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The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2

January 30th, 2014 3 comments

Ricky Lawson Collection 2

A couple of weeks ago I posted the first part of the two-part anthology of the great session drummer Ricky Lawson, who died on 23 December 2013 at the age of 59. This is the second part.

Peruse this tracklisting, revisit that of the first mix, and then look at the list of artists for whom Lawson drummed, but do not feature in the mixes. The man had an impressive CV.

When you look at the tracklisting for this mix, you’ll see a cryptic clue. The gruff-voiced singer’s people has DMCA-happy handlers. Or, who knows, maybe he spends the heart of Saturday nights trawling through music blogs. He (or, indeed, she) who waits will hold on to see how it’s going to end.  I usually don’t post that singer’s songs, but in view of this being a tribute to the drummer on the featured song, I will make an exception.

ricky_lawson_2

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

1. The Jacksons – Things I Do for You (1978)
2. Bobbi Walker – Come Back Lover, Come Back (1982)
3. Lenny Williams – Changing (1984)
4. Roy Ayers – Vibrations (1976)
5. Tania Maria – Just Get Up (1986)
6. John Mellencamp – Walk Tall (2004)
7. Gruff Friend of the DMCA – $29.00 (1978)
8. Steely Dan – Gaslighting Abbie (2000)
9. Robben Ford – North Carolina (1979)
10. Merry Clayton – When The World Turns Blue (Melodies Of Love) (1980)
11. The Pointer Sisters – Where Did The Time Go (1980)
12. Dianne Reeves – Better Days (1987)
13. Phil Perry – Call Me (1991)
14. Faith Evans – Never Gonna Let You Go (1999)
15. Bill Cantos – Cool Drink Of Water (1995)
16. Toots Thielemans feat Lionel Richie – Nothing Else Matters (2000)
17. Ricky Lawson feat Bridgette Bryant – I Will Be Here Waiting For You (1997)

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Any Bizarre Beatles

January 27th, 2014 8 comments

sellers_beatles

A commenter has pointed out with disappointment that the single links on the two Bizarre Beatles posts are dead. With the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ invasion of the US coming up, it seems suitable to recycle the posts into one and put all songs into a package, plus one track I had not previously posted. A proper Beatles-related mix and post will follow in the second of February to mark the anniversary of the three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show.

 

Rainbo (Sissy Spacek) – John, You Went Too Far This Time (1968)
Before she became famous as an actress, including her singing role as country singer Loretta Lynn, Sissy Spacek tried to become a folk singer, releasing a solitary single under the trite moniker Rainbo (which she apparently disliked) before being fired by her label for not being a best-seller. The John whom Sissy Rainbow addresses on this breathtakingly bad record would be Mr Lennon, and his transgression would be letting it all hang out post-coitally on the cover of Two Virgins, his avant garde nonsense recorded with Yoko Ono, who also appears naked on the cover.

Sissy loves John and forgives him many things, but she is not one who would endorse exhibitions of public nudity – and in this particular instance I am inclined to concur with her, purely on aesthetic grounds. John and Yoko were not attractive naked people. But if Lennon went too far on a record sleeve, then Spacek (and the chaps who wrote this bizarre thing, John Marshall and Ronald Dulka) overstepped the boundaries of musical decency with that chorus, which supposedly was meant to evoke the Beatles sound. In 1983 Spacek released a full country album, titled Hangin’ Up My Heart. She was fully clothed on the cover.

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Bonnie Jo Mason (Cher) – Ringo, I Love You (1964)
Another future star recording Beatles-related material under a different name was Cher, who in 1964 sought to buy into the Zeitgeist by declaring her love for the drummer. Before her brief stint as Bonnie Jo Mason, Cherilyn Sarkasian sang backing vocals on classics such as The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, The Chiffons’ Da Doo Ron Ron and the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – and it was the producer of those songs, Phil Spector, who co-wrote and produced Ringo, I Love You. Then she recorded as plain Cherilyn and in a duo as Cleo to Sonny Bono’s Caesar. Within just over a year of releasing Ringo, I Love You, Sonny and Cher were stars. The Ringo anthem was backed with an instrumental titled Beatles Blues, a deliberately bad song placed to deter DJs from ignoring the A-side, as they often did. The ploy backfired: apparently radio DJs were thrown by Bonnie Jo’s deep voice and refused to play what they thought was a gay declaration of affection for the Beatles drummer.

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ringo Beat (1964)
There were loads of Ringo-themed songs in the mid-’60s, apparently some 50 of them. They included The Rainbows’ My Ringo, Christine Hunter’s Santa, Bring Me Ringo, Treat Him Tender, Maureen by Angie & The Chicklettes, Al Fisher & Lou Marks’ Ringo Ringo Little Star, Three Blond Mice’s Ringo Bells, The Whippets’ Go Go Go With Ringo, Neil Sheppard’s You Can’t Go Far Without A Guitar (Unless You’re Ringo Starr), Ringo Did It by Veronica Lee, I Want To Kiss Ringo Goodbye by Penny Valentine, and Bingo Ringo by Daws Butler (who voiced Huckleberry Hound). Even Ella Fitzgerald got in on the act with Ringo Beat, a rather nice number written by Ella herself (one of her 27 compositions), which naturally features a “yeah yeah” reference and namechecks other contemporary popsters.

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The Young World Singers – Ringo For President (1964)
Released in August 1964, the Young World Singers in their cover of Rolf Harris’ song sought to offer an alternative to Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater in that year’s elections for US president, evidently oblivious to the rule that disqualifies those not born in the United States from standing as candidates. And since Ringo was a Kenyan Muslim… In any case, it is doubtful that Ringo, who has acknowledged his limitations in intellectual pursuits, would have been a great president (though the US voters elected a man of even less cerebral qualities to the presidency in 2004).

Of course, it wasn’t cleverness the Young World Singers and the others engaged in the Ringo For President campaign were looking for in their candidate: “He’s our candidate ’cause he makes us feel so great. We could talk about war out on the big dance floor. Oh my gee, oh my gingo…if I could vote, I’d vote for Ringo!” Asked at a press conference in August 1964 about the Ringo For President campaign, Starr admited: “I’m not sort of politically minded.” Asked whether he would appoint the other Beatles to his cabinet, the conversation descends into a typical Beatlesque farce, with George interjecting: “I could be the door”, and John nominating himself to serve as the cupboard.

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Don Bowman – The Other Ringo (1966)
In the early ‘60s, there was a popular cowboy hit titled Ringo, recorded by Bonanza star Lorne Green (the Cartwright patriarch), which Don Bowman parodied to coincide with the height of Beatlemania. Bowman notes the death of the old Ringo and the rise of the Beatle by the same name. He seems to be taken particularly with the length of Ringo’s hair. Bowman, who died in 2013, was a country singer, comedian, TV presenter and DJ who recorded this rather amusing novelty number for his 1966 LP titled Funny Way To Make An Album, which also included a song called Freddy Four Toes. Bowman clearly did not compromise his comedy with artistic credibility: other LPs were titled Fresh From The Funny Farm (1965), Recorded Almost Live (1966), Support Your Local Prison (1967) and Still Fighting Mental Health (1979).

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Dick Lord – Like Ringo (1964)
Don Bowman wasn’t the only one to make the connection between Lorne Greene’s hit and the Beatles drummer. Dick Lord was not a porn actor but a comedian, and  remains one today. At the time of recording Like Ringo, Dick Lord was a close friend of the great Bobby Darin. In the song, Dick Lord’s girlfriend is rather obsessed with the Beatles man, and Dick Lord’s exasperation at being rejected by the obsessed fan turns to ingenuity as he adopts the Ringo look. Eventually Dick Lord’s girlfriend returns to Dick Lord, informing him tearfully that her Ringo infatuation is over. A great punchline awaits, and I shall not spoil it.

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The Bon Bons – What’s Wrong With Ringo? (1964)
bon bonsA persistent rumour has it that the Bon Bons were the Shangri-Las by another name. It is, alas, not true. What’s Wrong With Ringo was released before the Shangri-Las’ debut single, Remember (Walking In The Sand), was issued by Red Birds Records in September 1964. The Ringo song was released on the Coral label, the Decca subsidiary that had also issued records by Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline and The Vogues, but never had the Weiss and Ganser sisters under contract.The Ringo song was not the Bon Bons’ only release; also in 1964 Coral issued the follow-up single Everybody Wants My Boyfriend . Anyway, the question of the song’s title concerns the shortage of Beatles songs sung by Ringo. It seems the record-buying public did not share their concern, and so ignored this quite catchy girl-group record (which includes, of course, the “yeah yeah yeah yeah” thing).

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Frank Sinatra – Maureen Is A Champ (1968)
This tribute to Mrs Ringo is not only a great novelty item, but also something of a historical artefact: it’s the first record to be catalogued on the Beatles’ Apple label – its number being Apple 1 (Hey Jude was the first Apple release, but it wasn’t catalogued). Only a few copies, some say only one, of Maureen Is A Champ were made before the master tape was destroyed, because this was a private recording to mark Maureen’s 22nd birthday. Maureen was a big Sinatra fan, so a train of events was set in motion, apparently by Beatles business manager Peter Brown, which involved the great Sammy Cahn rewriting Lorenz Hart’s lyrics for The Lady Is A Tramp, and Frank Sinatra – who by that point was a Beatles fan (and covered several of their songs) – singing the reworked number, with Cahn on piano. We can assume that when Ringo presented his wife with that special record on 4 August 1968, she probably was quite pleased.

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Nilsson – You Can’t Do That (1967)
Recorded for his 1967 debut album Pandemonium Shadow Show, Harry Nilsson covered the b-side of Can’t Buy Me Love, and worked in references — lyrical or musical — to 20 other Beatles songs (the LP also included a cover of She’s Leaving Home). Indeed, in the beginning it isn’t entirely clear which Beatles song he is actually covering (unless, of course, one knows the title). John Lennon was a particularly big fan of Nilsson’s album. The mutual appreciation developed into one of pop’s most famous friendships.

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Mystery Tour – Ballad Of Paul (1969)
Terry Knight – Saint Paul (1964)

The initial Paul Is Dead rumour preceded the release of Abbey Road by a week. The album’s cover “confirmed” that Macca was indeed dead, but the story began with an error-filled student newspaper article publishd on 18 September 1969 by one Tim Harper for the Drake University’s Times-Delphic. From Harper’s fertile imagination sprang a wild conspiracy theory which caused quite a hysteria. There is an 8-CD series of radio recordings covering in detail the reaction to Paul’s death. The moderately talented Mystery Tour (yes, Mystery Tour) explained why the evidence of Paul’ death, with reference to the Abbey Road cover, of course (apparently left-handers are incapable of smoking with their right hand). We also learn that “John Lennon is a holy man”, who “provided lots of clues” as to the conspiracy of Paul’s death and its cover-up. This site has all the answers: it was them Rolling Stones wot dun Paul in, Constable.

Record producer and general music pusher Terry Knight’s single came out before the Paul Is Dead hoax started. He had met the Beatles at a fraught time during the White Album sessions in 1968. Convinced that the Beatles would break up soon, he wrote Saint Paul. His single was released in May 1969, before Harper’s article. Once the rumour had gathered pace, however, Knight’s single was presented as an obituary to Paul, feeding the rumour mill further. Knight himself became the subject of obituaries when he was murdered in 2004 while protecting his daughter from a clearly unsuitable boyfriend.

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Mae West – Twist And Shout (1967)
Mae West – Day Tipper (1967)

We’re having Mae West warbling Twist And Shout, so how might the septegenarian top that? Why, by doing Day Tripper, of course. Her interpretation, as it turned out, was unnecessary, because time has shown the Beatles’ original to be quite adequate, even without the sub-Jimi Hendrix antics at 1:13, which morph into a Chuck Berry-lite solo, and Ms West’s seductive moanings. Still, if Liza Minelli as Lucille 2 planned to record an album of Beatles covers, she’ll have a perfect reference point.

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Peter Sellers – She Loves You (1965)
Peter Sellers — a Goon Show alumnus, of course — recorded a series of comedy versions of Beatles songs, some funnier than others, in 1965. His masterpiece is his teutonic take on She Loves You, performed in the character of Dr Strangelove, whose 50th anniversary we are also observing this year (“She said you hhhuuurrrrt her so”… “Gut!”). Recorded some time around 1965, it was released only in 1981.

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Peter Sellers – A Hard Day’s Night (1965)
Mrs Miller – A Hard Day’s Night (1966)
Goldie Hawn – A Hard Day’s Night
(1998)
Sellers performs A Hard Day’s Night in the manner of Laurence Olivier as Shakespeare’s Richard III. Released as a single in late 1965 (backed with his take on Help, which will also feature at some point), it reached #14 in the British charts in early 1966. It was obviously too early for Nazi spoofs.

Bless Mrs Miller. She was serious and entirely unironic about her singing, but also possessed the self-awareness to know that she was a bit of a joke. She did her limited best, and was aware that there was no consensual admiration of her singing chops. Though she never intended to create comedy— she was motivated to disseminate her art widely as a way of inspiring others — she knew that her cult status was based on listeners deriving amusement from her stylings. Her version of Hard Day’s Night is notable for her lapses in timing and the aggressive licence she takes with reaching the right notes.

In 1998, Beatles producer George Martin recorded reimagined versions of songs by his former charges, with a roster of guest vocalists taking turns to perform singing duties. Some of these invitees were not terrible good ideas,not  least of them Robin Williams (who admirably managed to go a few minutes without turning into a gay hairdresser). Another of these questionable ideas was to ask a giggly Goldie Hawn to sing A Hard Day’s Night, to a smoothy swinging backing track, on which she plays the piano. She feels “okey dokey”. The listener, when hearing Goldie’s vocals, probably less so.

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Crap from the Past: A halfhearted tribute

January 23rd, 2014 5 comments

Crap From The Past Tribute

I don’t know how I heard about him first, but for several years I have been listening to the radio show of Ron “Boogiemonster” Gerber, who presents the “Crap from the Past” show on KFAI community radio in Minneapolis/St Paul.

Of course I don’t live anywhere near KFAI’s catchment area, so it is fortuitous that each episode of CFTP is downloadable in MP3 format (or streamable) via archive.org. Go to www.crapfromthepast.com/archives/index.htm for the archive which goes back to 31 January 1992.

Ron — and I must point out that the great man and I do not know one another at all, so I’m not pitching for a pal here — describes his show as a ”graduate course in music”, by which he means that his listeners are presumed to know a fair bit about music already. He will play the occasional blast from the past many will be glad to hear again, or revive a long-forgotten gem. But Ron also plays, in keeping with the promise of the show’s moniker, a lot of arcane crap, especially by way of cover versions and novelty numbers.

Ron 'Boogiemonster' GerberThe esoteric mix is great fun, at least once the crap is placed in its proper context. Every now and then I am thankful that I do not have to listen to everything in real-time, but have the relief of being able to fast-forward the really atrocious stuff — but never without having first heard Ron’s take on it.

The joy of CFTP is that you have no idea what Ron is going to play next, even when he is riffing on a theme. Best of all, it is really obvious that Ron is really enjoying himself.

So, to celebrate “Crap from the Past”, I have compiled a mix of one song per show presented by Ron between 17 January (represented by “Heroes” in French) to 19 July (Ween’s “Hey There Fancy Pants”), counting back in chronological order. I had to skip one show from which I had absolutely no song, 22 November’s “Crappersize Crap Yourself Thin” show of songs from a selection of doubtless dreadful work-out albums.

Most of the songs on the mix will be known to readers of this obscure corner of the Internet. Fans of The Originals (or Copy Borrow Steal) will enjoy Chuck Jackson’s “I Keep Forgettin’”, which Michael McDonald’s 1982 song of the same name borrowed so liberally from that songwriters Leiber & Stoller earned themselves a writing credit. Surveying the tracklisting, I’m struck by the number of tracks from 1983.

Ron Gerber has also written a book (the cover is reproduced above); check it out HERE.

EDIT: Ron has kindly given Any Major Dude With Half A Heart a mention on Friday’s show (24 January). Download or stream the show here.

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

1. David Bowie – Heroes (French version) (1977)
2. Sara Bareilles – Brave (2013)
3. Bill Cosby – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1968)
4. Freeez – I.O.U (1983)
5. Archie Bell & The Drells – I Can’t Stop Dancing (1968)
6. Culture Club – Miss Me Blind (1983)
7. Betty Davis – Ooh Yeah (1974)
8. A Tribe Called Quest – Can I Kick It? (1990)
9. Cookie Monster – Cookie Disco (1978)
10. Chuck Jackson – I Keep Forgettin’ (1962)
11. Nik Kershaw – The Riddle (1984)
12. Clout – Portable Radio (1980)
13. Donnie Iris – Ah! Leah! (1980)
14. Edgar Winter Group – Free Ride (1972)
15. Slade – Cum On Feel The Noize (1973)
16. Exile – Kiss You All Over (1978)
17. Stereo MC’s – Get Connected (1992)
18. New York City – I’m Doing Fine Now (1973)
19. Sheena Easton – Swear (1984)
20. Lee Ritenour – Is It You? (1981)
21. Sergio Mendes – Never Gonna Let You Go (1983)
22. The Alarm – The Stand (1983)
23. Ween – Hey There Fancy Pants (2003)

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Any Major Summer Vol. 1

January 16th, 2014 15 comments

Any Major Summer Vol. 1 - front

While most readers of this obscure corner of the Internet are freezing their arses off in their winter climes, we denizens of the southern hemisphere are in the midst of summer. So, for the readers in Australia, South Africa, Brazil (where there are quite a few readers; E aí, tudo certo?)  and possibly New Zealand, here is a mix to get us into the summer groove. And for my friends in the North, I hope this mix will warm you up with the idea of summer.

I think I might have three or four good mixes on the theme, so please don’t bombard me with complaints about how I could possibly have omitted this or that tune. The groundrules are that the songs must be about summer or set in summer. “Heatwave” isn’t about summer, so it won’t feature, nor will “Walking On Sunshine”, nor “It’s June In January” (though if you’re in Europe or the US, listening to this ix might create the illusion that it is indeed June in January).

One song that makes no reference to summer but does feature is “Groovin’”; it is inconceivable that the Sunday afternoon on which the groovin’ is taking place falls into any other season but summer.

With one exception, I will follow my usual rule of not duplicating an artist in a series; the exemption here is obvious: I cannot possibly choose only one Beach Boys song. So the Wilson brothers and their pals and cousin will feature on all mixes. The first of these is an anachronistic call by Mike Love to the band to return to the cars, beach and girls tropes of earlier years, released in 1968 (Cousin Mike famously was not a fan of Brian’s innovations)! And often summer is a bit like that: it evokes memories of more innocent, happier times which we cannot hope to recapture; times when the sun shone every day, even if it didn’t.

In case anybody wonders: the version of the War song is the longer LP version; the Style Council’s “Long Hot Summer” is the single version.

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

1. The Beach Boys – Do It Again (1968)
2. Young Rascals – Groovin’ (1967)
3. Lovin’ Spoonful – Summer In The City (1966)
4. Chicago – Saturday in the Park (1972)
5. War – Summer (1976)
6. Roy Ayers – Everybody Loves The Sunshine (1976)
7. Osibisa – Sunshine Day (1975)
8. Kool & the Gang – Summer Madness (1974)
9. Ronnie McNeir – In Summertime (1972)
10. The Style Council – Long Hot Summer (1983)
11. Violent Femmes – Blister In The Sun (1983)
12. Blondie – In The Sun (1976)
13. Ramones – Rockaway Beach (1977)
14. Weezer – Island In The Sun (2001)
15. The Lilac Time – Jeans + Summer (2001)
16. Carly Simon – Two Hot Girls (On A Hot Summer Night) (1987)
17. Johnny Rivers – Summer Rain (1967)
18. Loudon Wainwright III – The Swimming Song (1974)
19. Joni Mitchell – The Hissing Of Summer Lawns (1975)
20. Chad & Jeremy – A Summer Song (1964)
21. The Drifters – Under The Boardwalk (1964)
22. Joe Jones – California Sun (1961)
23. Ann Cole – Summer Nights (1958)
24. The Shangri-Las – Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand) (1964)

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The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1

January 9th, 2014 6 comments

Ricky Lawson Collection 1

When drummer Ricky Lawson died at the age of 59 just before Christmas, we lost one of those musicians whose work we have known, or even loved, but whose identity few have sought to establish — the lot of many session musicians.

As this mix and a second volume will show, Lawson played on many great tracks. None was as popular and also widely despised as Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You”. His single bass drum beat before Whitney launches into her hyperpyrotechnical wailing must rank as one of the most famous single drum beats in pop.

Lawson was born in Detroit in 1954. He was surrounded by music; his uncle, Paul Riser, was an arranger with Motown’s in-house band, the Funk Brothers. It was his uncle Paul who lent Ricky his first drum set. Ricky played in a school band and for an outfit called The Sons of Soul. His break came after being discovered by Stevie Wonder, through whom he landed a gig with Roy Ayers (he would drum for Stevie only many years later). This led to collaborations with another fusion great, George Duke, who also died in 2013.

ricky_lawsonHe played for and with many great musicians, many of whom feature on the two Ricky Lawson mixes. Among those who will not feature on these are Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Babyface, Earth Wind & Fire, Mariah Carey, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, India.Arie, Bette Midler, Harry Nilsson, Smokey Robinson, Patrice Rushen, Beyoncé, Dennis Edwards, Johnny Gill, Teena Maria, Rod Stewart, Toto, Regina Belle, George Benson, Patti Austin, Nancy Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Howard Hewitt, The Emotions, DeBarge, Rockwell (on “Somebody’s Watching Me”), Boney James, Tevin Campbell, Bobby Brown, Gladys Knight, The Winans, Ramsey Lewis, and Lionel Richie. If you caught Michael Jackson on his Bad tour, you will have seen Lawson behind the drums.

Lawson was also a co-founder of the jazz-fusion band The Yellowjackets, with whom he won a Grammy in 1987 for the song “And You Know That”, which he also co-wrote.

His final conscious moments were spent, suitably, behind the drums. He was performing on stage in LA on 13 December when he suddenly became disoriented as he suffered a brain aneurysm. He was kept on life-support for ten days; on 23 December it was switched off.

By every account, Ricky Lawson was a thoroughly nice guy, a widely-liked, humble model professional.

Lawson is the second drummer whose work I have anthologised; the first was Bernard Purdie (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2), and soon I plan to feature another great session drummer with a most remarkable story.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R. Home-highhatted covers are included. PW in comments.
1. Sweet Cream – Pretty Little Black Boy (1978)
2. Al Jarreau – Teach Me Tonight (live, 1985)
3. Randy Crawford and Yellowjackets – Imagine (live, 1982)
4. Anita Baker – Soul Inspiration (1990)
5. Kevin Moore – Rainmaker (1980)
6. Phil Upchurch – When And If I Fall In Love (1982)
7. George Duke – Sugar Loaf Mountain (1979)
8. Flora Purim – Sarara (1979)
9. Maze feat Frankie Beverly – Back In Stride (1985)
10. Deniece Williams – Black Butterfly (1984)
11. Keith Washington – Kissing You (1991)
12. The Dramatics – It Ain’t Rainin’ (On Nobody’s House But Mine) (1980)
13. Sister Sledge – Smile (1983)
14. James Ingram – I Don’t Have The Heart (1989)
15. Michael McDonald – Ain`t No Mountain High Enough (2003)
16. France Gall – La minute de silence (1996)

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In Memoriam – December 2013

January 2nd, 2014 4 comments

Dec_RIPThe headline death in December was that of Ray Price, whose passing was announced prematurely by a day or so, lending the occasion a sense of drama. Fans of The Originals will be pleased to receive two additions to their collections: the first recordings of “Heartache By Numbers” and Kris Kristofferson’s mighty “For The Good Times”. Price was also the first to record the classic “Make The World Go Away” in 1963, though Timi Yuro’s version was released before his. A decade earlier, Price was also the first to record the much-covered country classic “I’ll Be There (if You Ever Want Me)”, which he had co-written.

Price’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in 2012 cut short plans for a long tour of concerts. His hospitalisation in March brought down the curtain on a performing career that spanned 65 years.

Reggae singer Junior Murvin is best known for his hit “Police And Thieves”, which he recorded in 1976, produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry. The same year it provided the soundtrack to the Notting Hill Carnival riots in London (that, kids, was before Notting Hill was toryfied and gentrified). The song became more widely known in its cover on The Clash’s eponymous debut album in 1977 (the original became a UK hit only in 1980). It seems Murvin was not a fan of The Clash’s interpretation. “They have destroyed Jah work”, was his pithy review.

Earlier in 2013 we lost George Duke; on December 23 his frequent drummer, Ricky Lawson, passed away at 59. Lawson, who was also a co-founder of the fusion band Yellow Jackets, played on Duke tracks such as “Brazilian Love Affair”, and did drumming duty for the likes of The Jackson, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Roy Ayers, Tom Waits, Steely Dan, Anita Baker, The Emotions, Harry Nilsson, Smokey Robinson, Merry Clayton, John Mellencamp, Michael McDonald, Ramsey Lewis, Beyoncé, Bette Middler, Al Jarreau, india.arie, Maze, Pointer Sisters and many more. I’ll post a mix of tracks featuring Lawson’s  drumming next week.

Nominally a jazz tenor saxophonist and flautist, Yusef Lateef (known before his conversion to Islam in 1950 as Bill Evans) drew his inspiration from musical forms round the world. So, aside from the sax and flute, he also played the oboe, the bassoon, the East-Asian bamboo flute, the Indian shanai, the Jewish shofar, the Chinese xun,the Japanese koto, and the Egyptian arghul. He began his jazz career as an 18-year-old in 1938, but his big break came when he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra in 1949. Within a year he went solo and continued to record and teach until a few months before his death from prostate cancer.

Fans of Queen will mourn the death of David Richards, who produced (or co-produced) the band’s The Miracle, Innuendo and Made In Heaven albums, as well as a bunch of albums by David Bowie (he also engineered his vocals on the Cat People theme, “Putting Out The Fire”), Iggy Pop’s Blah Blah Blah Blah (1986) and Chris Rea’s Wired To The Moon (1984).  He sound engineered Queen’s Live Killers and Live Magic sets, Stan Getz’s 1977 Another World double album, and worked on the Yes album Going For The One, the Rolling Stones’ Black And Blue, Culture Club’s From Luxury To Heartache. He also produced or engineered solo albums by Brian May and Roger Taylor.

Richards had chart success with Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballe’s “Barcelona”, Mercury’s “The Great Pretender”, Jimmy Nail’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”, and Feargal Sharkey’s “Lovin’ You”. He also played the synth on a number of recordings, including a few tracks on Chaka Khan’s Wat’cha Gonna Do For Me album. In short, if anybody recorded or mixed their albums in Montreaux, Richards was probably involved.

Among December’s dead is an unlikely Oscar-winner: Ricky Dunigan, who was better known as rapper Lord Infamous of rap outfit Three 6 Mafia. The group won their gong from the terminally hip Academy Award for Best Song for “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp” from the 2005 movie Hustle And Flow. The song describes the predicaments faced by our age’s most put-upon people, the pimp (we’re talking about the real thang here, not about asshole rappers who merely revel in the glory of imagining of keeping “girls working the changes”).  The modern pimp encounters inequitable difficulties in raising the funds to pay his rent because the money has already been spent on Cadillacs and gas. But our empathy is intensified as we learn of the additional privations caused by “a whole lot of bitches talkin’ shit”. Alas, the poor pimp. Of course the Academy Award considered this anthem to social consciousness a worthy winner.

Lord Infamous was notorious for his dark lyrics which dealt with such charming subject matter as the occult, suicide and horrendous violence. His time with Three 6 Mafia ended when he was sent to jail in 2006 for a parole violation. You might expect Lord Infamous to check out dramatically. Fate was gentler: he died in his sleep from a heart attack, at the age of 40.

 

Richard Coughlan, 66, drummer of English prog- rock group Caravan, on December 1
Caravan – If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You (1970)

Martin Sharp, 71, Australian artist and LP sleeve designer (Cream’s Disraeli Gears), on December 1
Cream – Tales Of Brave Ulysses (1967, as co-writer)

Junior Murvin, 64, Jamaican reggae singer, on December 2
Junior Murvin – Police And Thieves (1976)

Andy Pierce, 45, singer of Swedish rock band Nasty Idols, on December 5

Stan Tracey, 86, British jazz pianist, on December 6
Stan Tracey – Starless And Bible Black (1965)

Jack Purcell, 94, jazz trombonist and band leader, on December 6

Chick Willis, 79, blues singer, on December 7
Chick Willis – Stoop-Down Baby Pt 1&2 (1972)

John Wyker, 68, leader of Southern rock band Sailcat, on December 8
Sailcat – Motorcycle Mama (1972)

Lynne Kieran, 53, British-born singer of Austrian pop group Rounder Girls, on December 9

Roger Tillison,72, folk-rock singer and guitarist, on December 9
Roger Tillison – Old Cracked Lookin’ Glass (1971)

Jim Hall, 83, jazz guitarist, composer and arranger, on December 10
Bill Evans – Funkallero (1962, on guitar)

The Child of Lov, 26, Belgian-born Dutch pop musician, on December 10

Tommy Ruger, 67, drummer of garage rock band The Nightcrawlers, on December 11
The Nightcrawlers – The Little Black Egg (1967)

Jerry Steinholtz, 76, jazz fusion percussionist, on December 12
Michael Franks – Monkey See – Monkey Do (1975, on congas)

Kim Ji-hoon, 32, singer with ’90s Korean pop group Two Two, suicide on December 12

Ray Price, 87, country singer, on December 16
Ray Price – Crazy Arms (1956)
Ray Price – Heartaches By The Number (1959)
Ray Price – For The Good Times (1970)

Lolita Sevilla, 78, Spanish actress and singer, on December 16

Paul Bäumer, 37, member of Dutch dance production duo Bingo Players, on December 17

Herb Geller, 85, jazz saxophonist, on December 19
Herb Geller Sextet – Crazy She Calls Me (1955)
Mel Torm̩ РNice Work If You Can Get It (1956, on alto saxophone)

Eric ‘Guitar’ Davis, 41, Blues guitarist and drummer, shot dead on December 19

David Richards, 57, British record producer (Queen, David Bowie), on December 20
Chaka Khan – Heed The Warning (1981, on Moog synth)
Cactus News World – The Bridge (1986, as producer)

Lord Infamous, 40, rapper with Three 6 Mafia, on December 20
Three 6 Mafia – It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp (2005)

Reginaldo Rossi, 69, Brazilian brega singer-songwriter, on December 20

Dave Higgs, founder and guitarist of English pub rock band Eddie and the Hot Rods, on December 21
Eddie and the Hot Rods – Teenage Depression (1976)
The Rods – Do Anything You Wanna Do (1977)

Trigger Alpert, 97, jazz double-bassist with the Glenn Miller Band, on December 22
Glenn Miller and his Orchestra – The Booglie Wooglie Piggy (1941)

Ricky Lawson, 59, drummer and co-founder of fusion band Yellow Jackets, on December 23
Anita Baker – Sweet Love (1986)
Ricky Lawson feat. Bridgette Bryant – Real Love (1997)

Yusef Lateef, 93, jazz musician and saxophonist, on December 23
Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra – Dizzier And Dizzier (1949, on tenor saxophone)
Yusef Lateef – The Plum Blossom (1961)

Germán Coppini, 52, Spanish pop singer (Siniestro Total, Golpes Bajos), on December 24
Golpes Bajos – Fiesta De Los Maniquies (1984)

Boyd Lee Dunlop, 87, jazz pianist, on December 26
Boyd Lee Dunlop – Boyd’s Mellow Blues (2011)

Doe B, 22, rapper, shot dead on December 28

Dwayne Burno, 43, jazz bassist and composer, on December 28

Benjamin Curtis, 35, alt.rock musician (Tripping Daisy, Secret Machines, School of Seven Bells), on December 29
Secret Machines – Sad And Lonely (2004)

Eiichi Ohtaki, 65, member of influential Japanese folk band Happy End, on December 30

Roberto Ciotti, 60, Italian blues musician, on December 31
Roberto Ciotti – No More Blue (1988)

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