. As Chris Moltisanti is shooting up at the fair, Fred Neil’s The Dolphins plays: “This old world may never change the way it’s been, and all the ways of war, can’t change it back again…” And when Tony is strung out after having killed Chris, Lucinda Williams follows him with the question Are You Alright?, which M. Ward soon answers: Outta My Head.

The producers mess with us through music. Van Morrison’s cheery and optimistic Glad Tidings plays as Tony Soprano drives to the farm where his cousin Tony B is hiding. Van sends “glad tidings from New York” as Tony-Uncle-Johnny blows off the face of Tony-Uncle-Al. The song makes a return later when Tony runs through the snow to escape the raid on Johnny Sack’s house. Glad tidings indeed.

That surprise. La, la, la, la la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.

 

As mentioned in the notes for Volume 1, the producers played that contradiction-trick a few times on us. Often acts of uncomfortable violence are accompanied by music that provides a stark contrast. An example of that is the Eagles’ gentle Tequila Sunset scoring the scene in which Tony beats up his old schoolfriend Davey, the gambling-addicted outdoors goods store owner. An added piquance in that choice is that the two men might well have listened to the Eagles together when they were youths.

Some of the tracks clearly were chosen for their own background story. It cannot be a coincidence that the song playing when Tony kills his would-be assassin in the final episode of Season 1, It’s Bad You Know, is sung by a man who served jail time for killing a man, R.L. Burnside.

The same episode closes with Tony and family finding refuge from the rainstorm in Artie Bucco’s new restaurant. Tony tells the family to “enjoy the little moments that were good” — words he repeats in the final scene of the final episode. A guitar begins strumming as the scene fades to the credits. It’s Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 song State Trooper: “License, registration, I ain’t got none. But I got a clear conscience about the things that I done.”

And then there is that final song from that final scene, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, from 1981 (preceded by Little Feat’s All That You Dream). Producer David Chase has said that whatever song was going to play, it would be something Tony would have listened to when he was younger — a time when he still had the chance to take an alternative path in life. The choice of Don’t Stop Believin’ was inspired. Clearly Tony has long stopped believing. The last words we hear (and which, perhaps, Tony hears) are “Don’t stop….” Then it stops.

Tony picks the final number.

 

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

1. Brooklyn Funk Essentials – Bop Hop (1994)
2. R.L. Burnside – It’s Bad You Know (1998)
3. Bruce Springsteen – State Trooper (1982)
4. Fred Neil – The Dolphins (1966)
5. Steely Dan – Dirty Work (1972)
6. Little Feat – All That You Dream (1978)
7. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Simple Man (1973)
8. Eagles – Tequila Sunrise (1973)
9. Lucinda Williams – Are You Alright (2007)
10. Gretchen Wilson – He Ain’t Even Cold Yet (2005)
11. Shawn Colvin – Sunny Came Home (1996)
12. M. Ward – Outta My Head (2003)
13. The Shins – New Slang (2004)
14. Van M – Glad Tidings (1970)
15. Santana – Jingo (1969)
16. Rubén González – Chanchullo (2000)
17. Weezer – Island In The Sun (2001)
18. Creeper Lagoon – Wonderful Love (1998)
19. Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’(1981)

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Previous Music from TV shows:
The Sopranos Vol. 1
The Deuce
Freaks & Geeks
The Wonder Years
Soul Train
Any Major TV Theme Songs Vol. 1 (full versions of TV themes)
Any Major TV Theme Songs Vol. 2
Any Major TV Theme Songs Vol. 3
Any Major TV Theme Songs Vol. 4
Any Major TV Themes (as featured in the titles)

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Any Major Blue-Eyed Soul

February 21st, 2019 5 comments

 

 

The term commonly used for white people doing R&B, or music influenced by the genre, is “blue-eyed soul”. I’m not sure I like the term much, because it suggests that only black people are able to produce authentic soul music. This mix shows that this notion is nonsense.

This lot of songs draws from, the period 1964-73, the prime of soul music. For the challenge of it, I’ve even left out some obvious choices, such as the Righteous Brothers, The Four Seasons or Motown’s Chris Clark. And not all of the acts here were strictly or always soul, but they all produced records that nonetheless merit inclusion in the genre. Including the effort by a future country superstar.

 

Linda Lyndell, targetted by racist assholes for singing soul music.

 

One of the artists here had her career destroyed by the Ku Klax Klan. Linda Lyndell was beginning to enjoy some success on Stax records with the original version of the Salt N Pepa hit What A Man when death threats by the KKK, which objected to a white woman singing black music on a black label, persuaded her to go into retirement. She made a comeback much later, and still performs occasionally.

Another white singer, from a country background, once recorded soul music before selling records by the shedload to audiences which included KKK types. Charlie Rich started his career in the late 1950s as a rock & roll singer. In the mid-1960s he branched out into soul, recording with Willie Mitchell at Hi Records, including the original recording of the Sam & Dave classic When Something Is Wrong With My Baby (which went unreleased until 1988). The Silver Fox escaped commercial success as a soul singer and the wrath of racists, and went on to become the self-appointed guardian of pure country.

Another exponent of blue-eyed soul who went country was Roy Head, whose Treat Her Right is something of a blue-eyed soul anthem, having been kept off the US #1 by The Beatles’ Yesterday.

On December 9, 1967, Mitch Ryder played with Otis Redding on a Cleveland TV station (the song was Knock On Wood.) The following day, Otis Redding died in a plane crash. Had Otis lived, he might well have made a star of a white teenage kid with a real soul voice whom he had discovered in Pittsburgh, Johnny Daye. In the event, Daye released just a few singles on Stax before retiring from music in 1968. The featured song is the flip side of his best-known song, What’ll I Do for Satisfaction (which Janet Jackson covered in 1993 as What’ll I Do).

 

Bob Kuban & The In-Men, with the ill-fated lead singer Walter Scott in front.

 

Bob Kuban & The In-Men occupy a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s one-hit wonder exhibit for their 1966 #12 hit The Cheater, which features here. The eponymous Bob Kuban was the bandleader and drummer. The singer on The Cheater was Walter Scott. In a cruel twist of irony, Scott was murdered with premeditation in 1983 by his wife’s lover, who had also killed his own wife.  There’s another murder coming up later.

