Any Major Christmas Bells

December 7th, 2017 9 comments

Regular readers, in their detective ways, may have deduced that I love Christmas music, as the 20-plus mixes posted over the past decade show. And if a Christmas song has bells in them, I’m particularly happy.

Peggy Lee in the song that opens this collection shares that view: “Some folks like to hear a Christmas song, but I like Christmas bells that go ding-dong, jingle-jangle, ding-a-ling or just bing-bong; I love to hear ’em ring.”

Of course, many of the greatest Christmas songs don’t need them — imagine Nat King Cole ringing the bells in The Christmas Song! — and yet, no sound signals Yuletide quite as those jingling, jangling bells. Maybe that’s why Mel Tormé, who co-wrote The Christmas Song, used them in his 1992 version of it.

Reader Fred is himself a keen collector of Christmas songs, and has quite a collection of tracks in that genre that are about bells. So he suggested that I make such a mix myself. Helpfully, Fred sent an extensive list of some songs on that theme he has in his collection. I didn’t consult it in case he offers to do a Volume 2 next year. Our respective lists coincide in 11 songs.

The qualification for this mix is fairly simple: have a jingle or a bell in the title (strangely, some promise bells and feature none); or include bells, such as Winter Wonderland, which in any case is alternatively titled Sleigh Bells Ring. Likewise, The Emotions’ melancholy What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas features the jingling of cheerful bells throughout.

Another Christmas mix will drop in the week after next. All mixes listed below should have live links.

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

1. Peggy Lee – Ring Those Christmas Bells (1953)
2. Nat ‘King’ Cole – Caroling, Caroling (1963)
3. Dean Martin – Jingle Bells (1966)
4. Bing Crosby – I Heard The Bells (1956)
5. Mel Tormé – The Christmas Song (1992)
6. Andy Williams – Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells (1963)
7. Burt Bacharach – The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle (1968)
8. The Beach Boys – Bells Of Christmas (1967)
9. Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz & Peter Tork – Christmas Is My Time Of Year (1976)
10. Johnny Cash – I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day (1963)
11. The Four Seasons – The Carol Of The Bells (1962)
12. The Funk Brothers – Winter Wonderland (1968)
13. The Emotions – What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas (1978)
14. The Trammps – Sleigh Ride (2000)
15. The Temptations – Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (1980)
16. Stevie Wonder – Silver Bells (1967)
17. Bobby Nunn – Christmas Bells (1951)
18. Freddy King – I Hear Jingle Bells (1961)
19. Bill Haley and his Comets – Jingle Bell Rock (1957)
20. Barry & Highlights – Xmas Bell Rock (1960)
21. The Modernaires – Jingle Bell Polka (1947)
22. The Penguins – Jingle Jangle (1955)
23. Burl Ives – Jingle Jingle Jingle (1961)
24. The Sinatra Family – The Bells Of Christmas (1968)
25. The Chieftains – The Bells of Dublin-Christmas Eve (1991)
26. George Harrison – Ding Dong, Ding Dong (1974)
27. Lenka – All My Bells Are Ringing (2008)
28. Smashing Pumpkins – Christmastime (1997)
29. The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) (2003)

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More Christmas mixes
Any Major Christmas Favourites
Any Major 1970s Christmas
Any Major 1950s Christmas
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 1
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 2
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3
The Christmas Originals
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Acoustic Christmas
Song Swarm: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Or all in one place

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In Memoriam – November 2017

December 4th, 2017 3 comments

November was a brutal month. Women of a certain age will have mourned David Cassidy, whose image adorned many a teen girl’s bedroom wall in the early 1970s (Like Tiger Beat in the US, Germany’s Bravo magazine had loads of them). An exceptionally handsome young man with talent, a great voice and good manners, he was the full package. In The Partridge Family TV series, he and step-mom Shirley Jones were allowed to make music, alongside members of the Wrecking Crew. The quality of the pop music from that show has outlived the natural resistance to it: there are some great pop songs from that show (which was, it must be said, a pretty good sitcom. Of course, some of the songs were also awful). As a one-time teen idol it was tough for Cassidy to forge a career as a serious singer, sporadic hits like 1985’s The Last Kiss notwithstanding. In the 1980s he re-invented himself as a stage musical star. I saw him in a not very good show called Time in London. In the end he suffered from dementia.

On the day Cassidy died, we also saw the death of Wayne Cochran, another artist who had success with a song called Last Kiss. Cochran’s composition became a hit for J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers and later for Pearl Jam. Cochran was famous for being a white soul singer, and even more so for his white pompadour, which looked like a spoof Newt Gingrich haircut long before that horrid asshole arrived. He was friends with Otis Redding, for whom he played bass guitar on a couple of tracks. More importantly, he was friends with Elvis, who styled his jumpsuit Vegas costumes on Cochran, and included the blues classic C.C. Rider in his set as a tribute to Cochran’s erstwhile backing band. Cochran retired from music in the 1970s to become an evangelical minister.

Just a month after the death of his older brother George, AC/DC co-founder Malcolm Young died at 64. He had been suffering from dementia, like David Cassidy, so death was probably a sweet release. As a rhythm guitarist, Young is regarded as one of the greats in rock. That was rather overshadowed by younger brother Angus’ antics and lead guitar (Angus said his brother was actually the better lead guitarist), but Malcolm was said to be the driving force behind AC/DC.

In The Miracles, Warren ‘Pete’ Moore was the bass to the high tenor of Smokey Robinson. Lesser known is his contribution as uncredited arranger of many of those great Miracles hits. And rather overlooked is his co-writing role with Smokey and Marv Tarplin of such great Motown hits as The Tracks of My Tears, Going To A Go-Go, Ooo Baby Baby, Ain’t That Peculiar, I’ll Be Doggone and Since I Lost My Baby, and later the huge Miracles hit Love Machine, co-written with Bully Griffin.

When Mel Tillis wrote about “that crazy Asian war” in 1967’s Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town, he supposedly meant the Korean war — but it was released at the height of the Vietnam War (see the story of that song in The Originals Vol. 24). First released by Johnny Darrell in 1967, it was a hit for Kenny Rogers & The First Edition in 1969. Tillis recorded it himself in 1969, on the Life Turned Her That Way LP (with that great title song). Tillis revisited Ruby in 1976 to even better effect, with a blistering banjo solo. His singing success was preceded by a long songwriting career. He scored his first songwriting hit in 1957 with Webb Pierce’s I’m Tired (which Tillis later had a hit with himself), and later a big one with Bobby Bare’s Detroit City (a.k.a. I Wanna Go Home). Tillis also appeared in movies, including the Cannonball Run movies and Smokey And The Bandit II. And if musicians were patron saints, Tillis might be the one for people with speech defects: he was a stutterer.

Arriving at the pearly gates with Moore and Tillis on November 19 was the singer and actress Della Reese — after her role in TV’s Touched By An Angel, it was perhaps a homecoming. And it’s as the managing angel Tess that Reese is perhaps remembered by most, but before that she was a mighty jazz singer. She was discovered by Mahalia Jackson and was equally comfortable in gospel (she formed her own group in that genre) and jazz. By force of talent and personality she was an African-American icon (though she was also half Cherokee) by the early 1960s. The second part of Martha Reeves’ band’s name, The Vandellas, is a tribute to Reese. In the late 1960s she also began acting and that would become her major gig as time went on.

Some people are central in changing music but do so quietly. Producer and record executive George Avakian, who has died at 98, was one such pioneer. In the 1940s CBS appointed the young Armenian-born jazz producer to head up its reactivated Columbia imprint as a jazz label, especially with a view to re-issuing a back catalogue of jazz records. Avakian did so, releasing them with thoughtful linernotes. In between he also produced several acts, including Frank Sinatra (he later produced acts such as Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Odetta, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, John Cage and many others). The 33 13rpm long-playing album was developed by Columbia under Avakian’s watch. As a producer he pioneered live recordings for LPs, and was among the first producers to use modern multitrack recordings. In 1958 he left Columbia to start up a new record label for Warner Brothers, hitherto just a film production company. After that he became an A&R manager at RCA. Among the acts he managed and produced there was jazz trio Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan, whose Jon Hendricks died on the same day as Avakian.

