Should Have Been A UK Top 10 Hit – Vol. 2

July 23rd, 2015 5 comments

Should Have Been A Top 10 Hit - Vol. 2

The second mix of singles that unaccountably failed to make the UK Top 10 starts off with a trio of songs that have become timeless classics since: Joe Jackson’s Is She Really Going Out With Him, Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart and Lloyd Cole & The Commotions’ Perfect Skin.

Joy Division even had two failed cracks at Top 10 glory, though one expects that reaching the upper reaches of the hit parades wasn’t really the group’s objective. Still, Love Will Tear Us Apart reached only #13 in 1980 and #19 when it was re-released in 1983 on the back of successor band New Order’s success (including a Top 10 hit a couple months earlier with Blue Monday). Happily, Paul Young’s version, also of 1983, wasn’t released as a single in the UK, so we were spared the indignity of his warbled interpretation inevitably going places the original twice failed to reach. Still, Young had Top 10 hits with it in Belgium and the Netherlands.

My selection criteria for this series have mostly excluded underperforming records by serial Top 10 residents. Every run of hits is liable to include an aberration or two. But I include ABBA’s Ring Ring because it was a spectacular flop, peaking at only #32 in 1974, rather than an aberration. Released as a follow-up to the #1 hit Waterloo, its failure (and that of the inferior I Do I Do I Do I Do; #38 in 1975) suggests that ABBA were initially seen as a fleeting one-hit wonder, not as the mammoth gold record accumulating machine they’d become following the release of the sublime S.O.S. in the summer of 1975.

gallery_2The year 1974 was particularly notorious for fine songs missing the Top 10 — and some rotten songs getting there instead. Though even in that year there were times when one could see why there was little room for a song as great as Pilot’s Magic, which really deserved to get to #1, as its lesser follow-up, January, did (in the first week of February ‘75).

As Magic peaked at #11 in the first week of December 1974, the Top 10 included Barry White’s You’re The First, The Last, My Everything; David Essex’s Gonna Make You A Star; Rubettes’ Juke Box Jive; Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet; Eddie Holman’s (Hey There) Lonely Girl; and Queen’s Killer Queen, plus records by Gary Glitter and Elvis and a reggae thing by Rupie Edwards called Ire Feelings (Skanga). Still, why did Hello’s now rightly forgotten Tell Him zoom past Pilot from #12 to 6 in the charts? Where is the justice in that?

I imagine Lynsey de Paul’s Spector-Wall-of-Sound takeoff Ooh I Do was in its anachronistic ways a little ahead of its time. In the mid-1970s the revivalist taste was ‘50s rock & roll, with Sha-Na-Na and Showaddywaddy (though their big hit, Under The Moon Of Love, was a cover of an early ’60s song). The early ‘60s girl-band revival obviously had some traction in 1974, as Hello’s glam-rock cover of The Exciters’ Tell Him shows, but the pastiche of these songs had to wait another six years, when the Ramones hit the Top 10 with Baby I Love You.

I am ready to acknowledge that opinions on Malcolm McLaren’s Something’s Jumping In My Shirt might differ. I hold it to be one of the best pop songs of 1989, so its peak at #29 is inexplicable. The #1 was Black Box’s Ride On Time, and Tears for Fear’s Sowing The Seeds Of Love was featuring in the Top 10 as well. But the great British public also made Top 10 hits of such horrors or lightweight nonsense like Swing The Mood by Jive Bunny And The Mastermixers, Every Day (I Love You More) by Jason Donovan, Blame It On The Boogie by Big Fun (not to be confused with the fine dance song Big Fun by Innercity), I Just Don’t Have The Heart by Cliff Richard and Hey Dj I Can’t Dance To That Music You’re Playing by The Beatmasters featuring Betty Boo. McLaren might have had a legitimate grievance…

And when Joe Jackson’s Is She Really Going Out With Him peaked at #13 in late August 1979, ahead of it were, in order from #1 to 12: We Don’t Talk Anymore by Cliff Richard, I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats, Bang Bang by B.A. Robertson, Angel Eyes by Roxy Music, After The Love Has Gone by Earth Wind & Fire, Gangsters by The Special AKA, Duke Of Earl by Darts, Money by Flying Lizards, Reasons To Be Cheerful by Ian Dury And The Blockheads, Ooh! What A Life by the Gibson Brothers, Just When I Needed You Most by Randy Vanwarmer, and Hersham Boys by Sham 69. You decide whether or not Jackson suffered an injustice in that company. The inclusion of the song in this series clues you in on my view.

gallery_1As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-labelled covers.

1. Joe Jackson – Is She Really Going Out With Him (#13 1979)
2. Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (#13 1980 / #19 1983)
3. Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Skin (#26 1983)
4. The Christians – Hooverville (#21 1987)
5. Squeeze – Hourglass (#16 1987)
6. Swing Out Sister – You On My Mind (#28 1989)
7. Malcolm McLaren feat. Lisa Marie – Something’s Jumping In My Shirt (#29 1989)
8. Heatwave – Groove Line (#12 1978)
9. Hi-Gloss – You’ll Never Know (#12 1981)
10. Propaganda – Duel (#21 1985)
11. The The – Heartland (#29 1986)
12. Bad Company – Feel Like Makin’ Love (#20 1975)
13. P.P. Arnold – The First Cut Is The Deepest (#18 1967)
14. The Mindbenders – Ashes To Ashes (#14 1966)
15. Emile Ford & the Checkmates – Them There Eyes (#18 1960)
16. The Bar-Kays – Soul Finger (#33 1967)
17. Abba – Ring Ring (#32 1974)
18. Lynsey De Paul – Ooh I Do (#25 1974)
19. Pilot – Magic (#11 1974)
20. Candlewick Green – Who Do You Think You Are (#21 1974)
21. Daniel Boone – Beautiful Sunday (#21 1972)
22. Barry Ryan – Can’t Let You Go (#32 1972)

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Any Major Disco Vol. 1

July 16th, 2015 7 comments

Any Major Disco Vol. 1

The Any Major Funk series might have ended, but that does not mean that we must pack away our dancing shoes. So here we begin a new series of disco mixes, drawing from the various strands in the genre, using 1982 as an approximate cut-off date.

The first mix coincides roughly with the 36th anniversary of the record burning bonanza at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on 12 July 1979, which gave full expression to the Disco Sucks movement. Several students of music, such as the British journalist Simon Price, have charged that the the anti-disco movement was driven by elements of racism and homophobia. While not all who invaded the pitch in Chicago for the Disco Demolition Night (or applauded from afar or donned their Disco Sucks t-shirts) were motivated by bigotry, the charge has some merit.

