Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 1

January 19th, 2017 2 comments

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It was difficult to come up with a name for this mix, and if “protest” implies the kind of angry, black voices that has many whites scared, then that is not quite an accurate reflection of the tone of the songs. Even if some songs are righteously angry and even militant, most are conciliatory, and a few even quite naive.

This is a mix of soul songs that appeal for a social justice, racial equality and harmony, for black consciousness, and for political activism — some deal with one or two of these issues, some with all of them.

It covers roughly the era after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King and subsequent uprisings, to the decline of the civil rights movement towards the mid-to-late 1970s. So this mix not only addresses the racism and its effects of the time, but also the conversation within black activism between the heirs of MLK and the Black Panthers.

The timing of this post is not by chance. On January 20 — just four days after Martin Luther King Day — the most corrupt and racist US president of modern times will be sworn in. Donald Trump is, of course, a bigot of many badges: he is a xenophobe, a misogynist, a racist and so on. He despises the poor and serves the rich. He mocks the disabled and encourages the bullies. He was endorsed by the Ku Klax Klan and he did not distance himself from them. His impeachment cannot come soon enough, if the venal slimeballs in the GOP can muster enough self-interest to make real what should be inevitable.

Which brings us to 1968, when Richard Nixon was elected president. If we call Trump a racist, then on scale it is fair to describe Nixon in rather more diplomatic terms. Let’s say that Tricky Dick was not an unequivocal friend of African-Americans. There are a few echoes from 1968 in 2016. In both years, right-wing presidents were elected during times of war on the Asian continent; both were elected at a time when the hope for a better future by black Americans — raised by the Civil Rights Act and the election of a black president respectively — was followed by unrest which only the willfully ignorant or the terminally racist would see as unprovoked.

The songs on this mix speak to the Nixon era, but substitute the dated political and cultural references with current ones, and they have application even today. There were plenty more such songs than what will appear on subsequent mixes (to start with, I keep to my usual rule of one song per artist, with a couple of exceptions. I’m guessing there will be three mixes). Since the 1970s, the art of catchy black protest soul songs nearly died out. The corporatisation of music has seen to it. The militant hip hop of the 1980s was a necessary reaction to the jheri-curled soul singers of the age who kept it strictly romantic. But in the 1990s, hip hop became a vehicle for gangsta bling, spinning rims, bustin’ caps in yo ass and rampant misogyny of the kind even Donald Trump would blanche at, rather than to mobilise for social change. Pac died, and Snoop won.

Now Kanye West, that fraudster in charlatan’s clothes, requests an audience with the racist Trump. But we must take courage, there are some artists who do social commentary well — from Eykah Badu, The Fugees or The Roots in the Clinton/Bush era to Frank Ocean, Gregory Porter, Solange or her sister Beyoncé (who did so with Formation, which is no Gil Scott-Heron, though he might have approved anyway) in 2016/17. The protest soul song is making a comeback, in time to stand up to the racists who say racism is dead while revving up the racism. Now it must return to the mainstream, as it did 40+ years ago.

Maybe there is value in reviving the memory of protest and social commentary of the Nixon generation and give it meaning in the Trump era, when it is politically correct again to be racist because the racists have taken off their white hoods or “see no colour”. And if all of the above (other than my empirical views on Donald Trump and his racist pals) is rubbish, take this mix as my contribution to Black History Month.

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

1. The Temptations – Ball of Confusion (1970)
2. The Chi-Lites – Give More Power To The People (1970)
3. The Main Ingredient – Black Seeds Keep On Growing (1971)
4. Sly and the Family Stone – Stand! (1969)
5. The Impressions – Mighty Mighty (Spade & Whitey) (1969)
6. Grady Tate – Be Black (1968)
7. Syl Johnson – I’m Talkin’ ’Bout Freedom (1970)
8. Billy Paul – Am I Black Enough For You (1972)
9. Lou Rawls – The Politician (1972)
10. Z.Z. Hill – Think People (1971)
11. James Carr – Freedom Train (1969)
12. Lee Dorsey – Yes We Can (Part 1) (1970)
13. S.O.U.L. – Tell It Like It Is (1972)
14. Jackie Moore – If (1973)
15. Ernie Hines – A Better World (For Everyone) (1972)
16. George Soulé – Get Involved (1973)
17. The Bar Kays – Six O’Clock News Report (1971)
18. Darondo – Let My People Go (1974)
19. Marion Black – Listen Black Brother (1972)
20. Swamp Dogg – I Was Born Blue (1970)
21. The Isley Brothers – Fight The Power (Parts 1&2) (1975)
22. Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1971)

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Any Major Soul: 1960s
Any Major Soul: 1970s
Covered With Soul
Mix CD-R

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Any Major Favourites 2016 – Vol. 1

January 12th, 2017 9 comments

As I did last year, I am offering two compilations of the compilations I posted over the past year, with one song chosen from each mix (except for last year’s Any Major Favourites Vol. 1 and Vol .2, the Christmas selections, the Song Swarms for The Girl From Ipanema and By The Time I Get To Phoenix, the Any Major Disco Vol. 3 mix I posted just before New Year’s, All The People Who Died 2016, and In Memoriams). All of the songs here are among my favourite tracks from the respective mixes —  the choice often was tough.

In 2016 I put up 48 mixes, plus a dozen of In Memoriams, and the Purple Rain vs Thriller post with which I think I agitated a couple of Michael Jackson devotees a little.  But, hey, at least they commented. I’m very grateful to those who frequently comment; sometimes these comments tell stories from the commenter’s experience, which are huge fun to read. The nice comments keep this place going; but when there are weeks when virtually nobody comments, I do get discouraged and wonder how long I will keep going at this hobby. But obviously I still have fun doing it, right down to doing the covers which I doubt anybody uses.

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There’ll be a second mix like this in two week’s time (next time we will turn our gaze to the inauguration if Little Hands, the mocker of disabled journalists).

Of course, I would love to know which of the mixes of 2016 you have enjoyed the most.

For once, this mix won’t quite fit on a standard CD-R, and there are no home-made covers… PW in comments.

1. Bruce Springsteen – Chimes Of Freedom (1988)
Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 1
2. Warren Zevon – Mohammed’s Radio (1981)
Any Major Radio Vol. 1
3. Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – Winter In America (1974)
Any Major Flute Vol. 1
4. Dorothy Morrison – Black California (1970)
American Road Trip – Stage 3
5. Sandra Wright – I’ll See You Through (I’ll Be Your Shelter) (1974)
Any Major Soul 1974 Vol. 2
6. Minnie Riperton – Light My Fire (1979)
Any Major Flute Vol. 2
7. War – All Day Music (1971)
Any Major Beach Vol. 1
8. Boz Scaggs – Miss Sun (1980)
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 6
9. Karen Carpenter – If We Try (1979/80)
Rod Temperton Collection
10. Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Kiss And Say Goodbye (1975)
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 2
11. Billy Joel – Summer, Highland Falls (1976)
American Road Trip – Stage 1
12. Françoise Hardy – Suzanne (1970)
Any Major Leonard Cohen Covers
13. Hoyt Axton – Evangelina (1975)
Any Major Mexico
14. Guy Clark – The Randall Knife (1983)
Any Major Fathers Vol. 2
15. Kris Kristofferson – Thank You For A Life (2006)
Any Major Thanksgiving
16. Drive-By Truckers – George Jones Talkin’ Cell Phone Blues (2009)
Any Major Road Vol. 2
17. Aztec Camera – Still On Fire (1984)
A Life In Vinyl: 1984 Vol. 2
18. Josh Rouse – Wonderful (2006)
Any Major Coffee Vol. 2
19. Richard Hawley – The Nights Are Made For Us (2003)
Any Major Night Vol. 1
Bonus track: David Bowie – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (live) (1973)
Great Covers: Ziggy Stardust

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In Memoriam – December 2016

January 5th, 2017 7 comments

im1612-gallery-1The tributes have been exhaustive, the Last Christmas references been made. There’s not really much left to say about George Michael. It is now being revealed just how generous and caring a person he was, mostly discreetly. It needn’t be stated that George Michael was a gifted songwriter and arranger. He was also a marvellous vocalist, in tone and phrasing. Seek out his unjustly overlooked 1986 solo single A Different Corner (featured on the All The People Who Died 2016 mix). It has a lovely melody, understated arrangement and very good lyrics. But George’s soulful delivery is the real star here. He was great on ballads: Kissing A Fool and One More Try from the Faith album are other good examples of it.

