Any Major Chuck Berry Covers

March 23rd, 2017 11 comments

Rock ‘n’ roll was invented when Marty McFly’s 1980s guitar solo of Johnny B Goode compels Marvin Berry to phone his cousin Chuck for inspiration for the new sound the latter was seeking. The obituaries for Chuck Berry noted his huge contribution to the rise of rock ‘n’ roll. Along with Ike Turner — another nasty individual who, like Berry, is best remembered only for his music — Chuck Berry is often cited as Exhibit A in the claim that rock ‘n’ roll is the white man having stolen the music of the black man.

The argument has merit in some ways — the many hit cover versions by white artists of tracks first recorded by black artists or the exploitation of black musicians by record companies in the ’50s being cases in point. But it doesn’t hold true for the development of rock ‘n’ roll as a musical genre, which from the start was subject to a broad sweep of influences and served as a broad church of musical styles.

And that finds concrete expression in Chuck Berry’s debut hit Maybelline, the record some regard as the birth of rock ‘n’ roll as a thing. And in a way it was: Maybelline was the first rock ‘n’ roll record performed by a black musician to break into the Billboard Top 10. Berry himself said that he had based Maybellene on country legend Bob Wills’ vocal version of the traditional fiddle number Ida Red, recorded in 1938. The foundation of Maybelline was country, but the building was rhythm and blues. In varying formulas, that was the architecture of rock ‘n’ roll. Of course, Wills’ Western Swing sound was itself a fusion — the white music we now call country incorporating black musical forms — which led Wills to claim that he did rock ‘n’ roll two decades before anyone, but that’s another story.

The idea that rock ‘n’ roll started as a “big bang”, ascribable to individuals, or a select groups of individuals, or even a particular point in time, is absurd. The genre, which itself is so diffuse, was the result of a relatively slow evolution. Music that sounded like rock ‘n’ roll was already made more than a decade before Maybelline or Rocket 88. Just listen to Buddy Jones’ Rockin’ Rollin’ Mama from 1939 on A History of Country Vol. 3: Pre-war years – 1937-41.

My proposition is that rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t so much a musical genre than a social movement. And for that a series of big, small and tiny bangs were needed. Chuck Berry being the first black R&B musician to cross over into the Billboard charts was one such seismic moment. Rock Around The Clock and The Blackboard Jungle, Tutti Frutti, Elvis on Ed Sullivan, perhaps even the death of James Dean were others.

Chuck Berry, influencing some white kid in England…or Hill Valley.

So Chuck Berry of course does occupy a central place in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. And other than Elvis, a good case can be made that Berry most influenced the post-war kids who would lead the British invasion in the 1960s — though he was by no means the only one, so the equation that without Berry there’d have been no Beatles or Stones is poor arithmetic.

Unlike Elvis, Berry wrote his own songs, and this is the subject of this mix: 26 covers of tracks written by Chuck Berry between 1954 and 1970 (the mix is a result of me taking the bait from regular reader and radio presenter Martin). What is striking is how few black artists covered Chuck Berry. On this mix I count three. Three other shortlisted covers by black artists — Wilson Picket, Robert Cray and Aaron Neville — didn’t make the cut. Similarly, very few women covered Berry (which the old misogynist might have been pleased about). Which raises the question: Is Chuck Berry music the soundtrack of white maleness? Answers on a postcard, please.

Of my joint-favourite Berry songs, one is covered as one would expect it and as it has to be by the Beach Boys. The other, however, sounds nothing like the original. Taj Mahal does interesting things to Brown-Eyed Handsome Man, though I still prefer the original. I never had much of an opinion either way of Too Much Monkey Business, but Leon Russell’s version here is exquisite — one of the few instances where the cover of a Chuck Berry song is much better than the original.

My choice for the cover of Memphis, Tennessee was obvious — even if I still like Johnny Rivers’ take the best — and there was only ever one choice for Rock And Roll Music. I expect that here and there somebody will regret that I left out some song or other (I’m adding on four bonus tracks that very narrowly didn’t make it on to the CD-R), but one song that I was not going to leave out was the b-side for Maybelline, covered here by Trini Lopez — on the title of which Chuck is declaring his future intent.

Alas, I found no suitable cover of a Chuck Berry song by his lyrical heir, Bruce Springsteen. But I can recommend that, if you are Springsteen fan, you join in the fun with the crowd in Leipzig, Germany, in 2013 on You Can Never Tell, the Berry song that seems to have been written for Springsteen and his E Street Band.

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

1. Electric Light Orchestra – Roll Over Beethoven (1972)
2. The Beatles – Rock And Roll Music (1964)
3. The Rolling Stones – Come On (1963)
4. Elvis Presley – Memphis, Tennessee (1963)
5. Trini Lopez – Wee Wee Hours (1965)
6. Marty Robbins – Maybelline (1955)
7. Ernest Tubb – Thirty Days (To Come Back Home) (1955)
8. Linda Ronstadt – Back In The USA (1978)
9. Emmylou Harris – (You Can Never Tell) C’est La Vie (1977)
10. George Thorogood & The Destroyers – You Can’t Catch Me (1988)
11. Dave Edmunds – Dear Dad (1982)
12. The Animals – Around And Around (1964)
13. The Troggs – The Jaguar And The Thunderbird (1966)
14. The Beach Boys – School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell) (1980)
15. Slade – I’m A Rocker (1981)
16. Status Quo – Carol (1981)
17. Rod Stewart – Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller (1974)
18. David Bowie – Almost Grown (1972)
19. Juicy Lucy – Nadine (1969)
20. Humble Pie – No Money Down (1974)
21. Taj Mahal – Brown-Eyed Handsome Man (1975)
22. Leon Russell – Too Much Monkey Business (1992)
23. Dr. Feelgood – I’m Talking About You (1976)
24. Luther Johnson – Little Queenie (1975)
25. Jimi Hendrix – Johnny B. Goode (1970)
26. Redwing – Bye Bye Johnny (1972)
Bonus Tracks: Conway Twitty – Reelin’ And A Rockin’ (1961)
Ray Manzarek – Downbound Train (1974)
Carlos Santana – Havana Moon (1983)
Levon Helm – Back To Memphis (2011)

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Life In Vinyl 1985 – Vol. 1

March 16th, 2017 5 comments

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What a year in music 1985 was for me! And what a pity that in terms of quality and excitement in British pop, it was nowhere as great as that incredible stretch from 1979 to 1981. In fact, by 1985, the corporatisation of pop music had already set in, and it was going to get a boost from Live Aid, an event from which every single act that took part in it enjoyed increased record sales — except for poor Adam Ant.

And still, it was a great music year for me. I had just arrived in London the previous November, and took full advantage of the range of concerts on offer. In four weeks between January and February at the Hammersmith Odeon alone, I saw acts as diverse as Chaka Khan, Leonard Cohen and Meat Loaf. In summer I saw U2 (of whom I was a fan then, believe it or not) in three countries, and Bruce Springsteen at Wembley. The culmination was Live Aid, which, for all criticisms one may legitimately level at the event, was nevertheless a magical day. I made a mix of the best Live Aid moments a couple of years ago. It’s still available here.

But it wasn’t just the access to live shows that was so special, but also my engagement with the charts. Previously I would consume records that usually had already been made hits by people in other markets. Now I was one of the hit-making market. I’d study the charts, I’d look out for new acts and champion them. I’d study their chart progress. And when they had a hit, I’d delight in my utterly useless status of having been an early adopter. If they became mainstream eventually, I might superciliously pull the “I like their early stuff” line.covers-gallery_1Some of these early adopted singles became hits — such as Since Yesterday or Black Man Ray — and others didn’t. For example, I bought Prefab Sprout’s sublime When Love Comes Down in spring; it became a Top 30 only after it was re-released in November. The Blow Monkeys’ Wildflower, a song I adored, didn’t even hit the Top 75. Irish band In Tua Nua also didn’t have a UK hit, though they were quite big in Dublin, where they supported U2. I was going through a bit of an Irish phase at the time, what with U2 and having a big crush on a cute Dublin girl.

