Stars Pick Your Songs Vol. 3: Celebs

May 17th, 2018 1 comment

This is the third mix of songs chosen by guests on the long-running BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs. This time, celebs of various backgrounds are choosing their music for your listening pleasure.

Most of them are British, though some are world-famous, like zillionaire Bill Gates, boxer George Foreman, author Bill Bryson, tennis legend John McEnroe, footballer David Beckham, survivalist Bear Grylls, Facebook chief Sheryl Sandberg, over-the-hill comedian Ricky Gervais, 1960s model Twiggy etc.

In any case, the concept is just the framework for putting together a fun eclectic mix that opens with the Sex Pistols anthem of no future and closes with a song promising the return of happy days, chosen in the middle of a war.

The 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. A massive collection of Desert Island Discs episodes is available for download in the form of MP3 podcasts from the BBC website.

The mix ends with a song selected by the first-ever castaway. On that debut Desert Island Disc, broadcast on 29 January 1942, British actor and comedian Vic Oliver chose British bandleader Jack Hylton’s 1930 version of Happy Days Are Here Again. It’s a quite remarkable choice, coming right in the middle of World War 2.

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

1. Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen (1977 – John McEnroe,2017)
2. The Jam – Going Underground (1980 – Lee Mack,2013)
3. David Bowie – Starman (1972 – Stella McCartney,2017)
4. The Rolling Stones – Wild Horses (1971 – David Beckham,2017)
5. Al Green – So Tired Of Being Alone (2012 – Michael Johnson,2012)
6. The Temptations – I Wish It Would Rain (1967 – George Foreman,2003)
7. Booker T & the MGs – Soul Limbo (1968 – Gary Lineker,1990)
8. Prince – Raspberry Beret (1985 – Steve McQueen,2014)
9. The La’s – There She Goes (1988 – Jamie Oliver,2002)
10. Counting Crows – A Long December (1996 – Sheryl Sandberg,2017)
11. Bright Eyes – First Day Of My Life (2005 – James Corden,2012)
12. Loudon Wainwright III – Your Mother And I (1986 – Bill Bryson,1998)
13. Cat Stevens – Lilywhite (1970 – Ricky Gervais,2007)
14. Johnny Cash & June Carter – Jackson (1967 – Bear Grylls,2012)
15. The Beatles – She’s A Woman (1964 – Brian Epstein,1964)
16. Roy Orbison – Only The Lonely (1960 – Billy Connolly,2004)
17. Ella Fitzgerald – Do I Love You (1956 – Stephen Fry,2015)
18. Edith Piaf – Les amants d’un jour (1956 – Marcel Marceau,1972)
19. Billy Joel – New York State Of Mind (1976 – Brian Cox,2012)
20. Willie Nelson – Blue Skies (1980 – Bill Gates,2016)
21. Francis Ruffelle – On My Own (1985 – Twiggy,1989)
22. Jack Hylton and his Orchestra – Happy Days Are Here Again (1930 – Vic Oliver,1942)

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The Larry Carlton Collection

May 10th, 2018 4 comments

Larry Carlton is a big name for fans of session guitarist and jazz fusion in particular, but most followers of pop will have heard him play.

Perhaps Carlton’s most famous piece music is the guitar on Mike Post’s Theme of Hill Street Blues (or, perhaps, on the theme of Magnum P.I., another Post composition). Carlton made his name as a session in the areas of rock (Steely Dan), pop (Fifth Dimension), soul (Randy Crawford), jazz fusion (Crusaders), folk (Joni Mitchell), country (Dolly Parton), easy listening (Sammy Davis Jr) and so on. He appeared on hundreds of records, many of which previous Session Players in this series appeared on.

A case in point is the Casino Lights recording of Randy Crawford and Al Jarreau singing Your Precious Love, which features Ricky Lawson on drums, while Bernard Purdie drums on Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne.  B.W. Stephenson’s recording of Shambala features Jim Gordon on drums, as does Joan Baez’s Blue Sky (which Carlton also arranged and plays acoustic guitar on), and on Thelma Houston it’s either Gordon or Jim Keltner doing the stickwork. On the title track of Steely Dan’s Aja, he plays alongside Steve Gadd (as featured on The Steve Gadd Collection Vol.3). And while Carlton does guitar duty on Michael Jackson’s She’s Out Of My Life, Louis Johnson is playing the bass.

Carlton’s guitar solo on Kid Charlemagne was voted #80 in the 100 greatest guitar solos of all time. I really like the solo in Cristopher Cross’ Never Be The Same, as it is with the solo on Your Precious Love… But my favourite Carlton moment is when the band comes in after Wilton Felder’s absurdly long note on the Crusaders’ So Far Away, a musical orgasm led by Carlton’s guitar.

Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen said: “He’s a real virtuoso. In my opinion he can get around his instrument better than any studio guitarist.” Carlton played for Steely Dan on Katy Lied, The Royal Scam, Aja and Gaucho, as well as on Fagen’s solo debut The Nightfly.

On top of that Carlton was a member of the Crusaders and Fourplay, and recorded a bunch of solo albums.

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

1. Mike Post feat. Larry Carlton – Theme from Hill Street Blues (1981)
2. Megan McDonough – Guitar Picker (1972)
3. B.W. Stevenson – Shambala (1973)
4. Christopher Cross – Never Be The Same (1979)
5. Linda Ronstadt – Sail Away (1973)
6. Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Your Precious Love (1982)
7. Marlena Shaw – Feel Like Makin’ Love (1975)
8. Michael Franks – The Lady Wants To Know (1977)
9. Paulinho da Costa – Dreamflow (1979)
10. Crusaders – So Far Away (live) (1974)
11. Steely Dan – Kid Charlemagne (1976)
12. Joni Mitchell – Edith And The Kingpin (1975)
13. Dusty Springfield – Who Gets Your Love (1973)
14. Lobo – My Momma Had Soul (1973)
15. Johnny Lee – Lookin’ For Love (1980)
16. Joan Baez – Blue Sky (1975)
17. Greenfield – New York Is Closed Tonight (1973)
18. Four Tops – Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got) (1972)
19. Thelma Houston & Pressure Cooker – To Know You Is To Love You (1975)
20. Larry Carlton – Blues Bird (1981)

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Previous session musicians’ collection:
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 1
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 3
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Ringo Starr Collection

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In Memoriam – April 2018

May 3rd, 2018 9 comments

The soul writer

A close collaborator with the legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting and production team, at Motown and on their Invictus label, Ron Dunbar counted among his writing credits some of the greatest soul classics of the early 1970s: Clarence Carter’s hit Patches, Freda Payne’s Band Of Gold (which happened to play at a restaurant where I lunched the day after his death), the Chairmen of the Board’s Give Me Just A Little More Time… The sorry twist is that Lamont Dozier later claimed that it was Brian Holland who write the latter two tracks, but Dunbar was credited because Holland couldn’t be, for legal reasons. Also a prolific producer and A&R man, Dunbar attributed his songwriting success — much of it with the Chairmen’s General Johnson — to the great mentorship of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Even if Dozier was talking the truth, Dunbar’s co-writing credits include some other stone-cold classics, including the Flaming Embers’ Westbound #9, and Pay To The Piper and Dangling On A String for the Chairmen of the Board (who also recorded the original of Patches, and whose co-founder Danny Woods died in January). He later collaborated also with George Clinton and his P-Funk collective. In the 1990s he returned to work with the Holland company.

The jazz pioneer

Just weeks after his one-time collaborator and bassist Buell Neidlinger died, jazz pioneer and classically-trained pianist Cecil Taylor passed away at 89. In the 1950s they were at the vanguard of introducing a new sound in improvisational jazz, an avant-garde a form which would become known as free jazz. It’s fair to say that Taylor’s music, certainly after the 1950s, was not aimed at a mainstream, but it had great appeal for the few who dig the atonal extemporisations of free jazz, and of immense interest to musicologists.

