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Any Major Soul 1974 – Vol. 1

September 24th, 2015 7 comments

ams1974-1

If 1972 and ’73 were the zenith years of soul music, then 1974 was not that far behind in quality. This collection has some marvellous songs, as will the second volume. I think only two songs here are well-known, those by Ann Peebles (covered in the 1980s by Paul Young) and Betty Wright’s anthem to virginity-losing Tonight Is The Night, which now is better known in its glorious live version.

It always is a bit of a gamble starting off a mix with a track by an obscure group; here it is justified with Executive Suite’s delicious slice of Philly Soul. There’s not much to tell about this band which never made a breakthrough after having a bit of a disco hit with the featured track, When the Fuel Runs Out, written and produced by Philly Soul notables Norman Harris, Alan Felder and Bunny Sigler. Their lack of success is a pity; the self-titled LP was pretty great. In the early 1970s the group, then still called The Millionaires, had occasional vocal contributions from a young white singer by the name of Darryl Hall, who actually suggested the name-change to Executive Suite.

If the song Goodbye Nothing To Say by The Javells featuring Nosmo King sounds familiar, it is because Maxine Nightingale’s big 1976 hit Right Back To Where We Started From “sampled” heavily from it. Arguably it shouldn’t be on a soul mix: it appeared on the b-side of an English pop record titled Teenage Love by Nosmo King (the name is a wordplay), a pseudonym for one Stephen Jameson, who now plies his trade as a comedian. Apparently Jameson introduced his song to DJs on England’s Northern Soul circuit, which picked it up. So it does belong here.

New York band The Ace Spectrum released only three albums, of which 1974’s Inner Spectrum was the first. It was produced by songwriter, arranger and producer Patrick Adams whom you may know for his co-composition When You Wake Up Tomorrow for Candi Staton or Cathy Dennis’ 1991 hit Touch Me (All Night Long).

If you have not heard her before, you may well find Bettye Crutcher to be one of the discoveries of this set. Her Long As You Love Me album, released on Stax (for whom she was a staff composer), might have felt two years behind the times in 1974, when much of soul was breathed on by the upbeat vibes of disco. That might explain its lack of success, but, my, what an album it is!

Crutcher co-produced and co-wrote most of the songs with Mack Rice (him of Mustang Sally fame). It was her only album, and received barely any promotion from Stax. When Stax collapsed, Crutcher moved to England and became an antiques dealer. Her songwriting credits, alone or with others, include tracks such as Johnny Taylor’s much-covered Who’s Making Love and Somebody’s Been Sleeping In My Bed , Barbara Mason’s From His Woman To You, William Bell’s My Whole World Is Falling Down, and Betty Wright’s (and later Ted Taylor’s) I’m Gonna Hate Myself In the Morning.

As ever, CD-R timed, covers, PW in comments.

1. Executive Suite – When The Fuel Runs Out
2. The Joneses – Hey Babe (Is The Gettin’ Still Good) Pt 1
3. Ace Spectrum – Don’t Send Nobody Else
4. The Javells feat. Nosmo King – Goodbye Nothing To Say
5. Major Harris – Two Wrongs
6. Betty Wright – Tonight Is the Night
7. Ann Peebles – I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down
8. The Soul Children – It’s Out Of My Hands
9. Lamont Dozier – Rose
10. Johnny Bristol – Reachin’ Out For Your Love
11. Grady Tate – I Wouldn’t Have You Any Other Way
12. Bettye Crutcher – Up For A Let Down
13. Lim Taylor – Isn’t It Wonderful
14. William DeVaughn – You Can Do It
15. Margie Joseph – Sweet Surrender
16. Gloria Scott – What Am I Gonna Do
17. The Manhattans – Don’t Take Your Love From Me
18. Blue Magic – Stop To Start
19. Gene Redding – I Can See The Lovelight
20. Candi Staton – Here I Am Again
21. Sidney Joe Qualls – Run To Me
22. The Four Tops – Right On Brother
23. Brother To Brother – Hey, What’s That You?

