Covered With Soul Vol. 20

January 29th, 2015 6 comments

Covered With Soul Vol. 20

Twenty Covered With Soul mixes, and still there are some mindblowing tracks. Just check out Thelma Houston doing to Jumpin’ Jack Flash what Mick could only dream of.

Bobby Womack recorded his take on All Along The Watchtower for the 1973 Facts of Life LP, which it closes. About half of the tracks on it are cover versions, which is actually an improvement on previous albums — unless you love, as I do, Womack’s ability to cover any song, be it a crooner’s standard or a psychedelic rock song, and make it his own.

Motown fans are liable to argue the relative merits of Diana Ross vs fellow Supreme Florence Ballard. Diana became a diva megastar, and deservedly so. It takes nothing away from Ross to say that the tragic Florence was the more talented soul singer. After her acrimonious break with Motown, Ballard recorded an album for ABC, which the label did not release (it never has been issued, as far as I know). Instead two singles were issued, both failing to chart. Ballard’s excellent version of Little Anthony & the Imperials ‘s 1964 hit Going Out Of My Head was the b-side to the first of these, the unimpressively produced and not at all promoted It Doesn’t Matter How I Say It (It’s What I Say That Matters).

I love the instrumental break in Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ version of Everybody’s Talkin’, with Teddy Pendergrass on vocals. It appeared on a compilation charity album released by Philadelphia International Records titled Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto, produced by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. It also features The Intruders, represented here with a fine interpretation of the Carpenters’ Rainy Days And Mondays.

Also covering the Carpenters is Al Wilson, doing I Won’t Last A Day Without You in a medley with Let Me Be The One. It’s very lovely, though it also makes me want to hear Karen sing the original.

Two songs here have been covered to death: Yesterday and Bridge Over Troubled Water. But the two featured here are worth hearing. Carla Thomas’ version of Yesterday was recorded live on a revue with Booker T & The MG’s, Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, The Mar-Keys, Eddie Floyd and Otis Redding.

I must confess to not being very enthusiastic about Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s cover of Something Stupid. It is included here for the sake of interest rather than on the merit of quality.

I’ve updated links to previous Covered With Soul mixes recently.

As always, this mix will fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-covered covers. PW in comments.

1. Thelma Houston – Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1969)
2. Bobby Womack – All Along The Watchtower (1973)
3. Brothers Unlimited – Spoonful (1970)
4. Bobby Powell – Crazy Love (1973)
5. Randy Crawford – Desperado (1977)
6. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Everybody’s Talkin’ (1977)
7. The Main Ingredient – By The Time I Get To Phoenix/Wichita Lineman (1970)
8. Florence Ballard – Goin’ Out Of My Head (1968)
9. The Dells – One Less Bell To Answer (1971)
10. The Ovations – Hooked On A Feeling (1972)
11. The Intruders – Rainy Days And Mondays (1974)
12. Major Harris – Like A Rolling Stone (1969)
13. Roberta Flack – To Love Somebody (1971)
14. Carla Thomas – Yesterday (Live) (1967)
15. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Somethin’ Stupid (1967)
16. Al Wilson – I Won’t Last A Day Without You/Let Me Be The One (1974)
17. Nancy Wilson – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
18. Maxine Weldon – I (Who Have Nothing) (1971)
19. Sharon Cash – Nature Boy (1970)
20. The Deidre Wilson Tabac – Get Back (1970)



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Any Major Winter

January 22nd, 2015 7 comments

Any Major Winter

Having recently returned from the wintry climes of the northern hemisphere, I felt inspired to create a mix of songs about winter, to complement the four summer mixes posted over the past year (Vol 1   Vol. 2    Vol. 3   Vol. 4)

The selection required ground rules. Firstly, the songs must be about actual winter, not just use the notion of winter as a metaphor. It is Winter in America even during the heatwaves of July, so Gil Scott-Heron is out. If the song has it snowing outside by way of establishing a metaphor for the bleakness of life, it qualifies. Just let it snow.

Which brings me to the second category for disqualification. If the meteorologically inspired song is used in the popular canon of Christmas songs, it’s out, no matter how frightful the weather outside is said to be. But there is one exception: Baby It’s Cold Outside. I do not understand by what asinine process a song about seduction has wormed itself onto Christmas compilations, but a song about trying to get laid adds little to the true meaning of Christmas, elusive as that concept is.

In order to keep this mix down to the customary CD-R length I had to sacrifice a couple of contenders, such as Joni Mitchell’s River (another questionable addition to the Christmas catalogue; in any case, Joni already features), Frank Zappa’s Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow, Windjammer’s Winter Love, Cliff Bruner’s Snow Flakes, Jens Lekman’s The Cold Swedish Winter or Bob Dylan’s Girl From The North Country.

Instead there are some of the most joyful songs about winter, led by Aztec Camera’s exuberant Walk Out To Winter, one of the happiest songs I know.

As always, the mix includes home-frozen covers (the beautiful front cover image is from butkovicdub at, the back pic is mine). PW in comments.

