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Any Major Thanksgiving

November 22nd, 2016 14 comments

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A long-time friend of this place recently contacted me about ideas for a radio playlist of songs for Thanksgiving. Well, even if that holiday is American, and therefore not one I celebrate, I thought that there could be a good mix of songs about being thankful.

And this is such a mix. It kicks off with two songs that riff happily about Thanksgiving (well, one is an instrumental but you’ll know why it’s the opener), and it closes with a couple of tracks that take a more nuanced approach to the holiday.

In between, there are lots of songs about being grateful about all manner of things other than white people in funny hats coming to take land that didn’t belong to them. And I didn’t consider songs about the epicurean side of things, so no songs about pumpkin or apple pie, nor about cold turkey.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-cooked covers. PW in comments. And if you are thankful for this mix, leave a comment there.

1. Vince Guaraldi Trio – Thanksgiving Theme (1973)
2. Johnny Cash – Thanksgiving Prayer (1994)
3. Big Star – Thank You Friends (1975)
4. Sly & the Family Stone – Thankful n’ Thoughtful (1973)
5. Sam & Dave – I Thank You (1968)
6. Bobby Womack – Thank You (1969)
7. Earth, Wind & Fire – Gratitude (1975)
8. William DeVaughn – Be Thankful For What You Got (1974)
9. Ronnie McNeir – I’m So Thankful (1972)
10. Bobby Powell – Thank You (1973)
11. Pat Lundy – Friend Of Mine (I Wanna Thank You So Much) (1973)
12. Donny Hathaway – Thank You Master (For My Soul) (1970)
13. Maze feat. Frankie Beverley – I Wanna Thank You (1983)
14. Crusaders feat. Joe Cocker – I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today (1981)
15. Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend (1978)
16. Statler Brothers – Thank You World (1974)
17. Kris Kristofferson – Thank You For A Life (2006)
18. Charlotte Kendrick – Thank You (2007)
19. Drive-By Truckers – The Thanksgiving Filter (2011)
20. The National – Thanksgiving Song (2012)

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(The corrupted file posted Tuesday morning has been replaced)

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Any Major Cohen Covers

November 17th, 2016 19 comments

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At this year’s Emmy awards in September, some breathy, note-swallowing songstress sang Leonard Cohen’s magnificent though now overcooked Hallelujah over the section listing the year’s departed TV people. I don’t know why she sang that particular song, but it didn’t cross my mind that within a couple of months, Cohen himself would find inclusion on In Memoriam lists.

Cohen himself knew, though. And he checked out the day before Americans rejected notions of respect and decency. His death on November 7 was made public only four days later.

In April this year, Marianne Ihlen (née Jensen), Cohen’s muse who was immortalised in his song So Long Marianne, died. As Marianne lay dying of leukemia, Cohen wrote her a letter. In it he said: “Well, Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and for your wisdom … but now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

Now dab dry those most eyes, and take delight in this mix of covers of Leonard Cohen’s songs. It is a strange thing, but Cohen is not really widely covered, a few select songs aside. Often the same artists would return to the Cohen songbook. And yet, I think his songs are very coverable indeed, as this mix shows.

The most covered song in the Cohen canon is 1984’s Hallelujah. Jeff Buckley’s version is the standard, of course, but I also like the two Shrek versions, John Cale’s in the film, and Rufus Wainwright’s on the soundtrack. Some versions are awful (apparently even Michael F. Bolton has molested the song). Here I’ve gone for Brandi Carlile’s lovely version — she is one of the finest contemporary singers — which was recorded live with The Seattle Symphony (the live album, Live at Benaroya Hall, is superb). Newsweek ranked it at #7 in its entertaining list of Top 60 versions of Hallelujah.

A few singers here are people with whom Cohen had close relationships. He was a mentor to Anjani Thomas and to some extent to Jennifer Warnes (they also wrote some songs together).  Judy Collins was his mentor. When Cohen was still a struggling poet-songwriter with no plans to become a singer, his fellow Canadian folkie recorded a couple of his compositions — and had a hit with Suzanne. I wrote about it in The Originals.

Cohen had some success with his latter albums, stepping in the gerontophile path smoothed by Johnny Cash. There is something about the wisdom of songs being delivered by a worn voice. Three Cohen songs are covered here by such worn voices; those of Johnny Cash, Marianne Faithful and Tom Jones. The latter nails his song especially.

I was going to run the second volume of the Bob Dylan covers this week, to follow up on the first mix. That will now have to wait.