The negative reaction to disco was not invariably racist, of course. For starters, a lot of disco was produced by white people; including the unlikely poster boys of disco, The Bee Gees. Just as disco was a diverse collective, so were there different reasons for rejecting it. But at Comiskey Park there was a distinct racist dimension as the mob of sonic reactionaries incinerated records not only by disco acts such as Sister Sledge and Chic, but also those by artists such as Marvin Gaye and, unbelievably, Bill Withers. Records by any black artist who wasn’t Jimi Hendrix were liable to fuel the pyre.

The charge of homophobia is more difficult to substantiate, even if some Village People albums found their way on to the pyre. Nonetheless, let me try.

Disco was a broad movement borne of gay and soul-funk clubs alike. Sartorial flamboyance, funky basslines and synth experiments tended to blend across the sub-genres of what would become known as disco. The homophobia in anti-disco sentiments was not necessarily of a gay-bashing kind, but arguably was grounded in the disco culture’s threat to the prevalent models of masculinity.

When the mob at Comiskey Park burnt Earth, Wind & Fire records — possibly while humming Emerson, Lake & Palmer — a dimension of their unarticulated objection related to flamboyant costumes worn by men who sang in feminine voices. Disco challenged the traditional models of manhood (and, in the case of the Village People, satirised them), and it subverted prevailing social (and sonic) norms. Comiskey Park and the Disco Sucks movement were, in part, a reaction to that.

A few years later this threat to conventional masculinity found expression again when many believed Prince, who already had a prodigious track-record of heterosexual behaviour, to be gay on grounds of his Purple Rain stylings. The effete Prince subverted the standard notions of masculinity. The only explanation many could find for that was to believe Prince was gay.

Across the musical fence, the camp exploits of Dee Snider and David Lee Roth, or indeed Kiss, did not cause infernos of vinyl. But these acts performed their shtick with a nod and a wink which their rock fan constituency could understand and even relate to. The same sort of fans denied, at the pain of death, that Freddy Mercury was gay, and the Kiss make-up was considered not camp but an extension of the members’ individual personae. There was nothing here that threatened concepts of masculinity in the way the unironic flamboyance of many disco stars did.

Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White and Philip Bailey defied the sartorial codes of American masculinity.

Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White and Philip Bailey defied the sartorial codes of American masculinity.

But homophobia and racism surely were not the primary incitement for the Disco Sucks movement. Disco supposedly sucked not because the music was bad (though some of it indisputably was) or because Verdine White played the bass while sporting silver flamingo wings. It sucked because, like punk, it ate itself culturally. The exclusivism of clubs such as Studio 54 caused resentment – even among those who produced disco music. Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernie Edwards wrote Le Freak after they were denied entry to Studio 54; the original title was Fuck Off. And yet, how could the artists be blamed for the behaviour of those who played their records? Effigies of nightclub owners, not records by the artists, might have made for more appropriate burning matter at Comiskey Park.

The anti-disco sentiment was fed by disco’s ubiquity, starting with Saturday Night Fever (a gritty film which disowns the phoniness associated with the Studio 54 culture, a message usually overlooked in favour of Barry Gibb’s sterility-inducing trousers on the cover of the mega-selling soundtrack). Disco Sucks was also a reaction to the hegemony of the genre and its culture. It was a reaction to the Saturday Night Fever poster and Travolta’s white suit, to Ethel Merman and Sesame Street recording “disco” albums, to acts like Blondie and the Rolling Stones dabbling in disco sounds, to the hedonism of the élite, and to the occasional musical horror produced by cash-in corporates which was falsely considered to be representative of disco.

The anti-disco sentiment was fed by disco’s ubiquity, starting with Saturday Night Fever

The anti-disco sentiment was fed by disco’s ubiquity, starting with Saturday Night Fever.

And here we enter the final error of the Disco Sucks movement: the false notion that disco is a single, homogenous genre. As in rock music, there are common elements. Most disco songs have a 4/4 beat, basslines tend to drive the songs, and so on. And yet, take songs like, say, Love To Love You Baby by Donna Summer and Shoulda Loved Ya by Narada Michael Walden (on Any Major Funk Vol. 3). Both fall broadly within the disco genre, but one is Euro-Disco and the other is what one might call Disco-Funk. They are as different as Sweet Home Alabama is from A Whole Lotta Rosie.

Then there was the pop-disco stuff such as Y.M.C.A. (though I’d be reluctant to call it disco), which is quite different from either Summer or Walden. Blondie’s disco stuff, Heart Of Glass or Atomic, represents yet another separate genre; it’s disco, of a sort, but not in the way Cheryl Lynn’s Got To Be Real (on Any Major Funk Vol. 1) is disco. Like rock, disco is a collective term for many sub-genres.

This series will, I hope, demonstrate just how diverse disco was as a genre — and why the Lynyrd Skynyrd fans at Comiskey Park were thoroughly mistaken: disco never sucked.

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

1. Bee Gees – You Should Be Dancing (1976)
2. Vicki Sue Robinson – Turn The Beat Around (1976)
3. Chic – Everybody Dance (1977)
4. Carol Williams – More (1976)
5. Don Ray – Got To Have Loving (1978)
6. Loleatta Holloway – Hit And Run (1977)
7. Brenda And The Tabulations – Let’s Go All The Way (Down) (1977)
8. Musique – In The Bush (1978)
9. Michael Zager Band – Let’s All Chant (1977)
10. Dan Hartman – Relight My Fire (1979)
11. Santa Esmeralda – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (1977)
12. Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing (1975)
13. Patrick Juvet – I Love America (1978)
14. Grace Jones – La Vie En Rose (1977)
15. Donna Summer – Love To Love You Baby (1975)
16. Rose Royce – Is It Love You’re After (1979)
17. Ben E. King – Music Trance (1980)
18. KC & the Sunshine Band – (Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty (1976)
19. Andrea True Connection – What’s Your Name, What’s Your Number (1977)
20. Odyssey – Use It Up And Wear It Out (1980)

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Live Aid – 30 years ago

July 10th, 2015 10 comments

Live Aid: 13 July 1985. Thirty years ago!

The music wasn’t invariably good, the artists tended to be self-serving, we had seats right at the back of Wembley Stadium, and the legacy of the event is questioned by many. And still, for me Live Aid is an unforgettable event, not only as a historic concert, but because for one day there was so such a concentration of goodwill among people.

