Bacharach & David Songbook Vol. 1

September 21st, 2017 3 comments

It is probably redundant to deliberate at length about Burt Bacharach’s massive influence, other than to point out how incongruous it is that there were times when it was seen as somehow uncool to dig Bacharach’s music. That, to me, is the equivalent of coffee being declared socially unacceptable. Still, a few words seem necessary.

Bacharach and lyricist Hal David probably were the most prolific Brill Building partnership; if others exceeded their output, then certainly not with as much success. And consider some of these Brill alumni: Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Leiber & Stoller, Sedaka & Greenfield, Barry & Greenwich, Neil Diamond, Laura Nyro… The pair scored their first major hit soon after taking over a cubicle in the Brill Building in 1957: Perry Como’s Magic Moments. Over the next few years they scored a series of minor hits, many of which featured on the Bacharach: The Lesser Known Songbook mix.

The breakthrough arguably was meeting Dionne Warwick in 1961, who would become something of a muse for the songwriters. Warwick’s initial task was to sing on the demo recordings of songs destined for others. Warwick’s interpretations, however, were usually quite perfect. And so many songs came to be written with Dionne in mind. Some of these Warwick would be the first to record, others would be given to other artists first, to be covered later by Warwick (who had 22 US Top 40 hits with Bacharach/David songs). The triumvirate fell apart in the early 1970s amid a flurry of lawsuits.

By the 1970s the Bacharach style became unfashionable, incongruously labelled as easy listening fare. But it wasn’t: many Bacharach songs are best heard as soul songs, as the Covered With Soul Bacharach/David mix proved.

Soul singer Lou Johnson recorded several Bacharach/David songs before they became hits, though Kentucky Bluebird (later a Warwick hit as Message To Michael) was recorded by fellow soulster Jerry Butler a year earlier. Lyn Collins in her 1974 recording (featured here in the superior single version) proves further that many Bacharach songs are really soul songs, as do Aretha Franklin and Isaac Hayes, who had a way of transforming Bacharach songs into acid trips, though the present live version of The Look Of Love is a straight take on the song. Luther Vandross also was an outstanding interpreter of Bacharach, as he shows here on the slooowed down version of Anyone Who Had A Heart.

But outside soul and a few pop visionaries, Bacharach was considered uncool for a long time. When Frankie Goes To Hollywood singer Holly Johnson in the mid-’80s wanted to record a version of (Do You Know The Way To) San José, his laddish colleagues vociferously opposed the idea. In the event, they did record it, — perhaps because they could play Born To Run in return — and their version is quite lovely, if a bit wedding bandish. Arguably this was a significant step towards the rehabilitation of Bacharach which was complete by the late ’90s, with even the likes of Oasis’ chief plagiarist Gallagher paying tribute to Bacharach.

Bacharach had made something of a comeback with a few hits in the 1980s, co-written with wife Carole Bayer Sager, such as Arthur’s Theme, On My Own and Dionne Warwick’s comeback saccharine hit That’s What Friends Are For (as so often with Bacharach and Warwick, it had been previously recorded, by Rod Stewart for the soundtrack of 1982’s Nightshift).

Bacharach went back to his roots, in a way, when he composed, with occasional collaborator Elvis Costello, the song God Give Me Strength for the 1996 film Grace Of My Heart, which was loosely based on Brill alumni Carole King. Bacharach’s 1998 album with Elvis Costello, Painted From Memory, was a patchy effort, as was his 2005 solo album, At This Time. Much better was their lovely retro reworking of I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.

Burt’s unusual surname is German; there is a town called Bacharach in the Rhineland.

 

Bacharach’s melodies and arrangements are, obviously, exquisite. They also work well as instrumentals. But the lyrics of Hal David, who died in 2012, elevate these songs. David brought an old-school approach to lyrics to what was then modern pop. It is not only the elegance and poetic wordsmithery that sets David apart from most of his contemporaries, but also the rhythm of the words. In both regards, David was the equal of any lyricist that came before him, bar Cole Porter.

I think that Cole Porter would have killed for a line like this: “What do you get when you kiss a girl? You get enough germs to catch pneumonia. After you do she’ll never phone ya…” Hal David’s lyrics capture universal emotions with great perception and imagination. A couple of lyrics — Wives And Lovers, Wishin’ And Hopin’ — are rather of their time and awfully sexist, at least by our standards today. Both will feature on Vol. 2. But these are exceptions. Few lyricists have communicated heartbreak quite as close to the nerve as David; just listen to One Less Bell To Answer.

So it is right that this mix bears both names, Bacharach and David, even if the eagle-eyed pedant will point out that not every song here features the lyrics of Hal David. One song on this mix, Any Day Now, has Bob Hilliard’s words, sung by Elvis Presley. At least one other Hilliard song (Tower Of Strength) will be on the second Bacharach/David mix.

On this mix I am not experimenting: every one of these version is a favourite; most of them are the definitive interpretations. Still, I have imposed my usual rule: no artist is going to appear twice on a mix. A few will appear twice over the two mixes; certainly the muse Dionne Warwick.

The showstopper here is Barbra Streisand’s duet of herself with a mash-up of One Less Bell To Answer/A House Is Not A Home, which was covered to great effect in 2010 on the TV show Glee by Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison.

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

1. Carpenters – (They Long To Be) Close To You (1970)
2. B.J. Thomas – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (1969)
3. Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You (1968)
4. Sandie Shaw – (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me (1964)
5. Dusty Springfield – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1964)
6. Jackie DeShannon – What The World Needs Now Is Love (1965)
7. Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (1964)
8. Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (2000)
9. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – San José (1984)
10. Luther Vandross – Anyone Who Had A Heart (1986)
11. Barbra Streisand – One Less Bell To Answer-A House Is Not A Home (1971)
12. Isaac Hayes – The Look Of Love (live) (1973)
13. Lyn Collins – Don’t Make Me Over (1975)
14. Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Prayer (1968)
15. The Sweet Inspirations – Reach Out For Me (1967)
16. The Stylistics – You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) (1972)
17. Lou Johnson – Kentucky Bluebird (Message To Martha) (1964)
18. Jimmy Radcliffe – There Goes The Forgotten Man (1962)
19. Walker Brothers – Make It Easy On Yourself (1966)
20. Gene Pitney – Only Love Can Break A Heart (1963)
21. Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas – Trains And Boats And Planes (1965)
22. Elvis Presley – Any Day Now (1969)
23. Trini Lopez – Made In Paris (1965)

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More Bacharach:
Bacharach: The Lesser Known Songbook
The Originals: Bacharach Edition
Covered With Soul Vol. 7: Bacharach/David Edition

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Life In Vinyl 1985 – Vol. 2

September 14th, 2017 1 comment

 

After a bit of a delay (more on that shortly) we hit the second half of 1985 in A Life in Vinyl. This seems a good opportunity to commend to you the Chart Music podcasts, one of which dealt with an episode of Top of the Pops in 1985. Produced by Al Needham, the erstwhile Nottingham’s Mr Sex with whom I collaborated on this thing some eight years ago, the podcasts have the host discuss with two guests in forensic and often very funny detail an old episode of the BBC show Top of the Pops. The guests typically are alumni of the now defunct Melody Maker, such as David Stubbs, Simon Price or Neil Kulkarni. For those interested in British music and culture in the ’70s and ‘80s, these podcasts are a treasure. For all other Pop-Crazed Youngsters, they are great fun.