1. Aztec Camera – Walk Out To Winter (1983)
2. Blood, Sweat & Tears – Sometimes In Winter (1969)
3. Rolling Stones – Winter (1973)
4. Lee Moses – California Dreaming (1971)
5. Love Unlimited – It May Be Winter Outside (1973)
6. The Impressions – Long Long Winter (1964)
7. Ray Charles & Betty Carter – Baby It’s Cold Outside (1961)
8. Dean Martin – June In January (live, 1963)
9. Tommy Roe – It’s Now Winter’s Day (1967)
10. Don McLean – Winter Has Me In Its Grip (1974)
11. Ron Sexsmith – Snow Angel (2006)
12. Tracey Thorn – Snow In The Sun (2012)
13. Josh Rouse – Winter In The Hamptons (2005)
14. The Weepies – Hope Tomorrow (2010)
15. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal (2008)
16. Steve Miller Band – Winter Time (1977)
17. Merle Haggard – If We Make It Through December (1973)
18. Jim Reeves – The Blizzard (1961)
19. Gordon Lightfoot – Song For A Winter’s Night (1967)
20. Joni Mitchell – Urge For Going (1968)
21. Simon & Garfunkel – A Hazy Shade Of Winter (1968)
22. The Doors – Wintertime Love (1968)
23. Donald Fagen – Snowbound (1993)


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In Memoriam – December 2014 – Part 2

January 15th, 2015 10 comments

When I posted the first half of the December In Memoriam last month, I promised the second half would be incorporated into the January edition. The Grim Reaper was too active in December to allow for that (37 listed in total; of those 22 in this post). So here is December’s In Memoriam, Part 2.

The month’s headline death was that of Joe Cocker, who had featured on the tribute collection to Bobby Keys, the saxophonist who died in early December. Much has been written about Cocker, though few obituaries made much of that note-missing final “me” in You Are So Beautiful, which to me defines Cocker. That was one of the many cover versions which Cocker was famed for. Indeed, I think he was a better interpreter of other people’s songs than of his own. Of course, the hit which provided his breakthrough, With A Little Help From My Friends, was a cover, one which he so comprehensively reworked as to make it his own — succeeding in doing what his idols in the world of soul had been doing for so long before him.

IM1214_2Earlier this year, Germany celebrated the 80th birthday of singer Udo Jürgens in big style, with TV extravaganzas and all. Three months later, Jürgens’ death returned the singer-songwriter to the front pages of German newspapers and magazines. At a time when the banal Schlager dominated German music, in the 1960s and ’70s,  Jürgens was part of it and yet above it. His lyrics and music tended to be of a higher standard.

Jürgens was a decent satirist, though not one to piss off his wealthy fan base too much, and was among the first mainstream celebs to comment on German xenophobia, albeit gently and with resort to cliché, in 1975’s Griechischer Wein (which apparently is still very popular in Greece). In between, he wrote music for singers such as Shirley Bassey, Sammy Davis Jr and Matt Monro. Born in Austria as the son of Germans and later taking Swiss citizenship, he won the 1966 Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg with Mercy Cheri, a song which he co-wrote. He even tried his hand at recording in English, as featured on the Curious Germany mix.

You might not know Millie Kirkham’s name, but you will have heard her soprano on several Elvis hits, such as The Wonder Of You, Surrender, Polk Salad Annie, (You’re The) Devil in Disguise, C.C. Rider or Blue Christmas. She also backed the likes of Roy Orbison (on Pretty Woman), George Jones (on He Stopped Loving Her Today), Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Gordon Lightfoot, Reba McEntire, Ferlin Huskey, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tom T Hall and Brenda Lee.

A week after Kirkham, a guitarist in Elvis’ studio house band died. Chip Young had backed Elvis from 1965-77. He also played for the country likes of George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Bobby Bare, Eddy Arnold, Carl Perkins, Oak Ridge Boys, Statler Brothers, Faron Young, Earl Scruggs, Skeeter Davis, Tom T Hall, Tanya Tucker, Roger Miller, Reba McEntire, and Jerry Lee Lewis. He played for Nancy Sinatra on her country album, for swamp rocker Tony Joe White, for indie-rockers My Morning Jacket, for blues man Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, for soul singer Candi Staton. His obits say that he played guitar on Dolly’s Jolene; though he was one of several guitarists to play on the LP, I could find no confirmation that it was him. Young also produced artists such as Jerry Reed, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Mathis, Billy Swan and Delbert McClinton.

When I saw that Dick Dale had died, I thought it was the legendary surf-guitarist whose version of the old Greek hit Misirlou appeared on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. But that Dick Dale is still alive; the dead one was a feature on The Lawrence Welk Show. On the variety show he not only sang and played the sax, but also appeared in sketches. He also was the show’s Santa Claus, so it seems appropriate that he should have died on Boxing Day, at the ripe age of 88.

The song featured for Buddy DeFranco, the jazz clarinetist who has died at 91, is remarkable for its line-up which includes Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Buddy Rich on drums and, most prominently, Nat King Cole on piano. It was recorded 67 years and three days before DeFranco’s death.


Millie Kirkham, 91, backing singer, on December 14
Elvis Presley – The Wonder Of You (1970, on backing vocals)

Joe Carr, 63, bluegrass musician, on December 14

Wendy Rene, 67, soul singer, on December 16
Wendy Rene – After Laughter Comes Tears (1964)

Rock Scully, 73, manager of the Grateful Dead, on December 16
Grateful Dead – Attics Of My Life (1970)

John Fry, 69, founder of Ardent Studios, on December 18
Big Star – The Ballad Of El Goodo (1972, as executive producer & studio owner)

Larry Henley, 77, singer with The Newbeats and songwriter, on December 18
Roger Whittaker – Wind Beneath My Wings (1982, as writer)

Larry Smith, 63, hip hop producer (Run-DMC, Whodini), on December 18
Run-DMC – Rock Box (1984, as producer and co-writer)

Barbara Jones, 62, Jamaican reggae and gospel singer, on December 19
Barbara Jones – Just When I Needed You Most (1981)

Ronnie Bedford, 83, jazz drummer, on December 20

Chip Young, 76, guitarist and record producer, on December 20
Billy Swan – I Can Help (1974, on electric guitar and as producer)