Indisputably, there were long stretches of tedium (Bryan Ferry!), as some acts performed songs nobody needed to hear. And the creations of mad hairstylists immortalised the decade of my youth as one bereft of elegance. Just look at Bono! But the dull stretches were enlivened by some high point.

And everybody is right, Queen were indeed, well, majestic. Fred made crazy love to the whole of Wembley stadium. Queen’s set provided my abiding memory: the crowds doing that arms-aloft-clap-clap-arms-aloft-clap-clap thing from the video of Radio Gaga – what a sight that was from where I was sitting, overlooking the masses on the pitch – followed by Mercury leading the 80,000 people (or whatever) in vocal exercises. I was not a Queen fan before Live Aid, nor was I a fan after. But on that day, I was a Queen fan. Even today, I marvel at the footage of Queen’s segment.

Queen played six songs in their allocated time. Acts like U2, Dire Straits and The Who played just two, with all of them doodling on forever with one of these. Dire Straits’ Sultans Of Swing seemed never-ending. The Who went into extra-time with Won’t Get Fooled Again (which is a great song, so no complaints here).

U2 also played my favourite of their repertoire, Bad. Suddenly, Bono jumped off the stage, grabbed that girl from the crowd, and danced with her. In a documentary made twenty years later, Bono suggested it was a spontaneous act. It may well be that he hadn’t planned to do this at Live Aid, but he had pulled that stunt — probably stolen from Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark video, the one with Courtney Cox as the dancee — during every concert at the time. I know: I saw three of them in three different countries over successive weeks that summer.

If Queen had not stolen the show, then Elton John’s set might have taken the honours as the best in the London leg. Elton did the right thing: play the hits. And then he introduced George Michael, who came out as a bearded man for the first time. He was magnificent as he sang Elton John’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, with the Dame backing him. When he got around to recording it almost a decade later, it had lost its magic.

In Philadelphia, Hall & Oates stole the show. In a pretty soul-free line-up, the blue-eyed soulmen hooked up with bona fide soul legends, singing soul music. Otherwise there were the Four Tops, Billy Ocean and Ashford & Simpson with Teddy Pendergrass, appearing on stage for the first time since his accident which left him paraplegic. Neither they, nor Run-DMC had a prominent slot. Pati LaBelle did, and her acute histrionics were entirely distressing, even for a soul fan.

I missed Led Zeppelin’s set. Backed by Phil Collins, who had performed in both London and in Philadelphia, they regarded their performance as their worst ever — and blamed poor Phil for it. They have not given permission for the footage to be used since. So it doesn’t appear on the four-disc DVD set. Also missing from it is Duran Duran’s performance of A View Go A Kill, thanks to Simon Le Bon famous croak (see it here).

The embarrassing moments kept coming. Bob Dylan and the two craggies from the Stones (who looked 60-plus then, but were only in their early 40s) contrived to perform an amusing cacophony of Blowing In The Wind, reportedly because they could not hear each other due to some technical mishap or other.

Doubtless many acts on the bill felt deeply about feeding the world and reminding the starving Ethiopians that they were doing their best to ensure that there will be snow in Africa next Christmastime, regardless of the inopportune consequences of such radical climate change. But many of those who took part were also opportunists, wanting in on the cash-in. Some, such as Queen (who might have been sincere or opportunistic or both), revived their flagging careers on the back of Live Aid. In fact, reportedly all but one act who appeared at Live Aid recorded increased sales after the event, the exception being the Adam Ant. Live Aid was at least as much about corporate profiteering as it was about social engagement. Did much of the artists’ profits from increased post-Live Aid sales go to famine relief? Didn’t think so.

Paradoxically, Live Aid was also a bit of a racially problematic event, and the 4-DVD set aggravates that defect. No African artists other than Sade — hardly an artist whom one would file under World Music — appeared in either London or Philadelphia; an oddity when the event was supposed to raise awareness about Africa. As noted above, black artists were very thin on the bill. The DVD set even manages to exclude the Four Tops’ five-song set, as well as that of Billy Ocean.

I don’t buy into the idea that Live Aid was in itself malign. Pragmatically, it raised money which saved some lives, and built clinics and water purification schemes. That is commendable. It did raise awareness on a range of issues concerning famine, albeit imperfectly, and it promoted some sense of social responsibility. In the callous, self-centred 1980s, Live Aid made charity cool. But it also proposed a notion that charity is not selfless, that for your charity you must get something in return, at the very least the option to congratulate yourself. Consumerist charity, one might call it.

Live Aid, at least initially, did not see itself as a solution but as a contribution to facing a problem. Read that way, its contribution was admirable.

Oh, and Bob Geldof never said: “Give me your fuckin’ money.”

London programme cover

And so, here is a compilation of some Live Aid highlights, timed to fit on two standard CD-Rs and including home-pledged covers. PW in comments. Some comments refer to an earlier version of this article.

1. Live Aid – Intro
2. Status Quo – Rockin’ All Over The World
3. Style Council – Walls Come Tumbling Down
4. Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays
5. Ultravox – Vienna
6. Spandau Ballet – Only When You Leave
7. Elvis Costello – All You Need Is Love
8. Sade – Your Love Is King
9. Phil Collins – Against The Odds
10. Alison Moyet & Paul Young – That’s The Way Love Is
11. Bryan Adams – Summer Of ’69
12. U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
13. Beach Boys – Good Vibrations
14. Queen – Radio Gaga
15. Queen – We Are The Champions
16. Queen – We Will Rock You
17. Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me)
18. David Bowie – Heroes

1. Pretenders – Chain Gang
2. The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again
3. Elton John – Rocket Man
4. George Michael & Elton John – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
5. Madonna – Holiday
6. Freddie Mercury & Brian May – Is This The World We Created?
7. Paul McCartney – Let It Be
8. Live Aid Wembley Finale – Do They Know It’s Christmas
9. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Teach Your Children Well
10. Eric Clapton – White Room
11. Neil Young – Nothing Is Perfect (In God’s Perfect Plan)
12. Hall & Oates with Eddie Kendricks & David Ruffin – Ain’t Too Proud To Beg
13. Hall & Oates with Eddie Kendricks & David Ruffin – My Girl
14. Bob Dylan with Keith Richards & Ron Wood – Blowing In The Wind
15. Live Aid Philadelphia Finale – We Are The World

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The Ringo Starr Collection

July 7th, 2015 10 comments

Ringo

Today, July 7, is Ringo Starr’s 75th birthday, which gives me a good reason to put up an entirely unscheduled collection of non-Beatles tracks starring Ringo.

