Any Major Coffee Vol. 2

September 22nd, 2016 1 comment

Any Major Coffee_2

Here’s the second mix of songs about coffee, or in which coffee features among the leading cast. As in the first Any Major Coffee mix, the rule is that a featured songs must be about coffee or the act or idea of drinking coffee. In some songs the act of drinking coffee is at the centre of the lyrics, in others coffee plays an incidental but not unimportant role.

Everybody here likes coffee, but not everybody is happy with the quality. The Monkees like the face-warming properties of their streaming cup, but disapprove of the taste — so they drink it slowly. Dave Dudley, on the other hand, clearly is as caffeine addict, in his 1966 version of the Tom T. Hall-penned song. Hall will still feature in this series in his own right. He frequently mentioned coffee in his lyrics; the brew also is included in the list of things he has a particular affection for in his song I Love.

The opener is Afro-funk band’s Osibisa’s take on big band favourite The Coffee Song, which is most famous in Frank Sinatra’s version. Apparently they have an awful lot of coffee in Brazil. The track of the same title by Cream is a different song. It was recorded in 1966 as part of the Fresh Cream sessions. The Coffee Song didn’t make the cut but was included when Fresh Cream was re-released in 1974 as Cream.

I might have used Saint Etienne’s lovely Saturday for the Borrow Copy Steal mix: the intro sounds like Candlewick Green’s 1973 hit Who Do You Think You Are.

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

1. Osibisa – The Coffee Song (1976)
2. Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs – Sugar Shack (1963)
3. The Monkees – Early Morning Blues And Greens (1967)
4. Saint Etienne – Saturday (1999)
5. Josh Rouse – Wonderful (2006)
6. Blur – Coffee + TV (1999)
7. Ryan Bingham – Long Way From Georgia (2007)
8. Don Williams – I Don’t Think About Her No More (1974)
9. Dave Dudley – Coffee Coffee Coffee (1966)
10. Charlie Daniels Band – High Lonesome (1976)
11. Albert Collins – Blue Monday Hangover (1980)
12. Gene Harris & Jack McDuff – Smack Dab In The Middle (1996)
13. Cream – The Coffee Song (1966)
14. Ray Charles – Hallelujah I Love Her So (1957)
15. The Castelles – Over A Cup Of Coffee (1954)
16. Johnnie Ray – Gee, But I’m Lonesome (1952)
17. Barbra Streisand – Deep In The Night (1978)
18. Axelle Red – Mon Café (The Coffee Song) (2007)
19. Mandy Moore – Can’t You Just Adore Her (2007)
20. Michelle Featherstone – Coffee & Cigarettes (2006)
21. Graham Coxon – Latte (2002)
22. Suzanne Vega – Tom’s Diner (1987)
23. Shel Silverstein – Have Another Espresso (1962)


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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 1

September 15th, 2016 18 comments

Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 1

A few years ago a reader suggested that a mix of cover versions of sings by Bob Dylan might alleviate the discomfort many feel at hearing the great songwriter’s voice. As a fan of cover versions I was keen on the idea. So I created a Dylan covers folder and began collecting. Something like eight years later I’m ready to present a series of Any Major Dylan Covers.

This will be a series of three CD-R length collections — 62 songs plus three bonus tracks. As always, I set myself strict rules: no artist may feature twice, and no song may be repeated — except one, which will end the series.

Since these are supposed to be covers of Dylan songs, he must have released the songs first. That means that those tracks he wrote for others, or which others recorded before he released them, don’t qualify — except two, which I’ll address in a moment. A song like Blowin’ In The Wind might have been recorded first by others (Dylan historians have no consensus on that), but it is so essentially a Dylan song that it can’t be excluded.

Dylan never released Wanted Man before it was first recorded by Johnny Cash on the St Quentin live album. So it isn’t really a cover. But it broke my heart to consider not including a Dylan/Cash hybrid, so — in best Cash fashion — rules be damned. In the spoken intro Cash says he wrote the song with Dylan at the Cash home, but Dylan has the sole writing credit. Anyway, the great list-song writer has his lyrics performed by the great list-song singer.

The first volume kicks off with the best of all Dylan covers: Jimi Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower. Hendrix had received a pre-release acetate of Dylan’s recording, and his version was recorded only two months after Dylan’s. From there on it was Jimi’s song. Bob was cool about it. In the liner notes to his Biograph collection, he wrote: “Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way. I liked Hendrix’s record, and ever since he died, I’ve been doing it that way.”

But Dylan has also said that the version of any of his songs he treasures most is Elvis Presley’s 1966 interpretation of Tomorrow Is A Long Time, a song Dylan recorded in 1962 but didn’t release until 1971 as a live track from eight years earlier. So Elvis’ version isn’t really a Dylan cover, but rather of the folk singer Odetta’s recording.

But how great is Kris Kristofferson singing Quinn The Eskimo?

Which brings me to two acts who are notably excluded in this series: Odetta and Peter, Paul & Mary had a great reputation for singing Dylan songs (Odetta, in turn, was something of a mentor to the budding songwriter from Minnesota). Their exclusion was not deliberate: where I had candidate songs by them, there were others which were a better fit.

Mr Tambourine Man is covered here by Johnny Rivers — so I’ll leave you to wonder which Dylan cover by The Byrds will feature in this series? And what will we have Joan Baez singing? And whose version of Blowin’ In The Wind will feature?

The mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-busked covers. PW in comments (you are welcome to leave a message there).

1. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower (1968)
2. Merry Clayton – Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (1975)
3. Elvis Presley – Tomorrow Is A Long Time (1966)
4. Johnny Cash – Wanted Man (1969)
5. Hoyt Axton – Lay Lady Lay (1975)
6. Marshall Crenshaw – My Back Pages (1999)
7. Jeff Tweedy – Simple Twist Of Fate (2007)
8. Bruce Springsteen – Chimes Of Freedom (1988)
9. Kris Kristofferson – Quinn The Eskimo (2012)
10. Emmylou Harris – Every Grain Of Sand (1995)
11. The Pretenders – Forever Young (1994)
12. Richie Havens – Just Like A Woman (1968)
13. Them – It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (1966)
14. The Grass Roots – Mr. Jones (Ballad Of A Thin Man) (1966)
15. Johnny Rivers – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
16. The Turtles – It Ain’t Me Babe (1965)
17. Stereophonics – Positively 4th Street (1999)
18. Eels – Girl From The North Country (2006)
19. Lloyd Cole – You’re A Big Girl Now (2001)
20. Josh Kelley – To Make You Feel My Love (2004)
21. Norah Jones – I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (2002)
Bonus track: Ani DiFranco – Hurricane (2000)


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In Memoriam – August 2016

September 6th, 2016 7 comments

IM-1608aIt was a bad month for jazz musicians. The biggest victim of the Reaper was the Belgian-born harmonica genius Toots Thielemans, whose harmonica riff on the Sesame Street theme in the programmes opening scenes provided the soundtrack for generations of people, at least in the US.