Big in Sweden

By all accounts, Lill-Babs (born Barbro Margareta Svensson, her moniker is equivalent to Little Barbie) was one of Sweden’s biggest stats, and someone who helped define that country’s pop culture in the 1960s. At 23 she represented Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest with April April, coming 14th out of 16 contestants, but by then she was already a star, having shot to prominence in 1958 with the song Är du kär i mej ännu Klas-Göran?, which sounds like something I might say at the end of a drunk night out. But her Eurovision appearance helped her launch a career in the much bigger market of West-Germany, where she also acted in some films. In 1963, she was the star turn on a Swedish TV show at which the not yet well-known English beat combo The Beatles appeared. Apparently they asked Lill-Babs for her autograph. The singer remained in the limelight especially on Swedish TV, for most of the rest of her life. When she died, Swedish TV stations changed their programming to pay tribute to Lill-Babs.

The country scion

He was the son of a country great, the bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs, but Randy Scruggs made his mark on the genre himself, as a songwriter, producer and guitarist, picking up four Grammys along the way, and receiving the CMA Musician of the Year award three times (1999, 2003, 2006). He wrote several country hits, including three of Earl Thomas Conley’s four consecutive chart toppers in the 1983. He produced acts like Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm and Alison Krauss. And as a guitarist he backed acts such as Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, George Strait, Randy Travis, Jones, Ricky Skaggs, Townes van Zandt, Lisa Loeb, Miranda Lambert, Dixie Chicks and Wilco.

Original Fantine

Before Les Misérables was a phenomenal musical, it was a French concept album based on Victor Hugo’s book. One of the many showstoppers in the musical is Fantine’s I Dreamed A Dream (which won Anne Hathaway an Oscar). On the original album the song was titled J’Avais Rêvé d’une Autre Vie and was sung by Rose Laurens, who has died at 65. Laurens gained fame throughout Europe for her 1982 hit Africa. A singer-songwriter, she continued to record regularly until 2015.

Almost a Beatle

An old pal of The Beatles in their Hamburg days, singer and keyboardist Roy Young took part in their very first recording, the album they made with Tony Sheridan, including the single My Bonnie, which brought the John, Paul, George and Pete to Brian Epstein’s attention. It is even said that Epstein invited Young to join The Beatles, but the singer had a gig at the Star Club which he didn’t want to put at risk by joining the yet-to-be signed band (and thereby he avoided the experience of being rejected by Decca). Young, who had recorded already in 1959, later joined an Epstein-managed band, Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers (for whom McCartney did production work, including on the Beatles cover featured here), and later backed David Bowie on Sound And Vision and Low, as well as putting out a few records himself.

 

Audrey Morris, 89, jazz singer and pianist, on April 1

Ron Dunbar, 77, soul songwriter, on April 3
Chairmen Of The Board – (You’ve Got Me) Dangling On A String (1970, as co-writer)
Honey Cone – Sunday Morning People (1971, as co-writer, executive producer)
Dusty Springfield – Crumbs Off The Table (1972, as co-writer)
Parliament – Agony Of De Feet (1980, as co-writer)

Lill-Babs, 80, Swedish singer and actress, on April 3
Lill-Babs – April, april (1961)

Cecil Taylor, 89, pioneering free jazz pianist and poet, on April 5
Cecil Taylor – African Violets (1959)

Ali Zainab Nielsen, 29, Nigerian singer, suspected homicide on April 5

Jacques Higelin, 77, French pop singer, on April 6
Jacques Higelin – Je suis mort qui, qui dit mieux (1971)

Laura Lee Perkins, 78, rockabilly singer, on April 6
Laura Lee Perkins – Don’t Wait Up (1958)

Nathan Davis, 81, jazz saxophonist, on April 8
Nathan Davis – The Flute In The Blues (1965)

Liam Devally, 85, Irish singer and TV presenter, on April 9

Yvonne Staples, 80, baritone singer with The Staple Singers, on April 10
The Staple Singers – Going Away (1959)
The Staple Singers – I’ll Take You There (1972)

Timmy Matley, 36, lead singer of Irish vocal group The Overtones, on April 11
The Overtones – Gambling Man (2010)

David Mullaney, 86, member of ‘70s electronic group Hot Butter, on April 12
Hot Butter – Popcorn (1972)

Deborah Coleman, 61, blues musician, on April 12
Deborah Coleman – I’m A Woman (2000)

Stan Reynolds, 92, British jazz musician, on April 14
The Beatles – Martha My Dear (1968, trumpet solo)

Jim Caine, 91, British jazz pianist, radio presenter, on April 16

Dona Ivone Lara, 97, Brazilian samba singer and composer, on April 16

Randy Scruggs, 64, country guitarist, producer, songwriter, on April 17
Earl Thomas Conley – Angel In Disguise (1983, as writer)
Alison Krauss – When You Say Nothing At All (1995, as producer)
Randy Scruggs with John Prine – City Of New Orleans (1998)
Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around (2002, on guitar)

Big Tom (McBride), 81, Irish country singer, on April 17
Big Tom And The Mainliners – Life To Go (1973)

Peter Guidi, 68, Italian jazz saxophonist and flutist, on April 17

Stuart Colman, 73, English producer, musician and broadcaster, on April 19
Flying Machine – Smile A Little Smile For Me (1966, as member on bass)
Shakin’ Stevens – This Ole House (1980, as producer and on bass)

Mr. Yosie Locote, 42, Mexican rapper, shot dead on April 19

Avicii, 28, Swedish house musician, producer and DJ, on April 20
Avicil – Wake Me Up (2013)

Robbee Mariano, 47, bassist of German pop-band Söhne Mannheims, on April 20

Brian Henry Hooper, 55, bassist of Australian alt.rock band Beasts of Bourbon, on April 20
Beasts Of Bourbon – Chase The Dragon (1991)

Bob Dorough, 94, jazz musician,  writer of US edu-series Schoolhouse Rock, on April 23
Bob Dorough – Three Is A Magic Number (1973)

Alain Milhaud, 87, Swiss producer and manager, on April 24
Los Bravos – Black Is Black (1966, as producer)
Pop-Tops – Mamy Blue (1971, as producer)

Paul Gray, 54, Australian musician, songwriter and producer, on April 24
Wa Wa Nee – Stimulation (1985, on vocals and keyboards)

Charles Neville, 79, saxophonist of The Neville Brothers, on April 26
The Neville Brothers – In The Still Of The Night (1990)

Roy Young, 81, British rock & roll singer and pianist, on April 27
Roy Young – Hey Little Girl (1959)
Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers – Got To Get You Into My Life (1966, as member)
David Bowie – Be My Wife (1977, on piano)

Roberto Angleró, 88, Puerto Rican composer and singer, on April 28

Rose Laurens, 65, French singer and songwriter, on April 30
Rose Laurens – J’Avais Rêvé d’une Autre Vie (1980)
Rose Laurens – Africa (1982)

Tim Calvert, 52, guitarist of metal bands Nevermore, Forbidden, on April 30

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(PW in comments)

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Any Major Eurovision

April 26th, 2018 2 comments

For Europeans and other purveyors of musical kitsch, the Eurovision Song Contest is annual appointment TV. The international singing competition has been held since 1956. Up to the fall of the Iron Curtain, competing countries were drawn from Western, Southern, Northern and Central Europe, plus Israel and, a few times, Morocco. Today the contest is hugely popular in Eastern Europe — and lately even that well-known European country Australia has taken part (but if Israel can, then why not Australia?).

Making a list of “favourite” or “best” Eurovision songs is dicey business. The sober music fan will laugh at you for even considering such a thing; the hardcore Eurovision fan will absolutely hate you for not including Estonia’s entry for 1998 which never deserved to finish in 23rd place. Still, here I am and can do no other.

