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Any Major Disco Vol. 5

December 29th, 2016 3 comments

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As last year, we are seeing out December with a mix of disco songs, especially for New Year’s Eve. After the annus horribilis we have had — 2016 cannot piss off soon enough — we are going for pure nostalgia with the obvious classics of the genre. Even some which back in the day some of us night have thought of as naff (but how wrong we were about Boney M!).

This mix is set up for dancing — I’ve even sequenced the thing to roughly account for the BPMs — whether in a big group, or with your partner or by yourself. Just put on your dancing shoes and shake your booty to the boogie.

And if you need more to dance to, get multiple fixes of the previous four Any Major Disco mixes and the eight-volume Any Major Funk (which really was mostly disco as well). The whole lot can be found in one handy repository. As far as I can see, all links are still live.

By the way, check out which acts Germany’s Bravo magazine chose as their disco groups of 1978.

And so I wish you, as the Germans say, a good slide into the New Year. May 2017 give us respite from the ceaselessly obnoxious 2016, and may it bring you personally much to be joyful about.

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

1. Kool & the Gang – Ladies’ Night (1979)
2. Sister Sledge – Lost In Music (1979)
3. Chaka Khan – I’m Every Woman (1978)
4. KC & the Sunshine Band – Shake Your Booty (1976)
5. Rose Royce – Car Wash (1977)
6. Chic – Dance Dance Dance (1977)
7. The Jacksons – Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground) (1979)
8. Alicia Bridges – I Love The Nightlife (1978)
9. Anita Ward – Ring My Bell (1979)
10. Gibson Brothers – Que Sera Mi Vida (1980)
11. Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood (1979)
12. Patrick Hernandez – Born To Be Alive (1979)
13. Boney M – Ma Baker (1977)
14. Amanda Lear – Queen Of Chinatown (1977)
15. La Bionda – One For You, One For Me (1978)
16. Donna Summer – Bad Girls (1979)
17. Andrea True Connection – More, More, More (1976)
18. Shirley & Co – Shame Shame Shame (1975)
19. Silver Convention – Fly Robin Fly (1975)

Categories: Disco, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

Notable music deaths of 2016

December 27th, 2016 20 comments

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Readers of the monthly In Memoriam round-up would have spotted 2016 as an annus horribilis in music deaths already in March — by the time Prince went in April, we were just confirmed in that view.

The only nearly comparable year I can think of is 1977, when Elvis Presley, Marc Bolan, Bing Crosby, Sandy Denny and Buddy Johnson went, plus the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the plane crash (1978 was also shitty, so don’t even hope for a milder 2017). Given that the pool of pop musicians of death-appropriate age was still pretty small then, that was some heavy-going. But at least, for all its not insignificant problems, 1977 was not the political clusterfuck which 2016 was. Indeed, 1977 was the post-war 20th century we knew; 2016 put an end to that era.

As always in my end-of-year In Memoriam round-up, I nominate the most significant deaths of the year by categories of 20 (in pop-rock), tens or fives. Some people could have been included in more than one; I might have omitted somebody who you think must be included, but them’s the subjective shakes. There are some I wanted to include, but just couldn’t. The stories of many the people listed here, and many more who aren’t, were told in the monthly In Memoriams — revisit them here.

Some of the people who died were paid tribute to with special mixes:, a mix of songs that Rod Temperton wrote or produced or played on, a mix of covers of Leonard Cohen songs, a DJ setlist compiled by Prince himself, and Ziggy Stardust in cover versions.

And this year, I offer a People Who’ve Died 2016 mix: I’ve chosen the 20 people who died this year whose music meant the most to me. In that, I’ll limit myself to people actually being in the featured band, so no songwriters, producers or session musicians will feature, even if the body of their contributions was weighty.

So, with that to the year’s dead. If anybody meriting inclusion dies within the last few days of the year, I’ll include them in edits, as I did with Natalie Cole in last year’s Notable Music Deaths of 2015. Of course they’ll feature in the monthly In Memoriam list, which will appear in the first week of the new year.

And, 2016, do fuck off.