A multi-talented man — Jean Thielemans was also a guitarist and whistler, as well as a composer — he entered the big times while playing with Benny Goodman in the late 1940s and George Shearing in the ‘50s. He recorded many albums, including a number of soundtrack albums, and appeared on a good number of pop records by others. Quincy Jones was a huge fan, and kept using Thieleman’s talents liberally. Other non-jazz acts who featured Thielemans included Billy Joel, Brothers Johnson, John Denver, Paul Simon, Ralph McDonald, Melanie, Julian Lennon (on his hit Too Late For Goodbyes), James Taylor, Natalie Cole, Khadja Nin and so many others. Thielemans also featured on the two Song Swarms In posted in the weeks before his death, for The Girl From Ipanema and By The Time I Get To Phoenix.

At the height of his career with the folk trio The Limeliters — a vocal folk group in the harmonising vein of The Kingston Trio — tenor Glenn Yarbrough decided to leave the music thing behind to become a sailor. That was the end for The Limeliters, though the recording label, CBS, prevailed upon Glen to defer his salty adventures at sea in favour of recording folk records which would become influential in the genre. In the late ’60s Yarbrough decided to sell luxury home, cars and a banana plantation to set up a school for impoverished African-American children. The school went defunct in the early ’70s. It was then that he, his wife and baby-daughter went sailing on a boat he helped build — for half a decade. A free spirit, Yarbrough has died at the age of 86.

Now as the US public is confronted with the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, the election campaigns of George Herbert Walker Bush 26 years ago seems genteel by comparison, even if we acknowledge Lee Atwater’s bilious lies, the involvement of the vomituous sex pest Roger Ayles, and the blatant racism of the Willie Horton saga .  One of George Bush Sr’s campaign songs was the Moe Bandy song Americana, which was co-written by Richard Fagan, who has died at 69. Fagan had a number of country hits under his belt, as well as a minor 1980 chart hit for Neil Diamond. He had a colourful personal life. In 2008 he was involved in a physical fight with his mentor, Tom Oteri, whom Fagan wounded with a knife. After being ejected from Oteri’s house, Fagan was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Released from his cell the next morning, he learnt that his friend had died of a heart attack following their altercartion. Remarkable, the Oteri family stood by the distraught Fagan who then proceeded to clean himself up.

I’ve always thought that the vibraphone is an underrated instrument. With the death of Bobby Hutcherson we have lost a leading exponent of vibes-playing (once voted the world’s best, ahead of the great Vince Montana). Turning professional while still a teenager in the late 1950s, Hutcherson released a long string of jazz albums himself — many on Blue Note, the label on which he was the second longest-running acts — but also played with some of the great names in jazz of his generation, including John Coltrane, Blue Mitchell, Dexter Gordon, Joe Sample (who wrote the featured track), Freddie Hubbard and Herbie Hancock, appearing with the latter on the Round Midnight soundtrack.IM-1608bAnother part-time Blue Note alumni departed inform of the influential recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder. He is widely considered a pioneer in his field; his innovations helped create the sound of American jazz in the 1950s and early ‘60s. His services were used by the likes of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter. He engineered such groundbreaking albums as John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme , Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus, A Night At The Village Vanguard and Horace Silver’s Songs For My Father.  Even at 91, he kept working to his last days. Fittingly, his end came while he was at his studio.

When a musician dies after having reached the age of 100, he ought to receive a special mention. So it is with the easy listening pianist and composer Irving Fields, who was something of the fixture in the US in the 1950s. Before that he had written a couple of hits, including Managua, Nicaragua (a hit for Guy Lombardo, Freddie Martin and Kay Kyser and their respective orchestras in 1946/47), Chantez Chantez, a 1957 hit for Dinah Shore, and Miami Beach Rhumba for himself. In 2008, as a nonagenarian, he wrote a theme song for YouTube, titled YouTube Dot Com Theme Song.

It’s hard to say whether the rise in the late 1990s of boy bands like the Backstreet Boys and ‘NSYNC was a good thing, but if anybody thinks their creator should have been jailed for crimes against music, then such people got their wish, of sorts. Lou Pearlman, who has died at 62, was actually jailed for defrauding people in a Ponzi scheme — and never saw freedom again. He was also sued by almost every act he represented. Allegations of molestation of minors were never brought to court; Pearlman denied them. And while the boy bands contributed little to music, they nevertheless gave us Justin Timberlake, a true star of genuine talent.

Among the more unlikely category of people who might enjoy significant chart success are politicians, even less so when they are the foreign minister and future president of a significant country. Don’t fear, Hilary Clinton never recorded a bootie-shakin’ disco hit in 1978, nor is she dead. The politician in question was Walter Scheel, West-Germany’s foreign minister and vice-chancellor from 1969-74 and the president till 1979 who has died at the age of 97. In 1973 Scheel hooked up with the Düsseldorf Men’s Choir to record the German traditional song Hoch auf den gelben Wagen (“Up on the yellow coach”), a song about postal delivery in the pre-automobile age which became a big hit in West Germany. I’ll include it here, for the moments when your particular jam is to groove along to the vocal stylings of a politician (it is quite a contrast to the track which precedes Scheel’s). Take comfort in knowing that Scheel was that rare thing: a decent man in politics.

Ricci Martin, 62, singer, son of Dean Martin, on Aug. 3
Ricci Martin – Stop Look Around (1977)

Snaffu Rigor, 69, Filipino singer and songwriter, on Aug. 4

Richard Fagan, 69, country songwriter, on Aug. 5
Neil Diamond – The Good Lord Loves You (1979)

Vander Lee, 50, Brazilian singer-songwriter, on Aug. 5
Vander Lee – Meu Jardim (2005)

Freddy Sunder, 85, Belgian jazz guitarist and singer, on Aug. 5
Freddy Sunder – Biep! Biep! (1958)

Pete Fountain, 86, jazz clarinetist, on Aug. 6
Al Hirt & Pete Fountain – Blue And Broken Hearted (1957)

E. Taylor, 65, rock musician, on Aug. 7
B.E. Taylor Group – Vitamin L (1984)

Padraig Duggan, 67, Irish folk musician with Clannad, The Duggans, on Aug. 9
Clannad – Theme From Harry’s Game (1982)

Glenn Yarbrough, 86, folk singer, on Aug. 11
The Limeliters – Take My True Love By The Hand (1960)
Glenn Yarbrough – Baby, The Rain Must Fall (1965)