Needless to say, I spent idiotic amounts of money on music. I bought some pretty bad music in 1985/86, and lots of great music. And, as ever, some music might have been bad but still occupy a special place in my musical heart because they remind me of good times. And 1985 was good times.

This mix covers the first eight months of the year. My arbitrary division of the year is governed by the time I started a new job, which also signalled a new chapter in my life.covers-gallery_2As always, CD-R length, covers, PW in comments. What are your 1985 memories?

1. Amii Stewart – Friends
2. Blow Monkeys – Wildflower
3. Killing Joke – Love Like Blood
4. Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday
5. Colourfield – Thinking Of You
6. Tears For Fears – Head Over Heels
7. China Crisis – Black Man Ray
8. The Alarm – Absolute Reality
9. Prefab Sprout – When Love Breaks Down
10. Marillion – Kayleigh
11. Madonna – Crazy For You
12. Depeche Mode – Shake The Disease
13. U2 – Bad (Live)
14. Ramones – Bonzo Goes To Bitburg
15. Style Council – Walls Come Tumbling Down
16. In Tua Nua – Somebody To Love
17. Redskins – Bring It Down (This Insane Thing)
18. Bruce Springsteen – I’m On Fire
19. Eurythmics – There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)

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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 3

March 9th, 2017 9 comments

It has taken a while for Volume 3 of the Dylan covers to appear — longer than it took for Dylan to respond to the Nobel Literature committee. As it stands, there will be two more Dylan cover mixes after this.

The fun thing about compilations of Dylan covers is to play off the featured versions against the originals: which one is better than the other? In some cases it’s a difficult exercise because the respective versions have their own merits. How do you compare Dylan with Tina Turner?

But for me the surprise winner in this game is Mike Stanley, who turns one of my least favourite Dylan arrangements (and I know I’ll make many eternal enemies and absolutely no friends for thinking so), Subterranean Homesick Blues, into the great song it is. Stanley’s eponymous 1972 album featured the likes of Joe Walsh, Todd Rundgren, Joe Vitale and Patti Austin, but somehow he failed to make it really big in the mainstream. He is still recording, but is also a popular DJ in Ohio, and appeared as himself on The Drew Carey Show.

Of course, many Dylan songs are so quintessentially Dylan that they cannot be bettered, no matter how good the cover is. Like A Rolling Stone, covered here with imagination by Major Harris, is one such song. Check out the Song Swarm of it; there are many good attempts, but Dylan inhabits the song so much that everything else is just a copy. Frankie Valli doesn’t even try to give Queen Jane Approximately his own voice: he sings it like a Dylan parody.

Dylan recorded Queen Jane Approximately on the same day as Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, which features here in Gordon Lightfoot’s version (a face-off Dylan wins handily). Lightfoot scored a #3 hit with it Canada in 1965, shortly after the song appeared on Highway 61 Revisited. Bob Dylan is a great Lightfoot fan, having once said that when he heard a Lightfoot song, he wished “it would last forever”.

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

1. Randy Crawford – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (1989)
2. Major Harris – Like A Rolling Stone (1969)
3. Freddie King – Meet Me In The Morning (1975)
4. Blood, Sweat & Tears – Down In The Flood (1972)
5. Michael Stanley – Subterranean Homesick Blues (1972)
6. Indigo Girls – Tangled Up In Blue (1995)
7. Townes Van Zandt – Man Gave Names To All The Animals (1992)
8. Chris Whitley – Spanish Harlem Incident (2000)
9. Mary Lou Lord – You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go (2002)
10. Cowboy Junkies – If You Gotta Go, Go Now (1992)
11. Moon Martin – Stuck Inside Of Mobile (With The Memphis Blues Again) (1993)
12. George Harrison – If Not For You (1970)
13. The Youngbloods – I Shall Be Released (1972)
14. Waylon Jennings – I Don’t Believe You (1970)
15. The Four Seasons – Queen Jane Approximately (1965)
16. Staple Singers – Masters Of War (1964)
17. Gordon Lightfoot – Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (1965)
18. Tina Turner – Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You (1974)
19. The O’Jays – Emotionally Yours (Gospel Version) (1981)
20. The Angels Of Light – I Pity The Poor Immigrant (2005)

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In Memoriam – February 2017

March 2nd, 2017 4 comments

When the 2017 In Memoriam round-up is written in December, I will record the death of Al Jarreau as one of the more cheerless of the year. I admit it: the man recorded some really bland stuff in his time. But when he was good… oh, how sublime he was! Plus, he was a genuinely nice man when I briefly met him during my short stint as an entertainment journalist. A couple of weeks before his death, Al Jarreau featured on the Any Major Favourites 2016 Vol. 2 mix; in 2016, he appeared on five mixes. Jarreau’s end came quite suddenly: he had been booked to tour when he fell ill recently, forcing him to announce his retirement. A couple of days later, the great voice was silenced forever.

I wonder how David Axelrod will be better remembered: as an innovative jazz musician who wrote a jazz Mass (as did fellow jazz greats Mary Lou Williams and Dave Brubeck) performed by The Electric Prunes, or as the producer in the 1960s of acts like Lou Rawls, Cannonball Adderley, Letta Mbulu and Kay Starr, or as the creator of countless samples used in hip-hop tracks? Either way, the man had a genius for fusing jazz, soul, funk, rock, classical, religious and avant garde influences, sometimes in ways that produced great hits, and at other times in ways that were too eccentric for popular consumption. On the featured track, 1968’s Holy Thursday, check out Earl Palmer’s masterful drumming.

And talking of which: the Funky Drummer is dead. As one of James Brown’s two drummer, with Jab’o Starks, Clyde Stubblefield was the gold standard in funk drumming, on tracks like Sex Machine, Say It Loud – I’m Black And Proud, Hot Popcorn and, of course, the endlessly sampled  Funky Drummer. He left the J.B.s in 1971 and continued to play on the club circuit in Madison, releasing his solo debut only in 1997. In his latter years, Stubblefield suffered from kidney disease; since he had no health insurance in those pre-Obamacare days, fan Prince supported him in paying his medical bills. In the end, kidney failure killed Stubblefield, ten months after the death of Prince.

Another funk legend fell, in January, though his death was reported only in February: Ohio Players keyboardist, vocalist and producer Walter “Junie” Morrison. In his short tenure in the Ohio Players, from 1970-74, Morrison was involved in the group’s greatest hits, including the much-sampled Funky Worm, which he mostly wrote and arranged. After a brief spell as a solo artist, Junie joined the Parliament-Funkadelic collective as musical director, shaping the P-Funk sound at the height of its popularity (De La Soul fans will know the sample from the featured track). He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as part of Parliament-Funkadelic in 1997.

Last Thursday I was listening to the Playboy mix as I re-upped it by request. One of the songs playing was Leon Ware’s 1976 song Body Heat. A couple of hours later I saw that Ware had died that day. Ware was less known as a soul singer than he was for his writing and, to a lesser extent, producing (Marvin Gaye, Al Wilson, G.C. Cameron, Syreeta, Melissa Manchester, Con Funk Shon, Mica Paris, Maxwell among others). Just look at some of the great tracks he (co-) wrote: Marvin Gaye’s I Want You and After The Dance, Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Were You Are, Minnie Riperton’s Inside My Love, Jermaine Jackson’s If I Were Your Woman, The Main Ingredient’s Rolling Down A Mountainside, The Four Tops’ Just Seven Numbers, Isley Brothers’ Got To Have You Back, Odyssey’s I Can’t Keep Holding Back My Love, Average White Band’s If I Ever Lose This Heaven (which he originally sang with Minnie Riperton, with Al Jarreau backing them, for Quincy Jones), Bobby Womack’s Git It, Parliament’s Fantasy Is Reality… and later Zhané’s grooving Hey Mr DJ, Maxwell’s Sumthin’ Sumthin’, Lulu’s Independence, John Legend’s So High, and El DeBarge’s Heart, Mind & Soul. On last year’s Saved! Vol. 7 mix, the Leon Ware track precedes Al Jarreau’s. Do we have to worry about Marlena Shaw now?