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

1. Nick Cave – I’m Your Man (2006)
2. Pixies – I Can’t Forget (1991)
3. Joe Cocker – First We Take Manhattan (1999)
4. Lloyd Cole – Chelsea Hotel (1991)
5. Johnny Cash – Bird On A Wire (1994)
6. Roberta Flack – Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (1969)
7. Françoise Hardy – Suzanne (1970)
8. Bell + Arc – So Long, Marianne (1971)
9. Judy Collins – Famous Blue Raincoat (1971)
10. Pearls Before Swine – Seems So Long Ago, Nancy (1971)
11. Esther Ofarim – You Know Who I Am (1969)
12. Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris – Sisters Of Mercy (1999)
13. Brandi Carlile – Hallelujah (2011)
14. Harvey Milk – One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong (1996)
15. Anjani Thomas – Blue Alert (2006)
16. Tom Jones – Tower Of Song (2012)
17. Marianne Faithfull – Going Home (2014)
18. Jennifer Warnes – A Singer Must Die (1986)
Bonus track: Madeleine Peyroux – Dance Me To The End Of Love (2004)

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Any Major Radio Vol. 2

November 10th, 2016 16 comments

Any Major Radio Vol. 2

The second edition of Any Major Radio has a real radio feel: these songs aren’t just about radio, but sound like they ought to be on the radio.

I never really got the difference between FM and AM types of music on US radio, but I suppose some of these songs could be on the FM movie soundtrack. I particularly like the sequence from Track 5 to 12 on this mix; the whole thing is rather good to drive to.

Some of these songs here were requests from readers in comments to Any Major Radio Vol. 1 — I have a few more suggestions in hand in case the response to this mix indicates interest in a third volume.

As always, CD-R length, covers, PW in comments. (As I was posting this I spotted that the cover says “Vol. 1”. Oops.)

1. Theme – News Radio (1995)
2. The Smiths – Panic (1986)
3. Elvis Costello and The Attractions – Radio Radio (1978)
4. Talking Heads – Radio Head (1986)
5. The Ravyns – Raised On Radio (1984)
6. Bruce Springsteen – Radio Nowhere (2007)
7. Steve Earle – Satellite Radio (2007)
8. Dillard & Clark – The Radio Song (1968)
9. Don Williams – Listen To The Radio (1982)
10. Helen Reddy – Angie Baby (1975)
11. Dr. Hook – The Radio (1976)
12. The Velvet Underground – Rock & Roll (1970)
13. The Clash – Capital Radio One (1980)
14. Cheap Trick – On The Radio (1978)
15. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner (1977)
16. Tom Petty – The Last DJ (2002)
17. Rick Mathews – Playin’ On The Radio (1991)
18. The Sports – Who Listens To The Radio (1979)
19. The Blasters – Border Radio (1981)
20. Larry Graham and Graham Central Station – My Radio Sure Sounds Good To Me (1979)
21. Edwin Starr – H.A.P.P.Y. Radio (1979)
22. Donna Summer – On The Radio (1979)
23. Zhané – Request Line (1997)

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In Memoriam – October 2016

November 3rd, 2016 5 comments

im1610-gallery_1With the death at 95 of Phil Chess, a giant in the history of rock & roll, soul and blues has gone. With his more animated younger brother Leonard, who died in 1969, the Jewish migrant from Poland founded the Chess label in Chicago. The label produced and released the records of the likes of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Etta James, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, The Moonglows, The Flamingos and Buddy Guy, and in the 1960s by acts like Ramsey Lewis, Fontella Bass, Billy Stewart, and The Dells. The young label in 1951 released what is often called the “first rock & roll record”, Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats, another name for Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm. In a bit of rock & roll synergy, it was recorded by Sam Philips at his Memphis studio. Many other rock & roll and soul classics were co-produced by the Chess brothers, notably the Chuck Berry output. In the film about Chess records, Cadillac Records, Phil Chess was played by Shiloh Fernandez; in Who Do You Love?, also from 2008, he was portrayed by Jon Abrams.

Bobby Vee, who has died at 73, had an impressive string of hits between 1960 and 1962, before he was even out of his teens, with songs like Run To Him, Rubber Ball, Take Good Care Of My Baby, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, and More Than I Can Say (later a hit for Leo Sayer). He remained a performer but never had much recording success again. But before he was famous, he had links with two legends in popular music. With his band in Fargo, The Shadows, 15-year-old Vee (then known by his full name, Bobby Velline) took Buddy Holly’s spot on the bill at the Winter Dance concert in Moorhead, Minnesota, the event Holly, Big Bopper and Richie Valens were flying to that ill-fated February 3, 1959. Soon after, Vee had in his touring band a fellow calling himself, with a bizarre turn in spelling, Elston Gunnn. That chap later found fame as Bob Dylan. Dylan always spoke admiringly of Bobby Vee.

