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Any Major Cole Porter

October 31st, 2013 9 comments

Any Major Cole Porter

Today something quite different: A collection of songs by Cole Porter; not covered with post-modern irony — as if many of Porter’s lyrics weren’t full enough of that already — but delivered straight by vocalists treating the songs as Porter envisaged them, with humour or emotion, or both.

The music is, of course, glorious, but it’s the lyrics that give the performers so much room for interpretation. I need not sell Porter’s wit, but it often is overlooked that among the endless bon mots and sharp turns of phrase, Porter was also a romantic poet.

“Why the gods above me, who must be in the know, think so little of me, they allow you to go….”

Of course, Porter denied being a poet of romance by way of his opening verse to “De-Lovely”:

At words poetic, I’m so pathetic
That I always have found it best,
Instead of getting ’em off my chest,
To let ’em rest unexpressed,
I hate parading my serenading
As I’ll probably miss a bar,
But if this ditty is not so pretty
At least it’ll tell you
How great you are.

Pure self-deprecation by a man who knew his worth, of course. Even when Porter’s lyrics were obsessive and creepy, they sounded rather sweet, as they did in “All Of You”:

I’d love to gain complete control of you
And handle even the heart and soul of you
So love, at least, a small percent of me, do
For I love all of you

So, here are 26 Cole Porter tracks, recorded between 1933 and 1965. Includes covers. PW in comments.

1. Cole Porter – You’re The Top (1935)
2. Anita O’Day – It’s De-Lovely (1959)
3. Benny Goodman Orchestra with Peggy Lee – Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love) (1941)
4. Billie Holliday – You’d Be So Easy To Love (1952)
5. Tony Bennett and Count Basie & his Orchestra – Anything Goes (1959)
6. Mel Tormé – All Of You (1956)
7. Sarah Vaughan – Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye (1961)
8. Lena Horne – What Is This Thing Called Love (1952)
9. Jo Stafford – Begin The Beguine (1950)
10. Ethel Ennis – Love For Sale (1955)
11. Eddie Fisher – So In Love (1955)
12. Julie London – I Love You (1965)
13. Frank Sinatra – You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (1956)
14. Chris Connor and the Stan Kenton Orchestra – I Get A Kick Out Of You (1953)
15. Louis Prima and Keely Smith – I’ve Got You Under My Skin (1959)
16. Louis Armstrong and his All Stars with Velma Middleton – Don’t Fence Me In (1956)
17. Sammy Davis Jr – In The Still Of The Night (1961)
18. Ella Fitzgerald – Too Darn Hot (1956)
19. Dinah Washington – I Concentrate On You (1961)
20. Mabel Mercer – Ace In The Hole (1955)
21. Fred Astaire – Night And Day (1934)
22. Marlene Dietrich – You Do Something To Me (1957)
23. Bing Crosby – Just One Of Those Things (1945)
24. Ray Noble and his Orchestra with Al Bowlly – Experiment (1933)
25. Artie Shaw and his Orchestra with Helen Forrest – Do I Love You? (1939)
26. Carol Burnett – Blow, Gabriel, Blow (1960)

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Any Major Soul 1970

October 17th, 2013 6 comments

Any Major Soul 1970

And so we tumble into the 1970s, with a mix of soul songs that came out in 1970. Still a year before Marvin Gaye issued his meditation on social justice and the ecology, the consciousness is very much evident here, albeit in sometimes rather more upbeat terms. So we have The Chi-Lites and The Main Ingredient calling for brotherly love as the solution. Curtis Mayfield can be relied on to be more incisive in his observations.

And almost four decades before Barack Obama coined the campaign slogan,  Lee Dorsey pronounced, “Yes We Can”. Dorsey could have been Obama’s scriptwriter; read this verse in POTUS’ oratory voice: “Make this land a better land than the world in which we live, and help each man be a better man with the kindness that we give.”

Dusty Springfield’s inclusion in a soul mix might raise some eyebrows. I’ve said so before, and I’ll do it again: when Dusty sang soul, she was a soul singer. And her version of Jerry Butler’s “Brand New Me” provides ample proof of that.

