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Covered With Soul Vol. 2

April 30th, 2010 10 comments

The first mix of soul covers was very popular (and great fun to compile), so I hope that subsequent compilations will also find an audience.I think I have at least two more in the works.

There are a few surprising covers in this mix. Maxayn reshape the Rolling Stones song entirely, while the wonderful Zulema Cusseaux, a gifted songwriter in her own right, perhaps even tops my favourite solo McCartney track. And could there be soul versions of Wild Thing? Jagger’s ex-squeeze Marsha Hunt gave it a shot.
Scanning the tracklisting, there are some wonderful strong women who have been much neglected among the 20 featured acts. We previously encountered the unjustly forgotten Barbara Jean English with the utterly astonishing So Many Ways To Die on Any Major Soul 1972-73; here she improves on one of Bread’s better songs. Tami Lynn never had much of a big audience; her cover of Smiley Lewis’ One Night Of Sin (featured here as the original of Elvis’ One Night) shows why that was a great shame. Unlike those two, Denise LaSalle has had a notable career, even if she is often remembered for the horrible 1985 novelty hit My Toot-Toot. Here LaSalle is allowed to break a rule: being featured with a song already covered on the first mix.

The idea with these compilation is to take songs that are better known in versions outside the soul genre, but there must be exceptions. The test is in how much the covering artist appropriates the song. The amazing Marlena Shaw does that with the Main Ingredient’s Don’t Want To Be Lonely, and The Temptations give I Heard It Through The Grapevine their spin (like the two better-known versions by Gladys Knight and Marvin Gaye, it was produced by Norman Whitfield).

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R , and a front and back cover is included. Several of the songs included here are, to my knowledge, out of print. Be sure to buy the albums that include the songs that you like in particular — if you like the album fillers, you’ll surely like the rest of the album.

TRACKLISTING
1. Al Green – I Want To Hold Your Hand (1969)
2. Maxayn – You Can’t Always Get What You Want (1972)
3. Zulema – Maybe I’m Amazed (1972)
4. Donnie Hathaway – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (1971)
5. The Smith Connection – Rainy Days And Mondays (1972)
6. Isaac Hayes – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (1971)
7. Candi Staton – In The Ghetto (1972)
8. Thelma Houston – Don’t Make Me Over (1981)
9. Marlena Shaw – Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely (1973)
10. Barbara Jean English – Baby I’m A-Want You (1972)
11. Solomon Burke – He’ll Have To Go (1964)
12. Denise LaSalle – Harper Valley P.T.A. (1973)
13. Tami Lynn – One Night Of Sin (1972)
14. The Temptations – I Heard It Through The Grapevine (1969)
15. The Intruders – Mother And Child Reunion (1973)
16. Family Brown – When I Need You (1977)
17. Billy Paul – Your Song (1972)
18. Joe Simon – Help Me Make It Through The Night (1973)
19. The Dells – A Whiter Shade Of Pale (1969)
20. Marsha Hunt – Wild Thing (1971)

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Answer Records Vol. 6

April 27th, 2010 3 comments

I made a generous new friend recently thanks to my post of different versions of By The Time I Get To Phoenix. He claimed that I had left off the best cover, by country singer Roy Drusky, and sent me that version. You’ll decide where it ranks in the hierarchy of Phoenix covers. Shortly after, I posted Volume 5 of the Answer Records, and my new friend Rick had a related song: Wanda Jackson’s answer to By The Time I Get To Phoenix. Besides that, we’ll have Muddy Waters’ mojo set straight, and Miss Chuckle Cherry’s response to Chuck Berry’s disturbing anthem to wanking.

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By the time he’ll get to Tulsa she’ll be banging

Act 1: Roy Drusky – By The Time I Get To Phoenix (1968).mp3
You know the set-up: dude decides to leave town and counts down what he imagines his freshly abandoned woman will be up to when he reaches geographical milestones (the trip is chronologically impossible, but let’s not get waylaid by that). So by the time he crosses the city limits of Phoenix, she’ll be getting up; when he gets to Albuquerque, she’ll be taking her lunch break and try to phone him (the phone will keep ringing, because cellphones are yet to be invented), and when he gets to Oklahoma she’ll be sleeping. With astonishing conceit, our friends imagines his ex-girl crying “just to think I’d really leave her”. Does she?

Act 2: Wanda Jackson – By The Time You Get To Phoenix (1967).mp3
Our friend was quite right: by the time he got to Phoenix, she was rising. She found the note and wasn’t really that surprised because he’d been babbling on about leaving for quite some time (and, yes, she did notice). Wanda fails to fall to pieces and proceeds to go to her 9 to 5 job. Will she call our hero, as he thinks she would? Not exactly: “And at lunch I gave your best friend a call. He told me that he’d love me for so long now, he’s been waiting for you to leave, that’s all.” We are not given time to reflect on a man’s life so bereft of meaningful relationships that his best friend is just waiting, fingers tapping impatiently, for him to disappear so as to move in on his girl. Wanda will get laid tonight, at about the time our hero reaches Oklahoma, where in Wanda’s prediction he’ll realise what a mistake he made: “You’ll cry and you’ll whisper I’m sorry, but it’s too late ’cause I’d found a love that’s true.”

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Blame it on the mojo

Act 1: Muddy Waters – I Got My Mojo Working (1957).mp3
Muddy is a man of remarkable confidence as a laydees man, thanks to the titular mojo which seems to be working for him in general. Except, inexplicably, on the woman whom he is addressing with this song. “Got my mojo working, but it just won’t work on you,” he announces right at the song’s start. It seems to stump our friend: “I wanna love you so bad till I don’t know what to do.” He believes he might acquire some higher octane mojo in Louisiana, whence he shall decamp forthwith to obtain the necessary means to meet his single obsession: “I’m gonna have all you women right here at my command”, including her on whom his standard mojo cannot be fruitfully applied. I believe one Eldrick T Woods might empathise with poor Muddy.