Jon Hendricks was instrumental (as it were) in popularising a the jazz singing style known as vocalese, whereby the singer adds lyrics to a jazz improvisation and sings them note-for-original-note. The most famous example of it might be the track that inspired Hendricks, King Pleasure’s 1951 hit Moody’s Mood For Love, which was based on a sax solo by James Moody. By the late 1950s, Hendricks was part of the interracial jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross (later, in Avakian’s time with them, Yolande Bavan had replaced Annie Ross, who is now the last survivor of the trio in either iteration) which performed with the Count Basie Orchestra, taking Basie tunes and setting them to lyrics. In the 1960s the trio was popular — they very much inspired The Manhattan Transfer, with whom Hendricks later recorded — though also resented by the serious jazzheads for their playful lyrics.

English arranger/conductor Paul Buckmaster’s career ranged from scoring early hits by the likes of David Bowie (Space Oddity) and Elton John (Your Song) to Taylor Swift (2010’s Back To December) and Idina Menzel’s album last year. In between, his arrangement clients included The Rolling Stones (on Sticky Fingers), Shawn Phillips, Leonard Cohen, Nilsson (on Without You), Blood, Sweat & Tears  (on No Sweat), Carly Simon (on You’re So Vain), Miles Davis (on several 1970s albums), B.J. Thomas, Leo Sayer, Grateful Dead (on Terrapin Station), Nick Heyward, Stevie Nicks, Rodney Franklin, Meat Loaf (on Modern Day), Debbie Gibson, Paula Abdul, Lionel Richie, Lloyd Cole, Kenny Loggins, 10,000 Maniacs, Dwight Yoakam, Celine Dion, Counting Crows, Collective Soul, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, No Doubt, Tears For Fears, The Darkness, Ben Folds, Michael Bublé, Mika, Guns N’ Roses (on Chinese Democracy), Brandi Carlile and many more. He also played cello on some recordings, including Bowie’s Space Oddity. In 2002 he won a Grammy for his arrangement of the Train hit Drops Of Jupiter.

Just as I was preparing a mix of tracks on which guitarist Larry Carlton played, I learnt of the death of Carlton’s frequent sidekick on bass, Robert “Pops” Popwell. For a while he was practically a member of the Crusaders (as was Carlton). Popwell played for acts like The Young Rascals, Aretha Franklin, Irma Thomas, Dyane Allman, Randy Crawford, Eddie Money, Allen Toussaint, Hubert Laws, George Benson, Deodato, Ron Wood, Smokey Robinson, Letta Mbulu, Brenda Russell, Olivia Newton-John, Bill Withers, B.B. King, Bette Midler, Dr John and others. Powell also produced and arranged occasionally.

Soul singer Robert Knight had a minor US hit in 1968 with his song Everlasting Love, but when it was released in Britain it quickly caught on. The story goes that the English group Love Affair — or rather, singer Steve Ellis and a bunch of session musicians — rush-recorded and released the song before the original could chart with it. They had a #1 hit; Knight’s original, which entered the UK charts two weeks after the cover, stalled at #40. Then it went quiet around Knight until in late 1973 Britain’s Northern Soul scene — which grooved to obscure soul tracks — discovered Knight’s 1968 song Love On A Mountaintop. That joyful song, which had done very little business in the US, became a big UK hit, peaking at #10. And that was it for Knight’s chart career. By 1976 he released his last single. He later worked as a lab technician and chemistry teacher, still performing on stage occasionally.

Bonnie Flower might have been a star. She and her sister Wendy, who were the dreamy folk-rock duo Wendy & Bonnie, had musician parents, and jazz percussionist Cal Tjader was their godfather. With Gabor Szabo and producer Gary McFarland, Tjader owned a record label, Skye, for which the teenage Flower sisters recorded an album of self-composed tracks, titled Genesis. McFarland arranged it, and session musicians included a young Larry Carlton on guitar, drummer Jim Keltner and keyboardist Mike Melvoin. It’s a very good album, but shortly after its release Skye went bankrupt. Two years later McFarland was about to record the sisters again, but was murdered. The sisters never recorded together again.

I can’t say they ever were my jam, but one has to acknowledge the influence the US post-punk band Faith No More, whose former frontman Chuck Mosley has died, has had on bands that went on to influence others. These include acts like Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, System Of A Down, The Deftones, and, er, Slipknot and Korn.

Actor Jim Nabors made a name for himself in music as the singing mechanic Gomer Pyle in first the Andy Griffith Show and then his own spin-off series. Though he didn’t bother the US charts — his musical stylings are, let’s say, rather an acquired taste —he scored a Top 20 hit in Australia, of all places, with his version of The Impossible Dream. For more than 40 years he regularly sang the opening tune for the Indianapolis 500 season. For a seasonal reference I might mention that Nabors featured on Any Major Christmas in Black & White Vol. 1, which is a good time to mention that I’ll be having two new Christmas mixes in the coming weeks.

 

Katie Lee, 98, folk singer, on Nov. 1
Katie Lee – Gunslinger (1957)

Billy Mize, 88, country, singer, steel guitarist and broadcaster, on Nov. 1
Billy Mize – Who Will Buy The Wine (1956)

Jack Conrad, 69, bass guitarist, on Nov. 3
The Doors – In The Eye Of The Sun (1972, on bass guitar)
Gram Parsons – She (1973, on bass guitar)

Hank Hunter, 88, pop songwriter, on Nov. 4
Steve Lawrence – Footsteps (1960)

Robert Knight, 72, soul singer, on Nov. 5
Robert Knight – Everlasting Love (1967)
Robert Knight – Love On A Mountain Top (1968)
Robert Knight – Better Get Ready For Love (1974)

Paul Buckmaster, 71, English arranger, conductor and composer, on Nov. 7
Bee Gees – Odessa (City On The Black Sea) (1969, on cello)
Elton John – Tiny Dancer (1971, as arranger)
Nick Heyward – Whistle Down The Wind (1983, as arranger)
Ben Folds – Landed (Strings Version) (2005, as arranger)

Robert De Cormier, 95, folk music arranger and conductor, on Nov. 7
Harry Belafonte – Here Rattler Hear (1960, as arranger)

Pentti Glan, 71, Finnish-Canadian drummer, on Nov. 7
Lou Reed – Lady Day (1974)
Bette Midler – When A Man Loves A Woman (1979)

Chuck Mosley, 57, singer with post-punk band Faith No More (1984-88), on Nov. 9
Faith No More – We Care A Lot (1985)

Fred Cole, 69, rock singer and guitarist, on Nov. 9
The Lollipop Shoppe – You Must Be A Witch (1968, on lead vocals)
Dead Moon – Sabotage (2002, on lead vocals)

Hans Vermeulen, 70, singer with Dutch band Sandy Coast, and on Stars on 45, on Nov. 9
Sandy Coast – I See Your Face Again (1968)

Chad Hanks, 46, bassist of nu-metal band American Head Charge, on Nov. 12

Luis Bacalov, 84, Argentine-born Italian composer, on Nov. 15
Roberto Fia – Django (1968, as composer and conductor)
Itzhak Perlman & John Williams – Il Postino Theme (1996, as composer)

Bonnie Flower, 63, member of folk-rock duo Wendy & Bonnie, on Nov. 15
Wendy & Bonnie – The Paisley Window Pane (1969)

Lil Peep, 21, hip hop artist, on Nov. 15

Michael ‘Dik Mik’ Davies, c.73, keyboardist with English hard rock group Hawkwind, on Nov. 16
Hawkwind – Hurry On Sundown (1970)

Al Neil, 93, Canadian jazz musician, on Nov. 16

Malcolm Young, 64, rhythm guitarist and songwriter of AC/DC, on Nov. 18
AC/DC – Riff Raff (1978)
AC/DC – For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) (1981)
AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep (1991, live)