But the stand-out performance is his version at Live Aid of Elton John’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me. Forget the 1990s recording (also live); this is the more-or-less spontaneous version, without post-production. It’s perfect; George Michael’s vocal performance is breathtaking, as is fellow Pinner boy Elton’s arrangement. Had Queen bombed at Wembley, then this would be regarded as the singular highpoint of Live Aid. So, yeah, there were quite a few things left to say about George Michael.

With the death of Status Quo rhythm guitarist and co-singer Rick Parfitt the day after George Michael, the first two performers to appear on the Band Aid record have died (and, I think, the first two to have appeared on the London leg of Live Aid). Status Quo were considered a bit of a two-chord band by the purist, but their records were huge fun — especially for the dedicated air guitarists. A friend remarked after Parfitt’s death that it was harsh to expect much variation from a band named Status Quo. But they could also do slow songs, such as the lovely Living On An Island, which featured on A Life In Vinyl 1980. By all accounts, Parfitt was a gregarious party animal with no big star pretensions. But he also knew tragedy, having lost a two-year-old daughter in a drowning accident in 1980. He became a father again, to twins, in 2008, at the age of 60.

As 2016 began, prog-rockers Emerson, Lake & Palmer were still all alive. Now only Carl Palmer is left. Keith Emerson went in March; now Greg Lake died — just as his song I Believe in Father Christmas was going back on seasonal rotation (it featured on Any Major 1970s Christmas), though that selection was made weeks before his death). Before becoming a target of contempt for 1970s punks as a member of ELP, Lake was the singer and bass guitarist for prog-rock pioneers King Crimson. On a tour that also included fellow prog-rockers The Nice on the bill, Lake struck up a friendship with that group’s Keith Emerson. They decided to form a band, roping in drummer Palmer, to create ELP. By 1974, ELP were done due to artistic differences between Emerson and Lake (a contractually obliged 1979 album still followed). His autobiography, Lucky Man, is now due for publication in September 2017; it’s named after a song he wrote at age 12 and recorded by ELP in 1970.

im1612-gallery-2There is a certain symmetry between ELP and the Australian rock band Daddy Cool: both lost members in March — in the case of Daddy Cool, guitarist Ross Hannaford — and in December, with bass player Wayne Duncan, of a stroke. The Melbourne group was the first local act to sell 100,000 LPs in Australia, with their 1970 debut LP Daddy Who?… Daddy Cool. That album included their 1970 hit Eagle Rock, which topped the Australian charts for ten weeks, and featured here earlier this year. In the comments to the March edition of In Memoriam, reader J Loslo noted that there’s an Australian bar tradition to drop one’s trousers and shuffle around with your pants around your ankles if it happens to come on the jukebox. Eagle Rock featured in the tribute for Hannaford; here I’ll go with one of J Loslo’s recommendations.

As a great actress might, Debbie Reynolds made her exit in emphatic style, of a broken heart the day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died. With that, she gave this rotten year a symbolic accent. Reynolds was a gifted talent; in the Good Morning sequence in Singin’ In The Rain, the just 19-year-old held her own against the seasoned hoofers Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor — after just four months of hyper-intensive training. In music, Reynolds scored her big hits by way of musicals, including the chart-topper Tammy, which was from the 1957 film Tammy and the Bachelor. She also had minor hits in the 1950s with pop covers of country songs. Later she tried her hand at bubblegum pop, being produced by Wes Farrell, who later invented The Partridge Family. Subsequently she had a long-running cabaret stint in Las Vegas. In a month when the Reaper took several stars with connections to Christmas records, it’s suitable that Reynolds’ final recording was an album of festive season numbers, recorded with Singin’ In The Rain co-star O’Connor in the early 1990s.

Saxophonist and trumpeter Herb Hardesty, a World Wart 2 veteran, was really a jazzman, but he played a role in the rise of rock & roll as a tenor saxophonist for Fats Domino, including on crossover hits such as Ain’t That A Shame and Blueberry Hill, and earlier on Lloyd Price’s 1952 proto-rock & roll number Lawdy Miss Clawdy (on which Domino played the piano; the song was based on an earlier Domino track). Hardesty also backed acts such as Smiley Lewis, T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Little Richard, Lee Dorsey and, later, Dr John. Playing with him on many of these tracks, as part of producer Dave Bartholomew’s backing band, was future Wrecking Crew drummer Earl Palmer, who got Hardesty a session gig with Tom Waits on his 1978 Blue Valentine LP. In 1953, it was Hardesty who prepped a young Ray Charles for his first tour. Hardesty went on to do a lot of live backing on stage with acts like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Fats Domino, as well as Waits.

In the 1960s Larry Muhoberac played on several Elvis records, and then he was the keyboardist in Elvis TCB backing band during his early Las Vegas stints. He also played as a session keyboardist on records by the likes of Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Kim Carnes, BW Stevenson, Nancy Wilson, José Feliciano, John Prine, Jessi Colter, Ann Murray, Johnny Cash, Hoyt Axton (on Evangelina, which featured on the Any Major Mexico mix), Helen Reddy, Bobbie Gentry, Carpenters, Maxine Nightingale, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr, Andraé Crouch, Dolly Parton and others. He also produced or arranged for Diamond, Haggard, Gentry, Crouch, Dean Martin, Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood, Al Martino, Red Simpson, Jim Gilstrap (including House of Strangers on Any Major Soul 1975 Vol. 1), Yvonne Elliman, Ray Charles, Eddie Rabbit, Glen Campbell, Crystal Gayle and more…

im1612-gallery-3Gospel is a difficult genre to define, even if one just sticks to black gospel. The popular image is of robed choirs doing Oh Happy Day kind of stuff, or maybe Mahalia Jackson’s more blues inflected spirituals. Of course, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a gospel singer who did more than most to help invent rock & roll. Joe Ligon, the founder of the Mighty Clouds Of Joy who has died at 80, was another innovator. The group started in the early 1960s as a traditional Southern Baptist shout-and-yell gospel band. But over time they incorporated influences from secular soul music, culminating in secular recognition, including being the first gospel act to appear on Soul Train. In that way, they blazed a trail for contemporary gospel acts such as The Winans. The secular world appreciated the Mighty Clouds Of Joy as well: they opened for acts like the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon and Aretha Franklin.

In the world of jazz-fusion, drummer Alphonse Mouzon was royalty. A founder member of Weather Report (even if that stint was short-lived) he released several LPs and backed some of the great names in the genre, from Roy Ayers and Herbie Hancock to Al di Meola , but also more traditional jazz people, such as Miles Davis and Les McCann. He also drummed for non-jazz acts, such as Tim Hardin, Roberta Flack, Eugene McDaniels and Freda Payne.