We know Robert John better for his 1979 hit Sad Eyes (which featured on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 1). He had enjoyed his first chart action as a 12-year-old in 1958 under his birth-name, Bobby Pedrick Jr. His claim to blue-eyed soulness dates to his short-lived time at A&M records, which saw the release of only two singles.

Jimmy Beaumont was the lead singer of the doo wop band The Skyliners — who had hits with their superb Since I Don’t Have You and Pennies Of Heaven — before he tried his hand as a soul singer. Commercial success eluded him, but soul aficionados know to appreciate his vocal stylings. Later life Beaumont returned to The Skyliners, whom he fronted until his death in 2017.

We have a few UK artists doing their soulful thing; Dusty Springfield’s meddling in the genre is well-known, especially her Dusty In Memphis album, whence the featured track comes. Kiki Dee is less celebrated for her soul exploits (and internationally most famous for her 1976 duet with Elton John, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart). Early in her career, Kiki Dee was styled as a Spectoresque girl singer. She also did backing vocals for Dusty Springfield. She was doing well enough as a soul singer to become the first white British artist to be signed by Motown in 1970. Other UK acts featured here are the Spencer Davis Group and Junior Campbell, whom I introduced in the Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 9 post.

 

South African soul singer Una Valli, pictured in 1964.

 

Geographically most remote is South Africa’s Una Valli, who as a white woman singing black music probably did not earn the love of the apartheid regime. Valli performed almost exclusively cover versions of soul and pop songs. In any other world, she might have become a stone-cold soul legend (she previously featured on Covered With Soul Vol. 6 and Vol. 11 and Covered With Soul: Beatles Edition). Stop Thief is one of her more obscure covers, a Carla Thomas b-side written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter.  Half of Valli’s 1968 album Soul Meeting was recorded with the backing of a pop group called The Peanut Butter Conspiracy; the other half (including Stop Thief) with a soul-funk band called The Flames, whose Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin later joined the Beach Boys on three albums.

Two years after the featured song by Bill Deal and the Rhondels was released, saxophonist Freddy Owens joined the group. In 1979 the band was playing in Richmond, Virginia, when Owens was shot dead in the pursuit of a man who had raped his wife. Bill Deal never really got over that and four years later quit the music industry. He died in 2003.

Several of the songs featured here were favourites on England’s Northern Soul scene, in which DJs would compete to find the most obscure 1960s soul records to be played in specialist clubs which were located mostly in northern England. The most famous venue in this sub-culture, which had its own dress codes and dancing styles, was the Wigan Casino. When the venue closed in 1981, Dean Parrish’s I’m On My Way was the last record to be played there. Six years earlier, the popularity of the 1967 tune on the Northern Soul scene had led to its re-release, selling a million copies in the UK — and Parrish earned no money from it.

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

1. The O’Kaysions – The Soul Clap (1968)
2. Soul Survivors – Expressway To Your Heart (1967)
3. The Young Rascals – A Girl Like You (1967)
4. Robert John – Raindrops, Love And Sunshine (1970)
5. Bill Deal and the Rhondels – What Kind Of Fool Do You Think I Am (1969)
6. Charlie Rich – Don’t Tear Me Down (1966)
7. Johnny Daye – I Need Somebody (1968)
8. Linda Lyndell – What A Man (1969)
9. Roy Head – Treat Her Right (1965)
10. Sunday Funnies – Whatcha Gonna Do (When The Dance Is Over) (1967)
11. Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels – Sock It To Me Baby (1967)
12. Bob Kuban & The In-Men – The Cheater (1966)
13. Jimmy Beaumont – I Never Loved Her Anyway (1966)
14. Flaming Ember – The Empty Crowded Room (1971)
15. The Box Tops – Turn On A Dream (1967)
16. Kiki Dee – On A Magic Carpet Ride (1968)
17. Laura Nyro – Stoned Soul Picnic (1968)
18. Dusty Springfield – Just A Little Lovin’ (1969)
19. The Illusion – Falling In Love (1969)
20. Una Valli and The Flames – Stop Thief (1968)
21. The Monzas – Instant Love (1964)
22. Len Barry – 1-2-3 (1965)
23. The Grass Roots – Midnight Confessions (1967)
24. Junior Campbell – Sweet Illusion (1973)
25. Dean Parrish – I’m On My Way (1967)
26. The Spencer Davis Group – I’m A Man (1967)
27. Chi Coltrane – Thunder And Lightning (1971)
28. Tommy James & The Shondells – Crystal Blue Persuasion (1969)

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Any Major ABC of Country

February 14th, 2019 1 comment

Having been asked a few times, I’ve re-upped the whole History of Country series, which I put together between 2010 and 2012. The eBook of the series is still up as well; the eBook and series are what I hope is a decent and brief primer for country music. My hope was that the series might attract people to dig a bit deeper into country.

So to announce the re-upping of the series, here’s an ABC of Country. In absence of any country acts starting with X, the playlist is a letter short. The artists were chosen more or less at random, though I was conscious of including at least one black country singer (the superb O.B. McLinton), and to have some very old and some newer material. The oldest song here is by Uncle Dave Macon, who was born in 1870, and was already 57 when the present song was recorded in 1927, only a couple of years after the first country track was put down on shellac.