From Cliff Richard, The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons and The Mamas & the Papas to John Lennon, T. Rex, Bette Middler and the Ramones, the 1958 hit Do You Wanna Dance has been covered prodigiously. The song’s writer and original singer, Bobby Freeman, died on January 28. He had a Top 5 US hit with it, but follow-up singles charted only moderately. He returned briefly to the higher reaches of the charts in 1964 with C’mon And Swim, which was co-written by the 20-year-old Sly Stone.

As Australia’s first wild “rock chick”, at a time when “chicks” weren’t supposed to be rock, Carol Lloyd blazed a trail for the likes of The Divinyls’ Chrissy Amphlett to touch herself. Lloyd was not only a pioneer in the field of music, but also in the area of LGBQT rights. In 2013 she was given a few months to live after being diagnosed with interstitial pulmonary fibrosis. Defiantly, she lived on for more than three years until death caught up with her at the age of 68.

Carol Lloyd was never destined to become a woman of the cloth, unlike British singer-songwriter Peter Skellern, who died four days after her. Skellern had one big hit, 1972’s You’re A Lady, which was covered throughout Europe. It remained his biggest hit, though British TV audiences also got to know his voice from the series the 1973 series Billy Liar. More lately, Skellern had written choral music. In October last year he was ordained a priest in the Church of England, just after it became known that he was suffering from a terminal brain tumor.

 

Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, 62, musician with Ohio Players, Parliament-Funkadelic, on Jan. 21
Ohio Players – Funky Worm (1972)
Funkadelic – (Not Just) Knee Deep (1979)

Bobby Freeman, 76, R&B singer and songwriter, on Jan. 28
Bobby Freeman – Do You Wanna Dance (1958)
Bobby Freeman – C’mon And Swim (1964)

Deke Leonard, 72, guitarist with Welsh prog rock band Man, on Jan. 31
Man – Daughter Of The Fireplace (live, 1972, also as writer)

Carsten ‘Beethoven’ Mohren, 54, keyboardist of East-German rock band Rockhaus, on Jan. 31
Rockhaus – Bleib cool (1987)

Robert Dahlqvist, 40, Swedish rock singer and guitarist with The Hellacopters, on Feb. 3

Steve Lang, 67, bassist of Canadian rock band April Wine, on Feb. 4
April Wine – I Like To Rock (1979)

Noel Simms, 82, Jamaican reggae percussionist and singer, on Feb. 4

David Axelrod, 83, Jazz and R&B arranger, composer and producer, on Feb. 5
Cannonball Adderley – Mercy,Mercy,Mercy (1966, as producer)
Lou Rawls – Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing (1966, as producer)
David Axelrod – Holy Thursday (1968)

Sonny Geraci, 70, singer with rock bands The Outsiders, Climax, on Feb. 5
Climax – Precious And Few (1971)

Svend Asmussen, 100, Danish jazz violinist, on Feb. 7
Svend Asmussen Quartet – A Pretty Girl (1978)

Tony Davis, 86, singer with British folk group The Spinners, on Feb. 10
The Spinners – In My Liverpool Home (1964)

Al Jarreau, 76, jazz and soul singer, on Feb. 12
Al Jarreau – Your Song (1976)
Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Sure Enough (1982)
Al Jarreau – Teach Me Tonight (1985)
Al Jarreau – So Good (1988)

Barbara Carroll, 92, American jazz pianist, on Feb. 12
Barbara Carroll – Mame (live, 1967)

Damian, 52, British pop singer, on Feb. 12

Robert Fisher, 59, leader of Americana collective Willard Grant Conspiracy, on Feb. 12
Willard Grant Conspiracy – Fare Thee Well (2003)

Carol Lloyd, 68, Australian rock singer, on Feb. 13
Railroad Gin – A Matter Of Time (1974)

E-Dubble, 34, rapper and record label founder, on Feb. 15

Peter Skellern, 69, English singer-songwriter, on Feb. 17
Peter Skellern – You’re A Lady (1972)

David Yorko, 73, guitarist for Johnny & the Hurricanes, on Feb. 17
Johnny & The Hurricanes – Red River Rock (1959)

Clyde Stubblefield, 73, drummer with James Brown, on Feb. 18
James Brown – Say It Loud – I’m Black And Proud (1968)
James Brown – Funky Drummer (1970, on drums)
Clyde Stubblefield – The Revenge Of The Funky Drummer (1997)

Larry Coryell, 73, jazz-fusion guitarist, on Feb. 19
Larry Coryell – Yesterdays (1990)

Ilene Berns, 73, record label executive, widow of Bert Berns, on Feb. 20

Leon Ware, 77, soul singer, songwriter, producer, on Feb. 23
Leon Ware – I Know How It Feels (1972)
Michael Jackson – I Wanna Be Where You Are (1972, as writer)
Quincy Jones feat. Leon Ware & Minnie Riperton- If I Ever Lose This Heaven (1974, also as writer)
Minnie Riperton – Inside My Love (1975, as writer)
El DeBarge – Heart, Mind & Soul (1994)
Zhané – Hey Mister DJ (1994, as writer)

Horace Parlan, 86, jazz pianist, on Feb. 23
Horace Parlan – On Green Dolphin Street (1960)

Fumio Karashima, 68, Japanese jazz pianist, on Feb. 24

Don Markham, 85, saxophonist/trumpeter of Merle Haggard’s  Strangers, on Feb. 24

Rick Chavez, guitarist of metal band Drive, on Feb. 25

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Any Major Decade: Favourites Vol. 1

February 23rd, 2017 30 comments

Any Major Dude With Half A Heart turns 10 years old this week. The first post was a narrative effort about plastic surgery inspired by Smokey Robinson’s rigid smile. But within a couple of weeks it became a music blog, paying tribute to Swedish indie artists, female folk-rock and indie singers and the great Ben Folds. Soon I got a following, especially thanks to Totally Fuzzy, an aggregator site on which music blogs could advertise their latest posts (it still exists, though with a different focus). As the months progressed, I had regular features: pissing off the taste police by defending acts like Barry Manilow or Wet Wet Wet; paying tribute to newer acts from the independent side of things, such as Josh Rouse;  “Music for Bloggers”, wherein I punted blogs and dedicated a suitable song to them. Some of these bloggers have remained friends, most notably Whiteray of Echoes In The Wind (www.echoesinthewind.com). For a couple of years I even ran an annual “award show” for my favourite blogs. Later came the relatively short-lived “Great Moustaches in Pop” series, a series on answer records (that I should turn into a CD-R Mix), and one of songs about murder (ditto).

The biggest project was The Originals, a series of pieces on lesser-known originals of famous songs. It was a mammoth project which I’d like to revise one day (as I did with the Elvis originals, Bacharach originals and Christmas originals), though the workload for it is immense. There are 700 such songs in my collection. For the first few years, I posted individual songs on various filehosting sites. The first of these was Z-Share; the most regular was Mediafire, until that service turned to crap. Around that time it seemed to me that concentrating on CD-R length themed mixes was the better way to go. Most of these mixes I make for my own pleasure, as a creative outlet. I take joy in sharing what I love. A few mixes were made as a means of documentary; most notably the History of Country series, which is still up, with an eBook that can be downloaded free. The mixes are usually accompanied by home-made covers. These are made especially for the readers. I have fun making them, though I have no idea whether anybody ever uses them.