And while I’m plugging sites, I might also mention the repository of old Smash Hits magazines set up by Brian McCloskey on Like Punk Never Happened, and my own side project, Bravoposters, wherein each day one or two posters, title pages, charts or ads that appeared in the German teen magazine Bravo from the 1950s to early 1980s are featured.

And so to the second half of 1985, about which I had written an extensive retrospective. Had I written it in 1985, I might still have it on paper. But I wrote it on a computer and saved it to an external hard-drive. You can guess the rest of my sorry tale. I believe I might have used the words “Oh fucking golly gosh” once to express my sentiments about having lost this and other bits of writing.

The first part of 1985 in A Life In Vinyl took us up to August. The dividing point of my year was not Live Aid but getting a new job in Chelsea, London, in September. My place of work was only three minutes’ walk from King’s Road, and not far from Kensington Market, so there were lots of interesting shops in which to browse. While my fashion sense bordered on the daring — few people could pull off my sartorial combination of Indie melancholy and Duran Duran coked-up what-the-fuck-are-you-thinking-of pastels. I was Morrissey Le Bon.

It was at that time that a flatmate invited me to join him and some friends for a night out at a nightclub called Heaven. As we were leaving to drive to Heaven, two rather gorgeous women joined me on either side in the backseat of the car. Momentarily I thought my luck was in — until they uttered their greetings, in quite unladylike voices. At that point I realised that Heaven is a gay club.

As we walked down Charing Cross to get to the club I was feeling a little apprehensive, as if a reporter of The Sun might be jumping out from the shadows to photograph me for a story headlined “Straight boy attends gay club”. Turned out, I loved the place. I loved that I felt no pressure to evade the fate of Morrissey, one I was familiar with, in How Soon Is Now —  “So you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home and you cry and you want to die”. Liberated from that pressure, I enjoyed myself more than I did at any other club. And when a very shy Asian guy offered to buy me a drink, I politely declined but felt an elation that somebody actually found me attractive. For an insecure, introverted 19-year-old, that was a big thing.

At that time I also managed to smuggle a group of us into the exclusive Stringfellow’s club a few times by asking the bouncers if Mr So-and-so from the embassy of this-or-that country had arrived yet. No? Well, we better get in to wait for him. The 1980s were a simpler time.

I loved that second part of 1985; it was one of those rare times when everything felt good and warm. For that reason, all of the songs featured here, and many more, evoke that fuzzy feeling I had at the time when I hear them now. What a pity then that not all of the songs of that time that conjure these sentiments were very good. Feargal Sharkey’s A Good Heart or — oh, the humanity — Red Box’s Lean On Me (Ah Li Ayo) are two examples of that. I won’t force those on you, though there are a couple of songs on this mix which I would not necessarily endorse as a critical blogger of music. Still, when I hear Midge Ure’s If I Was, I’m back in my North London room, feeling good about the world. Artistic merit? Unimportant.

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

1. Madness – Yesterday’s Men
2. The Smiths – The Boy With The Thorn In His Side
3. The Cure – Close To Me
4. Cameo – Single Life
5. Hipsway – Ask The Lord
6. Simple Minds – Alive And Kicking
7. Midge Ure – If I Was
8. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Lost Weekend
9. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Just Like Honey
10. New Order – Subculture
11. The Waterboys – The Whole Of The Moon
12. Talking Heads – Road To Nowhere
13. Grace Jones – Slave To The Rhythm
14. Dee C. Lee – See The Day
15. A-ha – Take On Me
16. Wham! – I’m Your Man
17. Fine Young Cannibals – Blue
18. Latin Quarter – No Rope As Long As Time
19. Isley Jasper Isley – Caravan Of Love

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In Memoriam – August 2017

September 6th, 2017 5 comments

I dealt with the big death of September, that of Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, already on Sunday, before I had a  chance to post the August round-up… So, here are last month’s dearly departed.The headliner death in August doubtless was that of Glen Campbell. Much has been said about Campbell’s singing career, which truly hit its stride with those great Jimmy Webb songs — there are many people who report Wichita Lineman as their all-time favourite song. Campbell might have fallen from musical relevance for many years, but his career-closer will surely be regarded as a landmark record in time to come, as the baby boomers and the generation that followed it slowly face age-related illnesses and mortality. In his swansong, poignantly titled I’m Not Gonna Miss You, Campbell says a last goodbye before his Alzheimer’s would kick in.

The tributes noted Campbell’s session work in the 1960s, and that he was a Beach Boy for a while. He was indeed a member of the group on stage, though not an official part of the recording group. But as a member of the collective of LA session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew he played on several of their songs. On Pet Sounds alone, he played the guitar on I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, I Know There’s An Answer, Caroline No, That’s Not Me and Put Your Head On My Shoulder. He also played on many Phil Sector records, including Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep-Mountain High. And he played on records by Elvis (on Viva Las Vegas), Sam Cooke, Jan & Dean, Dick Dale And His Del-Tones, Ricky Nelson, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Quincy Jones, The Monkees, Harper’s Bizarre, Gene Clark, Delaney & Bonnie, Jefferson Airplane, Randy Newman, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and more.

An alumnus of the Sun label in the mid-1950s, rockabilly singer and guitarist Sonny Burgess had a reputation for raucous performances but also sang gospel — a bit like that other Sun star, Jerry Lee Lewis. Unlike Lewis, Burgess never had a big breakthrough. Still, he kept performing and recording, receiving recognition late in life, especially in Europe. In his 80s he was still presenting a radio programme in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Recording engineers and mixers rarely get the props they deserve. Jason Corsaro, who has died of cancer at 58, might not have been a household name but he was a big name among producers, including Nile Rodgers. He first made his name in the mid-1980s is New York’s Power Station studio, in particular as the engineer and mixer of Madonna’s Like A Virgin album and the debut by the supergroup that took its name from the studio’s name. He engineered or mixed for acts as diverse as Duran Duran, The Cars, Sly & Robbie, Peter Gabriel, Spyro Gyra, Motörhead, Cameo, and Soundgarden (including Black Hole Sun, which featured to mark the death of Chris Cornell in In Memoriam May 2017.

I could not in good conscience take part in the mawkish tributes for comedian and occasional singer Jerry Lewis. The cross-eyed, gurning, quack-voiced village idiot shtick that once passed for comedy (and, mystifyingly, still does in parts of Europe) is not my jam in any way. Though as a serious actor Lewis did a great job basically playing himself in King Of Comedy (a film in which one is tempted to root for Rupert Pupkin). He released a few records, even reaching the US Top 10 with one, performed in that stupid comedy voice. In the In Memoriam series I have shared some pretty awful stuff by way of tribute, but I won’t inflict Jerry Lewis’ stylings on you.

Lewis was not a nice man. He was a misogynist and a bigot of many stripes who admired Donald Trump. And he was unspeakably rude to interviewers. Whatever bonus points he might merit for is impressive charity work are deducted for Lewis’ tendency to use that to self-aggrandise himself. “Nobody has worked harder for the human condition than I have” indeed. “[Syrian] refugees should stay where the hell they are,” Lewis said in a spectacularly ugly interview a couple of years ago. Those are the words of a very dark man.With Wilson das Neves one of the great names in Brazilian music has passed away. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, the percussionist and singer played on countless records by some of the country’s biggest names in music, apart from those he released himself. He is credited with having had a great influence on samba in particular. He also played with international artists such as Sarah Vaughan, Toots Thielemans and Michel Legrand. At the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics in 2016, das Neves appeared in a segment with other Brazilian stars Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Anitta.