So, here is a collection of the songs I chose as those I like the best of the thousand-something songs that were composed in the hope of winning the Grand Prix (99,6% of which have been utterly awful). They may not be the best of the lot; the dominance of 1970s entries suggests that childhood nostalgia influences my choices. So I happily accept that Teach-In’s 1975 winner Ding-A-Dong fails to represent a highwater mark in popular music, even in that dismal year. But when I hear it, I am transported to the cobblestoned street where I grew up, riding my green chopper bicycle, hatching new adventures with my friends.

I exclude some common favourites. There’s no place for Cliff Richard’s Congratulations, nor for Lulu, Brotherhood of Men, Nicole, Dana (Irish or International), Lordi, Katrina & the Waves, or Bucks Fizz, nor for many of the winners of the last few decades. I also have no love for Germany’s 1979 entry Dschinghis Khan, a song about a genocidal psychopath which the Germans saw fit to perform, of all places, in Jerusalem.  And I really cannot stand Israel’s winner that year, Milk & Honey’s Hallelujah.

With all these possibly worthy candidates sifted out, I expect to be asked what the hell Sophie & Magaly’s Papa Pingouin, Luxembourg’s 1980 entry which finished 9th with a slightly disturbing performance featuring an absurd man-penguin, is doing here (indeed, my incredulous wife just earlier asked me, upon hearing me play it, what the fuck I am listening to). Well, it’s a catchy enough song, written by German serial Eurovision offender Ralph Siegel. Despite receiving little love from the juries, Papa Pingouin became a million-seller. Alas, due to a brutal contract the French twins saw very little of the loot. And then Siegel dropped the singers, trying to sting them out of the little money that was due to them. Magaly died in 1996 of AIDS; Sophie is battling with depression. Siegel is still churns out songs for the Eurovision.

Siegel wrote several entries for Germany, including the afore-mentioned Dschinghis Khan, the runners-up in 1980, ’81, and ’87 — Theater (Katja Epstein), Johnny Blue (Lena Valaitis) and Lass die Sonne in dein Herz (Wind) — and the 1982 winner, Nicole’s Ein bisschen Frieden. None of them feature here.

Germany’s best-ever entry, in my view, was 1970’s third-placed Wunder gibt es immer wieder by Katja Epstein, the arrangement of which is truly a marker of its time. The wonderful Epstein returned the following year, again finishing third with the ecological anthem Diese Welt, featured here in the English version, River Run River Flow.

The second-best German entry also features here in English: the late Joy Fleming’s superb, soulful Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein (Bridge of Love). Incredibly, it finished 17th in a field of 19, despite being backed by soul singer Madeline Bell, close friend of Dusty Springfield and ex-member of Blue Mink. National juries are idiots.

I also really like Guildo Horn’s Guildo hat Euch lieb (Guildo loves you all), which was Germany’s entry in 1998. Written by off-the-wall entertainer Stefan Raab under the pseudonym Alf Igl it was a parody of Ralph Siegel (as Raab’s alias suggests). In the national elimination round, the song beat out three Siegel compositions, despite the mass-circulation Bild running a campaign against Horn and his manic and anarchic ways. Raab took part himself in 2000, with an even more subversive number, sung in an invented German dialect.

The greatest Eurovision song of all time is, inevitably, ABBA’s Waterloo, the winning entry for Sweden in 1974 (amazingly, ABBA failed to qualify in the national qualification contest the previous year. Sweden’s Decca moment). Waterloo had it all: a great tune, international lyrics, bright outfits, Björn’s star-shaped silver guitar, and a conductor dressed like Napoleon. But it wasn’t an easy win, as I explained in the article accompanying the ABBA cover versions mix. The nearest contender, Italian Gigliola Cinquetti’s more traditional ballad Si, put up a strong fight. That song also features here, unlike Cinquetti’s 1964 winner Non ho l’età.

The deserved winner in 1967 was Sandie Shaw with Puppet On A String, the song the barefooted singer hated and performed virtually under duress. Coming only fourth that year, representing Luxembourg, was Greek-born and Germany-based singer Vicky Leandros with L’amour est bleu. That song became famous as the easy listening classic Love Is Blue by Paul Mauriat, who stripped the song of all the emotions, lyricism and style which Leandros had invested in it.

Leandros would eventually win the thing, also for Luxembourg, in 1972 with Après toi. This time around, she had an international hit with the song, in its original French version, in West Germany as Dann kamst Du, and in Britain, where it reached #2 as Come What May.

Luxembourg had a way of picking winners: in 1965 it was the appropriately-named French singer France Gall, whose Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son was penned by Serge Gainsbourg, inspired by Beethoven. Her performance was off-key, causing her lover at the time, singer Claude Francois, to scream at her in a discouraging manner. The charm of the catchy song, with its clever lyrics, and of France Gall herself evidently won over the juries.

Perhaps even more famous internationally than Waterloo and Love Is Blue is Italian singer Domenico Modugno’s 1958 entry: Nel blu dipinto di blu. You’ll know it better as Volare, probably in Dean Martin’s version. Modugno finished only in third place with it. As I said, juries are idiots. The singer tried his luck again the following year, finishing 6th. A third Eurovision attempt in 1966 ended in disaster: Modugno came last, with nil points.

The winner that year was German-Austrian singer Udo Jürgens, winning the contest for Austria with Merci Chérie. It was Jürgens’ third successive participation in the Eurovision.

Austria would have to wait until 2014, shortly before Jürgens’ death, to win again. But what a winner that was: bearded drag artist Conchita Wurst singing a fantastically dramatic song which in the artist’s hands became a liberation anthem for LBGT+ communities. Before the contest, no Austrian record company was willing to release it, possibly because the vehement opposition by conservative and right-wing politicians to the mould-breaking artist. So national broadcaster ÖRF had to release it themselves. The song became a hit in many countries…

If I became the dictator of a newly-founded state and was looking for a rousing national anthem, I’d repurpose Séverine‘s 1971 Eurovision winner, Un banc, un arbre, un rue. Take the chorus (which, brazenly, kicks off the song), slow it down a bit and give it the national anthem arrangement. I could win wars with that national anthem. The song was the only winning entry for Monaco. I reckon my army could take on Monaco’s troops, especially with that anthem.

I hope this collection of songs will give lie to the notion that Eurovision has offered only cliché and acts of grievous musical battery. In fact, many of these songs may well stick in your head to give you not unpleasant earworms.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-nilpointed covers (the cover promises 25 tracks; I added one for your delight), as well as a larger version of the above collage of single covers. PW in comments.

1. Abba – Waterloo (1974, Sweden #1)
2. Cliff Richard – Power To All Our Friends (1973, Great Britain #3)
3. Sandie Shaw – Puppet On A String (1967, Great Britain #1)
4. France Gall – Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son (1965, France #1)
5. Vicky Leandros – Après toi (1972, Luxembourg #1)
6. Katja Ebstein – Wunder gibt es immer wieder (1970, Germany #3)
7. Anne-Marie David – Tu Te Reconnaîtras (1973, Luxembourg, #1)
8. The New Seekers – Beg, Steal Or Borrow (1972, Great Britain #2)
9. Joy Fleming – Bridge Of Love (1975, Germany, #17)
10. Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran – Rock Bottom (1977, Great Britain #2)
11. Teach In – Ding-A-Dong (1975, Netherlands #1)
12. Catherine Ferry – 1, 2, 3 (1976, France #2)
13. Sophie & Magaly – Papa Pingouin (1980, Luxembourg #9)
14. Guildo Horn – Guildo hat euch lieb (1998, Germany #7)
15. Charlotte Nilsson – Take Me To Your Heaven (1999, Sweden #1)
16. Conchita Wurst – Rise Like A Phoenix (2014, Austria #1)
17. Joëlle Ursull – White And Black Blues (1990, France #2)
18. Secret Garden – Nocturne (1995, Norway #1)
19. Gigliola Cinquetti – Si (1974, Italy #2)
20. Katja Ebstein – River Run River Flow (Diese Welt) (1971, Germany #3)
21. Séverine – Un Banc, Un Arbre, Un Rue (1971, Monaco, #1)
22. Mocedades – Eres Tu (1973, Spain #2)
23. Vicky Leandros – L’amour Est Bleu (Love Is Blue) (1967, Luxembourg #4)
24. Udo Jürgens – Merci Cherie (1966, Austria #1)
25. Domenico Modugno – Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu) (1958, Italy #3)
26. Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann – Dansevise (1963, Denmark, #1)

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Any Major Whistle Vol. 2

April 19th, 2018 12 comments

And here is part 2 of the whistling mixes, following Any Major Whistle Vol. 1, which was also recycled from 2009. As before, I’ve tried to mix the obvious (and avoiding some of the more notorious candidates) with the unexpected. As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CR-R (hence two bonus tracks). Home-blown covers included.* * *

1. Beach Boys – Whistle In (1967)
Yes, the Beach Boys feature twice. You can’t have a whistling collection and not begin it with a song called Whistle In, can you? Whistletastic moment: 0:01 Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum and whistle.