The links for the previous season of ’70s soul songs, and those from the 1980s, are all up again.
1. The Chi-Lites – Love Uprising
2. Willie Henderson and the Soul Explosions – Can I Change My Mind
3. Marvin Gaye – Gonna Give Her All The Love I’ve Got
4. Jerry Butler – I Could Write A Book
5. The Main Ingredient – Brotherly Love
6. The Moments – Lovely Way She Loves
7. 100 Proof Aged In Soul – I’ve Come To Save You
8. Billy Paul – Ebony Woman
9. Nancy Wilson – Joe
10. Vivian Reed – Yours Until Tomorrow
11. Syl Johnson – Black Balloons
12. Willie Hutch – Trying To Understand A Woman
13. Gene Chandler – Simply Call It Love
14. Curtis Mayfield – The Other Side Of Town
15. Lee Dorsey – Yes We Can (Part I)
16. Eugene McDaniels – Welfare City
17. Freda Payne – Unhooked Generation
18. Ronnie Dyson – I Don’t Want To Cry
19. The Chairmen Of The Board – Since The Days Of Pigtails & Fairytales
20. Hearts Of Stone – It’s A Lonesome Road
21. Marie ‘Queenie’ Lyons – Your Thing Ain’t No Good Without My Thing
22. Dorothy Morrison – Rain
23. David Porter – One Part Two Parts
24. Clarence Carter – Getting The Bills (But No Merchandise)
25. Jean Knight – Pick Up The Pieces
26. Dusty Springfield – A Brand New Me
27. The Lovelites – My Conscience
28. Maxine Weldon – Grits Ain’t Groceries (All Around The World)

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(PW same as always; if you need it, look here)

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The Brill Building Covered Vol 1

October 10th, 2013 5 comments

Brill Building Covered

It might be the greatest hit machine in pop history, in the good company of Tin Pan Alley and Motown; its influence on pop music was pivotal. The Brill Building was in New York, but the songs were recorded on both sides of the US coast, and anywhere in between.

The Brill Building, at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in Manhattan, serves as the collective term for the song factory that created an incredible string of classic pop hits in the 1960s. It was really an office block of music publishers, housing 165 of them in 1962. The songs were mostly written up the road, such as in the buildings at 1650 Broadway, HQ of Aldon Music, and at 1697 Broadway, the latter also housing the CBS TV auditorium, now known as the Ed Sullivan Theater.

The scene was a veritable hit conveyor belt, with songwriters working their 9 to 5s in cubicles, expected to turn in their masterpieces at regular intervals, often at command. Many of these songwriters, usually teams of two, have become legends in the trade:  Carole King & Gerry Goffin, Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield, Cynthia Weil & Barry Mann… Some of these were supervised by another legendary pair of writers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, or by impresarios such as Don Kirshner, the co-owner of Aldon Music who’d later launch The Monkees. Neil Diamond launched his superstar career from the base of the Brill Buildings, were he started out as a songwriter, as did a youngster named Jerry Landis, whom you’d now address as Paul Simon, and the great, underrated Laura Nyro.

The Brill Building became a byname for a sound in the early 1960s, when producers like Phil Spector recorded them with acts like The Ronettes and The Chiffons (also receiving co-writing credits on some), and bands like the Beach Boys borrowed their songs. Many of the songs were recorded in LA with the backing of The Wrecking Crew, a group of session musicians on whom I intend to spend some time in future posts. In New York, acts like The Drifters relied on the Brill Building to supply their long string of timeless hits. British acts also recorded the Brill Sound. The Searchers did several, The Animals scored a huge hit with one, as did Manfred Mann, and The Beatles played one track, featured here, at their ill-fated Decca audition (they later recorded The Cookies’ “Chains”, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King).

Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King, Barry & Greenwich, Mann & Weil

Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King, Barry & Greenwich, Mann & Weil

 

It is sometimes argued that the Brill Building scene tamed rock & roll. Here music was run by business people as a business. The spontaneity and rebellion of the individualistic rock & roll was now displaced by managed calculation with both eyes on the bottomline, the argument goes.

I don’t quite buy it. When RCA signed Elvis, it calculated on his image. Most labels did the same. In fact, rock & roll had been tamed by the time Phil Spector collaborated with Greenwich and Barry to create hits like “Be My Baby”. Almost concurrent with the Brill Sound, Barry Gordy in Detroit constructed another hit factory that was rooted entirely in commercial calculation. In both instances, the entrepreneurs made their money, and we received a rich legacy of astonishing music.