 

POP/ROCK
David Bowie
, 69, legend, on Jan. 10
Prince, 57, music genius, on April 21
Leonard Cohen, 82, Canadian singer-songwriter and poet, on Nov. 7
George Michael, 53, English singer and songwriter (Wham!), on Dec. 25
Leon Russell
, 74, singer, songwriter and musician, on Nov. 13
im16-rock-pop_1

Glenn Frey, 67, member of Eagles, singer-songwriter, actor, on Jan. 18
Rick Parfitt, 68, rhythm guitarist and singer with Status Quo, on Dec. 24
Greg Lake, 69, English singer and guitarist/bassist (King Crimson, ELP), on Dec. 7
Keith Emerson, 71, English rock keyboardist (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), on March 10
Black/Colin Vearncombe, 53, British singer-songwriter, on Jan. 26
im16-rock-pop_2

Pete Burns, 57, English singer and songwriter (Dead or Alive), on Oct. 23
Henry McCullough, 72, Northern Irish guitarist with Spooky Tooth, Wings, on June 14
Paul Kantner, 74, guitarist, singer, co-founder of Jefferson Airplane/ Starship, on Jan. 28
Signe Toly Anderson, 74, original singer of Jefferson Airplane, on Jan. 28
Alan Vega, 78, half of protopunk duo Suicide, on July 16
im16-rock-pop_3

Dale Griffin, 67, drummer of Mott The Hoople, on Jan. 17
Andy Newman, 73, pianist of British band Thunderclap Newman, announced on March 30
Lennie Baker, 69, singer with Sha Na Na, on Feb. 24
Nick Menza, 51, German-born drummer of Megadeth, on May 21
Steven Young, member of British electronic bands Colourbox and M/A/R/R/S, on July 13
im16-rock-pop_4

 

SOUL/FUNK
Maurice White, 74, singer, drummer, composer, producer, arranger, on Feb. 4
Billy Paul, 81, soul singer, on April 24
Wayne Jackson, 74, legendary trumpeter (The Memphis Horns), on June 21
Bernie Worrell, 72, keyboard player with Parliament-Funkadelic, on June 24
Mack Rice, 82, soul songwriter and singer, on June 27
im16-soul_1

Phife Dawg, 45, member of hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, on March 22
Colonel Abrams, 67, soul/funk singer, on Nov. 25
Nicholas Caldwell, 71, extravagantly bearded singer with The Whispers, on Jan. 5
Kashif (née Michael Jones), 56, soul singer, songwriter and producer, on Sept. 25
Clarence ‘Blowfly’ Reid, 76, soul-funk musician, songwriter and producer, on Jan. 17
im16-soul_2

 

COUNTRY
Merle Haggard, 79, country singer-songwriter, on April 6
Ralph Stanley, 89, bluegrass legend, on June 23
Jean Shepard, 82, country singer and songwriter, on Sept. 25
Steve Young, 73, country singer–songwriter, on March 17
John D. Loudermilk
, 82, singer and songwriter, on Sept. 21
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Red Simpson, 81, country singer and songwriter, on Jan. 8
Sonny James, 87, country singer-songwriter, on Feb. 22
Bonnie Brown, 77, member of country group The Browns, on July 16
Holly Dunn, 59, country music singer-songwriter, on Nov. 14
Joe Clay, 78, rockabilly singer and guitarist, on Sept. 26
im16-country_2

 

FOLK
Guy Clark, 74, folk and country singer-songwriter, on May 17
Fred Hellerman, 89, folk singer-songwriter, guitarist with The Weavers; producer, on Sept. 1
Glenn Yarbrough, 86, folk singer, on Aug. 11
Dave Swarbrick, 75, fiddler with British folk band Fairport Convention, on June 3
Oscar Brand, 96, folk singer-songwriter, author and radio personality, on Sept. 30
Karl Dallas, 85, folk songwriter, writer and peace campaigner, on June 21
im16-folk

 

JAZZ
Mose Allison, 89, jazz pianist, singer and songwriter, on Nov. 15
Toots Thielemans, 94, Belgian jazz harmonica player and guitarist, on Aug. 22
Alphonse Mouzon, 68, jazz fusion drummer, on December 26
Jeremy Steig, 73, jazz-rock flautist, on April 13
Joe Houston, 89, R&B and jazz saxophonist, on Dec. 28, 2015 (didn’t make on last year’s round-up)
Bill Henderson, 90, jazz singer and actor, on April 3
im16-jazz

 

MOM’S FAVOURITES
Bobby Vee, 73, pop singer, on Oct. 24
Kay Starr
, 94, pop and jazz singer, on Nov. 3
Marni Nixon, 86, singer (voice-over for Natalie Wood, Audrey Hepburn etc), on July 24
Gogi Grant, 91, pop and musicals singer, on March 10
Frank Sinatra Jr., 72, singer and actor, on March 15
im16-moms-faves

 