2. Peter, Bjorn And John – Young Folks (2006)
I have avoided the inclusion of many an obvious song. No Scorpions. No Don’t Worry Be Happy. No apartheid-boycott-busting Roger Whitaker. But this one had to be included. It’s Swedish, it’s cheerful, it’s earwormy. Whistletastic moment: 0:08 Everybody purse your lips and whistle along! Or play the percussion bit on your thigh.

3. David Bowie – Golden Years (1976)
I cannot hear this song without thinking abut the bizarre dance sequence with Heath Ledger and Never-heard-from-again Actress in the quite wonderful medieval caper A Knight’s Tale. Whistletastic moment: 3:03 Chameleon-like, the former Ziggy trades his guitar for lips and air.

4. Lovin’ Spoonful – Daydream (1966)
The Lovin’ Spoonful really covered about every genre in popular music, and then mashed them up. Here we have a bit of 1920s pop and a bit of blues. Gotta love the Spoonful. Whistletastic moment: 1:14 Chirpy whistle solo, which returns at 2:06 to see the song out.

5. Otis Redding – Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (1968)
The last song Otis Redding recorded before getting on that plane, apparently. Otis didn’t whistle on here; the job was done by a session man of whom Redding inquired after a poor first take whether he knew what he was doing. We know he did. Whistletastic moment: 2:19 Perhaps the best ever whistle solo in pop.

6. Simon & Garfunkel – Punky’s Dilemma (1968)
This is Simon & Garfunkel 201 — the sort of song you get into once the many great hits have become boring. Whistletastic moment: 1:50 A breezy whistle solo, not by Paul Simon (whom we hear talking in the background), takes us to the song’s end.

7. The Beatles – Two Of Us (1970)
Recorded during the turbulent Let It Be sessions, this is one of the rare (and I think last) post-mop tops era occasions when John and Paul dueted. How nice then that the song ends with a cheery whistle solo before I Dig A Pony kicks in. Whistletastic moment: 3:14 I suppose this is Lennon whistling, as was his wont some of his solo tracks.

8. Bobby Bloom – Montego Bay (1970)
Anyone remember Amazulu’s cover in the 1980s? That probably had no whistling (nor showtune segment). Bobby Bloom’s original has a recurring whistle hook. Whistletastic moment: 0:01 The hook kicks off the song.

9. Earl Hagen – Theme of the Andy Griffith Show (1960)
As doubtless whistled across America once upon a time while washing-up, sweeping the driveway, doing the paper round or constructing a skyscraper. Whistletastic moment: 0:01 The whole thing consists of whistling.

10. The Steve Miller Band – Jungle Love (1977)
Underrated ’70s rock band whuch deserve to be remembered for more than The Joker and Abracadabra. Whistletastic moment: 2:46 Freestyle whistling!

whistling11. The Fratellis – Whistle For The Choir (2006)
Jangly guitars recall the early ’70s. Irresistibly catchy. Whistletastic moment: 2:26 Whistle interlude

12. Liliput – Die Matrosen (1980)
Neue Deutsche Welle with ska sensibility searching for the young soul rebel, in English. Whistletastic moment: 0:52 Song-defining communal whistle interlude, repeated 50 seconds later, and again at 2:32 and 3:33.

13. The Flaming Lips – Christmas At The Zoo (1995)
Let’s go slightly weird: what do you think Coyne and his gang are doing in a zoo at Christmas? Whistletastic moment: 2:27 Whistle solo comes in helpful when you have no lyrics but the music still goes on.

14. Grizzly Bear – Deep Blue Sea (2007)
This sounds so like a country song. It was recorded at home by Grizzly Bear Daniel Rossen.  Whistletastic moment: 2:41 Whistle bridge.

15. Guster – All The Way Up To Heaven (2003)
Guster toured and performed with Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright. This song, vaguely reminiscent of Sgt Pepper’s and Pet Sounds, is very lovely indeed.  Whistletastic moment: 0:50 You almost think they are about to break out into the Colonel Bogey March.

16. Cat Power – After It All (2005)
One of the songs that make me appreciate 2005’s The Greatest album. And, I noticed only now, the only woman in the mix. Whistletastic moment: 0:06 The piano and a couple of guitar chords set up the song for the recurring whistle hook.

17. Sammy Davis Jr. – Mr Bojangles (1972)
The song that Sammy took over. As we covered in The Originals series, the song was written by Jerry Jeff Walker. Whistletastic moment: 0:20 Sammy whistles (unlike the other performers of My Bojangles) and does so again later to see the song out.

18. Gene Pitney – Only Love Can Break A Heart (1963)
Gene Pitney Fun Fact 1: He wrote Hello Mary Lou for Ricky Nelson, Rubber Ball for Bobby Vee and He’s A Rebel for the Crystals. Gene Pitney Fun Fact 1: The Crystals’ version of He’s A Rebel kept Pitney’s version of Burt Bacharach Only Love Can Break A Heart from reaching the US#1. Gene Pitney Fun Fact 3: He was the first singer from the rock idiom of pop to sing at the Oscars, performing Town Without Pity in 1962. Whistletastic moment: 0:16 Tremelo whistle.

19. Roxy Music – Jealous Guy (1981)
Roxy Music’s cash-in “tribute” released double-quick after John Lennon’s murder. Hunting Tory greaseball Bryan Ferry whistled better than Rolls Royce socialist Lennon. Whistletastic moment: 3:25  Ferry cross the whistle.

20. Leonard Cohen – One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong (1967)
Don’t dig Cohen? Gentlemen, remember this: when Cohen sings about love and sex, it is intensely sensual. If you want to impress a poetry-loving girl, don’t forget to include Leonard Cohen on your mixtape. This song, for example. Whistletastic moment: 3:19   Laughing Len affords himself a bit of levity by seeing the song out with a (less than accomplished) whistle solo, backed by recorder and the sound of singing hangers-on presmably being interrogated by the Spanish Inquisition..

21. Tom Waits – Green Grass (2004)
As I am playing this song, Any Minor Dude inquires: “What the hell is this?” I reply: “Son, it’s an acquired taste, like Gin, Brussels sprouts or the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard.” “Well, it’s crap anyway. Whistletastic moment: 2:29 Tom stops groaning to sweeten the song with a melancholy whistle solo.

22. Billy Joel – The Stranger (1977)
It all starts so prettily until the cynical guitars kick in to introduce Billy’s cynical ruminations on the alienation of the self, or something. When he’s done, he reprises the pretty part, just to show that he’s not all cynical, as he’ll soon demonstrate on the LP with a soppy love song imploring Elizabeth not to go changing her hair or trying some new fashion, only to dump her a few years later for a fashion model with lovely hair. Clearly he didn’t let her see the stranger in himself. Whistletastic moment: 0:26 The whistle joins the pretty intro until the cynical guitar comes in. It returns later, with the pretty outro.

23. Glen Campbell – Sunflower (1977)
Nothing cynical in Campbell’s sunshiney, optimistic song; a catchy number even if you hate it. Whistletastic moment: 2:15  Just in case we didn’t catch in just how a good mood Glen is, he sees the song out with a jolly whistle.