Ben Riley, 84, jazz drummer, on Nov. 18
Thelonious Monk – Straight No Chaser (1964, on drums)

Warren ‘Pete’ Moore, 78, singer, songwriter with The Miracles, producer, arranger, on Nov. 19
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – The Tracks Of My Tears (1965, also as co-writer)
The Temptations – Since I Lost My Baby (1965, as co-writer)
Otis Redding – It’s Growing (1966, as co-writer)

Della Reese, 86, jazz and gospel singer and actress, on November 19
Della Reese – Don’t You Know? (1959)
Della Reese – After Loving You (1965)
Della Reese – Compared To What (1970)

Mel Tillis, 85, country singer-songwriter, on Nov. 19
Webb Pierce – I’m Tired (1957, as writer)
Mel Tillis – Life Turned Her That Way (1969)
Mel Tillis – Coca Cola Cowboy (1979)

Ronnie Butler, 80, Bahamian calypso singer, on Nov. 19
Ronnie Butler – Married Man (2010)

David Cassidy, 67, pop singer and actor, on Nov. 21
The Partridge Family – Echo Valley 2-6809 (1971, as lead singer)
David Cassidy – I Am A Clown (1972)
David Cassidy – The Last Kiss (1985, featuring George Michael on backing vocals)

Wayne Cochran, 78, soul singer, songwriter, on Nov. 21
Wayne Cochran – Last Kiss (1961)
Wayne Cochran – Up In My Mind (1967)

George Avakian, 98, producer and label executive, on Nov. 22
Louis Armstrong & His All Stars – Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1955, as producer)
Johnny Mathis – Street Of Dreams (1956)

Jon Hendricks, 96, singer- songwriter with jazz group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, on Nov. 22
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross – Moanin’ (1959, also as writer)
Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan – Shiny Stockings (1963, produced by George Avakian)

John Coates Jr., 79, jazz pianist, on Nov. 22

Tommy Keene, 59, pop singer and songwriter, on Nov. 22
Tommy Keene – Back To Zero Now (1982)

Shawn Jones, 32, gospel singer, on Nov. 22

Mitch Margo, 70, singer with pop band The Tokens and producer, on Nov. 24
The Tokens – I Hear Trumpets Blow (1966, also as writer)

Patrick Bourgeois, 54, singer of Canadian rock band Les B.B., on Nov. 26

Robert ‘Pops’ Popwell, 70, jazz-funk bass guitarist, on Nov. 27
Doris Duke – Ghost Of Myself (1969)
George Benson – Love Ballad (1979)
The Crusaders with Randy Crawford – Street Life (1981)

Magín Díaz, 94, Colombian folk singer and songwriter, on Nov. 28

Robert ‘Bilbo’ Walker, 80, blues musician, on Nov. 29
Robert ‘Bilbo’ Walker – Everything Gonna Be Alright (1997)

Zé Pedro, 61, Portuguese guitarist, on Nov. 30

Jim Nabors, 87, actor and singer, on Nov. 30
Jim Nabors – Both Sides Now (1973)

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Al Green Sings Covers

November 30th, 2017 6 comments

Sometimes the less you know about your favourite singers, the better. Who knew that Al Green, the soul legend, is not an all-round good egg, nor, indeed, an all-round bad egg. The good Reverend is one hell of a conflicted cat. And that conflicted soul makes for intriguing reading in Jimmy’s McDonough new, authoritative biography of Al Green, Soul Survivor (Da Capo Press, 2017). For fans of popular music, and especially of soul, the book is a treasure.

Obviously the focus is on Green, but to understand Green – in as far as the man can be even remotely understood – one must also know the context in which he has existed and recorded. So McDonough introduces a cast of co-stars and supporting actors along the way. There is, naturally, Albert Leorn Greene’s family, including his pimp brothers.

The cover of Jimmy McDonough’s absorbing Al Green bio Soul Survivor, published in August 2017 by Da Capo Press.

A substantial portion of Soul Survivor is devoted to Willie Mitchell and his Hi Records. As Green’s producer and his musical home in the singer’s pomp, Mitchell and Hi are key to the Green story. So are backing musicians like the Hodges brothers—Charles on organ, Leroy on bass, and, perhaps most importantly, Mabon “Teenie” on guitar—as well drummers Howard Grimes and Al Jackson Jr and the Memphis Horns (mainly Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love), and later people like Reuben Fairfax.

It’s fascinating to learn how Mitchell turned Green, who fancied himself as a soul growler, into that quiet singer into whose vocals you can disappear, as McDonough eloquently puts it. Mitchell and Al Jackson Jr wrote the melody for Let’s Stay Together; Al Green’s task was to write the lyrics. So he locked himself up in a studio room and wrote them in 15 minutes – starting one of the great love songs as a reflection on black politics… Green then wanted to sing the song in shouty southern soul style. Mitchell insisted he sing it all mellow. Green was very unhappy with that idea and sped off in his car, wheels all a-screeching. When he returned, he deliberately sang the song as relaxed and with as little emotion he could muster, just to spite Mitchell – who in turn said that this was exactly the sound he wanted. No more takes were needed; a new kind of soul singer was born that day. The Hi Records part of the Al Green story is a most welcome bonus in this book.

Along the way we also encounter people like Laura Lee, a great soul singer in her own right and Green’s on-off girlfriend. It’s Lee about whom Green wrote Tired Of Being Alone. That song also introduced the backing vocals of the Rhodes sisters, who surprisingly were country singers, with sax player Charles Chalmers (Sandra Rhodes also played rhythm guitar on How Do You Mend A Broken Heart). If you are surprised to learn that Al Green’s soulful backing singers on those great Hi records were white, you surely are not alone.

Who’s a pretty pimp? Al Green makes his Soul Train debut in 1971, singing Tired Of Being Alone while wearing gold boxer boots, black vinyl hot pants, magenta vinyl vest, a gold chain, a pink pimp hat at a jaunty angle, and a man-bag on his shoulders. Give him a cane and he could fit into a scene from The Deuce.

 

McDonough is insightful in examining Al Green’s records. Obviously a devoted fan, he speaks with authority even as he expresses strong opinions. One wants to play the songs he is writing about just to hear what he hears. But at other times his opinions can be intrusive, such as the reference to the “dreaded Chicago”. And much as I agree with McDonough on the Talking Heads’ awful cover of Take Me To The River – “Fuck the Talking Heads”, he opines – in a book like this it’s better to not to try and force the reader’s mind. And only the good Lord knows how McDonough arrives at his churlishly-expressed opinion that “clown-haired” Lyle Lovett lacks talent.

But that is a minor criticism. McDonough marshals his widely collated resources well, even if it becomes difficult at some points to keep track of who is who. The author hopes that his book will be the definitive biography on Al Green, and he wasn’t going to leave many gaps.

Soul Survivor has a few moments of great trivia. We learn that Take Me To The River co-writer Teeny Hodges reported that his biggest payday had come not from the Green or Talking Heads recordings of the song but from royalties earned via the song’s “performance” by the animatronic fish Big Mouth Billy Bass in The Sopranos. And among the more startling revelation is that Green apparently is a freemason, in an African-American wing of the secret society that has also included such luminaries as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Richard Pryor.

Take Me To The River payday: the animatronic fish Big Mouth Billy Bass in The Sopranos.

 

There is an alarming story about how a goon gangster broke Al’s arm when the singer didn’t want to perform. But don’t feel too bad for Green, who allegedly felt quite entitled to assault women. Which takes us to the 1974 suicide of Mary Woodson and her attack on him with boiling grits (Green tends to insist it was Cream of Wheat) that preceded it. McDonough cites a lot of research on the incident; all it shows is that the official verdict of suicide should be seen as inconclusive. While a lot points to Woodson’s death having been self-inflicted, there are some questions that likely will never be answered.