The Grim Reaper made it a habit in 2016 of taking musicians before their time. French singer Léo Marjane can have no such complaints: she lived to the age of 104. At one point, before and during World War 2, Marjane was among the biggest singing stars in France, right up there with Edith Piaf, Jean Sablon and Charles Trenet (who wrote Marjane’s biggest hit, 1941’s Seule ce soir). Her career collapsed with the liberation of France when she was accused of having sung in venues frequented by German officers and performed on radio stations controlled by French collaborators. She ascribed this to naiveté. A comeback attempt in the 1950s failed, partly because her genre of music was on the decline, and partly because the French public had not forgotten the past. By 1957 she married a French aristocrat and quit the music business.

This month we lost the singer-writers of two beloved Christmas pop songs in George Michael and Greg Lake (and Rick Parfitt, who sang on the Band Aid single). Irish band manager Frank Murray had a role in the creation of another Christmas classic: Fairytale Of New York. Murray was the manager of The Pogues when he suggested they cover The Band’s Christmas Must Be Tonight. The band turned down the idea, so Murray challenged frontman Shane McGowan to write something better. Which he did. Murray also got Kirsty MacColl to duet on the song.

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Mark Gray, 64, country singer, songwriter, keyboardist with Exile, on Dec. 2
Exile -Take Me Down (1980, as co-writer)

Herbert Hardesty, 91, jazz trumpeter & saxophonist, on Dec. 3
Fats Domino – Blue Monday (1956, on baritone sax)
Herb Hardesty – Perdido Street (1962)
Growly-the-DCM-monster – Whistlin’ Past The Graveyard (1978)

Larry Muhoberac, 79, arranger, producer, and keyboardist, on Dec. 4
Neil Diamond – I Am…I Said (1971, as arranger)
Barbra Streisand – Beautiful (1971, on piano)
Jessi Colter – I’m Not Lisa (1975, on piano)

Wayne Duncan, 72, bassist of Australian rock band Daddy Cool, on Dec. 4
Daddy Cool – Zoop Bop Gold Cadillac (1971)

Ralph Johnson, lead singer of The Impressions (as of 1973), on Dec. 4
The Impressions – I’m A Changed Man (Finally Got Myself Together) (1973)

Adam Sagan, 35, drummer of metal bands Circle II Circle, Into Eternity, on Dec. 5

Big Syke, 48, rapper, on Dec. 5
2Pac feat. Big Syke and Kurupt – Check Out Time (rel. 1996; as co-rapper)

Greg Lake, 69, English singer and guitarist/bassist (King Crimson, ELP), on Dec. 7
King Crimson – I Talk To The Wind (1969)
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Lucky Man (1970)
Greg Lake – I Believe In Father Christmas (1975)

Palani Vaughan, 72, Hawaiian music singer, on Dec. 8

George Mantalis, 81, singer with vocal group The Four Coins, on Dec. 10
The Four Coins – Memories Of You (1955)

Damião Experiença, 81, Brazilian singer-songwriter, musician, producer on Dec. 10

Joe Ligon, 80, lead singer of gospel group Mighty Clouds Of Joy, on Dec. 11
Mighty Clouds Of Joy – You’ll Never Know (1961)
Mighty Clouds Of Joy – Time (1974)

Valerie Gell, 71, member of English beat group The Liverbirds, on Dec. 11
The Liverbirds – Leave All Your Old Loves (1964)

Bob Krasnow, 82, record executive, co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on Dec. 11

Jim Lowe, 93, singer-songwriter and DJ, on Dec. 12
Jim Lowe – Green Door (1956)

Barrelhouse Chuck, 58, American blues musician, on Dec. 12

Mark Fisher, 57, keyboardist of British pop group Matt Bianco, on Dec. 12
Matt Bianco – Don’t Blame It On That Girl (1988, also as co-writer)

Betsy Pecanins, 62, US-born Mexican singer, songwriter, producer, on Dec. 13

Alan Thicke, 69, Canadian actor and TV theme songwriter, on Dec. 13
Al Burton – Theme of Diff’rent Strokes (1978, as songwriter)

Bunny Walters, 63, New Zealand singer, on Dec. 14
Bunny Walters – Brandy (1972)

Dave Shepherd, 87, English jazz clarinetist, on Dec. 15

Léo Marjane, 104, French singer, on Dec. 18
Léo Marjane – Seule ce soir (1941)

Sven Zetterberg, 64, Swedish blues musician, on Dec. 18

Gordie Tapp, 94, Canadian country singer and comedian (Hee Haw), on Dec. 18
Gordie Tapp  – Trouble In The Amen Corner

Andrew Dorff, 40, country songwriter (brother of actor Stephen Dorff), on Dec. 19
Blake Shelton – My Eyes (2013, as co-writer)

Sam Leach, 81, British concert promoter (also for the early Beatles), on Dec. 21

Betty Loo Taylor, 87, jazz pianist, on Dec. 21

Frank Murray, 66, Irish manager of Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, on Dec. 22
The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988, as manager)

Mick Zane, 57, guitarist of heavy metal band Malice, on Dec. 23

Rick Parfitt, 68, guitarist and singer with Status Quo, on Dec. 24
Status Quo – Pictures Of Matchstick Men (1967)
Status Quo – Down Down (1974)
Status Quo – Accident Prone (1978)

Carole Smith, 94, country songwriter, on Dec. 24
Sonny James – Don’t Keep Me Hangin’ On (1970, as co-writer)

George Michael, 53, singer and songwriter, on Dec. 25
Wham! – Wham Rap! (1982)
George Michael – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (at Live Aid, 1985)
George Michael – Kissing A Fool (1987)
George Michael – Fastlove (1996)

Alphonse Mouzon, 68, jazz-fusion drummer, on Dec 25.
Eugene McDaniels – Susan Jane (1971, on drums)
Alphonse Mouzon – Playing Between The Beats (1978)

Knut Kiesewetter, 75, German jazz singer, songwriter and producer, on Dec. 28
Knut Kiesewetter – Good Night Irene (1963)

Pierre Barouh, 82, French actor, writer and musician, on Dec. 28

Debbie Reynolds, 84, American actress and singer, on Dec. 28
Debbie Reynolds & Carleton Carpenter – Aba Daba Honeymoon (1950)
Debbie Reynolds – Tammy (1957)
Debbie Reynolds – With A Little Love (Just A Little Love) (1969)

Allan Williams, 86, first manager of The Beatles, on Dec. 30

David Meltzer, 79, beat-poet and musician, on Dec. 31
Tina & David Meltzer – Pure White Place (1996)

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Any Major Disco Vol. 5

December 29th, 2016 3 comments

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As last year, we are seeing out December with a mix of disco songs, especially for New Year’s Eve. After the annus horribilis we have had — 2016 cannot piss off soon enough — we are going for pure nostalgia with the obvious classics of the genre. Even some which back in the day some of us night have thought of as naff (but how wrong we were about Boney M!).

This mix is set up for dancing — I’ve even sequenced the thing to roughly account for the BPMs — whether in a big group, or with your partner or by yourself. Just put on your dancing shoes and shake your booty to the boogie.

And if you need more to dance to, get multiple fixes of the previous four Any Major Disco mixes and the eight-volume Any Major Funk (which really was mostly disco as well). The whole lot can be found in one handy repository. As far as I can see, all links are still live.

By the way, check out which acts Germany’s Bravo magazine chose as their disco groups of 1978.

And so I wish you, as the Germans say, a good slide into the New Year. May 2017 give us respite from the ceaselessly obnoxious 2016, and may it bring you personally much to be joyful about.