PIONEERS
Scotty Moore, 84, pioneering Rock & Roll guitarist, on June 28
Lonnie Mack, 74, singer and guitar pioneer, on April 21
Emile Ford, 78, Saint Lucia-born pop singer and pioneering sound engineer, on April 11
Jean-Jacques Perrey
, 87, pioneering French electronic musician, producer, on Nov. 4
Ray ‘Miss Ray’ Singleton, 79, early Motown songwriter and producer, on Nov. 11
im16-pioneers

 

WORLD
Papa Wemba, 66, Congolese singer, on April 24
Hubert Giraud, 94, French songwriter, on Jan. 16
Naná Vasconcelos, 71, Brazilian jazz percussionist and singer, on March 9
Buckwheat Zydeco, 68, accordionist and bandleader, on Sept. 24
Mandoza
, 38, South African kwaito musician, on Sept. 18
im16-world

 

BLUES/ GOSPEL/REGGAE/SKA
Prince Buster, 78, Jamaican ska musician, on Sept. 8
Joe Ligon, 80, lead singer of gospel group Mighty Clouds Of Joy, on Dec. 11
Long John Hunter, 84, blues guitarist and singer-songwriter, on Jan. 4
Candye Kane
, 54, blues singer-songwriter and porn actress, on May 6
L.C. Ulmer, 87, blues musician, on Feb. 14
im16-blues-etc

 

SESSION MUSICIANS
Harrison Calloway, 75, trumpeter and leader of the Muscle Shoals Horns, on April 30
Bob Cranshaw, 83, jazz bassist, on Nov. 2
Herbert Hardesty, 91, jazz trumpeter & saxophonist, on Dec. 3
Al Caiola
, 96, American guitarist and composer, on Nov. 9
Dennis Davis, session drummer, on April 6
im16-session-players

 

PRODUCERS/ARRANGERS
George Martin, 90, English record producer, composer, arranger and engineer, on March 8
Chips Moman, 79, songwriter, producer, engineer, guitarist, on June 13
Rod Temperton, 66, English keyboardist, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 5
Lewis Merenstein, 81, producer (Van Morrison), on Sept. 6
Giorgio Gomelsky, 81, impresario, band manager, songwriter, producer, on Jan. 13
im16-producers

 

SONGWRITERS
Curly Putman, 85, country songwriter, on Oct. 30
Sonny Sanders, 77, soul songwriter, arranger, producer, on Oct. 12
Jimmy Haskell, 79, arranger, conductor and TV/film composer, on Feb. 2
Gary S. Paxton, 77, producer and singer-songwriter, on July 16
Sandy Pearlman, 72, producer, songwriter and manager, on July 26
im16-songwriters

 

MOVERS & SHAKERS
Phil Chess
, 95, producer and co-founder of Chess Records, on Oct. 19
Robert Stigwood, 81, Australian music, theatre and film impresario, on Jan. 4
Chris Stone, 81, co- owner of the Record Plant studio, on Sept. 10
David Mancuso, 72, DJ and founder of New York club The Loft, on Nov. 12im16-movers-shakers

And so to the tribute mix. CD-R length, home-untertaken covers included. PW in comments.

1. Status Quo – Again And Again (1978)
2. David Bowie – Changes (1971)
3. Leon Russell – Roll Away The Stone (1970)
4. Mott The Hoople – All The Way From Memphis (1973)
5. Prince – Baby I ‘m A Star (1984)
6. Mandoza – Nkalakatha (2001)
7. Sir Mack Rice – Dark Skin Woman (Part 1) (1975)
8. Billy Paul – Let ‘Em In (1974)
9. Earth, Wind & Fire – In The Stone (1979)
10. Heatwave – Boogie Nights (1976)
11. The Whispers – Let’s Go All The Way (1978)
12. Black – Wonderful Life (1987)
13. George Michael – A Different Corner (1986)
14. Eagles – New Kid In Town (1976)
15. Leonard Cohen – Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (1967)
16. Papa Wemba – Le Voyageur (1992)
17. Bobby Vee – Run to Him (1961)
18. Guy Clark – Stuff That Works (1995)
19. Merle Haggard – In My Next Life (1994)
20. Ralph Stanley – O Death (2000)

GET IT!

Previous In Memoriams

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Categories: In Memoriam, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

Any Major 1950s Christmas

December 20th, 2016 8 comments

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Over a few years some time ago, I made three mixes of Christmas songs in black-and-white, covering the era 1930s to the ’60s with the crooning and novelties of those days. Here we return to the 1950s, but this time adding a good shot of rock & roll, R&B and doo wop into the mix.

So we begin with Elvis, and almost stop with a novelty Christmas song about Elvis, before we let doo wop band The Cameos sing us out with an appropriate Christmas message.