Americans of a certain generation will know the sound of Larry Elgart’s saxophone well: it featured on the theme of American Bandstand, performed as part of his brother Les’ big band. Larry brought the big band sound back inti the charts in 1982 when he compiled the Hooked On Swing medleys.

Few people outside Oakland, California, will have heard of Dave Deporis. It would be a happier circumstance had it stayed that way. But on August 9 the singer-songwriter was sitting in an outdoor café when thieves grabbed his laptop computer and fled in it in a car. Deporis gave chase but got caught on the car. The drivers didn’t stop but dragged the musician for 200 metres before running him over, causing lethal injuries. On that laptop was all his music…

Sometimes LP cover designers merit a mention in the In Memoriam series, and so it is with Chris Whorf, who has died at 76. He made his mark especially as the art director of Casablanca records, where he was responsible for everything from corporate design to music videos. As for the LP covers he designed or art-directed, there are hundreds of them. Most notable among them are Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul, John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy and — a very controversial cover — Yoko Ono’s Seasons Of Glass. A small selection is represented in the collage below (a bigger version of it is in the mix).

Richard Shirman, 68, singer of psychedelic rock band The Attack, on July 26
The Attack – Lady Orange Peel (1968)

Goldy McJohn, 72, keyboardist of Canadian band Steppenwolf, on August 1
Steppenwolf – Magic Carpet Ride (1968)

Daniel Licht, 60, soundtrack composer and musician, on August 2
Daniel Licht – Theme from Dexter (2006, score)

Tony Cohen, 60, Australian producer and engineer, on August 2
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Carnival Is Over (1986, as producer-engineer)
The Cruel Sea – Black Stick (1993, as producer)

Jessy Serrata, 63, US Tejano musician, on August 4

Luiz Melodia, 66, Brazilian singer, songwriter and actor, on August 4
Luiz Melodia – Falando de Pobreza (1978)

Bruno Canfora, 92, composer, conductor and arranger, on August 5
Shirley Bassey – This Is My Life (La Vita) (1968, as composer)

Chris Whorf, 76, LP cover designer, on August 5

Glen Campbell, 81, country legend, on August 8
Ike & Tina Turner – River Deep-Mountain High (1966, on guitar)
Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (1968)
Glen Campbell – If These Walls Could Speak (1988)
Glen Campbell – Southern Nights (1977)
Glen Campbell and The Wrecking Crew – I’m Not Gonna Miss You (2014)

Barbara Cook, 89, singer and actress, on August 8
Barbara Cook with Arthur Harris’ Orchestra – Glad To Be Unhappy (1958)

Janet Seidel, 62, Australian jazz singer and pianist, on August 8
Janet Seidel – I’ve Got The Sun In The Morning (2001)

Dave Deporis, 40, singer-songwriter, killed on August 9

Robert Yancy, 39, drummer, son of Natalie Cole, on August 14

Benard Ighner, 72, songwriter and producer, on August 14
Marlena Shaw – Loving You Was Like A Party (1975, as producer & co-writer)
Randy Crawford – Everything Must Change (1977, as writer)

Jason Corsaro, 58, engineer and mixer, on August 16
Duran Duran – A View To A Kill (1985, as engineer, mixer, co-producer)
Steve Winwood – Higher Love (1986, as engineer)
Ramones – Pet Sematary (1989, as mixer)

Jo Walker-Meador, 93, long-serving heads of the Country Music Association, on August 16

Jesse Boyce, 69, producer, songwriter and musician, on August 17
Bottom & Company – Gonna Find A True Love (1974, as member on bass)
Bill Brandon & Lorraine Johnson – Just Can’t Walk Away (1977, on bass and piano)

Sonny Burgess, 88, rockabilly singer, songwriter and guitarist, on August 18
Sonny Burgess – We Wanna Boogie (1956)
Sonny Burgess – Ain’t Got A Thing (1957)

Bruce Forsyth, 89, English TV entertainer, on August 18
Bruce Forsyth – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (2011)

Bea Wain, 100, Big Band singer, on August 19
Larry Clinton and his Orchestra feat. Bea Wain – Deep Purple (1939)
Bea Wain – My Reverie (1944)

Concha Valdes Miranda, 89, Cuban composer, on August 19

Margot Hielscher, 97, German singer and actress, on August 20
Margot Hielscher – Frauen sind keine Engel (1943)

Jerry Lewis, 91, actor and occasional singer, on August 20

John Abercrombie, 72, jazz guitarist, on August 22
Dreams – Devil Lady (1969, as member)
John Abercrombie & Andy LaVerne – Now Hear This (2005)

Martin ‘Big Larry’ Allbritton, 80, blues singer and drummer, on August 24

Winston Samuels, 73, singer with Jamaican ska band The Aces, on August 24
Desmond Dekker & The Aces – The Israelites (1968, on backing vocals)

Wilson das Neves, 81, Brazilian singer and percussionist, on August 26
Wilson das Neves – Bólido 74 (1969)

Melissa Bell, 53, singer with British funk band Soul II Soul, on August 28
Soul II Soul – Be A Man (1993, on vocals)

Larry Elgart, 95, jazz bandleader, on August 29
Les Elgart and his Orchestra – Bandstand Boogie (1954, on saxophone)
Les & Larry Elgart – Nowhere Man (1966)

Skip Prokop, 73, drummer of Canadian groups Lighthouse, The Paupers, on August 30
Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper – That’s All Right (1968, on drums)
Lighthouse – Feel So Good (1969)

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Any Major Steely Dan Covers

September 3rd, 2017 10 comments

The death today of Steely Dan’s equal half, Walter Becker, merits a tribute to the band, especially on a site titled Any Major Dude With Half A Heart.

Steely Dan is the kind of band that invites strong opinions. Their music is not very soulful but expertly executed, using some of the finest session players of their time. For some it’s too cold; others can bathe in glow of the music’s brilliance. I can see why one might not be touched by the music, even finding it too clever, too self-consciously sophisticated. It’s a fair criticism, even if I don’t share in it. But the musicianship and the innovation deserve admiration. Much of it was Walter Becker’s work.

After starting out as a conventional rock group, Steely Dan soon became the two-some of Becker and Donald Fagan, surrounding themselves with a collective of top session musicians. Almost all the drummers that have featured in the Session Players series have played with Steely Dan: Bernard Purdie, Steve Gadd, Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, Ricky Lawson

Fagan was pretty much the frontman, taking the lead vocals. Becker’s primary job was to see to the intricate arrangements, with those complex rhythm tracks and finely tuned harmonies.

And that is where the critics of Steely Dan might do well to listen with new ears. I think they’ll find many surprises in most tracks.

And now, having bigged up the arrangements, I’m presenting a collection of cover versions.

It is not easy to do covers of songs that rely on intricate arrangements, and only very few Dan songs have been covered any significant number of times. This is what Steely Dan share with ABBA. But where the versions on the ABBA covers mix mostly required reinvention to be any good, Steely Dan songs can be covered fairly straight and still be good.

One version here is not good. Donny and Marie Osmond singing Reelin’ In The Years as the opening production of their show on 13 January 1978. Having done their job on the song, the toothy siblings hand over to the easy listening choir that scores an ice-skating routine, complete with high kicks. It is quite a show; take a look at it! Strangely, even though Reelin’ In The Years is pretty much the simplest, most straight-forward Steely Dan track, I’ve not heard a cover of which that I really liked.

And with that, here’s to the legacy of the great Walter Becker. May he rest in peace.