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

1. Kool & the Gang – Ladies’ Night (1979)
2. Sister Sledge – Lost In Music (1979)
3. Chaka Khan – I’m Every Woman (1978)
4. KC & the Sunshine Band – Shake Your Booty (1976)
5. Rose Royce – Car Wash (1977)
6. Chic – Dance Dance Dance (1977)
7. The Jacksons – Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground) (1979)
8. Alicia Bridges – I Love The Nightlife (1978)
9. Anita Ward – Ring My Bell (1979)
10. Gibson Brothers – Que Sera Mi Vida (1980)
11. Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood (1979)
12. Patrick Hernandez – Born To Be Alive (1979)
13. Boney M – Ma Baker (1977)
14. Amanda Lear – Queen Of Chinatown (1977)
15. La Bionda – One For You, One For Me (1978)
16. Donna Summer – Bad Girls (1979)
17. Andrea True Connection – More, More, More (1976)
18. Shirley & Co – Shame Shame Shame (1975)
19. Silver Convention – Fly Robin Fly (1975)

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Notable music deaths of 2016

December 27th, 2016 20 comments

all-the-people-whove-died-2016

Readers of the monthly In Memoriam round-up would have spotted 2016 as an annus horribilis in music deaths already in March — by the time Prince went in April, we were just confirmed in that view.

The only nearly comparable year I can think of is 1977, when Elvis Presley, Marc Bolan, Bing Crosby, Sandy Denny and Buddy Johnson went, plus the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the plane crash (1978 was also shitty, so don’t even hope for a milder 2017). Given that the pool of pop musicians of death-appropriate age was still pretty small then, that was some heavy-going. But at least, for all its not insignificant problems, 1977 was not the political clusterfuck which 2016 was. Indeed, 1977 was the post-war 20th century we knew; 2016 put an end to that era.

As always in my end-of-year In Memoriam round-up, I nominate the most significant deaths of the year by categories of 20 (in pop-rock), tens or fives. Some people could have been included in more than one; I might have omitted somebody who you think must be included, but them’s the subjective shakes. There are some I wanted to include, but just couldn’t. The stories of many the people listed here, and many more who aren’t, were told in the monthly In Memoriams — revisit them here.

Some of the people who died were paid tribute to with special mixes:, a mix of songs that Rod Temperton wrote or produced or played on, a mix of covers of Leonard Cohen songs, a DJ setlist compiled by Prince himself, and Ziggy Stardust in cover versions.

And this year, I offer a People Who’ve Died 2016 mix: I’ve chosen the 20 people who died this year whose music meant the most to me. In that, I’ll limit myself to people actually being in the featured band, so no songwriters, producers or session musicians will feature, even if the body of their contributions was weighty.

So, with that to the year’s dead. If anybody meriting inclusion dies within the last few days of the year, I’ll include them in edits, as I did with Natalie Cole in last year’s Notable Music Deaths of 2015. Of course they’ll feature in the monthly In Memoriam list, which will appear in the first week of the new year.

And, 2016, do fuck off.

 

POP/ROCK
David Bowie
, 69, legend, on Jan. 10
Prince, 57, music genius, on April 21
Leonard Cohen, 82, Canadian singer-songwriter and poet, on Nov. 7
George Michael, 53, English singer and songwriter (Wham!), on Dec. 25
Leon Russell
, 74, singer, songwriter and musician, on Nov. 13
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Glenn Frey, 67, member of Eagles, singer-songwriter, actor, on Jan. 18
Rick Parfitt, 68, rhythm guitarist and singer with Status Quo, on Dec. 24
Greg Lake, 69, English singer and guitarist/bassist (King Crimson, ELP), on Dec. 7
Keith Emerson, 71, English rock keyboardist (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), on March 10
Black/Colin Vearncombe, 53, British singer-songwriter, on Jan. 26
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Pete Burns, 57, English singer and songwriter (Dead or Alive), on Oct. 23
Henry McCullough, 72, Northern Irish guitarist with Spooky Tooth, Wings, on June 14
Paul Kantner, 74, guitarist, singer, co-founder of Jefferson Airplane/ Starship, on Jan. 28
Signe Toly Anderson, 74, original singer of Jefferson Airplane, on Jan. 28
Alan Vega, 78, half of protopunk duo Suicide, on July 16
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Dale Griffin, 67, drummer of Mott The Hoople, on Jan. 17
Andy Newman, 73, pianist of British band Thunderclap Newman, announced on March 30
Lennie Baker, 69, singer with Sha Na Na, on Feb. 24
Nick Menza, 51, German-born drummer of Megadeth, on May 21
Steven Young, member of British electronic bands Colourbox and M/A/R/R/S, on July 13
im16-rock-pop_4

 

SOUL/FUNK
Maurice White, 74, singer, drummer, composer, producer, arranger, on Feb. 4
Billy Paul, 81, soul singer, on April 24
Wayne Jackson, 74, legendary trumpeter (The Memphis Horns), on June 21
Bernie Worrell, 72, keyboard player with Parliament-Funkadelic, on June 24
Mack Rice, 82, soul songwriter and singer, on June 27
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Phife Dawg, 45, member of hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, on March 22
Colonel Abrams, 67, soul/funk singer, on Nov. 25
Nicholas Caldwell, 71, extravagantly bearded singer with The Whispers, on Jan. 5
Kashif (née Michael Jones), 56, soul singer, songwriter and producer, on Sept. 25
Clarence ‘Blowfly’ Reid, 76, soul-funk musician, songwriter and producer, on Jan. 17
im16-soul_2

 

COUNTRY
Merle Haggard, 79, country singer-songwriter, on April 6
Ralph Stanley, 89, bluegrass legend, on June 23
Jean Shepard, 82, country singer and songwriter, on Sept. 25
Steve Young, 73, country singer–songwriter, on March 17
John D. Loudermilk
, 82, singer and songwriter, on Sept. 21
im16-country_1

Red Simpson, 81, country singer and songwriter, on Jan. 8
Sonny James, 87, country singer-songwriter, on Feb. 22
Bonnie Brown, 77, member of country group The Browns, on July 16
Holly Dunn, 59, country music singer-songwriter, on Nov. 14
Joe Clay, 78, rockabilly singer and guitarist, on Sept. 26
im16-country_2

 

FOLK
Guy Clark, 74, folk and country singer-songwriter, on May 17
Fred Hellerman, 89, folk singer-songwriter, guitarist with The Weavers; producer, on Sept. 1
Glenn Yarbrough, 86, folk singer, on Aug. 11
Dave Swarbrick, 75, fiddler with British folk band Fairport Convention, on June 3
Oscar Brand, 96, folk singer-songwriter, author and radio personality, on Sept. 30
Karl Dallas, 85, folk songwriter, writer and peace campaigner, on June 21
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JAZZ
Mose Allison, 89, jazz pianist, singer and songwriter, on Nov. 15
Toots Thielemans, 94, Belgian jazz harmonica player and guitarist, on Aug. 22
Alphonse Mouzon, 68, jazz fusion drummer, on December 26
Jeremy Steig, 73, jazz-rock flautist, on April 13
Joe Houston, 89, R&B and jazz saxophonist, on Dec. 28, 2015 (didn’t make on last year’s round-up)
Bill Henderson, 90, jazz singer and actor, on April 3
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MOM’S FAVOURITES
Bobby Vee, 73, pop singer, on Oct. 24
Kay Starr
, 94, pop and jazz singer, on Nov. 3
Marni Nixon, 86, singer (voice-over for Natalie Wood, Audrey Hepburn etc), on July 24
Gogi Grant, 91, pop and musicals singer, on March 10
Frank Sinatra Jr., 72, singer and actor, on March 15
im16-moms-faves

 

PIONEERS
Scotty Moore, 84, pioneering Rock & Roll guitarist, on June 28
Lonnie Mack, 74, singer and guitar pioneer, on April 21
Emile Ford, 78, Saint Lucia-born pop singer and pioneering sound engineer, on April 11
Jean-Jacques Perrey
, 87, pioneering French electronic musician, producer, on Nov. 4
Ray ‘Miss Ray’ Singleton, 79, early Motown songwriter and producer, on Nov. 11
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WORLD
Papa Wemba, 66, Congolese singer, on April 24
Hubert Giraud, 94, French songwriter, on Jan. 16
Naná Vasconcelos, 71, Brazilian jazz percussionist and singer, on March 9
Buckwheat Zydeco, 68, accordionist and bandleader, on Sept. 24
Mandoza
, 38, South African kwaito musician, on Sept. 18
im16-world

