Covered With Soul Vol. 22

July 20th, 2017 4 comments

It has been more than two years since the last Covered With Soul. This collection draws from a wide range of genres to produce what I think is a pretty smooth flow of good soul music.

Those genres include rock (Come Together), 1960s pop (Windy, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do) and ’70s pop (Spirit In The Sky, Your Song, Mr Bojangles), folk (Fire And Rain, Where Have All The Flowers Gone, Tin Man), country (For The Good Times, Break It To Me Gently, Misty Blue), and standards (Unforgettable, The Glory Of Love, It’s All In The Game, Fever, even I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise from the MGM musical An American In Paris) .

And there is a soul version of the Irish song Danny Boy which strips that old chestnut of its accumulated kitsch and gives it a soul treatment which sounds a decade older than its year of release, 1981. It is performed by LV Johnson, who had more success as a songwriter than he did as a recording artist, alas. He died in 1994 at the age of 48.

One country track here may be more famous as a soul number, but not in the featured version. Misty Blue was written for Brenda Lee but became better known in Eddie Arnold’s version. Its biggest success, however, was in the southern soul version by Dorothy Moore, which hit the Top 5s in both the US and UK — three years after it was first recorded. The present version by Joe Simon from 1969 is the missing link. Coincidentally, it was also a minor hit three years after it was first recorded.

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

1. Dorothy Morrison – Spirit In The Sky (1970)
2. Earth Wind & Fire – Where Have All The Flowers Gone (1972)
3. Clydene Jackson – Mr Bojangles (1975)
4. Maxine Weldon – I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise (1975)
5. The Manhattans – Fever (1974)
6. Brothers Johnson – Come Together (1976)
7. Bobby Womack – Fire And Rain (1971)
8. Isaac Hayes – For The Good Times (1971)
9. Joe Simon – Misty Blue (1969)
10. Al Jarreau – Your Song (1976)
11. Chocolate Milk – Tin Man (1975)
12. Aretha Franklin – Break It To Me Gently (1977)
13. L.V. Johnson – Danny Boy (1981)
14. Eddie Holman – It’s All In The Game (1970)
15. The Dells – The Glory Of Love (1969)
16. Gene Chandler – Unforgettable (1970)
17. Carl Graves – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (1975)
18. Billy Paul – Windy (1970)
19. Vivian Reed – God Bless The Child (1976)
20. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling (1972)

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Any Major Whistle Vol. 1

July 17th, 2017 17 comments

Here I am recycling a mix on whistling in pop I posted in 2009. As a vigorous (and in-tune!) whistler, I appreciate the art of musical blowing of air. I presume that most of the whistling was perpetrated by the performers themselves, but there have been moments when an act has made use of session whistlers. For example, the fade out whistling on Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (not featured here) is not Otis Redding’s lipwork; in fact, he berated the session whistler for being out of tune in the first take.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on to a standard CD-R.

1. Elvis Presley – A Whistling Tune (1962)
The perfect opener: it’s got the right title, it starts with a whistle, it’s Elvis (though I don’t know if it is him whistling). Elvis doesn’t strike me as the whistling type). Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 Whistling right off the bat.

2. Roger Miller – England Swings (1965)
London was swinging, as TIME magazine established, so country singer Roger Miller imagined its swingingness. Oh yeah, the Bobby is on a leisurely beat. It’ll take Plod two years to work out that Mick and Keef are smoking naughty stuff in the privacy of their own home. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 From the top and returning throughout.

3. Johnnie Ray – Just Walking In The Rain (1956)
Poor old Johnnie Ray. Sounded sad upon the radio. He moved a million hearts in mono. Here he is crying, believe it or not. And, happily, whistling a catchy blow-air riff. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 Johnnie lets blow from the start before singing, just like our fathers.

4. Pat Boone – Love Letters In The Sand (1957)
Pat Boone was never very cool. But I can forgive him his reactionary pop posing for his whistle solo in Love Letters In The Sand, proudly wearing his Bing Crosbyness on his lips.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:27  And all the girls play air whistle.

5. The Mamas & The Papas – Dream A Little Dream Of Me (1968)
If by 1968 anybody had a doubt who the star of the Mamas And the Papas was, here’s the proof: Cass gets a special intro. Glorious. Whistle-tastic moment: 2:58  Enough of the ad-libbing da-da-da-ing; give a little whistle.

6. Rilo Kiley – Ripchord (2004)
If there had been Indie rock in 1928, Ripchord (from the excellent More Adventurous album) would have been the hit. Whistle-tastic moment: 1:44  The whistling is not very good, and yet entirely charming.

7. Badly Drawn Boy – You Were Right (2002)
Why do some people not like Badly Drawn Boy? This is perhaps the wolly-hatted one’s best song, with great lyrics. I like his obliviousness to the deaths of stars, and his rejection of Madonna’s possible romantic designs on him.  Whistle-tastic moment: 4:03  The boy can whistle as well as Roger Whitaker (sorry, apartheid-boycott-busting fans; he won’t feature): a great 23 second solo.

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You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together, and blow.

8. Andrew Bird – Masterfade (2005)
It’s obvious a singer named Bird should make the whistle a regular element of his music. Happily, the whistling does not define Bird’s kicked-back indie sounds  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:39  Vibrato whistling!

9. Loose Fur – The Ruling Class (2006)
I’ve been told that the recurring whistling here is committed by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, for whom Loose Fur was a side-project and takes the vocals on this track. It’s a good riff.   Whistle-tastic moment: 0:09   Take care; the whistle riff might become a constant earworm.

10. The Lemonheads – If I Could Talk I’d Tell You (1996)
It took me a while to decide whether to use this version or Evan Dando’s solo live cut  (I love this song in either incarnation). Dando live is amusingly off-key on the first note of the whistle solo, an error I’ve tried hard to replicate. If I could talk I’d tell you why I went with the Lemonheads’ take (OK, put away your waterboard: it’s a question of sound quality).   Whistle-tastic moment: 1:53   One of the birds flying around Snow White’s head must have had some of the evil queen’s bad apples and turned up totally goofed at the Lemonheads’ recording studio.

11. Tenpole Tudor – Wünderbar (1981)
The indiscriminate use of the umlaut notwithstanding, this is still a great song – I’d have thought that 28 years on it would be vaguely embarrassing. Not so, I’m jiving to it as I write.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:38   An extended group whistle solo. Wonderful.

12. XTC – Generals And Majors (1980)
Post-punk new wave was not a fertile soil for the art of whistling. Except if you were XTC, who rocked the whistle more than once. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:41  The whistle interlude sets the scene for tempo change (listening closely, is it the synth whistling?).

13. Dexys Midnight Runners – Until I Believe In My Soul (7:01)
I held this one over from the flute series. If I was planning a series of fake laughing in pop – and I am not – or one about irritated mumbling interludes in music (ditto), this would be a contender too. Whistle-tastic moment: 5:05 After lots of emotional build-up, the song goes silent for a second; then Rowland whistles reassuringly to introduce the fiddle-backed mumblinations that precede the repeated YESes.

14. Eels – I Like Birds (live) (2006)
E insists that the song is about his appreciation of our feathered friends. The feeder for you to perch on is…for birds?  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:37  The whistle represents a bird.

15. Jens Lekman – A Man Walks Into A Bar (2005)
Oh Jens, you’re so ironic. The memories of a childhood amateur comedienne makes you sad, years after. Just beautiful.  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:54  The whistle interlude allows us to reflect on Lekman’s irony and wallow in his melancholy. And he repeats the trick. And gives us a harmonica solo to boot.

16. Josh Rouse – Quiet Town (2007)
Josh Rouse left Nashville, found love and settled in a quiet town in Spain which sounds like a relaxing place, with much leisure and contentment. And what do you do when you’re leisurely contented? Why, you whistle, contentedly.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:13  Josh is leisurely contented.