Udo Jürgens, 80, Austrian-born composer and singer, on December 21
Matt Monro – Walk Away (1964, as co-writer)
Udo Jürgens – Es wird Nacht, Senorita (1968)

Joe Cocker, 70, rock singer, on December 22
Joe Cocker – Woman To Woman (1972)
Joe Cocker – It’s A Sin When You Love Somebody (1974)

Jo Jo Benson, 76, soul singer, on December 23
Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson – Soulshake (1969)

Alvin Jett, 54, blues guitarist, on December 23

Buddy DeFranco, 91, jazz clarinetist, on December 24
Metronome All Stars – Leap Here (1947, on clarinet)

Alberta Adams, 97, blues singer, on December 25
Alberta Adams – Detroit Is My Home (2008)

Dick Dale, 88, saxophonist and singer, on December 26

Al Belletto, 86, jazz musician, on December 27

Frankie Randall, 76, singer and actor, on December 28
Frankie Randall – Theme from Flipper (1965)
Frankie Randall – I Can See For Miles (1968)

Merrill Womach, 87, gospel singer, on December 28

Jim Galloway, 78, Canadian jazz clarinetist and saxophonist, on December 30

Melvin Jackson, 79, session blues saxophonist and trumpeter, on December 30


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Any Major Country History: A mix & a book

January 12th, 2015 6 comments


Any Major Country Mix

It has been a couple of years now since brought my History of Country series under one roof, with a few edits, in an illustrated eBook (well, a booklet, really) in PDF format, titled A Brief History of Country. It seems like a good time to bump that link.

Please feel free to pass it on in good conscience or to link to it on your website: while I assert my copyright for the text, the eBook is completely free. The more people read it and, I hope, gain enough of an understanding of the genre so that they will never call it “Country & Western” again, or say “yee haw, pardner”, the more they will appreciate the wealth of country.

Download A Brief History of Country eBook


And to give you some music to go with that, here’s a compilation of some of my favourite songs from the 22-part series, one from each mix plus one to bring the set up to present times, with no claims to being representative of the development of country music. As always, timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes covers, and same PW as every time.

1. Jimmie Rodgers – Brakeman’s Blues (Blue Yodel No.2) (1928)
2. Moonshine Kate – My Man’s A Jolly Railroad Man (1930)
3. Carter Family – Can The Circle Be Unbroken (By And By) (1935)
4. Uncle Dave Macon – All In Down And Out Blues (1937)
5. Al Dexter and his Troopers – Pistol Packin’ Mama (1943)
6. Hank Williams – Move It On Over (1947)
7. Eddie Kirk – Sugar Baby (1950)
8. T. Texas Tyler – Bumming Around (1953)
9. Johnny Cash – Hey Porter (1955)
10. Hank Locklin – Send Me The Pillow You Dream On (1958)
11. Skeeter Davis – Don’t Let Me Cross Over (1962)
12. Red Sovine – Phantom 309 (1967)
13. Dolly Parton – Coat Of Many Colors (1971)
14. Faron Young – It’s Four In The Morning (1972)
15. Rusty Wier – Texas Morning (1974)
16. Emmylou Harris – Pancho & Lefty (1977)
17. Earl Thomas Conley – Holding Her And Loving You (1983)
18. Keith Whitley – I’m No Stranger To The Rain (1989)
19. Garth Brooks – Friends In Low Places (1990)
20. Lyle Lovett – Step Inside This House (1998)
21. Alison Krauss & Union Station – Restless (2004)
22. Tift Merritt – I Know What I’m Looking For Now (2008)
23. Kris Kristofferson – Feeling Mortal (2013)


 Click here for the complete History of Country series


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The Originals – Elvis Presley Vol. 1

January 8th, 2015 8 comments

On 8 January Elvis would have turned 80. Let that sink in. And when you bump into an 80-year-old man today…that could be Elvis now!

To mark Elvis’ birthday, here’s the first of two mixes of original versions of famous Elvis songs, this one covering Elvis’ output up to 1960. Four are actually not really originals: the last three are demos which were presented to Presley (and the Elvis recordings show just how great an interpreter of song he was). And Aura Lee was reworked as Love Me Tender; it was an old song first copyrighted in 1861. It was sung by Frances Farmer in the 1936 movie Come and Get It!, but wasn’t released on record.

Then there’s Hound Dog, featured twice: in Big Mama Thornton’s original recording of the song, and the version on which Elvis based his, by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, an Italo-American band he had seen during his discouraging concert engagement in Vegas in April/May 1956. Between Thornton and Presley the song had been brutalised in a series of covers which dismantled the original lyrics and added doggerel to it (such as the rabbit line) to become the nonsense we know today.

Freddie Bell & the Bellboys, on whose rendition of Hound Dog Elvis based his.

Freddie Bell & the Bellboys, on whose rendition of Hound Dog Elvis based his.


This collection of songs proves one thing: Elvis didn’t just, as the popular narrative has it, “steal” black music and made it big on its back. Elvis certainly was a big fan of the various strands of what we now call R&B, and no doubt was heavily influenced by it. But he also drew much from country music, as well as from gospel. Indeed, his first public performance was as a ten-year-old at a talent show in his hometown Tupelo, where he performed Old Shep, a hit from 1941 by Red Foley (he had first recorded it in 1935, about his German shepherd  Hoover, who had been poisoned by a neighbour). Elvis first stage performances were on the country circuit, especially on the Louisiana Hayride. And it was through country star Hank Snow that he met the ghastly “Colonel” Parker.