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

1. Wilco – Any Major Dude Will Tell You (2000)
2. Ben Folds Five – Barrytown (2000)
3. Nathan Haines with Damon Albarn – F.M. (2003)
4. Turin Brakes – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (2011)
5. Minutemen – Dr. Wu (1984)
6. Rickie Lee Jones – Show Biz Kids (2000)
7. Atlanta Rhythm Section – Hey Nineteen (2011)
8. Michael McDonald with Donald Fagen – Pretzel Logic (1991)
9. Waylon Jennings – Do It Again (1980)
10. José Feliciano – Dirty Work (1974)
11. Poco – Dallas (1975)
12. Snake Davis Band – Deacon Blues (2016)
13. David Garfield – Josie (2003)
14. Sara Isaksson & Rebecka Törnqvist – Fire In The Hole (2006)
15. Ivy – Only A Fool Would Say That (2000)
16. Zo! feat. Phonte and Sy Smith – Black Cow (2011)
17. Toto – Bodhisattva (2002)
18. Woody Herman Band – Aja (1978)
19. Donny & Marie Osmond – Reelin’ In The Years (1978)

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Any Major Jones

August 31st, 2017 8 comments

No surname, surely, appears in pop songs more frequently than Jones. So it seems appropriate to issue a mix or two (or even three; I have enough songs for that) of songs referring to somebody called Jones. And I’ve so far excluded songs that use the name Jones as a noun (such as Love Jones), never mind as a verb (jonesing).

That John D. Loudermilk song sounds a lot like a later track, possibly by the Bee Gees, a real potential case for Copy Borrow Steal. Who can out me out of my misery and tell me which song I hear in this track?

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

1. Frank Sinatra – Have You Met Miss Jones (1961)
What the Jones? Well, he has met her and now Miss Jones is stuck with him forever, poor girl.

2. Amy Winehouse – Me And Mr. Jones (2006)
What the Jones? What kind of fuckery indeed is this with Mr Jones?

3. Kool & the Gang – Jones vs Jones (1980)
What the Jones? It got too hot, now it’s the end between him and her.

4. Billy Paul – Me And Mrs. Jones (1972)
What the Jones? They have, as you probably know, got a thing going on…

5. Dusty Springfield – Willie & Laura Mae Jones (1969)
What the Jones? A song about he temporary condition of racial harmony, but that was another place and another time…

6. Small Faces – Lazy Sunday (1968)
What the Jones? “Cor blimey, hello Mrs Jones, how’s your old Bert’s lumbago?”

7. John D. Loudermilk – Angela Jones (1962)
What the Jones? He’ll carry her books home if she’ll just give him one little Doot’n do doo.

8. Bee Gees – New York Mining Disaster 1941 (1967)
What the Jones? The logic of asking Mr Jones lots of questions and then telling him to answer at a volume nobody can hear lest he cause a landslide…

9. Bob Dylan – Ballad Of A Thin Man (1965)
What the Jones? Mr Jones the journalist has no clue. Or Bob’s just being an asshole.

10. Ben Folds – Fred Jones Part 2 (live, 2005)
What the Jones? Ben Folds witnesses the retirement of a veteran newspaper man (not Bob’s hack, though), and anticipates the manufactured decimation of the traditional newsroom by profiteering enemies of professional journalism.

11. Counting Crows – Mr. Jones (1993)
What the Jones? Mr J is Sideshow Bob’s partner in perving at women.

12. The Jam – Smithers Jones (1979)
What the Jones? Smithers Jones the conformist, like his cousin Fred, gets shafted by the capitalist exploiter.

13. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Brown To Blue (1981)
What the Jones? Another divorce knees-up. She’ll become Mrs Jones and he’ll be blue.

14. Porter Wagoner – The First Mrs. Jones (1967)
What the Jones? A pretty melody for a very disturbing murder song, with a hell of a scary punchline.

15. Bobby Bare – Mrs. Jones, Your Daughter Cried All Night (1970)
What the Jones? Bobby met Miss Jones, and Mrs Jones didn’t approve.

16. Claudia Lennear – Casey Jones (1973)
What the Jones? There are many songs about John Luther “Casey” Jones was a railroad engineer who was killed in an accident in 1900, becoming a hero for saving many lives in the process. Lennear’s version is that by Furry Lewis, written in 1928.

17. Jerry Butler – Tammy Jones (1970)
What the Jones? Jerry wants to elope with Tammy from their gossiping town. Hmmm, Tammy Wynette was married to George Jones at the time. No wonder the town was gossiping…

18. Flaming Ember – Westbound #9 (1970)
What the Jones? The Reverend Jones preaches in a town of hypocrites. Time to get out on the Westbound #9.

19. The Supremes – Nathan Jones (1971)
What the Jones? Nathan upped and left and broke The Supremes’ heart. Well, here’s hoping Nathan ended up like the idiot who ghosted his girlfriend who turned out to be his boss ten years later.

20. The 5th Dimension – Black Patch (1972)
What the Jones? Jones got his mean streak from the gutter, got his kindness from God. If he didn’t get the invite, the former would probably emerge.

21. Scott Engel – Mr. Jones (1961)
What the Jones? The future Scott Walker wants to make Mrs Jones’ daughter the future Mrs Engel.

22. Dr. John – Save The Bones For Henry Jones (2006)
What the Jones? Originally from 1953, is this the first song about vegetarianism?

23. Roberta Flack – Sunday And Sister Jones (1971)
What the Jones? Reverend Jones dies and Sister Jones doesn’t hang about.

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Any Major American Road Trip – 7

August 24th, 2017 4 comments

So finally we are reaching an end to our seven-part musical American Road Trip which began in Boston and took us via New York and Philly down to South Carolina, through the Deep South and Texas into the west via Arizona, up the coast of California, turning right via Las Vegas through the Mid-West, and leaving us in Akron, Ohio when we last stopped.

In this mix we are staying briefly in Ohio, at the university town of Kent to pay tribute to the students shot dead there in 1970. We then move into blue-collar Pennsylvania, an area that is said to have swung things Trump’s way last November. It’s safe to say that the men singing about life in Pittsburgh and Youngstown would not recommend voting for Trump, nor for the enemies of the working and middle classes that are leeching off the institutionalised corruption in Washington.

From Pittsburgh our journey covers destinations which one might describe as unsung, except this mix is proof that they, in fact, are sung: places like Wheeling, Roanoke, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Myrtle Beach. Revisiting South Carolina and, briefly, Georgia, we come to Florida, ending up right at the tip of The Keys, at Key West — as you will see on the back cover.

By then, we’ll have covered 119 towns in 153 songs. I hope you enjoyed the trip. Next Europe?