Act 2: Ann Cole – I’ve Got Nothing Working (1958).mp3
Ann Cole, whom we previously encountered in the inaugural Answer Records (she didn’t want to stop the wedding), is having none of that New Orleans voodoo crap. Not that she hasn’t tried it; in fact, she sang about it in the very same terms as Waters on her 1957 record (and therefore is actually responding to herself, but let’s not have the facts spoil our fun). The black cat bones obviously didn’t work, and she was “crazy to think that they would”. So now to Plan B: “I’ve got nothing working now but my real old-fashioned love.” Yup, Muddy, you need no black magic aphrodisiac Rohypnol mojo shit, but nothing more than some human emotion and sincerity (or at least the requisite charm to compensate for these qualities should they be absent). So Ann is waiting to lay her big love on you, because “it’s just you that I’m thinking of”.

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Let’s keep it clean, kids

Act 1: Chuck Berry – My Ding-A-Ling (1972).mp3
One day I’ll feature this awful song in the Originals series, because it does have an interesting story going back to 1952. For our purposes here, we have creepy Chuck — he of candid cameras and watersports fetishes — punning about his no doubt impressive penis which nevertheless did not excite British morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse in any other way but self-righteous outrage. “My Ding-A-Ling, my Ding-A-Ling, I want you to play with my Ding-A-Ling” et cetera, and then the final admonition that those who won’t sing along to this idiotic song must be as big wankers as he is. I can’t see much cause for embarking on a frenzied wank at the sight of grizzled old Chuck singing about his dick, but I grant that I may be unique in that.

Act2: Miss Chuckle Cherry – My Pussycat (1972).mp3
Surveying the answer song’s title and the artist’s name (which possibly is not even be her real name), one may have reasonable doubt as to the requisite serious manner in which Mr Berry’s hymn to onanism will be responded to. It will furthermore serve to surprise that this record is of negligible musical eminence. Moreover, Ms Cherry’s vocal qualities would not suggest that her candidacy for a residency at La Scala (the opera house, not the pizza joint down the road) will be seriously entertained. And the lyrics, astonishingly, are not entirely of an edifying nature. “Now it’s time for our classroom song, and I want all your girls to sing along. No fellas now, only girls.” And the subject matter the female contingent of the classroom is asked to intone about concerns…oh, you know what extravaganza of punnery we shall enjoy, with the uncomfortable tinge of paedophilia when the grandfather describes the texture of Miss Chuckle’s pussycat (which we presume to be feline, not genital), and a startling reference to a pain in the butt. Spoiler alert: it seems that Chuck was not allowed to play with Miss Chuckle’s kitty.

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Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70

April 23rd, 2010 12 comments

The third mix of Beatles covers, covering the period between the White Album (partly covered in the second mix) to the final album. The most significant song here is the Beach Boys’ live recording of Back In The USSR, with Ringo Starr guesting. The song was, of course, Paul McCartney’s satire of the Beach Boys. One imagines it was a find piss-take, because by 1968 the Beach Boys had long left the girs-cars-surf scene behine (well, except Mike Love, who never really got past it).

Two songs here, by George Benson and by Booker T & the MGs, come from full reworkings of Abbey Road, while Count Basie comes from a tribute album to the Beatles, and the I Am Sam soundtrack, which consisted of Beatles covers, has been represented on all three mixes. Knowing how a succession of easy listening merchants have sucked the soul out of Something with cheesy arrangements and over-arrangement (yes, Sinatra, too), the notion of Shirley Bassey giving the song a go seems discouraging. Despite a lavish arrangement and moments of enthusiastic emoting, it is a quite splendid interpretation which segues nicely into Nina Simone’s much sparser, and utterly beautiful take of the other Harrison masterpiece on Abbey Road. Simone’s 1971 Here Comes The Sun LP, an album of covers, is well worth seeking out.

More than on the previous compilation of Beatles covers, the 1990s are well represented. It wasn’t planned that way, but Dionne Farris’ version of Blackbird is rather lovely, and Alison Krauss’ tender bluegrass interpretation of I Will, with that sweet voice, is angelic.

I had hopes of putting together a sequence of covers of the Abbey Road side 2 medley. I had enough covers, but not consistently the quality I was looking for. Other songs presented me with dilemmas: Amen Corner’s Get Back, or the Main Ingredient? Randy Crawford’s Don’t Let Me Down or Phoebe Snow’s? Aretha Franklin’ Let It Be or Clarence Carter’s? I hope I’ve made good choices. Incidentally, when I set out to put together the three mixes I set myself a rule not to have any artist represented twice.

TRACKLISTING
1. Beach Boys – Back In The USSR (live) (1984)
2. Tuck & Patti – Honey Pie (1990)
3. Dionne Farris – Blackbird (1994)
4. Alison Krauss – I Will (1995)
5. Micah P. Hinson – While My Guitar Gently Weeps (2009)
6. Phoebe Snow – Don’t Let Me Down (1976)
7. Billy Bragg – Revolution (1997)
8. The Main Ingredient – Get Back (1970)
9. Count Basie – Come Together (1970)
10. Shirley Bassey – Something (1970)
11. Nina Simone – Here Comes The Sun (1971)
12. George Benson – Oh Darling (1970)
13. Booker T and the MGs – I Want You (1970)
14. Elliott Smith – Because (1999)
15. Joe Cocker – She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (1969)
16. Ben Folds – Golden Slumbers (2002)
17. Dobby Dobson – You Never Give Me Your Money/Carry The Weight (1971)
18. Loose Salute – The End (2009)
19. Rufus Wainwright – Across The Universe (2002)
20. Neil Finn & Liam Finn – Two Of Us (2002)
21. Clarence Carter – Let It Be (1970)
22. Gladys Knight & The Pips – The Long And Winding Road (1971)

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Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

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The Originals Vol. 37

April 20th, 2010 6 comments

Almost all of the previous 36 instalments of The Originals consisted of five songs each. The inaugural post had ten tracks, one (or was it two?) had six. Which makes for 186 tracks that have been, well, covered. Truth be told, researching five songs at a time has been so much a burden on my time that at times I’ve not been motivated to start a new post. Maybe by reducing the number to three I’ll update this series more enthusiastically in future. I still have many lesser-known originals to write about.