Elvis’ first hit was, of course, a cover of a blues tune, Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup’s That’s All Right Mama. It’s the song that changed Rock & Roll forever. Young Elvis was in the Sun studios in Memphis, auditioning for the legendary Sam Phillips (in other accounts the story is set, more credibly, during the first recording session). Elvis, the story goes, was failing the audition, having crooned one ballad after another in Dean Martin mode. It was not the sound Phillips was looking for.

During a break (or at the end of the session), Elvis starting goofing around with his guitar, singing That’s All Right. Session musicians Scotty Moore and Bill Black joined in. Sam Phillips later recalled: “The door to the control room was open, the mics were on, Scotty was in the process of packing up his guitar, I think Bill had already thrown his old bass down — he didn’t even have a cover for it — and the session was, to all intents and purposes, over. Then Elvis struck up on just his rhythm guitar, ‘That’s all right, mama..,’ and I mean he got my attention immediately. It could have been that it wouldn’t have sold ten copies, but that was what I was looking for!”

Elvis later also covered Crudup’s very similar My Baby Left Me. Crudup fought for the rest of his life to receive due royalties, making his living as a bootlegger and field labourer. In 1971 an agreement for $60,000 was agreed with Melrose Publishers, who proceeded to blankly refuse paying up. Crudup died penniless in 1974 at the age of 68.

Arthur Crudup, from whom Elvis covered two songs.

Arthur Crudup, from whom Elvis covered two songs.


Some say that Good Rockin’ Tonight was the proto Rock & Roll record. Of course, any claim of inaugurating Rock & Roll is impossible to validate because the genre was the result of a musical evolution (and it is still evolving). What can be said is that the song, and most certainly Wynonie Harris’ 1948 cover, was influential in that evolution. Good Rockin’ Tonight was Elvis’ second single. So it is faintly ironic that Presley’s version draws more from Brown’s 1947 jump blues original (deleting, however, the by then outdated litany of R&B figures) than from Harris’ R&B cover.

It was not the most popular of Elvis’ early tunes; his still mostly country audience was still unsure about the influence of what was then called “race music” on the future legend’s sound. In those embryonic days of Elvis’ stardom, his most popular song seemed to be the flip side of That’s Alright, Blue Moon Of Kentucky.

It is difficult to pinpoint at which point Elvis became a superstar, or with which hit. He was a local star as soon as his debut single hit the Memphis airwaves, and a regional star soon after. Arguably, his nascent stardom was built not so much on hit recordings than on his incendiary performances delivered on intensive tours. On these tours, he often shared a bill with his Sun label mates Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.

It was on one such tour in November 1955, in Gladewater, Texas, that Cash gave Perkins the idea for Blues Suede Shoes (in return for Perkins inspiring the title for Cash’s future hit I Walk The Line), based on a catchphrase by one C.V. White, an African-American GI Cash had served with in West Germany. White, the story as told by one of Cash’s GI friends goes, was about to go out for the weekend when another soldier accidentally trod on White’s black army issue shoes, whereupon White exclaimed: “I don’t care what you do with my Fräulein or what you do with whatever, but don’t step on my blues suede shoes.” The joke, obviously, was that White was not actually wearing such shoes (which, in any case, where not in fashion), but regulation issue army shoes.

Soon after he heard that story, Perkins was at a dance when he saw a young man being visibly upset with his pretty date for stepping on his, you guessed it, blue suede shoes. Sufficiently inspired, he immediately wrote the lyrics on a paper potato sack, giving birth to one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s great classics.

Million Dollar Quartet: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Three of them play a role in the story of Blue Suede Shoes. Lewis later also covered it, and Cash played it on stage.

Million Dollar Quartet: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Three of them play a role in the story of Blue Suede Shoes. Lewis later also covered it, and Cash played it on stage.


It may have been the first true crossover record; it certainly was the first to chart simultaneously in the pop, country and R&B charts, in early 1956. As the song was rising in the charts, Perkins was laid low by a serious car crash on the way to performing his hit on the Ed Sullivan Show. While he was recuperating, he heard former Sun colleague Elvis announcing on the Milton Berle Show that his next single would be Blues Suede Shoes, which he proceeded to perform, as he would twice more before releasing the single. Although Perkins was unable to promote the song further, it went on to sell more than a million copies.

By arrangement, Elvis waited until Perkins’ version had peaked. Released so soon after Perkins’ hit, Elvis’ version reached no higher than #20 on the charts. Yet, public consciousness associates the song more closely with Elvis than with its author, possibly because he performed it several times on television, and riffed on the footwear in a few skits on these shows.

Perkins, whose career or health never really recovered from the car crash, was philosophical about Elvis scoring the more lasting hit, saying that Presley had the image and the looks, and he did not. He surely was less placid about not receiving writer’s royalties until a court found in his favour in 1977.

Arguably Elvis the Rock & Roller died in 1960 when, having returned from the army, he recorded crooners’ material such as It’s Now Or Never and Are You Lonesome Tonight. The latter was recorded at the behest of Tom Parker as it was a favourite of his wife, Mrs Marie Parker, in its 1940s version by country star Gene Austin. Written by Tin Pan Alley residents Lou Handman and Roy Turk in 1926, it was recorded by a swathe of artists in 1927. The first of these versions, by Ned Jakobs, was not released, so the honour of first released recording goes to one Charles Hart.

The song enjoyed a revival in the 1950s. It was the 1950 version by Blue Barron and his Orchestra which served as the basis for Elvis’ take on Are You Lonesome Tonight, with Al Jolson’s version of the same year inspiring the spoken part, which borrows from Shakespeare’s As You Like It (“All the world’s a stage” etc).

1. Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup – That’s All Right (1947)
2. Roy Brown – Good Rockin’ Tonight (1947)
3. Smiley Lewis – One Night Of Sin (1956)
4. Big Mama Thornton – Hound Dog (1953)
5. Freddie Bell & the Bellboys – Hound Dog (1956)
6. Carl Perkins – Blue Suede Shoes (1956)
7. Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup – My Baby Left Me (1950)
8. Little Junior & the Blue Flames – Mystery Train (1953)
9. Eddie Riff – Ain’t That Loving You Baby (1956)
10. Chuck Wills – I Feel So Bad (1954)
11. Shep Fields Rippling Rhythm – That’s When Your Heartaches Begin (1937)
12. Charles Hart – Are You Lonesome Tonight (1927)
13. Frances Farmer – Aura Lea (1936)
14. Flying Clouds Of Detroit – Peace In The Valley (1947)
15. Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys – Blue Moon Of Kentucky (1947)
16. Red Foley – Old Shep (1941)
17. Wiley Walker & Gene Sullivan – When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again (1941)
18. Hank Snow – Now And Then There’s A Fool Such As I (1952)
19. Willy & Ruth – Love Me (1954)
20. Bernard Hardison – Too Much (1956)
21. Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters – Such A Night (1954)
22. Glen Reeves – Heartbreak Hotel (1955)
23. Otis Blackwell – Teddy Bear (1956)
24. Otis Blackwell – All Shook Up (1956)

PW as always

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Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2

December 18th, 2014 11 comments

Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2

I posted much of this mix six years ago, and several people have asked me to re-post the 2008 compilation. This isn’t the exact same mix, but what I hope is an improved version. Some tracks on the old mix have been used on others since, and a few songs included now are much better than those they replace.

The Beatles song comes from a 1968 recording for their fan club. It’s not quite in the class of, say, Strawberry Fields, but it is The Beatles, singing an original Christmas song most people have not heard.

Six years ago I suggested that Rosie Thomas’ Why Can’t It Be Christmas All Year, then newly released, should become a Christmas pop standard. That hasn’t happened, though it still should. In fact, she has released only one album since her lovely A Very Rosie Christmas, partly owing to illness. Spresad the word about the song; it really is great.

Neil Diamond’s Christmas song is a bit unusual: it riffs on titles from his songs, from Cherry Cherry to the wonderful Amazing Grace in 2005.

This is the 17th Christmas mix I’ve posted. Here are the previous 16 in one pic. Find them all HERE or look at the end of the post for the individual links.

Xmas gallery

As always, CD-R length, home-wrapped covers, PW the same as every time.

Here’s wishing you a merry Christmas; see you in the New Year. I will be out of here until January 8.

1. Twisted Sister – Deck The Halls (2006)
2. Smashing Pumpkins – Christmastime (1997)
3. Manic Street Preachers – Last Christmas (live) (2003)
4. Rosie Thomas – Why Can’t It Be Christmas All Year? (2008)
5. The Temptations – This Christmas (1980)
6. The Jackson Five – Give Love On Christmas Day (1968)
7. Take 6 – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1999)
8. Carpenters – Merry Christmas Darling (1970)
9. She & Him – I’ll Be Home For Christmas (2011)
10. Ron Sexsmith – Maybe This Christmas (2002)
11. The Weepies – All That I Want (2003)
12. Neil Diamond – Cherry Cherry Christmas (2009)
13. Chris Isaak – Christmas On TV (2004)
14. El Vez – Santa Claus Is Sometimes Brown (2000)
15. Bruce Springsteen – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1985)
16. Dana – It’s Gonna Be A Cold Christmas (1975)
17. B.B. Jeans & the Bobby Sox – Here Comes Santa Claus (1963)
18. Koko Taylor – Merry, Merry Christmas (1992)
19. Nicole Atkins – Blue Christmas (2008)
20. Chris Rea – I’m Driving Home (1985)
21. They Might Be Giants – Santa’s Beard (1988)
22. Weezer – Christmas Celebration (2000)
23. Sufjan Stevens – Come On! Let’s Boogey To The Elf Dance! (2003)
24. The Beatles – Christmas Time (Is Here Again) (1968)



The Christmas Originals
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
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

Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
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


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In Memoriam – December 2014 – Part 1

December 15th, 2014 4 comments

In Memoriam - December 2014I will be unable to post a complete In Memoriam for December until late in January. But the Grim Reaper has wreaked havoc in the first half of this month (five listed deaths on December 3 alone!), so the first half of the month will be covered now; the second half, hopefully less lethal, will go with the January round-up.

As December began, the Rolling Stones received a double shock with the deaths first of long-time saxophonist Bobby Keys, and next day of ex-Small Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, who also recorded with them. McLagan played on the 1978 hit Miss You, but the saxophone is played not by Keys but by Mel Collins.

With Ian McLagan’s death, only one of the Small Faces is still alive; drummer Kenney Jones is the last man standing. McLagan was active in the music industry till the end, most lately playing on Lucinda Williams’ new album. In the interim he appeared on albums by old Faces pals like Rod Stewart (starting with Gasoline Alley) and Ronnie Wood, as well as on albums by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and John Mayer.

Adding to the overlap, Bobby Keys also played for McLagan’s Faces, and on McLagan’s 1979 Troublemaker and 1981 Bump Into The Night albums. Bobby Keys’ story is covered by last Monday’s post with a collection of songs he played on.