17. John Lennon – Nobody Loves You When You’re Down (1975)
It may seem impossible to imagine, but John Lennon had moments of self-pity. Oh yes, but he did. Rarely in his solo career did the self-pity serve him better than on this bitter song, extracting from Lennon fine, understated vocals.  Whistle-tastic moment: 4:27  John goes into resigned  “oh fuck it” whistling mode, repeating his party trick from Jealous Guy..

18. Shawn Phillips – Steel Eyes (1971)
Phillips is an unjustly ignored long-hair folk merchant now living in South Africa. Steel Eyes comes from the wonderful Second Contribution album (worth looking up just for the title of the opening track).  Whistle-tastic moment:2:12   You think the song is over; then, after a three-second silence, Phillips gives it a whistle interlude. Forty seconds later, it ends. But it doesn’t; he starts again. Oh how you tease, Shawn.

19. Sun City Girls – The Shining Path (1990)
And today’s prize question: Which famous melody are the unfeminine Sun City Girls ripping off here? And what on earth are they singing?  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01  Unlike your average spaghetti western, Sun City Girls don’t let you wait long for whistle action.

20. The Beach Boys – Disney Girls (1957) (1971)
The moment the Beach Boys, led here by Bruce Johnstone, turned into Paul McCartney. It has whistling and flute. Gorgeous.  Whistle-tastic moment: 3:47   The whistling comes in randomly at the end.

21. Paul Simon – Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard (1971)
Paul Simon once said he didn’t really know what Mama saw. Still, it seems obvious that an act of a sexual nature was observed. But let’s put to rest the idea that Rosie was the leading administrator of favours to matters phallic because she was the queen of something sharing the name with a cigar – Corona is a New York neighbourhood. Whistle-tastic moment: 1:12   Simon lets blow. Good job. Bad pun.

22. Danyel Gérard – Butterfly (French version) (1971)
I’ve posted the German version of this before, and I shall do so again. The German, English and French versions all have the whistling interlude. The song? Yeah, it is cheesy. And quite wonderful.  Whistle-tastic moment: 3:17   After establishing a sing-along party atmosphere, our floppy-hatted friend wistfully (look, Ma, no puns) whistles the song out.

23. Richard Cheese – Creep (2006)
It’s so mother-fucking special.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:07  Cheese announces it: WHISTLE SOLO!.

Bonus: Mrs Miller – Downtown (1966)
You have to love Mrs Miller: she was deadly serious about her singing, yet she knew that to everyone else it was amusing. Hear Mrs Miller fluff her line, get flustered, and then gamely catches herself to take us to perhaps the most disturbing whistle solos in the history of popular music — after which she fluffs the lyrics some more.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:07  Mrs Miller is so stoked about her whistling chops that she gives us an encore.

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Any Major Beach Vol. 2

July 13th, 2017 2 comments

It’s the middle of summer for most people who read this blog (though not for us poor southern hemisphereans), so it’s a good time to for summer music. For those of us in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or the colder parts of South America, there is always the Winter mix.

The four-part summer songs series finished a while ago, but last year I returned to the theme with a special focus on the subject of the beach. So this is the second mix on that theme.

The theme was suggested a while ago by reader Rob, who suggested the inclusion of The Drifters’ On The Boardwalk. The Drifters featured last time, but this mix includes a cover version of it by the never less than cheerful John Mellencamp. Here I again allow the Beach Boys an exemption from my one-artist-per-theme rule — if only to offset some of the less light-hearted songs on this mix.

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

And don’t forget to wear a sunhat.

1. First Class – Beach Baby (1974)
2. The 5th Dimension – On The Beach (In The Summertime) (1970)
3. Françoise Hardy – Sunshine (1970)
4. Glen Campbell – Galveston (1969)
5. Three Dog Night – Yellow Beach Umbrella (1976)
6. Michael Franks – Blue Pacific (1990)
7. Colin Hay – Beautiful World (2000)
8. Blake Shelton – Some Beach (2010)
9. George Strait – Marina Del Rey (1982)
10. Natalie Merchant – Maggie And Milly And Molly And May (2010)
11. The Pogues – House Of The Gods (1990)
12. John Mellencamp – Under The Boardwalk (1985)
13. Brenda Lee – White Silver Sands (1962)
14. The Brothers Four – Marianne (1960)
15. Frank Sinatra – Sand And Sea (1966)
16. Elvis Presley – Never Ending (1964)
17. The Who – Bell Boy (1973)
18. The Beach Boys – The Girls On The Beach (1974)
19. Brian Eno – On Some Faraway Beach (1974)
20. Diana King – Summer Breezin’ (2002)
21. The Bloodhound Gang – Screwing You On A Beach At Night (2007)

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Any Major Summer
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Curious Germany – The Collection

July 11th, 2017 8 comments

Here is a mix of German curiosities, some chosen because they are very good or interesting (or both), and a couple of football-themed songs at the end, selected because they are entertaining in their musical poverty.

This mix was previously posted in May 2013. Some tracks have featured here before, but the links are long dead. I’ve also cribbed a few notes from those instalments. As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes hausgemachte covers. PW in comments

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1. Die Toten Hosen – Bayern (2000)
The title refer to Germany’s most dominant football club, whom non-fans regard, with no exaggeration, as a cancer in the body of German football. So the alternative rock band Die Toten Hosen (The Dead Trousers) composed a very catchy number explaining how, if they were “super-talented” young footballers, they would never sign a contract with that club because such an act would be thoroughly corrupting. At one point the singer demands to know: “What kind of parents must one have to be so stupid as to sign for that shitty club?”

2. Alexander Wolfrum – Hey Büblein (2006)
When somebody records an acoustic version of “Hey Joe” and renders the title as, roughly translated, Hey Little Boy, it’s worth listening to. The lyrics have nothing to do with the original either: it deals with metaphors involving thin ice, drowning in a lake and a rescue. And in-between a female voice warns that Joe is going to catch a cold.

Wolfrum, known by everybody as Sandy, is a singer-songwriter who performs in the dialect of Franconia  — the region around Nuremberg — and founded a Festival der Liedermacher (or Festival of Songwriters) in Bayreuth, the home town of Richard Wagner.  Check out more by Alexander Wolfrum.

3. David Bowie – Helden (1977)
In his Berlin period Bowie fused the cultures of the Weimar Republic cabarets, Krautrock and Kraftwerk, and the local junkie scene. It’s very nice that David Bowie sought to pay tribute to the city that served as his muse by recording in German, but since he lived and recorded there, one might quibble that he could have taken better care with his pronunciations. As it turns out, he put as much effort in enunciating German words correctly as English football commentators do in pronouncing the names of German (or any non-Latinate) football players.

4. Cindy & Bert – Der Hund von Baskerville (1970)
Husband-and-wife duo Cindy & Bert were a Schlager duo that epitomised the idea of the Spiesser (square) in the 1970s. My grandmother thought Cindy & Bert were delightful, so Oma would have been shocked to discover that Cindy & Bert’s catalogue included a cover version of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, with the lyrics taking a Sherlock Holmes theme.  It need no pointing out that my grandmother probably wasn’t a hardcore Sabbath fan.

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5. Howard Carpendale – Du hast mich (1970)
In German Schlager history, Howard Carpendale wrote a particularly successful chapter. Unable to hack it in his home country South Africa as an Elvis impersonator, the former shotput champion moved to Germany, learned to speak the language with just enough of a touch of an accent (German audiences really got off on foreign accents; but only in entertainment and romance, not in shops, pubs or public transport), and became the leading romantic singer of the 1970s and ’80s Schlager scene, selling some 25 million records. None of those 25 million records soiled my collection, I am pleased to say. His first breakthrough came with the standard Schlager “Das Mädchen von Seite 1” (The girl from the front page). The flip side, however, was entire unschlagerish, a rocker called “Du hast mich” (You Have Me), a cover of the song Glory Be by German psychedelic rockers Daisy Clan which sounds like a heavy fuzz-guitared, organ-hammering Santana number.