If you missed it on Thursday, this year’s first Christmas mix was of the 1970s.

If I don’t see you before Christmas: have a very merry one. And look in before the New Year, when there’ll be some music to dance to on the menu.

As always: CD-R length, ho-ho-home-made covers, PW in comments (where you may leave a greeting, if you like this mix).

1. Elvis Presley – Santa Claus Is Back In Town (1957)
2. Bobby Helms – Jingle Bell Rock (1957)
3. The Melodeers – Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1960)
4. Jimmy Dean – Little Sandy Sleighfoot (1957)
5. The Sabres – A Cool, Cool Christmas (1955)
6. The Harmony Grits – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1959)
7. Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (1958)
8. The Episodes – The Christmas Tree (1960)
9. The Davis Sisters – Christmas Boogie (1954)
10. Teresa Brewer – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1959)
11. Bing Crosby – How Lovely Is Christmas (1957)
12. Dean Martin – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (1959)
13. Dodie Stevens – Merry, Merry Christmas Baby (1960)
14. The Coolbreezers – Let Christmas Ring (1958)
15. Brook Benton – This Time Of The Year (When Christmas is Near) (1960)
16. Jackson Trio with The Ebonaires – Love For Christmas (1955)
17. The Orioles – Lonely Christmas (1954)
18. The McGuire Sisters – Christmas Alphabet (1954)
19. Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby (1953)
20. Louis Prima – Shake Hands With Santa Claus (1951)
21. Kay Starr – (Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With The Bag (1950)
22. Gene Autry – Frosty The Snowman (1950)
23. The Fontane Sisters – Nuttin’ For Christmas (1955)
24. Nat ‘King’ Cole – Mrs. Santa Claus (1956)
25. The De John Sisters – The Only Thing I Want For Christmas (1955)
26. Tennessee Ernie Ford – Christmas Dinner (1951)
27. Rosemary Clooney – Happy Christmas Little Friend (1953)
28. The Falcons – Can This Be Christmas (1957)
29. Red Buttons – Bow-Wow Wants A Boy For Christmas (1954)
30. The Enchanters – Mambo Santa Mambo (1957)
31. Holly Twins with Eddie Cochran – I Want Elvis For Christmas (1956)
32. The Cameos – Merry Christmas (1957)

GET IT!

More Christmas mixes
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 1
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 2
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3
The Christmas Originals
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Acoustic Christmas
Song Swarm: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Any Major Christmas Favourites

Any Major 1970s Christmas

Categories: X-Mas Tags:

Any Major 1970s Christmas

December 15th, 2016 9 comments

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It’s a 1970s Christmas at Any Major Dungeons, and this year we’re doing it without Slade, Wizzard or Elton John.

There are a couple of, well, strange songs on this mix. Judy Storey’s rightly obscure song is about a dead woman singing to her husband from heaven, and what could be more Christmassy than a disco carol — though The Universal Robot Band’s Disco Christmas is actually pretty good, for a novelty record.

Fred Astaire’s song is his final recording, bringing to an end a recording career of more than 50 years (though he lived for another eight years); written by our old pal Norman Gimbel and produced by Dick Clark, it was originally featured in one of those Christmas TV variety specials they used to have, something called The Man In The Santa Suit on NBC.

One might also wonder at the inclusion of The Wombles, the furry creatures who live in Wimbledon, London, to recycle rubbish. They were hugely popular in Britain and parts of Europe in the 1970s, and had a string of pop hits. The idea of a Wombles Christmas song may seem discouraging, but this Mike Batt-composed Christmas song is a proper ’70s stomper.

All that oddness is offset by the weirdness of the recently late Leon Russell and Harry Nilsson singing about Christmas. I made this mix before he deaths of Russell and Greg Lake. A quick word about I Believe In Father Christmas. It is often claimed as an anti-Christmas song or even an atheist anthem. By Lake’s own account, it was a lament over the commercialisation of Christmas. Both Lake and ex-King Crimson colleague Peter Sinfield, who wrote the lyrics, agreed on that. Lake told Mojo magazine: “I find it appalling when people say it’s politically incorrect to talk about Christmas, you’ve got to talk about ‘The Holiday Season’. Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness, acceptance.” With his tongue in cheek, he added:  “And I do believe in Father Christmas.”

And be of good cheer: there is much here that conveys the traditional spirit of Christmas pop, including a near-Monkees reunion.

And more reason to be cheerful: next week (probably on Tuesday) there’ll be another Christmas mix!