If you want to really annoy an expert on drumming, repeat the old John Lennon quip that Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles, and pronounce it as some sort of fact. Those who know about such things will point out that Ringo was an innovative drummer in the Beatles with perfect timing, pointing to songs such as A Day In The Life, All You Need Is Love, Rain, Ticket To Ride and Here Comes The Sun (the time changes in the latter drive strumming guitarists to madness). If it all sounds ordinary now, it’s because other drummers followed Ringo’s lead.

Even the supposedly better drummer in The Beatles calls Ringo his favourite drummer. George Harrison recalled that Ringo was the final piece in the Beatles jigsaw puzzle — without him the Beatles couldn’t have been The Beatles. So what did John Lennon mean with his assumed put-down of Ringo? Presumably that Paul’s technique was better than Ringo’s. But when he recorded his first proper solo album, Lennon had Ringo backing him on every song.

Great drummers such as Jim Keltner, whose career I chronicled lately over two volumes and who became Lennon’s favoured drummer, point to the influence Ringo had on them. Keltner says that he learned from observing Ringo, whom he describes as his “idol”. This is not an apprentice admiring the elder master; Ringo is only two years older than Jim, whose recording career began around the time The Beatles fitst came yo the US. Max Weinberg, the E-Street Band’s drummer, said in 1984 that Ringo’s “influence in rock drumming was as important and wide spread as Gene Krupa’s had been in jazz”.

Ringo Starr in 1962

Ringo Starr in 1962

Ringo is credited with changing the way drummers hold their sticks. He didn’t invent the matched grip (in which both hands hold the stick the same way, as opposed to the traditional grip, where the left hands holds the stick as you would hold a chopstick), but as the first rock drummer to appear prominently on US television, usually on as raised platform, his preferred method caught on and became the default technique in rock.

What Ringo lacks in technique he makes up in application, perfect timing and innovation, much as in soccer most of the great goalscorers don’t necessarily have the technique of keepy-uppy champions (that analogy, I suppose, makes Gene Krupa Pelé and Hal Blaine Lionel Messi).

As a person, Ringo has had a reputation of being the easy-going, fun guy we knew from The Beatles. Occasionally he has shown a petulant side, but few people seem to have bad things to say about the man. As a driving force behind the anti-apartheid Sun City record, as a co-initiator and musically — drumming with his son Zac on the record — his political heart must be in the right place.

Ringo clearly is also not an egomaniac. Many times he is happy to drum alongside another drummer, often Jim Keltner (who in turn doesn’t really like co-drumming). On this mix, he plays alongside Keltner on the tracks by Manhattan Transfer and Keith Moon (on which Ringo also raps). On B.B. King’s Ghetto Woman, Ringo drums with Jim Gordon, subject of two collections in this series (see Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). Also worth noting is Harry Nilsson’s Daydream, on which Ringo’s drumming is supplemented by the work of George Harrison — on cowbells. Harrison also plays alongside Ringo on Leon Russell’s Delta Lady, and wrote the track by Ringo that opens this collection.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a CD-R and includes home-backbeat covers.

1. Ringo Starr – Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond) (1973)
2. Peter Frampton – Alright (1972)
3. Attitudes – Good News (1977)
4. Leon Russell – Delta Lady (1970)
5. B.B. King – Ghetto Woman (1971)
6. John Lennon – Well Well Well (1970)
7. The Band – I Shall Be Released (1978)
8. Carly Simon – More & More (1975)
9. Bobby Hatfield – Oo Wee Baby, I Love You (1972)
10. T. Rex & Elton John – Children Of The Revolution (1972)
11. Keith Moon – Together (1975)
12. Harry Nilsson – Daybreak (1972)
13. George Harrison – When We Was Fab (1987)
14. Paul McCartney – Not Such A Bad Boy (1984)
15. Manhattan Transfer – Zindy Lou (1976)
16. Ian McLagan – Hold On (1979)
17. Tom Petty – Hard To Find A Friend (1993)
18. Guthrie Thomas – Captain Jack (1990)
19. The Alpha Band – Born In Captivity (1977)
20. Artists United Against Apartheid – Sun City (1985)

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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 Bobby Keys Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2

 

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In Memoriam – June 2015

July 2nd, 2015 6 comments

15061 galleryThe issue of bounty hunters in the US has come under scrutiny lately. One June 8, John Oliver exposed the problems with bounty hunting on his Last Week Tonight show. The following evening, country singer Randy Howard was shot dead by a bounty bunter in his own home in Tennessee. Howard, who was one of the vanguard of the Outlaw country music movement, had failed to appear in court to answer charges on standard country music trespasses such as possession of drug paraphernalia and handling a gun while being drunk. Upon a bounty hunter bursting into his house, he apparently fired shots; these were returned. The bounty hunter was injured; Howard was dead. I am no expert on law enforcement issues in the US, but surely one needs no bounty hunter to track down a man to his home?

Harold Battiste, who has died at 81, was a true Renaissance Man in music. He was an arranger, producer, composer, keyboard player, saxophonist and record company founder. The latter was particularly significant: in 1961, he set up the first African-American musician-owned record label, All For One, or AFO Records, which soon scored a massive hit with Barbara George’s I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More). He arranged and/or produced for acts like Sam Cooke (including You Send Me), Sonny & Cher (I Got You, Babe; The Beat Goes On ; Bang Bang), Lee Dorsey (Ya Ya), Dr John (Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya; Iko Iko) and others. He played keyboards on many of the Phil Spector-produced hits for The Ronettes, The Crystals and so on, as well as on The Righteous Brothers You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. On many of these he played alongside the Wrecking Crew collective. He also played sax on a track on The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1, Claudia Lennear’ Goin’ Down. On top of all that, he was a lecturer in music at several colleges, including in the Jazz Studies faculty of the University of New Orleans.

And then there was only one. In January we lost Popsy Dixon of the trio The Holmes Brothers; in June Wendell Holmes left us, leaving only his brother Sherman alive. Wendell died from complications caused by pulmonary hypertension, not of the cancer which he beat to record the 2010 album Feed My Soul. He said his favourite song was We Meet, We Part, We Remember — so I’ll feature it here.

The female voice of folk pioneers The Weavers is now silent. Ronnie Gilbert passed away at the age of 88, wrapping a quite extraordinary life. The daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, she grew up in New York, but it was in Washington during World War 2 that she hooked up with the giants of folk, Alan Lomax and Woody Guthrie. From there she met Pete Seeger with whom she co-founded The Weavers, which had to break up in 1953 after being blacklisted during the purge of the left in the world’s self-proclaimed bastion of freedom. Gilbert continued her activism, visiting Cuba after the revolution and taking part in the Paris protests of 1968.