Quick: how many of the big soul groups of the 1960s or ’70s can you think of who can still come together in their classic line-up? With the death of Sonny Bivins of The Manhattans on December 3 and Winfred ‘Blue’ Lovett a week later (FFS, The Grim Reaper, FFS!), I can think only of The Stylistics and Sly & the Family Stone.  Between them, Bivins and Lovett were responsible for two of the band’s greatest hits: the former wrote There’s No Me Without You, Lovett wrote Kiss And Say Goodbye (his is the spoken intro), which was originally intended for Glen Campbell. The featured song It’s That Time Of Year is a seasonal Christmas offering.

A few weeks before her sudden death at 35, the hugely talented South African singer Lulu Dikana had supported John Legend on his tour of her country. Dikana’s death must have been hard on her 15-year-old son, but spare a thought also for her sister, Zonke Dikana, perhaps the bigger star in South Africa: last year her older sister died, now her other sister. Their father, Viva Dikana, was a well-known drummer. He died in 2009.

Few deaths can be more satisfying for a performer than to die on stage. So it was for 60-year-old Italian singer Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Mango, widely known only by his surname. On December 7 he was on stage in the southern Italian town of Policoro when he sang the opening bars of his 1984 hit Oro. Suddenly he raised his arm, said “excuse me” and collapsed. He died of a heart attack shortly after in hospital. The next day his 75-year-old brother Giovanni died as well.


Bobby Keys, 70, rock saxophonist , on Dec. 2
The Rolling Stones – Live With Me (1969)
The Jim Carroll Band – City Drops Into The Night (1980)
Sheryl Crow – There Goes The Neighborhood (2003)

Ian McLagan, 69, keyboardist of the Small Faces, on Dec. 3
Small Faces – Sorry She’s Mine (1966)
Rolling Stones – Miss You (1978)
Ian McLagan – La De La (1979)

Sonny Bivins, 78, singer with The Manhattans, on Dec. 3
The Manhattans – It’s That Time Of Year (1966)
The Manhattans – It’s Gonna Take A Lot To Bring Me Back (1970)
The Manhattans – There’s No Me Without You (1973, also as writer)

Graeme Godall, 82, co-founder of Island Records, on Dec. 3

Lulu Dikana, 35, South African soul singer, on December 3
Lulu Dikana – Falling Deeper (2014)

Paul Ferrara, 76, jazz drummer, on Dec. 3
Louis Prima – Felicia No Capicia (1959, on drums)

Nick Talbot aka Gravenhurst, 37, British singer-songwriter and writer, announced on Dec. 4

Bob Montgomery, 77, songwriter, on Dec. 4
Buddy Holly – Heartbeat (1958, as writer)
Eddy Arnold – Misty Blue (1967, as writer)

Brian Goble, 57, member of Canadian punk band Subhumans, on Dec. 7

Mango, 60, Italian singer-songwriter and musician, on Dec. 7
Mango – Oro (1984)

Earl Hayes, 34, American rapper, suicide on Dec. 8

Sheila  Stewart, 77, Scottish singer and author, on Dec. 9

Winfred ‘Blue’ Lovett, 74, bass singer of The Manhattans, on Dec. 10
The Manhattans – Kiss And Say Goodbye (1976)
The Manhattans – Hurt (1976)

Dawn Sears, 53, country singer, on Dec. 11
Dawn Sears – Close Up The Honky Tonks (1994)

John Hampton, 61, engineer and producer (White Stripes, Gin Blossoms), on Dec. 12


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Any Major Christmas Carols

December 11th, 2014 14 comments

Any Major Christmas Carols

This year a new Christmas mix: pop artists (using the term broadly) doing traditional  Christmas carols. There’s not much by way of irony going on here, though the levels of sincere religious sentiment obviously vary. I suppose the Staple Singers, who were primarily a gospel act, are more sincere than the Crash Test Dummies, whose vocals might startle grandmother a little.

Many of the artists, of course, give the carols some interpretation that relate to their genre. I have avoided the insufferable wispy songbirds who breathe through their sensitive versions of Silent Night. What songbirds are featured here do not breathe their carols, and Silent Night is covered by The Temptations, who are not wispy at all. As far as interpretative chops go, I particularly love The Gaylads’ delightful soul version of We Three Kings from 1970.

One might be pedantic and question whether Go Tell It On The Mountain is really a Christmas carol, in the traditional sense of the word. It is really a spiritual, but I see no reason why these should not also form part of the canon of carols. So should Mary’s Boy Child, written in the 1950s, What Child Is This, from 1962, and arguably even When A Child Is Born, from the 1970s. If it refers to the religious element of the feast of the Nativity, then it’s a Christmas carol. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t. But where would that rule leave the traditional English carol from 1850, Here We Come A-Wassailing, which makes no reference to the birth of Christ?

As always, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-baked covers. Password in comments. Feel free to add to the comments! Next Thursday: a Christmas pop mix.

1. The Bird And The Bee – Carol Of The Bells (2007)
2. Musiq Soulchild – Deck The Halls (2008)
3. Earth, Wind & Fire – Away In A Manger (2014)
4. Luther Vandross – O Come All Ye Faithful (1995)
5. Aaron Neville – O Little Town of Bethlehem (1993)
6. Harry Belafonte – The Son Of Mary (What Child Is This) (1958)
7. Ella Fitzgerald – The First Noel (1967)
8. Nat King Cole – O Holy Night (1963)
9. Bobby Darin – While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks (1960)
10. Johnny Cash – It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (1980)
11. Jewel – Hark, The Herald Angels Sing (1999)
12. Etta James – Joy To The World (1998)
13. Mel Tormé – Good King Wenceslas (1992)
14. Crash Test Dummies – God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (2002)
15. Don Grusin – Angels We Have Heard On High (2005)
16. Nils Landgren – Ding Dong Merrily On High (2012)
17. Vanessa Williams – The Holly And The Ivy (2004)
18. Kate Rusby – Here We Come A-Wassailing (2008)
19. Sufjan Stevens – Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming (2002)
20. Robin Gibb – Once In Royal David’s City (2007)
21. The Gaylads – We Three Kings (1970)
22. The Staple Singers – Go Tell It On The Mountain (1962)
23. The Temptations – Silent Night (1980)



The Christmas Originals
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
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

Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
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

Or all in one place

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The Bobby Keys Collection

December 8th, 2014 8 comments

Bobby Keys Collection

Saxophonist Bobby Keys, who died on 2 December just a couple of weeks short of his 71st birthday, may be best remembered for his contributions with the Rolling Stones, but he also appeared on hundreds of records by others, including some of the biggest names in rock.