In January 2010 I started the In Memoriam series, which I know many people are looking forward to every month. In the course of researching the monthly departed I’ve come across a number of sites and blogs that chronicle the latest celebrity deaths. I don’t think I’m overstating things when I describe my efforts as the most comprehensive monthly run-down of the latest music folks who have left us. Certainly none I’ve seen pay tribute to them by way of music (though some do so by posting YouTube links). These songs, I must add, aren’t always endorsed by me. Over time, this blog has received many plaudits, which is of course always very nice to hear. Comments are always the lifeblood of the blogger. When a post receives no comments, I am tempted to retire from running this show. It is frustrating when a few hundred people download a mix and have nothing to say. Usually the next post gets engagement, and all’s well again. A couple of times musicians from back when commented to thank me for keeping their music known, which was wonderful. And, of course, there was the time the notable songwriter Norman Gimbel e-mailed me to give me his version of how Killing Me Softly With His Song came about. The most impressive public plaudit was the inclusion of this blog in the Playboy 2013 Music Guide. Mine was the only music blog to feature, alongside artists like My Bloody Valentine, Kendrick Lamar, Caitlin Rose and Richard Thompson. “All blogs have strong opinions, but few have the expertise and imagination of Any Major Dude With Half a Heart,” editor Rob Tannenbaum wrote. “ A champion of the championless, the Dude puts together thematic MP3 playlists. The best posts at HalfheartedDude.com are the R&B compilations from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, which resurrect great songs that should never have been forgotten.” By way of acknowledgment I created a mix of seemingly random songs. The unmentioned punchline was that the covers of the albums from which these songs came featured nudity (because Playboy, y’see).

To celebrate these ten years, I’ll be posting compilations of some of the best songs from the various mixes that have appeared here. I’ll start off with two comps of tracks from my favourite 40 mixes over the years; mixes which I still play regularly (the second mix follows next month). The tracklisting is in random order (well, not random – I take care in sequencing them). If forced to choose, I’d rate the two Any Major Morning mixes as my all-favourites, maybe just ahead of the two Jimmy Webb compilations. cover-gallery_1 This mix is, as always, timed to fit on a standard CD-R. I’ve not made covers for it. PW in comments.

1. Alabama 3 – Woke Up This Morning (1999)
Any Major TV Themes Vol. 1
2. Stephen Duffy & The Lilac Time – Driving Somewhere (2007)
Any Major Roads Vol. 1
3. Marc Cohn – Listening To Levon (2007)
Any Major Radio Vol. 1
4. Little Feat – Willin’ (1972)
Any Major American Road Trip – Stage 3 (Amarillo to the California Coast)
5. Barbara Jean English – So Many Ways To Die (1972)
Any Major Soul 1972/73
6. Webster Lewis – Give Me Some Emotion (1979)
Any Major Funk Vol. 1
7. Bill LaBounty – Living It Up (1982)
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 1
8. Big Sound Authority – This House (Is Where Your Love Stands) (1984)
Should Have Been A Top 10 Hit – Vol. 1
9. Aztec Camera – Walk Out To Winter (1983)
Any Major Winter
10. Brooklyn Bridge – Worst That Could Happen (1969)
Any Major Jimmy Webb Collection Vol. 1
11. Scott Walker – Joanna (1968)
Any Major Summer Vol. 3
12. Carpenters – Road One (1972)
Any Major Flute Vol. 1
13. Fleetwood Mac – Silver Springs (1977)
Any Major B-Sides
14. Townes Van Zandt – I’ll Be Here In The Morning (1968)
Any Major Morning Vol. 1
15. Dave Alvin – Rio Grande (2004)
Any Major Mexico
16. Lyle Lovett – Just The Morning (1994)
Any Major Coffee Vol. 1
17. Bap Kennedy – Please Return To Jesus (2012)
Saved Vol. 3
18. Justin Townes Earle – One More Night In Brooklyn (2010)
Any Major Night Vol. 1
19. Jeff Tweedy – Simple Twist Of Fate (2007)
Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 1
20. Nick Drake – Saturday Sun (1970)
Any Major Week Vol. 1

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Any Major Soul 1975 Vol. 2

February 16th, 2017 2 comments

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Man, 1975 was a fine vintage for soul. Any Major Soul 1975 Vol. 1 was great; the second mix is no less wonderful. There are so many songs that failed to make the cut. And if you want more 1975 vibes, Any Major Soul 1974/75 is still up.

The mix begins with a time-capsule novelty: The Soul Train Gang preaching colour-blindness, with the late, great Don Cornelius, the presenter of Soul Train, rapping over the backing vocals of the quintet he founded. Flute fans will get something out of the outro.

Most acts on these mixes are North Americans, with the occasional Brit showing up — as Linda Lewis does in this edition with a song that is gospel-tinged soul but influenced, like all of Lewis’ music, by folk-rock. But here we also have a South African, Richard Jon Smith, who had a brief period of international success. As his fellow South African Jonathan Butler, Smith emerged from Cape Town’s vibrant “mixed-race” music scene where the boundaries between jazz, funk and soul are virtually meaningless — and it shows in their music.

By 1975, the heyday of JJ Barnes was over. He’d been an artist on Motown, though none of his songs were released by the label, and he enjoyed a 1967 hit with Baby Please Come Back Home. In the 1970s he moved to Britain, where his catalogue was popular on the Northern Soul scene. He released a few records in the UK, but had no chart success.

Founded in the wake of funk acts like Earth, Wind & Fire and Kool & the Gang, Memphis band Chocolate Milk were also Allen Toussaint’s backing band. They were versatile, dabbling in funk, disco, soul, ballads and jazz.

In this mix, Clydene Jackson’s song recalls the southern soul of the late 1960s — perhaps not surprising, since she was produced by Ray Charles. Jackson didn’t record much for herself, but did (and still does) a lot of session work for acts like Rick James, Randy Crawford, Teddy Pendergrass, Tom Petty, Neil Diamond, Anita Baker, Martha Reeves, Mary Wilson, Gil Scott-Heron, Patti LaBelle, Michael McDonald, Hugh Masekela, Rod Stewart, Richard “Dimples” Fields, Tom Scott, Idris Muhammad, Neil Young, Muse  and lots others.

Leon Haywood’s seriously sexy I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You was famously sampled by Dr Dre for Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang — and by many other hip hop acts, such as Redman on Rockafella. A word of warning, the female backing vocalist’s contribution to the song, especially towards the end, might be NSFW. Haywood died in April 2016.

As ever, CD-R-length, covers, PW the same as always (amdwhah)

1.  Soul Train Gang – Spectrum
2.  Chocolate Milk – Ain’t Nothing But A Thing
3.  Leon Haywood – I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You
4.  Merry Clayton – Room 205
5.  Linda Lewis – Love, Love, Love
6.  Minnie Riperton – Feelin’ That Your Feelin’s Right
7.  Clydene Jackson – If You Were Mine
8.  Johnny Bristol – Leave My World
9.  J.J. Barnes – I Think I’ve Got A Good Chance
10. Richard Jon Smith – Live For You
11. Smoked Sugar – My Eyes Search A Lonely Room For You
12. Loleatta Holloway – I Know Where You’re Coming From
13. Melba Moore – Get Into My Mind
14. Barbara Acklin – Give Me Some Your Sweet Love
15. Carl Graves – You’re Gonna Be All Alone
16. Curtis Mayfield – So In Love
17. Freddie North – Cuss The Wind
18. Roberta Flack – Mr. Magic
19. Bill Withers – I Wish You Well
20. Vernon Garrett – I Learned My Lesson
21. Impressions – Groove

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Any Major Roads Vol. 3

February 9th, 2017 6 comments

 

Any Major Road Vol.3

The first two Any Major Road mixes (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) were so popular, here’s a third one. And this time we let in hitch-hikers, as the cover indicates. I have test-driven this mix for a couple of months now; I really like it.