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Cowboy Copas – Tennessee Waltz (1948).mp3
Pee Wee King – Tennessee Waltz (1948).mp3
Patti Page – Tennessee Waltz (1950).mp3
Les Paul & Mary Ford – Tennessee Waltz (1951).mp3
Sam Cooke – Tennessee Waltz (1964).mp3

On a Friday night in 1946, country singer and accordionist Pee Wee King (who was born by the decidedly un-country name Julius Kuczynski in Milwaukee) was driving with Redd Stewart, fiddler and singer with King’s Golden West Cowboys, to Nashville when the radio played bluegrass legend Bill Monroe’s Kentucky Waltz. Wondering why nobody ever dedicated a waltz to Tennessee — home to country music capital Nashville, after all — they decided to relieve the boredom of the long drive by writing one, setting lyrics, written on a matchbox, to an instrumental they had been playing in concerts, the No Name Waltz.

One might think that Pee Wee King’s version, with Stewart on vocals, would be the first to be recorded. However, he was scooped by Cowboy Copas, who would perish on the plane that killed Patsy Cline (one of the many who later covered Tennessee Waltz). Lloyd Copas had been a singer with Pee Wee King’s band in the early 1940s, succeeding Eddy Arnold. It may be that Pee Wee first gave the song to his old frontman, who made a recording of it in April 1947 for (ironically) King Records in Cincinnatti, and another in June that year. It is most likely the latter recording that was released in March 1948 and became a #3 country hit. Pee Wee King recorded his version in December 1947. Also released in early 1948, it also peaked at #3, but at half a million copies sold more than Copas’ take.

By 1950, Tennessee Waltz had become something of a country classic, and even jazz singer Anita O’Day had covered it, when it became a mammoth crossover hit for Patti Page, whose version remains the best known. It topped the pop, country and R&B charts simultaneously, a unique feat. As so often, the big hit was first a b-side, in this case to the less than immortal Boogie Woogie Santa Claus. For a b-side, much effort went into the production, which used a rudimentary form of vocal overdubbing to go with the backing track by the Jack Rael Orchestra. An acetate was recorded of Page singing the song, and this would be played into one microphone while Page sang into a second microphone. Page’s version of her dad’s favourite song went on to sell 6 million copies.

Tennessee Waltz was awarded BMI’s 3,000,000 Airplay Award in 2004. Only five other songs have achieved that honour.

Also recorded by: Roy Acuff (1949), Jo Stafford (1950), Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (1950), John ‘Schoolboy’ Porter (1950), Stick McGhee (1950), Anita O’Day (1951), Spike Jones (1951), The Fontane Sisters (1951), Eddy Arnold (1956), Floyd Cramer (as part of a medley, 1957), The Louvin Brothers (1958), Bill Vaughn (1958), Faron Young (1959), Connie Francis (1959), Chet Atkins (1959), Bobby Comstock & The Counts (1959), Jerry Fuller (1959), Four Jacks (1960), Red Hewitt & the Buccaneers (1960), Tennessee Ernie Ford (1960), Grady Martin and The Slewfoot Five (1960), Kitty Wells (1960), Gus Backus (1960), Don Robertson (1961), Webb Pierce (1962), Homer & Jethro (1962), Pat Boone (1962), The Violents (1962), Alma Cogan (1964), Anna King (1964), Sam Cooke (1964), Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas (1965), Chet Atkins (1966), Slim Whitman (1966), Manfred Mann (1966), Ernest Tubb (1966), Ray Brown & the Whispers (1966), Otis Redding (1966), Richard “Groove” Holmes and the Super Soul Big Band (1967), Chuck Jackson & Maxine Brown (1967), Johnny Jones (1968), American Soul Train (1968), Dottie West (1968), Sue Thompson (1969), Leon Haywood (1969), Ferlin Husky (1969), Don Gibson (1969), Napoleon Jr (1969), Danny Davis & the Nashville Brass (1970), Lou Donaldson (1970), Bobbi Martin (1971), David Bromberg (1972), American Spring (1972), Boots Randolph (1974), Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass (1976), Pete Tex (1976), Gitte (1977), Anne Murray (1978), Tielman Brothers (1979), Lacy J. Dalton (1980), Emmylou Harris (1981), Billie Jo Spears (1981), James Brown (1983), Willie Nelson & Hank Williams (1984), Audrey Landers (1986), George Adams (1989), Holly Cole Trio (1993), Tom Jones with the Chieftans (1995), Richard Hindman Trio (1995), Sally Timms (1997), Linda Martin (1998), James Last (1998), Sarah Harmer & Jason Euringer (1999), Sam Moore (2002), André Rieu (2002), Joel Harrison feat. Norah Jones (2002), Eva Cassidy (released in 2002), Joel Harrison (2003), Leonard Cohen (2004), Herb Alpert (2005), Hem (2006), Pete Molinari (2009), Isabelle Boulay (2009) a.o.

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Johnny & Jackey – Someday We’ll Be Together (1961).mp3
Diana Ross and the Supremes – Someday We’ll Be Together (1969).mp3
Frederick Knight – Someday We’ll Be Together (1973).mp3

The Supremes’ sentimental farewell song with Diana Ross proved less than prescient (if we disregard the awkward performance of it on 1983’s Motown 25th anniversary show), and La Ross probably never thought that she “made a big mistake” by leaving.