At a time when we count how many members of 1960s groups are still alive, it comes as a bit of a surprise these days when a band records its first death. So it is with Joan Marie Johnson, one of the three original Dixie Cups (actually, there were four initially, but one left before they became famous).  The R&B vocal group from New Orleans had hits in 1964/65 with Leiber/Stoller-produced songs like Chapel Of Love, Iko Iko, You Should Have Seen The Way He Looked At Me, and People Say. But in 1966 their recording career suddenly stopped; still, the trio continued touring. Johnson left in 1974 after becoming a Jehovah’s Witness (a year later, The Intruders’ Robert Edwards, who also died this month, did the same). In 2005 all three original members were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Sisters Barbara and Rosa Hawkins moved to Florida, Johnson to Texas, where she died on October 3 at the age of 72.

im1610-gallery_2Fans of ’60s soul will have heard a lot of Sonny Sanders’ work, either as an arranger, producer, writer or backing singer. As an arranger, Sanders’ most famous songs are the two Jackie Wilson classics, Higher And Higher and The Sweetest Feeling, The Platters’ With This Ring, and Young-Holt Unlimited’s Soulful Strut (or, indeed, Barbara Acklin’s Am I The Same Girl), which he also co-wrote with the Chi-Lites’ Eugene Record. Other co-written songs include Acklin’s Love Makes A Woman (featured on Any Major Soul 1968, and later a hit for Joyce Sims), and Solomon Burke’s If You Need Me, later covered by the Rolling Stones. He worked with virtually any act that recorded on the Brunswick label in the 1960s (from Gene Chandler and Barbara Acklin to the Chi-Lites and Erma Franklin). Before all that, his band The Satintones were the first vocal group to be signed to Motown. Sanders sang backing vocals on early Motown hits such as Marv Johnson’s You Got What It Takes and Barrett Strong’s Money.

On the very same day Sanders died, early-era Motown songwriter and producer Robert Bateman also departed. The two were both members of the above-mentioned Satintones and remained occasional songwriting partners: for example, they co-wrote Solomon Burke’s If You Need Me, mentioned above, with Wilson Picket. Earlier they co-wrote The Marvelletes’ song Angel, which they originally recorded for The Satintones. Bateman’s biggest hit was another Marvellettes’ song: Please Mr Postman, which he co-wrote and then produced with Brian Holland. He also wrote their hit Playboy, as well as songs for acts like Mary Wells, The Miracles and Marv Johnson. He was the recording engineer on tracks like Money (on which Sanders did backing vocals). By 1964 he had left Motown, and worked with acts like Burke, Wilson Picket and The Shangri-La’s.

Three of the biggest crossover hits in country music feature Curly Putnam on their writing credit: Green Green Grass Of Home (a hit for Porter Wagoner in 1965 and again the following year for Tom Jones), Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E in 1968, and George Jones’ He Stopped Loving Her Today (the latter two co-written with Bobby Braddock). In addition, he wrote many country chart-toppers. His song Dumb Blonde provided Dolly Parton with a breakthrough hit. Putman kept friends also outside country circles. One of them was Paul McCartney, who stayed at Putman’s farm when he was recording in Nashville in 1974; he wrote the song Junior’s Farm about that. I trust they put a wreath up on Curly’s door…im1610-gallery_3The question Dead or Alive has become rhetorical with the sudden passing of the short-lived group’s frontman Pete Burns at the young age of 56. When Dead or Alive burst on to the scene in early 1985 with the Stock-Aitken-Waterman-produced UK #1 hit You Spin Me Round, Burns’ appearance was quite striking. Later it became extraordinary.  Always a media figure with an eccentric reputation in some way, he augmented his androgynous appearance with liberal cosmetic surgery. A botched lip injection gave him a disfiguring look; he planned to sue the cosmetic surgeon for it. He spent his life-savings on reconstructive surgery, and was declared bankrupt in 2014. Burns died suddenly of cardiac arrest.

German actor, author and singer Manfred Krug was a star in East and West Germany, transcending the intellectual space which he occupied in his artistic endeavours. Born in the West a couple of years before the war, his working-class parents moved to the new German Democratic Republic (or East-Germany) in 1949. In the late ’50s, Krug began his acting career, later also making a name for himself as a singer of jazz, chanson and pop. In the 1976 he fell out with the communist regime over the exiling of protest singer Wolf Biermann. Banned from performing, Krug successfully applied to leave for the West, a difficult process which he detailed in two books written 20 years later. Although already in his 40s, he soon became popular TV and film actor, gaining a fan base on Sesame Street and the crime series Tatort alike. All the while he released a string of albums. The featured track, which is really worth checking out, is from his East-German time, released on single in 1972.

I have already covered the death of Rod Temperton with a tribute mix (which turned out to be less popular than I had hoped for). Still, his passing merits special mention here, for very few who ever danced at parties in the 1980s would have failed to at least tap a toe to songs written by (and often arranged and/or produced) by the funkiest man to ever come out of Grimsby. Tracks like Rock With You, Off The Wall, Thriller, Stomp, Love X Love, Give Me The Night, Yah Mo Be There, Sweet Freedom, Boogie Nights, The Groove Line and so on.