As I did with the Beach Boys for the summer mixes, I include one Bruce Springsteen song per roads set. Of course, the Beach Boys could also contend having bossed the car song genre. And another one who could stake a claim is, surprisingly, Bob Dylan. But they get only one song, for there’s only one The Boss.

Still, Dylan appears here, on the third volume. And his song is followed by one of the rockabilly artists who had a great influence on the young Robert. Warren Smith never really hit the big time, but I think his Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache is one of the finest songs on any of these road mixes (Dylan recorded a version if it in 2001).

His career at Sun Records having stalled, Smith moved to California and had a couple of minor hits on Liberty records. His career was ruined by a car crash in 1965, in the aftermath of which Smith became addicted to painkillers and then to alcohol, culminating in a prison term for a robbery of a pharmacy. In the late 1970s Smith enjoyed something of a comeback in Britain and Europe, at a time of a rockabilly revival there. After a successful tour of Britain and Europe he was planning another one. He never went: a heart attack killed him on January 30, 1980, about a week before he would have turned 48.

Warren Smith and pal.

Warren Smith and pal.

After Smith had left Sun, another act featured here signed for the label. You may recall The Jesters from the Any American Road Trip – Stage 5 mix. Not to be confused with the New York doo-wop band of the late 1950s, this lot was a mid-1960s Memphis garage rock band. And why were they signed for Sun Records? Because their bassist and producer were label boss Sam Philips’ sons. Cadillac Man from 1966 was their only single. When it tanked, the band broke up.

The Jesters were unmistakably influenced by the rockabilly of their predecessors on Sun. Two more recent acts here draw from the same pool of influences:  Scotty Baker’s 2001 song ‘50 Buick could have been recorded by any number of rockabilly acts in 1958; even his CD cover looks like it was made then. The Little Willies are an Americana band: the title of their Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves sounds like a ’50s country title; the sound is an updated version of that from those days.

Most of the acts here are Americans, but two acts here are from Britain. The Kinks are well-known; sadly, Scottish outfit Hipsway never became really big. They had a UK Top 20 in 1986 with the outstanding The Honeythief. Songs like Ask The Lord and The Broken Years should have been big hits too, as should have been the featured song, Long White Car, which reached #55 in the UK in September 1986. It’s a great shame they never made it big.

On the subject of the covers: I don’t know whether I’m wasting my time making them, but I hope they at least look good. For this mix, both images are from pixabay.com, a very useful royalty-free photo resource (the frontcover photo is by cocoparisienne; the back-cover by Lufina).

Some people made suggestions for future mixes in the comments of previous mixes. Feel free to add to them for a possible readers’ mix.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R. Home-pimped covers are included. PW the same as always (amdwhah)

1. Willie Nelson – On The Road Again (1980)
2. Janis Joplin – Me And Bobby McGee (1971)
3. Bob Dylan – On The Road Again (1965)
4. Warren Smith – Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache (1957)
5. Chuck Berry – Nadine (Is That You?) (1964)
6. Jean DuShon – Hitch Hike (1964)
7. The Jesters – Cadillac Man (1966)
8. The Kinks – Drivin’ (1969)
9. Sammy Johns – Chevy Van (1975)
10. Tom Waits – Diamonds On My Windshield (1974)
11. Tom Russell – Down The Rio Grande (2001)
12. Bruce Springsteen – Racing In The Street (1978)
13. Tracy Chapman – Fast Car (1988)
14. Hipsway – Long White Car (1986)
15. Black Heat – Drive My Car (1975)
16. Eddie Rabbitt – Drivin’ My Life Away (1980)
17. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Truck Drivin’ Man (1987)
18. Roy Orbison – I Drove All Night (rel. 1992)
19. Scotty Baker – ‘50 Buick (2001)
20. The Little Willies – Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves (2012)
21. Jerry Reed – East Bound And Down (1977)
22. Robert Mitchum – Ballad Of Thunder Road (1960)

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In Memoriam – January 2017

February 2nd, 2017 7 comments

The first month of January might have spared us the death of superstars, but the Grim Reaper wrought almost as great carnage in his domain as the Orange Horror Clown did in his.Perhaps the most famous name to be struck off the roll call of the living was that of Peter Sarstedt, the British folk-rock singer who suffered the double-edged sword of having an enduring mega-hit that came to define him. It didn’t help that this hit, Where Do You Go To My Lovely?, became one of those songs that gained a reputation, to the point of perceived wisdom, of being awful. While one can see how it might not be everybody’s cup of herbal tea, it didn’t merit this derision — it is a fine song. And Sarstedt did not deserve to be defined by his big hit; he actually had better songs than that, including Where Do You…’s flip-side, I am A Cathedral.

One of the premier jazz labels in the 1950s and ‘60s was Verve, and arranger and conductor Buddy Bregman was there from the start in 1956, having been appointed head of A&R by the label’s great founder, Norman Granz, at only 25. As part of his A&R job, he brought Bing Cosby to the label. But it was as an arranger that he made his name — so much so that it appeared on the title of Cosby’s first album for Verve, the platinum-seller Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings. Bregman also arranged the label’s first album, the classic Ella Fitzgerald Sings Cole Porter (he’d also arrange some of Ella’s subsequent songbook albums). Bregman arranged for the likes of Count Basie, Anita O’Day, Fed Astaire, Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr., Peggy Lee, Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Jerry Lewis, Ricky Nelson, Paul Anka, Buddy Rich, Gogi Grant, Eydie Gormé, Johnny Mercer, Coleman Hawkins, Eddie Fisher (on whose TV show he was musical director), Carmen McRae, and Ethel Merman. He also presented his own TV show in the late 1950s, and scored or orchestrated several films in the 1950s and ‘60s, including Bob Fosse’s The Pajama Game. In the 1960s he worked in Britain for a while, as head of light entertainment on the ITV television station.

It wasn’t a good month for Buddys who once lived in England.  Two days after Bregman, the jazz vocalist and pianist Buddy Greco died at 90. He was performing from seven years of age, including appearances on the radio. Greco’s professional music career began in 1942 when at the age of 16 he joined Benny Goodman’s touring band. By the time he left Goodman four years later, Greco was an experienced singer, pianist and arranger. In 1947 he scored his first US chart hit — Ooh! Look-A There, Ain’t She Pretty — which peaked at #15. Many more hits followed, including his greatest in 1960 with a version of The Lady Is A Tramp. Unusually for singers in his genre, he lived much of his time in England, where he had great success on stage (though none in the charts, other than a middling position with The Lady Is A Tramp). He was still performing on stage until a couple of years ago, marking his 80th anniversary as a performer with a concert in 2013.

The lifestory of South African jazz singer Thandi Klaasen might make for a pretty good movie. Having reached adulthood just as the apartheid regime was putting its racist boot on the throats of South Africa’s black people, Klaasen became a young singing sensation in early 1950s Sophiatown, a township that was the capital of jazz in Johannesburg, by breaking the male monopoly with her all-female vocal quartet, the Quad Sisters. It paved the way for other female Sophiatown artists, such as Miriam Makeba and Dolly Rathebe. Klaasen, a woman of formidable character, also taught the pretty singers how to deal with the sexual advances of the assorted gangsters and thugs who formed a large part of their audiences. In 1961 Klaasen featured with Makeba in the  London run of the all-black jazz-musical King Kong, which served as a requiem for Sophiatown after it had been ethnically-cleansed and torn down by the apartheid regime.