The song was originally recorded in 1961 by the R&B duo Johnny & Jackie, in a Drifters-style arrangement. The Johnny half of the Detroit duo was Johnny Bristol, and Jackey was his singing and songwriting partner — and ex-air force compadre — Jackey Beavers. They co-wrote Someday We’ll Be Together with the great Harvey Fuqua, on whose Tri-Phi label the single appeared. It was not a big hit, and after several years of trying, Bristol and Beavers went their separate ways, with Jackey signing for Chess Records.

Bristol went on to become a noted producer on Motown, working with Fuqua on songs such as Marvin Gaye’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and David Ruffin’s My Whole World Ended. Bristol had the distinction of producing the final singles by both the Supremes and the Miracles before their headliners departed. That means, of course, that Bristol produced the song which he had co-written and first recorded for Diana Ross and the Supremes. The other Supremes didn’t actually appear on it (which makes the decision to play Some Day We’ll Be Together at Florence Ballard’s funeral seem quite odd). Bristol had intended the song for Jr Walker and the All Stars, for whom he had already written the hit What Does It Take (To Make You Love Me). He had laid down the arrangement and backing vocals, by Maxine and Julia Waters, when Gordy decided that this would be the song with which to launch Diana’s solo career. On reflection, probably because of the title, he instead issued it as a farewell song for Diana Ross and the Supremes.

The male voice on the song is Bristol’s. Not satisfied with Ross’ performance, he harmonised with her, ad libbing encouragements. The sound engineer accidentally captured these, and the since it sounded good, it was decided to keep them in. Diana Ross & the Backing Singers’ single topped the US charts (perhaps fittingly, the last chart-topper of the ’60s) , which meant that Berry Gordy, who was intent on having the Ross-led Supremes go out with a #1, could release Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hands) as Diana’s solo debut.

Johnny Bristol, who died in 2004, continued producing after leaving Motown (he lent Boz Scaggs that blue-eyed soul inflection), and had some success as a singer, most notably with the 1974 hit Hang On In There Baby. He also wrote and recorded the first version of the Osmonds’ hit Love Me For A Reason, which will feature later in this series.

Frederick Knight’s 1973 version slows down the song and gives it a proper southern soul treatment. It was not a hit, but it may be the best version of the song (by the man who went on to write Anita Bell’s disco classic Ring My Bell).

Also recorded by: Boogaloo Joe Jones (1970), Brenda & the Tabulations (1970), Shirley Scott (1970), The Marvelettes (1970), Bobby Darin (1971), Bill Anderson & Jan Howard (1972), Dionne Warwicke (1972), Frederick Knight (1973), The Pointer Sisters (1982), Lorrie Morgan (1983), Jimmy Somerville (1995), LaToya Jackson (1995), Vonda Shepard (1999)


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Bolland – You’re In The Army Now (1983).mp3
Status Quo – In The Army Now (1986).mp3

The year 1986 was lucrative for the brothers Bolland, Rob and Ferdi. First their song Rock Me Amadeus, performed by the Austrian cult singer Falco, topped the UK charts (having been a huge hit in Europe the previous year), and then Status Quo hit the top 10 with their cover of the brothers’ 1981 song In The Army Now.

Born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa (in the same region that gave the world the entirely unneccesary Dave Matthews), the Bolland brothers had emigrated to the Netherlands, and started their recording career in 1972 as a folk-rock duo along the lines of Simon & Garfunkel. When that genre became passé, they hooked into the electronic sounds of the late 1970s. In The Army Now was a big hit in South Africa, where conscription applied to only white men, many of whom were sent to fight in the war with Angola, apartheid’s Vietnam. The single did only moderately well elsewhere, and the Bolland brothers became record producers, counting among their clients Falco, Amii Stewart, Samantha Fox, Suzi Quatro and Dana International.

Meanwhile, Status Quo’s Francis Rossi had heard In The Army Now on the radio while driving in Germany, and proposed it to his band, which by now had lost bassist Alan Lancaster and drummer John Coughlan. The song took the Quo to #2 in Britain.

Also recorded by: Laibach (1994), Les Enfoirés (as Ici les Enfoirés, 2009)

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Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68

April 16th, 2010 14 comments

The second mix of Beatles covers comprises songs from the group’s 1967-68 period, ending rather abruptly in the middle of the White Album selection. So the third mix will carry on with songs from that double album (leading with the Beach Boys doing Back In The USSR).

There are some quite unexpected covers. Ella Fitzgerald singing Savoy Truffle? Soul group The Moments singing Rocky Racoon, of all songs? Some performers are also surprising. Bill Cosby, for example. The stand-up comic did an album of covers in 1969, including Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It’s not mugging for comedic effect either, though it is fairly bizarre. Backing Cosby is the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.

Elvis Costello’s performance of “an English folk song” was a minor highlight at Wembley’s Live Aid, not because Costello is doing it very well, but because the crowd is filling in the horn bits, thereby proving Costello’s introduction right. McCartney has attributed inspiration for the sound of Lady Madonna, particularly the piano, to Fats Domino, so it is apt that Domino’s cover, recorded soon after the Beatles released it, should feature here.

Some inclusions are entirely obvious: Pickett’s Hey Jude is the best version of that song, and Spooky Tooth’s cover of I Am The Walrus is masterful. I also particularly like Richie Haven’s take on Strawberry Fields and John Denver’s Mother Nature’s Son.

Part 3, covering 1968-70 will be posted next week.