 

BLUES/ GOSPEL/REGGAE/SKA
Prince Buster, 78, Jamaican ska musician, on Sept. 8
Joe Ligon, 80, lead singer of gospel group Mighty Clouds Of Joy, on Dec. 11
Long John Hunter, 84, blues guitarist and singer-songwriter, on Jan. 4
Candye Kane
, 54, blues singer-songwriter and porn actress, on May 6
L.C. Ulmer, 87, blues musician, on Feb. 14
im16-blues-etc

 

SESSION MUSICIANS
Harrison Calloway, 75, trumpeter and leader of the Muscle Shoals Horns, on April 30
Bob Cranshaw, 83, jazz bassist, on Nov. 2
Herbert Hardesty, 91, jazz trumpeter & saxophonist, on Dec. 3
Al Caiola
, 96, American guitarist and composer, on Nov. 9
Dennis Davis, session drummer, on April 6
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PRODUCERS/ARRANGERS
George Martin, 90, English record producer, composer, arranger and engineer, on March 8
Chips Moman, 79, songwriter, producer, engineer, guitarist, on June 13
Rod Temperton, 66, English keyboardist, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 5
Lewis Merenstein, 81, producer (Van Morrison), on Sept. 6
Giorgio Gomelsky, 81, impresario, band manager, songwriter, producer, on Jan. 13
im16-producers

 

SONGWRITERS
Curly Putman, 85, country songwriter, on Oct. 30
Sonny Sanders, 77, soul songwriter, arranger, producer, on Oct. 12
Jimmy Haskell, 79, arranger, conductor and TV/film composer, on Feb. 2
Gary S. Paxton, 77, producer and singer-songwriter, on July 16
Sandy Pearlman, 72, producer, songwriter and manager, on July 26
im16-songwriters

 

MOVERS & SHAKERS
Phil Chess
, 95, producer and co-founder of Chess Records, on Oct. 19
Robert Stigwood, 81, Australian music, theatre and film impresario, on Jan. 4
Chris Stone, 81, co- owner of the Record Plant studio, on Sept. 10
David Mancuso, 72, DJ and founder of New York club The Loft, on Nov. 12im16-movers-shakers

And so to the tribute mix. CD-R length, home-untertaken covers included. PW in comments.

1. Status Quo – Again And Again (1978)
2. David Bowie – Changes (1971)
3. Leon Russell – Roll Away The Stone (1970)
4. Mott The Hoople – All The Way From Memphis (1973)
5. Prince – Baby I ‘m A Star (1984)
6. Mandoza – Nkalakatha (2001)
7. Sir Mack Rice – Dark Skin Woman (Part 1) (1975)
8. Billy Paul – Let ‘Em In (1974)
9. Earth, Wind & Fire – In The Stone (1979)
10. Heatwave – Boogie Nights (1976)
11. The Whispers – Let’s Go All The Way (1978)
12. Black – Wonderful Life (1987)
13. George Michael – A Different Corner (1986)
14. Eagles – New Kid In Town (1976)
15. Leonard Cohen – Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (1967)
16. Papa Wemba – Le Voyageur (1992)
17. Bobby Vee – Run to Him (1961)
18. Guy Clark – Stuff That Works (1995)
19. Merle Haggard – In My Next Life (1994)
20. Ralph Stanley – O Death (2000)

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Any Major 1950s Christmas

December 20th, 2016 8 comments

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Over a few years some time ago, I made three mixes of Christmas songs in black-and-white, covering the era 1930s to the ’60s with the crooning and novelties of those days. Here we return to the 1950s, but this time adding a good shot of rock & roll, R&B and doo wop into the mix.

So we begin with Elvis, and almost stop with a novelty Christmas song about Elvis, before we let doo wop band The Cameos sing us out with an appropriate Christmas message.

If you missed it on Thursday, this year’s first Christmas mix was of the 1970s.

If I don’t see you before Christmas: have a very merry one. And look in before the New Year, when there’ll be some music to dance to on the menu.

As always: CD-R length, ho-ho-home-made covers, PW in comments (where you may leave a greeting, if you like this mix).

1. Elvis Presley – Santa Claus Is Back In Town (1957)
2. Bobby Helms – Jingle Bell Rock (1957)
3. The Melodeers – Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1960)
4. Jimmy Dean – Little Sandy Sleighfoot (1957)
5. The Sabres – A Cool, Cool Christmas (1955)
6. The Harmony Grits – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1959)
7. Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (1958)
8. The Episodes – The Christmas Tree (1960)
9. The Davis Sisters – Christmas Boogie (1954)
10. Teresa Brewer – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1959)
11. Bing Crosby – How Lovely Is Christmas (1957)
12. Dean Martin – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (1959)
13. Dodie Stevens – Merry, Merry Christmas Baby (1960)
14. The Coolbreezers – Let Christmas Ring (1958)
15. Brook Benton – This Time Of The Year (When Christmas is Near) (1960)
16. Jackson Trio with The Ebonaires – Love For Christmas (1955)
17. The Orioles – Lonely Christmas (1954)
18. The McGuire Sisters – Christmas Alphabet (1954)
19. Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby (1953)
20. Louis Prima – Shake Hands With Santa Claus (1951)
21. Kay Starr – (Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With The Bag (1950)
22. Gene Autry – Frosty The Snowman (1950)
23. The Fontane Sisters – Nuttin’ For Christmas (1955)
24. Nat ‘King’ Cole – Mrs. Santa Claus (1956)
25. The De John Sisters – The Only Thing I Want For Christmas (1955)
26. Tennessee Ernie Ford – Christmas Dinner (1951)
27. Rosemary Clooney – Happy Christmas Little Friend (1953)
28. The Falcons – Can This Be Christmas (1957)
29. Red Buttons – Bow-Wow Wants A Boy For Christmas (1954)
30. The Enchanters – Mambo Santa Mambo (1957)
31. Holly Twins with Eddie Cochran – I Want Elvis For Christmas (1956)
32. The Cameos – Merry Christmas (1957)

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

Any Major 1970s Christmas

 

Categories: X-Mas Tags:

Any Major 1970s Christmas

December 15th, 2016 9 comments

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It’s a 1970s Christmas at Any Major Dungeons, and this year we’re doing it without Slade, Wizzard or Elton John.

There are a couple of, well, strange songs on this mix. Judy Storey’s rightly obscure song is about a dead woman singing to her husband from heaven, and what could be more Christmassy than a disco carol — though The Universal Robot Band’s Disco Christmas is actually pretty good, for a novelty record.

Fred Astaire’s song is his final recording, bringing to an end a recording career of more than 50 years (though he lived for another eight years); written by our old pal Norman Gimbel and produced by Dick Clark, it was originally featured in one of those Christmas TV variety specials they used to have, something called The Man In The Santa Suit on NBC.

One might also wonder at the inclusion of The Wombles, the furry creatures who live in Wimbledon, London, to recycle rubbish. They were hugely popular in Britain and parts of Europe in the 1970s, and had a string of pop hits. The idea of a Wombles Christmas song may seem discouraging, but this Mike Batt-composed Christmas song is a proper ’70s stomper.