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

1. Elvis Presley – It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You) (1971)
2. Carpenters – It’s Christmas Time (1970)
3. Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz & Peter Tork – Christmas Is My Time Of Year (1976)
4. Gilbert O’Sullivan – Christmas Song (1974)
5. Greg Lake – I Believe In Father Christmas (1975)
6. Mike Oldfield – In Dulci Jubilo (1975)
7. Big Star – Jesus Christ (1975)
8. Showaddywaddy – Hey Mr. Christmas (1976)
9. Mud – Lonely This Christmas (1974)
10. The Wombles – Wombling Merry Christmas (1974)
11. Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime (1979)
12. Partridge Family – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (1972)
13. Bobby Sherman – Goin’ Home (Sing A Song Of Christmas Cheer) (1970)
14. Red Simpson – Truckin’ Trees For Christmas (1973)
15. The Band – Christmas Must Be Tonight (1977)
16. Leon Russell – Slipping Into Christmas (1972)
17. Harry Nilsson – Remember Christmas (1972)
18. Emmylou Harris – Light Of The Stable (1979)
19. Roberta Flack – 25th Of Last December (1977)
20. The Impressions – Silent Night (1976)
21. Judy Storey – Christmas Cheer From Heaven (1979)
22. Fred Astaire – Once A Year Night (1979)
23. The Universal Robot Band – Disco Christmas (1977)

GET IT!

More Christmas mixes
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 1
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 2
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3
The Christmas Originals
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Acoustic Christmas
Song Swarm: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Any Major Christmas Favourites

Categories: X-Mas Tags:

In Memoriam – November 2016

December 6th, 2016 6 comments

A month of utter carnage, just to top off a bad month for decency in the US. Still, all this prolific work by the Grim Reaper gives us the opportunity to sample great music… gallery-1In 1985 I was living in London. One day in late February that year I accompanied a girl I was trying to impress to a concert by Leonard Cohen at the Hammersmith Odeon. I liked Cohen songs in small doses, but I entered the show with trepidation. Cohen was known to play three-hour sets, and 180 minutes of that monotone seemed a fairly steep price to pay for the attention a girl. It turned out be one of the best gigs I have ever been to. It was long — 2,5 hours; 28 songs — but I never noticed. Cohen sang, talked, joked, engaged with the crowd as though we were sitting in an intimate bar. He engulfed the audience with his personality. The girl and I never happened, but Len stayed in my life. Here’s the set list of that gig. I paid a fuller tribute to Cohen on the Any Major Cohen Covers mix I posted a few days after his death.

The Carpenters’ genius in re-interpreting other people’s music found full expression in their timeless covers of two songs by Leon Russell: This Masquerade and A Song For You. The former was covered also to great effect by George Benson, the latter also by Donny Hathaway, whose version eclipses even the Carpenters one. It is the sign of great songwriting if your songs can be covered so well in different genres. Leon Russell was a great songwriter who himself travelled easily across genres: from swamp blues-rock to country to gospel to rock and so on. He was an idiosyncratic singer and performer, and a gifted producer and arranger (Joe Cocker’s classic Mad Dogs & Englishmen LP was produced by Russell). He appeared on Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, and then backed various acts on the piano. Towards the end of his life, he recorded and toured with Elton John, on whom Russell was a great influence.

And besides all that, he was also a session man, serving as a pianist on the Wrecking Crew, that great collective of LA session players. He played on the classic Phil Spector Christmas album, on The Byrd’s Mr Tambourine Man, Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep-Mountain High, The Rolling Stones’ Shine A Light (which he wrote) and Live With Me, Rita Coolidge’s That Man Is My Weakness, The Flying Burrito Bros’s version of Wild Horses (released before that of the Stones), George Harrison’s You, Eric Clapton’s version of After Midnight, Bob Dylan’s When I Paint My Masterpiece, and many more.

With the death of Kay Starr, the last breath went out of a career that started in 1932 (or even earlier), when the then 10-year-old sang in public to supplement her father’s income during the Great Depression. Starr, whose father was an Iroquois Native-American and mother an Irish-American, was born on a reservation in Oklahoma. Though Starr was known for popular hits such as Wheel Of Fortune, her home was in blues and jazz. Billie Holiday once remarked that Kay Starr was “the only white woman who could sing the blues”. As an adolescent she sang hillbilly music and Western Swing; at 15 she joined the Joe Venuti Orchestra, and cut her first record with Glenn Miller. She went solo in 1946. Before that, she recorded a few songs, included the one featured here, with a bunch of labelmates calling themselves The Capitol International Jazzmen. They featured Nat King Cole on the piano, Max Roach on drums, Bill Coleman on trumpet, Buster Bailey on clarinet, Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins on the sax, Oscar Moore on the guitar, and John Kirby on double bass — a true superband.