Barbara Gibb, 95, mother of Barry, Robin, Maurice and Andy, on Aug. 12

Ruby Wilson, 68, R&B and gospel singer, on Aug. 12
Ruby Wilson – I’m Coming Home (1999)

Connie Crothers, 75, jazz pianist, on Aug. 13

Gary Watson, 22, singer of Scottish band the Lapelles, drowned on Aug. 13

James Woolley, 49, rock keyboardist (Nine Inch Nails, 1991-94), on Aug. 14
Nine Inch Nails – Wish (1993, on keyboards)

Lorenzo Piani, 60, Italian singer and songwriter, on Aug. 14

DJ Official, 39, Christian hip hop musician, on Aug. 14

Bobby Hutcherson, 75, jazz vibraphone and marimba player, on Aug. 15
Ella Fitzgerald – Things Ain’t What They Used To Be (1970, on vibraphone)
Bobby Hutcherson featuring Harold Land – Goin’ Down South (1971)

Bob Kindred, 76, jazz saxophonist, on Aug. 15

Billy Mitchell, 70, folk-rock singer, on Aug. 16

Preston Hubbard, 63, bass player with the Fabulous Thunderbirds (1985-93), on Aug. 17
The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Powerful Stuff (1988)

Lou Pearlman, 62, producer and impresario (Backstreet Boys, ’NSYNC), on Aug. 19

Matt Roberts, 38, guitarist with alt.rock band 3 Doors Down, on Aug. 20
3 Doors Down – Kryptonite (2000)

Tom Searle, 28, guitarist with British metalcore band Architects, on Aug. 20

Louis Smith, 85, jazz trumpeter, on Aug. 20
Louis Smith – Star Dust (1958)

Louis Stewart, 72, Irish jazz guitarist, on Aug. 20

Irving Fields, 101, pianist and composer, on Aug. 20
Irving Fields Trio – Cha Cha No. 29 (1959)

Derek Smith, 85, British pianist and keyboardist, on Aug. 21
Linda Lewis -This Time I’ll Be Sweeter (1975)

Headley Bennett, 85, Jamaican saxophonist, on Aug. 21
Gregory Isaacs – Poor Natty (1980)

Toots Thielemans, 94, Belgian jazz harmonica player and guitarist, on Aug. 22
Toots Thielemans – Bluesette (1961)
Quincy Jones – Velas (1980)
Billy Joel – Leave A Tender Moment Alone (1983)

Gilli Smyth, 83, singer with psychedelic rock band Gong, on Aug. 22
Gong – I Am Your Fantasy (1971)

Walter Scheel, 97, German politician and chart-topper, on Aug. 24
Walter Scheel – Hoch auf dem gelben Wagen (1973)

Rudy Van Gelder, 91, pioneering recording engineer, on Aug. 25
Horace Silver – Song For My Father (1964, as sound engineer)

Norman Killeen, 38, drummer  of Canadian heavy metal band Threat Signal, on Aug. 25

Ab Tamboer, 65, member of Dutch pop group Earth and Fire, on Aug. 26

Juan Gabriel, 66, Mexican singer and songwriter, on Aug. 28
Juan Gabriel – Querida (1984)

Hoot Hester, 65, bluegrass and country fiddle player, on Aug. 30
Ricky Van Shelton – Life Turned Her That Way (1987, on fiddle)

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Any Major American Road Trip – 5

September 1st, 2016 11 comments

Any Major American Road Trip - Stage 5

As we embark on the fifth stage of our musical road trip through the USA we are leaving California behind us, and begin our journey back west in Las Vegas to end up in St Louis.

The Hall & Oates song gives a profession to the eponymous character of their hit Sara Smile; here Sara is an air stewardess who is “flying gambling fools to the holy land, Las Vegas”. So, unlike Elvis, they are not fans of Vegas, and clearly neither is Sheryl Crow who is leaving the city with its gaudy neon streets.

We’ll turn north to Salt Lake City and then go east. It has to be said, there is no superfluity of songs about the Mid-West, so we are travelling some mighty distances between tracks:  838km (514 miles) between Denver and Wichita; 678km (421 miles) between Vega and Salt Lake City; 629km (390 miles) between Salt Lake City and Laramie; 528km (328 miles) between St Cloud and Madison. In fact, the only distances between destinations under 100km (62 miles) were Chicago to Gary (50km or 32 miles), and Laramie to Cheyenne (82km or 51 miles).

Altogether, the route from Vegas to St Louis, with all its funny twists and turns, comes to 4708km, or 2925 miles — more than the distance from Iceland to Istanbul. That’s 4708km of good, or at least interesting, music. One diversion I made at the request of my old friend Whiteray from the Echoes in the Wind blog, who suggested I visit St Cloud in Minnesota with Trisha Yearwood, who is much more wholesome than the subject of the song about Whiteray’s hometown.

Map - Stage 5


As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes covers and a route-map (more detailed than the one above). PW in comments.

1. Elvis Presley – Viva Las Vegas (1963 – Las Vegas, NV)
2. Hall & Oates – Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song) (1974  – Las Vegas, NV)
3. Sheryl Crow – Leaving Las Vegas (1994 – Las Vegas, NV)
4. Peggy Lee – I Lost My Sugar (In Salt Lake City) (1961 – Salt Lake City, UT)
5. Jimmy Young – The Man From Laramie (1955 – Laramie, WY)
6. George Strait – I Can Still Make Cheyenne (1996 – Cheyenne, WY)
7. Willie Nelson – Denver (1975 – Denver, CO)
8. Warren Zevon – Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead (1991 – Denver, CO)
9. Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (1968 – Wichita, KS)
10. Phil Ochs – Kansas City Bomber (1972 – Kansas City, MO)
11. Counting Crows – Omaha (live) (2006 – Omaha, NE)
12. Jeffrey Foucault – Des Moines (2015 – Des Moines, IA)
13. Growly-voiced singer – Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis (1978 – Minneapolis, MN)
14. Trisha Yearwood – On A Bus To St. Cloud (1995 – St Cloud, MN)
15. George Thorogood and The Destroyers – Madison Blues (1977 – Madison, WI)
16. Al Jarreau – Milwaukee (1976 – Milwaukee, WI)
17. The Doobie Brothers – Chicago (1971 – Chicago, IL)
18. The Blues Brothers – Sweet Home Chicago (1980  – Chicago, IL)
19. Frank Sinatra – Chicago (1957 – Chicago, IL)
20. The Jesters – Night Train From Chicago (1950s  – Chicago, IL)
21. The Jacksons – 2300 Jackson Street (1989 – Gary, IN)
22. WC Handy – St Louis Blues (1923 – St Louis, MO)
23. Steely Dan – East St Louis Toodle-oo (1974 – St Louis, MO)


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Any Major American Road Trip – 4

September 1st, 2016 1 comment

Any Major American Road Trip - Stage 4

On the fourth stage of our musical road trip through the USA we are staying in California. Parts of the state have a strong country influence because it was in the inland portions of California that many of the southern Dust Bowl refugees from Steinbeck’s Grapes Of Wrath (the greatest novel ever written, in my non-expert opinion) settled. Bakersfield is the place that produced Merle Haggard and Gram Parsons and, though he was a Texan, Buck Owens.