Glory Be was the b-side of Daisy Clan’s 1970 single “Love Needs Love”, apparently the group’s final English-language single (their final release in 1972 was appropriately titled “Es geht vorrüber”, which could be translated as “It goes by”). The Daisy Clan apparently were Schlager singer Michael Holm and songwriter Joachim Haider, going by the name of Alfie Khan.

6. Udo Jürgens – Peace Now (1970)
The first of a fistful of English-language tracks here is by the late Udo Jürgens, the Austrian-born Swiss national who enjoyed immense success in West Germany, the place of his parents’ birth. Jürgens was as big a star as any on the Schlager scene, though his songs tended to be a notch or five above the usual banalities of the genre. Jürgens also wrote hits for Matt Munro, Sammy Davis Jr and Shirley Bassey.

“Peace Now” was the rocking English-language b-side of a German single titled “Deine Einsamkeit”, released in October 1970. It’s pretty good, in a dated sort of way that draws from rock, funk and gospel. Udo, exhibiting a rather lilting German accent, buys into the Zeitgeist as he sings: “Everybody is talkin’ ’bout peace in the world, but every time I hear a hungry baby cry I ask: Peace, now show me your face.”

7. Heidi Brühl – Berlin (1969)
Schlager singers, as a rule, were not cool. Heidi Brühl was not cool either. She had been a popular child actress, making her screen debut in 1954 as a 12-year-old. As a 17-year-old she became a Schlager singer, selling a million copies of her 1960 hit “Wir wollen niemals auseinandergeh’n”, the runner-up in the Eurovision Song Contest that year. In the late ’60s Heidi, now married to American actor Brett Halsey, wanted to be cool — understandably, since her first hit in three years in 1966 was a cover of “The Ballad of the Green Berets”.

By now living in Rome, she went to London and recorded in English. “Berlin”, released in 1969, has that Swingin’ London sound which might have had a revival in an Austin Powers movie. Brühl’s new sound — think Petula Clark covering Nico — was not well received, and the excellent “Berlin” was relegated to the status of a b-side. In 1970 the singer moved to the USA, thereby putting a slow end to her Schlager career. Brühl died of breast cancer in 1991 at the age of 49.

8. Vicky Leandros Singers – Wo ist er (1971)
Last weekend a whole continent took part in the annual ritual of the Eurovision Song Contest. Here is a singer who won the thing in 1972, for Luxembourg with a song called “Après Toi”. The English version of it, “Come What May”, reached #2 in the UK. But the career of the Greek-born singer was based mainly in West Germany, where her singer father had moved in search of success. Vicky began recording as a teenager in the mid-60s, but broke through when she adopted her dad’s Christian name as her surname.

“Wo ist er” is a German take on George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”; an obvious imitation of the Edwin Hawkins Singers, whose Oh Happy Day arrangement this borrows from (and which inspired Harrison). Vicky’s vocals are quite excellent.

Until recently Leandros participated in Greek politics. Under the magnificent name of Vassiliki von Ruffin (her real first name and the surname from her second marriage) she has served as deputy mayor of Piraeus as a representative of the  Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) .

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9. Barry Ryan – Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt (1971)
Best known for his crazy hit “Eloise”, Barry Ryan had a fairly decent career in West Germany, where he recorded his rather good Sanctus album in 1971. In 1972 he had a top 10 in West Germany hit with the catchy “Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt” (Time stops only before the devil). The melody was written by his brother Paul Ryan, and used for Irish singer Dana’s song “Today”. Barry Ryan even appeared on the only German-language music show ZDF Hitparade with “Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt”, to my knowledge the first time an international rock star appeared on the show.

10. Françoise Hardy – Ich bin nun mal ein Mädchen (1965)
The French superstar had some hits in Germany as well, with covers of French hits as well as German originals with material that took a bit from chanson, a bit from what was called Beat music. As a former student of German, her command of German was excellent, with that lovely French inflection. She also recorded in English and Italian. “Ich bin nun mal ein Mädchen” (I am a girl after all) was a version of her French 1964 hit “Pourtant tu m’aimes”, itself a cover of The Joys’ “I Still Love Him”. It’s a cute song with cute lyrics. The song was a minor hit in 1966.

11. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go (German) (1964)
Berry Gordy could spot a marketing opportunity, and so he had the stars of his Motown roster record their big hits in various European languages, apparently singing from phonetic lyric sheets. Unlike most others, Diana Ross makes a game attempt at it; one can understand her implorations not to be left by the addressee of the song.

12. Marvin Gaye – Sympatica (1964)
I have no idea whether Marvin Gaye was a polyglot or whether he just gave more of a shit, but, like La Ross, he did a better job of it than most of his peers — and even sang a German original composition. So here we have one instance of Motown going Schlager, sort of.

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13. Johnny Cash – Wer kennt den Weg (1966)
In 1966, Johnny Cash recorded “I Walk The Line” as “Wer kennt den Weg?” (alas not as Johannes Bargeld). In the early 1950s, Cash had been based as an US soldier in southern Germany. Clearly he did little in that time to benefit from the opportunity to learn German; his accent is quite appalling.

14. Peter, Paul & Mary – Puff (1963)
It must have seemed an excellent idea for Peter, Paul & Mary to record their version of “Puff, The Magic Dragon” in German. The monster in question became a Zauberdrachen, and our biblically-named trio sung it with clear diction. So it is a little unfortunate that they titled the song “Puff” — the colloquial German for the word “brothel”.

15. Hildegard Knef – From Here On It Got Rough (1969)
The actress Hildegard Knef was a remarkable woman. Having made her breakthrough just after World War II with the film classic Die Mörder sind unter uns, she became the first actress in German cinema to do a nude scene in 1950, for which the Spiesser (squares) couldn’t forgive her for a long time. She was so good that Hollywood beckoned, but she turned down Hollywood because she was expected to change her name to Gilda Christian and pretend to be Austrian (she later acted on Broadway as Hildegard Neff). Privately, Knef fought several battles with cancer; when she died in 2002 at 76, it was emphysema that claimed her, not the Big C.

Knef became a singer and frequent songwriter in 1963, though not on the Schlager scene but in the Chanson genre, singing in German and English. “From Here On It Got Rough”, an amusing autobiography with a cute pay-off line, was the English version of her song “Von nun ging’s bergab”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCpU6zw68-8

16. Max Raabe & Palast Orchester – Lady Marmalade (2002)
The career of Max Raabe, a 54-year-old baritone, is predicated on conjuring the chanson of the Weimar Republic, either by covering songs or writing songs in the style of the era. He is brilliant at it, with his clipped diction and straight-faced wit — so much so that one yearns for Marlene Dietrich and Noel Coward to join on him on stage. He performed at the wedding of Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese, which must have been quite a scene. Raabe records prolifically; this track comes from the second of a pair of novelty albums on which Raabe covers pop songs, with mixed results.

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17. Kandy – Die Kung-Fu-Leute (1974)
It was quite normal for Schlager acts to record German versions of international hits. I have no information about Kandy, but despite obviously not being German, it was his lot to record the teutonic take on Carl Douglas’ novelty hit “Kung Fu Fighting”. And when Douglas said everybody was kung fu fighting, Kandy meant it was the kung fu people doing the fighting.  It was produced by Michael Kunze, who also gave us the Silver Convention and has since become the German equivalent of Andrew Lloyd-Webber (though possibly with a more attractive persona).

18. Udo Lindenberg – Reeperbahn (1978)
Udo Lindenberg was the posterboy of the anti-establishment in the 1970s and ’80s, with his long hair, his sneering brashness, his supposedly cool one-liners, and presumably his steadfast refusal to hold a note. He gets aggressively out-of-tune on “Reeperbahn”, his cover of The Beatles’ “Penny Lane”, transposed to the street in Hamburg’s red light district where The Beatles spent their formative musical years. In his nostalgic paean, Lindenberg pretends to have grown up in the city in which he lived; he actually grew up in a small town near the Dutch border and moved to Hamburg only in 1968.