24. Monty Python – Always Look On The Bright Side of Life (1979)
You didn’t think I could avoid including this, did you? Whistletastic moment: 0:30  The first whistled response to Eric Idle’s appeal to buoyancy.

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Any Major Soul Train

April 12th, 2018 7 comments

 

If you say Soul Train, Americans of a certain generation and fans of soul and funk anywhere will think of funky dancers with big ’fros and hot threads, Don Cornelius’ flamboyantly fashionable suits and baritone voice, the animated train, hair care products ads, scrambleboards, awkward audience questions, cool catchphrases and great music. You could bet your last dollar, it was gonna be a stone gas, honey.

Soul Train’s cultural impact was tremendous. The first nationally syndicated black music show, it was owned by a black man (presenter Cornelius, who sadly committed suicide on February 1, 2012), staffed mostly by black people, sponsored by a black company selling black hair products, and featured black artists who did not often feature on TV. Socially, Soul Train was TV’s raised fist of black consciousness. Culturally, Soul Train helped popularise dances, fashion and hair.

 

Still from the famous Afro Sheen commercial with civil war era activist Frederick Douglass administering a lesson in ‘fro-dom. No wonder Donald Trump thought Douglass was still alive.

 

The afro, it is said, became so potent a symbol of black identity – the hirsute extension of the Rev Jesse Jackson’s “I Am Somebody” mantra – in large part thanks to Soul Train (and its sponsors, the Johnson Company with its Black Sheen products). The dances were widely copied, by the kids at home and by the stars. Michael Jackson copied the Moonwalk from Jeffrey Daniels, and breakdancing took its cue from Bodypopping, Locking, The Robot and other moves pioneered on Soul Train. And when rap broke in New York, Soul Train helped break it nationally – much as Cornelius resented hip hop. Soul Train even produced its own superstar musical act: Shalamar comprised Soul Train dancers Jeffrey Daniel, Jody Watley and, after a couple of personnel changes, Howard Hewett (boyfriend of Cornelius’ secretary), and in the US were signed to Cornelius’ Soul Train Records label.

 

Don Cornelius, who died on February 1, 2012 at the age of 75. This post, minus the mix but with other tracks, was first posted here in 2011 and re-posted after Don’s death. It is running here with a brandnew Soul Train mix.

 

And, of course, that’s what Soul Train was about most of all: spreading black music, from the smooth harmonies of The Delfonics to the gangsta rap of Snoop Dogg. This did not mean that the show practised apartheid. Gino Vanelli was the first white artist to appear on the show (Cornelius told the Italo-Canadian jazz-funkster that he was “half-black”; the first white act to feature was Dennis Coffey, whose funk anthem Scorpio provided the music for a Soul Train Gang dance number; the first mixed act to appear on the show was Tower of Power). Soon after, acts such as Elton John, David Bowie, Average White Band, Frankie Valli and Michael McDonald appeared on the show (in later years, such unsoul acts as Duran Duran, Sting, A-ha  and Berlin, as well as the dreaded Michael F Bolton, took a ride on the Soul Train).

 

The Soul Train Gang in action, 1972.

 

Soul Train’s theme song, in its second incarnation, became a #1 in the US, and a massive hit all over the world (to borrow from its brief lyrics). In 1973 Cornelius approached Philadelphia soul maestros Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff to come up with a theme for the show to replace King Curtis’ Hot Potatoes, which it did in November 1973. The result was so good, that the composers wanted to release The Theme of Soul Train as a single. When they did, recorded by the Philadelphia International Records (PIR) house band M.F.S.B. with The Three Degrees providing backing vocals, it topped the charts and provided the sound of 1974.

But it didn’t chart under the title The Theme of Soul Train. Cornelius baulked at the idea that PIR release it using the words “Soul Train” in the title because, as he recalled in a VH-1 documentary a couple of years ago, he was being overprotective of his trademark. He would describe that as the “worst decision” he had ever made. So today the Soul Train theme is known as T.S.O.P. (for The Sound Of Philadelphia).

In 1976, T.S.O.P. was replaced as a theme by The Soul Train Gang’s theme, but made a comeback in 1987 in George Duke’s version. It would remain the Soul Train theme, in several re-recordings, until the show’s end in 2006, some 13 years after Don Cornelius signed off for the last time with the words: “And as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and SOULLLLLL!”

If you dig the pics in this post, there are 179 more which I made of Soul Train scenes HERE.

 

Here is a mix of songs that were performed on Soul Train. To narrow down the selection I chose only from tracks that appeared on the wonderful 7-DVD set of Soul Train performances. The first two themes feature on the mix as they appeared on the show; the Soul Train Gang theme, which really is not great, is included as a bonus track on its full version.

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

1. Soul Train (King Curtis) – Hot Potatoes Theme (1971)
2. The Five Stairsteps – O-o-h Child (1970)
3. The Chi-Lites – Have You Seen Her (1971)
4. The Spinners – I’ll Be Around (1972)
5. Main Ingredient – Everybody Plays The Fool (1972)
6. Four Tops – Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got) (1972)
7. Brighter Side Of Darkness – Love Jones (1972)
8. The Sylvers – Wish That I Could Talk To You (1972)
9. O’Jays – Love Train (1972)
10. Soul Train – Souuuuuuuuuuuuul Train
11. Jermaine Jackson – Daddy’s Home (1973)
12. The Stylistics – You Make Me Feel Brandnew (1973)
13. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Neither One Of Us (1973)
14. Tower Of Power – So Very Hard To Go (1973)
15. Isley Brothers – That Lady (1973)
16. Soul Train Theme (1973)
17. Barry White – Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Baby (1974)
18. Billy Preston – Tell Me Something Good (1974)
19. Ecstasy, Passion & Pain – Good Things Don’t Last Forever (1974)
20. L.T.D. – Love Ballad (1976)
21. Lou Rawls – You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine (1976)
22. Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up (Part 1) (1977)
23. Teddy Pendergrass – The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me (1977)
24. Don Cornelius – Love, Peace and Soul
BONUS TRACKS: MFSB – TSOP (1974)
Soul Train Gang – Soul Train ’75 (1965)

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In Memoriam – March 2018

April 5th, 2018 3 comments

So far, 2018 has been fairly gentle on us, as if to make up for the massacres of the past two years. March saw no superstar deaths, but especially the world of hip hop suffered losses — including one of the least likely collaborator the genre has seen yet.

The Guitar Pioneer

The sound of The Ventures is the sound of instrumental surf rock, and the guitar of Nokie Edwards gave it its character. Edwards, who had previously backed country legend Buck Owens, stayed with The Ventures until 1968, and rejoined the band periodically thereafter. Many guitar greats credit The Ventures, especially the classic Walk Don’t Run (first a hit in 1960 and again, in a new recording, 1964), with influencing them. The Ventures did a lot of guitar covers of hits; they appear in the Song Swarm series remarkably often (Blue Moon, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Sunny, These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer).

Classic in his room

Not many people can claim that a classic album was recorded in their living room, but so it was with Matt Dike, who hosted The Beastie Boys as they recorded almost all of their Paul Boutique album in his apartment. As a member of The Dust Brothers, Dike received a production credit for the album. By then Dike was the co-owner of Delicious Vinyl which released such hip hop classics as Young MC’s Bust A Move and Tone Loc’s Wild Thing and Funky Cold Medina (all of which he co-wrote and co-produced). He was also a prolific remixer.

‘Hello, how’s the flow’

In a few weeks I’ll be posting a mix of good Eurovision Song Contest numbers. Lys Assia’s Das Alte Karussell, the inaugural winner from 1956), will not be among them. Assia, who had been recording prolifically since 1942, followed her triumph with a string of hits in West Germany, but her love clearly was Eurovision. She also competed in 1957 and ’58, and tried to make a comeback more than half a century later. In 2012 she failed in the national contest to qualify as Switzerland’s entry for Eurovision. She tried again a year later, at the age of 88, with a song titled All In Your Head, featuring the hip-hop band New Jack (“Hello, how’s the flow”, Assia inquires). Outrageously, she failed again to qualify. First the Nazi gold, then that. Shame on you, Switzerland!