In the 1970s she obtained an MA in psychology, but continued with her music, mentoring and influencing many folkies and singer-songwriters along the way. Late in life she still played at folk and Jewish music festivals, and remained politically active, especially in opposing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. In 2004 she married her partner of 20 years, Donna Korones. She missed the Supreme Court decision to legalise same-sex marriage in the US by three weeks.

15062 galleryThe rich life of Ornette Coleman was celebrated with a three-hour funeral which, reports say, was marked with music and lightness of mood. This seems fitting for a man who in his 85 years was one of the most influential musicians in jazz. Yoko Ono, who had been friends with Coleman for 50 years, spoke at the funeral. Several pieces of music were performed, including one featuring Ravi Coltrane, son of John, at whose father’s funeral Coleman played in 1967. And Coleman’s son was part of an ensemble that played the track featured here, Lonely Woman.

His face is an emblem of my childhood. In 1970s Germany, James Last was ubiquitous. And I couldn’t stand his easy listening fare, his side-parted long hair and goatee. To me, he represented music for people who hate music. He was the extent of cool the squares would allow. In time I grew up and acknowledged his accomplishments as one of Europe’s fine bandleaders. I’d never own a James Last record, but I came to like the old chap. A Strange thing: his real name was Hans Last. Before he became James (and why not John, the English version of Hans?), his surname would likely have been pronounced to rhyme with the English word “lust”. But when he took his Anglo moniker, the surname was pronounced in the English way, even by the Germans.

His was a name I knew better than his work, even though I was familiar with his music. To me, James Horner was a perennial Oscar nominee who won for his score of the 1997 movie Titanic and the entirely regrettable theme song, My Heart Will Go On. Unless one is an aficionado of the genre, we don’t expend much energy thinking about who wrote the music for a film score, even if we admire it. But anybody who has watched American movies over the past three decades will have heard Horner’s music, in films such as Alien, Field of Dreams, Braveheart, Glory, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind (the subject of which, John Nash, died on May 23), 48 Hrs., Cocoon, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Legends of the Fall, House of Cards, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Avatar, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Willow, An American Tail and its sequel, and more. Apparently director Don Bluth was not happy with Horner’s score for An American Tail — in the end, it turned out to be some of Horner’s best work. The song Never Say Never, which Horner wrote with Cynthia Weill and Barry Mann, ought to be a musical standard.

Scottish-born Australian hard rock singer Allan Fryer, who has died at 60 of cancer, made a name for himself as frontman of the band Heaven. It might have been bigger than that: following the death of fellow Caledaussie (is that a word?) Bon Scott, he auditioned to replace him as singer of AC/DC. Apparently AC/DC producers George Young and Harry Vanda were all ready to appoint Fryer, even outing his voice to established AC/DC tracks. But the other Caledaussies, Malcolm and Angus Young, were in London and auditioned the Geordie Brian Johnson, who got the gig instead. Instead Fryer joined Heaven, with whom he had local hits and toured with acts like touring with Dio, Kiss, Motley Crue and Judas Priest — and which, at one point, included former AC/DC bassist Mark Evans.

 

Jean Ritchie, 92, folk singer, songwriter and dulcimer player, on June 1
Jean Ritchie – A Pretty Fair Miss (1954)

Anthony Riley, 28, competitor on US version of The Voice, suicide on June 2

Allan Fryer, 60, Scottish-born singer of Australian hard rock band Heaven, on June 4
Heaven – Nothing To Lose (1982)

Albert West, 65, singer of Dutch band The Shuffles, on June 4

Nick Marsh, 53, singer of British rock band Flesh for Lulu, on June 5
Flesh For Lulu – I Go Crazy (1987)

Ronnie Gilbert, 88, singer-songwriter with The Weavers and actress, on June 6
The Weavers – Goodnight Irene

Christopher Lee, 93, British actor, voice artist and singer, on June 7
Rhapsody feat. Christopher Lee – The Magic Of The Wizard’s Dream (2005)

Archie Alleyne, 82, Canadian jazz drummer, on June 8

James Last, 86, German big band leader, on April 9
James Last – Hot Love (1974)
James Last – Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough (1979)

Pumpkinhead, 39, rapper, on June 9

Randy Howard, 65, country singer, shot dead on June 9
Randy Howard – Suddenly Single (1983)

Jim Ed Brown, 81, country singer (The Browns), on June 11
Jim Ed Brown – Pop A Top (1967)

Ornette Coleman, 85, free jazz saxophonist, on June 11
Ornette Coleman – Lonely Woman (1959)

Ron Moody, 91, British musical actor (Oliver!), on June 11
Ron Moody – You’ve Got To Pick-A-Pocket Or Two (1960, as Fagin)

Monica Lewis, 93, jazz singer and actress, on June 12
Monica Lewis – Rough Ridin’ (1957)

Buddy Boudreaux, 97, jazz saxophonist and band leader, on June 13

Big Time Sarah, 62, blues singer, on June 13
Big Time Sarah – Fever (live, 1982)

MC Supreme, 47, rapper, in traffic accident on June 13

Hugo Blanco, 74, Venezuelan musician and composer, on June 14
Hugo Blanco – Moliendo Café (1961)

Mighty Sam McClain, 72, soul and blues singer, on June 15
Mighty Sam McClain – Open Up Heaven’s Door (2003)

Wendell Holmes, 71, member of The Holmes Brothers, on June 19
The Holmes Brothers – None But The Righteous (1990)
The Holmes Brothers – We Meet, We Part, We Remember (2004)

Harold Battiste, 83, jazz and R&B composer, arranger and musician, on June 19
Sam Cooke – Falling In Love (1964, as composer and on piano)
Cher – Bang Bang (1966, as arranger)
Gram Parsons – Cry One More Time (1973, on baritone saxophone)

Gunther Schuller, 89, composer, conductor, jazz musician, on June 21

James Horner, 61, movie composer, in a plane crash on June 22
Christopher Plummer & Phillip Glasser – Never Say Never (1986, as co-writer)
James Horner – End Credits of ‘Field Of Dreams’ (1989)

Magali Noël, 83, French actress and singer, on June 23
Magali Noël – Fais-Moi Mal Johnny! (1956)

Young Ready, 31, rapper and owner of Bow Entertainment label, shot dead on June 23

Thé Lau, 62, Dutch singer and guitarist, on June 23

Cristiano Araújo, 29, Brazilian singer and songwriter, in a traffic accident on June 24
Cristiano Araújo – Mente pra Mim (2011)

Terry ‘Thunder’ Hughley, 61, drummer and singer, on June 26

Joe Bennett, 75, leader of The Sparkletones, on June 27
Joe Bennett & The Sparkletones – Boys Do Cry (1959)

Chris Squire, 67, bass guitarist of Yes, on June 28
Yes – Roundabout (1971)
Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart (1983)

Eddy Louiss, 74, French jazz organist, on June 30

Larry Johnson, singer with soul band The Artistics, in June
The Artistics – I’m Gonna Miss You (1966)

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The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2

June 25th, 2015 6 comments

Jim Keltner Collection Vol.2

Here is the second part of the Jim Keltner Collection, featuring more songs on which one of the great session drummers hit the skins, following Volume 1 a few weeks ago.