All that oddness is offset by the weirdness of the recently late Leon Russell and Harry Nilsson singing about Christmas. I made this mix before he deaths of Russell and Greg Lake. A quick word about I Believe In Father Christmas. It is often claimed as an anti-Christmas song or even an atheist anthem. By Lake’s own account, it was a lament over the commercialisation of Christmas. Both Lake and ex-King Crimson colleague Peter Sinfield, who wrote the lyrics, agreed on that. Lake told Mojo magazine: “I find it appalling when people say it’s politically incorrect to talk about Christmas, you’ve got to talk about ‘The Holiday Season’. Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness, acceptance.” With his tongue in cheek, he added:  “And I do believe in Father Christmas.”

And be of good cheer: there is much here that conveys the traditional spirit of Christmas pop, including a near-Monkees reunion.

And more reason to be cheerful: next week (probably on Tuesday) there’ll be another Christmas mix!

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

1. Elvis Presley – It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You) (1971)
2. Carpenters – It’s Christmas Time (1970)
3. Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz & Peter Tork – Christmas Is My Time Of Year (1976)
4. Gilbert O’Sullivan – Christmas Song (1974)
5. Greg Lake – I Believe In Father Christmas (1975)
6. Mike Oldfield – In Dulci Jubilo (1975)
7. Big Star – Jesus Christ (1975)
8. Showaddywaddy – Hey Mr. Christmas (1976)
9. Mud – Lonely This Christmas (1974)
10. The Wombles – Wombling Merry Christmas (1974)
11. Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime (1979)
12. Partridge Family – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (1972)
13. Bobby Sherman – Goin’ Home (Sing A Song Of Christmas Cheer) (1970)
14. Red Simpson – Truckin’ Trees For Christmas (1973)
15. The Band – Christmas Must Be Tonight (1977)
16. Leon Russell – Slipping Into Christmas (1972)
17. Harry Nilsson – Remember Christmas (1972)
18. Emmylou Harris – Light Of The Stable (1979)
19. Roberta Flack – 25th Of Last December (1977)
20. The Impressions – Silent Night (1976)
21. Judy Storey – Christmas Cheer From Heaven (1979)
22. Fred Astaire – Once A Year Night (1979)
23. The Universal Robot Band – Disco Christmas (1977)

GET IT!

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

 

Categories: X-Mas Tags:

In Memoriam – November 2016

December 6th, 2016 6 comments

A month of utter carnage, just to top off a bad month for decency in the US. Still, all this prolific work by the Grim Reaper gives us the opportunity to sample great music… gallery-1In 1985 I was living in London. One day in late February that year I accompanied a girl I was trying to impress to a concert by Leonard Cohen at the Hammersmith Odeon. I liked Cohen songs in small doses, but I entered the show with trepidation. Cohen was known to play three-hour sets, and 180 minutes of that monotone seemed a fairly steep price to pay for the attention a girl. It turned out be one of the best gigs I have ever been to. It was long — 2,5 hours; 28 songs — but I never noticed. Cohen sang, talked, joked, engaged with the crowd as though we were sitting in an intimate bar. He engulfed the audience with his personality. The girl and I never happened, but Len stayed in my life. Here’s the set list of that gig. I paid a fuller tribute to Cohen on the Any Major Cohen Covers mix I posted a few days after his death.

The Carpenters’ genius in re-interpreting other people’s music found full expression in their timeless covers of two songs by Leon Russell: This Masquerade and A Song For You. The former was covered also to great effect by George Benson, the latter also by Donny Hathaway, whose version eclipses even the Carpenters one. It is the sign of great songwriting if your songs can be covered so well in different genres. Leon Russell was a great songwriter who himself travelled easily across genres: from swamp blues-rock to country to gospel to rock and so on. He was an idiosyncratic singer and performer, and a gifted producer and arranger (Joe Cocker’s classic Mad Dogs & Englishmen LP was produced by Russell). He appeared on Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, and then backed various acts on the piano. Towards the end of his life, he recorded and toured with Elton John, on whom Russell was a great influence.

And besides all that, he was also a session man, serving as a pianist on the Wrecking Crew, that great collective of LA session players. He played on the classic Phil Spector Christmas album, on The Byrd’s Mr Tambourine Man, Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep-Mountain High, The Rolling Stones’ Shine A Light (which he wrote) and Live With Me, Rita Coolidge’s That Man Is My Weakness, The Flying Burrito Bros’s version of Wild Horses (released before that of the Stones), George Harrison’s You, Eric Clapton’s version of After Midnight, Bob Dylan’s When I Paint My Masterpiece, and many more.

With the death of Kay Starr, the last breath went out of a career that started in 1932 (or even earlier), when the then 10-year-old sang in public to supplement her father’s income during the Great Depression. Starr, whose father was an Iroquois Native-American and mother an Irish-American, was born on a reservation in Oklahoma. Though Starr was known for popular hits such as Wheel Of Fortune, her home was in blues and jazz. Billie Holiday once remarked that Kay Starr was “the only white woman who could sing the blues”. As an adolescent she sang hillbilly music and Western Swing; at 15 she joined the Joe Venuti Orchestra, and cut her first record with Glenn Miller. She went solo in 1946. Before that, she recorded a few songs, included the one featured here, with a bunch of labelmates calling themselves The Capitol International Jazzmen. They featured Nat King Cole on the piano, Max Roach on drums, Bill Coleman on trumpet, Buster Bailey on clarinet, Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins on the sax, Oscar Moore on the guitar, and John Kirby on double bass — a true superband.

Smokey Robinson once said that it was Berry Gordy’s second wife, Ray Singleton, who taught the young guns on the nascent Motown label new chords and how to write songs, himself included. Production and mentoring was an expedient: when she joined Motown, she realised that Gordy didn’t rate her band, the Cute-Teens, and wasn’t going to make her a singing sensation. “Miss Ray” never features prominently in Motown histories, but it was she who found that house on Detroit’s 2648 West Grand Boulevard that became known as Hitsville USA and who helped set up the Jobete Music publishing company. She also produced songs and recorded one single herself, as Little Ivy. Her marriage with Gordy soon broke up, and for a while she tried to set up a label with her new husband. Eventually she returned to Motown — as a personal assistant to Diana Ross. In the 1980s she produced Rockwell’s hit Somebody’s Watching Me for Motown, but left soon after. She then helped her new lover, the late Sherrick, to a promising start to unfortunately short-lived his career, with his 1987 hit Just Call.gallery-2If you grew up with Sesame Street in the ‘70s, you’ll have heard the work of jazz bassist Bob Cranshaw, who has died at 83: he was the bass player on all those Sesame Street songs produced by Joe Raposo, including the theme song, the original long version of which features here.  He was also the bass player of the Saturday Night Live band from 1975-80, and played on Jerry Jeff Walker’s original of the timeless Mr Bojangles. In the field of jazz, Cranshaw was an innovator, being one of the first jazz bassists to switch from upright bass to bass guitar. He played with the galaxy of jazz greats of his era: Sonny Rollins (on loads of albums), Gene Ammons, Mary Lou Williams, Hank Crawford, James Moody, Donald Byrd, Nat Adderley, Houston Person, Dexter Gordon, George Benson, Max Roach, Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Shirley Scott, Jack McDuff, Quincy Jones, Wes Montgomery, Milt Jackson, Horace Silver, Joe Zaniwul, Yusuf Latif, Wayne Shorter, Freddy Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, the recently late Bobby Hutcherson and many others.

Another jazz icon Cranshaw played with was jazz/blues pianist and songwriter Mose Allison, who has died at 89. And in another bit of In Memoriam synergy, Leon Russell also recorded an Allison song, I’m Smashed — on the original of which Cranshaw played. Allison’s influence on the British rock-blues movement in the 1960s was profound; acts like the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, John Mayall, Van Morrison and The Who cited him as an influence, and in the US he influenced the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Tom Waits, JJ Cale, Bonnie Raitt and, very observably, Leon Russell.