19. Klaus Doldinger – Theme of Tatort (1970)
This is the full theme of the German crime TV series Tatort, which has run for 43 years now. I know the theme has been re-recorded twice, in 1978 and 2004. I’m not sure which version this is, but on the original our friend Udo Lindenberg from the previous song played the drums. Composer Klaus Doldinger, a jazz saxophonist, also wrote the theme of the German cinema classic Das Boot, which was directed by Wolfgang Petersen. And Petersen came to national prominence for directing a landmark Tatort episode in 1977, tited “Reifezeugnis” and featuring the teenage Nastassja Kinski in various states of undress.

20. Peter Gabriel – Schock den Affen (1982)
I include this for reader Johnny Diego, who in a comment (you do know that you are welcome to comment, right?) proposes the theory that “there are two languages that lend themselves perfectly to [rock] music. One is, of course, English. The other is German, with its harsh guttural sounds. One can hear some that gutsiness in German bands that will never be heard in, say, French speaking bands.”

This track is from Peter Gabriel’s second effort at re-recording an album in German, new instrumentation and all. The first was the self-titled 1980 album with “Games Without Frontiers”; the second was the self-titled 1982 album with “Shock The Monkey”, the German take of which features here.

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21. Zeltinger Band – Der lachende Vagabund (1980)
The Zeltinger Band was a punk outfit fronted by what may be Germany’s first openly gay singer, whose bruising appearance challenged the stereotype of common imagination (see this video). Their biggest hit was a cover of the Ramones song Rockaway Beach, which was renamed “Müngersdorfer Stadion” — after the public swimming baths, not the football stadium — and advocated the practice of fare dodging on public transport. “Der lachende Vagabund” is a contemptuous version of the 1957 Schlager hit by Fred Bertelmann, which was a cover of the country song Rusty Draper’s 1953 hit “Gambler’s Guitar”. The German version was so popular, it sold more copies in Germany that Draper’s million-seller did in the US. Hear Draper’s song and Bertelmann’s.

22. Agnetha – Señor Gonzales (1968)
Before she became one of the As in ABBA, Agnetha Fältskog tried to realise the ambition of many Scandinavian singers of the day with a dream of musical success: breaking into the German Schlager scene. Agnetha released a batch of German singles between 1968 and 1972, most of them quite awful even by the low standards of the genre, though a couple were actually quite good. In her endeavours, Agnetha — who already had a career in Sweden but put it on hold while going for stardom in West Germany — was produced by her boyfriend, Dieter Zimmermann. Once Dieter was history, her next boyfriend, Björn, worked out better on the way to stardom.

“Señor Gonzales” was Agnetha’s second German single. I see no reason why it shouldn’t have been a Schlager hit: it has the necessary clichéd lyrics and banal melody; it even has the faux-Mexican sound the Schlager-buying public was so fond of — though here Agnetha might have been ahead of her time; the Mexican Schlager wave peaked in 1972 with Rex Gildo’s superbly tacky “Fiesta Mexicana”.

23. Gerd Müller – Dann macht es bumm (1969)
Fans of English football (or soccer, as my American friends would say) are likely to cringe at the memory of their players’ attempts at pop stardom: Kevin Keegan’s 1979 hit single “Head Over Heels”, or Glenn Hoddle & Chris Waddle with their 1987 UK #12 hit “Diamond Lights”, or Paul Gascoigne teaming up with Lindisfarne to warble “The Fog On The Tyne” (there’s a Newcastle United thread here). Bad though these might be, English football fans would have no cause to cringe if they knew what their German counterparts have been subjected to, horrors that would make Hoddle & Waddle seem like the Righteous Brothers.

Two Bayern München legends perpetrated particular crimes against music. I’ll spare you Franz Beckenbauer’s attempts at romancing the Schlager audience, but shall inflict upon you the stylings of his teammate Gerd Müller. His nickname, just a quarter of a century after World War II, was “Der Bomber”, though this was based on a mistaken notion: though the greatest goalscoring machine ever, Müller didn’t have a powerful shot. His single, “Dann macht es bum” (“And then it bangs”), perpetuates the mistaken notion of the blitzkrieging bomber. It also perpetuates the reality that Gerd Müller wasn’t particularly bright

24. Village People & die Deutsche Fussballnationalmannschaft – Far Away In America (1994)
Sticking with the football theme, we close this mix with a most bizarre collaboration: the Village People and the German football squad, recording the official song for the German team’s participation in the 1994 World Cup in the USA. It is as awful yet insidiously catchy as one would expect, continuing a lamentable tradition of the German team recording the most appalling songs their federation could commission, and giving them the worst production possible. There was even an LP, which featured such acts as Udo Lindenberg, The Scorpions and — you guessed it — David Hasselhoff.

The lyrics of “Far Away In America” were possibly not inspired by Goethe or Schiller. “We’re gonna make it, get it up and shake it. You’re gonna fight for the light, baby, come on and know it’s allright,” Klinsmann, Matthäus, Völler and pals croon with the Village People. Bring on those light-demanding Bulgarians, baby! The football-loving German public sent its team on its way to defend the World Cup title by propelling the lead single to the dizzy heights on the hit parade of…#44.

Bonus:  Albert Brooks – The Englishman-German-Jew Blues (1975)
We’re ending this collection with a song that has no real connection with German music, nor much with Germany, but this is so good I want to share it. It’s from Albert Brooks’ concept comedy album A Star Is Bought, on which various music stars appeared as the comedian tries to become a musician. On this track, he riffs with blues legend Albert King, whose career is based on feeling blue”.

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In Memoriam – June 2017

July 4th, 2017 4 comments

A mercifully easy month… No big names died, but as always, some interesting characters left us.

Every perceived wanker on an English football pitch, and at sports events all around the world, will have been serenaded by way of insult to the tune co-written and first recorded by Gary DeCarlo, who has died at 75: Na, Na, Hey, Hey Kiss Him Goodbye. De Carlo and two associates, Dale Frashuer and producer/writer Paul Leka, wrote and recorded the song as the fictional band Steam. It became a worldwide mega-hit, and got covered by an array of stars, from The Supremes to Liberace. To promote the song a bunch of lip-synchers were put together for public performances. DeCaelo didn’t like the deception and walked away from it. DeCarlo also recorded under the name Garrett Scott, though with little success.

This year has seen the death of two Allman Brothers alumni— Butch Trucks and Gregg Allman — and now their associates are dying too. Guitarist Jimmy Nalls was a session musician — including on Gregg Allman’s 1973 solo album Laid Back — before joining Allman Brothers members Chuck Leavell (with whom he had worked before), Jaimoe and Lamar Williams to form blues-rock band Sea Level in 1976. After Sea Level split in 1981, Nalls returned to session work. After he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1994 he had to scale back his work, but nonetheless released two solo albums– the latest was released only two days before his death at the age of 66.

An unsung hero in the lore of Earth, Wind & Fire is jazz musician Phil Cohran. Already richly experienced as a multi-instrumentalist for Sun Ra in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, Cohran mentored future members of EWF’s horn section as part of a black empowerment project in Chicago. His friend Maurice White would take inspiration from an instrument Cohran invented, the Frankiphone (or Space Harp), which is basically an electronic mbira or kalimba. This prompted White to use an electronic kalimba on EWF’s records.The greatest song which country singer-songwriter Norro Wilson ever wrote and recorded became a worldwide hit for somebody else — and under a different title. In 1969, Wilson released a song named Hey Mister. A few years later Charlie Rich reworked the thing under the name The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. To be fair to the old Silver Fox, his version is better. But Norro’s more understated original is pretty good too.

In 1958, doo wop band The Olympics had a hit with Western Movies; a year later they initiated a dance craze with (Baby) Hully Gully, even if their song wasn’t a hit. They kept releasing records for the better part of a decade, including an early version of Good Lovin’, recorded a month after Lemme B. Good’s original and a year before The Young Rascals had a big hit with it. With the passing of tenor Eddie Lewis, who kept performing with the band even after the death in 2006 of cousin and lead singer Walter Ward, the last original member of The Olympics has died.