But our journey begins on the coast where the living and the loving is good, places like Big Sur and Santa Cruz and Monterey. The latter was home to the second true rock festival (as opposed to a rock revue), organised in 1967 by the Mamas & the Papas with Lou Adler. Eric Burdon & The Animals, who performed, sing about it here. A week earlier the lesser known Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival was held on Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, also in California.

Another performer at Monterey was Otis Redding, who, with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, pretty much stole the show (and if you see his performance of I’ve Been Loving You, you’ll see why). Otis, who was from the South, loved the California scene, and stuck around. He wrote his most famous song about it, Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay. The place where he wrote it, Sausalito, is featured here.

From Sausalito, about half an hour’s drive in easy traffic From San Francisco (crossing the Golden Gate Bridge) we drive another hour to Santa Rosa. I was going to let the Nitty Gritty Band honour the place; in the event I settled for a more unexpected choice: a pre-fame b-side from 1972 by the group we’d come to know as ABBA. Then we drive another hour north to Ukiah, to see if we can get the fresh, clean smell of the pines which The Doobie Brothers are promising us.

Map - Stage 4

At Ukiah we find ourselves at a crossroad: Do we go north to Oregon and then Seattle, or do we turn south-east to make it to Vegas? There’s more music Vegas way, so that’s where we’ll go, via inland California with its capital Sacramento, making a little detour to Folsom prison. We’ll go to Lodi (apparently pronounced low-die) , which Credence Clearwater Revival sang about on the b-side to Bad Moon Rising. The song made the farming town of 60,000 a byword for boredom. Lodi has capitalised on that by hosting “Stuck in Lodi” events.

We end the fourth leg of our road trip in Bakersfield, which gets, due it being the capital of Californian country, two songs — though only one of them is country.

The centrepoint is, of course, San Francisco. I expect to get accusatory looks for giving New Orleans only two songs and Frisco five. Well, folks, that’s the nature of travel: On the leg including The Big Easy I had little time to linger. In San Francisco I have plenty of time because I need to be in Vegas only by the next mix.

In this leg we’ll have traveled 1,000km or 620m miles. It’s another music-less 1,400km or 870 miles to Las Vegas, where the fifth leg will begin.

The next leg will see us travelling close to 5000km or 3000 miles, taking us from Las Vegas via several detours to St Louis. Along the way we’ll encounter more great music.

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

1. The Thrills – Big Sur (2003 – Big Sur)
2. Eric Burdon & The Animals – Monterey (1967 – Monterey)
3. Kris Kristofferson – Me and Bobby McGee (1970 – Salinas)
4. Robert Earl Keen – I’m Comin Home (1994 – Santa Cruz)
5. Dionne Warwick – Do You Know The Way To San José (1968 – San José)
6. Otis Redding – Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (1968 – San Francisco)
7. Bobby Womack – I Left My Heart In San Francisco (1969 – San Francisco)
8. O.C. Smith – San Francisco Is A Lonely Town (live) (1969 – San Francisco)
9. Counting Crows – Richard Manuel Is Dead (live, 2006 – San Francisco)
10. Chris Isaak – San Francisco Days (1993 – San Francisco)
11. Conor Oberst – Sausalito (2008 – Sausalito)
12. Van Morrison – Snow In San Anselmo (1973 — San Anselmo/San Rafael)
13. Johnny Cash – San Quentin (live, 1969 – San Quentin)
14. Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid – Santa Rosa (1972 – Santa Rosa)
15. The Doobie Brothers – Ukiah (1973 – Ukiah)
16. Middle Of The Road – Sacramento (A Wonderful Town) (1972 – Sacramento)
17. Conway Twitty – Folsom Prison Blues (1968 – Folsom)
18. Credence Clearwater Revival – Lodi (1969 – Lodi)
19. Beck – Modesto (1994 – Modesto)
20. Merle Haggard – One Row At A Time (1971 – Fresno)
21. Buck Owens – Streets Of Bakersfield (1973 – Bakersfield)
22. Social Distortion – Bakersfield (2011 – Bakersfield)


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Any Major Soul 1975 Vol. 1

August 25th, 2016 5 comments

Any Major Soul 1975 Vol. 1

The first Any Major Soul mix for 1975 — another excellent vintage — has that wonderful sunny feel of Philly soul, even if most of the songs aren’t from Philadelphia. But that is how pervasive the sound was in the mid-’70s.

Of course, a fair number of acts here are Philly Soul exponents, such as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, The Intruders, Bunny Sigler. The Spinners were on Atlantic but had many of their records, including the present song, produced by Philly soul pioneer Thom Bell.

Sounding much like the O’Jays on the featured track are South Shore Commission, a Chicago band who had a dance hit that year with Free Man.

Defying our expectations, the Chicago Gangsters were actually from Ohio, recording in Cleveland. The song here is a very fine ballad, the title track of their debut album. The album also featured Gangster Boogie, which LL Cool J sampled for Mama Says Knock You Out.

Ronnie McNeir’s track Nothing But A Heartache has the joyful sound of Philly, but it’s very much a Detroit song: Alabama-born McNeir who arranged the album himself, recorded it at Holland, Dozier, Holland Studios in Detroit. On drums is Carl Graves, who’ll turn up in his own right on Volume 2.

Jimmy Ruffin’s track also has that Philly vibe, but that is thanks to Van McCoy producing the album for Motown. McCoy was, of course, the man who brought us the most Philly non-Philly song ever: The Hustle.

Also from Detroit was Sugar Billy, whose joyous Super Duper Love was covered almost three decades later by Joss Stone. There seems to be little known about Sugar Billy Garner.

I have introduced Jim Gilstrap before, but feel duty-bound to repeat: he’s the guy who sings the first verse of Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. The track here is from his debut LP, Swing Your Daddy.