Woodson’s death might or might not have played a role in Green’s conversion – which took place, of all places, after a gig at Disneyland, the result of a bargain he said he had made with God in 1969. A substantial section of the book covers Green’s career as a pastor (he’s now a bishop, whatever that means in non-hierarchical church). As with everything, Green is a walking contradiction in that role. One moment given to evangelical zeal and Christian charity, the next driven by that nasty underside that always seems to reside beneath his surface. Green’s style of ministry seems to be always a bit or a lot unhinged.

The man who emerges in the pages of Soul Survivor is alone and lonely, one who attracts people easily with charm and kindness, and then always finds ways to repel them with appalling behaviour. His outsized ego perhaps makes Al Green the only suitable companion for Albert Leorn Greene. It ain’t easy being Green.

And so to the mix. Whoopie Goldberg, in a rare moment of lucidity, said: “No one can cover Al Green.” It’s true: how many good covers of Al Green originals do you know? But Green is a superb interpreter of other people’s songs, most famously perhaps of The Bee Gee’s How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (an mind-blowing vocal performance, but don’t disregard Mitchell’s fine arrangement that sets the scene for those vocals). So here is a mix of Al Green singing other people’s songs. In the parentheses I cite the respective song’s most famous performer.

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

1. I’ve Never Found A Girl (1972 – Eddie Floyd)
2. I Can’t Get Next To You (1971 – The Temptations)
3. Drivin’ Wheel (1971 – Roosevelt Sykes/Junior Parker)
4. The Letter (1969 – The Box Tops)
5. Summertime (1969 – from ‘Porgy And Bess’)
6. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (1972 – The Bee Gees)
7. For The Good Times (1972 – Kris Kristofferson)
8. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (1973 – Hank Williams)
9. Funny How Time Slips Away (1973 – Jimmy Elledge/Joe Hinton)
10. I Stand Accused (1969 – Jerry Butler)
11. Unchained Melody (1973 – Righteous Brothers)
12. I Want To Hold Your Hand (1969 – The Beatles)
13. Oh, Pretty Woman (1972 – Roy Orbison)
14. Light My Fire (1971 – The Doors)
15. Together Again (1976 – Buck Owens)
16. Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home (1984 – Joe South)
17. People Get Ready (feat. Margie Joseph, 1981 – The Impressions)
18. A Change Is Gonna Come (live, 1994 – Sam Cooke)

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Covered With Soul
1970s Soul

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Beatles Recovered: Magical Mystery Tour

November 23rd, 2017 7 comments

The Magical Mystery Tour LP, released 50 years ago on November 27 in the US (and in the UK on December 8 as a double EP) is something of a stepchild in the Beatles canon. The British EP comprised the original tracks from the British TV movie of the same name. On the album, those tracks make up side 1 of the LP. Side 2 of the LP are songs that appeared on single that year.

The British EP was lavishly packaged. The gatefold cover included a 28-page, full colour booklet of photos from the critically panned TV film and song lyrics. When I bought a Japanese pressing of the LP 14 years later, it came in a gatefold sleeve with the booklet, now in LP-size.

The Magical Mystery Tour LP was a success in the US, even earning Grammy nominations. And there are some stone-cold classics on that LP. Obviously the singles on Side 2 — All You Need Is Love, Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane and Hello Goodbye — plus the title track, Fool On The Hill and I Am The Walrus on Side 1. Then there is the glorious Baby You’re A Rich Man, which was the b-side of All You Need Is Love but could just as well have been a hit in its own right.

Which leaves us with the quite forgettable instrumental Flying (the only Beatles song credited to all four members); Harrison’s Blue Jay Way, another one of his Indian-flavoured tracks which are unloved by most Beatles fans; and Your Mother Should Know, one of those McCartney flapper-tinged nostalgia trips.

So, a strike rate of 9/12 is pretty good going. Even if one allows that half the LP is a singles collection, it is nevertheless remarkable that they were all recorded during or just after the Sgt Pepper’s sessions that culminated in the release of that watershed in rock history, only five months before Magical Mystery Tour came out. It’s The Beatles in 1967 that needed to put out a double album, not those of 1968. Sgt Pepper’s Recovered is still up.

The cover of the German release of the Magical Mystery Tour LP, under the imprint of TV magazine HörZu.

So, here are a bunch of covers of the tracks on The Magical Mystery Tour. Oddly, it was easier finding covers for Blue Jay Way that it was for Hello Goodbye. And I fear that there will be some resistance to the cover of that song included here. This can be explained by the shortage of alternatives, but it should be put on the record that Glee produced some very good cover versions. Hello Goodbye is not the best example of that, but it is not by any means objectionable. It’s, in fact, pretty joyful. Still, when Richie Havens follows on with his version of Strawberry Fields Forever we are on firmer ground.

Elvis Costello might have featured here with his version of All You Need Is Love from Live Aid, when the crowds filled in the horn section part. It’s on the Live Aid mix which is still available. Instead, Costello is representing Penny Lane here, performed live in 2010 at the Gershwin Prize for Paul McCartney.

All You Need Is Love is done here beautifully by the wonderful Brandi Carlile. And Bud Shank turns the unremarkable Flying into an engaging jazz number.

1. Cheap Trick – Magical Mystery Tour (1991)
2. Stone The Crows – Fool On The Hill (1970)
3. Bud Shank – Flying (1968)
4. Siouxsie and The Banshees – Blue Jay Way (2003)
5. Damita Jo – Your Mother Should Know (1969)
6. Oingo Boingo – I Am The Walrus (1994)
7. Glee Cast – Hello, Goodbye (2010)
8. Richie Havens – Strawberry Fields Forever (1969)
9. Elvis Costello – Penny Lane (2010)
10. Martin Newell – Baby You’re A Rich Man (1996)
11. Brandi Carlile – All You Need Is Love (2012)

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

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

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

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Any Major Freaks & Geeks

November 16th, 2017 10 comments

Every two or three years I make a pilgrimage to my set of 18 episodes of the short-lived TV series Freaks And Geeks. It is not only the greatest series ever to be cancelled after only one season, but one of the greatest TV series of all time. Almost every scene is a marvel.

To me, it completes the great American Schools Trilogy: The Wonder Years, Dazed And Confused; Freaks And Geeks. The first outlived its magnificence by about two or three seasons; the Linklater film absolutely needed no sequel; but Freaks And Geeks was put to death prematurely.

All three narratives about schooling succeeded because, though set in US schools with the culture that comes with it, the characters are almost universally recognisable. We’ve all met them, or some of them. Maybe we were them.

I went to school in Germany, where there no high school sports teams, and the sub-cultures were different. We had punks, poppers (New Romantic conservatives), rockers, Neo-Nazi skinheads… and mostly unaffiliated people. Not being much of a joiner I was among the unaffiliated. In Freaks And Geeks terms, I’d have been a “Freak” — though, like the Geeks, I loved Bill Murray and the movie Stripes (I even agree with Neal that the second half of that movie is best forgotten).

But whatever differences in the sub-cultures, I have known Wayne Arnold (who might as well have been modeled on my school nemesis, Marvin) and Paul Phyffer in The Wonder Years, Mitch Kramer and his two pals, Mike Newhouse and Tony Olson, Randall “Pink” Floyd, Fred O’Bannion and Don Dawson (another nemesis) in Dazed And Confused, and Sam Weir, Neal Schweiber, Bill Haverchuck (they were all my friends at some point), Alan White (bullies are all the same), Nick Andopolis and Ken Miller in Freaks And Geeks.

I’m on less safe ground identifying with girls, because if you’re a boy, your school domain is largely male. Still, I know Kim Kelly — the great Busy Philips in Freaks And Geeks —very well.

To me, Freaks And Geeks resonates in particular because in 1980/81, when the show is set, I was 14, the same age as the junior trio of Sam, Bill and Neal. While the cultural markers are different, these characters are my peers.

And so, if we can recognise the characters, or identify with them, then their experiences need not mirror ours exactly for us to be part of the story.

As in The Wonder Years and Dazed And Confused, the music is an important character in Freaks And Geeks (indeed, I did a mix of songs from The Wonder Years a few years ago; the mix has been re-upped). Here I cannot draw from the well of nostalgia. That American 1980/81 is not my 1980/81. And still, of the songs on this mix, which all featured on Freaks And Geeks, I owned six at the time (since you ask: Bowie, Seger, Billy Joel, Deep Purple, Supertramp, Jethro Tull).