 

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

1. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Ohio (2004 – Kent, OH)
2. Bruce Springsteen – Youngstown (1995 – Youngstown, PA)
3. Pete Seeger – Pittsburgh Town (1957 – Pittsburgh, PA)
4. Billy Joel – The Ballad Of Billy The Kid (live) (1981 – Wheeling, WV)
5. Tim Rose – Roanoke (1969 – Roanoke, NC)
6. Chuck Berry – The Promised Land (1964 – Norfolk, VA)
7. Starbuck – Moonlight Feels Right (1976 – Chesapeake, VA)
8. Aimee Mann – Ghost World (2006 – Myrtle Beach, SC)
9. Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland – Yolanda (1974 – Charleston, SC)
10. Lovin’ Spoonful – Jug Band Music (1966 – Savannah, GA)
11. Josh Turner – Jacksonville (2003, Jacksonville, FL)
12. John Hiatt – The Tiki Bar Is Open (2001 – Daytona Beach, FL)
13. Jimmy Buffett – Ballad Of Skip Wiley (1995 – Orlando & St Augustine, FL)
14. The Jayhawks – Tampa To Tulsa (2003 – Tampa, FL)
15. Drive-By Truckers – The Flying Wallendas (2010 – Sarasota, FL)
16. Elvis Presley – Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce (1965 – Fort Lauderdale, FL)
17. Sarah Vaughan – Moon Over Miami (1960 – Miami, FL)
18. Keith Whitley – Miami, My Amy (1985 – Miami, FL)
19. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Miami (1986 – Miami, FL)
20. Bertie Higgins – Key Largo (1982 – Key Largo, FL)
21. Shel Silverstein – The Great Conch Train Robbery (1980 – Key West, FL)

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Previously on American Road Trip

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Any Major Elvis Covers

August 16th, 2017 9 comments

Where were you when you learned of Elvis’ death, 40 years ago on August 16? I was at a church summer camp. At 11 I didn’t really appreciate the importance of Elvis. To me, he was a name and face one just knew, like those of Charlie Chaplin or Bing Crosby — both of whom also died in 1977. But, as it so often is, the death of an icon kicked off a mania. Suddenly everybody was an Elvis fan, myself included.

A greatest hits type of double album was my introduction to Elvis. It had all the important stuff on it. Some months later I bought a four-album set of Elvis rock & roll stuff. I was blown away by it, and adopted I Want To Be Free as my nominal favourite Elvis song.

It took me longer to get into latter period Elvis, other than the usual suspects (Suspicious Minds, In The Ghetto etc), and only grudgingly came to appreciate some of Movie Elvis period output.

I have previously run two mixes of the originals of songs Elvis had hits with (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). To mark the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death, here is a mix of artists covering Elvis songs. Almost all were Elvis originals; the three that aren’t — All Shook Up, Suspicious Minds, Burning Love —were rather obscure before Elvis recorded them. So no Hound Dog or Blues Suede Shoes here.

James Brown recorded his version of Love Me Tender after Elvis’ death, by way of tribute by what he says is one king to another. Humility was never JB’s strong suite. Of the soul covers here, his is not the best: that would be Candi Staton’s In The Ghetto.  And yet I was tempted to include the bizarre cover by Sammy Davis Jr that featured on The Ghetto Vol. 1.

Three covers here are by people who wrote the songs. Otis Backwell’s version of Return To Sender appeared on an album defiantly titled These Are My Songs. Dennis Linde’s recording of Burning Love sounds like it ought to have been a hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival. And Mac Davis took four years before he recorded the Elvis hit he had co-written, A Little Less Conversation.

Most songs here more or less follow the Elvis template, with some variations. So The Pogues’ version of Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do is reworked in the band’s customary Irish folk-punk sound, but the song retains its intregrity; likewise Albert King gives Jailhouse Rock a blistering blues treatment, but it’s still discernibly Jailhouse Rock. I suppose it might be difficult to immediately recognise Teddy Thompson’s wonderful version of I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone as the rock & roll track Elvis created, but that’s just clever arranging.

Two tracks, however, totally rework Elvis: John Cale’s Heartbreak Hotel has only passing acquaintance with the original. The Jeff Beck Group — with “Extraordinaire Rod Stewart”, as the sleeve notes have it, on vocals, backed by Beck, Ron Wood and Nicky Hopkins — stir into All Shook Up a heavy dosed of blues-rock. What, one may wonders, could have been had Elvis adopted that kind of sound in the late’60s. Poor “Colonel” Parker might have spontaneously combusted, leaving behind a pile of dust and a rock where his heart once was.

The benefit of listening to others sing Elvis is that one can understand the lyrics. Presley was a wonderful singer, but his diction was awful. I don’t think there’s a single up-tempo Elvis song which has not required me to innovate some alternative lyrics. So a good number of songs here have helped me disabused me of misheard lyrics. One of those was Devil In Disguise, thanks to candidates for inclusion which I rejected in favour of the one cover here that isn’t in English. It’s in Czech and performed by veteran crooner Karel Gott, “the Sinatra of the East”. It is, let’s say, interesting. I suspect Elvis might have approved as left the building.

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

1. Albert King – Jailhouse Rock (1969)
2. Roy Orbison – Mean Woman Blues (1963)
3. Buddy Holly – You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care) (1958)
4. Otis Blackwell – Return To Sender (1977)
5. Ry Cooder – Little Sister (1979)
6. Dillard & Clark – Don’t Be Cruel (1968)
7. Teddy Thompson – I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (2007)
8. Mac Davis – A Little Less Conversation (1972)
9. Dennis Linde – Burning Love (1973)
10. Candi Staton – In The Ghetto (1972)
11. The Persuasions – Good Luck Charm (2003)
12. Chuck Jackson – (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear (1966)
13. James Brown – Love Me Tender (1978)
14. PJ Proby – If I Can Dream (2011)
15. Françoise Hardy – Loving You (1968)
16. Sandy Posey – Don’t (1973)
17. Chris Isaak – I Forgot To Remember To Forget (2011)
18. Fine Young Cannibals – Suspicious Minds (1986)
19. The Pogues – Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do (1990)
20. Bruce Springsteen – Viva Las Vegas (2003)
21. Wanda Jackson – Hard Headed Woman (1961)
22. Conway Twitty – Treat Me Nice (1961)
23. Bobby Stevens – Stuck On You (1960)
24. Robert Gordon with Link Wray – I Want To Be Free (1977)
25. Vince Eager – A Big Hunk O’Love (1972)
26. The Jeff Beck Group – All Shook Up (1968)
27. John Cale – Heartbreak Hotel (1975)
28. Karel Gott – Dábel tisíc tvárí má (Devil In Disguise) (2011)

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Elvis movies mix & quiz

August 10th, 2017 8 comments

What it says in the title… A mix of songs from Evis movie — one from each — and guess the Elvis movie from the synopsis. Clue: all the movies referred to in the quiz were made after Elvis served his fatherland. The answers are in the comments section (if some of the comments seem old, it’s because I first posted it in 2008). Not that I expect anybody but the greatest Elvis fan to know most of the answers; the fun resides in the questions. When Elvis went to Hollywood, he hoped to inherit James Dean’s mantle of rebellion. As these questions may suggest, he didn’t even inherit Bing Crosby’s mantle of casually whistling acquiescence.

1. Elvis is a singing heir to a pineapple plantation in Hawaii who becomes, as you do when the future holds a panama hat, a tour guide. He falls in love and sings 14 (count ’em) songs, including that ghastly tune ignorant people tend to call “Wise Man Say”.

2. Elvis is a singing swimming pool lifeguard who couldn’t cut it in the circus. He falls in love. With a bullfighter. Alas, it was not an edgy message movie fighting a culture of homophobia well ahead of its time. The bullfighter is — and the shrewd reader guessed it — a woman.

3. Elvis is a singing rodeo rider. Looking for gold, he falls in love and — don’t say you didn’t see that one coming — gets married to his lady love. Aaah!

4. Elvis is a singing racing driver working as a bus boy (which means, he clears tables, not speed through the streets in a doubledecker). He falls in love with a swimming instructor. And — spoiler alert — together they win a talent competition. Hurrah!