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

1. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Keep On Lovin’ You
2. Sugar Billy – Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin’ On Me)
3. Maxine Nightingale – If I Ever Lose This Heaven
4. James Gilstrap – House Of Stranger
5. The Intruders – A Nice Girl Like You
6. Bunny Sigler – Things Are Gonna Get Better
7. Black Ivory – Will We Ever Come Together
8. South Shore Commission – Train Called Freedom
9. Billy Paul – My Head’s On Straight
10. The Spinners – Honest I Do
11. Ronnie McNeir – Nothing But A Heartache
12. David Ruffin – I’ve Got Nothing But Time
13. Natalie Cole – Needing You
14. Jackie Moore – Make Me Feel Like A Woman
15. Bobby Womack – (If You Want My Love) Put Something Down On It
16. Joe Simon – It’s Crying Time In Memphis
17. Sam Dees – The Show Must Go On
18. Chicago Gangsters – Blind Over You
19. Gwen McCrae – He Keeps Something Groovy Goin’ On
20. Lea Roberts – Loving You Gets Better With Time
21. Maxine Weldon – I Want Sunday Back Again
22. Allen Toussaint – When The Party’s Over


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Life In Vinyl 1984 – Vol. 2

August 18th, 2016 2 comments

Life in Vinyl 1984-2

The first part of 1984 was the South African leg of the year; this part soundtracks the road trip in Europe and taking up residence in London.

I mostly listened to Motown and ’60s and ’70s soul and Purple Rain while I terrorised the highways of Europe, often on the way to football games. Among new releases at the time, I bought the cassette tapes of Heaven 17’s How Men Are, Madonna’s debut album, as well as by German acts BAP and Herbert Grönemeyer; the former sang in the Kölsch dialect that is peculiar to the city of Cologne — and yet they were about the biggest German act at the time. I went to see BAP in concert; it was one of the most energetic gigs I’ve ever been to. Frontman Wolfgang Niedecken had something of a German Springsteen (or Bono) about him.

The others of the first five tracks on this mix I recorded off the radio, as well as the 12” mix of Wham!’s Freedom, which I include as a bonus track. There were other tracks that unaccountably played in my car which I don’t include here, for which you’ll thank me: Hazell Dean’s Whatever I Do, Fox the Fox’s Precious Little Diamond, Al Corley’s Square Rooms and a musical disaster by Jermaine Jackson and retired gerontophile Zia Padora called When The Rain Begins To Fall.

covers gallery 1

I remember listening to the radio in Germany one afternoon when the DJ announced that after the break he’d play Stevie Wonder’s brand-new single. Being a big Stevie Wonder fan — the Original Musiquarium collection was a regular in my tape deck — I was so excited. Then I heard I Just Called To Say I Love You. My heart sank. I still deeply dislike the song, as most other Stevie Wonder fans do. I still bought the Lady In Red album on cassette. Big mistake; it was not very good..

Coming to London, I was pleased to find Chaka Khan’s I Feel For You topping the charts. Armed with my excellent portable radio-tape combo, I prodigiously downloaded from Capital Radio, finding delight in discovering new songs that would still become hits.

Still, there are three hits of 1985 I found by other avenues in late 1984: Big Sound Authority’s This House (Is Where Our Love Stands), which featured on Shoulda Been A Hit Vol. 1, was on the setlist of the excellent gig I attended at Camden Palace in December 1984 from which this video comes; Since Yesterday was performed by Strawberry Switchblade as they supported, ahem, Howard Jones.  And Immaculate Fools’ eponymous song that closes this collection was on the video juke box in the Notting Hill pub I used to hang out in with my new Irish friends. I don’t think many people were pleased when I put it on — many times. It entered the charts in January 1985, peaking at #51.

covers gallery 2

1. Billy Idol – Eyes Without A Face
2. Heaven 17 – This Is Mine
3. OMD – Tesla Girls
4. Paul McCartney – No More Lonely Nights
5. Chaka Khan – I Feel For You
6. Alison Moyet – Invisible
7. Pointer Sister – I’m So Excited
8. Murray Head – One Night In Bangkok
9. The Stranglers – Skin Deep
10. Meat Loaf – Modern Girl
11. Paul Young – Everything Must Change
12. Eugene Wilde – Gotta Get You Home With Me Tonight
13. Spandau Ballet – Round And Round
14. Lloyd Cole And The Commotions – Rattlesnakes
15. Tears For Fears – Shout
16. Style Council – Shout To The Top
17. Aztec Camera – Still On Fire
18. Immaculate Fools – Immaculate Fools
Bonus Track: Wham! – Freedom (12″ mix)


More A Life In Vinyl
More Mix-CD-Rs


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Song Swarm: Girl From Ipanema

August 11th, 2016 5 comments

ipanema covers gallery 3Once upon a time, The Girl From Ipanema was the ultimate square song. You’d hear it piped in the elevator before you entered the lounge where the piano player would tinkle out the most laid back song in pop history to the point of banality.

Today, the song is cool again. At the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics, supermodel Gisele Bundchen came out strutting out to it. And this song swarm shows a fairly high number of recent covers for a song that resides recognisably in the 1960s. The Girl From Ipanema is cool again.

Bundchen got to play the girl from Ipanema, but the actual woman who inspired the song was not invited to the opening ceremony. And it’s not like Helô Pinheiro fell into obscurity after the poet Vinícius de Moraes immortalised her in the song.

Songwriters Antônio Carlos “Tom” Jobim and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes were sitting in the Veloso bar in the Ipanema beachfront district of Rio one winter’s day in 1962 when they noticed a pretty school girl — Helô Pinheiro  — walking past them in her jacket-and-tie school uniform, and later in her bikini on the way to the beach. And day by day, they’d see her again, passing by and being observed by the two middle-aged men. And sometimes the 15-year-old would come into the bar to buy cigarettes for her mother.

Helô Pinheiro, the inspiration for The Girl Fom Ipanema, on the beach.

Helô Pinheiro, the inspiration for The Girl Fom Ipanema, on the beach.


Folklore has it that the men wrote this new, yet untitled song right there in the bar. In truth, they wrote it separately, Jobim working out the melody meticulously on his piano; de Moraes investing his poetic energy in creating that bitter-sweet erotic yearning of man for the unattainable — a melancholy underscored by the rising minor key changes in the “Oh, but he watches so sadly” set of lines. And so the song that started life as “Girl Passing By” emerged as Gârota de Ipanema — The Girl From Ipanema..

The newly-hatched song was first performed at Rio’s Bon Gourmet restaurant, with the singer João Gilberto on vocals. Gilberto also recorded an unreleased version before it was cut on record by a vocal group called Os Cariocas (which means The Rio de Janeireans) and then by bossa nova singer Pery Ribeiro and the otherwise quite forgotten Tamba Trio. These four early versions are feature here. They are not bad, but it would take a stroke of genius to create the template from which almost every other version would flow.