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A Life In Vinyl: 1982

September 16th, 2015 16 comments

Life in Vinyl 1982

As I was writing this post, I received an e-mail from a company asking whether I’d write about their product. I get many of these; almost all of them I ignore because this isn’t that kind of site. This one, however, grabbed my attention: a gift crate comprising toys and sweets which Americans of a certain age would have known as they grew up in the 1970s and ’80s.

The company had good timing: I’ve had opportunity to immerse myself in the years 1976-82 through a treasure trove of old magazines. There’s nothing like childhood/teenage nostalgia. The e-mail got me thinking what I’d like included in a crate like that, since most of the articles in the gift crate are specifically American. I won’t bore you with my ideas, but the idea is great. So, without wanting anything from mancrates.com and taking a What The Hell attitude towards dishing out a free plug, I refer you to www.mancrates.com/crates/old-school

Which brings me to 1982, the year I turned 16 and during which my family left Germany to move to South Africa (an idea which I opposed due to apartheid, but I was in no position to negotiate a different destination).

82 gallery_1The Neue Deutsche Welle, or German New Wave, had begun to hit in 1981, with bands like Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft, Extrabreit and Ideal making an impact in a country where the tired, hackneyed Schlager had nothing new to offer. It peaked quickly in 1982. There was a lot of great stuff: Falco, Joachim Witt, Fehlfarben and Spliff were particularly good; the godfathers of Neue Deutsche Welle, Kraftwerk, had a fine hit with Das Model. The lyrics ranged from the abstract to the cheeky to the anarchic. Falco and Spliff sang about drugs, Extrabreit about burning schools, the Spider Murphy Gang about a prostitute. And all that hit high in the charts.

But then the silly novelty acts crept in with their novelty hits, and what had been exciting quickly became annoying. Still, NWD changed Germany’s stodgy music mainstream. Two tracks are included in the mix; two more (by Spliff and a dance classic by Joachim Witt are there as “bonus tracks”).

I clearly had eclectic tastes in 1982. On this mix we have new wave, heavy metal, MOR, pop, soul, disco etc. Not represented is the jazz fusion stuff I got into that year: Eric Gale, Spyro Gyra, Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour and so on. The closest to jazz this mix comes is track 2 from Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly album. I remember how I had to look up four record shops to find it; Fagen’s solo debut had been sold out in the other stores.

But my favourite LP of 1982 was Dexys Midnight Runners“Too-Rye-Ay” (and I demonstrate my devotion to it by the correct application of quotation marks, which are part of the title). Of course I loved Come On Eileen, a sing which I insist is ridiculed so widely not for what it is but for what people have made it. Anyhow, I feature a better track here. Also an album track in this collection is the one by Yazoo (or “Yaz”, as they are known in the US); Didn’t I Bring Your Love Down should have been a hit.

82 gallery_2Two tracks here are South African. Crocodile Harris’ anti-war ballad Give Me The Good News was only a #14 hit in South Africa, where airplay trumped sales in the compilation of the charts, but in France it apparently topped the charts and sold 650,000 copies. Another South African who was huge in France is Johnny Clegg, English-born honorary Zulu with his bands Juluka and Savuka. He recorded Scatterlings Of Africa with both. I prefer the version by latter, from 1987, but the Juluka version is the classic. It would always bring down the house at Juluka/Savuka concerts.

I mentioned above how I think Come On Eileen is a misunderstood song. The same applies to Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, not helped by the absurd video. Here Marvin is not doing a sleazy seduction routine through the medium of medicine. The lyrics are, in fact, quite disturbing. According to David Ritz’s excellent biography of the man, Gaye was into some joyless sexual stuff at the time, including what seems to have been an extreme porn addiction, which would also explain the masturbation reference. Within that context, Sexual Healing is not a seduction number, but a rather desperate plea for actual healing.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-cooked covers. PW here. You are invited to leave a message about your Life in Vinyl in 1982 there. One reason it took so long for me to do 1982 in this series was that the scarcity of comments discouraged me from carrying on with it.