As the “German Johnny Cash”, country singer Gunter Gabriel was pals with the real Johnny Cash, who’d call his German counterpart to join him on stage when he played in Deutschland. And in 2010 Gabriel played Cash in a stage play. Gabriel carefully maintained his man-of-the-people country image, in deliberate image construction as well as in his hard-drinking, fortune-losing, loved-ones-alienating, self-destructive ways. Gabriel’s heyday was the 1970s, when he had hits with songs whose titles translate as “Hey Boss, I Need More Money”, “Come Under My Blanket”, “With A Hammer In The Hand (Song Of The Common Man), “Daddy Drinks Beer”, and “He’s A Tough Guy (My 30-Tonner)”. He also wrote and produced big Schlager hits, such as Juliane Werding’s 1976 hit “Wenn Du denkst Du denkst” and Frank Zander’s comedy number “Ich trink auf dein Wohl, Marie”. Gabriel died a few days after breaking his neck in a fall, on the eve of his 75th birthday. Going out country style.

Eddie Lewis, tenor of The Olympics, on May 31
The Olympics – Western Movie (1958)
The Olympics – (Baby) Hully Gully (1959)
The Olympics – Good Lovin’ (1965)

Carl Driggs, singer of Kracker, Foxy, Paul Revere and the Raiders, on May 31
Kracker – A Song For Polly (1973)
Foxy – Get Off (1978, also as co-writer)

Richard Caire, 81, songwriter and guitarist as Kai-Ray, on June 2
Kai-Ray – I Want Some Of That (1961)

Educated Rapper, 54, rapper with hip-hop group UTFO, on June 3
UTFO – Roxanne, Roxanne (1984)

Skipp Pearson, 79, jazz musician, on June 5

Vin Garbutt, 69, British folk singer, on June 6
Vin Garbutt – If (1983)

Sandra Reemer, 66, Dutch singer, on June 6

Norro Wilson, 79, country singer-songwriter, on June 7
Norro Wilson – Hey Mister (1969)
Norro Wilson – Do It To Someone You Love (1970)

Rosalie Sorrels, 83, folk singer, on June 11
Rosalie Sorrels – Starlight On The Rails (1967)
Rosalie Sorrels – My Last Go Round (2006)

Sheila Raye Charles, 53, singer-songwriter, daughter of Ray Charles, on June 15

Thara Memory, 68, jazz trumpeter, arranger and educator, on June 17
Thara Memory – Livin’ For The City
Esperanza Spalding – City Of Roses (2012, as arranger)

Chris Murrell, 61, jazz and gospel singer, on June 18

Prodigy, 42, rapper with hip hop duo Mobb Deep, on June 20
Mobb Deep – Hell On Earth (1996)

Belton Richard, 77, Cajun accordionist, on June 21

Jimmy Nalls, 66, founder and guitarist of Sea Level, on June 22
Gregg Allman – Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing (1973, on guitar)
Sea Level – King Grand (1978)

Gunter Gabriel, 75, German country singer, composer and producer, on June 22
Gunter Gabriel – Hey Boss, ich brauch’ mehr Geld (1974)
Juliane Werding – Wenn Du denkst Du denkst (1975, as writer and producer)

Nick Knowlton, singer of rock groups Katfish, Katahdin, on June 23
Katfish – Dear Prudence (1975)

Geri Allen, 60, jazz pianist, composer and educator, on June 27
Geri Allen – Let Us Break Bread Together (2011)

Dave Rosser, 50, guitarist with Indie bands Twilight Singers, Afghan Whigs, on June 27
The Twilight Singers – The Beginning Of The End (2011)

Gary DeCarlo, 75, singer and songwriter, on June 28
Steam – Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye (1969, on lead vocals)

Phil Cohran, 90, jazz musician, on June 28
Sun Ra – Tiny Pyramids (1960, released 1967, on cornet)
Kelan Phil Cohran and Legacy – Cohran Blues (2010)

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Michael Jackson Backing Vocals Collection

June 29th, 2017 3 comments

On Sunday it was eight years since Michael Jackson died. To mark that anniversary, here’s a mix of songs on which MJ sang backing vocals in the 1970s and ‘80s — and a bit of background on those songs.

Right off the bat, I break the promise of the title, for on Paul McCartney’s The Man, from 1983, he is credited as Macca’s duet partner. Say Say Say was the big hit, but I rather prefer this song, which was only an album track. Both collaborations were produced by George Martin, bringing together a triple-threat of genius — albeit without creating a work of genius.

Another meeting of geniuses that doesn’t quite live up to its billing is that of Jackson, Burt Bacharach and his future wife, Carole Bayer Sager (with Jim Keltner on drums). Just Friends was written by Bacharach and Bayer Sager, and was co-produced by Burt and Michael, with the latter also contributing vocals.

Of course, Michael helped the siblings with his vocals. Here he does so very early in his career on Jermaine’s That’s How Love Goes; and on La Toya’s quite strange 1980 disco groover Night Time Lover, co-written with MJ, which halfway through turns into a Latin jam before it becomes a disco groover in the vein of Off The Wall again. Michael also featured on Janet’s 1984 track Don’t Stand Another Chance, which is too awful to feature here.

Michael was also generous in helping people who had played for him. One such people was session keyboard/synth player Bill Wolfer, who did tinkle the keys on Billie Jean, Beat It and Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’. MJ repaid the favour by contributing backing vocals to two tracks on Wolfer’s debut album, the featured So Shy and a cover of Papa Was A Rolling Stone.

Wolfer reappears on the synth on very next track, Diana Ross’ Muscles, which Jackson wrote, produced and sings back-up on. Wolfer also played for Stevie Wonder on Hotter Than July, though, alas, not on All I Do, on which MJ did backing vocals. Six years earlier, Michael also appeared on backing vocals on Stevie’s You Haven’t Done Nothing.

Michael Jackson and the ubiquitous Greg Phillinganes.

Another keyboardist with a Jackson/Wonder connection was Greg Phillinganes, featuring here with a 1984 number co-written by MJ that sounds very much of its time. Phillinganes was discovered by Wonder through an introduction by the legendary session drummer Ricky Lawson (whose works were featured in two retrospectives: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). Through Wonder Phillinganes became the musical director first of The Jacksons, starting in 1978, and remained in that gig for much of Michael’s career.

Phillinganes also played on Donna Summer’s eponymous 1982 album produced by Quincy Jones, including on State Of Independence, which features here, for which Jones assembled an impressive array of backing vocalists, including Lionel Richie, Dionne Warwick, Brenda Russell, Christopher Cross, Dyan Cannon, James Ingram, Kenny Loggins, Stevie Wonder and, of course, Michael Jackson (not all of them were credited). Quincy later claimed that recording this song laid the foundations for his production of We Are The World three years later.

Quincy Jones, of course, would often bring a galaxy of stars together for his albums. On the title track of 1981’s The Dude album, he has Michael Jackson plus Syretta Wright, Jim Gilstrap and LaLomie Washburn backing James Ingram on lead vocals. Stevie Wonder is on the synth, Louis Johnson is on bass, and you’ll never guess who’s on the electric piano…

MJ and QJ

And talking of Louis Johnson — himself the subject of a retrospective here — Quincy also produced The Brothers Johnson’s Light Up The Night album (which featured the hit Stomp, on which our friend Greg Phillinganes played the synth). Michael Jackson co-wrote This Had To Be with the Johnson brothers; so he sang on it, too.

As it sometimes happens, recording an album in a studio next to a big star can create moments of serendipity. This is not to say that Dave Mason wasn’t a star, but his career was on a downward trajectory when he recorded his Old Crest On A New Wave album, while MJ’s was very much on the up. Next door The Jacksons were recording their Triumph album (the one with Can You Feel It, which also featured Greg Phillinganes). For his song Save Me, Mason needed a high-pitched voice, and next door there was just the right guy…

Something similar happened with Joe ‘King’ Carrasco & The Crowns, who were recording in one room of Studio 55 on 5555 Melrose in L.A. in 1981. Michael Jackson was in the other room, and when the Tex Mex band had the bright idea of asking MJ to sing backing vocals on one of their songs, a rather poor faux-reggae number, the future mega deferentially agreed. He wasn’t credited; given the song, he probably didn’t want to be. Read the full story.