Guardian of a heritage

Palestinian singer Rim Banna, who has died of breast cancer, devoted herself to preserving Palestinian folk and children’s songs as well as poetry that were on the verge of being lost, putting a modern, Western pop-influenced spin on those melodies. Banna, an Arab Israeli citizen, was also a political activist, supporting the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and in Gaza. In 2003 she gained popularity in Europe as a result of her duets with Norwegian singer Kari Bremnes, and participation in an anti-war album directed at the warmonger George W Bush, titled Lullabies from The Axis Of Evil, which also featured female singers from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Cuba.

Cellist to the stars

Jazz cellist and double-bassist Buell Neidlinger was once regarded as a child prodigy. As an adult he was a prolific collaborator with jazz musicians but rarely the headliner. He also picked up session credits for acts like Lionel Richie (including on Wandering Stranger, alongside Ndugu Chancler, who died last month), Neil Diamond, Earth Wind & Fire, Nina Simone, Yvonne Elliman, The Miracles, Kenny Rogers, Leo Kottke, Diane Schuur, Ry Cooder, Mike Bloomfield, Duane Eddy, Van Dyke Parks, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Cole, Bob Seger, Pops Staples, Frank Sinatra (on Duets) and many others. Apparently he also played on the Eagles’ Hotel California and on Tony Bennett’s I Left My Heart In San Francisco sessions.

The phrase-coiner

Even casual listeners to country will have heard the term Outlaw Country, to describe a sub-genre dominated by artists like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. The term was coined by Hazel Smith, who was chiefly a country music journalists and publicist. Smith also wrote a number of songs, including several for Dr Hook. They’ve been recorded by acts as diverse as Tammy Wynette and Nana Mouskouri.

The cover designer

Album cover designer and photographer Gary Burden is considered a pioneer of conceptual cover art in rock music. His clientele initially comprised the Laurel Canyon types around Cass Elliott and David Crosby. Among the iconic covers he designed were The Mamas and The Papas’The Papas & The Mamas, Crosby, Stills & Nash’s eponymous debut and (with Young) Déjà Vu (and virtually all of their covers), Neil Young’s After The Goldrush (and many of his covers thereafter), Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Albert Hammond’s It Never Rains In Southern California, Jackson Browne’s self-titled album and The Pretender, the Eagles’eponymous debut and Desperado, On The Border, One Of These Nights… In the 2000s he designed album covers for the likes of Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket and Devendra Banhart. His last published cover design for an album of new recordings was Conor Oberst’s Salutations in March last year (bottom right on the collage below).

 

Bill Burkette, 75, lead singer with pop band The Vogues, on March 1
The Vogues – It’s Getting Better (1968)

Bender, 37, Canadian rapper, on March 1

Van McLain, 62, lead singer and guitarist with rock band Shooting Star, on March 2
Shooting Star – Touch Me Tonight (1989)

Ronnie Prophet, 80, Canadian country singer, on March 2

Brandon Jenkins, 48, country/Red Dirt singer-songwriter, on March 2
Brandon Jenkins – Saturday Night (2006)

Joseph Israel, 40, US reggae musician, on March 2

Patrick Doyle, 32, drummer of Scottish indie band Veronica Falls, on March 3
Veronica Falls – Found Love In A Graveyard (2010)

Ulla Norden, 77, German Schlager singer and radio presenter, on March 5

Jeff St John, 71, Australian pop singer, on March 5
Jeff St. John – Teach Me How To Fly (1970)

Donna Butterworth, 62, child actress and singer, on March 6

Jerzy Milian, 82, Polish jazz vibraphonist, on March 7

Gary Burden, 84, album cover designer, on March 9
David Crosby – Music Is Love (1971, as “performer”; cover designer)

Maggie Stedder, 81, English backing singer, on March 9
Dusty Springfield – Bring Him Back (1967)

Ken Dodd, 90, comedian and singer, on March 11
Ken Dodd – Tears (1965)

Nokie Edwards, 82, lead guitarist with The Ventures, on March 12
The Ventures – Walk Don’t Run (1960)
The Ventures – Ghost Riders In The Sky (1961)

Craig Mack, 47, rapper, on March 12
Craig Mack – Flava In Ya Ear (1994)

Matt Dike, 55, hip hop producer, writer, mixer, label executive, on March 13
Tone-Loc – Funky Cold Medina (1989, as co-writer, co-producer)
The Beastie Boys – Shake Your Rump (1989, as co-producer)
Richard Cheese – Bust A Move (2006, as co-writer)

Charlie Quintana, 56, drummer of Latino punk band The Plugz, on March 13
The Plugz – Satisfied Die (1979)

Olly Wilson, 80, jazz musician and composer, on March 13

Claudia Fontaine, 57, singer with English soul trio Afrodiziak, on March 13
Jam – Beat Surrender (1982, as backing singer)
Special A.K.A. – Free Nelson Mandela (1984, as backing singer)

Jimmy Wisner, 86, pianist, arranger, songwriter, and producer, on March 13
Kokomo – Asia Minor (1961, Kokomo was his pseudonym)
The Searchers – Don’t Throw Your Love Away (1964, as writer)

Allah Real, 62, soul singer, on March 14
RZA – Grits (2003, on lead vocals)

Steve Mandell, bluegrass guitarist, on March 14
Eric Weissberg & Steve Mandell – Dueling Banjos (1972)

Enrico Ciacci, 75, Italian guitarist and bandleader, on March 14

Laurence Cleary, 60, guitarist of Irish new wave band The Blades, on March 16
The Blades – Hot For You (1980)

Hazel Smith, 83, country songwriter, journalist and publicist, on March 16
Dr. Hook – Making Love And Music (1976, as writer)

Buell Neidlinger, 82, jazz and session cellist and bassist, on March 16
Pops Staples – Down In Mississippi (1992, on bass)
Buell Neidlinger – The Gig (1995)

Thom Moore, 74, folk-rock singer and songwriter, on March 17
Mary Black – Carolína Rua (The Crooked Road) (1988, as writer)

Killjoy, 48, singer of death metal band Necrophagia, on March 18

Peter Cowling, 72, British blues-rock bassist, on March 20
Pat Travers – Stop And Smile (1976, on bass)

Paul Cram, 65, Canadian jazz musician, on March 20

Shawn Elliott, singer of hardcore rock band Capitalist Casualties, on March 22

CK Mann, 82, Ghanaian singer, on March 22

Kooster McAllister, 67, live engineer, co-owner of Record Plant mobile studio, on March 23
Bruce Springsteen – I’m On Fire (live) (1985, as engineer)

Rim Banna, 51, Palestinian singer, composer and activist, on March 24
Rim Banna – Supply Me With An Excess Of Love (2013)

Lys Assia, 94, Swiss singer, inaugural Eurovision Song Contest winner, on March 24
Lys Assia – Das Alte Karussell (1956)
Lys Assia feat. New Jack – All In Your Head (2012)

Mike Harrison, 72, singer of British rock group Spooky Tooth, on March 25
Spooky Tooth – That Was Only Yesterday (1969)

Seo Min-woo, 33, singer with South Korean boy band 100%, on March 25

Jerry Williams, 75, Swedish pop singer, on March 25
Jerry Williams – Keep On (1969)

Cameron Paul, pioneer remixer, on March 26
Salt-N-Pepa – Push It (Mixx-it Remix) (1986, as remixer)

Kenny O’Dell, 73, country singer-songwriter, on March 27
Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors (1973, as writer)
The Judds – Mama He’s Crazy (1984, as writer)

Caleb Scofield, 38, bassist and singer of metal band Cave In, in car crash on March 28

Alias, 41, rapper, producer and record label founder, on March 30
Alias – Final Act (2002)

Frode Viken, 63, guitarist and songwriter of Norwegian pop band D.D.E., on March 31

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(PW in comments)

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Any Major MLK

March 29th, 2018 2 comments

On April 4 we will observe the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Rev Martin Luther King Jr. There doubtless will be many tributes being paid and many opinions aired about the great man’s life and legacy. Here, I shall let the music do the talking by way of a mix of songs about MLK.