In 1963 the jazz saxophonist Stan Getz had become obsessed with that new bossa nova sound from Brazil, and invited its pioneers, Tom Jobim and João Gilberto, to New York for an album of collaborations. Lyricist Norman Gimbel — the only famous songwriter to have corresponded with this blog — was called in to write English lyrics for the lilting tune about the girl from… oh, he was going to change that unpronounceable name. As Jobim remembered it years later in conversation with the music journalist James Woodall — and Gimbel might have different recall — it took a taxi ride in bitterly cold New York to persuade the American lyricist that firstly, a word such as Ipanema existed, and secondly to leave the name of the beach in the lyrics, for “maybe one day everyone will know about it”.

ipanema covers gallery 2And so Gilberto, Jobim and Getz found themselves in the studio with Gimbel’s reworked lyrics. The problem was that Gilberto’s English wasn’t really up for the new version. So his wife Astrud was roped in — not quite as much by chance as myth would have it, and she certainly wasn’t the novice of legend. Although not yet a professional singer, Astrud had sung with João before, and she was in the studio with a view of singing something. That this something was The Girl From Ipanema was the stroke of genius. Astrud’s cool voice gave the song an innocent sexuality, as if she was the girl from Ipanema singing about herself in the third person. And even as she made the song more sexual, by dint of being a sung by a woman the lyrics lost the innate creepiness of a middle-aged man lusting after a teenage girl.

The Girl From Ipanema was a big hit. Released on the Verve label, it peaked at #5 on the Billboard charts and won a Grammy. And it became an instant standard. Even Mrs Miller did a butchered version (it is here, if you dare to listen). Frank Sinatra recorded it with João Gilberto to great effect, as did fellow crooner Sammy Davis Jr, helped by Count Basie. And Lou Rawls’ take might be the best of the lot. Whereas Henry Mancini turned it into revoltingly cheesy easy listening. In Brazil the Astrud Gilberto template apparently didn’t hold: the 1965 version of by the flamboyant bossa nova singer Cauby Peixoto, who died in May this year, pays no mind to what came before.

What became of the protagonists in this story? Astrud had a moderately successful singing career, though she never shook off the Ipanema girl burden. She unofficially retired in 2002. Aged 76, she is still alive. Stan Getz, whose affair with Astrud put an end to his working relationship with João for the next 12 years, died in 1991. Jobim went three years later, shortly after finishing his final album, Antonio Brasileiro. He died a national treasure, having also written such Brazilian classics as Desafinado and One Note Samba. João Gilberto, who like Gimbel is still alive, is still recording. Vinícius de Moraes died in 1980 at the age of 66.

And the Girl from Ipanema, Helô Pinheiro, who wasn’t invited to the opening ceremony of the Olympics where the famous song about her was highlighted as a legacy of Brazilian culture? She had stints as an actress and as a model, posing twice nude in Playboy (in 1987 and again 2003, with her daughter!).

In 2001 the heirs of the composers sued Pinheiro for naming her boutique Garota de Ipanema, arguing that her inspiration of the song was just incidental and she therefore had no right to use the song title for her store. Pinheiro, who received widespread public support, won the court case, having cited a press release by Jobim (who had been the best man at her wedding) and de Moraes in which the composers named her the original “Girl from Ipanema”.ipanema covers gallery 1And so here are 69 versions of The Girl From Ipanema/Gârota de Ipanema. To unpack the lot you will need both files.

1962: João Gilberto Gilberto • Os Cariocas 1963: Pery Ribeiro •  Tamba Trio • Getz/Gilberto  • Antônio Carlos Jobim • Anita O’Day  1964: Henri Mancini •  Andy Williams & Antonio Carlos Jobim •  Oscar Peterson Trio •  Peggy Lee •  Stan Getz Quartet feat. Astrud Gilberto  (Newport Jazz Festival) •  Jacqueline François  (as La Fille D’ipanema) •  Little Anthony & The Imperials •  Sarah Vaughan •  Julie London •  Sacha Distel & Dionne Warwick •  Vince Guaraldi & Bona Sete •  Nancy Wilson •  Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass  1965: Cauby Peixoto •  Nat King Cole •  Sammy Davis & Count Basie •  Charlie Byrd •  Petula Clark •  Esther Phillips  1966: Walter Wanderley •  Lou Rawls •  Shearing Quintet •  Cher •  Supremes •  Chad & Jeremy •  Freddie McCoy •  Chris Montez •  Mrs. Elva Miller  1967: Baden Powell •  Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim  1968: Erroll Garner •  Lena Horne  1969: Denny McLain  1970: Roger Williams  1971: Nara Leão  1972: Percy Faith and his Orchestra   1974: Toots Thielemans   1975: Eartha Kitt  •  John Holt – Girl From Ipanema   1976: Gilla (as Machen wir’s in Liebe) •  Giovanni Fenati  (as La Ragazza di Ipanema)  1977: Astrud Gilberto  (Disco Version)   1981: Ella Fitzgerald  1983: Vinicius e Toquinho   1990: Nigel Kennedy   1996: Teddy Edwards & Houston Person  •  Crystal Waters   1997: Al Jarreau & Oleta Adams  •  Salena Jones   1998: Gabriela Anders   2000: Rosemary Clooney feat. Diana Krall  2001: Walter Bell  2003: Lisa Ono   2005: Dan Gibson’s Solitudes  2008: Eliane Elias  2011: Placido Domingo •  Amy Winehouse •  Pat Metheny   2013: Andrea Bocelli

GET IT: Part 1 & Part 2

Previous Song Swarms:
By The Time I Get To Phoenix
Hound Dog
These Boots Are Made For Walking
Sunday Morning Coming Down
Like A Rolling Stone
Papa Was A Rolling Stone
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Over The Rainbow
Georgia On My Mind
Blue Moon
Light My Fire


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In Memoriam – July 2016

August 4th, 2016 6 comments

IM0716_aAmong the many acts that are considered inventors of punk, Suicide have a good claim, having been among the first to use that term to advertise themselves. The New York duo even had the violence at their gigs to underscore that claim. With the death at 78 of singer Alan Vega of natural causes, half of Suicide is now gone (multi-instrumentalist Martin Rev is still alive at 68). After Suicide, Vega had a varied solo career, working a lot with The Cars’ Ric Ocasek. His last album appeared in 2010, two years before he suffered a stroke. Vega was also an exhibited artist.