If you danced in clubs in the mid-’80s, you almost certainly will have danced to Colonel Abrams’ 1985 hit Trapped. Before that he had a band — with the unpromising name Conservative Manor, 94 East — which featured on guitar a young fellow named Prince, who also had hits in 1985. Abrams could not sustain his success after the Trapped era, a few minor dance hits in the 1990s aside. His latter years were marked by illness related to diabetes, and, due to medical bills, destitution to the point of homlessness.  And now Orange Spinctermouth and his reptilian pals are looking at dismantling the Affordable Care Act….

The world of folk has lost several great names this year. With the death of producer Milt Okun, another name has been added to the list. Okun was a key producer in the careers of people like Laura Nyro, Peter, Paul & Mary, the Chad Mitchell Trio and, especially, John Denver, whose song Leaving On A Jet Plane he had produced for Peter, Paul & Mary and the Mitchell Trio before he produced that of Denver, the song’s writer. Apart from all those big John Denver hits, Okun also co-produced Starland Vocal Band’s Afternoon Delight. His range was wide, also including productions for artists as diverse as Miriam Makeba, Placido Domingo and the Muppets.gallery-3Before she made her first record, Sharon Jones worked as a prison guard on Rikers Island jail in New York and as a cash-transit security guard. She was a tough cookie, and when a few years ago she had to undergo chemotherapy for cancer, she played her concerts with a bald head. The story of Sharon Jones, who has died from cancer at 60, is quite marvellous. She had jobbed as a session musician, and at one such gig she was discovered by Gabriel Roth and Philip Lehman, the owners of the now defunct French Pure Records label. Her act of retro soul and deep funk earned Jones and her backing band, The Dap-Kings, a loyal following, with her live performances attracting much attention. In 2013 she was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, and after chemo it seemed to have gone into remission, but the cancer returned in 2015, in her stomach, lymph nodes and lungs. And still she kept performing, chemotherapy notwithstanding, telling the New York Times in July: “Getting out on that stage, that’s my therapy.”

I was shocked to hear of the death at 54 of Northern Irish folk-rock singer-songwriter Bap Kennedy. His album The Sailor’s Revenge was my album of the year 2012. At the time I wrote about it: “Coming from Northern Ireland, Bap Kennedy is liable to be compared to Van Morrison. Van has declared himself a fan, and like Morrison’s music, Kennedy’s draws from Irish folk — pipes, flutes, whistles and mournful fiddles — and  with hints of American soul. Plus a generous fistful of Bob Dylan. Produced by Mark Knopfler, the trained diamond gemologist — not a traditional rock & roll background — has delivered an 11-track collection of superbly written, performed and arranged songs.” A mutual acquaintance confirmed that Kennedy was a quality guy. He died after a 5-month battle with pancreas and bowel cancer.

Guitarist Al Caiola had a large output of his own records, but he hit the charts more often by backing others. Caiola supported vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn (including her fabulous version of Summertime), Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, and Julie London, and pop acts like Buddy Holly (Rave On), Marty Robbins, Elvis Presley, Chad & Jeremy, Jackie Wilson and many more. It seems he often was uncredited. Articles on him indicate that he played on tracks such as Paul Anka’s Diana, Percy Faith’s Theme From A Summer Place, Bobby Darin’s Mack The Knife and Dream Lover, Johnny Mathis’ Chances Are, and others, but I couldn’t verify these.

The Brady girls’ mom has passed away. Florence Henderson was best known as an actress, especially for her iconic role in The Brady Bunch. For those who follow these things, she was also well-known as a vocalist in stage musicals. But she also dabbled in pop music. In 1970 she released a pair of singles, and a few more records later in the decade. And in 1979 she brought out an album, With One More Look At You. As far as I can tell, she didn’t appear in the Brady Bunch records.

Bap Kennedy, 54, Northern Irish singer-songwriter, on Nov. 1
Bap Kennedy – The Shankill And The Falls
Bap Kennedy – Please Return To Jesus (2012)

Bob Cranshaw, 83, jazz bassist, on Nov. 2
Sonny Rollins – Brown Skin Girl (1962, on bass)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles (1968, on bass)
Joe Raposo – Sesame Street Theme (1969, on bass)

Kay Starr, 94, pop and jazz singer, on Nov. 3
The Capitol International Jazzmen – If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight) (1945)
Kay Starr – Wheel Of Fortune (1952)
Kay Starr – When The Lights Go On Again (All Over The World) (1966)

Jean-Jacques Perrey, 87, pioneering French electronic musician and producer, on Nov. 4
Jean-Jaques Perrey – Brazilian Flower (1968)

Eddie Harsch, 59, keyboardist of the The Black Crowes, on Nov. 4
The Black Crowes – Wiser Time (1994)

Laurent Pardo, 55, French bass guitarist, on Nov. 5

Leonard Cohen, 82, Canadian singer-songwriter and poet, on Nov. 7
Leonard Cohen – So Long, Marianne (live, 1968)
Leonard Cohen – Lover Lover Lover (1974)
Leonard Cohen – If It Be Your Will (1984)
Leonard Cohen – Going Home (2012)

Jimmy Young, 95, British singer and radio presenter, on Nov. 7
Jimmy Young – The Man From Laramie (1955)

Al Caiola, 96, American guitarist and composer, on Nov. 9
Pearl Bailey – Nothing For Nothing (1950, on guitar)
Fabian – Tiger (1958, on guitar)
Al Caiola – Bonanza (1960)

Martin Stone, 69, English guitarist, on Nov. 9
Wreckless Eric – If It Makes You Happy (1993, on electric guitar)

Lily, 64, Japanese singer and actress, on Nov. 11

Ray ‘Miss Ray’ Singleton, 79, Motown songwriter and producer, on Nov. 11
The Cute-Teens – When My Teen-Age Days Are Over (1959)
Jimmy Ruffin – Don’t Feel Sorry For Me (1961, as producer)
Sherrick – Just Call (1987, as producer)

Christopher Barriere, 44, rapper with Convicts, shot dead on Nov. 11

Victor Bailey, 56, bassist with Weather Report (1982-86), on Nov. 11
Victor Bailey – Bottom’s Up (1989)
Mary J. Blige – I’m Going Down (1994, on bass)

Doug Edwards, 70, Canadian musician and composer, on Nov. 11
Skylark – Wildflower (1973, as co-writer)

David Mancuso, 72, DJ and founder of New York club The Loft, on Nov. 12

Jacques Werup, 71, Swedish jazz poet, on Nov. 12

Leon Russell, 74, singer, songwriter and musician, on Nov. 13
Leon Russell – A Song For You (1970)
Leon Russell – This Masquerade (1972)
Leon Russell – Lady Blue (1975)

Billy Miller, 62, influential US rock & roll historian and musician, on Nov. 13

Holly Dunn, 59, country music singer-songwriter, on Nov. 14
Holly Dunn – Are You Ever Gonna Love Me (1989)

Bob Walsh, 68, Canadian blues singer and guitarist, on Nov. 15

Milt Okun, 92, singer and producer, on Nov. 15
Laura Nyro – Wedding Bell Blues (1966, as producer)
John Denver – Darcy Farrow (1972, as producer)
Starland Vocal Band – Afternoon Delight (1976, as producer)

Mose Allison, 89, jazz pianist, singer and songwriter, on Nov. 15
Mose Allison – Parchman Farm (1959)
Mose Allison – I’m Smashed (1970, with Bob Crenshaw on bass)
Mose Allison – Everybody Thinks You’re An Angel (2010)

Mentor Williams, 70, songwriter and producer, on Nov. 16
John Henry Kurtz – Drift Away (1972, as songwriter. Original version)

Diz Russell, 83, singer with doo-wop band The Regals and later The Orioles, on Nov. 16
The Regals – I’m So Lonely (1955, also as co-writer)