1. Human League – Don’t You Want Me
2. Falco – Der Kommissar
3. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Maid Of Orleans
4. Fehlfarben – (Ein Jahr) Es geht voran
5. J. Geils Band – Centerfold
6. Iron Maiden – Run To The Hills
7. Toto – Rosanna
8. Johnny Cougar – Jack And Diane
9. ABC – The Look Of Love
10. Imagination – Just An Illusion
11. Fat Larry’s Band – Zoom
12. Crocodile Harris – Give Me The Good News
13. Billy Joel – Allentown
14. Donald Fagen – Green Flower Street
15. Dexys Midnight Runners – Let’s Make This Precious
16. Yazoo – Bring Your Love Down (Didn’t I)
17. Juluka – Scatterlings Of Africa
18. Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
19. Joe Jackson – Breaking Us In Two
Bonus tracks:
Spliff – Déjà vu
Joachim Witt – Tri tra trullala (Herbergsvater)

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The Beatles: Reunited and live

September 10th, 2015 4 comments

cover.qxd

Did The Beatles break up just in time? My view is that the timing, though arbitrary, was pitch-perfect. The four split just after they released their best album and just as their audience was changing — from there on it was going to be diminishing returns.

Author Peter Lee, whom you may know from his Hooks & Harmony blog. seems to disagree. In his newly-published book The Death & Life of Mal Evans, Lee introduces us to an alternate universe in which The Beatles didn’t split in 1969/70, and charts their imagined story through the 1970s.

His narrative device is the revivified life of Beatles road manager/general assistant Mal Evans, who was shot dead by police in 1976. In Lee’s book, Evans restarts his life just before the point at which the Beatles break-up became inevitable, in September 1969. What follows is a series of events and incidents — real, invented and reinterpreted — which covers the career of John, Paul, George, Ringo and Mal.

3dbookThis includes, of course, the release of new Beatles albums. For this Lee had to construct tracklistings of existing songs. That kind of thing is always good fun — I did that in a well-received three-parter in 2008, which forms the basis for this new “updated” series of notional Beatles LPs.

Lee’s selections were subject to stringent criteria: the earlier songs had to have been written for actual Beatles albums, or at least at when The Beatles were still together, before they appeared on solo albums (such as Lennon’s Jealous Guy or Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Apple Scruffs); or they had to feature more than one Beatle on the solo recording (such as Ringo’s I’m The Greatest); or they must sound like they could have been Beatles songs.

In Lee’s alternate universe, George improves Paul’s majestic Maybe I’m Amazed with a blistering guitar solo, and later John’s Women includes the harmonies of Paul. Listen to these songs again and you can imagine it (talking of which, in Lee’s story Imagine was originally an acoustic guitar track; the way Lennon recorded it live in 1972 at Madison Square Garden).

The narrative requires Lee to take some liberties with timelines; Beatles fans — the novel’s obvious target readership — will quickly spot them. So Paul’s Wings release a critically panned album titled London Town in 1975. The Wings album by that name, of course, came out in early 1978, though nothing in the texts suggests that it was the same collection of songs. And in an alternate-universe story, which by its nature asks us to suspend disbelief, it is quite permissible to play with timelines.

There are small quibbles: the way Lennon’s nasty How Do You Sleep worms itself on to the first post non-breakup LP is not entirely convincing. But the narrative, which is exclusively from Mal Evan’s perspective, is loose enough to allow the reader to ascribe plot holes to the narrator’s subjective understanding of events.

Mal Evans reads the news today, oh boy. The gentle giant, who would have turned 80 in May, is seen here with Paul McCartney.

Mal Evans reads the news today, oh boy. The gentle giant, who would have turned 80 in May, is seen here with Paul McCartney.

The plot moves so fast that one is not held up by such details. The Death & Life of Mal Evans is a page-turner. We know how the Beatles story ended, how John died, and so on. We do not know how the story ends in Lee’s alternate reality. It is intriguing to anticipate the career path of the Beatles, as a group and individually, and especially to look forward to the new album releases. In that way Lee skillfully builds up a lot of suspense. (SPOILER ALERT: John does not get murdered by Mark Chapman!)

Lee gives a voice to one of the very few people in the Beatles environment whose experiences have not been widely disseminated. At the time of his death, Evans was preparing to write a memoir of his experiences with The Beatles, going back to the times of the Cavern Club. A bullet from a police pistol on January 5, 1976 put an end to that idea.