On the same day Vega died, we also lost the producer Gary S. Paxton, perhaps remembered best for producing the hits 1960s Monster Mash and The Associations’ Cherish. If an enterprising scriptwriter were to tell Paxton’s lifestory faithfully in a film, he might be unjustly accused of taking literary licence. Born in 1939, Paxton was adopted at the age of 3 and grew up in rural poverty. He was molested when he was 7, and contracted spinal meningitis at 11. He recovered and at 14 joined a band that played country and the new-fangled rock & roll music. Stardom arrived in 1959 when he had a #1 hit with It Was I as Flip in Skip & Flip. They had another hit, Cherry Pie, and then split. Now living in LA, Paxton began producing records. Still only 21 he produced a #1 hit, Alley Oop, for The Hollywood Argyles. More hits followed as Paxton opened five studios and a series of record labels.

Paxton was a skilled, albeit eccentric, self-promoter. Once a radio station refused to play one of the records from his label because it was “too black”. Paxton registered his protest by staging a procession to the radio station building led by 15 cheerleaders and an elephant pulling a Volkswagen car. For his troubles Paxton was arrested – because the elephant was defecating in the street. In 1967 he returned to his country roots, first in Bakersfield and then in Nashville. In the early 1970s, following the suicide of his business partner and his own struggles with addiction, he found God and became a follower of the hippie Jesus movement while recording gospel music.

In 1980 he escaped an assassination attempt, apparently set up by a country musician whom he was producing. Paxton fought off the first hitman, getting part of a finger shot off after slapping away the gun that was pressed between his eyes. He got hold of the gun and shot the killer in the chest. But a second assassin managed to shoot Paxton three times in the back. It took Paxton eight years to recover; he later visited those involved in the hit in prison and forgave them. Shortly after recovering from the shooting, he nearly died of hepatitis C. Death finally claimed Gary S. Paxton at the age of 77 on July 16.

Classical sopranos don’t usually feature in this series, but Marni Nixon is an exception. When Audrey Hepburn sings in My Fair Lady, or Deborah Kerr in The King And I and An Affair To Remember, or Natalie Wood in West Side Story, it is Marni Nixon’s voice you hear. On the latter film’s Tonight, she also sang Rota Moreno’s part. She overdubbed also for Sophia Loren, Margaret O’Brien and Marilyn Monroe (the high notes on Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend). Nixon made her first on-screen appearance as Sister Sophie in The Sound of Music. Married three times, Nixon was the mother of the late singer Andrew Gold.

With the death of Allen Barnes, we have lost a great crossover jazz-soul-funk multi-instrumentalist. Barnes, who was primarily a saxophonist, was drafted by Donald Byrd into his Blackbyrds. On their greatest hit, the joyful Walkin’ In Rhythm, Barnes played the flute solo. He also wrote songs for the band, including 1974’s Summer Love, which featured on Any Major Summer Vol. 5. He recorded with many other artists, including Nina Simone, Prince, Martha Reeves, Bootsy Collins and Sonny Rollins. On stage he backed Gil Scott-Heron on saxophone and synthesizer. He also recorded under his own name and with singer/songwriter John Malone as the unsnappily-named funk band Malone & Barnes and Spontaneous Simplicity.

IM0716_bLast month we lost Chips Moman, who with Dan Penn founded the famous American Sound Studio in Memphis. Among the successful bands they produced were The Box Tops, who are most famous for that perfect slice of pope, The Letter. In July the Box Tops’ drummer Danny Smythe passed away at 67. Smythe drummed on the classic Neon Rainbow album as well as on the 1968 #2 hit Cry Like A Baby. But by the time the latter became a hit Smythe had left the band, having decided to go to college in order to avoid the Vietnam War draft. When the classic line-up of The Box Tops reunited in 1996, Smythe rejoined the bands, staying with it until 2010, when lead singer Alex Chilton died.

On July 7 I posted the Song Swarm of By The Time I Get To Phoenix. Among the 82 versions was one by jazz/funk organist Shirley Scott. Playing guitar on that version was the Antiguan jazz guitarist Roland Prince. Eight days after I posted it, Prince died at the age of 69. Which merits mention here, I think. Prince released a few solo albums, but was more usually a sideman to artists like Scott, James Moody, Roy Haynes, Dr Buzzard’s Savannah Band, and especially Elvin Jones.

On the same day as Roland Prince, drummer and drum manufacturer Johnny C. Craviotto passed away. He started as a drummer in the 1970s for acts like Ry Cooder, Arlo Guthrie, Moby Grape, Neil Young, and Buffy St. Marie. In the 1980s he founded a drum company with Huey Lewis & The News’ drummer Billy Gibson, the Select (later Solid) Drum Company, whose products seem to be particularly popular among country and indie drummers.

Finally, it is necessary to pay tribute to long-time Mad magazine cartoonist (all those covers he did!)  Jack Davis, who has died at 91. His link to music? He also designed LP covers, such as that below for Johnny Cash.



Teddy Rooney, 66, bassist of rock band The Yellow Payges, on July 2
The Yellow Payges – Our Time Is Running Out (1967)

William Hawkins, 76, Canadian folk musician and poet, on July 4
3’s a Crowd – Gnostic Serenade (1968, as songwriter)

Danny Smythe, 67, drummer of The Box Tops, on July 6
The Box Tops – Neon Rainbow (1967)
The Box Tops – Cry Like A Baby (1968)

Rokusuke Ei, 83, Japanese lyricist and author, on July 7
Kyu Sakamoto – Sukiyaki (1963, as co-writer)

Gérard Bourgeois, 80, French composer, on July 8
Françoise Hardy – Rendez-vous d’automne (1966)

Geneviève Castrée aka Woelv aka Ô PAON, 34, Canadian indie musician, on July 9

Steven Young, member of British electronic bands Colourbox and M/A/R/R/S, on July 13
Colourbox – The Moon Is Blue (1985)
M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume (1987)

Roland Prince, 69, Antiguan jazz guitarist, on July 15
Shirley Scott – Lean On Me (1972, on guitar)

Erik Petersen, 38, founder and leader of folk-punk band Mischief Brew, on July 15
Mischief Brew – Coffee, God, And Cigarettes (2006)

Johnny Craviotto, 68, drummer and drum developer, on July 15
Claudia Lennear – It Ain’t Easy (1973, on drums)

Alan Vega, 78, half of protopunk duo Suicide, on July 16
Suicide – Ghost Rider (1977)
Alan Vega – Goodbye Darling (1983)

Gary S. Paxton, 77, producer and singer-songwriter, on July 16
Skip & Flip – It Was I (1959) (1959, as “Flip”)
Bobby Boris Pickett  & The Crypt-Kickers – Monster Mash (1962, as producer)
The Association – Cherish (1966, as producer)

Bonnie Brown, 77, member of country group The Browns, on July 16
The Browns – The Three Bells (1959)

Claude Williamson, 89, jazz pianist, on July 16
June Christy & Pete Rugolo – Look Out Up There (1954, on piano)

Karina Jensen, singer of Danish pop band Cartoons, announced on July 18
Cartoons – Witch Doctor (1998)