Don Waller, 65, US music writer and singer of ‘70s punk band Imperial Dogs, on Nov. 17
Blue Öyster Cult – This Ain’t The Summer Of Love (1976)

Sharon Jones, 60, R&B singer, on Nov. 18
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Got A Thing On My Mind (2001)
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007)

Hod O’Brien, 80, jazz pianist, on Nov. 20

Craig Gill, 44, drummer of British rock group Inspiral Carpets, on Nov. 22
Inspiral Carpets – Two Worlds Collide (1991)

Fred Stobaugh, 99, songwriter, on Nov. 23

Joe Esposito, 78, road manager for Elvis Presley, member of “Memphis Mafia”, on Nov. 23

Florence Henderson, 82, actress (The Brady Bunch) and singer, on Nov. 24
Florence Henderson – Conversations (1970)

Shirley Bunnie Foy, 80, jazz singer and percussionist, on Nov. 24

Colonel Abrams, 67, soul/funk singer, on Nov. 25
Colonel Abrams – Trapped (1985)

Pauline Oliveros, 84, composer and accordionist, on Nov. 25

Tony Martell, 90, music industry executive, on Nov. 27

Carlton Kitto, 74, Indian jazz guitarist, on Nov. 28

Ray Columbus, 74, New Zealand rock singer, on Nov. 28
Ray Columbus & The Invaders – She’s A Mod (1964)

Micky Fitz, singer  of UK punk band The Business, announced on Dec. 1

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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 2

December 1st, 2016 11 comments

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Only a few weeks after I posted the Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 1 Mix, the Nobel committee announced the Bobster as this year’s literature laureate. Coincidence? I doubt it. The only logical conclusion we can draw is that the folks at Nobel HQ is Stockholm are keen readers of Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, and that my mix persuaded them to give Dylan the gong. Bob, it seems, does not really want the award, and he is unlikely to thank me for my part in his Nobel Prize award. If only I could please everybody…

Anyhow, the first mix attracted a fair number of comments. Some of them addressed one of the great debates in pop history: is Bob Dylan’s voice an instrument of art or is it a punishing aural assault? It’s the kind of question that provokes internecine warfare even between Dylan fans.

My view? I think Dylan’s voice is, in itself, quite unpleasant. In most other artists, that nasal whine might be considered objectively offensive — even Trump supporters, who enthusiastically embrace the objectively offensive, would find it offensive. His lower register on the country-flavoured albums — on songs like Lay Lady Lay and Just Like A Woman — is more tolerable, but you’d be hard-pressed call it beautiful.

But the tone of his voice, however you perceive it, is not really important. Indeed, one can acquire a taste for it, just as people acquire a taste for things as revolting as tequila, broccoli or mayonnaise. What is important is how Bob Dylan uses that voice. At his best, Dylan doesn’t so much sing his songs as he inhabits them — and that is the mark of a great singer. In so many of his songs, his vocals not only drive the narrative, but they are a character in it.

That works best when Dylan has a stake in the songs he sings. There are very few singers who can spit venom quite as Dylan. In Hurricane, that anger is on the verge of boiling over; but this is not just anger. With his delivery, with the encunciation of single syllables, he also communicates an utter contempt for the system which he is singing about. The effect is devastating; no other singer could do Hurricane to such great effect as Dylan does it. What does it matter that his voice isn’t lovely? Likewise, the menacing derision for the subjects of his contempt which he conveys in his vocals on mean-spirited songs like Positively 4th Street, Ballad of A Thin Man or Like A Rolling Stone hits you in the gut. Not many singers can do that.

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Dylan might have an ugly voice, but he has an extraordinary way of delivery — especially, as I’ve said, when he is invested in the words he is singing (which might explain why few of his covers of other people’s music are particularly outstanding). To be sure, there are also many Dylan songs which are immeasurably improved by cover versions.

One such song is All I Really Want To Do, from Dylan’s 1964 LP Another Side of Bob Dylan. I really like Dylan’s version, especially the idea of a songwriter laughing at his own lyrics. But in The Byrds’ version, a comprehensive reinvention, the song becomes a thing of special beauty. As does the lovely Every Grain Of Sand, which is okay when sung by Dylan, but sublime in Emmylou Harris’ treatment.

And this is the genius of Bob Dylan’s music: as it is with Beatles songs, they can be interpreted and reinvented them to good effect in so many ways. This second collection of Dylan covers testifies to this.

Incidentally, in the first post of Dylan covers I promised three mixes. Clearly, that is not enough. I’m up to five mixes now.

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

1. The Band – When I Paint My Masterpiece (1971)
2. The Byrds – All I Really Want To Do (1965)
3. Simon & Garfunkel – The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
4. Nina Simone – Ballad of Hollis Brown (1965)
5. Sam Cooke – Blowin’ In The Wind (1964)
6. Solomon Burke – Maggie’s Farm (1965)
7. Billy Preston – She Belongs To Me (1969)
8. The Flying Burrito Brothers – To Ramona (1971)
9. The Hollies – I Want You (1969)
10. The Piccadilly Line – Visions Of Johanna (1967)
11. Arlo Guthrie – When The Ship Comes In (1972)
12. New Riders Of The Purple Sage – You Angel You (1974)
13. Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson – Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright (2015)
14. John Mellencamp – Farewell, Angelina (1999)
15. Steve Earle & Lucia Micarelli – One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below) (2012)
16. Everly Brothers – Abandoned Love (1985)
17. Thea Gilmore – I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine (2003)
18. Jennifer Warnes – Sign On The Window (1979)
19. Leon Russell – It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (1971)
20. Joan Baez – One Too Many Mornings (1968)
21. Caravelli Orchestra – Wigwam (1977)

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Any Major Thanksgiving

November 22nd, 2016 14 comments

any-major-thanksgiving

A long-time friend of this place recently contacted me about ideas for a radio playlist of songs for Thanksgiving. Well, even if that holiday is American, and therefore not one I celebrate, I thought that there could be a good mix of songs about being thankful.

And this is such a mix. It kicks off with two songs that riff happily about Thanksgiving (well, one is an instrumental but you’ll know why it’s the opener), and it closes with a couple of tracks that take a more nuanced approach to the holiday.

In between, there are lots of songs about being grateful about all manner of things other than white people in funny hats coming to take land that didn’t belong to them. And I didn’t consider songs about the epicurean side of things, so no songs about pumpkin or apple pie, nor about cold turkey.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-cooked covers. PW in comments. And if you are thankful for this mix, leave a comment there.

1. Vince Guaraldi Trio – Thanksgiving Theme (1973)
2. Johnny Cash – Thanksgiving Prayer (1994)
3. Big Star – Thank You Friends (1975)
4. Sly & the Family Stone – Thankful n’ Thoughtful (1973)
5. Sam & Dave – I Thank You (1968)
6. Bobby Womack – Thank You (1969)
7. Earth, Wind & Fire – Gratitude (1975)
8. William DeVaughn – Be Thankful For What You Got (1974)
9. Ronnie McNeir – I’m So Thankful (1972)
10. Bobby Powell – Thank You (1973)
11. Pat Lundy – Friend Of Mine (I Wanna Thank You So Much) (1973)
12. Donny Hathaway – Thank You Master (For My Soul) (1970)
13. Maze feat. Frankie Beverley – I Wanna Thank You (1983)
14. Crusaders feat. Joe Cocker – I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today (1981)
15. Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend (1978)
16. Statler Brothers – Thank You World (1974)
17. Kris Kristofferson – Thank You For A Life (2006)
18. Charlotte Kendrick – Thank You (2007)
19. Drive-By Truckers – The Thanksgiving Filter (2011)
20. The National – Thanksgiving Song (2012)

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(The corrupted file posted Tuesday morning has been replaced)

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