The two most obvious songs to include would be Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday and U2’s Pride (In The Name Of Love). You’ll know how to find them. There were too many good tacks I already had to exclude, because CD-R length. A few of them I include as bonus tracks.

The mix begins with a number of songs that mourn the assassination in Memphis, soon after the event. One song in that lot is of indeterminate date. The Norfleet Brothers, a gospel outfit, tell in two parts the story of Martin Luther King; part 2 features here. They note the 1958 assassination attempt by Izola Ware Curry in New York, but don’t refer to the murder by James Earl Ray. Either it was recorded before that awful day, or so soon after that it was not necessary to mention the glaring obvious, just as at a funeral you needn’t point out that the deceased has died.

In the song after, Shirley Wahls (like Minnie Riperton, another the Rotary Connection member) issues the reminder that the struggle must continue even after King’s death. The Impressions did likewise in 1968, to keep on pushing and moving on up. Curtis Mayfield would sing We’re A Winner on stage into the 1970s.

 

 

There aren’t an awful lot of songs about MLK that precede his death. Bob Dylan namechecked him, among many other celebs, in 1962’s I Shall Be Free, but another Dylan song features here. Jerry Moore’s The Ballad of Birmingham from 1967. Based on a poem by Dudley Randall, it recalls the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The lyrics imagine a girl asking her mother whether she may take part in a freedom march. Citing the dangers, mother sends the girl to church — which is then firebombed by the Ku Klax Klan terrorists.

In a coda, in 2002 a couple of these terrorists were convicted thanks to the work of Doug Jones who in late 2017 defeated the racist scumbag, alleged sexual predator and thinly disguised instrument of the devil Roy Moore in a senatorial election.

Some songs don’t need to refer to King to be about him. The lyrics of Minnie Riperton’s The Edge Of A Dream read like a King speech. The tangential link to MLK is, of course, the concept of the “Dream”, of which the martyr had one. Indeed, many lyrics obliquely refer to him as “The Man With The Dream”, to the point of that being a bit of a cliché. On such song, a catchy number by Tom Jones, features here. One of the more unusual representations of MLK here is in his Young New Mexican Puppeteer, wherein the eponymous marionette handler carves images of such bringers of hope as Lincoln, Twain and King.

Incidentally, it was a singer, the gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, who urged King to deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech. Sitting near him on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, Jackson reportedly told King, “Tell them about the dream, Martin”. So he did…

 

 

On some songs, King has to share the star billing. Most famously, on Dion’s 1968 hit Abraham, John And Martin he does so with Lincoln and John F Kennedy. The version featured here is by Tom Clay, a radio DJ who cut together spoken bits and pieces of the Bacharach composition What The World Needs Now with very 1960s vocals about JFK, MLK and Bobby Kennedy, who was assassinated just a couple of months after King. For the record, King thought that John F Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights was only “token”, and Bobby authorised the FBI to tap King’s phone.

On Bob Dylan’s 1986 song They Killed Him, MLK’s assassination stands alongside the execution of Jesus Christ and the murder of the Mahatma Ghandi.

Elvis Presley wasn’t much of a political guy, but two months after the murder of King he recorded a song written and tribute of and quoting from MLK. If I Can Dream was written at the last moment for Elvis’ 1968 televised comeback special by Walter Earl Brown. On hearing it, Elvis reportedly exclaimed: “I’m never going to sing another song I don’t believe in. I’m never going to make another picture I don’t believe in.” His manager “Colonel” Parker wasn’t keen on Elvis doing that kind of song, but The King put all his soul into this tribute to King, apparently making his backing singers weep.

Remember when that nice guy John McCain opposed the institution if the Martin Luther King holiday? Six years after Stevie Wonder launched the MLK holiday campaign in song, the 1980s custom of bringing together a conglomeration of stars to raise money or highlight a cause found expression in a single by the cumbersomely-named King Dream Chorus and Holiday Crew. There were some impressive artists behind those names. The King Dream Chorus included Whitney Houston, J.T. Taylor, El DeBarge, Stacy Lattisaw, Lisa Lisa with Full Force, Stephanie Mills and teen bands Menudo and New Edition. The Holiday Crew was rappers Run–D.M.C., Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Whodini and The Fat Boys. As so often, the sum of all the great talent is much less than its parts. That’s why it is a bonus track.

That nice guy McCain came around to The Fat Boys’ point of view in 1990. A year later Public Enemy turned their anger towards McCain’s home state Arizona, which along with New Hampshire refused to recognise the national Martin Luther King holiday. In the video Public Enemy showed the governor of Arizona being blown up in a car bomb. Presumably they referred to racist fuck Evan Mecham, a car salesman who was the first Arizona governor to be impeached, rather than his successor, Rose Perica Mofford, who seems to have been a decent person. A plebiscite in Arizona in 1991 confirmed Mecham’s refusal to recognise the MLK holiday.

Funeral procession of Martin Luther King in Atlanta, Georgia, on 9 April 1968.

 

Ben Harper’s track from 1994 draws a parallel between two Kings: Martin and Rodney. The assault on Rodney King by LA Police — which now, in an age where police killing black people has become so frequent, seems almost minor — was a betrayal of the promise of progress after the civil rights movement. Like the next track, it features here as a bonus track.

Brad Paisley sang his 2008 song Welcome To The Future in the White House for Barack Obama. The US had just elected its first black president and, as Steve Colbert (as his idiot right-wing alter ego) used to remind us: Racism has been solved. So our country-singing friend was just as naively optimistic as many people a decade ago when he observed: “I had a friend in school, running-back on a football team. They burned a cross in his front yard for asking out the home-coming queen. I thought about him today, everybody who’s seen what he’s seen – From a woman on a bus to a man with a dream. Hey, wake up Martin Luther, welcome to the future. Hey, Glory glory hallelujah, welcome to the future.”

Alas, in 2018, there is Trump and the racist establishment that supports him, both actively and by neglect. Fifty years after he was murdered, Rev Martin Luther King Jr would still look from the mountain top at the Promised Land, and say: “One day…”.

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

1. Big Maybelle – Heaven Will Welcome You, Dr. King (1968)
2. James Chapmen – In Memory Of Martin Luther King (1969)
3. The Norfleet Brothers – The Story of Martin Luther King (Part II) (c.1968)
4. Nina Simone – Why (The King Of Love Is Dead) (1968)
5. Shirley Wahls – We’ve Got To Keep On Movin’ On (1969)
6. The Impressions – We’re A Winner (1968)
7. Billy Paul – Let ’Em In (1976)
8. Leroy Hutson – Time Brings On A Change (1973)
9. Minnie Riperton – The Edge Of A Dream (1976)
10. Elvis Presley – If I Can Dream (1968)
11. Billy Bragg – Days Like These (1985)
12. UB40 – King (1980)
13. Public Enemy – By The Time I Get To Arizona (1991)
14. Bobby Womack – American Dream (1984)
15. Mavis Staples – MLK Song (2016)
16. Lyle Lovett – Good-Bye To Carolina (1994)
17. Bob Dylan – They Killed Him (1986)
18. Patty Griffin – Up To The Mountain (2007)
19. Tom Jones – The Young New Mexican Puppeteer (1972)
20. Tom Clay – What The World Needs Now-Abraham, Martin & John (1971)
21. U2 – MLK (1984)
Bonus Tracks: Ben Harper – Like A King (1993)
King Dream Chorus & Holiday Crew – King Holiday (1986)
Black Oak Arkansas – You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down (1976)
Brad Paisley – Welcome To The Future (2009)
James Taylor – Shed A Little Light (1991)

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Any Major TV Theme Songs Vol. 4

March 22nd, 2018 2 comments

This fourth mix of full-length versions of popular TV themes has been sitting almost ready to go for a couple of years. I was reminded to complete it a couple of months ago with the death of French composer and innovator Pierre Henry, whose 1967 song Psyché Rock served as the template for the theme from Futurama.