One of the most surprising of these is the song that opens this compilation, a Crowded House song. The antipodean group, of course, had a fine drummer: the late, lamented Paul Hester. Now We’re Getting Somewhere was the one track on the debut album that didn’t feature Hester — nor bassist Nick Seymour; the bass on the song was played by Jerry Scheff. The session musicians were brought in by producer Mitchell Froom.

The day after recording Now We’re Getting Somewhere, Hester and Seymour were allowed to play; the track they put down was Don’t Dream It’s Over. Hester might have been unhappy about Keltner taking his place, but apparently he learned a lot from observing the drumming legend. Still, Now We’re Getting Somewhere is the one single that didn’t make it on to Crowded House’s greatest hits album, Recurring Dream.

In a few weeks’ time we’ll have reason to remember that Jim Keltner backed John Lennon at his 1972 concert at New York’s Madison Square Gardens and drummed, along with Ringo (from whom he learned by watching), at George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh. He also toured in the late 1980s with Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. Around the same time he teamed up with old mates Harrison and Dylan to drum for the Travelin’ Wilburys, taking the name Buster Sidebury. After Harrison’s death, he played at the Concert For George.

Jim Keltner was the punchline to a dig by George and Ringo on Paul McCartney, the only Beatle who hadn’t used Keltner’s services. On the back cover of his Red Rose Speedway LP in 1973, Paul invited fans to join the “Wings Fun Club” by sending in a stamped addressed envelope. The same year both Harrison’s Living In The Material World and Starr’s Ringo albums had spoof notes asking fans to join the “Jim Keltner Fan Club” by sending a “stamped undressed elephant”.

Check out this video interview with Keltner, and listen to this fantastic podcast interview with Keltner on John and his famous Lost Weekend, and the other Beatles (including the story of Paul breaking Ringo’s drum):

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

1. Crowded House – Now We’re Getting Somewhere (1986)
2. Gary Wright – Dream Weaver (1975)
3. Ry Cooder – Boomer’s Story (1972)
4. The Bee Gees – Saw A New Morning (1973)
5. Johnny Rivers – Rock Me On The Water (1971)
6. Martha Reeves – Power Of Love (1974)
7. Roberta Flack – Making Love (1982)
8. Yvonne Elliman – Savannah (1979)
9. Gabor Szabo – Dear Prudence (1969)
10. Shawn Phillips – Golden Flower (1975)
11. Alison Krauss – Forget About It (1999)
12. Maria McKee – I Forgive You (1993)
13. Melissa Manchester – Don’t Cry Out Loud (1978)
14. Dolly Parton – It’s Too Late To Love Me Now (1978)
15. Buckingham Nicks – Lola (My Love) (1973)
16. Leon Russell – Out In The Woods (1972)
17. Pops Staples – Down In Mississippi (1992)
18. John Mayer – Something Like Olivia (2012)
19. John Hiatt – Thank You Girl (1987)
20. Joe Cocker – Long Drag Off A Cigarette (1984)
21. J.J. Cale – Pack My Jack (1980)

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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 Bobby Keys Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1

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Any Major Summer Vol. 5

June 18th, 2015 6 comments

Any Major Summer Vol. 5

As the northern hemisphere is enjoying (or perhaps not) the onset of the summer season, here is the fifth and final summer mix.

I have stuck by the rule of using only one song per artist in this series. The exception was The Beach Boys, the official spokespeople for summer. They featured on the four previous mixes; here they are represented by a gorgeous Brian Wilson track from 1998 and a cover version of the equally lovely Warmth Of The Sun, by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs. Plus: Bruce & Terry’s Summer Means Fun is very obviously a Beach Boys knock-off.

Few mixes on the Internet are likely to include songs by the Bay City Rollers and Partridge Family (well, the Wrecking Crew, really) on the one hand and Pink Floyd and The Doors on the other. That’s the benefit/penance of riding with a halfhearted dude. There are three songs separating the Partridge Family and Pink Floyd tracks. Does it work out? I think it does, but what do you think?

One track here is brand new: I debated whether to include Matt Nathanson’s joyous Gold In The Summertime, the lead single of his forthcoming new album. In the end, it was too good to exclude, but in fairness to Nathanson, the version here is at a low bitrate. If you like it, buy it. Visit www.mattnathanson.com

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

1. Percy Faith Orchestra – Theme from ‘A Summer Place’ (1960)
2. Martha and the Vandellas – Dancing In The Streets (1964)
3. Bruce and Terry – Summer Means Fun (1964)
4. The Happenings – See You In September (1966)
5. Billy Idol – HotIn The City (1982)
6. Aerosmith – Girls In Summer (2002)
7. Brian Wilson – Keep An Eye On Summer (1998)
8. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs – The Warmth Of The Sun (2006)
9. Matt Nathanson – Gold In The Summertime (2015)
10. Corinne Bailey Rae – Put Your Records On (2006)
11. Michael Franks – Summer In New York (2011)
12. The Blackbyrds – Summer Love (1974)
13. Traffic – Paper Sun (1967)
14. Graham Gouldman – Sunburn (1979)
15. Bay City Rollers – Summerlove Sensation (1974)
16. The Partridge Family – Summer Days (1971)
17. The Sunrays – I Live For The Sun (1965)
18. Peter and Gordon – Green Leaves of Summer (1066)
19. Larry Jon Wilson – July The 12th, 1939 (1977)
20. Pink Floyd – Summer ‘68 (1970)
21. The Doors – Summer’s Almost Gone (1968)
22. The Cure – The Last Day Of Summer (2000)

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Previously in Any Major Summer
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Any Major Funk Vol. 8

June 11th, 2015 7 comments

Any Major Funk Vol. 8

It is now more than seven years ago since I posted the first Any Major Funk mix (using the word “funk” loosely); here is what I think will be the concluding mix in the series.