Michael Jackson and Joe ‘King’ Carrasco at one of the more unlikely sessions collaborations in 1981.

Jackson was the kind of guy you just had to ask. Kenny Loggins did that in 1979, before Jackson hit the really big time with the Off The Wall album. “I was at a benefit that Michael was at, and I asked him if he would like to sing on the record,” Loggins later recalled. “He said yeah…He was available, he wanted to do it, he was a fan.” Loggins later realised that Who’s Right Who’s Wrong wasn’t the right song on which to use MJ’s vocals. “Had I really thought it through, I should have probably recorded something up-tempo with him. I kick myself and think that was a waste of his talent. Great tune and everything, but just not the right tune for Michael Jackson to be singing on.” True.

There’s something a little weird about the Minnie Riperton track. After Riperton’s untimely death in 1979, her husband passed vocal tracks the great singer had recorded to Quincy Jones who then roped in an array of great musicians to record arrangements or contribute vocals for what would become the 1980 album Love Lives Forever. For I’m In Love Again, Quincy got in Michael Jackson to duet with the late Minnie (Hubert Laws features on flute).

The most famous MJ backing vocal probably is that which turned Rockwell’s mildly interesting Somebody’s Watching Me into one of the great hits of 1984. Michael, a childhood friend of the singer born Kennedy William Gordy, sang the catchy chorus, leaving the boring verses to Rockwell, who was Motown owner Berry Gordy’s son. At the time Rockwell was estranged from Gordy and was living with his mother, the great Ray “Miss Ray” Singleton (who died last year). It was Singleton who produced the song and played it for her ex-husband. Gordy was not impressed and disinclined to release it — until he heard the chorus with that familiar voice.

I don’t know if MJ sang on soul diva Jennifer Holliday’s You’re The One; he co-wrote the song and produced it. And, my goodness, it almost sounds like he is singing it as well. I think the whispered line “You’re the one” is Michael’s voice. Guitar on the track is by Earl Klugh.

And then there was the time Michael Jackson went country. Kenny Rogers in his 1981 album track Goin’ Back To Alabama features on backing vocals not only MJ but also one Lionel B. Richie Jr., who wrote and produced this (unmistakably so) and several other songs on the album it comes from.

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

1. Paul McCartney feat. Michael Jackson – The Man (1983)
2. Stevie Wonder – All I Do (1980)
3. Quincy Jones – The Dude (1981)
4. Kenny Loggins – Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong (1979)
5. Dave Mason – Save Me (1980)
6. La Toya Jackson – Night Time Lover (1980)
7. Brothers Johnson – This Had To Be (1980)
8. Bill Wolfer – So Shy (1982)
9. Diana Ross – Muscles (1982)
10. Jermaine Jackson – That’s How Love Goes (1972)
11. Kenny Rogers – Goin’ Back To Alabama (1981)
12. Carole Bayer Sager – Just Friends (1981)
13. Jennifer Holliday – You’re The One (1984)
14. Minnie Riperton – I’m In Love Again (1980)
15. Donna Summer – State Of Independence (1982)
16. Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me (1984)
17. Greg Phillinganes – Behind The Mask (Who Do You Know) (1984)
18. Joe ‘King’ Carrasco – Don’t Let A Woman (Make A Fool Out Of You) (1982)

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Previous session musicians’ collection:
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 1
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 3
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
The Ringo Starr Collection

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Any Major Soul 1976 Vol. 1

June 22nd, 2017 4 comments

The year 1976 was a great year for soul. Even as disco made its influence felt, there was still a lot of music that built on the foundations of what had come in the years before, the more clinical sounds of the 1980s still in the future.

To exemplify, the opening track, by former James Brown sidekick Lyn Collins, has a vibe that would not have been out of place in 1968. The track that follows it, by the Brothers Johnson, follows Collins’ track quite naturally but also nods vaguely in the direction of disco, in a funky kind of way. Philly Soul, which is richly represented here, was in many ways part of the disco movement, but it always referenced the heritage of soul.

The most bizarre background story of acts featured on this mix concerns Spice, who recorded on the TSG label. Trouble was, TSG wasn’t really into making money, never mind making stars of their signings; their racket was to create tax write-offs. So Spice saw a single — the featured track — released, to no success. An LP was also produced, but it seems the band members didn’t know about it until about seven years ago when the singer’s octogenarian mother heard a track from it on a blog and recognised the voice of her son, Richard Brown Jr.  Brown was mentored by the Main Ingredient’s Donald McPherson in the craft of songwriting and arranging. Before too long they came to the attention of singer and label owner Lloyd Price, whom they also backed. But one night the band threw in the towel after another inadequate pay check. Their pretty good LP was never distributed, so the few copies that were circulation became a sought-after collector’s item — one that not even its singer would be aware of for almost 35 years. It finally was issued on CD in 2013.

Alas, I have virtually no information about Revelation. I can find no biographical detail other than the members’ names and producers, despite their having released five albums between 1976 and 1982. Revelation’s 1976 debut appeared on RSO, but most of the backing musicians where from the Philly Soul scene, and the album certainly sounds like it — which is a recommendation.

The Chi-Lites feature on this mix; a couple of songs later we encounter Maryann Farra & Satin Soul, for whom former Chi-Lites leader Eugene Record did arranging, though not on the featured track. That song is a gender-adapted cover of the Chi-Lites’ Living In The Footsteps Of Another Man, which featured on Any Major Soul 1972 Vol. 1. Farra and her band also covered Stoned Out Of My Mind, a great song which I’ve just realised inexplicably has never featured on any major mix. I really thought it had…

There have been many acts called First Class; the most famous of whom may be the lot that had a hit with Beach Baby (featured on Should Have Been A Top 10 Hit Vol. 3). The incarnation featuring here was from Baltimore, and enjoyed only limited success, mostly on the east coast. Their sound drew from Philly, with falsettos and the works.  By 1980 the band was done recording albums. Don’t be alarmed by the abrupt end to the song, and therefore to this compilation). The lyrics explain why.

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

1. Lyn Collins – Me And My Baby Got A Good Thing Going
2. Brothers Johnson – Free and Single
3. Earth, Wind & Fire – On Your Face
4. The Drifters – You’re More Than A Number In My Little Red Book
5. Archie Bells & the Drells – I Could Dance All Night
6. Lou Rawls – Groovy People
7. Anthony White – Where Would I Be Without You
8. Ronnie McNeir – Selling My Heart To The Junkman
9. Revelation – We’ve Gotta Survive
10. Chi-Lites – Happy Being Lonely
11. The Ebonys – Mr. Me, Mrs. You
12. Maryann Farra & Satin Soul – Living In The Footsteps Of Another Girl
13. G.C. Cameron – Include Me In Your Life
14. Margie Joseph – Hear The Words, Feel The Feeling
15. Tommy Hunt – Loving On The Losing Side
16. David Ruffin – Good Good Times
17. Bo Kirkland & Ruth Davis – I Feel Love In This Room Tonight
18. Terry Huff – I Destroyed Your Love, Pt. 1
19. Spice – Everything Is You
20. Diana Ross – I Thought It Took A Little Time
21. Rose Royce – I Wanna To Get Next To You
22. First Class – Coming Back To You

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Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s

June 15th, 2017 10 comments

The release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50 years ago rewrote the rulebook of pop music. It’s not that it was the first concept album (in as far as it was even that in the sense we’ve come to understand the idea now), nor the first to dabble innovative studio tricks (The Beatles themselves had done so on Revolver, and Brian Wilson was perhaps even more innovative at the time). But for contemporaries, the album changed everything.

Perhaps it was also the cover that had such an impact. It was not usual to create artworks for LP covers — the Beach Boys were still goofing about with animals on snapshots for the sleeve for Pet Sounds. One could study Peter Blake’s collage for the duration of Side 1 and while away the inferior second side studying it some more,, and return to it over and over again. Even today, it is a significant piece of 20th-century art.