As a bonus track I add “Lady L.”, the hackneyed love song Nick (Jason Segel) writes for Lindsay (Linda Cardellini), which has attained something of a cult status. The music-related scene that sticks with me, however, is the one where the Weir parents listen to The Who’s Squeeze Box to determine whether the British band’s concert is suitable for their teenage daughter.

The CD-R length rule required me to omit some worthy contenders; indeed, I expect to be hated for choosing Supertramp ahead of XTC (but I really don’t like No Language In Our Lungs) or Rush (whom I don’t really like, full stop). Maybe there’ll be a follow-up…

As ever, CD-R length, homeworked covers, PW in comments.

1. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation (1981)
2. Joe Jackson – I’m The Man (1979)
3. Warren Zevon – Poor, Poor Pitiful Me (1976)
4. Bob Seger – You’ll Accompany Me (1980)
5. Little River Band – Reminiscing (1978)
6. Billy Joel – Rosalinda’s Eyes (1978)
7. Kansas – Dust In The Wind (1978)
8. Jethro Tull – Aqualung (1971)
9. George Baker Selection – Little Green Bag (1969)
10. The Who – Squeeze Box (1975)
11. Deep Purple – Hush (1968)
12. Van Halen – Little Dreamer (1978)
13. Journey – Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ (1979)
14. Styx – Renegade (1978)
15. David Bowie – Fashion (1980)
16. Supertramp – Take The Long Way (1979)
17. Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia (1979)
18. Pure Prairie League – Amie (1972)
19. Grateful Dead – Ripple (1970)
20. Jason Segal – Lady L. (2000)

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Any Major Year

November 9th, 2017 11 comments

I was startled a little while ago while listening to Billy Joel’s Songs In The Attic album that its opening track about a post-apocalyptic USA is set in 2017. Things might be bad in real 2017, and the apocalypse might be a greater possibility now than it was just a couple of years ago, but the bridges of New York City are still standing.

Billy Joel first released the song in 1976 — featured here is the vastly superior  live version released five years later — when 2017 was 41 years away. Recently I read an article that we might have a post-apocalypse by 2050, i.e. only around 30 years from now. The future isn’t as far off a place as we may think.

Some other songs here anticipate the future. Boz Scaggs, singing in 1977, is having a bad trip. “It’s like 1993 and it’s weird as hell to me…This spoof reality is just like outer space to me.” Boz, lad, 1993 is cool. You should see 2017 and the Evil Keystone Kops running the show now!

Maybe Prince knew something. He didn’t expect the world to last much beyond the new millennium, hence is invitation to party now like it is 1999.

The Temptations in 1971 are looking at 1990 without mentioning 1990. It starts off like they’re in 1970, 1990 and 2017 at the same time. “Well, we got trouble in the White House, poverty in the ghetto…Thousand of jobless people walking the streets, with no food or place to sleep. What will become of them, America?” And so on in that righteous vein — until they go all Fox News on us with a sickly barrage of patriotic stuff about “America! I ain’t ashamed to say that I love ya. There ain’t another place on Earth I’d rather be.” Not even a place where there are no crooks in government and there are no poor and no ghettos?

A whole lot of songs in this mix look back into the past, including a couple of songs about World War I, most hauntingly the Motörhead track — and John Cale’s song about what I suppose is sexual frustration loosely set during the Versailles treaty negotiations.

Al Stewart’s The Last Day Of June 1934, from an album of historical vignettes, takes as its centrepiece the Night of the Long Knives, during which Hitler wiped out internal Nazi opposition (weep not for the victims here). Stewart frames that event around French lovers unconcerned about such things and British intellectuals discussing war.

Randy Newman in 1974 sang about the risible political response to the Louisiana flood in 1927; he would need to change only a few words to turn it into Louisiana 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, or 2017 with Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

Other songs take a very personal glance at the past. Randy Travis would like to fix a mistake he made in 1982 (four years earlier from the time of singing); Josh Rouse imagines the vibe in 1972, the year he was born.

And then there are a couple of songs that require little time travel. Swedish singer Hello Saferide welcomes the year 2006 with great scepticism — “January 1st and it’s already clear: It’s gonna be another shitty year” — and a hope that she’ll land that partner she seeks: “And on the top of the list there’s you. I’m going to be with you. I haven’t told you yet but I’m going to be with you.” I hope she got you.

Finally, The Barracudas in 1980 were nostalgically yearning for 1965. In today’s money that’s nostalgia for the year 2002. Suddenly I’m feeling so very fucking old…

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

1. Billy Joel – Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway) (1981)
2. Prince – 1999 (1983)
3. The Four Seasons – December ’63 (Oh What A Night) (1976)
4. Boz Scaggs – 1993 (1977)
5. New Order – 1963 (1987)
6. The Barracudas – (I Wish It Could Be) 1965 Again (1980)
7. The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979 (1995)
8. Hello Saferide – 2006 (2006)
9. Josh Rouse – 1972 (2003)
10. Al Stewart – The Last Day of June 1934 (1973)
11. Ralph McTell – England 1914 (1969)
12. Motörhead – 1916 (1991)
13. John Cale – Paris 1919 (1973)
14. Harry Nilsson – 1941 (1967)
15. Randy Newman – Louisiana 1927 (1974)
16. Loudon Wainwright – 1994 (1995)
17. Randy Travis – 1982 (1986)
18. The Statler Brothers – The Class of 57 (1975)
19. Gil Scott-Heron – The Summer of ’42 (1975)
20. The Temptations – 1990 (1973)
21. Paul McCartney & Wings – Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five (1973)

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In Memoriam – October 2017

November 2nd, 2017 6 comments

Regular readers may know about my side project Bravo Posters wherein I run daily posters or cover pages of Germany’s Bravo magazine from the era up to the mid-1980s . On October 22 the featured item was the cover of Bravo of 20 October 1977, with a run-down of that edition’s stories in headline style. One of these was ‘John Paul Young: the singer from whom the Bay City Rollers “stole” a hit.’ That hit was “Yesterday’s Hero”, which was co-written by George Young. Who died the very same day Bravo Posters ran that frontpage.

George Young, the older brother of AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm and no relation to the singer who gave two popes his name, was a prolific writer and producer, usually in partnership with Harry Vanda. On Australia’s music scene he was a giant. He and Vanda produced AC/DC’s early albums, and wrote John Paul Young’s breakthrough hits Standing In The Rain and Love Is In The Air (and, of course, Yesterday’s Hero, “stolen” by the Bay City Rollers). In the 1980s they wrote another international hit with Flash In The Pan’s Waiting For A Train. But Young and Vanda’s greatest legacy is one of the finest 1960s pop songs featuring minor keys. As members of The Easybeats, they wrote and played on Friday On My Mind.

With Fats Domino we have lost one of the nice guys on rock ‘n’ roll — a family man whose worst vice was a bit of gambling, a guy who never trash-talked his colleagues and was generous with his genius. Although his star faded somewhat in the 1960s, his legacy as a rock & roll pioneer was already secure, much as he insisted that he was a R&B musician. Domino influenced those who would become influential themselves. John Lennon named Domino’s Ain’t That A Shame as the first song he could ever play in full. Later The Beatles wrote Lady Madonna as a Domino tribute; Fats then covered it, bringing together a circle of genius. And Fats Domino (whose surname actually was Domino; he received his nickname after Fats Waller) might be the only #1 musician who inspired the stagename of another #1 musician: Chubby Checker.

I fear I shocked some of my US friends when I confessed to not knowing very much about the music of Tom Petty. He was one of those curious cases of musicians who are huge in the US but also-rans in the rest of the world. In the UK, Petty had one Top 30 entry — I Won’t Back Down reached #28 in 1989. In most of the world he was probably more famous as Muddy/Charlie T. Wilbury.  I became aware of Petty in 1977 when I saw him on a poster in Bravo magazine. I liked his face but didn’t know his music. In fact, I didn’t hear his voice, at least knowingly, until some time in the 1980s. And, I must confess, I never became a great fan, though I did like quite a few of his songs.