Some songs in this series are probably as easily classified as disco — even on this mix, the tracks by Earth, Wind & Fire or Diana Ross or Donna Summer are not foreign to the disco genre.

All the previous Any Major Funk mixes are up again, with funky covers. Of course, all of them are timed to fit on a standard CD-R. PW in comments.

1. Brothers Johnson – Ain’t We Funkin’ Now (1978)
2. Skyy – Show Me The Way (1983)
3. Earth, Wind & Fire with The Emotions – Boogie Wonderland (1979)
4. George Benson – Give Me The Night (1980)
5. Diana Ross – The Boss (1979)
6. Shalamar – The Second Time Around (1979)
7. Jimmy ‘Bo’ Horne – You Get Me Hot (1979)
8. Cheryl Lynn – Shake It Up Tonight (1981)
9. René & Angela – Free And Easy (1980)
10. Leon Haywood – Strokin’ (1976)
11. Linda Clifford – Runaway Love (1979)
12. Gap Band – Outstanding (1982)
13. Slave – Watching You (1980)
14. Side Effect – Take A Chance ‘n’ Dance (1980)
15. Gary Toms Empire – Walk On By (1978)
16. Donna Summer – Last Dance (1978)

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In Memoriam – May 2015

June 4th, 2015 6 comments

IM0515aThere isn’t much more to say about B.B. King that the obits haven’t covered. Except this: For years King didn’t receive the respect he merited in some quarters because he was seen as having sold out from the blues genre. These purists regarded King as inauthentic, even if the only delta they’d ever seen was an airline. These were the snobs who resented King and players like Muddy Waters for updating the blues, without having any claim to the blues in the first place, and instead played their obscure blues records from the 1930s and celebrated Dylan’s famous (and probably misunderstood) words, “Just don’t play me any of that B.B. King shit”. Thankfully the “authenticity” debate has been lost by the snobs, and everybody can in good conscience and without qualification celebrate the accomplishments of Blues Boy King.

I paid tribute to Brothers Johnson bass player Louis Johnson last week with a collection of songs he played on. But it is right that I do mark his passing at 60 in this post. Thank you, Louis, for playing the basslines I danced to, grooved to and smooched to, from Stomp and Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough and Wanna Be Starting Something, from I Keep Forgetting to Strawberry Letter 21, from One Hundred Ways to Human Nature.

Few people in the 1970s sported a shaven bald head and got away with it. For Telly Savalas is was the gimmick that brought him stardom; Isaac Hayes was to cool for hair anyway, and then there was Hot Chocolate’s Errol Brown, who pulled the bald look off with elegance. Hot Chocolate was an early example of a multi-racial group that enjoyed big mainstream success, at least in Britain and Europe. What is not so well known is that Brown and pals started out on The Beatles’ Apple records after adapting Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance in reggae style.

English singer Lynn Ripley, who performed under the moniker Twinkle, caused a big stir briefly in 1964 with her song Terry, in which the eponymous character is a killed in a motorcycle accident. Although there was a whole genre dedicated to death songs in the US, the BBC was scandalised by the song’s supposed bad taste and banned it. The overreaction, of course, helped the sales of a song that wasn’t very good, reaching #4 in November 1964. The also self-penned follow-up single, Golden Lights, was much better, but stalled at #21 (it later was covered by The Smiths). It was Twinkle’s second and last hit; she was just 17. On Terry, Twinkle was backed by Jimmy Page on guitar and Bobby Graham on drums (he, of course, was the subject of The Bobby Graham Collection in April). I suspct they might have played on Golden Lights as well.

IM0515bThe man who brought the anthemic We Shall Overcome to the civil rights movement has followed his close collaborator Pete Seeger into the great peace rally in the sky. Guy Carawan, who has died at 87, was among those who loosely adapted Louise Shropshire’s gospel song If My Jesus Wills to become We Shall Overcome. As song leader of the of the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, an adult education programme for trade union organisers which was engaged in the civil rights movement, Carawan introduced We Shall Overcome first to the unionist and then to the struggle for equal rights.

The key to the success of ABBA’s songs arguably was in their carefully crafted arrangements which framed Agnetha and Annifrid’s vocals (and occasionally Björn’s). One man who appeared on all of these arrangements — at least those that required the use of the bass guitar — was Rutger Gunnarsson, who has died at 69. He played on all ABBA’s albums as well as on their tours. From 1977 he arranged for the group (especially strings), and occasionally played percussions and guitar for them. After ABBA he worked in various roles with artists as diverse as Elton John , Adam Ant, Mireille Matthieu and Gwen Stefani, and also worked on stage productions such as Chess, Les Misérables and, of course, Mamma Mia.

He could have been the drummer of Led Zeppelin. At least, Mac Poole was asked by his friend Robert Plant to join the band which he was putting together with Jimmy Page. Poole didn’t take Plant up on the offer since he already had a band (and how many times haven’t we heard that story). Instead Poole found some success with early-’70s prog-rock band Warhorse, future Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman.

Unless you followed the music scene in Detroit closely or have a wide knowledge of jazz, the name Marcus Belgrave might mean little to you. You’ll have heard him blow his trumpet, though (albeit, as is the lot of trumpeters, in concert with others). Most famously, his trumpet was among those who issue that elephant cry in Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine. He played on several other Gaye hits; before that he had accompanied Ray Charles, including on his early live album, At Newport. He also played with Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Dizzy Gillespie and John Sinclair. He was a professor of trumpet at Stanford and the Oberlin Conservatory, and tutored many successful jazz musicians.