Klaasen was prolific mostly as a stage performer, but that might have ended in 1977 when she was disfigured by an acid attack on her face, allegedly by “rivals”. After more than a year in hospital, she drew from that immense inner strength to reboot her career. She became an icon not only for her contralto and jazz-scatting, but also for her defiance of fate’s cruel tricks. Among the mourners at her funeral was South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki. On February 3, 1959 a bunch of musicians on a tour tossed coins to see who could fly to the next venue, and who’d suffer the mid-winter journey on the beat-up bus. Guitarist Tommy Allsup lost the toss to Richie Valens — and lived for another almost 58 years. After rock music’s most famous plane crash, Allsup, who was a member of Buddy Holly’s Crickets, completed the tour, which was joined by a young Bobby Vee, who also recently died.  Allsup had recorded with Holly (for example on Heartbeat) and previously toured with Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. Later he backed acts like Bobby Vee, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Mother Maybelle Carter, Faron Young, George Jones, Leon Russell, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jean Shepard, Tom T Hall, Billie Jo Spears, Reba McEntire, Charlie Rich, Marty Robbins, Asleep At The Wheel and Elvis Costello.

A year and five days after Mott the Hoople drummer Dale Griffin died, bassist Pete Overend Watts followed him. Watts and Griffin were also fellow band members in The Soulents, one of the two groups that would morph into the Hoople. It was Watts who confided to David Bowie that the band was about to split due to their lack of success. Bowie offered them his song Suffragette City, which the band turned down. Instead, Bowie wrote All The Young Dudes for them, providing their breakthrough hit in 1972. Within four years, the band had burnt out. Watts, Griffin and Mott keyboardist Morgan Fisher carried on as British Lions, releasing two modesty successful albums. Watts later went into production. He died on January 22 of throat cancer.

On the same day Watts died, German drummer Jaki Liebezeit said his final Auf Wiedersehen. For drum connoisseurs, the drummer of the legendary Krautrock band Can ranks among the greats, crediting him with innovation and a funkiness you’d not immediately expect from a German. As a resident of Cologne, he recorded with a few local acts that sang in the city’s local dialects, and mentored upcoming Neue Deutsche Welle acts like Joachim Witt. He drummed on early Eurythmics and later Depeche Mode records, and collaborated extensively with poet-singer-guitarist Jah Wobble. Liebezeit is one of the central voices in David Stubbs’ magisterial 2014 book on Krautrock, Future Days (the book was named after a Can album), which has been translated into several languages, including Japanese.

In the world of soul, Marvell Thomas was something of royalty: his father was the hugely influential Rufus Thomas, who was called “Memphis’ Other King”, his sister was the erstwhile Queen of Soul, Carla Thomas. Marvell was more of a behind-the-scenes guy, playing the keyboard and organ on the records of others produced on Stax and at Muscle Shoals — among them the flip-side of Rufus’ and Carla’s 1960 duet Deep Down Inside, Stax’s first big hit. From the ‘70s onwards he backed the likes of Wilson Picket, Clarence Carter, Duane Allman, Mavis Staples, Denise LaSalle, The Soul Children, Inez Foxx, Shirley Brown (including on Woman To Woman), Yvonne Elliman, Albert King, Tony Joe White, Irma Thomas, Pops Staples, Margie Joseph, among others. He wrote several songs, arranged others, and — by the way — also co-produced Isaac Hayes’ classic Hot Buttered Soul album.Actor Miguel Ferrer was best-known as an actor, especially in RoboCop and the TV series Twin Peak and NCIS: Los Angeles. But the son of actor José Ferrer and the legendary singer Rosemary Clooney (and therefore George Clooney’s cousin), Ferrer also had a career as a backing and session drummer. He was only 21 when he backed Bing Crosby on his 60th anniversary concert in 1976. The year before, he played the drums on Who drummer Keith Moon’s solo album.

Auriel Andrew was not your archetypal country singer. For one thing, she was Australian; for another, she was an Aborigine (her skin name was Mbitjana and her totem the hairy Caterpillar). It seems that the Aboriginal community has a rich tradition of making country music, going back to the 1940s, a time when the term “country” wasn’t even in use yet. A protégé of the godfather of the genre, Jimmy Little, Auriel Andrew was one of its biggest stars in the 1970s and ‘80s, and kept performing and recording until recently.  She was the first Aboriginal woman to perform on Australian television, and appeared in a couple of episodes of the TV soap A Country Practice in 1983. Once she also performed for Pope John Paul II in Pitjantjitjara. She stood in the line, shook his hand, and then joined the back of the line to shake his hand again.

In the canon of Beatles history, Magic Alex has a poor reputation. Known to his mom as Alexis Mardas, the Greek electronics engineer had struck up a friendship with John Lennon, who was impressed by the lightshow Magic Alex had produced for The Rolling Stones. Lennon brought Magic Alex to Apple where he declared the Abbey Road studios with the 8-track recording system as inadequate, and built a 72-track system in Apple’s Savile Row studio. It was a disaster: in the end the expensive mixing desk he devised was sold for scrap, recouping a full £5. When Allen Klein became Beatles manager, Magic Alex was fired in short order. Mardas wasn’t a complete fool, however. He devised a telephone that dialled by voice recognition and displayed the numbers of callers — not unlike what another outfit named Apple would offer a few decades later. Magic Alex was also central in Lennon’s sordid split from Cynthia: it was he who delivered the message that John was leaving her for Yoko Ono.

The death of sound engineer Bill Price on December 22 was announced only in mid-January. Engineers don’t really get much attention, but their contribution to the production of records is crucial. Price was involved in engineering some pop classics, including Tom Jones’ It’s Not Unusual and What’s New Pussycat, Engelbert Humperdinck’s The Last Waltz and Release Me, Los Bravos’ Black Is Black, possibly The Flirtations’ Nothing But A Heartache, Marmalade’s Reflections Of My Life, Wings’ Live And Let Die (as co-engineer), Mott the Hoople’s All The Way From Memphis (which gives us an overlap in light of Peter Overend Watts’ death), Tom Robinson Band’s Glad To Be Gay, Boomtown Rats’ She’s So Modern, The Clash’s London Calling, Pretenders’ Brass In Pocket, Kid, Stop Your Sobbing, Talk Of The Town and I Go To Sleep, Elton John’s I’m Still Standing , Blue Eyes, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues and Kiss The Bride, Black’s Everything’s Coming Up Roses, Guns N’ Roses’ November Rain (the LP mix), and much more. His resumé as a producer is shorter, but it includes The Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant, The Clash’s I Fought The Law and the Jesus And Mary Chain’s triple whammy of April Skies, Darklands and Happy When It Rains.My intimate knowledge of Colombian rock is not flawless, so I had no idea who Elkin Ramírez was. It turns out that he was about the biggest rock star in the Latin American country. As frontman of the hard rock band Kraken, he was generally known as Colombia’s Freddie Mercury — so much so that there were rumours that he’d replace Freddie in Queen. The Medellín band began its rise to fame in the mid-’80s. Their last album was released in 2015, when Ramírez was diagnosed with the brain tumor that killed him at 54.

A second ex-King Crimson and future superband member died this month in singer-bassist John Wetton, a month after Greg Lake departed. They were Crimson members at different times, but like Lake, Wetton enjoyed his biggest success as part of a superband, Asia. In between finishing his two-year stint with King Crimson in 1974 and co-founding Asia in 1982, he was also a member of Wishbone Ash, UK and Uriah Heep. He also had session stints with Roxy Music on their live album and various solo albums by all of its members.