5. Elvis is a singing charter boat pilot in Hawaii who is torn between two girls. In the end (spoiler alert redux!) he goes — gulp — for the good girl.

6. Elvis is a singing bush pilot who takes care of a little Chinese kid. He then, yes, falls in love.

7. Elvis plays a non-singing (!) gunslinger come good. He fails to sing, but — phew — he does fall in love (else what movie would there be?). With a dance hall queen, as you do.

8. Elvis is a singing rodeo rider (again), but with an ethnic twist: he is of Native-American descent. This time, Elvis doesn’t so much fall in love but play the field, going for a mother and daughter combo. Off-screen Elvis preferred the teenage daughters; will he go for the MILF on-screen?

9. Elvis is, but of course, a singing racing driver who, plausibly enough, falls in love with a singing government agent in go-go boots. The story we all have to tell.

10. Elvis is a singing boxer who is supposed to take a fall. But he does fall. In love. With the love interest from movie (1).

11. Elvis is a navy frogman. Oh, but he is. And the kicker is, at night he sings in a nightclub. Oh, but he does. The unbelievable plot device here: Elvis fails to fall in love but goes treasure hunting instead. Will he find the treasure?

12. Elvis is a singing helicopter pilot. And guess where. No, really, please do take a wild stab in the dark. Why, he’s a singing helicopter pilot in Hawaii. But this movie is not like all the others in which Elvis is a singing action man who falls in love with a pretty girl while being pursued by the town harlot. Here he doesn’t fall in love with one or two women, but romances three, count ’em, of them.

13. Elvis is a singing racing car driver. Incredibly, the thing isn’t called Deja Fuckin’ Vu. Elvis again has three women to choose from, as he did in movie (12) which preceded this one (the 1960s morals had loosened, evidently). And they have some pretty ordinary jobs: drummer, self-help author, heiress…

14. Elvis is a singing heir, to a rich Texas oilman, who roughs it a bit as a waterski instructor (doing it fully clothed!). Among his clients is a woman who is looking for a rich husband. Oh, the hilarious complications that arise when Elvis falls in love. How will Elvis get out of this one?

15. Elvis is an occasionally singing photographer of stylish advertisements and of nudie pics (nobody showed the Colonel that script, I bet) who experiences psychedelic trips involving people in dog costumes (actually, was Tom Parker at all awake?). Yup, there is a love interest, seeing as you ask.

16. Elvis is a singing US soldier who falls in love with a dancer and sings a German folk song to a puppet.

17. Elvis is a ghetto doctor who doesn’t sing an awful lot. But he falls in love. With a nun. Oh naughty Elvis. But how could he know of her profession when she is swanning about in civvies. No wimple warning. There isn’t even a happy ending: we never learn whether the nun, played by a TV legend, goes with Big El or with Big Al. No wonder this was the last Elvis movie (a couple of documentaries apart).

18. Elvis is a singing insurance salesman who moonlights as a lion tamer and falls in love with the circus clown’s daughter.

The movies were mostly terrible (and yet strangely alluring in a camp sort of way), and not infrequently so was the music. Still, there were some stomping numbers, few more so than Bossa Nova Baby (watch great the excerpt from Fun In Acapulco here) with its sample-worthy keyboard line. Written by the legendary Leiber & Stoller, who just a decade earlier had written Hound Dog and other rock ‘n’ roll classics, it was first recorded in 1962 by Tippie & the Clovers, whose version the song’s composers preferred over Elvis’. Why the bossa nova sounds Mexican and, in fact, nothing like a bossa nova is anybody’s guess.

Another Leiber & Stoller composition, one that hints at Elvis’ affection for gospel, is I Want To Be Free, from Jailhouse Rock. It has been an Elvis favourite of mine since I first heard it on 4-disc set of our boy’s rock ‘n’ roll recordings which I bought when I was 12. The version featured here is the one from the film, not that from the soundtrack (which, it must be said, is superior).

Elvis might have gone soft on us after returning from the army, but on his version of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say, he rocks out. From 1964’s Viva Las Vegas, it was the b-side of the excellent title track. And on G.I. Blues Evis even revisits Blue Suede Shoes. And here’s the thing: the cover of the first cover is note-for-note faithful, the arrangement is he same, but it lacks the ejaculatory power of the 1956 version. The army demonstably had emasculated Elvis.

From 1962′ Girls Girls Girls, Return To Sender sounds like it might have featured in a pre-army movie. In fact, it sounds like a good companion piece to King Creole. It was co-written by Otis Blackwell who had previously written All Shook Up, Don’t Be Cruel, Fever (all recorded by Elvis) as well as Jerry Lee Lewis Great Balls Of Fire. Look out for Blackwell’s own version of it on a mix next week.

For a perfect fusion of Cool Rock ‘n’ Roll Elvis and Cheesy Movie Elvis, one may turn to What A Wonderful Life from 1962’s Follow That Dream, in which Elvis plays the singing son of a vagabond heading down Florida way et cetera.

There was a period when the crapness of Elvis’ music coincided with the shittiness of his movies to create a sewerage of artlessness. I would locate that point at 1965/66. Some argue that Harum Scarum in 1965 was the nadir, and it is a perfectly defensible position; I propose that this was just a stop before the all-time low: Spinout in 1965. There are no redeeming songs at all from that wretched movie. But rules are rules and I had to include one from each film. So you have the pleasure to sample the misogynistic Smorgasbord wherein our hero narrates his philandering ways by way of comparing his conquests to Scandinavian fingerfood. It’s so bad, it really is bad.

Things improved shortly, though not without further humiliations. You Gotta Stop from the following film, Easy Come, Easy Go is a few steps up from his nordic epicurean adventure, and then we get Long Legged Girl (With the Short Dress On) from Double Trouble (you remember Double Trouble, don’t you?), which is a fine performance, poor lyrics notwithstanding. Not that it saved poor Elvis’ dignity. In the same movie he was made to sing Old McDonald Had A Farm. Apparently he stormed out of the studio upon being told that the King of Rock & Roll was required to sing that. But sing that he did, on record and in the movie. It is a pathetic spectacle.

But improve the things did. In 1967’s Clambake — another cinematic triumph —  Elvis sang Jerry Reed’s Guitar Man, getting deep into his country roots. On Stay Away, Joe (everybody remembers that) he reconnects with the blues, in a manner, with All I Need Is The Rain; and in 1968’s Live A Little, Love A Little, he hits on a career highlight with A Little Less Conversation (a song that returned him to the charts almost 40 years later).