His death came a day before that of Ian McLagan, the keyboard player of the Small Faces, with whom Keys collaborated on Faces records, on McLagan solo LPS, and on occasion with both serving on session duty on records by others.

Keys also crossed paths in the studio with the two Wrecking Crew drummers featured in this series, Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon, especially the latter.

Bobby Keys was born on 18 December 1943 in Slaton, Texas, and began his music career as a teenager, hanging out with neighbour Buddy Holly and touring with the likes of Bobby Vee and Little Eva. He claimed to have played the saxophone solo on Elvis’ Return To Sender, but that story is unlikely. Certainly, RCA has no record of his participation (with that in mind this mix includes only songs that specifically credit Keys).

bobby keys gallery

In the 1960s he worked in the Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama, where some of the greatest soul was produced. It’s also where the Rolling Stones recorded their Sticky Fingers album in 1970, which features Keys on Brown Sugar (recorded in one take), Bitch, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, and I Got The Blues. The year before he made his debut for the Stones on Live With Me, from Let It Bleed.

He had first met the band in 1964, but it was an encounter with Mick Jagger at a Delaney and Bonnie session in the late 1960s that initiated the long relationship with the band, with whom he’d be touring till the end of his life.

He got on well with the Stones personally; Keef and he were born on the same day and had a close bond, which included meeting rock & roll clichés like throwing TV’s out of hotel windows. This month Richards called Keys “greatest pal in the world… We were thick as thieves.” Read his appreciation HERE.

Jagger and Keys also had a close personal friendship. But in the mid-‘70s Keys was fired from the Stones backing band for missing gigs after Richards found him with a bathtub filled with Dom Perignon champagne, a French lady of uncertain virtue and a stash of hash. Still, he maintained a loose relationship with the Stones over the years until he rejoined their roster of backing players in 1982. He toured with them on every tour  until this year.

Keys was also close to the ex-Beatles, especially with John Lennon, in whose famous “lost weekend” Keys played his partying part, having previously played with the Plastic Ono Band on tracks like Power To The People. He also played for Ringo Starr (on whose Ring O’ label he released the funky Gimmie The Key) and George Harrison.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes covers. PW in comments (you are invited to leave a comment there).

1. Bobby Keys – Gimmie The Key (1975)
2. Martha Reeves – Storm In My Soul (1974)
3. The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar (1971)
4. Warren Zevon – Poor, Poor Pitiful Me (1976)
5. Ringo Starr – Photograph (1973)
6. Barbra Streisand – Space Captain (1971)
7. Carly Simon – Night Owl (1972)
8. Graham Nash – There’s Only One (1971)
9. Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Kiss And Say Goodbye (1975)
10. Delaney & Bonnie – When The Battle Is Over (1969)
11. Faces – Had Me A Real Good Time (1970)
12. Humble Pie – Big George (1971)
13. John Lennon – Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (1975)
14. Harry Nilsson – Down (1971)
15. Ron Wood & Ronnie Lane – Tonight’s Number (1976)
16. Keith Moon – Back Door Sally (1975)
17. Third World War – Working Class Man (1971)
18. B.B.King – Caldonia (1971)
19. Eric Clapton – Lonesome And A Long Way From Home (1971)
20. Audience – Seven Sore Bruises (1972)
21. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (1970)



Previous session musicians’ collection (all drummers, so far):
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

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In Memoriam – November 2014

December 4th, 2014 7 comments

Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn… Big Bank Hank has died (say what?). The first member of the Sugarhill Gang, whose Rapper’s Delight was the first ever rap hit, to go. Big Bank Hank, or Henry Lee Jackson, had studied oceanography and sought a career in that field. When that didn’t pan out, he became a bouncer, a pizzeria manager and a rap act manager. It was in the latter function that he was discovered by singer and producer Sylvia Robinson (of Pillow Talk fame), who was trying to get a hip hop thing going. Not being an MC himself, Hank got some rhymes from his friend and client Grandmaster Caz, who said he received neither credit nor royalties, and not even a thank you for his troubles. So it was really Caz (as in CASA-NOVA) who “got more clothes than Muhammad Ali” and dressed “so viciously”.

In Memoriam - Nov14This Christmas you may well hear the classic 1973 hit “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” by Roy Woods’ Wizzard. When you do, remember the saxophonist on the song, Mike Burney, who has died at 70. Burney was not only a member of Wizzard but also a session musician, playing on stage or in the studio for the likes of Chaka Khan, The Beach Boys, Sammy Davis Jr., Petula Clark, Steve Winwood, Cliff Richard, Dionne Warwick and Matt Monro.