Tamás Somló, 68, singer of Hungarian rock band Omega, on July 19

Lewie Steinberg, 82, first bassist of Booker T. & the M.G.’s (replaced by Donald Dunn), on July 21
Booker T. & the M.G.’s – Green Onions (1962)

Mika Bleu, 34, singer of French grindcore band Miserable Failure, hit by a car on July 22

George Reznik, 86, Canadian jazz pianist, on July 23

Keith Gemmell, 68, British musician with Audience, Stackridge, Pasadena Roof Orchestra), on July 24
Audience – Indian Summer (1971)

Marni Nixon, 86, American singer, on July 24
Marni Dixon & Yulk Brynner – Shall We Dance (1956, The King And I)
Marni Nixon  – I Feel Pretty (1961, West Side Story)

Allan Barnes, 67, jazz/soul saxophonist with The Blackbyrds, on July 26
The Blackbyrds – Walking In Rhythm (1974, on flute)
Malone & Barnes And Spontaneous Simplicity – Workin’ Plan (1977)
J Dilla – Requiem (2012, on flute)

Sandy Pearlman, 72, producer, songwriter and manager, on July 26
Blue Öyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (1976, as co-producer)
The Clash – Tommy Gun (1978, as producer)

Roye Albrighton, 67, guitarist and singer with British rock group Nektar, on July 26
Nektar – Do You Believe In Magic? (1972)

Jack Davis, 91, illustrator, cartoonist with Mad and record cover designer, on July 27

Pat Upton, 75, singer and guitarist of pop band Spiral Starecase, on July 27
Spiral Starecase – More Today Than Yesterday (1969)

Lucille Dumont, 97, Canadian singer, on July 29

Fred Tomlinson, 90, English singer and composer, on July 29
Monty Python – Lumberjack Song (1969, as co-writer)

Penny Lang, 74, Canadian folk-singer, on July 31


Previous In Memoriams

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Beatles Recovered: Revolver

July 28th, 2016 11 comments

Revolver Recovered

August 5 will see the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ seminal Revolver album. If Rubber Soul was the moment when the besuited moptops handed over the Beatle baton to the more experimental stoners, Revolver was the moment the stoners became adults, doing things on their own terms.

George Harrison’s I Want To Tell you is perhaps most emblematic of that progression. The melody could have been on Rubber Soul, or even Help!, but the arrangement and especially the lyrics absolutely couldn’t.

The first song which the Beatles recorded for the album was one that set the scene for what innovation was to come. Tomorrow Never Knows, which was born almost exactly four months before Revolver’s release (on April 6), was a radical departure from the pure, relatively uncomplicated pop and rock & roll which the band had produced just a year earlier on Help (which was released on August 6, 1965, almost exactly one year before Revolver. Let that timeline sink in!). The song was subject to such experimentations as tape loops and running the vocals through a speaker normally used for the Hammond organ, plus Ringo using a novel drum-pattern.

The cover of that song here is a sparse affair from 1970 by the blues/R&B singer Junior Parker, recorded a year before his death at the age of 39 during surgery for a brain tumor.

Harrison had already experimented gingerly with Indian music on Rubber Soul. Here, on Love You To, he went full Indian — I guess it must have been even more startling to Revolver’s first listeners than Tomorrow Never Knows. It is covered here by the Don Randi Trio, who recorded the whole of Revolver in their jazz interpretation, within weeks of the album’s release. Their version respects the original’s Indian core.

Revolver had several moments of genius. Eleanor Rigby in particular is a masterpiece, lyrically and musically (I’ll leave it to you whether Ray Charles’ interpretation trumps the original). McCartney’s other two ballads on the album — For No One and Here, There And Everywhere — are remarkable as well. Emmylou Harris features here with her gorgeous take on the often neglected For No One, from 1975’s Pieces Of The Sky LP. She might also have been included for her version of Here, There And Everywhere, recorded the same year for the Elite Hotel album. That song is covered to equally lovely effect by that other country woman of crossover appeal, Bobbie Gentry.

Lennon was more hit-and-miss on Revolver than Paul. Tomorrow Never Knows and I’m Only Sleeping tower above the serviceable but usually not unduly overlooked Dr Robert, And Your Bird Can Sing and She Said She Said, decent tracks though they are. Dr Robert was the most difficult song to find a cover for. Here it is done by an Italian band called Slow Feet (an allusion to Eric Clapton’s nickname Slow Hand), which specialises in covering classic rock songs.

In don’t know why Paul’s excellent Good Day Sunshine doesn’t receive more love. Roy Redmond’s southern soul cover reveals a depth to a song which in The Beatles’ version is “just another” Beatles pop song.

Critics don’t love Yellow Submarine, written by Paul specifically for Ringo and deliberately as a children’s song. It ought to have been only a b-side (as it also was, to Eleanor Rigby), not an album track. But while the purists hate it, the public loved it, as would be the case two long, long years later with the much maligned yet ferociously popular Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

The Pickin’ On Picks recording was the only feasible version of Yellow Submarine that I could include here (though I include the 1976 Sesame Street version — three monsters harmonising in monstrous ways — as a bonus). The Pickin’ On Picks was a 1990s project whereby session musicians would render the catalogue of a particular artist in the bluegrass genre. Cross-genre appropriation sometimes works well, and sometimes does so only in small doses. This is such a case: one or two songs at a time are great; more than that is quite enough.

The obvious choice for a cover of Got To Get You Into My Life might have been that of Earth, Wind & Fire, or perhaps that by Thelma Houston, which surely inspired the EWF arrangement. That itself might have borrowed from the one used here, by Blood, Sweat & Tears. The EWF version previously featured on Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66; the Thelma Houston version you can get on the Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2.

Naturally the mix fits on a CD-R, and includes home-renovated covers. PW in comments.

1. The Loose Ends – Tax Man (1966)
2. Ray Charles – Eleanor Rigby (1968)
3. Lobo – I’m Only Sleeping (1974)
4. Don Randi Trio – Love You To (1966)
5. Bobbie Gentry – Here, There And Everywhere (1968)
6. The Pickin’ On Picks – Yellow Submarine (1995)
7. Hedge & Donna – She Said She Said (1971)
8. Roy Redmond – Good Day Sunshine (1967)
9. Spanky & Our Gang – And Your Bird Can Sing (1967)
10. Emmylou Harris – For No One (1975)
11. Slowfeet – Doctor Robert (2006)
12. Chris Stainton & Glen Turner – I Want To Tell You (1976)
13. Blood, Sweat & Tears – Got To Get You Into My Life (1975)
14. Junior Parker – Tomorrow Never Knows (1970)


More great Beatles stuff:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
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)

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