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

1. Alison Krauss – When You Say Nothing At All (1995)
2. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys – Bubbles In My Beer (1947)
3. Carter Family – Broken Hearted Lover (1935)
4. Dolly Parton & Porter Wagoner – The Last Thing On My Mind (1967)
5. Emmylou Harris – Boulder To Birmingham (1975)
6. Flying Burrito Brothers – Farther Along (1970)
7. George Jones – From Here To The Door (1966)
8. Hoyt Axton – Never Been To Spain (1971)
9. Irene Kelly – My Sun And Moon (2004)
10. John Prine – Hello In There (1971)
11. Kris Kristofferson – Darby’s Castle (1970)
12. Lefty Frizzell – Shine, Shave, Shower (It’s Saturday) (1950)
13. Merle Haggard and The Strangers – (My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers (1969)
14. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band feat. Merle Travis – Dark As A Dungeon (1972)
15. O.B. McLinton – Obie From Senatobie (1973)
16. Patsy Cline – A Church, A Courtoom, Then Goodbye (1955)
17. Quartette – Lost Between Barren Shores (1994)
18. Rusty Wier – High Road, Low Road (1976)
19. Skeeter Davis – Gonna Get Along Without You Now (1964)
20. Tompall Glaser – When It Goes, It’s Gone Girl (1975)
21. Uncle Dave Macon – Walking In The Sunshine (1927)
22. Vern Gosdin – Chiseled In Stone (1988)
23. Woody Guthrie – This Land Is Your Land (1944)
24. Yonder Mountain String Band – Half Moon Rising (1999)
25. Zac Brown Band – All The Best (2017)

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In Memoriam – January 2019

February 7th, 2019 5 comments

The year has started with carnage. Interestingly, in several cases, the paths of the Reaper’s victims in January (and previous months) had crossed in the past, in quite strange ways. The Rolling Stones, J.J. Cale, Bob Dylan, Elvis and others come up repeatedly.

The Voice

A singer with a gorgeous voice, great range and immaculate phrasing, James Ingram was among the best of his craft. Alas, some of his material — and some of the songs that made him known — led many to underrate him as a soul great. But listen to his duet performance on really soft songs like Somewhere Out There, the theme of the animated film An American Tail: it’s perfectly judged, with Ingram and Linda Ronstadt generously giving each other space. He did likewise on his other duets, notably the hit with Patti Austin, Baby Come To Me. Ingram’s range is best on display in the lovely One Hundred Ways, one of the two tracks he sung on Quincy Jones’ superb The Dude album in 1980 (the other was the fantastic Just Once). Ingram won a vocal performance Grammy for One Hundred Ways, the first to receive the award without having released an album. He won another Grammy for his duet with Michael McDonald, Yah MO Be There, and was nominated for 12 other performances. Aside from being a gifted singer, Ingram also was a songwriter (among his credits is Michael Jackson’s P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), co-written with Quincy Jones) and, earlier in his career, keyboardist for Ray Charles and, later, on other records, including Shalamar’s A Night To Remember.

The Dragon & Tenille

If your name is Daryl Dragon, why on earth would you change that name to “Captain”? Blame the widely unloved Beach Boy Mike Love for it: when Dragon played keyboards on tour with the band in the early 1970s, Love dubbed him Captain Keyboard. The name stuck, and Dragon took to wearing a captain’s hat. With that image transformation he formed the duo Captain & Tenille with his wife Toni Tenille (they divorced in 2014) which became hugely popular in the 1970s, even playing in the White House for US President Gerald Ford and Queen Elizabeth II — Toni Tenille later remembered that the queen nodded off during their performance. But surely Captain Dragon & Tenille would have been an even better name for the duo.

The Session Giant

Outside the LA-based Wrecking Crew, few session players could boast of a resumé as packed with classic hits as Memphis guitarist Reggie Young. He cut his young teeth touring with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison in the 1950s, and with the Bill Black Combo in the 1960s, having the honour of getting booed every night for being The Beatles’ support act on their US tour. After a brief stint as a session man at Hi Records (for whom he had recorded earlier with the Bill Black Combo) in 1967, he moved over to Chips Moman’s American Studios, where he was part of the session collective known as The Memphis Boys.

Over the years, Young played the guitar on hits such as Elvis’ Suspicious Minds and In The Ghetto (and many others), Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and Holy Holly, The Box Tops’ Cry Like A Baby, Dobie Gray’s Drift Away, Billy Joe Royal’s Down In The Boondocks, John Prine’s Angel From Montgomery, B.J. Thomas’ Hooked On A Feeling (creating the unusual sitar sound) and Hey, Won’t You Play Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song, Jessi Colter’s I’m Not Lisa, Billy Swan’s I Can Help, Danny O’Keefe’s Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues, King Curtis’ Memphis Soul Stew, Willie Nelson’s Always On My Mind; J.J. Cale’s Cocaine, and the whole Dusty In Memphis album, including Son Of A Preacher Man. He went on to play with a long list of other artists, especially a Who’s Who in country music.

The Innovator

The paths of Reggie Young and influential session guitarist Harold Bradley, who has died at 93, often crossed. Bradley had been a member of the country session players’ collective known as The Nashville A-Team, and as such he backed virtually every big name in country, from Hank Williams and the Carter Family to Dolly Parton and Alan Jackson. Plus Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly et al. Credit-keeping was a bit vague in the day, but it is said that Bradley played on classics such as Patsy Cline’s Crazy, Lefty Frizzell’s Long Black Veil and Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man. He also played for acts like The Monkees, J.J. Cale and Leon Russell. Several times, his paths crossed with the above-mentioned Reggie Young. The brother of the equally legendary Owen Bradley, Harold was also a fierce activist for musicians’ rights.

The Great Backing Singer

Even if you’ve never heard of Clydie King, you’ll have heard her voice on an impressive list of rock classics. King put out a string of records from late 1950s to the early 1970s, but the world of soul needed her powerful voice less than white rock bands did. Famously, she and fellow backing singing legend Merry Clayton — with whom she was in Ray Charles’ backing group The Raelettes in the 1960s — sang, with some disgust, on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s southern rock anthem Sweet Home Alabama, Clayton, who hated the idea of singing anything about Alabama, later recalled: “If you listen to it, we’re all singing through our teeth, like we’re really angry. That’s how we got through the recording.” After the session, King told Clayton: “We did our part and this song will live in infamy, Merry. And we’ll continually get paid.”