A hallmark of the sound created by The Allman Brothers, besides that guitar, was the use of two drummers: Butch Trucks provided the thundering backbeat, Jaimoe Johanson the funky syncopation (also using percussions). Butch remained the one constant in the 46-year span of the Allman Brothers Band, a group he co-founded with the brothers Duane and Greg. The band broke up for good in 2014, and Trucks continued to perform, latterly leading the group Les Brers, which features various Allman alumni, including Jaimoe. Butch last performed on stage on January 6. Eighteen days later the 69-year-old drumming legend put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

 

Bill Price, 72, sound engineer and producer, on Dec. 22
Tom Jones – It’s Not Unusual (1965, as engineer)
Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant (1977, as producer)
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Happy When It Rains (1987)

Auriel Andrew, 69, Australian country musician, on Jan. 2
Auriel Andrew – Truck Driving Woman (1970)

Elliot Meadow, 71, Scottish-born jazz producer, broadcaster and writer, on Jan. 4
Claire Martin – You Hit The Spot (1991, as producer)

Mike ‘Jefe’ Gaborno, 51, singer of Chicano punk group Manic Hispanic, on Jan. 4

Sylvester Potts, 78, singer with soul group The Contours, on Jan. 6
The Contours – Do You Love Me (1962)
The Contours – It’s Growing (1974)

Johnny Dick, 73, Australia-based rock drummer, on Jan. 6
Johnny Dick ‎- The Warrior (1975)

Eddie Kamae, 89, ukuleleist with Sons of Hawaii, on Jan. 7

Peter Sarstedt, 75, English singer-songwriter, on Jan. 8
Peter Sarstedt – I Am A Cathedral (1969)
Peter Sarstedt – Frozen Orange Juice (1969)

Buddy Bregman, 86, producer, arranger and composer, on Jan. 8
Anita O’Day – Fine And Dandy (1956, as arranger and conductor)
Bing Crosby & Buddy Bregman – Have You Met Miss Jones (1956, as arranger and conductor)
Ella Fitzgerald – Anything Goes (1956, as arranger and conductor)

Crazy Toones, 45, hip-hop producer and DJ, on Jan. 9

Buddy Greco, 90, jazz singer and pianist, on Jan. 10
Buddy Greco – Ooh! Look-A-There, Ain’t She Pretty? (1947)
Buddy Greco – The Lady Is A Tramp (1960)
Buddy Greco – Like A Rolling Stone (1969)

Tommy Allsup, 85, rockabilly, pope & country guitarist, and arranger, on Jan. 11
Buddy Holly – Heartbeat (1958, on lead guitar)
Bobby Vee – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1961, on guitar)
Kenny Rogers – The Gambler (1978, on bass)

Meir Banai, 55, Israeli singer, on Jan. 12

Larry Steinbachek, 56, keyboardist of Bronski Beat, announced on Jan. 12
Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy (1984)

Jan Stoeckart, 89, Dutch composer, conductor and trombonist, on Jan. 13
Simon Park Orchestra – Eye Level (Van der Valk Theme) (1972, as composer)

Alexis ‘Magic Alex’ Mardas, 74, Greek electronics engineer, on Jan. 13

Richie Ingui, 70, singer with the Soul Survivors, on Jan. 13
Soul Survivors – Expressway To Your Heart (1967)
Soul Survivors – City Of Brotherly Love (1974)

Alan Jabbour, 74, fiddler and folklorist, on Jan. 13

Mark Fisher, 48, British music journalist and cultural theorist, on Jan. 13

Greg Trooper, 61, American singer-songwriter, on Jan. 15
Steve Earle – Little Sister (1988, as writer)
Greg Trooper – Good Luck Heart (2013)

Thandi Klaasen, 86, South African jazz singer, on Jan. 15
Thandi Klaasen – Sophiatown (2007)

William Onyeabor, 70, Nigerian singer-songwriter, on Jan. 16
William Onyeabor – Better Change Your Mind (1978)

Charles ‘Bobo’ Shaw, 69, free jazz drummer, on Jan. 16

Steve Wright, bassist of the Greg Kihn Band, on Jan. 16
Greg Kihn Band – The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em) (1981)

Franz Jarnach, 72, keyboardist of German band The Rattles (1991-95), actor, on Jan. 16

Mike Kellie, 69, English multi-instrumentalist and producer, on Jan. 19
Spooky Tooth – That Was Only Yesterday (1969, as member)
The Only Ones – You’ve Got To Pay (1979, as member)

Miguel Ferrer, 61, actor and session musician, on Jan. 19
Keith Moon – Don’t Worry Baby (1975, on drums)

Loalwa Braz, 63, Brazilian singer-songwriter, on Jan. 19
Kaoma – Lambada (1989, on vocals)

Frank Thomas, 80, French songwriter, on Jan. 20
Françoise Hardy – Des bottes rouges de Russie (1969, as writer)

Bingo Mundy, 76, singer with doo wop band The Marcels, on Jan. 20
The Marcels – Blue Moon (1961; Mundy sings the “Moon, moon, moon, moon, moon” line)

Joey Powers, 82, pop singer, songwriter, producer, on Jan. 20
Joey Powers – Midnight Mary (1963)

Maggie Roche, 65, songwriter and singer with The Roches, on Jan. 21
The Roches – No Shoes (2007)

Karl Hendricks, 46, singer, songwriter and guitarist, on Jan. 21
The Karl Hendricks Trio – The Last Bus (1992)

Pete Overend Watts, 69, English bassist of Mott the Hoople, on Jan. 22
Mott The Hoople – Thunderbuck Ram (1970)
Mott The Hoople – Honaloochie Boogie (1973)

Jaki Liebezeit, 78, drummer of German rock band Can, on Jan. 22
Can – Moonshake (1973)
Zeltinger Band – So wie ein Tiger (1979, on drums)
Depeche Mode – The Bottom Line (1997, on percussions)

Marvell Thomas, 75, American keyboardist, on Jan. 23
Carla & Rufus Thomas – Cause I Love You (1960)
The Soul Children – All That Shines Ain’t Gold (1972, on piano)

Butch Trucks, 69, drummer of the Allman Brothers Band, of suicide on Jan. 24
Allman Brothers Band – Southbound (1973)
Allman Brothers – Old Before My Time (2003)

Gil Ray, 60, drummer of power pop bands Game Theory, The Loud Family, on Jan. 24
Game Theory – Erica’s Word (1986)

Björn Thelin, 74, bassist of Swedish guitar band The Spotnicks, on Jan. 24
The Spotnicks – The Rocket Man (1962)

Ronald ‘Nambo’ Robinson, Jamaican singer and musician, on Jan. 25
Ronald ‘Nambo’ Robinson – Sunset (2001)

Ronnie Davis, 66, Jamaican reggae singer, on Jan. 26
Ronnie Davis – Jah Jah Jehovah (1977)

Geoff Nicholls, 68, keyboardist of Black Sabbath, Quartz, on Jan. 28
Quartz – Street Fighting Lady (1977)
Black Sabbath – Die Young (1980)

Guitar Gable, 79, swamp blues singer, on Jan. 28
Guitar Gable with King Karl – This Should Go On Forever (1959)

Elkin Ramírez, 54, singer of Colombian rock band Kraken, on Jan. 29
Kraken – Muere Libre (1987)

James Laurence, 27, half of instrumental hip hop duo Friendzone, on Jan. 30

John Wetton, 67, singer and bassist of Asia, King Crimson, on Jan. 31
King Crimson – Fallen Angel (1974)
John Wetton – Caught In The Crossfire (1980)
Asia – Heat Of The Moment (1982)

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Any Major Favourites 2016 – Vol. 2

January 26th, 2017 7 comments

covers-gallery-2

This is the second mix of one favourite song each from mixes I’ve posted in 2016 (excluding the Christmas mixes, Song Swarms and In Memoriams).

Last time I asked you to tell me which mixes you enjoyed over the year, and if you didn’t do so then, please let me know now.