One of my favourite baritone voices has gone silent with the death of soul singer Grady Tate. Alas, he never became a huge star, despite a couple of very good albums and a clutch of great singles, plus those magnificently seductive vocals on Grover Washington Jr’s superb Be Mine (Tonight). Tate had greater recognition as a jazz drummer for the likes of Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, Lalo Schifrin, Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, Gabor Szabo, Hubert Laws, Roy Ayers, Jimmy McGriff, Freddie Hubbard, Houston Person, Lionel Hampton, George Shearing, Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Hackett and Mary Lou Williams. He also backed vocalists such as Louis Armstrong (on What A Wonderful World), Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Marlena Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Paul Simon, Bette Midler, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Phoebe Snow, Lou Rawls, Peggy Lee and Kate & Anna McGarrigle.  He drummed for six years in the houseband of Johnny Carson’s Tonight show, and he hit the skins at Simon & Garfunkel’s famous Concert in Central Park.Sometimes research for this series can be very frustrating. In some obituaries for Dixie Hummingbirds guitarist Howard Carroll, who has died at 92, he is referred to as an original member of the band — which was formed in 1928, when he was three, an age still too young even as founder James B. Davis was only 12. Carroll seems to have joined the gospel group only in 1952. He stayed with it for the rest of his life, and was the longest-serving active member at the time of his death.

Producer Jerry Ross, who has died at 84, was the first man to give the young Kenny Gamble — the future Philly soul kingpin — his break. Together they wrote I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, which was first recorded by Dee Dee Warwick, then by Madeline Bell before it became a huge hit for Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptation. Ross was also a successful producer — among the biggest hits he produced were Bobby Hebb’s Sunny; Jay And The Techniques’ Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie; and Shocking Blue’s Venus — as well as a record label founder and A&R man.

And talking of Philly soul, a man who was in the thick of that story has passed on. Bunny Sigler made a mark as a singer. He recorded a few records for Cameo-Parkway in the ’60s before joining his friend Leon Huff at Philadelphia International Records as a songwriter (for acts such as The O’Jays) and producer for the likes of The Whispers, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls, Jimmy Ruffin, Archie Bell & The Drells, The O’Jays, Loleatta Holloway, Patti LaBelle, Stephanie Mills and Curtis Mayfield. One of the biggest hits he produced was Instant Funk’s I Got My Mind Made Up, which featured in the In Memoriam – April 2017. He also had a few hits in his own right.It’s not a good year for people associated with the P-Funk collective; every few months somebody from Parliament/Funkadelic dies. This month it was backing singer Debbie Wright, who was giving her voice to the P-Funk from 1975 onwards. In between, he was one of the P-Funk all-female off-shoot Parlet, but left the trio after one album. In January the Reaper took Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, in February it was Leon Ware who wrote songs for Parliament, in March singer Robert ‘P-Nut’ Johnson, in April drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith, who once toured with Funkadelic.

With the death of Skip Haynes, all three members of early ’70s rock trio Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah are now dead. Keyboardist John Jeremiah died in 2011, drummer John Aliotta in 2015. And now guitarist Haynes. The band’s biggest hit was Lake Shore Drive, which was about a Chicago highway. This being 1971, it was widely assumed that there was a hidden meaning in the song communicated through the initials of the song’s title — which, to be fair, the trio also enunciate in the lyrics and included in the title in parentheses.

For Canadian rock fans of a certain age, The Tragically Hip are a very important band. I hadn’t heard of them until mid-2016 when I read about the brain cancer of lead singer Gord Downie, who has now died of his illness. After Downie’s death, even Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an emotional tribute. There is a reason I hadn’t heard of the band, nor, I suspect, most of those who are reading this. Unlike virtually every Canadian act that breaks big, The Hip, as their fans call them, never moved to the US. The rest of the world barely registers that Neil Young or Joni Mitchell or Bryan Adams or Justin Bieber are Canadians; in the general consciousness they become Americanised. The Tragically Hip, however, remained proudly Canadian, earning them cult status in their country.

Nick Newall, 77, saxophonist, flautist, keyboardist, on Oct. 1
Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band – Florence Of Arabia (1966, as member)
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Looking Back (1969, on tenor saxophone)

Kenny Beard, country songwriter and producer, on Oct. 1
Trace Adkins – The Rest Of Mine (1997, as writer)

Tom Petty, 66, rock musician, on Oct. 2
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – Listen To Her Heart (1978)
Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (1982, as vocalist, producer, writer)
The Traveling Wilburys – Last Night (1988, co-lead vocals)
Tom Petty – Free Fallin (1989)

Skip Haynes, 71, guitarist and songwriter, on Oct. 2
Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah – Lake Shore Drive (1973)

Jerry Ross, 84, producer, songwriter, label owner on Oct. 4
The Sapphires – Who Do You Love (1964, as writer)
Bobby Hebb – Sunny (1966, as producer)
Supremes & Temptations – I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (1968, as co-writer)
Jay & The Techniques – Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie (1968, as producer)

Alvin DeGuzman, guitarist of hardcore band The Icarus Line, on Oct. 5

Bunny Sigler, 76, soul singer, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 6
Bunny Sigler – Let The Good Times Roll (1968)
The O’Jays – Sunshine (1973, as writer and producer)
Bunny Sigler – That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You (1976)
Bunny Sigler – Let Me Party With You (Party, Party, Party) (1978)

Lou Gare, 78, English free jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 6

Jimmy Beaumont, 76, lead singer of doo wop group The Skyliners, on Oct. 7
The Skyliners – Since I Don’t Have You (1959)
Jimmy Beaumont – Tell Me (1965)

Grady Tate, 85, jazz drummer and singer, on Oct. 8
Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World (1968, on drums)
Grady Tate – All Around The World (1968)
Grady Tate – Sack Full Of Dreams (1974)
Grover Washington Jr. – Be Mine (Tonight) (1981, on lead vocals)

Andy McGhee, 89, jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 12

Iain Shedden, 60, Scottish drummer (The Saints) and journalist, on Oct. 16
The Saints – Music Goes Round My Head (1988)

Gord Downie, 53, bassist of Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, on Oct. 17
The Tragically Hip – Blow At High Dough (1989)
The Tragically Hip – In View (2005)

Debbie Wright, 67, singer with Parliament/Funkadelic and Parlet, on Oct. 17
George Clinton & Parliament – Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker) (1975)
Parlet – Cookie Jar (1978)

Howard Carroll, 92, guitarist of The Dixie Hummingbirds, on Oct. 17
The Dixie Hummingbirds – The Final Edition (1959)
The Dixie Hummingbirds – Loves Me Like A Rock (1973)

Phil Miller, 68, English rock/jazz guitarist, on Oct. 18

Eamonn Campbell, 70, guitarist and singer with Irish folk-group The Dubliners, on Oct. 18
The Dubliners & The Pogues – The Irish Rover (1987)

Boris Lindqvist, 76, Swedish rock & roll pioneer, announced Oct. 19

Martin Eric Ain, 50, bassist of Swiss heavy metal band Celtic Frost, on Oct. 21

George Young, 70, Australian musician, songwriter and producer, on Oct. 22
The Easybeats – Good Times (1968, as co-writers and members)
John Paul Young – Yesterday’s Hero (1976, as co-writer & co-producer)
AC/DC – Whole Lotta Rosie (1977, as co-producer)
Flash and the Pan – Waiting For A Train (1983, as co-writer & co-producer)

Scott ‘Daisy Berkowitz’ Putesky, 49, co-founder, guitarist of Marilyn Manson (1989-96), announced Oct. 22
Marilyn Manson – Lunchbox (1994)

Al Hurricane, 81, singer and songwriter, on Oct. 22

Larry Ray, 63, guitarist of power-pop band Outrageous Cherry, on Oct. 24
Outrageous Cherry – Stay Right Here For A Little While (2002)