But the thing is, Sgt Pepper’s is greater in its context than it is within the canon of Beatles albums. Of course, there are mighty tracks on it. A Day In The Life is a masterpiece, but I know few Beatles fans whose life would be poorer for the absence of Lovely Rita, or, indeed, Within You Without You (cleverly sequenced to start Side 2, for easy skipability). It doesn’t require clever revisionism by deliberate iconoclasts to regard Sgt Pepper’s as not the greatest album the Beatles made. But it does require the revisionism of fools to call it overrated. Sgt Pepper’s is a great album, especially the first side, and its historical impact cannot be overstated.

And if the later rule of already-released singles finding a place on albums had been in force, imagine how much better Sgt Pepper’s might have been with Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. In the event, EMI insisted on releasing the songs, which were recorded as part of the Sgt Pepper’s sessions, as a double a-sided single.

A poster of The Beatles in Sgt Pepper’s uniforms in the German youth magazine Bravo in July 1967. (see www.bravoposters.wordpress.com for daily vintage Bravo posters)

Just a couple of weeks after Sgt Pepper’s was released, The Beatles recorded All You Need Is Love. The boys — Ringo was just turning 27; John was 26, Paul was about to turn 25, George was 24 — were on a hot streak.

Of course, Paul McCartney will turn 75 this month. But 50 years ago he was already dead, and long-standing research shows that Sgt Pepper’s provided the proof we’d have confirmed by the Abbey Road cover, by way of very clear clues. To start with, there’s a new band with one Billy Shears as the singer (well, Ringo is Billy Shears, but let’s not have Failing Fake News disturb us). In A Day In The Life John sings: “He blew his mind out in a car”, indicating the method of Paul’s death. And if you play the song backwards, you apparently can hear the phrase, “Paul is dead, miss him, miss him”. At the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, John says, “I buried Paul”. Lennon claimed he mumbled “cranberry sauce”, but why would he say “cranberry sauce” when Paul is dead and he buried him? Wake up, sheeple!

And then there’s the cover. In the foreground is clearly a grave — Paul’s grave! Look at the wax figure Young Beatles: Ringo is sad, very sad, as he looks at Paul’s grave. John is putting a comforting hand on Ringo’s shoulder (George seems glad though. Was he involved in the plot to kill Paul?). On the back cover, “Paul” turns his back; even Fake Paul is trying to give us a clue, apparently trying to escape the conspiracy. And here’s the smoking gun: Place the cover in front of a mirror, and the words “Lonely Hearts” on the drum read, “1 ONE 1 X HE DIE 1 ONE 1”, as you can see very clearly below. It’s so obvious, folks.

So happy birthday to you, Sir Paul McCartney, whoever you are!

Which brings us to this selection of cover versions of songs from Sgt Pepper’s, in the proper sequence. The selection is eclectic, yet it all flows. You’d expect otherwise from a sequence that goes from psychedelic rock of Jimi Hendrix (recorded in concert in Stockholm) to bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs to soul singer Natalie Cole to rockers Status Quo to old comedian George Burns to folkie Richie Havens and so on. And still, it all fits together well. It helps that Scruggs isn’t banjoing the hell out of With A Little Help From My Friends, and that Natalie Cole rocks harder than the Quo, who sound more like Burns. On the LP, the closing song is the crowning glory. The same might be said here of War’s epic take on A Day In The Life.

I have added covers of Strawberry Fields and Penny Land to the mix. The best cover of the former is that by Richie Havens, but he already features with She’s Leaving Home. In any case, Havens’ version has featured before on one of the many mixes of Beatles covers.

Coming in at under an hour, the mix fits on a standard CD-R. Covers are included. PW in the comments section (the purpose of which is not really to declare passwords but for readers to say something).

1. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1968)
2. Earl Scruggs – With A Little Help From My Friends (1971)
3. Natalie Cole – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1978)
4. Status Quo – Getting Better (1976)
5. George Burns – Fixing A Hole (1978)
6. Richie Havens – She’s Leaving Home (1968)
7. Eddie Izzard – Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite (2007)
8. Sonic Youth – Within You Without You (1989)
9. Claudine Longet – When I’m Sixty-Four (1967)
10. Fats Domino – Lovely Rita (1968)
11. Micky Dolenz – Good Morning Good Morning (2012)
12. Stereophonics – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (2007)
13. War feat. Eric Burdon – A Day In The Life (1976)
14. Peter Gabriel – Strawberry Fields Forever (1976)
15. Amen Corner – Penny Lane (1969)

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

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

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

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In Memoriam – May 2017

June 8th, 2017 4 comments

The death of alt.rock legend Chris Cornell came out of the blue, as suicides often do. When successful celebrities end their lives, one is tempted to question the reasons, perhaps even to moralise. It’s not our job to do either, unless the suicide was the result of evading the consequences of one’s evil acts. But in Cornell’s case there seems to be the unusual dimension of a number of pharmaceuticals interacting to have impaired his judgment, leading to his death by hanging. According to his wife, Cornell had been excitedly making plans for the future just hours before his death; he had just come off stage after a successful gig with Soundgarden when he died. At 52, and off alcohol and proscribed substances, he was still young enough to make plans, to thrill his audience with that immense voice which could do anything, from rock screaming to soulful falsetto. We are right to mourn that this voice has fallen silent. And we may now hear Soundgarden songs like Pretty Noose, The Day I Tried To Live, and Like Suicide in a different, poignant way.

In January we lost Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, also to suicide. Now the last of the three founder members of the band has died. Gregg Allman and his brother Duane gave their name to the group. After Duane died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, there was no question about renaming the band: they remained the Allman Brothers, even if Gregg was the only Allman in it. Gregg was something of a contradiction. On the one hand, he was content to bury his head behind the keyboard and let others take the centre of the stage. On the other hand, he was truly a rock star, with the charisma and the looks and the love life that are part of the job description. He was, of course, also a gifted songwriter. Gregg was still performing until last year. In November he announced the cancellation of all tour plans for 2017, citing vocal cord damage. He promised he would tour again. Death broke that promise.

Of the five Womack Brothers who first shot to fame as The Valentinos, only one, Friendly Jr, is still alive, after the death of Curtis Womack. Curtis, or “Binky”, was the second-oldest, and when the brothers began playing as a group, the ten-year-old was the nominal leader. As Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers they released their first single, Buffallo Bill, in 1954. Two years later they were discovered by Sam Cooke, then still a star in the genre of gospel. Now led by Bobby, who switched lead vocals with Curtis, the Womack Brothers released a few gospel records, which flopped. Cooke then advised them to go secular. The group took the name The Valentinos. Success came soon: they reworked their gospel song Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray to Lookin’ For A Love. When they cut their song It’s All Over Now, it was covered to huge success by the Rolling Stones. The group slowly fell apart following Cooke’s death and the scandal surrounding Bobby’s marriage to Cooke’s widow. By 1968, the group was only a trio – Curtis, Friendly and Harry – and released one final single, Tired Of Being Nobody, before breaking up.

With her smoky voice, Israeli singer and actress Daliah Lavi was a massive star on the German Schlager circuit in the 1970s, trading in songs that were rather more sophisticated than the clap-along fare that were the standard on that scene. Two of her biggest hits — Wann kommst Du and Willst Du mit mir geh’n — were German covers of songs by South African singer-songwriter John Kongos; another was her take on Melanie’s What Have They Done To My Song Ma. Before that Lavi had enjoyed a career as an actress in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in Hollywood, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her part in Vincente Minnelli’s 1962 film Two Weeks in Another Town. Other notable parts included roles in Casino Royale and opposite Dean Martin in The Silencers. The end of her thespian career coincided roughly with her breakthrough as a singer in Germany in 1971. Despite her accent, the language doesn’t seem to have been a problem: her mother was a German Jew who emigrated to Palestine in the 1930s. Lavi said she never experienced anti-Semitism in Germany and made it clear that she didn’t hold the young people who made up her audience responsible for the Holocaust.