Smokey Robinson once said that it was Berry Gordy’s second wife, Ray Singleton, who taught the young guns on the nascent Motown label new chords and how to write songs, himself included. Production and mentoring was an expedient: when she joined Motown, she realised that Gordy didn’t rate her band, the Cute-Teens, and wasn’t going to make her a singing sensation. “Miss Ray” never features prominently in Motown histories, but it was she who found that house on Detroit’s 2648 West Grand Boulevard that became known as Hitsville USA and who helped set up the Jobete Music publishing company. She also produced songs and recorded one single herself, as Little Ivy. Her marriage with Gordy soon broke up, and for a while she tried to set up a label with her new husband. Eventually she returned to Motown — as a personal assistant to Diana Ross. In the 1980s she produced Rockwell’s hit Somebody’s Watching Me for Motown, but left soon after. She then helped her new lover, the late Sherrick, to a promising start to unfortunately short-lived his career, with his 1987 hit Just Call.gallery-2If you grew up with Sesame Street in the ‘70s, you’ll have heard the work of jazz bassist Bob Cranshaw, who has died at 83: he was the bass player on all those Sesame Street songs produced by Joe Raposo, including the theme song, the original long version of which features here.  He was also the bass player of the Saturday Night Live band from 1975-80, and played on Jerry Jeff Walker’s original of the timeless Mr Bojangles. In the field of jazz, Cranshaw was an innovator, being one of the first jazz bassists to switch from upright bass to bass guitar. He played with the galaxy of jazz greats of his era: Sonny Rollins (on loads of albums), Gene Ammons, Mary Lou Williams, Hank Crawford, James Moody, Donald Byrd, Nat Adderley, Houston Person, Dexter Gordon, George Benson, Max Roach, Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Shirley Scott, Jack McDuff, Quincy Jones, Wes Montgomery, Milt Jackson, Horace Silver, Joe Zaniwul, Yusuf Latif, Wayne Shorter, Freddy Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, the recently late Bobby Hutcherson and many others.

Another jazz icon Cranshaw played with was jazz/blues pianist and songwriter Mose Allison, who has died at 89. And in another bit of In Memoriam synergy, Leon Russell also recorded an Allison song, I’m Smashed — on the original of which Cranshaw played. Allison’s influence on the British rock-blues movement in the 1960s was profound; acts like the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, John Mayall, Van Morrison and The Who cited him as an influence, and in the US he influenced the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Tom Waits, JJ Cale, Bonnie Raitt and, very observably, Leon Russell.

If you danced in clubs in the mid-’80s, you almost certainly will have danced to Colonel Abrams’ 1985 hit Trapped. Before that he had a band — with the unpromising name Conservative Manor, 94 East — which featured on guitar a young fellow named Prince, who also had hits in 1985. Abrams could not sustain his success after the Trapped era, a few minor dance hits in the 1990s aside. His latter years were marked by illness related to diabetes, and, due to medical bills, destitution to the point of homlessness.  And now Orange Spinctermouth and his reptilian pals are looking at dismantling the Affordable Care Act….

The world of folk has lost several great names this year. With the death of producer Milt Okun, another name has been added to the list. Okun was a key producer in the careers of people like Laura Nyro, Peter, Paul & Mary, the Chad Mitchell Trio and, especially, John Denver, whose song Leaving On A Jet Plane he had produced for Peter, Paul & Mary and the Mitchell Trio before he produced that of Denver, the song’s writer. Apart from all those big John Denver hits, Okun also co-produced Starland Vocal Band’s Afternoon Delight. His range was wide, also including productions for artists as diverse as Miriam Makeba, Placido Domingo and the Muppets.gallery-3Before she made her first record, Sharon Jones worked as a prison guard on Rikers Island jail in New York and as a cash-transit security guard. She was a tough cookie, and when a few years ago she had to undergo chemotherapy for cancer, she played her concerts with a bald head. The story of Sharon Jones, who has died from cancer at 60, is quite marvellous. She had jobbed as a session musician, and at one such gig she was discovered by Gabriel Roth and Philip Lehman, the owners of the now defunct French Pure Records label. Her act of retro soul and deep funk earned Jones and her backing band, The Dap-Kings, a loyal following, with her live performances attracting much attention. In 2013 she was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, and after chemo it seemed to have gone into remission, but the cancer returned in 2015, in her stomach, lymph nodes and lungs. And still she kept performing, chemotherapy notwithstanding, telling the New York Times in July: “Getting out on that stage, that’s my therapy.”