Fats Domino, 89, legendary R&B singer-songwriter, on Oct. 24
Fats Domino – The Fat Man (1949)
Fats Domino – Ain’t That A Shame (1955)
Fats Domino – I’m Walking To New Orleans (1960)
Fats Domino – Lady Madonna (1968)

Robert Guillaume, 89, actor and occasional singer, on Oct. 24
Bob ‘Benson’ Guillaume – The Streets Are Filled With Dancing (1978)

Juliette, 91, Canadian jazz singer and TV presenter, on Oct. 26

Shea Norman, 45, gospel singer, on Oct. 26

Dick Noel, 90, crooner and advertising jingles singer, on Oct. 27
Ray Anthony and his Orchestra – Count Every Star (1950, on vocals)

Mike Hudson, 61, singer and guitarist of US punk band The Pagans, on Oct. 27
The Pagans – Dead End America (1979)

Keith Wilder, 65, US-born singer of UK funk group Heatwave, on Oct. 29
Heatwave – Always And Forever (1977)
Heatwave – Turn Around (1980)

Daniel Viglietti, 78, Uruguayan folk singer-songwriter and political activist, on Oct. 30

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Any Major Halloween Vol. 4

October 27th, 2017 5 comments

Here is the fourth and most likely final Halloween mix. This lot aims to be a bit spooky for about half of it, and then a little more relaxed, but without going too much novelty, other than that great disco track and that bizarre closing track.

One of the tracks here is in itself slightly spooky: The Doors’ Ghost Song was recorded in 1978, eight years after singer John Morrison’s death. Morrison’s spoken vocals were unscored recordings of his poetry; in 1978 the rest of the band put music to those recordings. The present track has very much a late ’70s disco-influenced vibe. This is what the Doors might have been.

So, four mixes of Halloween, and I have managed without the Rocky Horror Show, and didn’t need to consider those other Halloween staples, Ghostbusters and Thriller — though I did use The Monster Mash in the Halloween in black white mix from last year.

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

1. John Carpenter – Halloween Main Theme (1978)
2. Florence And The Machine – My Boy Builds Coffins (2009)
3. Kate Bush – Watching You Without Me (1985)
4. Genesis – Home By The Sea (1983)
5. The Chameleons – Swamp Thing (1986)
6. The Fall – Lucifer Over Lancashire (1986)
7. Ween – Cold Blows The Wind (1997)
8. Team Ghost – Dead Film Star (2013)
9. Menomena – Ghostship (2007)
10. Danny Elfman – This Is Halloween (1993)
11. Steeleye Span – Allison Gross (1973)
12. Tom Waits – Big Joe And Phantom 309 (1975)
13. The Doors – Ghost Song (1978/1970)
14. Oingo Boingo – Dead Man’s Party (1985)
15. Blue Magic – Born On Halloween (1975)
16. Hot Blood – Soul Dracula (1976)
17. Five Man Electrical Band – Werewolf (1974)
18. Iron Butterfly – Real Fright (1969)
19. France Gall – Frankenstein (1972)
20. Lambert, Hendricks and Ross – Halloween Spooks (1961)
Bonus track: Jethro Tull – Flying Dutchman (1979)

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Any Major Halloween Vol. 1
Any Major Halloween Vol. 2
Any Major Halloween Vol. 3

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Stars Pick Your Songs Vol. 2: Actors

October 19th, 2017 4 comments

A few weeks ago we had the first volume of songs chosen by musicians on the long-running BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs. This time, the people who are choosing their music for your listening pleasure are from the world of film — almost all actors, with the exception of one director, the great Fred Zinnemann.

The simple concept of Desert Island Discs, which had remained unchanged since it first aired in 1942, is that the invited guest chooses eight songs he or she would take with them to a lonely island. In the course of often revealing interviews, they explain why they chose those songs. One guest, opera singer Joan Sutherland, chose eight records sung by herself.

It seems to me that the thespians have a better taste in music than the musicians — though my shortlist of songs picked by Politicians & Authors is even better.

Special props to Colin Firth for picking a great favourite of mine, and the venerable Deborah Kerr for choosing Gram Parsons. Marlene Dietrich in 1965 picked a couple of Burt Bacharach songs, which might be surprising — if one forgets that the German diva was at the time recording folk songs like Blowin’ In The Wind and Where Have All The Flowers Gone.

As a general rule I have excluded classical music from consideration, but will make a couple of exceptions. One is here, where Hugh Grant has selected a piece of classical music, from Verdi’s opera Nabucco, which I might list myself if ever I get an invite from the BBC.

Terence Stamp, meanwhile, chose my favourite Beatles song; in as far as one can have one such favourite. George Clooney picked a contender for my favourite Sinatra song. His interview is as good as one might expect. One of his selections was William Shatner’s absurd version of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds — as an incentive to escape the desert island.

Gloria Swanson, a guest in 1981, picked a Mel Tormé song, which is always a recommendation. Her interview is one of the most enjoyable I’ve listened to, which is not surprising, since her autobiography is one of the best I’ve read.

A massive collection of Desert Island Discs episodes is available for download in the form of MP3 podcasts from the BBC website, with new ones added regularly. The songs are featured only as clips, for licensing reasons, but the interviews are really worth listening to — when you get tired of Any Major Mix-tapes.

I was delighted to read the lists of desert island discs which some readers offered. Please keep them coming in the comments. Maybe there will be enough to make a mix of them.

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

1. Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime (1980 – Tom Hanks, 2016)
2. Dar Williams – As Cool As I Am (2000 – Kathleen Turner, 2000)
3. Little Feat – Willin’ (1972 – Colin Firth, 2005)
4. Gram Parsons – She (1973 – Deborah Kerr, 1978)
5. Bob Seger – We’ve Got Tonight (1978 – Natalie Wood, 1980)
6. Randy Newman – Love Story (1968 – Patrick Stewart, 2005)
7. The Beatles – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (1965 – Terence Stamp, 1987)
8. Sandie Shaw – Always Something There To Remind Me (1964 – Marlene Dietrich, 1965)
9. Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On (1973 – Tim Robbins, 2010)
10. Roy Ayers – Love Will Bring Us Back Together (1979 – Damien Lewis, 2014)
11. US3 – Cantaloop (1992 – Emma Thompson, 2010)
12. Bill Withers – Lovely Day (1977 – Whoopie Goldberg, 2009)
13. Brook Benton – Rainy Night in Georgia (1969 – John Malkovich, 2001)
14. Frank Sinatra – Nice n’ Easy (1960 – George Clooney, 2003)
15. Ella Fitzgerald – I’ve Got A Crush On You (1950 – James Stewart, 1983)
16. Mel Tormé – Wonderful One (1955 – Gloria Swanson, 1981)
17. Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam (1964 – Ian McKellen, 2003)
18. Cab Calloway – Minnie The Moocher (1931 – Fred Zinnemann, 1991)
19. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – My Journey To The Sky (1948 – Hugh Laurie, 2013)
20. London Symphony Orchestra – Va, pensiero (1970 – Hugh Grant, 1995)

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Any Major Schlager Covers Vol. 1

October 12th, 2017 9 comments

 

The germanised cover version was a staple of the Schlager scene. Often they were cash-ins of songs that were big hits in other countries — not just from the Anglophone world but also from other European countries, especially France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

But not all German covers were cash-ins. Some were sophisticated and sincere interpretations by artists who in France would record under the rather more satisfying title “chanson”. These artists included the likes of Daliah Lavi, Katja Ebstein, Dunja Raiter and Joy Fleming, who are represented here. And others were reinterpreted in ways that gave the artist a break from recording grandmother-approved music. Some of these were filler album tracks. For example, former Les Humphries Singers member Jürgen Drews covered Hotel California, which features here, as he eas having a hit with Eddie Rabbitt’s Rocky Mountain Music (as Barfuss durch den Sommer).