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

1. We’re Gonna Move (Love Me Tender, 1956)
2. Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do (Loving You, 1957)
3. I Want To Be Free (Movie version) (Jailouse Rock, 1957)
4. Hard Headed Woman (King Creole, 1958)
5. Blue Suede Shoes (G.I. Blues, 1960)
6. Flaming Star (Flaming Star, 1960)
7. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (Wild In The Country, 1961)
8. No More (Blue Hawaii, 1961)
9. What A Wonderful Life (Follow That Dream, 1962)
10. I Got Lucky (Kid Gallahad, 1962)
11. Return To Sender (Girls, Girls, Girls, 1962)
12. They Remind Me Too Much Of You (It Happened At The World Fair, 1963)
13. Bossa Nova Baby (Fun In Acapulca, 1963)
14. Kissin’ Cousins (Kissin’ Cousins, 1964)
15. What’d I Say (Viva Las Vegas, 1964)
16. Wheels On My Heels (Roustabout, 1964)
17. The Meanest Girl In Town (Girl Happy, 1965)
18. Put The Blame On Me (Tickle Me, 1965)
19. So Close, Yet So Far (From Paradise) (Harum Scarum, 1965)
20. A Dog’s Life (Frankie And Johnny, 1966)
21. Hard Luck (Paradise, Hawaii Style, 1966)
22. Smorgasbord (Spinout, 1966)
23. You Gotta Stop (Easy Come, Easy Go, 1967)
24. Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On) (Double Trouble, 1967)
25. Guitar Man (Clambake, 1967)
26. All I Needed Was The Rain (Stay Away, Joe, 1968)
27. Let Yourself Go (Speedway, 1968)
28. A Little Less Conversation (Live A Little, Love A Little, 1968)
29. Charro! (Charro!, 1969)
30. Clean Up Your Own Backyard (The Trouble With Girls, 1969)
31. Have A Happy (Change Of Habits, 1969)

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In Memoriam – July 2017

August 3rd, 2017 2 comments

Just two months after the death by hanging of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, his friend Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, took his life by the same method. Reportedly, Bennington had been suicidal for a while, for reasons relating to sexual abuse he suffered as a child (his abuser was a victim himself, so Bennington, evidently a man of extraordinary empathy, declined to press charges). He had apparently taken Cornell’s death badly, and had a history of battling with alcohol addiction. He leaves six children from two marriages. An awful story in every respect. What strikes me is the number of young people with depression issues who have testified that Bennington verbalised what they could not articulate.

The man who signed Barbra Streisand and Sly and the Family Stone prepared for his imminent death by posing on Facebook with his specially designed coffin. David Kapralik, who reached the age of 91, saw the young Babs on a TV show in 1962 and convinced Columbia head Goddard Lieberson to see her in concert — as she was supporting a comedian. Within three months Streisand released her debut LP. A few years later, Kapralik saw Sly Stone and his racially diverse group in a San Francisco a club, and became their manager, signing them to Epic. In between, he produced various acts, most notably Peaches & Herb (as well as the original Peaches — Francine Baker — when she went solo) and the legendary drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, as well as more novelty-type records by Bette Davis and Cassius Clay. And along the way, he helped Tommy Mottola on his path to becoming a legendary music executive. Kapralik retired in the 1970s to become a children’s musician and selling organic produce from his farm.

Canadian soul singer Bobby Taylor enjoyed a few minor hits, but his headlining legacy is as the man who discovered the Jackson 5. Taylor and his band, The Vancouvers, had themselves been discovered by The Supremes. The band was previously known, charmingly, as Four Niggers and a Chink — the Asian component being Tommy Chong (later Cheech’s stoner sidekick) who was half-Chinese, half-Scottish. It was in 1969 when the Vancouvers played in Chicago that Taylor was so impressed by the supporting act, the Jackson children. He personally took them to Detroit and introduced them to a doubtless grateful Motown. The label also signed Taylor and his group, but their two singles flopped and things fell apart over internal disputes. One of the songs they recorded but didn’t get released, the Marvin Gaye composition The Bells I Hear, ended up being chopped into two bits, both successful songs for The Originals: Baby I’m For Real and The Bells. Taylor auditioned for David Ruffin’s spot in the Temptations, but didn’t get that gig. His solo singles, though good, did little business.

Elvis in the end wished him death, but Red West outlived his old friend and bodyguard by a month short of 40 years. West was a member of the so-called Memphis Mafia, the entourage that formed a protective cordon around Presley. West had been close to Elvis since the early days, but the relationship fractured when West was fired by Elvis’ father Vernon in 1976. Red then wrote a book about Elvis with his cousin Sonny West and David Hebler, who had also been fired by Vernon. Titled Elvis, What Happened?, the authors claimed their revelations about Elvis’ drug-use was a desperate attempt at saving the singer; the Presley camp saw the book as a betrayal. In happier times, West had recorded a few records and wrote a whole bunch for Elvis, Pat Boone, Ricky Nelson and others. He was also an actor and stuntman.Rap took a nasty turn in the late 1980s, coinciding with the advent of 2 Live Crew, who brought to the fore a sense of the sexually explicit, which rather too often found expression in misogyny, in the lyrics of 2 Live Crew and acts that followed (stuff like Face Down Ass Up with its immortal line: “I make her do things like nothin’ before, and when I’m done, she’ll always be sore). In the more puritan times of the late 1980s and early ‘90s this kind of stuff created legal court cases and precedents; today the USA has a president who might critique 2 Live Crew for being to restrained in dealing with women. The one constant in 2 Live Crew’s ever-changing line-ups was Fresh Kid Ice, who has died at 53, seven years after suffering a debilitating stroke. Born Chris Wong Won in Trinidad & Tobago, he was also a prolific solo artist, delighting his audience with anthems like Long Dick Chinese and the pretty self-explanatory Suck My Dick (the song Steve Bannon likes to sing to himself) and We Like Too Fuck.

I had just seen French electronic music pioneer and collaborator Pierre Schaeffer on an old German TV show when I learnt of the death of his contemporary Pierre Henry. It was those two who paved the way for the synth-button doodlings of Jean-Michel Jarre and their ilk. Henry studied under the great French classical composer Olivier Messiaen, and was a classical composer in his own right, though of a modernistic bent, as in 1950s Symphonie pour un homme seul, which he co-wrote with Schaeffer (fans of things like The Beatles’ Revolution #9 might enjoy it; it’s not my thing). But his best-remembered piece of music might be the 1969 electronic tune Psyché Rock, which we recognise in only a slight adaptation as the theme song for Futurama.

If you want to hear the sound of Cape Town, one of the world’s great cities, you could do worse than turn to guitarist Errol Dyers, who has died at 65. Like many of the city’s jazz musicians, he guarded its jazz tradition jealously, to the point that he resented the commercialisation of his recordings (aside from the fact that the musicians almost invariably get ripped off by record companies). He was an exquisite guitar player and one of a dying generation of jazz masters. Some of the greats — Monty Webber, Sammy Hartman, Lionel Beukes, Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee, Monwabisi, Dyers — came together in 1976 to record an album in tribute to District Six, a mixed-race conurbation in the centre of Cape Town which was being demolished at the time by the apartheid regime, its people forcibly removed to gang-ridden townships. Dyers and his fellow musicians knew District Six as a cultural hub that celebrated the joys and pains of its people. The featured track from that album, Happy All The Time, reflects this.One of the biggest stars in West-Germany in the early- to mid-1970s was Chris Roberts. He was the kind of well-behaved boy every mom wished for her son-in-law. Always deferential, the likable Roberts maintained a scandal-free career with a bunch of catchy but banal Schlager hits and appearances in comedy movies that were light of heart and even more light on substance. Bizarrely, one of the biggest German stars lived almost all of his life without having a nationality. He was born in 1944 in Munich as Christian Klusáček, the son of a German mother and a Yugoslavian father. But because it was illegal for German s to marry Yugoslavs, Roberts was not registered as a German. For some reason he didn’t get around to apply for German citizenship until 2016. He finally received that citizenship in April this year.

Just over a year after Prince went, his long-time drummer John Blackwell died of a brain tumor, aged only 43. Blackwell was backing Patti LaBelle in concert when Prince discovered him and invited him to join his backing band, the New Power Generation, in 2000. He stayed with Prince for the next 15 years, but in-between also drummed, live or in the studio, for Cameo, Frankie Beverley and Maze, D’Angelo, P. Diddy, Utada Hikaru, Nikki Costa and others, and released a solo album in 2006.