I was shocked to hear of the death at 54 of Northern Irish folk-rock singer-songwriter Bap Kennedy. His album The Sailor’s Revenge was my album of the year 2012. At the time I wrote about it: “Coming from Northern Ireland, Bap Kennedy is liable to be compared to Van Morrison. Van has declared himself a fan, and like Morrison’s music, Kennedy’s draws from Irish folk — pipes, flutes, whistles and mournful fiddles — and  with hints of American soul. Plus a generous fistful of Bob Dylan. Produced by Mark Knopfler, the trained diamond gemologist — not a traditional rock & roll background — has delivered an 11-track collection of superbly written, performed and arranged songs.” A mutual acquaintance confirmed that Kennedy was a quality guy. He died after a 5-month battle with pancreas and bowel cancer.

Guitarist Al Caiola had a large output of his own records, but he hit the charts more often by backing others. Caiola supported vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn (including her fabulous version of Summertime), Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, and Julie London, and pop acts like Buddy Holly (Rave On), Marty Robbins, Elvis Presley, Chad & Jeremy, Jackie Wilson and many more. It seems he often was uncredited. Articles on him indicate that he played on tracks such as Paul Anka’s Diana, Percy Faith’s Theme From A Summer Place, Bobby Darin’s Mack The Knife and Dream Lover, Johnny Mathis’ Chances Are, and others, but I couldn’t verify these.

The Brady girls’ mom has passed away. Florence Henderson was best known as an actress, especially for her iconic role in The Brady Bunch. For those who follow these things, she was also well-known as a vocalist in stage musicals. But she also dabbled in pop music. In 1970 she released a pair of singles, and a few more records later in the decade. And in 1979 she brought out an album, With One More Look At You. As far as I can tell, she didn’t appear in the Brady Bunch records.

Bap Kennedy, 54, Northern Irish singer-songwriter, on Nov. 1
Bap Kennedy – The Shankill And The Falls
Bap Kennedy – Please Return To Jesus (2012)

Bob Cranshaw, 83, jazz bassist, on Nov. 2
Sonny Rollins – Brown Skin Girl (1962, on bass)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles (1968, on bass)
Joe Raposo – Sesame Street Theme (1969, on bass)

Kay Starr, 94, pop and jazz singer, on Nov. 3
The Capitol International Jazzmen – If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight) (1945)
Kay Starr – Wheel Of Fortune (1952)
Kay Starr – When The Lights Go On Again (All Over The World) (1966)

Jean-Jacques Perrey, 87, pioneering French electronic musician and producer, on Nov. 4
Jean-Jaques Perrey – Brazilian Flower (1968)

Eddie Harsch, 59, keyboardist of the The Black Crowes, on Nov. 4
The Black Crowes – Wiser Time (1994)

Laurent Pardo, 55, French bass guitarist, on Nov. 5

Leonard Cohen, 82, Canadian singer-songwriter and poet, on Nov. 7
Leonard Cohen – So Long, Marianne (live, 1968)
Leonard Cohen – Lover Lover Lover (1974)
Leonard Cohen – If It Be Your Will (1984)
Leonard Cohen – Going Home (2012)

Jimmy Young, 95, British singer and radio presenter, on Nov. 7
Jimmy Young – The Man From Laramie (1955)

Al Caiola, 96, American guitarist and composer, on Nov. 9
Pearl Bailey – Nothing For Nothing (1950, on guitar)
Fabian – Tiger (1958, on guitar)
Al Caiola – Bonanza (1960)

Martin Stone, 69, English guitarist, on Nov. 9
Wreckless Eric – If It Makes You Happy (1993, on electric guitar)

Lily, 64, Japanese singer and actress, on Nov. 11

Ray ‘Miss Ray’ Singleton, 79, Motown songwriter and producer, on Nov. 11
The Cute-Teens – When My Teen-Age Days Are Over (1959)
Jimmy Ruffin – Don’t Feel Sorry For Me (1961, as producer)
Sherrick – Just Call (1987, as producer)

Christopher Barriere, 44, rapper with Convicts, shot dead on Nov. 11

Victor Bailey, 56, bassist with Weather Report (1982-86), on Nov. 11
Victor Bailey – Bottom’s Up (1989)
Mary J. Blige – I’m Going Down (1994, on bass)

Doug Edwards, 70, Canadian musician and composer, on Nov. 11
Skylark – Wildflower (1973, as co-writer)