Rock & roll would soon reassert its rebellion anyway, with the advent of the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, The Who and so on. At the same time, the Brill Building left us with an arsenal of incredible, timeless songs. Featured here are 26 of them, mostly covers. If the mix goes down well, there’ll be a second volume to include all the songs you just cannot believe I have omitted.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-composed covers. PW is the same as always (if you don’t know, look here)

1. The Beach Boys – I Can Hear Music (1969, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)
2. Dion and The Belmonts – Save The Last Dance For Me (1960, Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman)
3. The Four Seasons – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (1964, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield)
4. Helen Shapiro – It Might As Well Rain Until September (1964, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
5. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Then He Kissed Me (Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)
6. The Searchers – Da Doo Ron Ron (1963, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)
7. Françoise Hardy – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1968, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
8. Laura Nyro – Up On The Roof (Live) (1971, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
9. Cissy Houston – Be My Baby (1971, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)
10. Peggy Lee – (You Made Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman (1969, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
11. Dusty Springfield – That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho) (1969, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
12. Dobie Gray – River Deep, Mountain High (1973, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)
13. The 5th Dimension – Soul And Inspiration (1974, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil)
14. The Persuasions – Chapel Of Love (1979, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)
15. The Beatles – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1962, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
16. The Walflower Complextion – Hanky Panky (1966, Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich)
17. The Mamas and The Papas – Spanish Harlem (1966, Jerry Leiber & Phil Spector)
18. Carpenters – One Fine Day (1973, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
19. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (1972, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil & Phil Spector)
20. Blue Öyster Cult – We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (1978, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil)
21. Grand Funk Railroad – The Loco-Motion (1974, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
22. Ramones – Needles And Pins (1978, Jack Nitzsche & Sonny Bono)
23. Tracey Ullman – Where The Boys Are (1984, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield)
24. Dave Edmunds – Baby I Love You (1972, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)
25. Bette Midler – Leader Of The Pack (1972, George Morton, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich)
26. Ellie Greenwich – Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home (1973, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)

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In Memoriam – September 2013

October 3rd, 2013 5 comments

im-sep13When we think of the great producers of Philly soul, the names Gamble, Huff and Bell will readily spring to mind. Not as famous but equally influential was the producer and arranger Bobby Martin, who also was an accomplished pianist, coming from a jazz background.

Martin arranged for many Philadelphia groups, such as The O’Jays (“Love Train”, “For The Love Of Money”), Billy Paul (“Me And Mrs Jones”), Archie Bell & The Drells (“There’s Gonna Be A Showdown”), Lou Rawls (“You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine “, “Groovy People”), The Manhattans (“There’s No Me Without You”), Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (“If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, The Love I Lost”), The Intruders (“I’ll Always Love My Mama “),The Three Degrees (“Dirty Old Man”, “When Will I See You Again”), Teddy Pendergrass (“I Don’t Love You Anymore”) and more. He also arranged Dusty Springfield’s wonderful version of Jerry Butler “Brand New Me”.

In the 1960s it was Martin who encouraged a young singer named Patti Holt to change her name to LaBelle. And it was Martin who did the arrangement for the great theme of Soul Train, which became the Three Degree’s worldwide megahit “T.S.O.P.”.

With the kind of pals he had, one might have expected English rock & soul singer Jackie Lomax to have had a great career. In the event he didn’t, though he did write, record and perform to the end. The landmark album of his career was 1969’s Is This What You Want?, which was released on Apple and featured three Beatles (though not Lennon) as well as Wrecking Crew greats Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel and Joe Osborn. He also had Eric Clapton and Nicky Hopkin performing for him.

Lomax wrote all songs but one on the LP; maybe I’m being unfair by featuring the one track written by somebody else: George Harrison’s “Sour Milk Sea”. Harrison had previously offered Lomax his composition “Something”, which he also tried to pass on to Joe Cocker before squeezing it on to Abbey Road. Lomax, incidentally, also contributed to the backing vocals of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and “Dear Prudence”.

Fans of golden period Elton John will have been saddened to learn of the death of Roger Pope, the drummer on Dwight’s early albums, including Empty Sky, Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across The Water, as well as on the Elton John-produced Long John Baldry album It Ain’t Easy. In the mid-’70s Pope returned to Elton John’s band, after the sacking of the mighty Nigel Olsson, and appeared on the Rock of the Westies and Blue Moves album, and the hit single “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. Pope was a member of the band Hookfoot, and also drummed for Harry Nilsson, Seals & Croft, John Kongos, Kiki Dee, Al Stewart, Hall & Oates and others.

Germany is well known for its easy listening merchants such as James Last and Bert Kaempfert. It was easy to lump in bandleader Paul Kuhn with that lot, but he had a much wider range than leading broadcast orchestras. An accomplished jazz pianist, he was also something of a performer of novelty tunes that caught the West German Zeitgeist of the late 1950s and early 1960s, making him a regular guest on prime TV shows. One of his big hits, featured here, combined the German passion for beer with the culture’s obsession for exotic travel — except in this case Kuhn advises the listener that Hawaii best be avoided for its supposed lack of brew.