There’d be merit in putting together a mix of tracks Clydie King sang on. It could include any number of Steely Dan songs (such as Kid Charlemagne, Brooklyn, The Fez, The Royal Scam, the whole Aja album), the Rolling Stones’ Tumbling Dice and Shine A Light, Linda Ronstadt’s You’re No Good and Desperado, Neil Diamond’s Cracklin’ Rosie and Beautiful Noise; Elton John’s The Bitch Is Back, Judee Sill’s Jesus Was A Cross Maker, B.W. Stevenson’s My Maria (which featured the recently late Joe Osborn on bass), Chi Coltrane’s Hallelujah, Arlo Guthrie’s City of New Orleans, America’s Woman Tonight, Leo Sayer’s You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, Bob Seger’s Still The Same and We Got Tonite, Joe Cocker’s I Can Stand A Little Rain, and Commander Cody’s Cry Baby Cry (which featured on the White Album Recovered mix). And there might even be a first volume of all the famous Phil Spector productions on which King sang backing vocals, for the likes of Ike & Tina Turner, Ben. E. King, The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love, Gene Pitney, Righteous Brothers etc. And then there was her work with Bob Dylan, particularly during his Christian period. Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone magazine: “She was my ultimate singing partner. No one ever came close. We were two soulmates.”

The Dylan Favourite

Bob Dylan didn’t just lose his favourite backing singer in January but also one of his favourite guitarists, Steve Ripley, who played with him during the Shot Of Love era — during which Clydie King was a backing vocalists. He also played with others, but more importantly he created guitars for other guitarists, including Steve Lukather, J.J. Cale, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, Jimmy Buffett and Eddie Van Halen. He then moved to Tulsa to take over Leon Russell’s recording studio. In the 1990s he formed the country-rock band The Tractors.

The Great Trumpeter

It really was a bad month for great session musicians. Another victim of the Reaper was trumpeter Steve Madaio, whose credits include Stevie Wonder hits such as Superstition and the Songs In The Key Of Life album, including I Wish and Sir Duke, with its glorious trumpet intro. It was while he was backing Wonder on the singer’s tour supporting the Rolling Stones in 1972 that the Stones poached him for their backing band. Previously Madaio had been a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with whom he played at Woodstock and (probably) Monterey.

As a session man he trumpeted on records by the likes of John Lennon, Elton John (on his duet with Lennon, Whatever Gets You Thru The Night), Ringo Starr (on Snokeroo, on which Clydie King sang backing vocals, and Goodnight Vienna), Etta James, Syreeta, Carly Simon, Martha Reeves, Melissa Manchester, Anne Murray,  Joe Cocker, Jimmy Cliff, Deniece Williams (including on Free), James Taylor, Earth, Wind & Fire (including on Fantasy and September), Maria Muldaur, Harry Nilsson, Cher, Neil Diamond (on the Beautiful Noise album which also included Clydie King), John Mayall, The Emotions, Boz Scaggs, The Temptations, Dionne Warwick, Bob Dylan (on Street Legal), Cheryl Lynn (on Got To Be Real), Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, BB King, Donna Summer (including Hot Stuff and Bad Girls), Janis Ian (on Fly Too High), Lowell George, Bonnie Raitt, Glen Campbell, Brenda Russell, Rita Coolidge, Pointer Sisters, Randy Newman, Joe Sample, Dennis Edwards, The Allman Brothers Band, J.J. Cale, Madonna (on the Like A Prayer album) and many more. He also played, alongside the recently late Joe Osborn, on the original stage soundtrack of the Rocky Horror Show.

The African Icon

With the death of guitarist and singer-songwriter Oliver Mtukudzi, Zimbabwe has not only lost one of its two most iconic musician, but also a social and cultural icon and activist. He was to Zimbabwe what Hugh Masekela was to South Africa (and in 2016 they collaborated on a track). Mtukudzi was in the forefront of defying cultural apartheid in Rhodesia, and after liberation was an activist for human rights and justice, lately serving as the UNICEF goodwill ambassador for Southern Africa — even as he stood above party politics. His popularity extended beyond Zimbabwe. Mtukudzi was so popular in South Africa that a memorial concert was held in his honour in Johannesburg.

The Movie Composer

One of the great movie score composers has departed with the death of Michel Legrand. Even though he worked mostly in French film, he received several Oscar nominations, taking away the Academy Award for Best Original Song with The Windmills Of Your Mind from The Thomas Crown Affair, and Best Score for Summer of ‘42 (1971) and Yentl (1983). He was nominated for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1965), which produced the also nominated standard I Will Wait For You, whose English lyrics were written by Norman Gimbel, who died in December.

The Rumour That He Died

Two divorces inspired Sanger ‘Whitey’ Shafer to co-write two country chart-toppers in versions by George Strait, Does Forth Worth Ever Cross Your Mind and the superb All My Ex’s Live In Texas. Alas, it no longer is a rumour that Whitey died… Shafer also wrote hits such as Keith Whitley’s posthumously charting I Wonder Do You Think Of Me, as well as That’s the Way Love Goes, which was a hit for Johnny Rodriguez and Merle Haggard. His songs were recorded by other country luminaries, including George Jones, Lefty Frizzell and Moe Bandy.

The Murder Victim

Puerto Rican rapper Kevin Fret had just had his breakthrough hit, Soy Asi, in 2018. As the title of his hit suggests, Fret was different: in a homophobic society, he was openly gay and broke gender conventions. But he was controversial also within the LGBQTI community for claiming that his homosexuality was a “choice”.  He died after being shot eight times while riding his motorcycle in the early morning hours of January 10. By the time of posting, no arrests had been made, nor a motive established.

 

Christine McGuire, member of vocal group McGuire Sisters, on Dec. 28
The McGuire Sisters – Sincerely (1954)

Dean Ford, 72, songwriter and singer of Scottish pop band Marmalade, on Dec. 31
Dean Ford & The Gaylords – That Lonely Feeling (1965)
Marmalade – Reflections Of My Life (1969, on lead vocals and as co-writer)

Shane Bisnett, 31, bassist of metalcore band Ice Nine Kills, on Jan. 1

Pegi Young, 66, singer-songwriter, ex-wife of Neil Young, on Jan. 1
Pegi Young & The Survivors – Feel Just Like a Memory (2014)

Kris Kelmi, 63, Russian rock singer-songwriter, on Jan. 1

Feis Ecktuh, 32, Dutch rapper, shot dead on Jan. 1

‘Captain’ Daryl Dragon, 76, musician, songwriter, half of Captain & Tennille, on Jan. 2
The Dragons – Troll (1964, also as writer)
The Beach Boys – Everyone’s in Love With You (1972, as co-writer and arranger)
Captain & Tenille – Love Will Keep Us Together (1974)