A blind singer being motivated by another blind singer to become a professional musician, and then making it big in his genre: it sounds like a Hallmark movie plot. That’s how it went with Jamaican reggae star Frankie Paul. Born blind, Frankie had his sight partially restored on a hospital ship. One day Stevie Wonder visited his school, and Frankie sang for him. Impressed, Wonder encouraged the boy, who then decided to make his career in music. Frankie went on to become a superstar in Jamaica, and one of the leading voiced in dancehall reggae, releasing 55 albums between 1982 and 2011.

On his deathbed, knowing the end of leukemia was near, English session drummer Jimmy Copley recorded a final EP to raise funds for the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre and Royal United Hospital in Bristol. In his career Copley had played with acts such as Jeff Beck, Tommy Iommi, Pretenders, Tears For Fears, Go West, Paul Rodgers, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Magnum. Early in his career, he was the drummer of UPP, the jazz-funk band featuring Jeff Beck. The guitar legend and other well-known musicians joined Copley on his 2008 solo album. As the end neared, musician pals came to his hospital room, which had been converted to a temporary recording studio, to record the Psyche Funk EP. Copley said: “I’m making the EP to give something back to the wonderful people at the NHS wards that have treated me. It gave me something to aim at during the dark days. I feel good about leaving some new music behind.” The NHS is the British National Health Service, which guarantees health coverage for the population something Theresa May’s Tories are aiming to destroy, finishing the job of the previous Tory government.

A contender for the longest music career ever must be gospel musician Rosa Nell Speer, who has died at 94. She was only three years old in 1925 when her father, George Tomas “Dad” Speer, roped her and older brother Brock into his full-time band which would be variously known as The Speer Family and The Speer Family Gospel Choir. Rosa Nell became a gifted pianist, and was still playing weekly at the First Church of the Nazarene in Tennessee until just shortly before her death, bringing to an end an almost 92-years-long life in music.

Bruce Hampton, 70, avant-garde musician and actor, on May 1
Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit – Satisfaction Guaranteed (1994)

Erkki Kurenniemi, 75, pioneering Finnish electronic musician, on May 1

Kevin Garcia, 41, bassist for indie band Grandaddy, on May 2
Grandaddy – Laughing Stock (1997)

Saxa, 87, Jamaican-born British ska saxophonist, on May 3
The Beat – Mirror In The Bathroom (1980)

Daliah Lavi, 74, Israeli singer and actress, on May 3
Daliah Lavi – Oh wann kommst Du (1970)
Daliah Lavi – This Is My Life (1973)

C’el Revuelta, tour bassist with Black Flag (1986/2003), on May 3

Bruce Tucker, bass player of garage rock band The Mustangs, on May 4
The Mustangs – That’s For Sure (1965)

Clive Brooks, 67, drummer of English prog-rock groups Egg, The Groundhogs, on May 5
Egg – While Growing My Hair (1970, also as co-writer)

Almir Guineto, 70, Brazilian samba musician, on May 5

Dave Pell, 92, jazz musician, on May 8
T Bones – No Matter What Shape (My Stomach Is In) (1966, as leader of the Wrecking Crew)

Robert Miles, 47, Swiss-born electronic dance musician, producer, on May 9
Robert Miles – Children (1996)

Joy Byers, 82, songwriter, on May 10
Timi Yuro – What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You) (1962, as writer)
Elvis Presley – C’mon Everybody (1963, as writer)

Bill Dowdy, 84, drummer of jazz trio The Three Sounds, on May 12
Gene Harris & The Three Sounds – Put On Train (1971)

Jimmy Copley, 63, English drummer, on May 13
UPP – Friendly Street (1975) (1975)
Jimmy Copley – It’s Your Thing (2009)

Tom McClung, 60, jazz pianist and composer, on May 14

Keith Mitchell, drummer of Mazzy Star, on May 14
Mazzy Star – Fade Into You (1993)

Derek Poindexter, 52, bassist of Indie-rock group The Waynes, on May 15

Rosa Nell Speer, 94, singer with gospel group The Speer Family, on May 16
The Speer Family – I Believe In The Old Time Way (1960)

Kevin Stanton, 61, guitarist of New Zealand rock band Mi-Sex, on May 17
Mi-Sex – Computer Games (1979)

Chris Cornell, 52, frontman of alt.rock groups Soundgarden, Audioslave, of suicide on May 18
Temple Of The Dog – Hunger Strike (1991)
Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun (1994)
Audioslave – Be Yourself (2005)

Frankie Paul, 51, Jamaican dancehall reggae singer, on May 18
Frankie Paul – Sara (1987)

Curtis Womack, 74, singer with the Womack Brothers/The Valentinos, on May 21
Bobby Womack & Womack Brothers – Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray (1961)
The Valentinos – It’s All Over Now (1964)
The Valentinos – Tired Of Being Nobody (1968)

Jimmy LaFave, 61, folk singer-songwriter, on May 21
Jimmy LaFave – Not Dark Yet (2007)

Tulsa Pittaway, 42, drummer of South African rock band Watershed, in car crash on May 21
Watershed – Shine On Me (2000)

Mickey Roker, 84, jazz drummer, on May 22
Sonny Rollins – On Green Dolphin Street (1965)
The Mary Lou Williams Trio – Free Spirits (1976)

Saucy Sylvia, 96, singer-comedian, on May 25

Gregg Allman, 69, singer-songwriter, keyboardist of Allman Brothers Band, on May 27
Allman Brothers Band – Whipping Post (1969)
Allman Brothers Band – Statesboro Blues (1971)
Gregg Allman – I’m No Angel (1987)

Marcus Intalex, British bass & drums musician, DJ, producer, on May 28

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Any Major Night Vol. 2

June 1st, 2017 4 comments

Any Major Night Vol. 2

Having played the megabytes out of the first Any Major Night mix — as I did with the Any Major Morning mixes (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 ) — it is time to go nocturnal again.

Regular readers will know my aversion to featuring artists more than once in a themed series, but like there was an exception in the Any Major Summer series for The Beach Boys, so must there be one for the habitually night-dwelling Bruce Springsteen. He was on Volume 1, and here he is twice: on his own and as the writer of Patti Smith’s 1978 hit.

Elvis Presley could feature here, but as last time I ran the original of his hit One Night, here I am including the original of Such A Night. Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters’ version, released in January 1954, was a hit on the R&B charts. Johnny Ray cleaned it up for the white folks and topped the charts with his version.

Charles Brown’s blues classic Black Night, on the other hand, features here in a cover version by Arthur Alexander, an artist who was at home in soul, blues and country. He was the first singer to record Elvis’ hit Burnin’ Love, and his song Anna was covered by The Beatles, who close this collection.

As always, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-moonlit covers. PW the same as always.

1. The Boomtown Rats – When The Night Comes (1979)
2. Patti Smith – Because The Night (1978)
3. Steely Dan – Night By Night (1974)
4. The Pogues – A Rainy Night In Soho (1986)
5. The Cure – A Night Like This (1985)
6. Josh Rouse – It’s The Nighttime (2005)
7. Keni Stevens – Night Moves (A Dark Secret) (1987)
8. Bill Withers – I Want To Spend The Night (1977)
9. Freddie North – Rainy Night in Georgia (1975)
10. Mitty Collier – I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night (1964)
11. Anna King – Night Time Is The Right Time (1964)
12. Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters – Such A Night (1954)
13. Betty Everett – June Night (1964)
14. Arthur Alexander – Black Night (1964)
15. Them – Here Comes The Night (1965)
16. Sandie Shaw – Till The Night Begins To Die (1964)
17. Bob Dylan – One More Night (1969)
18. Dylan LeBlanc – Tuesday Night Rain (2010)
19. Joe Ely – Every Night About This Time (19982)
20. Bruce Springsteen – Drive All Night (1980)
21. The Beatles – Good Night (1968)

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