It’s fair to suspect that most performers would, given the choice, be quite prepared die while doing what they love: performing on stage. But their preference would be a natural death. French singer Barbara Weldens, 35, died on stage, but 50 years or so too early and not because her natural jig was up. The singer, who had released her well-received debut only in February, was performing at a festival at a church in the village of Goudron, in France’s south-west, when she suddenly collapsed and died of cardiac arrest. Investigators suspected that she might have been electrocuted by faulty equipment.

Chris Roberts, 73, German Schlager singer, on July 2
Chris Roberts – Ich bin verliebt in die Liebe (1970)

Rudy Rotta, 66, Italian blues guitarist and singer, on July 3
Rudy Rotta & Friends – To Love Somebody (2006)

John Blackwell, 43, funk drummer, on July 4
Prince – If Eye Was The Man In Ur Life (2004, on drums)
Nikka Costa – Around The World (2005)

Pierre Henry, 89, French composer and electronic music pioneer, on July 5
Pierre Henry – Psyché Rock (1967)

Melvyn “Deacon” Jones, 73, blues-soul organist, on July 6
Baby Huey & The Babysitters – Messin’ With The Kid (1965, as member)

Erik Cartwright, 67, guitarist of rock band Foghat, on July 9
Foghat – Live Now – Pay Later (1981)

Joseph Fire Crow, 58, Native-American folk flutist, on July 11
Joseph Fire Crow – The Young Wolves (2000)

David Kapralik, 91, producer and label executive, on July 12
Peaches & Herb – Close Your Eyes (1967, as co-producer)
Pretty Purdie – Soul Drums (1967, as co-producer)
Francine Barker – Don’t You Know Love When You See It (1968, as co-producer)

Joe Fields, 88, Jazz producer and label owner, on July 12

Ray Phiri, 70, founder, singer, guitarist of South African Afro-jazz band Stimela, on July 12
Stimela – African Changes (1991)

Simon Holmes, 55, singer, lead guitarist of Australian band The Hummingbirds, on July 13
The Hummingbirds – Word Gets Around (1989)

Pede ‘Pete’ Marshall, singer with soul band The Choice Four, on July 13
The Choice Four – I’m Gonna Walk Away From Love (1975)
The Choice Four – Come Down To Earth (1976)

Fresh Kid Ice, 53, rapper with 2 Live Crew, on July 13
2 Live Crew – Fresh Kid Ice Is Back (1995)

Clara (Cuqui) Nicola, 90, Cuban guitarist, on July 14

David Zablidowsky, 37, metal bassist, in traffic accident on July 14
Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Winter Palace (2012, on bass)

Bob ‘Red’ West, 81, singer, songwriter, actor, Elvis friend, on July 19
Red West – F.B.I. Story (1960)
Elvis Presley – If You Think I Don’t Need You (1965, as co-writer)

Kitty Lux, 59, co-founder of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, on July 16
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – Anarchy In The UK (1990)

Roland Cazimero, 66, guitarist of Hawaiian band The Brothers Cazimero, on July 16

Wilfried, 67, Austrian singer, on July 16
Wilfried – Lisa Mona Lisa (1988)

Peter Principle, 63, member of avant-garde group Tuxedomoon, on July 17
Tuxedomoon – In A Manner Of Speaking (1985)

Barbara Weldens, 35, French singer, on July 20
Barbara Weldens – Du pain pour les réveille-matin (2017)

Chester Bennington, 41, singer of Linkin Park, suicide on July 20
Linkin Park – In The End (2001)
Linkin Park – Numb (2003)
Linkin Park – Shadow Of The Day (2007)

Paapa Yankson, 73, Ghanaian highlife musician and producer, on July 20
Paapa Nyankson – Kokroko

Andrea Jürgens, 50, German schlager singer, on July 20

Errol Dyers, 65, South African jazz guitarist and composer, on July 21
Monty Webber & Friends – Happy All The Time (1976, on guitar)
Errol Dyers – Sugar Shake (1997)

L.C. Cooke, 84, R&B/gospel singer, brother of Sam Cooke, on July 21
L.C. Cooke – Take Me For What I Am (1963)
L.C. Cooke – Put Me Down Easy (1963)

Kenny Shields, 69, singer of Canadian rock band Streetheart, on July 21
Streetheart – Teenage Rage (1980)

Caleb Palmiter, 53, guitarist, founding member of alt.country band The Jawhawks, on July 21
The Jayhawks – Falling Star (1986)

Geoff Mack, 94, Australian country singer, songwriter, on July 21
Hank Snow – I’ve Been Everywhere (1962, as writer)

Polo Hofer, 72, Swiss musician (Rumpelstilz), on July 22

Bobby Taylor, 83, Canadian soul singer and producer, on July 22
Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers – Does Your Mama Know About Me (1968)
Bobby Taylor – Oh, I’ve Been Blessed (1969)
Zulema – Tree (1973, as producer)

Abby Nicole, 25, country singer, in a traffic accident on July 23

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, 46, Indigenous Australian musician, on July 25
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu – Gurrumul History (I Was Born Blind) (2008)

Billy Joe Walker Jr, 65, guitarist, country songwriter and producer, on July 25
Eddie Rabbitt – B-B-B-Burnin’ Up With Love (1984, as co-writer)

Michael Johnson, 72, country singer, songwriter and guitarist, on July 25
Michael Johnson – Bluer Than Blue (1973)

D.L. Menard, 85, American Cajun musician, on July 27
D.L. Menard – It’s Too Late You’re Divorced (1980)

Sam Shepard, 73, playwright and actor, occasional musician, on July 27
Bob Dylan – Brownsville Girl (1986, as co-writer)
Patti Smith – Smells Like Teen Spirit (2007, on banjo)

Chuck Loeb, 61, jazz fusion guitarist, on July 31
Chuck Loeb – Rhythm Ace, Funky Stuff (1999)

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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 4

July 27th, 2017 7 comments

The first three volumes comprised covers of most of the better-known Dylan songs. This compilation, and the upcoming Vol. 5, enters the terrain of some lesser-known tracks (unless you’re a Dylanista, in which case there is no such thing as an obscure song).

This means that for many listeners, some of these cover versions serve as an introduction to Dylan songs they didn’t know; and for the Dylan fans, I hope there are some versions of the tracks they know which they hadn’t heard before.

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

1. George Thorogood and The Destroyers – Drifter’s Escape (2006)
2. Counting Crows – You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (2012)
3. Neko Case – Buckets Of Rain (2006)
4. Stan Ridgway – As I Went Out One Morning (1996)
5. Elvis Costello – Don’t Throw Your Love Away (2008)
6. Los Lobos – On A Night Like This (2003)
7. Yo La Tengo – 4th Time Around (2007)
8. Phoenix – Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands (2010)
9. The Dubliners with De Dannan – Boots Of Spanish Leather (1992)
10. The Neville Brothers – With God On Our Side (1989)
11. Patti LaBelle – Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine (1977)
12. The Persuasions – The Man In Me (1971)
13. The Faces – Wicked Messenger (1970)
14. The Leaves – Love Minus Zero (1965)
15. Jackie DeShannon – Walkin’ Down The Line (1963)
16. Jason and the Scorchers – Absolutely Sweet Marie (1984)
17. Gary U.S. Bonds – From A Buick 6 (1981)
18. Joe Cocker – Watching The River Flow (1978)
19. David Bowie – Trying To Get To Heaven (1999)
20. George Harrison – Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind (1970)

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