Lee gets into Mal Evans’ head and renders him as a believable character who lived for The Beatles, and who was rudderless when he was no longer needed by them. It is not only the imagined “history” of The Beatles that makes this novel so appealing, but also the story of redemption for one of the least understood and most likable characters in the Beatles story.

The Death & Life of Mal Evans by Peter Lee is available in print or eBook from avonypublishing.com or from Amazon or Kobo. Also check out Peter’s blog of the book.

Beatles Live '72_b

And soon I will revisit and rework my old three-part series of mixes that imagine that The Beatles never broke up. In the meantime, here’s The Beatles’ live double LP. (PW as usual, or look here)

1. Drive My Car
2. Dizzy Miss Lizzie
3. It Don’t Come Easy
4. Lady Madonna
5. Something
6. Maybe I’m Amazed
7. Come Together
8. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
9. Blackbird
10. Yesterday
11. Here Comes The Sun
12. Hey Jude
13. Imagine
14. Bangla Desh
15. Wah-Wah
16. I’ve Just Seen A Face
17. Yer Blues
18. Instant Karma (We All Shine On)
19. Octopus’s Garden
20. Let It Be

GET IT: https://rapidgator.net/file/8b99f2a4665106638f7d54eaa3c1265d/BR-Liv72.rar.html

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In Memoriam – August 2015

September 3rd, 2015 8 comments

It seems the Reaper took his annual summer holiday in August and left his less enthusiastic minions in charge. Wouldn’t it be nice if he (or she, we must not presume) could retire?

In Memoriam Aug 2015It is fair to say that British people were not united in their grief for Cilla Black. Some saw in her a singer of the golden age of British pop who had hits with Anyone Who Had A Heart, Alfie, You’re My World and the Lennon/McCartney composition Step Inside Love, and a homely star who broke barriers for women on British TV and was a warm fixture in millions of living rooms. Others recall her poor and arrogant treatment of those whom she thought of as her inferiors, with airline staff especially having many stories to tell. And many of her fellow Liverpudlians resent her right-wing politics and outspoken unwillingness to aid striking dockworkers.

In the space of just a few years Bob Johnston, who has died at 83, produced a string of classic and eminent albums for Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen. He accompanied Bob Dylan on six consecutive albums between 1965 and 1970, producing ever track except Like A Rollin’ Stone for Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Blonde on Blonde (1966), John Wesley Harding (1967), Nashville Skyline (1969), Self Portrait (1970) and New Morning (1970). For Simon & Garfunkel he produced Sounds of Silence (1966, with tracks like I Am A Rock, April Come She Will and the title track) and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966, which featured Homeward Bound, Scarborough Fair, For Emily Whenever I May Find Her, The 59th Street Bridge Song, and the still stunning 7 O’Clock News/Silent Night). He also co-produced A Hazy Shade Of Winter for them. For Leonard Cohen he produced Songs From A Room (1969), Songs of Love and Hate (1971) and Live Songs (1973). His Johnny Cash productions included At Folsom Prison (1968); The Holy Land (1969); At San Quentin (1969) and Hello, I’m Johnny Cash (1970). He also produced The Byrds’ Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde, Lindisfarne’s Fog on the Tyne, and Loudon Wainwright III’s Attempted Mustache, as well as tracks for The Statler Brothers (including Flowers On The Wall), Aretha Franklin, Pete Seeger, Patti Page, Marty Robbins, Flatt & Scruggs, Jimmy Cliff, John Mayall, The Waterboys and others.

The man who was responsible for some of the best-known country songs has had a wreath placed upon his door. Billy Sherrill is widely credited with being in the forefront of those who helped country music cross over into pop with his productions for artists like George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Charlie Rich, Tanya Tucker, Barbara Mandrell and so on. Indeed, he “discovered” Wynette and co-wrote her biggest hit, Stand By Your Man. He also co-wrote The Most Beautiful Girl, a huge hit for Charlie Rich in 1974, and David Houston’s 1966 hit Almost Persuaded. His game wasn’t limited to country: in the late 1950s and ’60s he produced soul-gospel group The Staple Singers, soul acts Major Lance and Peaches & Herb, jazz man Buddy Greco, and pop crooners Cliff Richard and Bobby Vinton. In 1981 he produced Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue country tribute album.