TRACKLISTING
1. Richie Havens – Strawberry Fields Forever (1969)
2. Kenny Rankin – Penny Lane (1970)
3. Bill Cosby – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1968)
4. The Undisputed Truth – With A Little Help From My Friends (1973)
5. Syreeta – She’s Leaving Home (1972)
6. Gabor Szabo – Lucy In The Sky With Diamond (1967)
7. The Wedding Present – Getting Better (1988)
8. Big Daddy – Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite (1992)
9. Claudine Longet – When I’m Sixty-Four (1967)
10. José Feliciano – A Day In The Life (live) (1969)
11. Elvis Costello – All You Need Is Love (live) (1985)
12. The Impressions – Fool On The Hill (1969)
13. Spooky Tooth – I Am The Walrus (1970)
14. Ambrosia – Magical Mystery Tour (1976)
15. Fats Domino – Lady Madonna (1968)
16. Wilson Pickett – Hey Jude (1969)
17. Bobby Bryant – Happiness Is A Warm Gun (1969)
18. The Moments – Rocky Raccoon (1970)
19. The Five Stairsteps – Dear Prudence (1970)
20. Ella Fitzgerald – Savoy Truffle (1969)
21. John Denver – Mother Nature’s Son (1972)
22. Paul Weller – Sexy Sadie (1994)
23. Siouxsie & the Banshees – Helter Skelter (1978)

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Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

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In Memoriam – March 2010

April 13th, 2010 7 comments

A little later in the month than previously, here are some of the music people who died in March (since then, of course, Malcolm McLaren has joined the great recording studio in the sky). The Grim Reaper took two notable frontmen from us, Alex Chilton and Mark Linkous, as well as the blues singer Marva Wright (whose version of I Will Survive is as glorious as Gloria’s) and grievously underrated folky Lesley Duncan (featured here with one of the few songs Elton John ever covered). Most bizarre was the death of Serbian pop star Ksenjica Pajcin, who apparently was shot dead by her boyfriend who then killed himself. Her 2006 greatest hits compilation featured the legend, “My boyfriend is out of town”. A few names appear here without tribute track — that’s because I have nothing by them.All listed songs can be downloaded in one file.

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Ralph Martin, 70, singer with doo wop band The Willows (or The Five Willows), on February 19.
The Willows – Church Bells Are Ringing (1956)

Lolly Vegas, 70, singer of Native-American rock group Redbone, on March 4.
Redbone – The Witch Queen Of New Orleans (1970)

Ron Banks, 58, singer of soul group The Dramatics, on March 4.
The Dramatics – Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get (1972)

Johnny Alf, 80, Brazilian singer and composer, on March 4.
Johnny Alf – Rapaz de Bem (1990)

Fred Wedlock, 67, British Western singer, on March 4

Andy Johnson, 62, guitarist of British blues band Sam Apple Pie and sound engineer for the Pogues, U2 and others, on March 5
Sam Apple Pie – Something Nation (1968)

Mark Linkous, 47, frontman of alt.rock act Sparklehorse, on March 6.
Sparklehorse – Don’t Take My Sunshine Away (2006)

Micky Jones, 63, singer-guitarist of Welsh prog rock band Man, on March 10.

Lesley Duncan, 66, singer-songwriter and backing vocalist for Pink Floyd (on Dark Side Of The Moon), the Alan Parsons Project, Dusty Springfield, Walker Brothers a.o., on March 12.
Lesley Duncan – Love Song (1971)

Carol Clerk, 52, British rock journalist (Melody Maker), on March 12.

Jean Ferrat, 79, French singer, on March 13
Jean Ferrat – Potemkine (1965)

Kevin Neill, 78, bassist with the Karl Denver Trio, on March 13.
Karl Denver Trio – Wimoweh (1962)

Cherie De Castro, 87, member of The DeCastro Singers, on March 14.
DeCastro Sisters – Teach Me Tonight (1954)

Ksenjica Pajcin, 32, Serbian pop star, murdered on March 16.
Ksenija Pajcin – Vestica

Alex Chilton, 59, singer with the Box Tops and Big Star, on March 17.
Big Star – The Ballad Of El Goodo (1972)
Box Tops – Cry Like A Baby
(1968)

Marva Wright, 62, big-voiced blues singer, on March 23
Marva Wright – I Will Survive (2004)

Johnny Maestro, 70, singer with doo wop band The Crests, on Marc h 24.
The Crests – Sixteen Candles (1958)

John Ciambotti, 67, session bass player for Elvis Costello, Huey Lewis, John Prine, Lucinda Williams a.o. and chiropracter, on March 25
Elvis Costello – Alison (1977)

Herb Ellis, 88, legendary jazz guitarist, on March 28.
Herb Ellis & Joe Pass – The Shadow Of Your Smile (1968)

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Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

April 9th, 2010 14 comments

The last ever photo of the Beatles together, as far as I know. Ringo and Paul wave goodbye, George looks exceedingly pleased, and John looks for Yoko (or perhaps Allen Klein).

Tomorrow, 10 April, marks the 40th anniversary of Paul McCartney announcing the official disbandment of The Beatles. Of course, the Beatles were finished long before that. The final session for the Abbey Road album was, as the song had it, The End. And the guys knew it. Still, nothing was announced until 10 April 1970, when Paul unilaterally declared the Beatles kaputt. There was one post-Abbey Road recording: Harrison’s I Me Mine, which was finished in January 1970 and appeared on Let It Be (which therefore is correctly identified as the Beatles’ final album, even if almost all of it was recorded before Abbey Road, and the end of the group’s activity is accurately dated 1970, and even if John’s final contribution was in 1969).

I have featured The Beatles at length on this blog. First there two sets of album tracks and b-sides (here and here), then three post-split albums compiled from the Fabs’ solo carrer ( 1972, 1975 and 1981). On top of that, I’ve featured Beatles curiosities and curious covers, with more of that still in store, studied my favourite Beatles LP sleeves, and discussed songs that inspired the Beatles and that the Beatles inspired. Add to that a couple of originals of songs the Beatles covered, there seems to be only one significant gap in my Beatles coverage.

So here is the first of three compilations of good covers of Beatles songs. The first takes the songs of the 1962-66 period, up to Revolver. The tracklisting runs in a rough order in which the Beatles released these songs; I hope that despite the eclectic mix the sequencing is smooth.

Some of the featured songs are fairly rare. The Supremes’ version of I Saw Her Standing There, with the lovely and tragic Florence Ballard taking lead vocals, was recorded for their 1964 A Bit Of Liverpool album, but was not used for it. It was finally released in 2008. Likewise, the Carpenters’ splendid cover of Can’t Buy Me Love never was an album release. It appeared on a 1970 interview recording which also includes live-in-the-studio takes of 12 songs (including Can’t Buy Me Love, Help, Ticket To Ride and Come Together). The Bee Gee’s version of You Won’t See Me apparently was recorded in Australia (possibly for the Spicks And Specks sessions), shortly before the future purveyors of toothy hirsuteness broke through internationally.

Some songs presented an obvious problem: to select one of several great covers. The choice was the hardest between Jackie Wilson’s and Ray Charles’ versions of Eleanor Rigby, from 1969 and ’68 respectively. I have often cited the latter as a great example of a cover eclipsing the Beatles (the other, featured here, is Earth, Wind & Fire’s Got To Get You Into My Life). In the end I opted for Wilson’s lesser known version. Likewise, I was torn between Grady Tate’s version of And I Love Her and Esther Philips And I Love Him. Tate’s voice is one of my favourites in popular music, so he got in. It seems appropriate to close the set with a track from a song-for-song covers album, Taxman from the Don Randi Trio’s 1966 jazz-rock re-imagining of Revolver.

I have tried to keep the length of this mix to the standard CD-R length. Here, however, I had no choice but to exceed that length. It was a question of leaving out Deep Purple’s excellent 6-minute version of Help. I have left it in, so the running time is about 1h25min.

TRACKLISTING
1. Keely Smith – Do You Want To Know A Secret (1965)
2. The Supremes – I Saw Him Standing There (1964)
3. The Mamas & The Papas – I Call Your Name (1966)
4. Nils Lofgren – Anytime At All (1981)
5. Carpenters – Can’t Buy Me Love (1970)
6. Ramsey Lewis Trio – A Hard Day’s Night (1965)
7. Rosanne Cash – I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party (1989)
8. Grady Tate – And I Love Her (1974)
9. Marianne Faithfull – I’m A Loser (1965)
10. Pearl Jam – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (2003)
11. The Dillards – I’ve Just Seen A Face (1968)
12. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Yesterday (1968)
13. ‘Wee’ Willie Walker – Ticket To Ride (1967)
14. Deep Purple – Help (1968)
15. Stevie Wonder – We Can Work It Out (1970)
16. Cheap Trick – Day Tripper (1982)
17. Johnny Rivers – Run For Your Life (1966)
18. Bee Gees – You Won’t See Me (1966)
19. Paul Westerberg – Nowhere Man (2001)
20. Miriam Makeba – In My Life (1970)
21. Bud Shank – Girl (1966)
22. Jonah Jones – Michelle (1969)
23. Earth, Wind & Fire – Got To Get You Into My Life (1978)
24. Jackie Wilson – Eleanor Rigby (1969)
25. Emmylou Harris – Here There And Everywhere (1975)
26. The Vines – I’m Only Sleeping (2001)
27. Don Randi Trio – Taxman (1966)

GET IT! (PW in comments)

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Answer Records Vol. 5

April 7th, 2010 7 comments

Country music is a fertile field for answer records. So here we’ll look at three answer records from that genre. Kitty Well’s response to Hank Thompson was a massive hit, a breakthrough for country’s first female superstar that outsold the hit song it was responding to. And I defy anyone not to like, even secretly, these songs — few things annoy me so much than people claiming categorically that they hate “all country music”.

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Should he stay or should he go now?

Act 1: Jim Reeves – He’ll Have To Go (1960).mp3
Gentleman Jim is in a bar when he figures out that only a phone call can get his two-timin’ gal back to him. And with that mellifluous baritone the recipient of Jim’s call should not find it difficult to make a decision. To complicate matters, she presently is with another man, which Jim realises rather constrains her from telling him exactly how she feels. So he’ll do the talking, cunningly asking her to put her “sweet lips a little closer to the phone”, to create an atmosphere of intimacy, while he tells the barman “to turn the juke box way down low”. And so he puts an ultimatum to her, all she has to do is answer yes or no. If it is the former, than he — the he of the title — will have to be told to leave. If it’s no, Jim will put down the phone, whereafter he’d presumably order the barman to pump up the jam and fill a few glasses for a heartbroken fella learnin’ the blues.

Act 2: Jeanne Black – Hell Have To Stay (1960).mp3
Using the same melody, Jeanne gives her answer away in the title. But it’s not just a simple no. Jeanne explains to Jim exactly why “he’ll have to stay”. See, the night before, Jim and Jeanne had a date, but guess who didn’t show! Jeanne clearly is not one to take such a sleight lightly, nor is she short of potential suitors. Within a day of Jim standing her up — she demands no explanation — she has hooked up and ostensibly fallen in love with with the personal pronounced joker of the title, who right now must be feeling pretty smug. Jeanne does not hold back. Once she loved Jim, but he’s messed her around too much. She suspects cheating on his part: even now she suspects he’s “out again with someone else”, citing the softly playing juke box as evidence. But why would Jim phone her if he was already sorted out for the night? Jeanne won’t concern herself with questions of logic. It’s time to tell Jim they’re through: “I have found another love I know is true, and [to answer Jim’s question] he holds me much more tenderly than you. Loving you is not worth the price I have to pay. Someone else is in your place, he’ll have to stay.”

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A vow’s a vow’s a vow…

Act 1: Hank Locklin – Please Help Me, I’m Falling (1960).mp3
Oh shit, Hank is falling in love with somebody he can’t be with, and he cannot be with her because he belongs “to another whose arms have gone cold”.  He has made his vows “to have and to hold” (even if the arms are cold and legs presumably locked), and the mere act of  falling for somebody else would be sinful, apparently (that is some pretty dodgy theology there, I think). So he begs the object of his desire to “close the door to temptation; don’t let me walk in”. In other words, he wants her to go away. But he doesn’t really. “I mustn’t want you, but darling I do; please help me, I’m falling in love with you.” The confusion is evident, poor bastard.

Act 2: Skeeter Davis – (I Can’t Help) I’m Falling Too (1960).mp3
And if the object of your desire is Skeeter Davis (who on her album also responded to Jim Reeves in Jeanne Black’s stead, and who previously in this series featured responding to Ray Petersen, all on the same album), then falling in love can be easy. Skeeter reciprocates Hank’s love, and tells him so. Two poor souls in love but circumstances and morals prevent that love’s consummation. But Skeeter can be of no assistance in Hank’s predicament: “You say that you’re falling, but what can I do? You want me to help you, but I’m falling too.” So might an affair be on the cards? Not likely: “We could never be happy living in sin. Our love’s a temptation, but we just can’t win.” Sigh, no chance then. As you wish, Skeeter. As you wish.

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Answering the MCPs.

Act 1: Hank Thompson – Wild Side Of Life (1952).mp3
Hank has been left by his best girl, and he has to tell her how he feels. But he can’t do so by telephone, because she has told him not to phone her (in any case, she might go all Jeanne Black on him should he phone her), and not by letter, which Hank thinks she wouldn’t read. Confronting her face-to-face could lead to a restraining order, if one isn’t in effect already. And with Facebook still almost six decades in the future, Hank shall communicate through the ancient medium of song. And he won’t exercise much tact: “I didn’t know God made honky tonk angels, I might have known you’d never make a wife. You gave up the only one that ever loved you, and went back to the wild side of life.” Where Hank comes from, a honky tonk angel evidently is a very bad thing, a lady of promiscuous virtue even: “The glamour of the gay night life had lured you to the places where the wine and liquor flow, Where you’re waiting to be anybody’s baby, and give up the only love you’ll ever know.” It may be necessary to point out that Hank’s understanding of the “gay nightlife” may not coincide with ours.

Act 2: Kitty Wells – It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels (1952).mp3

Let’s remember that it’s 1952; women’s liberation is not really on the agenda yet, much less so in the conservative, Lawd-fearin’ world of country music. So when Kitty is challenging Thompson’s notions of the jezebel, which she has heard on the juke box (obviously not turned down low), she is challenging the whole patriarchal system. So, for starters, don’t blame God for the reality of “honky tonk angels”. It wasn’t Him who created them, but bad, two-timing, untrustworthy men. “Too many times married men think they’re still single. That has caused many a good girl to go wrong. It’s a shame that all the blame is on us women. It’s not true that only you men feel the same. From the start, most every heart that’s ever broken was because there always was a man to blame.” Kitty Wells’ song did not produce a comoplete change in attitudes .A decade and a half later, the women’s rights movement had gathered steam, but in country world, big-haired right-wingers like Tammy Wynette still counselled wives to stand be their man.

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Intros Quiz – 1975 edition

April 5th, 2010 2 comments

We continue on our five-yearly cycle of intros quizzes, going on to 1975 — which means that next month we will cover one of my favourite years in music: 1980. The regular reader will recall my recent visit to 1975 here and here (a couple of songs featured in those posts also appear on the quiz).

So, here we have 20 intros to hit songs from 1975,  of 5-7 seconds in length. All were singles either released or charting that year (which means that for British chart fans, at least one 1975 release became a big hit only in early 1976). The answers will be posted in the comments section by Thursday. And if the pesky number 11 bugs you, e-mail me at halfhearteddude [at) gmail [dot] com for the answers, or  better, message me on Facebook. If you’re not my FB friend, click here.

Intros Quiz – 1975 edition


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Grooving for God

April 1st, 2010 2 comments

It seems appropriate to have a bit of religious music this week. Of course, there is plenty in that vein in the world of pop, and much of it pretty awful. Featured here are seven religious-themed songs that I think are rather good (especially Atomic Telephone), and one of supreme kitsch value.

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Marlena Shaw – The Lord Giveth And The Lord Taketh Away (1974).mp3
The wonderful Marlena Shaw sang some of the finest soul tracks of the late 1960s and ’70s, and is even more popular among the fans of vocal jazz. The Lord Giveth and The Lord Taketh Away, a Shaw composition, appeared as the shortish closer of the first side of her 1974 album, evocatively titled Who Is This Bitch, Anyway?. The album is mostly a soul affair, though on this jazzy gospel track (preceded by her version of Roberta Flack’s Feel Like Making Love) she does the jazz thing with which Diane Schuur later found greater success. The first side of the album in particular is quite special. It starts off with You, Me And Ethel, a very funny satire of an attempted pick-up in a singles bar, and ends with her nod to Lord-praising.

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Johnny Cash – I Saw A Man (live, 1968).mp3
In 1968, Johnny Cash released a concept album based on his pilgrimage with June Carter to the Holy Land. The same year, Cash performed a concert based on the same premise which would be broadcast on the BBC on Boxing Day 1968. June was not there, it seems. But her mother, Maybelle of the Carter Family —  the massively influential country trio that started its career in 1927 — sings on two songs, as do Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers, whose non-religious Flowers On The Wall is rather out of place, great song though it is. A concert of religious songs might seem, well, a bit dull. In Cash’s hands, it’s quite brilliant..You can find a vinyl rip of the studio LP (which does not include I Saw A Man) at this very fine blog.

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The Spirit Of Memphis – Atomic Telephone (1952).mp3
The Spirit of Memphis is usually described as a gospel quartet, even though its ever-changing line-up sometimes exceeded that number. The group was active for half a century, beginning in the 1930s. Atomic Telephone was released on King as the b-side of He Never Let Go Off My Hand in 1952, very much reflecting the zeitgeist of the early 1950s. A white quartet, The Harlan County Four, released a cover of Atomic Telephone soon after. “If you are in trouble, and afraid of all mankind, pick up the atomic telephone and get Him on the line.”

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Sufjan Stevens – To Be Alone With You (2004).mp3
Perhaps the coolest Christian in music today (though his friend Damien Jurado is rather admirable too), Sufjan sings about his faith introspectively. You’ll not find much by way of praising the Lord with Sufjan; his relationship with Christ is an intimate affair, and his faith acknowledges the dark side that resides even in the believer. On his song about serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr, he meditates on the inherent sinfulness — the dark side — of everybody, including and especially himself. To Be Alone With You, from the Seven Swans album, might sound like a sweet love song at first, but Sufjan is not addressing a love interest. He is fooling us at first: “I’d swim across Lake Michigan, I’d sell my shoes, I’d give my body to be back again in the rest of the room, to be alone with you.” But in the second verse it becomes clear that he is addressing the crucified Jesus who “went up on a tree”.

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Blind Willie McTell & Kate McTell – God Don’t Like It (1935).mp3
Willie McTell was one of many 1930s blues musicians who incorporated their blindness in their stagename. An accomplished blues guitarist, McTell has influenced not only the usual suspects — Dylan, Allman, Page & Plant et al — but also many modern performers, including Jack White of the White Stripes and Kurt Cobain. The writer of the 1970s hit Streets Of London changed his name from Ralph May to Ralph McTell in homage of the bluesman.

Blind Willie recorded God Don’t Like It in Chicago on April 25 with his wife Kate, whom he had married a year earlier. It was one of the few tracks they cut for Decca before moving on to Vocalion Records. The song condemns the hypocrisy of Christians, including ministers, who preach temperance while getting drunk on moonshine . Far better to feed and clothe the family than to get drunk: “They say that yellow corn makes the best kind of shine. Well, they better turn that corn to bread and stop that makin’ shine.” God doesn’t like alcohol abuse and hypocrisy, nor do the McTells. And they don’t care who’ll get pissed off at their forthrightness: “ I know you don’t like this song just because I speak my mind, but I’ll sing this song just as much as I please, because I don’t drink shine. Now God don’t like it and I don’t either.”

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David Axelrod – Holy Thursday (1968).mp3
Well, it is Holy Thursday, and while this orchestral jazz track might not feed your pieties, it should at least get your toes tapping. That does not mean that the title is irreverent. Axelrod, son of a leftist activist who grew up in a predominantly black neighbourhood, wrote and recorded several musical works referencing religion. In 1971 he arranged a jazz-rock interpretation of Handel’s Messiah and in 1993 he titled a work on the Holocaust a “requiem”. I have read that Holy Thursday also featured in Grand Theft Auto V, a game I’ve never played but the soundtracks of which seem quite excellent.

Axelrod has had a massive influence on jazz, in particular fusion. He produced legends such as Lou Rawls and Cannonball Adderley (including his big hit Mercy, Mercy, Mercy), as well as avant gardists The Electric Prunes. Axelrod, who’ll turn 74 on April 17, still records and performs. Visit his homepage here.

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Jess Willard – Boogie Woogie Preaching Man (1951).mp3
Willard, named after the boxing heavyweight world champion who in 1915 knocked out Jack Johnson, was an associate of Jack Guthrie, Woody’s cousin and a very influential country figure in the 1940s. After Jack died of tuberculosis in 1948, Willard vowed to continue his friend’s legacy. Alas, Willard himself did not have much time left. Having toured and briefly recorded with Eddie Cochran and his brother Hank in the mid-’50s, he died of a heart attack in 1959 at 43. “Get religion while you can, and get it from the Boogie Woogie Preacher Man!” Willard’s preacher, happily, is a nice guy who won’t fleece you on TV (though I must say, that Creflo Dollar dude at least has an honest name) and won’t try and steal your children with hands that sport LOVE and HATE tattoos on the finger knuckles.

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Red Foley – Our Lady Of Fatima (1950).mp3
Next to a local cinema there is a shop that sells kitsch items. Among the novelty clocks, garden gnomes and lava lamps, there is a small selection of Catholic images depicting the Virgin Mary in various apparitions and what looks like a surfer Jesus with wavy blond hair (actually, it’s the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I think). What the hyper-ironic clientele of the kitsch shop probably don’t know is that the very same pictures are for sale, with no irony and much cheaper, at the back of the local Catholic church. Red Foley’s paean to the Marian apparition at Fatima in Portugal is supreme kitsch, capturing the post-war American Catholicism of Bishop Fulton Sheen and The Bells of St Mary’s. Our Lady of Fatima was recorded with the Anita Kerr Singers, whose voices backed something like half of all records recorded in Nashville in the 1950s; Elvis’ pals, The Jordanaires, appeared on the other half. Red Foley was Elvis’ childhood idol: his Old Shep was the first song Elvis Presley ever performed in public, at the age of 10. Foley featured on the Retro Christmas mix with a lament about the absence of Christ in Christmas, and a year after Our Lady Of Fatima had a hit with There’ll Be Peace In The Valley (another Elvis favourite), thereby ushering in country-gospel as a commercial proposition.

And here’s wishing y’all a happy Easter, whichever way you spend it.