For people outside Britain the name Linda Duff is probably meaningless, but for readers of Smash Hits magazine in the ’80s, the Irish journalist was an icon, with her “Get Smart” column. After leaving Smash Hits for the daily press, Duff, who has died at 52, continued a habit of promoting acts that would hit the big time soon, such as the Spice Girls and Take That.

At least until his death you probably had not heard any music by Pavlos Fyssas, unless Greek rap is your thing. And still, he merits a special mention. An anti-fascist rapper, he was stabbed to death at the age of 34 by a member of the right-wing extremist movement Golden Dawn. His death provoked protests around Greece.  Not many musicians have been martyred for the politics of their music; Fyssas thus merits a special place in the pantheon of musicians.

 

John ‘Juke’ Logan, 66, blues harmonica player, on August 30
Theme from Home Improvements (1991, on electric harmonica)

Joe Kelley, blues guitarist, member of garage band Shadows of Knight, on September 1
The Shadows of Knight – Gloria (1966, on bass)

Linda Duff, 53, Irish-born music journalist (Smash Hits), on September 3

Cosmo Cosdon, 69, member of garage rock band Soul, Inc, on September 6
Soul, Inc. – Who Do You Love (1965)

Bobby Martin, 83, soul pianist, arranger and producer, on September 6
Jerry Butler – How Can I Get In Touch With You (1968, as arranger)
Soul Survivor – City Of Brotherly Love (1974, as arranger)
Billy Paul – Let’s Make A Baby (1975, as arranger)

Fred Katz, 94, jazz cellist and composer, on September 7
Fred Katz – Theme from The Sweet Smell Of Success (1957, as composer and conductor)

Forrest, 60, US-born, Netherlands-based soul singer, on September 9
Forrest – Feel The Need In Me (1983)

Jimmy Fontana, 78, Italian singer-songwriter, on September 11
Jimmy Fontana – Che sarà (1971)

Prince Jazzbo, 62, Jamaican dancehall DJ and producer, on September 11

Joan Regan, 85, British singer, on September 12
Joan Regan – Till They’ve All Gone Home (1955)

Ray Dolby, 80, American inventor of Dolby and 5.1 surround sound, on September 12
De La Soul – Eye Know (1989)

Jackie Lomax, 69, English singer-songwriter and guitarist, on September 15
Jackie Lomax – Sour Milk Sea (1969)

Bobby Mansfield, 75, member of doo wop band The Wrens, on September 15
The Wrens – Come Back My Love (1955)

Jimmy Ponder, 67, jazz guitarist, on September 16
Jimmy Ponder – Man Ain’t Got No Thing On Me (1998)

Mac Curtis, 74, rockabilly singer, in car crash on September 16
Mac Curtis – If I Had Me A Woman (1956)

Marvin Rainwater, 88, country and rockabilly singer, on September 17
Marvin Rainwater – Whole Lotta Woman (1958)

Roger Pope, 66, British session drummer (Elton John, Nilsson, Seals & Croft), on September 17
Elton John – Tiny Dancer (1971)
John Kongos – He’s Gonna Step On You Again (1971)

Bernie McGann, 76, Australian jazz saxophonist, on September 17

Kristian Gidlund, 29, member of Swedish rock band Sugarplum Fairy, on September 17
Sugarplum Fairy – In Berlin (2008)

Johnny Laboriel, 71, Mexican rock & roll singer, on September 18
Los Rebeldes del Rock – La hierda Venenosa (1960)

Pavlos Fyssas, 34, Greek anti-fascist rapper, stabbed on September 18

Lindsay Cooper, 62, British rock/jazz bassoonist and oboist, on September 18

Gia Maione, 72, jazz singer, widow of Louis Prima, on September 23
Louis Prima & Gia Maione – Baby, I’m The Greatest (1967)

Paul Kuhn, 85, German jazz pianist, singer and bandleader, on September 23
Paul Kuhn – Es gibt kein Bier auf Hawaii (1963)
Paul Kuhn – Gateway To Crime (2002)

Tommy Wells, 62, country session drummer, on September 24
Ricky Van Shelton – Life Turned Her That Way (1987)

Allan Faull, 63, member of South African rock band Falling Mirror, on September 24

Pat Fear (Bill Bartell), 52, singer and guitarist with punk band White Flag, announced on September 24
White Flag – Face Down (1987)

Lorne Black, bassist of hard rock band Great White, on September 27
Great White – Stick It (1984)

Oscar Castro-Neves, 73, Brazilian bossa nova pioneer, on September 27
Oscar Castro-Neves – Waters Of March (2003)

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