Steve Ripley, 69, musician, producer, guitar inventor, on Jan. 3
Bob Dylan – Shot Of Love (1981, on guitar, also featuring Clydie King)
The Tractors – Baby Likes To Rock It (1994)

Eric Haydock, 75, bassist of The Hollies, on Jan. 5
The Hollies – I’m Alive (1965)

Alvin Fielder, 83, jazz drummer and educator, on Jan. 5

Dan Tshanda, 54, singer and bassist of South African band Splash, on Jan. 5
Splash – Troubled Man (1991)

Clydie King, 75, soul and backing singer, on Jan. 7
Clydie King and The Sweet Things – Only The Guilty Cry (1963)
Clydie King – I Can’t Go On Without Love (1971)
Rolling Stones – Tumbling Dice (1972)
Chi Coltrane – Hallelujah (1973)

Jimmy Hannan, 84, Australian singer and game show host, on Jan. 7

Houari Manar, 38, Algerian raï singer, on Jan. 7

Georges Dimou, 87, Greek Austria-based Schlager singer, on Jan. 8

Joseph Jarman, 81, jazz musician and Buddhist priest, on Jan. 9
Art Ensemble Of Chicago – Peter And Judith (1982)

Kevin Fret, 24, Puerto Rican trap rapper, shot dead on Jan. 10

Larry Cunningham, 67, singer with soul group The Floaters, on Jan. 10
The Floaters – Float On (Long Version) (1977)

Sanger ‘Whitey’ Shafer, 84, country songwriter, on Jan. 12
George Strait – Does Forth Worth Ever Cross Your Mind (1984, as co-writer)
Whitey Shafer – All My Ex’s Live In Texas (1987, also as co-writer)
Keith Whitley – I Wonder Do You Think Of Me (1989, as writer)

Bonnie Guitar, 95, country singer, musician and producer, on Jan. 13
Bonnie Guitar – Dark Moon (1957)

Willie Murphy, 75, blues musician and producer, on Jan. 13
‘Spider’ John Koerner & Willie Murphy – Magazine Lady (1969)
Bonnie Raitt – Mighty Tight Woman (1971, as producer)

Steve Madaio, 70, session trumpeter, on Jan. 15
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Walkin’ By Myself (1969)
Stevie Wonder – Superstition (1972)
Ringo Starr – Snookeroo (1974, on trumpet)
Deniece Williams – Free (1977, on trumpet)

Carol Channing, 97, actress and singer, on Jan. 15
Carol Channing – Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend (1949)
Carol Channing – Put On Your Sunday Clothes (1964)

Rita Vidaurri, 94, American singer, on Jan. 16

Chris Wilson, 62, Australian blues musician, on Jan. 16

Lorna Doom, bassist of US punk band Germs, on Jan. 16
Germs – Forming (1977)

Brian Velasco, 41, drummer of Filipino rock band Razorback, suicide on Jan. 16

Reggie Young, 82, legendary session guitarist, on Jan. 17
Bill Black Combo – Smokie-Part 2 (1959, as member)
Herbie Mann – Memphis Underground (1969, on guitar)
John Prine – Sweet Revenge (1973, on guitar)
Elvis Presley – I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby (1974, on guitar)
Merle Haggard – I’ve Seen It Go Away (2010, on guitar)

Tara Simmons, 34, Australian singer-songwriter and musician, on Jan. 17
Tara Simmons – Everybody Loves You (2007)

Debi Martini, bassist of ‘90s punk band Red Aunts, on Jan. 17

Ron Watson, 62, guitarist of Canadian  rock band Helix, on Jan. 17
Helix – Rock You (1984)

Marcelo Yuka, 53, drummer of Brazilian reggae band O Rappa, on Jan. 18

Ted McKenna, 68, drummer of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, on Jan. 18
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Hammer Song (1973)

Edwin Birdsong, 77, funk keyboardist, on Jan. 21
Roy Ayers Ubiquity – Running Away (1977, as co-writer and co-producer)
Edwin Birdsong – Cola Bottle Baby (1979)

Marcel Azzola, 91, French accordionist, on Jan. 21
Jacques Brel – Vesoul (1969)

Mike Ledbetter, 33, blues musician, on Jan. 21

Kaye Ballard, 93, actress and singer, on Jan. 21
Kaye Ballard – In Other Words (1954; original version of Fly Me To The Moon)

Maxine Brown, 87, singer of country group The Browns, on Jan. 21
The Browns – The Three Bells (1959)

Oliver Mtukudzi, 66, Zimbabwean jazz guitarist, singer and activist, on Jan. 23
Oliver Mtukudzi – Wake Up (1999)
Oliver Mtukudzi – Neria (2001)
Hugh Masekela feat. Oliver Mtukudzi – Tapera (2016)

Bruce Corbitt, 56, heavy metal singer with Rigor Mortis, Warbeast, on Jan. 25

Jacqueline Steiner, 94, folk singer-songwriter and activist, on Jan. 25
The Kingston Trio – M.T.A. (1959, as lyricist)

Terry Jennings, 62, country musician and author (son of Waylon), on Jan. 25

Michel Legrand, 86, French film composer, conductor and jazz pianist, on Jan. 26
Noel Harrison -The Windmills Of Your Mind (1968, as composer)
Matt Monro – I Will Wait For You (1969, as composer)

Ingo Bischof, 68, keyboardist of German Krautrock band Kraan, on Jan. 26
Kraan – Wintruper Echo (1982)

Pepe Smith, 71, Filipino rock musician, on Jan. 28

Paul Whaley, 72, drummer of rock bands Oxford Circle, Blue Cheer, on Jan. 28
The Oxford Circle – Troubles (live, 1967)
Blue Cheer – West Coast Child Of Sunshine (1969)

James Ingram, 66, American R&B singer-songwriter, on Jan. 29
James Ingram – One Hundred Ways (1980)
Shalamar – A Night To Remember (1982, on keyboards)
Patti Austin & James Ingram – How Do You Keep The Music Playing (1982)
James Ingram – I Don’t Have The Heart (1989)

Johnny Lion, 77, Dutch singer and actor, on Jan. 31

Harold Bradley, 93, country session guitarist and bassist, on Jan. 31
Hank Williams – Ramblin’ Man (1951, on rhythm, guitar)
Patsy Cline – I Fall To Pieces (1961, on bass)
Elvis Presley – (You’re The) Devil In Disguise (1963, on rhythm guitar)
J.J. Cale – Travelin’ Light (1976, on rhythm guitar)

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The Originals: Carpenters edition

January 31st, 2019 7 comments

 

 

The Carpenters drew heavily from often not very well known songs, making them their own in the process. This was not so, however, with what is widely regarded at their signature tune: Close To You had been recorded a few times before the Carpenters got their turn in 1970.