John Tout, keyboardist of British prog-rock group Renaissance, on May 1
John Lennon – Crippled Inside (1971, on piano)
Renaissance – Closer Than Yesterday (1978)

Guy Carawan, 87, folk singer, musicologist and activist, on May 2
Guy Carawan – We Shall Overcome (live)

Craig Gruber, 63, bassist with Rainbow, Bible Black, Raven Lord, on May 5
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Man On The Silver Mountain (1975)

Errol Brown, 71, singer of Hot Chocolate, on May 6
Hot Chocolate Band – Give Peace A Chance (1969)
Hot Chocolate – Brother Louie (1973)
Hot Chocolate – No Doubt About It (1980)

Jerome Cooper, 68, free jazz drummer and percussionist, on May 6

Rutger Gunnarsson, 69, bassist for ABBA, on May 8
Harpo – Rock & Roll Clown (1976, on bass)
Abba – The Name Of The Game (1977, on bass)
Abba – Dancing Queen (live) (released 1986, on bass)

Johnny Gimble, 88, country fiddler, on May 9
Marty Robbins – I’ll Go On Alone (1952, on fiddle)
Johnny Gimble – Fiddlin’ Around (1980)

Bobby Jameson, 70, rock singer and songwriter, on May 10
Bobby Jameson – Vietnam (1966)

Lucy Fabery, 84, Puerto Rican jazz singer, on May 11

B.B. King, 89, blues legend, on May 14
B.B. King – Miss Martha King (1949)
B.B.King – Save A Seat For Me (1959)
B.B. King – Ghetto Woman (1970)
B.B. King – My Guitar Sings The Blues (1985)

Ortheia Barnes, 70, American R&B and jazz singer, on May 15
Ortheia Barnes – I’ve Never Loved Nobody (Like I Love You) (1967)

Flora MacNeil, 86, Scottish Gaelic singer, on May 16

Chinx, 31, rapper, shot dead on May 17

Elbert West, 47, country singer-songwriter, on May 18
Tracy Lawrence – Sticks And Stones (1991, as co-writer)

Bruce Lundvall, 79, former head of Blue Note, Elektra and Manhattan labels, on May 19

Bob Belden, 58, jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger, producer, on May 20
Bob Belden – The Black Daliah (2006)

Louis Johnson, 60, legendary bassist, on May 21
Brothers Johnson – I’ll Be Good To You (1976)
Brothers Johnson – Strawberrry Letter (1977)
Stanley Clarke & Louis Johnson – We Supply (1980)
Michael Jackson – Wanna Be Startin’ Something (1983)

Mac Poole, 69, British drummer (Warhorse), on May 21
Warhorse – No Chance (1970)

Darius Minwalla, 39, drummer of The Posies, on May 21
The Posies – Second Time Around (2005)

Twinkle, 66, British singer-songwriter, on May 21
Twinkle – Golden Lights (1965)

Liv Marit Wedvik, 45, Norwegian country singer, drowned on May 23

Marcus Belgrave, 78, jazz trumpeter, on May 24
Ray Charles – What’d I Say (Parts 1 & 2) (1959, on trumpet)
Marvin Gaye – I Heard It Through The Grapevine (1968, on trumpet)

Rocky Frisco, 77, American pianist (J.J. Cale Band), on May 26
J.J. Cale – One Step (2004, on keyboard)

Art Thieme, 73, folk musician, on May 26

Mel Waiters, 58, soul singer, on May 28
Mel Waiters – How Can I Get Next To You? (2001)

Christer Jansson, 51, drummer of Swedish pop band Roxette, announced on May 28

Johnny Keating, 87, British musician, on May 28
Johnny Keating & his Orchestra – Theme from Z-Cars (1962)

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The Louis Johnson Collection

May 28th, 2015 8 comments

Louis Johnson Collection

We interrupt this series of collections of songs of session drummers to pay tribute to Louis Johnson, the great bassist and half of the Johnson Brothers who died last week at the age of 60.

Louis Johnson, nicknamed “Thunder Thumbs”, gave us basslines to dance to — Stomp and Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough — and to groove to — I Keep Forgettin’ and Baby Come To Me — and to smooch to — One Hundred Ways and Love All The Hurt Away. And he played on the charity behemoth We Are The World.

He is probably best known as one of the Brothers Johnson, whose repertoire included such classics as Stomp, I’ll Be Good To You, Get The Funk Out Ma Face, and a fine cover of Shuggie Otis’ Strawberry Letter 23 (check out the isolated bass of the latter).

Much of the Brothers Johnson material was produced by Quincy Jones, their manager and mentor, who kept returning to Louis for some bass work.

You’ll have heard Louis’ basslines on Quincy productions such as Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall album, on which Louis did bass duty on all but one song (Rock With You; that was Bobby Watson).

On Thriller, where several tracks are driven by synth-based basslines, Louis Johnson featured on Billy Jean, Wanna Be Startin’ Something, Human Nature and P.Y.T.

He played on Quincy’s solo albums, such as Mellow Madness, I Heard That and Live At Budokan, as well as on two star-studded affairs released under the Quincy Jones banner: The Dude and Back On The Block (on the latter he appeared on the Ray Charles & Chaka Khan cover of the Brothers Johnson’s I’ll Be Good To You”) .

Many hip hop artists have sampled Johnson’s basslines, most famously perhaps that of Michael McDonald’s I Keep Forgettin’ for Warren G.’s Regulate.

Apart from those featured on this collection, acts for whom Johnson played include: Gabor Sabo, Grover Washington Jr, Side Effects, Leon Haywood, Sergio Mendes, Harvey Mason, Letta Mbulu, Pointer Sisters, Herb Alpert, Hugh Masekela, Joe Tex, Rufus & Chaka Khan, René & Anngela, Stanley Clarke, Andraé Crouch, Passage, Donna Summer (on State Of Independence), John Cougar Mellencamp, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, The Jacksons, Jeffrey Osborne, Peabo Bryson, Paul McCartney, Charlene, Rodney Franklin, Johnny Gill, Dennis Edwards, Angela Bofill, DeBarge, Irena Cara, Angela Winbush, Barbra Streisand, Brian McKnight and more.

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

1. Brothers Johnson – Stomp (1979)
2. Michael Jackson – Off The Wall (1979)
3. George Benson – Love X Love (1980)
4. Quincy Jones – Ai No Corrida (1980)
5. Patti Austin & James Ingram – Baby Come To Me (1981)
6. Karen Carpenter – Lovelines (1879/80)
7. Lee Ritenour feat Bill Champlin – You Caught Me Smilin’ (1981)
8. The Crusaders feat Joe Cocker – This Old World’s Too Funky For Me (1980)
9. Bobby Womack – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright (1975)
10. Bill Withers – Sometimes A Song (1975)
11. Billy Preston – Will It Go Round In Circles (1972)
12. Herbie Hancock – Lite Me Up! (1982)
13. Aretha Franklin – What A Fool Believes (1980)
14. Michael McDonald – I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near) (1982)
15. Sweet Comfort Band – Feel Like Singin’ (1981)
16. Sister Sledge – Smile (1983)
17. Earl Klugh – Slippin’ In The Back Door (1976)
18. Quincy Jones feat. Ray Charles & Chaka Khan – I’ll Be Good To You (1989)

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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 Bobby Keys Collection
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1

Categories: Mix CD-Rs, Session Players Tags: