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Any Major ABBA covers

March 27th, 2014 10 comments
ABBA are introduced in a pre-performance segment at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. Viewers had no idea what outlandish costumes would greet them when ABBA took the stage.

ABBA are introduced in a pre-performance segment at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. Viewers had no idea what outlandish costumes would greet them when ABBA took the stage.

 

On 6 April it will be 40 years since ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, England, with “Waterloo”. It was a strange choice of vehicle by which to shoot for international stardom. The Eurovision Song Contest was notorious for its dull offerings of sentimental easy listening ballads, absurd pop fodder and idiosyncratic national folk pop — which, at its rare best, nevertheless produced such timeless classics as “Volare”, placing third in 1958.

Of course, intermittently the contest revealed a gem, such as Sandie Shaw’s “Puppet On A String” (which she despised), Katja Ebstein’s “Wunder gibt es simmer wieder” or, arguably, France Gall’s “Poupée de cire, poupée de son”. And even among the easy listen ballads there’d be rare gold, such as Vicky Leandros’ pair of international hits, “L’amour est bleu” (covered by Paul Mariat as “Love Is Blue”) and “Apres toi”, a UK hit as “Come What May”.

Still, when ABBA appeared in their gaudy outfits to play their glam pop number — conducted by a man, the late Sven-Olof Walldoff, dressed as Napoleon instead of the obligatory tux with bowtie — it was quite unprecedented. That might explain why most national juries didn’t give that year’s best song by far, and I have watched the thing, top marks. This wasn’t in the spirit of the Eurovision. Britain was among the five countries to give ABBA “nil points”. Which was fair enough, since Sweden gave no points to the British entry, one of the favourites, the moderately rousing and religiously vibed “Long Live Love” by Olivia Newton-John, which ended up in fourth place.

ABBA 1974

ABBA react to not getting any points from the Greek jury in round five of scoring. Belgium’s not very good entry got five points from Greece. ABBA was one point behind Italy at the time.

 

1974’s Eurovision had a strange point-scoring system: national juries comprised ten members — five music insiders and five music-loving fans of all age groups — who each would award a point to their favourite performance. The highest aggregate bestowed by a jury that year was five points, awarded four times, and twice to “Waterloo”, by Finland and Switzerland. Until the 14th of 17 rounds, the Italian entry — an all-over the-shop ballad sung by Gigliola Cinquetti titled “Si” — narrowly led the Swedish entry. Germany’s two points and the Swiss fiver turned it for ABBA, who ended up winning by a healthy six points.

ABBA, as we know, became phenomenally successful, and then, in fairly short order, reviled. I loved them, but when I was 12 or 13 — the age of “Summer Night City” and the repulsive “I Have A Dream” — I didn’t anymore. At that age I would reject acts for being aimed at people of my own age group, people like Leif Garrett. But with ABBA it was their visible progression to middle age that caused my rejection of them. It wasn’t that “Summer Night City” itself offended me, though I was, and remain, indifferent to it. It was, to put it symbolically, that Agnetha, my first pop crush, started to dress like my mother. Now, my mother was a very attractive, young woman in her mid-thirties (only a year older than Anni-Frid), who wore tasteful clothes which complemented her sporty figure, and she generally was pretty hip. But I certainly didn’t want to see Mom in my pop music.

The final score board and pink-clad presenter Katie Boyle

The final score board and pink-clad presenter Katie Boyle

 

I was not alone in falling off Planet ABBA. The backlash to the most successful group of the 1970s was vicious. For a long time ABBA were regarded as naff, commercial, corporate, even as lacking in artistic credibility. They might have been a “guilty pleasure”, but not meriting of much admiration — at least outside the gay scene. To my shame, I was not reawakened to their genius until the mid-‘90s when ABBA’s rehabilitation was in full swing.

Much has been made of their genius since then, by people who are much better qualified than I am to explain it. But one thing I do pretend to know a few of things about is cover versions. And it is remarkable how few cover versions of ABBA songs there are, never mind good ones.  The big ABBA hits are very great songs, to be sure. But their lifeblood is not the melody, but Benny and Björn’s arrangements and the place of Agnetha’s and Annifrid’s voices in these arrangements. Without these elements, ABBA songs are difficult to pull off.

This mix illustrates the point. Mostly it is pointless to make a straight copy of ABBA songs, unless you do the early numbers in glam rock style, as Dr & the Medics do here with the help of glam legend Roy Wood, or are able to capture the pop essence, as Kylie Minogue does in her live performance or as Sweet Dreams do in one of the earliest covers of an ABBA song. Failing the glam or pop option, the songs require reinterpretation — and that isn’t easy when you have to work with those lyrics!

Nils Landgren turns “The Name Of The Game” into an acid jazz jam, and Richard Thompson gives “Money Money Money” an unironic folk treatment, as does Evan Dando with “Knowing Me, Knowing You”. Yngwie Malmsteen denudes “Gimme Gimme Gimme” of its disco camp and renders it hair-rock style. Max Raabe does such strange things to “Super Trouper” that one wonders whether he likes the song or utterly despises it. And Mike Oldfield takes a song that sounded like a Mike Oldfield song in the first place, and turns it into a Mike Oldfield song.

coversAs always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes flat-pack home-assembled covers. PW in comments.

1. Doctor & The Medics with Roy Wood – Waterloo (1992)
2. Sweet Dreams – Honey Honey (1974)
3. Kylie Minogue – Dancing Queen (1998)
4. Nils Landgren – Name Of The Game (2004)
5. Go West – One Of Us (1993)
6. Blancmange – The Day Before You Came (1984)
7. Mike Oldfield – Arrival (1980)
8. Sinéad O’Connor – Chiquitita (2003)
9. Evan Dando – Knowing Me, Knowing You (1999)
10. Richard Thompson – Money (2003)
11. Nashville Train – Hasta Mañana (1977)
12. Black Sweden – The Winner Takes It All (2001)
13. Yngwie Malmsteen – Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (1999)
14. Ash – Does Your Mother Know? (1996)
15. Lush – Hey Hey Helen (1990)
16. Culture Club – Voulez Vous (1999)
17. Erasure – Lay All Your Love On Me (1990)
18. Men Without Hats – S.O.S. (1989)
19. Palast Orchester Mit Seinem Sänger Max Raabe – Super Trouper (2005)
20. Carpenters – Thank You For The Music (1978)

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Any Major Telephone Vol. 3

March 20th, 2014 5 comments

Any Major Telephone Vol. 3

With the third mix of telephone-related songs we are going interactive: after the first track, The Main Ingredient’s great version of “Work To Do”, I’ve handed over the compiling to you, the readers. That is to say, all the other songs are suggestions offered in the comments section (which you are more than welcome you utilize, even to just say hello!) and on my Facebook page (facebook.com/amdwhah).

Some of the suggestions I had previously excluded because they didn’t quite fit my criteria of songs having to include actual telephone conversations (so, for instance, Blondie’s “Call Me”, featured here in its original version by The Nerves, previously didn’t make the cut), others I had completely overlooked, and some were happy new discoveries, or in the case of the Falco track, re-discovery. It certainly is an eclectic mix.

I received more nominations than could be accommodated in one mix which is, as always, timed to fit on a standard CD-R. I might use the overflow of these with some of my stock of telephone songs in a fourth mix.

As always, the mix includes home-dialed covers. The images which illustrate them come from the very useful morguefile site; the front cover pic from contributors vilhelm and the back cover image from Alvimann. PW in comments.

1. The Main Ingredient – Work To Do (1973)
2. Albert King – Phone Booth (1984)
3. Average White Band – Person To Person (1974)
4. Sylvia – Nobody (1982)
5. Falco – No Answer (Hallo Deutschland) (1987)
6. Pete Shelley – Telephone Operator (1983)
7. Lou Reed – New York Telephone Conversation (1972)
8. Yellow Dog – Just One More Night (1978)
9. The Jags – Back Of My Hand (1979)
10. The Nerves – Hanging On The Telephone (1976)
11. The Undertones – You’ve Got My Number (1979)
12. The Rolling Stones – Off The Hook (1964)
13. Floyd Dixon – Call Operator 210 (1952)
14. H-Bomb Ferguson – Bookie’s Blues (1952)
15. Jimmy Norman – I Don’t Love You No More (1962)
16. The Marvelettes – Beechwood 45789 (1962)
17. Eddie Floyd – 634-5789 (1967)
18. Tyrone Davis – I Had It All The Time (1972)
19. Carol Douglas – Doctor’s Orders (1974)
20. Jeannie Reynolds – The Phone’s Been Jumping All Day (1975)
21. Howard Tate – Sorry Wrong Number (2003)
22. Billy Joel – Sometimes A Fantasy (1980)
23. Squeeze – 853-5937 (1987)
24. Meri Wilson – Telephone Man (1977)
25. Skyy – Call Me (1981)

GET IT!

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Any Major Telephone Vol. 1
Any Major Telephone Vol. 2

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The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2

March 13th, 2014 9 comments

Jim_Gordon_Collection_2

In the first post for The Jim Gordon Collection we followed the great Wrecking Crew drummer’s path from California drumming prodigy to his tour with the Everly Brothers and breakthrough on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds to his great contribution to Clapton’s “Layla” via the piano coda.

By the early 1970s, Jim Gordon was a sought-after drummer. His exceptional talent aside, he was a reliable professional. He was also very likable and popular, to all appearances straight-laced and eternally sunny. The facade disguised an imbalanced psyche. Since childhood Gordon had heard voices. They tended to be benign, but in flashes they began to exhibit a dark side, especially when Gordon was drinking heavily and taking drugs, which he began to do at an increasing rate.

But few knew about the darkness. Everybody was puzzled when, during the recording of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen LP, Gordon punched his girlfriend, Rita Coolidge, leaving her with a black eye. She dumped Gordon immediately.

But that was an aberration. Gordon continued to contribute to great albums: Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson, Lennon’s Imagine, Traffic’s The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys, Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic, Jackson Browne’s The Pretender, and so on.

jim_gordon_covers_2

But things were changing. As the 1970s hit their home stretch, session drummers were beginning to be displaced by new-fangled electronic devices. And Gordon’s inner demons started to manifest themselves more loudly, especially in concert with LSD and heroin, both of which were steady companions of Gordon’s journey through the ’70s, and speedballs, a nasty mixture of heroin and cocaine.

His behaviour became, as one might expect, increasingly erratic. The combination of mental illness and crazy drug abuse had already cost him two marriages. Now it began to kill his career. An invitation to join Bob Dylan on tour fizzled out, jobs became rare, and his impulse to drum dissipated. Gordon knew he had a problem. He repeatedly sought psychiatric help and intervention foor his abuse of drugs and alcohol. It didn’t help. The voices had taken over and were destroying his life. Apparently the loudest of these voices in the head was that of his mother, Osa Gordon.

On 3 June 1983 a psychotic Jim Gordon drove to his 72-year-old-mother’s home, rang the doorbell, pushed her inside the house and bludgeoned her to death with a hammer and a knife. The next day, when police came to Gordon’s home to inform him of the killing, he tearfully confessed.

Jim_GordonThe 1984 trial accepted the diagnosis that Gordon had acute schizophrenia, but due to a California law his lawyers could not enter an insanity plea. Gordon was found guilty of second-degree murder.

In 1994 Gordon told the Philadelphia Inquirer about his memories of the killing: “When I remember the crime, it’s kind of like a dream. I can remember going through what happened in that space and time, and it seems kind of detached, like I was going through it on some other plane. It didn’t seem real.”

Jim Gordon was denied parole in 2013 and remains interred at a psychiatric prison in California as “a danger to society if released from prison”, owing to what the court papers described as his resistance to court-ordered medication and counselling. His next chance for freedom is in 2018.

As I said in part 1, this a profoundly tragic story: for Jim Gordon, certainly for Mrs Gordon, for their family and friends, and for music…

Read Kent Hartmann’s excellent The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-kept Secret (2012) for more about Jim Gordon and other greats from the session musician collective.

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

1. Albert Hammond – The Free Electric Band (1973)
2. B.W. Stevenson – Shambala (1973)
3. Gordon Lightfoot – Carefree Highway (1974)
4. Jackson Browne – Here Come Those Tears (1976)
5. Carly Simon – We Have No Secrets (1972)
6. Roger McGuinn – Lost My Driving Wheel (1973)
7. Derek and the Dominos – Bell Bottom Blues (1970)
8. Hall & Oates – Sara Smile (1975)
9. Marlena Shaw – Rose Marie (Mon Cherie) (1975)
10. Maria Muldaur – Midnight At The Oasis (1973)
11. Stephen Bishop – Never Letting Go (1976)
12. José Feliciano – Hitchcock Railway (1968)
13. The Incredible Bongo Band – Apache (1973)
14. Alice Cooper – I’m The Coolest (1976)
15. Phil Ochs – Kansas City Bomber (1972)
16. Sammy Johns – Chevy Van (1975)
17. Donovan – Life Goes On (1973)
18. The Sunshine Company – Look, Here Comes The Sun (1968)
19. Seals & Crofts – See My Life (1969)
20. Johnny Rivers – Rockin’ Pneumonia (1972)
21. Mary McCreary – Soothe Me (1974)
22. Barbra Streisand – Beautiful (1971)

GET IT!

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Previous drummer collection:
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1

 

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Song Swarm: These Boots Are Made For Walking

March 10th, 2014 18 comments

song_swarm_these_boots

Two years ago I posted a mini-song swarm of 11 versions of These Boots Are Made For Walking. I have long planned to revise that post with a proper song swarm. A request by a reader to re-post the link prompted me to spent my Sunday afternoon putting that plan into action, with now 31 versions. I keep the original post’s comments for some of the tracks intact, and added a couple more.

The melody of These Boots Are Made For Walking does not really lend itself to great radical reinterpretation in the way previous song-swarmed songs — such as Light My Fire, Georgia On My Mind, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Over The Rainbow and Blue Moon — do. Instead of allowing itself to be remoulded, These Boots invites idiosyncratic deliveries, partly because the song is something of a novelty number (and, of course, a great pop song with fantastic lyrics). Many versions retain the quite bizarre saxophone outro, the brainwave of the original arranger, Billy Strange, who died in February 2010 at the age of 84.

So many of the covers here are rather (or very) unusual. Some are fantastic (Ella!). Not all of them are good, and a few might make your ears bleed (step foward Crispin Glover, David Hasselhoff and especially Darrell & Teddy). But all are, I think, worth hearing at least once.

Lee Hazlewood – These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ (1966)
The great song by the guy who wrote it. Hazlewood introduces it as “a little song bout boots and a darlin’ named Nancy”, and as he sings it he ad libs a few lines about the production of Nancy Sinatra’s version (“and here is the part of the record where everybody said ‘oh it can’t be number one’”).

Crispin Hellion Glover – These Boots Are Made For Walking (1989)
In 1989 George McFly released one of the most demented albums I have ever heard. Bizarre spoken bits intersperse some of the worst singing (more like whining) ever committed to record. And all that performed with apparent seriousness. Ironists have ordained the unsnappily-titled The Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be. a cult album, but the real question is how anybody thought it would be a good idea to release it in the first place. Glover’s vocals of These Boots are delivered through the medium of crying. The arrangement is quite good though, and the trumpet riff at the end is brilliant. An appalling version which nonetheless every music collection should include.

British Electric Foundation – These Boots Are Made For Walking (1982)
Paula Yates, the former Mrs Bob Geldof and mother of whichever strange-named daughters of theirs are celebrities now, was a British TV presenter. But in 1982 she appeared on the British Electric Foundation’s modestly titled album Music of Quality and Distinction Volume One, which also featured a pre-comeback-in-fishnets Tina Turner. BEF was a project of future Heaven 17 members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, and on evidence of their version of These Boots, the BEF’s claim of quality and distinction might have been exaggerated. The arrangement is sparse, dominated by a funk guitar, occasional backing interjections which Duran Duran possibly borrowed for Wild Boys, and some fun with the synth. And then there are the vocals by Yates, who died in 2000 at 41. Let’s just say that there were good reasons why she did not pursue a career in singing.

Teddy and Darrel – These Boots Are Made For Walking (1966)
Teddy and Darrell are believed to be Theodore Charach, a film scriptwriter and producer, and Mike Curb. The latter is the ultra-conservative producer and record company executive on the MGM label who once fired a roster of artists whom he knew, or suspected, to be drug users, including Frank Zappa (who himself used to dismiss people for using, or even singing about, drugs) and the Velvet Underground. Whoever Teddy and Darrell were, they made an album of intentionally horrible spoof of pop hits. Regardless of your level of irony, their version of These Boots is one of the worst records ever, with one, presumably Teddy, half-singing in a camp voice and the other fool groaning in way that suggests he had listened to too many Peter Sellers records, and not learnt a trace of comedy from them.

Symarip – These Boots Are Made For Walking (1969)
Their name might sound like a piece of computer Shareware that is advertised as free but once installed reveals itself to contain all sorts of limitations that render it useless for your purpose unless you buy the full version. But Symarip was in fact a ska-reggae group from Jamaica recorded in Britain and released an LP titled Skinhead Moonstomp before decamping under a different name to West Germany. Symarip, an anagram of their alternative moniker, The Pyramids, were one of the earliest bands to serve the skinhead market, long before shaved heads became associated with neo-Nazis. Nevertheless, the adapted lyrics hint at a culture in which recreational violence was not entirely condemned: “These boots are made for stamping” indeed.

Eileen – Ces Bottes sont faites pour marcher (1966)
Eileen – Die stiefel sind zum wandern (1966)
The French and German versions of These Boots, delivered by French singer Eileen. The lyrics and arrangement are faithful to the original. “Stiefel, seit bereit? Wandert!”

Loretta Lynn – These Boots Are Made For Walking (1966)
Think about it: the lyrics of These Boots are totally country, if sung by sassy women who won’t submissively stand by their shitty men. And Loretta, as you’ll now from the movie, takes no crap from anyone, least of all men who are lying when they ought to be truthing. Her version of These Boots is really good, in a honky tonk kinda way.

Marianne Ascher – These Boots Are Made For Walking (1980)
For the new wave fix of These Boots, Canadian songstress Marianne Asher is your woman. To the backing of a dreamy synth of the kind you’d hear on records by Ultravox and a hardworking drum machine, Ascher channels such vocal innovators as Toyah and Hazel O’Connor, with the unnecessary squeals and lack of discernible charm.  The thing is topped off by a tinny saxophone solo.

lear

Amanda Lear – These Boots Are Made For Walking (1977)
French-born Amanda Lear is probably best known for being an alleged transsexual (she once published nude photos of herself to prove that she was all woman), but her life story transcends speculation about her sex. A former girlfriend of Salvadore Dali, Bryan Ferry (it is her on the cover of Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure LP) and David Bowie, the deep-voiced vamp became an Euro-disco singer with hits such as Queen Of Chinatown, Blood And Honey and Follow Me. It was high camp for the masses – much as These Boots is a song of high camp. One might debate the merits of Lear’s voice and the arrangement, but this is a very entertaining version.

Adriano Celentano – Bisogna far qualcosa (1984)
He might not be a man of attractive political ideology, but Adriano Celentano was Italy’s original rock ’n’ roller. Taking the Elvis route, he proceeded to become a crooner of banalities, dotting that artistic decline with the occasional gem. In the late 1960s he recorded the quintessential San Remo-type hit, Azzuro. In 1972 he released the strangest record of his career, the quasi rap number Prisencolinensinainciusol (a title which sounds like a heavy duty drug to control a rare form pancreatic leakage, but was really an appeal for universal love which anticipated Malcolm McLaren 1980s hits and indeed hip hop). And in 1984 he finally got around to covering, in Italian, These Boots. Italian is one of the most beautiful and romantic languages in the world. You can read Mein Kampf in Italian and it would sound like a florid love letter. But Adriano Celentano proves one thing: Italiant was not intended to give words to These Boots Are Made For Walking.

Mrs Miller – These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ (1966)
Of all the songs on her optimistically titled Greatest Hits album, it’s on These Boots that dear Mrs Miller manages to hold the tune, for the most part. Having mastered to more or less sing in tune, Mrs Miller decides to inject some personality into this not very difficult-to-sing number. And that personality is, as you’d want from Mrs Miller, of sultry character. Oh yes, Mrs Miller – though at this point you might want to call her Elva, unless you wish to sound like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate – gets her sexy on with some throaty purring. When she encourages those boots to start walking – and to keep walking – I don’t think she is talking about podriatic motion any longer… A year later, another granny, 71-year-old Dora Hall, who in her younger days used to sing for WW1 troops, recorded the song, to rather less camp effect.

Boys Next DoorBoys Next Door – These Boots Are Made For Walking (1978)
Boys Next Door were the Australian punk band which became The Birthday Party, whose most famous member was the young Nick Cave. His bandmates went on to make a name for themselves, such as fellow Bad Seed Mick Harvey, the late guitarist Rowland S. Howard and drummer Phill Calvert. The neighbourhood boys were mostly doing covers, These Boots being one of them. It’s not very good, though it probably was great fun live. The typical Cave delivery is already in evidence.

Megadeth – These Boots (1978)
The lovely folks of Megadeth have recorded the Hazlewood song, with is express non-approval, twice: once in 1985 on their charmingly titled Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! LP, as These Boots, and again seven years later under the song’s full title. Here the boots don’t just walk all over you, but they stomp. They’re not kidding…

All featured versions:
Nancy Sinatra (1966), Mrs Miller (1966), The Artwoods (1966), The Ventures (1966), The Supremes (1966), Loretta Lynn (1966), Dora Hall (1966), Teddy and Darrel (1966), Eileen (as Ces Bottes sont faites pour marcher, 1966), Eileen (as Die Stiefel sind zum wander, 1966), Lee Hazlewood (1966), The New Christy Minstrels (1967), Dalida (as Stivaletti rossi, 1967), Ella Fitzgerald (1967), Symarip (1969), Amanda Lear (1977), Boys Next Door (1978), Marianne Ascher (1980), British Electric Foundation feat. Paula Yates (1982), Adriano Celentano (as Bisogna far qualcosa, 1984), Megadeth  (as These Boots, 1985), Crispin Hellion Glover (1989), Barry Adamson & Anita Lane (1991), Velvet 99 (2000), The Meteors (2002), Robert Gordon (2004), Barcode Brothers (2004), David Hasselhoff (2004), Chiwetel Ejiofor (in drag as part of a medley in the film Kinky Boots, 2005), Jessica Simpson (2006), Lenny Clerwall and his Guitar (2009), Planet Funk (2012)

GET IT
(PW in comments)

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 1

March 6th, 2014 17 comments

Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 1

 

I previously posted this mix and a second volume in January 2009. I’m reposting it now (and Volume 2 later) in preparation for a third mix.

I’m on a mission to expose the notion of “guilty pleasures” in music for the putrid fraud it is. Few things about music annoy me as much as the idea that we should qualify our enjoyment of a song, and compromise or emotional reaction to it. Of course, there is a caveat: our full freedom to enjoy any kind of music should be rooted in what one might call an informed conscience.

It is okay to like Coldplay or James Blunt if you are aware of and open to alternatives to Coldplay or James Blunt (though if you are, chances are you won’t like them that much anyway). If all you have in your collection is Coldplay and James Blunt, if your horizons are so closed and your ambitions so limited that Coldplay and James Blunt and all the other big names on TV and supermarket shelves populate your music collection exclusively, then you ought to feel guilty. But, of course, such people typically exhibit no musical conscience anyway. Their likes have given rise to the description of Coldplay and James Blunt as “music for people who hate music”.

But all that is academic. If you are here, if you read serious music blogs — and please indulge me the illusion that the present blog meets that definition — then you probably do so because you truly love music, engage with music. You most likely have an informed conscience. And thus equipped, I submit, that there is no music you ought to feel guilty about enjoying.

There is much less reason yet to confess to “guilty pleasures” when the music is actually good. The label “guilty pleasures” is applied, on compilation albums and VH-1 countdowns, to much of the music on the mix I am presenting today.

The sound has attracted other dismissive tags. Yacht Rock is one I particularly dislike. The more official terms AOR (adult orientated rock) and MOR (middle of the road) acquired a bad rap in the punk and post-punk eras, and have not quite recovered their credibility. So the critics have bashed the sound, and the marketers have decided to dress it up as something appallingly appealing. By calling it a guilty pleasure, as a Magnum ice cream is to a habitual dieter, they are telling us that we can enjoy what they clearly regard as kitsch only “ironically”.

Their condescension is not only objectionable, but it also betrays a singular lack of appreciation of well constructed music. Being embarrassed about music is for the confused. It’s a dark place to be. Far from feeling guilt, we must embrace the music we like. All of it. Hence the title of the present mix, which these asinine marketers would doubtless categorise as a Guilty Pleasure.

Some of the performers’ names, it must be said, might not inspire confidence: Fogelberg! Vanwarmer!!

Most of these songs put you in a good mood. The lyrics may be sad — the pleading in Baby Come Back, or Bill LaBounty’s post-break posturing — but the music grooves, usually aided by pretty funky basslines; of course, the genre is infused with the jazz fusion sounds of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some songs are happy. Orleans’ Still The One defines the greatest ambition for middle-age. And the late Dan Fogelberg weighs in with a sweetly poignant number. Be sure to listen to Jim Messina’s Love Is Here, as jazzy an AOR track as you’ll ever get. And Messina’s old sidekick Kenny Loggins features as his backing singer Michael McDonald, who later appears on his own right with one of the greatest tracks in the genre.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes covers (which the original mix didn’t). PW in comments.

1. Kenny Loggins – This Is It (1979)
2. Bobby Caldwell – What You Won’t Do For Love (1978)
3. Bill LaBounty – Living It Up (1982)
4. Player – Baby Come Back (1977)
5. Nicolette Larson – Lotta Love (1978)
6. Ace – How Long (1976)
7. Rupert Holmes – Him (1979)
8. Ambrosia – How Much I Feel (1978)
9. England Dan & John Ford Coley – I’d Really Like To See You Tonight (1976)
10. Alessi – All For A Reason (1977)
11. Orleans – Still The One (1976)
12. Gino Vannelli – Feel Like Flying (1978)
13. Michael McDonald – I Keep Forgettin’ (1982)
14. Jim Messina – Love Is Here (1979)
15. Gallagher And Lyle – Heart On My Sleeve (1976)
16. Linda Ronstadt – It’s So Easy (1977)
17. Randy Vanwarmer – Just When I Needed You Most (1974)
18. Robert John – Sad Eyes (1979)
19. Rita Coolidge – We’re All Alone (1977)
20. Dan Fogelberg – Same Old Lang Syne (1981)

GET IT!

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In Memoriam – February 2014

March 3rd, 2014 6 comments

In Memoriam - Feb 2014Two legendary guitarists joined that great orchestra in the sky in February.

Franny Beecher was the lead guitarist of Bill Haley’s Comets in their heyday. He didn’t play the extraordinary guitar solo on the recording of “Rock Around The Clock” — that was Danny Cedrone, who died a month after the single’s first release, in June 1954. Beecher replaced Cedrone and played the solo when it, and the band, appeared in the film The Blackboard Jungle. It is also Beecher’s falsetto voice that introduces the hit “See You Later Alligator”. Beecher left the Comets in the early ’60s. He had earned some renown before he joined The Comets as a member of Benny Goodman’s band and for backing Buddy Greco.

Spanish flamenco music rarely bothers the world of pop, but Paco De Lucía earned the attention of rock and jazz greats, playing with the likes of Carlos Santana, Al Di Meola, Chick Corea and John McLaughlin. Some regard him as the greatest flamenco guitarist ever, and some even as one of the greatest guitarists, period.

I was saddened to learn of the death of Bunny Rugs, lead singer of Third World, whose music has provided the soundtrack to many parties at which I’ve played. “Try Jah Love” and “Dance On The Floor” are always certain to get people moving on the floor.

With the death of record label executive, producer and manager Marty Thau, another father of the New York punk scene of the mid-1970s is gone. Thau managed the New York Dolls and helped acts like The Ramones, Blondie, Suicide (whom he co-produced), Brian Setzer, Richard Hell, The Real Kids and others along the way. Before that, Thau worked for several record companies, promoting such hits as “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians, “Yummy Yummy Yummy” by Ohio Express, and “Simon Says” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company. He also co-wrote “Soul Struttin’”, a Northern Soul hit for Jamie Lyon, which was later released under the Ohio Express name (it was not really a band but a franchise name) and the 1910 Fruitgum Company (ditto).

Most people have never heard of the 1970s German prog/hard-rock band Birth Control, though the death of drummer Bernd Noske will have brought the name into the consciousness of some people. I had never heard of them until 2000, when my older brother saw their hit “Gamma Ray” available for download. He urged me to get the track, promising me that I would become acquainted with musical brilliance. I did download it. It was rubbish. My brother fervently disagreed with me. The question was settled by his wife. “It’s crap,” she said, and my brother was defeated. Still, he obviously had his like-minds: Birth Control kept going under Noske’s leadership until the 18th of this month.

Louisa from The Sound of Music has died at 99. In real life Louisa was known as Maria von Trapp — in the musical her name, like those of all the kids, was changed. In her case it would have been necessary, so as to avoid confusion with Julie Andrews’ character, whose name, in reality and fiction was also Maria (Louisa was played by Heather Menzies). She was the third-oldest of the von Trapp family depicted in the film, and the longest-living one. And she was a crucial figure in the story: it was Maria’s illness with scarlet fever which prompted dad von Trapp to hire the services of the Benedictine novice Maria Kutschera.

Von Trapp

The von Trapp family takes a keen interest in the various series of articles that have featured on the Any Major With Half A Heart blog.

 

Bunny Rugs, 65, singer of reggae group Third World, on Feb. 2
Third World – 1865 (96° In The Shade) (1977)
Third World – Now That We Found Love (12” version) (1978)
Third World – Committed (1982)

Miguel Silva (M.I.G.), 31, member of hip hop outfit Hooligan Boyz, killed on Feb. 2

Shirley Temple, 85, singing child actress, on Feb. 10
Shirley Temple – Polly Wolly Doodle (1935)
Shirley Temple – Goodnight My Love (1936)

Seán Potts, 83, tin whistle/bodhrán player with Irish folk group The Chieftains, on Feb. 11
The Chieftains – Bonaparte’s Retreat (1976)

Alice Babs, 90, Swedish jazz singer, on Feb. 11

Marvin Spencer, 75, member of Cavalier, father of singer Tracie Spencer, on Feb. 12
Cavalier – Wait For Me I’m Coming (1960s)

Santiago Feliú, 51, Cuban singer-songwriter, on Feb. 12
Santiago Feliú – Para Bárbara (2002)

King Kester Emeneya, 57, Congolese singer, on Feb. 13
King Kester Emeneya – Mukusa (1986)

Marty Thau, 75, record executive, manager and producer, on Feb. 13
New York Dolls – Stranded In The Jungle (1974, as manager)
Suicide – Johnny (1977, as co-producer)

Gert ‘Kralle’ Krawinkel, 66, guitarist of German new wave band Trio, on Feb. 16
Trio – Da da da (1982)

Ray Kennedy, 67, singer-songwriter, musician and producer, on Feb. 16
Ray Kennedy – Sail On, Sailor (1980, also as co-writer)

Bob Casale, 61, guitarist of Devo, on Feb. 17
Devo – Jocko Homo (1978)
Devo – That’s Good (1982)

Wayne Smith, 48, Jamaican dancehall musician, on Feb. 17
Wayne Smith – Under Mi Sleng Teng (1985)

Maria von Trapp, 99, Austrian-born singer, portrayed in The Sound of Music, on Feb. 18
Trapp Family Singers – Es wollt’ ein Jägerlein jagen

Bernd Noske, 67, drummer of German prog rock band Birth Control, on Feb. 18
Birth Control – Gamma Ray (1974)

Duffy Power, 72, English rock & roll singer, on Feb. 19
Duffy Power – If I Get Lucky Someday (1962)

Tex Montana, 49, cowpunk singer and guitarist, on Feb. 19

Francesco Di Giacomo, 66, singer of Italian prog-rock band Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, on Feb. 21
Banco del Mutuo Soccorso – R.I.P. (Requiescant In Pace) (1972)

Penny DeHaven, 65, country singer, on Feb. 23
Penny DeHaven – I Feel Fine (1969)

Franny Beecher, 92, guitarist, former member of Bill Haley & His Comets, on Feb. 24
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra feat. Buddy Greco – It Isn’t Fair (1949, on guitar)
Bill Haley & His Comets – See You Later Alligator (1954, on guitar, vocals on opening line)
Bill Haley & His Comets – Blue Comet Blues (1956, on guitar and as composer)

Kelly Holland, 52, ex-frontman of rock band Cry Of Love, on Feb. 24
Cry of Love – Bad Thing (1993)

Paco de Lucía, 66, Spanish flamenco guitarist, on Feb. 25
Paco De Lucía – Gitanos Trianeros (1967)

Philip Smart, 53, Jamaican record producer, on Feb. 25

Frank Reed, 59, singer with The Chi-Lites (from 1988), on Feb. 26

Tim Wilson, 52, country singer and songwriter, stand-up comedian, on Feb. 26
Tim Wilson – Booty Man (2010)

Georges Hamel, 66, Canadian country singer-songwriter, on Feb. 26

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