In Memoriam Aug 2015Jazz tenor saxophonist and occasional flautist Harold Ousley, who has died at 86, recorded three mighty solo LPs in the 1970s which mysteriously failed to become jazz classics (plus one in 1961 and another in 2001), but he was better known as a great sideman, especially to Jack McDuff. He also backed, as a young man, Billie Holiday, and later the likes of Dinah Washington, Gene Ammons and George Benson, and played in the bands of Count Basie and Lionel Hampton.

One of the July victims of the Grim Reaper slipped through my round-up last month — despite having lived not far from me. South African singer Crocodile Harris, real name Robin Graham, had a big hit in his country and, more so, in France in 1982 with his anti-war anthem Give Me The Good News, topping the French charts and even winning a prize at the Cannes Music Festival. It wasn’t his biggest hit in South Africa: in 1974 he reached #5 with Miss Eva Goodnight. In 1984 his song The World Is An Explosion was banned in apartheid South Africa. It was surprising that Give Me The Good News, with the line “Dictatorship was never honest”, wasn’t banned as well. I’ll post that track on another mix soon.

Another July death was reported only in early August, that of harmonica player Harry Pitch. He brought his chosen instrument into the British charts on Petula Clark’s 1961 #1 Sailor, Frank Ifield’s wildly popular 1962 chart-topper I Remember You, and in 1964 on Val Doonican’s Walk Tall. One day in 1962 he was minding his own business in the canteen of the Abbey Road studios in London when an unknown youngster asked him to teach him a particular harmonica effect. That youngster was – you guessed it – John Lennon, and the song he wanted advice for was Love Me Do. In 1969 he played the harmonica on the hit Groovin’ With Mr Bloe, a UK #2 in 1970, and generations of British TV viewers know his playing from the theme of the long-running comedy series Last Of The Summer Wine.

 

Crocodile Harris, 64, South African singer-songwriter, on July 7
Crocodile Harris – Miss Eva Goodnight (1974)

Harry Pitch, 90, harmonica player, on July 15
Mr.Bloe – Groovin’ With Mr. Bloe (1969)

Johnny Meeks, 78, lead guitarist with Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps, on July 30
Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps – Say Mama (1958, also as co-writer)

Red Dragon, 49, Jamaican reggae singer, on July 31

Cilla Black, 72, English singer and TV presenter, on August 1
Cilla Black – Step Inside Love (1968)

Billy Sherrill, 78, country songwriter, producer and arranger, on August 4
Charlie Rich – The Most Beautiful Girl (1974, as co-writer)
George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today (1980, as producer)

Sean Price, 43, rapper with Heltah Skeltah, Boot Camp Clik, on August 8

Eddie Cusic, 89, blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter, on August 11

Harold Ousley, 86, jazz saxophonist, on August 13
Harold Ousley – Me And Bobby McGee (1972)
Harold Ousley – The People’s Groove (1977)

Bob Johnston, 83, record producer, on August 14
Bob Dylan – I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (1967)
Simon & Garfunkel – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) (1969)
Johnny Cash – 25 Minutes To Go (live, 1969)
Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat (1971)

Danny Sembello, 52, songwriter and producer, drowned on August 15
The Pointer Sisters – Neutron Dance (1984, as co-writer)

Max Greger, 89, German musician and band leader, on August 15
Max Greger Orchester – Das aktuelle Sport-Studio (1963)

Russell Henderson, 91, Trinidad-born British jazz pianist, on August 18

Doudou N’Diaye Rose, 85, Senegalese drummer, composer and bandleader, on August 19
Doudou N’Diaye Rose – Diame (1992)

Mariem Hassan, 57, Western Saharan singer and activist, on August 22

Yosi Piamenta, 63, Israeli rock musician, on August 23

Joy Beverley, 91, singer with British group Beverley Sisters, on August 30
The Beverley Sisters – I Dreamed (1957)

Hugo Rasmussen, 74, Danish jazz musician, on August 30

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(PW in comments)

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