Close To You

It started out as a humble b-side to actor Richard Chamberlain’s 1963 single Blue Guitar. Within a year both Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield had recorded it, though Dusty’s version was not released until 1967, on her lovely Where Am I Going? LP.

Composer Burt Bacharach was not happy with either of the hitherto published versions when he offered the song to Herb Alpert, who had in 1968 recorded a rather good version of Bacharach’s This Guy’s In Love With You. Alpert, however, declined to do Close To You (apparently he didn’t like the line about sprinkling “moondust in your hair”), and gave the song to the Carpenters, who had released their debut LP on Alpert’s A&M label. A similarly hesitant Richard Carpenter and Alpert arranged the song — with the latter’s prominent trumpet track — and created aversion Bacharach was happy with.

 

Hurting Each Other

The secret in the Carpenters’ successful appropriation of appropriating songs first recorded by other people owes in part to an astuteness in often picking songs that weren’t very well known. Once Richard Carpenter imprinted his imaginative arrangements and Karen her marvellous vocals on such a song, it almost invariably was theirs. And so it was with Hurting Each Other, which the siblings recorded in late 1971. It appeared on their excellent 1972 album, A Song For You, and the single reached #2 on the US charts.

Hurting Each Other was written by Gary Geld and Peter Udell, whose songwriting credits also included Brian Hyland’s Sealed With A Kiss (another song that has a history as a lesser-known original). The first recording of the song was released in 1965 by teen idol Jimmy Clanton, a white R&B singer from Baton Rouge who had a string of hits in what has been called “swamp pop” and then faded into the sort of obscurity that has nonetheless ensured a performing career that continues to this day, complemented by a line in radio DJing.

 

Superstar

The genius of the Carpenters resided with their ability, through Richards’s arrangements and Karen’s emotional investment, to make other people’s songs totally theirs. In the case of Superstar, they not only took the song but also usurped its meaning. Sung by Karen Carpenter it no longer is the groupie’s lament it was written as. Indeed, in its first incarnation, by Delaney & Bonnie in 1969, the song was titled Groupie (Superstar), and included more explicit lyrics (“I can hardly wait to sleep with you” became “…be with you”). Released as a b-side, the song was written by the original performers with Leon Russell, and Eric Clapton featured on the recording. A few months later, former Delaney & Bonnie backing singer Rita Coolidge recorded it. According to Leon Russell, she had come up with the concept for it and Delaney Bramlett said she had helped with the harmonies.

But it was Bette Midler’s performance of the song on the Tonight Show in August 1970 that alerted Richard Carpenter, who hadn’t heard the song before, to it. It is said that Karen’s first take, read from a napkin, is the one that which made it on to the record.

 

A Song For You/This Masquerade

One singer features twice here: Leon Russell (plus, of course, his co-writing credit on Superstar). He released A Song for You on his eponymous debut album in 1970. It was covered to superb effect by Donny Hathaway and to some commercial success by Andy Williams, but it was the Carpenters’ 1972 version which brought the song to an international mainstream audience. The Carpenters recorded This Masquerade a year after it originally appeared on Russell’s 1972 Carney album. In their hands it becomes quite a different animal, doing away with the long movie-theme style intro; and Karen’s voice is rather more pleasing to the ear than Russel’s idiosyncratic growls. Oddly, both Russell and the Carpenters’ used the song on b-sides of inferior singles. George Benson’s 1976 Grammy-winning version from the Breezin’ album is also worth noting.

 

Reason To Believe

Reason To Believe was not a hit for the man who wrote and first recorded it, Tim Hardin. A gifted songwriter, he enjoyed his biggest hit with somebody else’s song, Bobby Darin’s twee Simple Song of Freedom, which Darin wrote in return for Hardin providing his big comeback hit If I Were A Carpenter. Darin, by then in his folk phase, also did a very credible version of Reason To Believe. Hardin’s story is tragic. As a marine in Vietnam in the early 1960s he discovered heroin and became addicted to the drug. Added to that, he suffered from terrible stagefright, which is not helpful when you are an entertainer. He died at 39 on 29 December 1980 from a heroin and morphine overdose, just over two years before Karen followed him.

 

It’s Going To Take Some Time

In 1972, Richard Carpenter was going through a stack of singles to see what he could cover for the A Song For You album when he stumbled on Carole King’s It’s Going To Take Some Time, which King had recorded for her Tapestry follow-up, Music. King, who was no slouch when it came to arranging a song, later admiringly noted of the lush Carpenters version (with that great flute solo) that her original sounds by comparison like a demo.

 

Can’t Smile Without You

It’s not really fair to include Can’t Smile Without You in this mix, seeing as it is better known in the 1978 version by Barry Manilow. But the Carpenters recorded it a year before him, and even then it was a cover of an original from 1975 by British singer David Martin, one of the song’s four writers. Martin has had a greater career as a songwriter and occasional producer than as a singer, even if he has toured with the James Last Orchestra. As a songwriter, his songs were recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw, The Hep Stars (the Swedish ’60s group future ABBA man Benny Anderson belonged to), Al Martino, David Essex, Edison Lighthouse, Sacha Distel and others.

 

Sing

One of a stranger sources for a pop hit must be Sesame Street, even if the show’s staff writers wrote some catchy numbers. One of those catchy numbers was Sing, written by the greatest of those Sesame Street writers, Joe Raposo, who also wrote the show’s theme and the immortal C Is For Cookie, which is good enough for me. After it was sung on Sesame Street and released under the moniker The Kids, Barbra Streisand recorded a version which did some business. Richard Carpenter heard it on a TV variety show and thought it had potential. It clearly did, at least for people who can stomach children’s choirs.