Good thing it went unposted, so as to include a couple tracks from newish TV shows, Bloodline (the first season of which was superb) and Big Little Lies (ditto).

This batch also features the extended versions of themes of two all-time great TV series: Game Of Thrones and The Shield. The latter tends to be overshadowed by The Wire; I think The Shield is The Wire’s equal — and that is not to underestimate the latter, which was a landmark TV show. But, my goodness, if you have never seen The Shield, do whatever you must to fill that gap.

All but one theme here is from the US; the exception is CCS’ cover of Led Zep’s A Whole Lotta Love, which served as the theme of the weekly BBC music show Top Of The Pops from 1970-77. For British youths, TOPT was required viewing. Its cultural and social impact was so immense that there is a highly entertaining podcast discussing — no, surgically dissecting — random old episodes from the 1970s and ‘80s. Titled Chart Music, it is presented with much humour by Al Needham with a rotating team of veteran music journalists such as David Stubbs, Simon Price and Neil Kulkarni. I recommend it.

This mix features a couple of familiar names. Mike Post was on Vol. 1 with the theme from Hill Street Blues and twice on Vol. 3, with the themes from Magnum and Quantum Leap. Here he returns with the theme from The A-Team and, as co-writer, with the theme from The Greatest American Hero, sung by Joey Scarbury under the title Believe It Or Not, which reached #2 on the US charts. One Mike Post theme of which there’s unlikely to be a full version is that of Law & Order. It’s shorter than many a ringtone, but it is instantly recognisable, and therefore spoofable.

Bill Conti appeared on Vol. 3 with theme from Cagney & Lacey, which always puts me in a happy mood, even though I was no fan of the show (still, with nothing else on TV I watched that as well). Here he returns with the theme from Dynasty, which in retrospect was probably the best thing about that load of drivel.

Anybody who has ever taken an interest in TV themes will know David Portnoy’s voice well: he wrote and sang the theme from Cheers.  TV themes was his thing, it seems. Here he is with the title song of 1980s show Punky Brewster. Portnoy also composed the theme from Mr Belvedere, sung by Leon Redbone.

Some themes are not properly credited (or, in the case of that from The Shield, awkwardly credited). One that doesn’t have a proper credit is of a show with a really good theme, Night Court. Where it appears, it is uncredited, so I’ve given the composer the headliner credit, featuring the saxophonist. Composer Jack Elliott also co-wrote the themes for shows such as Charlie’s Angels (on Vol. 1) and Barney Miller (Vol. 3). Saxophonist Ernie Watts has backed a Who’s Who of jazz; you might have heard him on Marvin Gaye’s LPs Let’s Get It On and I Want You. I don’t know who the bassist was; he certainly deserves a credit, too.

Few themes are sung by their stars, but so it was with the 1980s series The Fall Guy, whose lead, Lee Majors, sang the title song, entitled The Unknown Stuntman. In it, the narrating Stuntman namedrops the stars for whom he has stuntmanned, such as Burt Reynolds, Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood. He also kisses and tells (after telling us that he’s not the type to do that) about his conquests — including Farrah Fawcett, to whom he used to be married in real life. So, old Lee advertising his bedpost notches when he names Sally Fields, Bo Derek, “Jackie” Smith and Cheryl (presumably Ladd)?

I’ve linked already to Volumes 1 and 3 of the extended themes mixes. Volume 2 is still available, of course.

Short versions of TV themes (that is, as you knew them when you saw them on the gogglebox) are gathered together HERE, which also includes a mix of German TV themes.

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

1. Ray Anthony and his Orchestra – Dragnet Theme (1953, Dragnet)
2. CCS – Whole Lotta Love (1970, Top Of The Pops)
3. Christopher Tyng – Theme of Futurama (2007, Futurama)
4. Michael Kiwanuka – Cold Little Heart (2017, Big Little Lies)
5. Book Of Fears – The Water Let’s You In (2016, Bloodline)
6. Ramin Djawadi – Main Theme of Game Of Thrones (2011, Game Of Thrones)
7. Vivian Ann Romero, Ernesto J. Bautista & Rodney Ale – Just Another Day (2006, The Shield)
8. The Refreshments – Yahoos And Triangles (2009, King Of The Hill)
9. The Rembrandts – I’ll Be There For You (1994, Friends)
10. Paula Cole – I Don’t Want To Wait (1997, Dawson’s Creek)
11. David Schwartz – Theme from Northern Exposure (1992, Northern Exposure)
12. Vonda Shepard – Searchin’ My Soul (1998, Ally McBeal)
13. Dr. John – My Opinionation (1991, Blossom)
14. Joey Scarbury – Believe It Or Not (1981, The Greatest American Hero)
15. Jack Elliott feat. Ernie Watts – Night Court Theme (1984, Night Court)
16. José Feliciano – Chico And The Man (Main Theme) (1974, Chico And The Man)
17. The Mash – Suicide Is Painless (1970, M*A*S*H)
18. Bill Conti – Theme From Dynasty (1982, Dynasty)
19. Jack Jones – Love Boat Theme (1979, The Love Boat)
20. Maureen McGovern – Different Worlds (1979, Angie)
21. Lee Majors – The Unknown Stuntman (1982, The Fall Guy)
22. Thom Pace – Maybe (1977, The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams)
23. Gary Portnoy – Every Time I Turn Around (1984, Punky Brewster)
24. Mike Post & Pete Carpenter – Theme from The A-Team (1983, The A-Team)

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Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 5

March 15th, 2018 3 comments

The final collection in the series of Bob Dylan covers reveals which song I’ve chosen to represent Joan Baez: North Country Blues; his former lover covered it in 1968. At last, there are also Peter, Paul & Mary with a track from 1967.

Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs covers Dylan’s Song For Woody. Likely, Scruggs might have known Guthrie since they were contemporaries. His version comes from a star-studded 1975 album (which also starred Baez and Roger McGuinn, both of whom appear on this mix). On Song For Woody, he plays with Johnny Cash, New Riders Of The Purple Sage (including ex-Byrds bassist Skip Battin) and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

In Volume 1 of this series I promised that one track would appear twice. That song is Mr Tambourine Man, and when you hear William Shatner’s version you’ll know why it had to feature twice.

But Shatner’s plaintive cry at the end of his offering doesn’t quite conclude the series. There are a few bonus tracks that somehow failed to make it on any of the mixes, mostly owing to the CD-R length limit I set.

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

1. Dave Alvin – Highway 61 Revisited (2013)
2. The Black Crowes – When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky (1998)
3. The Waterboys – Nobody ’Cept You (1985)
4. Terence Trent D’Arby – It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) (1989)
5. Ben E. King – Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You (1970)
6. Bettye LaVette – Everything Is Broken (2012)
7. Luther Johnson – Pledging My Time (1995)
8. Taj Mahal – Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream (2012)
9. Sonic Youth – I’m Not There (2007)
10. Frank Black and The Catholics – Changing Of The Guards (1998)
11. Transvision Vamp – Crawl Out Your Window (1991)
12. Jeff Buckley – If You See Her, Say Hello (1993)
13. The Angels Of Light – I Pity The Poor Immigrant (2005)
14. Roger McGuinn – Up To Me (1976)
15. Joan Baez – North Country Blues (1968)
16. Earl Scruggs Revue – Song To Woody (1975)
17. Peter, Paul & Mary – Bob Dylan’s Dream (1967)
18. William Shatner – Mr Tambourine Man (1968)

Bonus tracks:
Julie Felix – Gates Of Eden (1968)
Spooky Tooth – Too Much Of Nothing (1968)
Manfred Mann’s Earthband – Father Of Day, Father Of Night (1973)
The Boo Radleys – One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) (1992)

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