The collection kicks off with Joy Fleming’s cover of Aretha Franklin’s version of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And if there was one German singer qualified to sing soul, it was Fleming, a woman of big voice and big personality. In 1975 Fleming came third-last in the Eurovision Song Contest with a soul-touched song that deserved better, Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein. Fleming sadly died in September, after this mix had been compiled.

Former teen star Manuela gives us a version of Percy Sledge’s When A Man Loves A Woman. The title, which translates as When Night Falls In Harlem, is not promising, but her version turns out to be okay. The singer, who was something of Germany’s version of Connie Francis, resists the temptation to emote.

Also singing soul is Katja Ebstein with her 1972 take on Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay, which has a tasteful arrangement and is well interpreted. Ebstein also represented West-Germany in the Eurovision, coming third in 1970 with the excellent Wunder gibt es immer wieder, and again in 1971 (with the ecology song Diese Welt), and second in 1980 (backed by mimes, with Theater). A social-democrat, the now 72-year-old Ebstein is still an engaged social activist.

Like Ebstein, Israeli singer Daliah Lavi, who died this year, enjoyed mainstream success with music that transcended the clap-along fare of the Schlager scene. Her take on The Beatles’ Something is a proper, understated reinterpretation of the song, most of it spoken. Lavi had a powerful voice; she knew better than to let it loose here.

It’s probably a stretch to call Volker Lechtenbrink a Schlager star. He already had a long career as an actor when he recorded his well-received debut album in 1976, which consisted almost entirely of covers of Kris Kristofferson songs. As a KK afficionado I can confirm that he did the man’s songs no injustice. Hear his version of Sunday Morning, Coming Down to see if you agree.

Also starting out in acting was Croatian-born Dunja Raiter. In her musical career she was always was more chanteuse than Schlager singer. Her soulful version of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne bears that out. There was not much clapping-along to be had with that.

Given the poor production values of many German versions of international hits, one is entitled to expect awful things from Hoffmann & Hoffmann’s German take on The Boxer. The lads sing it well enough — neither will be mistaken for Art Garfunkel, though — and the arrangement stays clear of cliché and shortcuts.

Worse things might have happened to another ’60s classic here. Peter Haupt’s version of Monday Monday is not likely to displace the Mamas & the Papas’ original, with those gorgeous harmonies, in anyone’s affection, but he gives it his personality without disrespecting the song. Haupt never became famous and died in 1999 at 58.

Those who know the Schlager scene might suspect that I tagged on Nina & Mike with their version of In The Year 2525 as a bit of a joke. They were very much of the mind-killing rhythm-defying clap-along variety of Schlager (sample their hit Fahrende Musikanten as an example). But, Nina and Mike had higher aspirations than shitty Schlager music. Folk Music, not Volksmusik. In that they were much like their fellow husband-and-wife act Cindy & Bert, whose cover of Paranoid we encountered in Curious Germany.

That Curious Germany mix also included a bunch of songs sung in German by English-speaking artists. Two more feature here: Alma Cogan gives us her German take on Tennessee Waltz; Cliff Richard appears here with his German version of Power To All My Friends, his 1973 entry for the Eurovision (here he is just grateful for having friends; he doesn’t want to give Germans ideas about power). I once actually posted a whole mix of international stars singing their hits in Deutsch.

Another foreign Eurovision alumni, this one a winner, here is Dutch singer Cory Brokken, singing her very songbirdy version of Do You Know The Way To San José, which Bacharach would approve of. Here the coffee is hot in San José, presaging the liquid crimes that coffee chains like Starbucks (boo!) commit today. Brokken died last year, earning a backgrounder entry in In Memoriam thanks to her unusual career: from being a singer to becoming a lawyer in her 40s and then a judge — before making a showbiz comeback.

Also from far shores was Bill Ramsey, who was born in 1931 in Cincinnati. Stationed with the US Air Force in Germany in the 1950s he began to play on stage, and went on to have a career in Germany. Most of his early stuff was square, sometimes ingratiatingly so. With the advent of beat music, Ramsey found a new voice, which often delivered some clever lyrics in that genre. Here he is with an interesting version of Jimi Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary. A bit over a decade later, rock group Spliff seemed to borrow from Ramsey’s vocals on their hit Deja Vu.

Another artist who got his big break thanks to the US army was Gerhard Wendland — but in his case it was thanks to being a POW of the Americans after World War 2, through Berlin station RIAS. His first record actually already came out in 1943, under the mentorship of Franz Grothe, a full-on Nazi who unaccountably enjoyed a long career in West-Germany. In the 1950s Wendland, already in his 30s/40s, was one of the biggest singing stars in West-Germany. By the 1960s his star started to fade slowly; now in his 50s he was an anachronism. His Sweet Caroline is the worst of the lot here.

In the 1990s old Schlager music enjoyed a rehabilitation, along the lines of semi-ironic nostalgic cult, and few artists benefitted from the revival in reputations more than Marianne Rosenberg. The good girl from next-door started out as a performer of standard Schlager fare before in the mid-‘70s tapping into that new-fangled disco music. Her cover of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass belongs in that context. Rosenberg is one of the classic gay club favourites in Germany.

Rosenberg’s version of Heart Of Glass is not bad, nor is it particularly great. I do, however, like Christina Harrison’s rather faithful cover of ABBA’s S.O.S. The singer had previously released singles as Christina May. After her career, Christina became a practitioner of ayurveda (an Indian wellness approach) and an activist for Native American rights, having lived on a Lakota reservation. In 1990 she married old Beatles friend Klaus Voormann, the designer of the Revolver cover, with whom she still lives near Munich.

The most demented track here is Karel Gott’s take on the Stones’ Paint It Black. The Czechoslovakian singer with the presumptuous surname was better known for his clean-cut crooning; later he’d sing the theme song for an animated kids’ show about a bee. But here Karel, “The Sinatra of the East”, goes apeshit: the arrangement is Slavic gypsy, and the singer can barely contain his voice with arousal as he yelps and hits high notes for no good reason, and as the song climaxes, Gott lets out a devil-possessed scream. It’s bizarre and absolutely wonderful. You’d think a well-mannered crooner would have political views as bland as most of his music, but Gott was a committed supporter of his country’s communist regime — and apparently remained a communist even after the fall of the regime there.

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

1. Joy Fleming – Geld (1975 – Respect)
2. Mary Roos – Die Liebe kommt leis’ (1972 – You Can’t Hurry Love)
3. Corry Brokken – Heiß ist der Kaffee (1968 – Do You Know The Way To San José)
4. Monica – Bang Bang (1966 – Bang Bang)
5. Karel Gott – Rot und schwarz (1969 – Paint It Black)
6. Bill Ramsey – Der Wind ruft Mary (1971 – The Wind Cries Mary)
7. Daliah Lavi – Manchmal (1971 – Something)
8. Katja Ebstein – Der Mann am Meer (1972 – Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay)
9. Manuela – Wenn es Nacht wird in Harlem (1967 – When A Man Loves A Woman)
10. Dunja Rajter – Susann (1969 – Suzanne)
11. Hoffmann & Hoffmann – Der Boxer (1977 – The Boxer)
12. Volker Lechtenbrink – Sonntag Morgen (1976 – Sunday Morning, Coming Down)
13. Hans Hass Jr – American Pie (1972 – American Pie)
14. Jürgen Drews – Hotel California (1977 – Hotel California)
15. Olivia Molina – Aber wie (1972 – Let It Be)
16. Gerhard Wendland – Sweet Caroline (1970 – Sweet Caroline)
17. Christina Harrison – S.O.S. (1975 – S.O.S.)
18. Marianne Rosenberg – Herz aus Glas (1979 – Heart Of Glass)
19. Cliff Richard – Gut daß es Freunde gibt (1973 – Power To All Our Friends)
20. Alma Cogan – Tennessee Waltz (1964 – Tennessee Waltz)
21. Eileen – Die Stiefel sind zum wandern (1966 – These Boots Are Made For Walking)
22. Peter Haupt – Monday Monday, was bringst Du mir (1966 – Monday Monday)
23. Nina & Mike – Was wird sein in sieben Jahren (1972 – In The Year 2525)

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