 

We’ve Only Just Begun

Finally, the best story left for last. We’ve Only Just Begun first made its appearance in 1970 in a TV commercial for a bank (below), whence it was picked up by Richard Carpenter to create the popular wedding staple. But before Richard and Karen got around to it, it was recorded a few months earlier by Freddie Allen, an actor who under his stage name Smokey Roberds was a member of ’60s California pop group The Parade.

As Roberds tells it, one day he heard the Crocker National Bank commercial on his car radio (presumably the ad transcended media platforms), and recognised in the tune the signature of his composer friend Roger Nichols, who had written the ad’s song with lyricist Paul Williams. He phoned Nichols, ascertained that he had indeed co-written it, and asked him to create a full-length version. Nichols and Williams did so, and Roberds intended to produce it for a band he had just signed to White Whale Records. The deal fell through, so Roberds decided to record the song himself, but couldn’t do so under his stage name for contractual reasons. Since he was born Fred Allen Roberds, his Christian names provided his new, temporary moniker.

Paul Williams’ memory is slightly different: in his version, Nichols and he had added verses to subsequent updates of the advert, and completed a full version in case anyone wanted to record it. When Richard Carpenter heard the song in the commercial, he contacted Williams to ask if there was a full version, and Williams said there was — and he would have lied if there wasn’t. Perhaps that happened before Allen recorded it. (Full interview here)

The remarkable Williams, incidentally, sang the song in the ad and would later write Rainy Days And Mondays and I Won’t Last A Day Without You for the Carpenters (both with Nichols), as well as Barbra Streisand’s Evergreen, Kermit the Frog’s The Rainbow Connection and the Love Boat theme, among others.

Freddie Allen’s single, a likable country-pop affair, did well in California, but not nationally, which he attributed to promotion and distribution problems. Released a few months later, the Carpenters had their third hit with We’ve Only Just Begun, reaching #2 in the US.

 

As ever, CD-R length, home-masqueraded covers, PW the same as always.

1. Leon Russell – A Song For You (1970)
2. Delaney & Bonnie – Groupie (Superstar) (1969)
3. Carole King – It’s Going To Take Some Time (1970)
4. Jimmy Clanton – Hurting Each Other (1965)
5. Richard Chamberlain – They Long To Be Close To You (1964)
6. Freddie Allen – We’ve Only Just Begun (1970)
7. Larry Meredith – For All We Know (1970)
8. Leon Russell – This Masquerade (1972)
9. Tim Hardin – Reason To Believe (1966)
10. New Vaudeville Band – There’s A Kind Of Hush (1966)
11. Hank Williams with his Drifting Cowboys – Jambalaya (On The Bayou) (1952)
12. The Marvelettes – Please Mr. Postman (1961)
13. Neil Sedaka – Solitaire (1972)
14. Righteous Brothers – All You Get From Love Is A Love Song (1975)
15. David Martin – Can’t Smile Without You (1975)
16. Bama – Touch Me When We’re Dancing (1979)
17. Klaatu – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (1976)
18. The Kids – Sing (1971)

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Any Major ABC: 1950s

January 22nd, 2019 4 comments

 

The ABC of the 1950s might be a random selection of songs, with each artist representing a letter of the alphabet, but there are some interesting tracks here.

Listen to The Orioles’ 1951 song Baby Please Don’t Go, which James Brown surely took more than just a dollop of inspiration from for Please Please Please. That song, better known as the soul classic that had James Brown fall to his knees in exhausted despair, features here in its initial version, which still had to acquire the raw soul of later interpretations.

Singing in 1959 about securing a date with the school’s prettiest girl, during biology class, is Tony Perkins, who a year later would use his formal name as an actor in the Alfred Hitchcock romantic comedy Psycho (I only got as far as just after the girl checks into the hotel run by the slightly geeky but nice young man played by Perkins. I left it when she takes a shower, which I’m sure will lead to screwball comedy stuff. No Spoilers, please).

 

The Hollywood Flames. In front are (left) Bobby Day and Earl Nelson.

 

The lead singer of R&B and doo wop band Hollywood Flames on their hit Buzz-Buzz-Buzz was Earl Nelson, half of the 1960s R&B duo Bob & Earl. And the writer of the song was fellow Hollywood Flame Bobby Day, who went on to be the original Bob in Bob & Earl. By 1962, Nelson recruited a new Bob and had a hit with Harlem Shuffle. By then Byrd had already a hit under his belt with Rockin’ Robin (later covered by Michael Jackson). Byrd also wrote the hits Over and Over by The Dave Clark Five and Little Bitty Pretty One by Thurston Harris. He died in 1990 at 60.

The singer of Real Wild Child, a cover of Australian rock & roller Johnny O’Keefe’s original and precursor of Iggy Pop’s version, is called just Ivan. That was Jerry Ivan Allison, drummer of The Crickets, who is backed here by Buddy Holly on guitar.

Few people on this mix were really likely to score a disco hit two decades after the setting of this ABC. Yet, this is just what R&B singer Dee Clark did in 1975 when he reached #16 in the UK charts with Ride a Wild Horse. Here, in 1959, he still fantasises about the content of high school girls’ sweaters. Clark died in 1990 at only 52.

Fifty-two was also the age at which Amos Milburn died, in 1980. Initially a jazz pianist and singer of those blues and boogie and jump songs that helped pave the way for rock & roll, Milburn’s line was good-natured songs about women and drinking too much which in his day were timeless stuff. His biggest fan was the similarly good-natured Fats Domino, who often cited Milburn as a major influence.

Even younger at the time of her death was Una Mae Carlisle, who was only 40 when she passed on of pneumonia in 1956. A performer since the age of three, the singer-pianist was discovered in the 1930s by Fats Waller. A bandleader in her own right (Lester Young was among her sidemen), Carlisle had as radio show, toured internationally, and wrote many songs, which were covered by the likes of Cab Calloway and Peggy Lee.

 

The Bobettes, whose record company made them turn their contempt for a teacher into a song of inappropriate infatuation.