Jimmy Ruffin’s mercurial younger brother David might have had grabbed all the headlines, but Jimmy was a great soul singer in his own right. His great hit, What Becomes Of The Broken-Hearted, is a highlight among all those outstanding songs produced by Motown in 1966, in no small measure due to Ruffin’s vocals. Jimmy almost joined The Temptations before they hit the big time, but when Motown’s bosses heard the younger brother, David got the gig instead. It must have been vexing when Jimmy’s Beauty Is Only Skin Deep was covered by The Temptations, who had a hit with it. In the 1970s Jimmy decamped to Britain where he collaborated with Heaven 17 and Paul Weller, and also hosted a radio show.

Flamenco musicians don’t really get much attention outside their genre. Manitas de Plata, who was born in 1921 as Ricardo Baliardo to what was then called a gipsy community, was different. And so it should be when your champions included Picasso, Dali and Jean Cocteau. The great photographer Lucien Clergue brought him to the attention of US audiences. Three of his sons and a bunch of nephews are members of the Gipsy Kings.

Same day Gary Lane, the bass player of 1960s rock band The Standells, died. He was the band’s second member in a year to pass away; last December drummer and vocalist Dick Dodd went. The Standells were not a big name; they had a US #11 hit with Dirty Water (featured HERE), and three more Top 100 hits in 1966/67, including the song featured here, Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White. More interesting is that two of their members went on to greater things: drummer Gary Leeds left to become Gary Walker in the Walker Brothers, and in 1968 — by then Lane and Dodds had left the band — future Little Feat frontman Lowell George joined the band.

Dave Appell, who has died at 92, started his career as a musician and arranger in the 1940s with jazz greats like Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Carter and Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines. In the 1950s he was a figure on the rock & roll scene, appearing in the 1956 Alan Freed film Don’t Knock the Rock and scoring a few hits as Dave Appell and the Applejacks. In the early 1960s he was the house band leader at Cameo-Parkway records, where he had played on hit records in the ’50s. As bandleader he arranged records for Chubby  Checker (for whom he co-wrote Let’s Twist Again), The Dovells (he co-wrote their hit Bristol Stomp) and Bobby Rydell. And in the early 1970s he produced Tony Orlando’s megaghits Knock Three Times and Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree.

The next In Memoriam will run very late because I’ll be travelling until mid-January. PW in comments (feel free to leave a comment while you are there).


Wayne Static, 48, singer of metal band Static-X, on Nov. 1

Acker Bilk, 85, British jazz clarinetist, on Nov. 2
Mr. Acker Bilk – Stranger On The Shore (1961)

Michael Coleman, 58, blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, on Nov. 2

Augusto Martelli, 74, Italian composer, conductor and arranger, on Nov. 3
Augusto Martelli – Djamballà (1971)

Manitas de Plata, 93, French flamenco guitarist, on Nov. 5
Manitas de Plata – Larmes Gitanes (1976)

Gary Lane, 76, bass player of garage rock band The Standells, on Nov. 5
The Standells – Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White (1966)

Big Paybacc, 38, rapper, shot dead on Nov. 6

Rick Rosas, 65, session bass player (Neil Young, Joe Walsh), on Nov. 6
Neil Young – Don’t Cry (1989, on bass)

Maggie Boyle, 57, English folk singer and musician, on Nov. 6
Maggie Boyle – Lady Margaret (1998)

Hugo Duarte, 59, folk and country singer and guitarist, on Nov. 7

Jonathan Athon, 32, bassist of metal band Black Tusk, after motorbike accident on Nov. 9

Carlos Emilio Morales, 75, Cuban jazz guitarist, on Nov. 11
Grupo Irakere – Taka-Taka-Ta (1974)

Big Bank Hank, 58, rapper with The Sugarhill Gang, on Nov. 11
The Sugarhill Gang – Apache (Jump On It) (1981)

Buddy Catlett, 81, jazz multi-instrumentalist, on Nov. 12
Ella Fitzgerald with the Count Basie Orchestra  – Shiny Stockings (1966, on bass)

Mike Burney, 70, saxophonist for English glam group Wizzard, on Nov. 12
Wizzard – Rob Roy’s Nightmare (A Bit More H.A.) (1973, also as writer)

Johnny Toobad (Johnny Elichaoff), 55, drummer, producer and manager, on Nov. 13
The League Of Gentlemen – Heptaparaparshinokh (1981, on drums)

Little Joe Washington, 75, blues singer, on Nov. 13
Little Joe Washington – The Ghetto (2004)

Jimmy Ruffin, 78, soul singer, on Nov. 17
Jimmy Ruffin – Se Decidi Cosi (What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted) (1966)
Jimmy Ruffin – It’s Wonderful (To Be Loved By You) (1970)
Jimmy Ruffin – Hold On (To My Love) (1980)

Dave Appell, 92, musician, arranger and record producer, on Nov. 18
Dave Appell and the Applejacks – Ooh, Baby, Ooh (1956)
The Dovells – Bristol Stomp (1961, as co-writer)

Claire Barry, 94, half of jazz and klezmer duo The Barry Sisters, on Nov. 22
The Barry Sisters – Bay mir bistu sheyn (1960s)

Clive Palmer, 71, banjo player with British psychedelic folk group Incredible String Band, on Nov. 23
The Incredible String Band – Empty Pocket Blues (1966, also as writer)

Agustín Briolini, 22, Argentinian rock singer, by electrocution on Nov. 23

Sabah, 87, Lebanese singer and actress; Diva of Arab Music, on Nov. 24

Frances Nero, 71, soul and jazz singer, on Nov. 28
Frances Nero – Keep On Lovin’ Me (1966)
Frances Nero – Footsteps Following Me (1991)

Luc De Vos, 52, singer and guitarist of Belgian rock group Gorki, on Nov. 29


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