Of course, the first person I make these compilations for is myself. I listen to some of them for months before I post them. I love sharing them, and I really enjoy it when other people enjoy them too. But I wouldn’t make them if it wasn’t for me listening to them. The home-brewed covers… those I make exclusively for you (though I don’t know if anyone actually uses them).

If I want to know from you what you liked, I should tell you what mixes of 2016 I liked best. I have played the American Road Trip series a lot. I already have the complete collection, and I’ll hold on to that until I can actually make such a road trip. The Any Major Radio, Coffee and Road mixes (especially Road Vol. 1, and the third volume as well, which I have to post) have been frequent companions in my car, as have the Dylan covers mixes. I really love the Any Major Mexico mix as well.

I’ve also enjoyed the one mix that I didn’t make, but Prince. His party playlist was released after his death, and it was splendid (the song I picked for the present mix has been on a playlist I’ve been planning for years. Maybe this February.). He truly was Any Major Prince.

Obviously I stand by the other mixes as well. The Any Major Soul and Not Feeling Guilty mixes are such a joy to compile, because they make me listen to different tracks from albums I’d normally not play. And I really enjoy the research that goes into making the collections of songs involving individuals, such as, this year, the Steve Gadd and Rod Temperton Collections. The vast investment in time is really worth it.

If you didn’t let me know in Any Major Favourites 2016 Vol. 1, I would still love to know which of the mixes posted here in 2016 you have enjoyed the most.

As always, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R. PW in comments.

1. Steve Earle – Satellite Radio (2007)
Any Major Radio Vol. 2
2. Jim Photoglo – Fool In Love With You (1981)
Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 7
3. Billy Preston – She Belongs To Me (1969)
Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 2
4. George Harrison – Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll) (1970)
Beatles Reunited: Smile Away
5. The Band – It Makes No Difference (1978)
Any Major Unrequited Love
6. Al Jarreau – Could You Believe (1977)
Saved! Vol. 7: The Soul Edition
7. Margie Joseph – Sign Of The Times (1975)
Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 3
8. The Soul Children – We’re Gettin’ Too Close (1974)
Prince Is Your DJ
9. Dusty Springfield – I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face (1967)
Any Major Flute Vol. 3
10. Roy Redmond – Good Day Sunshine (1967)
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
11. Lloyd Price – Under Your Spell Again (1962)
Any Major Halloween Vol. 3
12. Anita O’Day & Billy May – I Could Write A Book (1960)
Any Major Love In Black & White
13. Randy Newman – Birmingham (1974)
American Road Trip – Stage 2
14. Hall & Oates – Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song) (1974)
American Road Trip – Stage 5
15. Sugar Billy – Super Duper Love (Parts 1 & 2) (1975)
Any Major Soul: 1975 Vol. 1
16. Sir Mack Rice – Muhammed Ali (1976)
Muhammad Ali: A Musical Tribute
17. The Whispers – It’s A Love Thing (1980)
Any Major Disco Vol. 4
18. Mighty Mo Rodgers – Black Coffee And Cigarettes (2011)
Any Major Coffee Vol. 1
19. The Cars – You Might Think (1984)
A Life In Vinyl: 1984 Vol. 1
20. Nick Heyward – Whistle Down The Wind (1983)
A Life In Vinyl: 1983
21. Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid – Santa Rosa (1972)
American Road Trip – Stage 4

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Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 1

January 19th, 2017 21 comments

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It was difficult to come up with a name for this mix, and if “protest” implies the kind of angry, black voices that has many whites scared, then that is not quite an accurate reflection of the tone of the songs. Even if some songs are righteously angry and even militant, most are conciliatory, and a few even quite naive.

This is a mix of soul songs that appeal for a social justice, racial equality and harmony, for black consciousness, and for political activism — some deal with one or two of these issues, some with all of them.

It covers roughly the era after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King and subsequent uprisings, to the decline of the civil rights movement towards the mid-to-late 1970s. So this mix not only addresses the racism and its effects of the time, but also the conversation within black activism between the heirs of MLK and the Black Panthers.

The timing of this post is not by chance. On January 20 — just four days after Martin Luther King Day — the most corrupt and racist US president of modern times will be sworn in. Donald Trump is, of course, a bigot of many badges: he is a xenophobe, a misogynist, a racist and so on. He despises the poor and serves the rich. He mocks the disabled and encourages the bullies. He was endorsed by the Ku Klax Klan and he did not distance himself from them. His impeachment cannot come soon enough, if the venal slimeballs in the GOP can muster enough self-interest to make real what should be inevitable.

Which brings us to 1968, when Richard Nixon was elected president. If we call Trump a racist, then on scale it is fair to describe Nixon in rather more diplomatic terms. Let’s say that Tricky Dick was not an unequivocal friend of African-Americans. There are a few echoes from 1968 in 2016. In both years, right-wing presidents were elected during times of war on the Asian continent; both were elected at a time when the hope for a better future by black Americans — raised by the Civil Rights Act and the election of a black president respectively — was followed by unrest which only the willfully ignorant or the terminally racist would see as unprovoked.

The songs on this mix speak to the Nixon era, but substitute the dated political and cultural references with current ones, and they have application even today. There were plenty more such songs than what will appear on subsequent mixes (to start with, I keep to my usual rule of one song per artist, with a couple of exceptions. I’m guessing there will be three mixes). Since the 1970s, the art of catchy black protest soul songs nearly died out. The corporatisation of music has seen to it. The militant hip hop of the 1980s was a necessary reaction to the jheri-curled soul singers of the age who kept it strictly romantic. But in the 1990s, hip hop became a vehicle for gangsta bling, spinning rims, bustin’ caps in yo ass and rampant misogyny of the kind even Donald Trump would blanche at, rather than to mobilise for social change. Pac died, and Snoop won.

Now Kanye West, that fraudster in charlatan’s clothes, requests an audience with the racist Trump. But we must take courage, there are some artists who do social commentary well — from Eykah Badu, The Fugees or The Roots in the Clinton/Bush era to Frank Ocean, Gregory Porter, Solange or her sister Beyoncé (who did so with Formation, which is no Gil Scott-Heron, though he might have approved anyway) in 2016/17. The protest soul song is making a comeback, in time to stand up to the racists who say racism is dead while revving up the racism. Now it must return to the mainstream, as it did 40+ years ago.

Maybe there is value in reviving the memory of protest and social commentary of the Nixon generation and give it meaning in the Trump era, when it is politically correct again to be racist because the racists have taken off their white hoods or “see no colour”. And if all of the above (other than my empirical views on Donald Trump and his racist pals) is rubbish, take this mix as my contribution to Black History Month.

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

1. The Temptations – Ball of Confusion (1970)
2. The Chi-Lites – Give More Power To The People (1970)
3. The Main Ingredient – Black Seeds Keep On Growing (1971)
4. Sly and the Family Stone – Stand! (1969)
5. The Impressions – Mighty Mighty (Spade & Whitey) (1969)
6. Grady Tate – Be Black (1968)
7. Syl Johnson – I’m Talkin’ ’Bout Freedom (1970)
8. Billy Paul – Am I Black Enough For You (1972)
9. Lou Rawls – The Politician (1972)
10. Z.Z. Hill – Think People (1971)
11. James Carr – Freedom Train (1969)
12. Lee Dorsey – Yes We Can (Part 1) (1970)
13. S.O.U.L. – Tell It Like It Is (1972)
14. Jackie Moore – If (1973)
15. Ernie Hines – A Better World (For Everyone) (1972)
16. George Soulé – Get Involved (1973)
17. The Bar Kays – Six O’Clock News Report (1971)
18. Darondo – Let My People Go (1974)
19. Marion Black – Listen Black Brother (1972)
20. Swamp Dogg – I Was Born Blue (1970)
21. The Isley Brothers – Fight The Power (Parts 1&2) (1975)
22. Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1971)

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