 

And younger yet was Jannie Pought of the teenage R&B group The Bobettes, who was stabbed to death in a random killing at the age of 34 in 1980. Her group’s Mr Lee is about a schoolgirl’s crush on the eponymous teacher, though their song was initially intended to satirise their teacher, who apparently was indeed a Mr Lee. Atlantic Records ordered that the lyrics be rewritten. The song became a huge hit. The Bobettes continued to record into the early 1980s and performed together even longer. By now four of the five members are dead.

This mix was prepared before the death on December 28 of Christine McGuire of The McGuire Sisters, whose Rhythm ‘n’ Blues (Mama’s Got The Rhythm, Papa’s Got The Blues) is rather more entertaining than their dreary signature tune Sincerely.

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

1. Amos Milburn and his Aladdin Chickenshackers – Bad, Bad Whiskey (1951)
2. Bobettes – Mr. Lee (1957)
3. Connie Francis – No Other One (1956)
4. Dee Clark – Hey Little Girl (In The High School Sweater) (1959)
5. Everly Brothers – Bird Dog (1958)
6. Four Aces – Love Is A Many Splendored Thing (1956)
7. Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps – Be Bop A Lula (1956)
8. Hollywood Flames – Buzz-Buzz-Buzz (1957)
9. Ivan – Real Wild Child (1958)
10. James Brown with The Famous Flames – Please Please Please (1956)
11. Kirby Sisters – Red Velvet (1956)
12. Little Richard – Ooh My Soul (1958)
13. McGuire Sisters – Rhythm ‘n’ Blues (Mama’s Got The Rhythm, Papa’s Got The Blues) (1956)
14. Nutmegs – Story Untold (1955)
15. Orioles – Baby Please Don’t Go (1951)
16. Penguins – Earth Angel (1954)
17. Quin-Tones – Ding Dong (1958)
18. Roy Orbison – Go! Go! Go! (1956)
19. Spaniels – Goodnight Sweetheart (1954)
20. Tony Perkins – Prettiest Girl In School (1959)
21. Una Mae Carlisle – Long (1950)
22. Valentines – The Woo Woo Train (1955)
23. Wrens – Come Back My Love (1955)
24. Xavier Cugat & Abbe Lane – Cuban Mambo (1955)
25. Youngsters – You’re An Angel (With The Devil In Your Eyes) (1956)
26. Ziggy Talent – Please Say Goodnight To The Guy, Irene (1950)

https://rapidgator.net/file/1d8f0e8a229b2b5e24c05b9e78a66003/ABC50s.rar.html

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Beatles Recovered – Yellow Submarine

January 14th, 2019 12 comments

Coming just over six weeks after the release of the White Album, The Beatles released the soundtrack LP for the animated Yellow Submarine movie on 13 January 1969. Its release exactly fifty years ago yesterday was not massively popular, partly since Side 2 comprised only George Martin instrumentals, and in any case, it was always going to be overshadowed by the epoch-making double album.

The Beatles weren’t too keen either; they put together their contribution only because of a contractual obligation to United Artists, which was releasing the film.

Two of the six songs on Side 1 had been previously released on single (All You Need Is Love and the title track). George Harrison’s sarcastic Only A Northern Song was recorded during the Sgt Pepper’s sessions in February 1967, but rejected for that album.

All Together Now, which McCartney called “a throw-away track”, was recorded in May 1967 for the film project, as was John Lennon’s Hey Bulldog, recorded in February 1968. May 1967 also saw the recording of Harrison’s LSD-influenced It’s All Too Much.

A song that might have been included was Across The Universe, which was first recorded in February 1968, then appeared in its original version on a charity album in 1969, and then in a rearranged form on Let It Be in 1970.

A cover of Across The Universe, by folkie/poet Rod McKuen, is included in this collection of covers, as part of a putative Side 2, which might also have included single tracks and their b-sides that were released in 1968.

Ella Fitzgerald gives Hey Jude a whole new treatment (it was on the b-side of her cover of Sunshine Of Your Love by Cream), as does Richie Havens on his cover of Lady Madonna.

The most interesting interpretation here, however, is the jazzy slow-burn by Jimmy McGriff and Junior Parker of Harrison’s The Inner Light, which divests the song of its Indian sound.

Of the Side 1 stuff, it’s rather unexpected to have hirsute Tony Soprano-favourites Journey cover the formerly druggy It’s All Too Much, with a hard-rocking guitar solo.

But most surprising — other than a soul band deciding to cover the banal Yellow Submarine — is the fine version here of the otherwise pedestrian (and annoying) All Together Now by German soul band Joy Unlimited. The group was fronted by the late Joy Fleming, who had a mighty and soulful voice which the bland pretenders of the likes of Adele would kill for. And the band strips the Beatles song of its triteness and infuses it with a gospel vibe, supported by Fleming’s committed ad libbing.

I’ve posted Elvis Costello’s Live Aid version of All You Need Is Love before. Oddly, there aren’t many very good covers of that song.

One Beatles performance is included here. Not Guilty was one of several songs recorded during the White Album sessions that were rejected for inclusion. Those tracks were pretty bad; Not Guilty is the least bad of the lot.

1. The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Yellow Submarine (1967)
2. Sun Dial – Only A Northern Song (1991)
3. Joy Unlimited – All Together Now (1970)
4. Bill Deal & The Rhondels – Hey Bulldog (1970)
5. Journey – It’s All Too Much (1976)
6. Elvis Costello – All You Need Is Love (1985)
7. Ella Fitzgerald – Hey Jude (1968)
8. Jimmy McGriff & Junior Parker – The Inner Light (1970)
9. Richie Havens – Lady Madonna (1968)
10. Rod McKuen – Nothing’s Gonna Change My World (Across The Universe) (1971)
11. The Beatles – Not Guilty (1968)
12. Sesame Street – Yellow Submarine (1976)

https://rapidgator.net/file/2de060f655305a47ea13dc584ec0f1fa/BRec-Ylwsbmrn.rar.html
(Link updated. PW in comments)

 

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
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles Recovered: White Album
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)
Beatles Reunited: Photographs (1974)

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