 

Toni Williams, 77, New Zealand pop singer, on Oct. 1

Steve Byrd, 61, English guitarist, on Oct. 2
Kim Wilde – Love Blonde (1983, on guitar)

Joan Marie Johnson, 72, singer with R&B trio The Dixie Cups, on Oct. 3
Dixie Cups – Chapel Of Love (1964)
Dixie Cups – People Say (1964)

Caroline Crawley, 53, English singer with Shelleyan Orphan, This Mortal Coil, on Oct. 4
Shelleyan Orphan – Little Death (1992)

Rod Temperton, 66, English keyboardist, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 5

Don Ciccone, 70, American singer-songwriter and musician, on Oct. 8
The Critters – Mr. Dieingly Sad (1966, also as writer)
Four Seasons – December ’63 (Oh What A Night) (1975, as member, also on bass)

Angus R. Grant, 49, fiddler with Scottish folk-fusion bands Shooglenifty, Swamptrash, on Oct. 9
Shooglenifty – Johnny Cope (2009)

Guy Nadon, 82, Canadian jazz drummer, on Oct. 9

Bored Nothing (Fergus Miller), 26, Australian indie musician, suicide on Oct. 9
Bored Nothing – Why Were You Dancing With All Those Guys (2014)

Quique Lucca, 103, Puerto Rican salsa musician, on Oct. 9

Sonny Sanders, 77, soul songwriter, arranger, producer, on Oct. 12
Jackie Wilson – (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher (1967, as arranger)
Barbara Acklin – Am I The Same Girl (1969, as co-writer and arranger)
Sidney Joe Qualls – How Can You Say Goodbye (1974, as arranger)

Robert Bateman, 80, soul songwriter, arranger, producer, on Oct. 12
The Satintones – My Beloved (1960, also with Sony Sanders)
The Marvelettes – Angel (1961, as co-writer, also with Sonny Sanders, and co-producer)
Solomon Burke – If You Need Me (1963, as co-writer, also with Sonny Sanders)

Werner Lämmerhirt, 67, German folk singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Oct. 14
Werner Lämmerhirt – Nine Hundred Miles (1974)

Robert ‘Big Sonny’ Edwards, 74, singer with soul band The Intruders, on Oct. 15
The Intruders – Cowboys To Girls (1968)
The Intruders – (Win Place Or Show ) She’s A Winner (1972)

Bobby Ellis, 84, Jamaican trumpeter, on Oct. 18

Phil Chess, 95, producer and co-founder of Chess Records, on Oct. 19
Gene Ammons – My Foolish Heart (1950, first Chess Records release)
Chuck Berry – Maybellene (1955, as co-producer)
Etta James – At Last (1960, as co-producer)
Howlin’ Wolf – Little Red Rooster (1961, as co-producer)
Ramsey Lewis Trio – The ‘In’ Crowd (1965, as co-producer)

Chris Porter, 34, alt.country musician, in car crash on Oct. 19
Chris Porter – This Red Mountain (2015)

Mitchell Vandenburg, alt.country musician, in car crash on Oct. 19

Achieng Abura, Kenyan jazz-fusion musician, Oct. 20

Mieke Telkamp, 82, Dutch singer, on Oct. 20

Manfred Krug, 79, German actor and singer, on Oct. 21
Manfred Krug – Morgen (1972)

Pete Burns, 57, English singer and songwriter (Dead or Alive), on Oct. 23
Dead Or Alive – You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) (1984)

Go Go Lorenzo, 53, go-go musician, hit by car on Oct. 23
Go Go Lorenzo & The Davis Pinckney Project – You Can Dance (If You Want To) (1986)

Bobby Vee, 73, pop singer, on Oct. 24
Bobby Vee – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1961)
Bobby Vee – More Than I Can Say (1961)

Eddy Christiani, 98, Dutch musician and songwriter, on Oct. 24

John Zacherle, 98, TV presenter and novelty song singer, on Oct. 27
John Zacherle – Dinner With Drac (1958)

Bobby Wellins, 80, Scottish jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 27
Bobby Wellins – You Don’t Know What Love Is (1997)

Ron Grant, 72, TV & film score composer and software developer for composers, on Oct. 28

Paul Demers, 60, Canadian singer-songwriter, on Oct. 29

Curly Putman, 85, country songwriter, on Oct. 30
Curly Putman -Green Green Grass Of Home (1967, also as writer)
Tammy Wynette – D-I-V-O-R-C-E  (1968, as co-writer)
George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today (1980, as co-writer)

Bill Kyle, Scottish jazz fusion drummer, on Oct. 30

Jimmy Williams, lead singer of ’70s soul-disco band Double Exposure, on Oct. 31
Double Exposure – Ten Percent (1976)

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