David Mancuso, 72, DJ and founder of New York club The Loft, on Nov. 12

Jacques Werup, 71, Swedish jazz poet, on Nov. 12

Leon Russell, 74, singer, songwriter and musician, on Nov. 13
Leon Russell – A Song For You (1970)
Leon Russell – This Masquerade (1972)
Leon Russell – Lady Blue (1975)

Billy Miller, 62, influential US rock & roll historian and musician, on Nov. 13

Holly Dunn, 59, country music singer-songwriter, on Nov. 14
Holly Dunn – Are You Ever Gonna Love Me (1989)

Bob Walsh, 68, Canadian blues singer and guitarist, on Nov. 15

Milt Okun, 92, singer and producer, on Nov. 15
Laura Nyro – Wedding Bell Blues (1966, as producer)
John Denver – Darcy Farrow (1972, as producer)
Starland Vocal Band – Afternoon Delight (1976, as producer)

Mose Allison, 89, jazz pianist, singer and songwriter, on Nov. 15
Mose Allison – Parchman Farm (1959)
Mose Allison – I’m Smashed (1970, with Bob Crenshaw on bass)
Mose Allison – Everybody Thinks You’re An Angel (2010)

Mentor Williams, 70, songwriter and producer, on Nov. 16
John Henry Kurtz – Drift Away (1972, as songwriter. Original version)

Diz Russell, 83, singer with doo-wop band The Regals and later The Orioles, on Nov. 16
The Regals – I’m So Lonely (1955, also as co-writer)

Don Waller, 65, US music writer and singer of ‘70s punk band Imperial Dogs, on Nov. 17
Blue Öyster Cult – This Ain’t The Summer Of Love (1976)

Sharon Jones, 60, R&B singer, on Nov. 18
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Got A Thing On My Mind (2001)
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007)

Hod O’Brien, 80, jazz pianist, on Nov. 20

Craig Gill, 44, drummer of British rock group Inspiral Carpets, on Nov. 22
Inspiral Carpets – Two Worlds Collide (1991)

Fred Stobaugh, 99, songwriter, on Nov. 23

Joe Esposito, 78, road manager for Elvis Presley, member of “Memphis Mafia”, on Nov. 23

Florence Henderson, 82, actress (The Brady Bunch) and singer, on Nov. 24
Florence Henderson – Conversations (1970)

Shirley Bunnie Foy, 80, jazz singer and percussionist, on Nov. 24

Colonel Abrams, 67, soul/funk singer, on Nov. 25
Colonel Abrams – Trapped (1985)

Pauline Oliveros, 84, composer and accordionist, on Nov. 25

Tony Martell, 90, music industry executive, on Nov. 27

Carlton Kitto, 74, Indian jazz guitarist, on Nov. 28

Ray Columbus, 74, New Zealand rock singer, on Nov. 28
Ray Columbus & The Invaders – She’s A Mod (1964)

Micky Fitz, singer  of UK punk band The Business, announced on Dec. 1

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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 2

December 1st, 2016 11 comments

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Only a few weeks after I posted the Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 1 Mix, the Nobel committee announced the Bobster as this year’s literature laureate. Coincidence? I doubt it. The only logical conclusion we can draw is that the folks at Nobel HQ is Stockholm are keen readers of Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, and that my mix persuaded them to give Dylan the gong. Bob, it seems, does not really want the award, and he is unlikely to thank me for my part in his Nobel Prize award. If only I could please everybody…

Anyhow, the first mix attracted a fair number of comments. Some of them addressed one of the great debates in pop history: is Bob Dylan’s voice an instrument of art or is it a punishing aural assault? It’s the kind of question that provokes internecine warfare even between Dylan fans.

My view? I think Dylan’s voice is, in itself, quite unpleasant. In most other artists, that nasal whine might be considered objectively offensive — even Trump supporters, who enthusiastically embrace the objectively offensive, would find it offensive. His lower register on the country-flavoured albums — on songs like Lay Lady Lay and Just Like A Woman — is more tolerable, but you’d be hard-pressed call it beautiful.

But the tone of his voice, however you perceive it, is not really important. Indeed, one can acquire a taste for it, just as people acquire a taste for things as revolting as tequila, broccoli or mayonnaise. What is important is how Bob Dylan uses that voice. At his best, Dylan doesn’t so much sing his songs as he inhabits them — and that is the mark of a great singer. In so many of his songs, his vocals not only drive the narrative, but they are a character in it.

That works best when Dylan has a stake in the songs he sings. There are very few singers who can spit venom quite as Dylan. In Hurricane, that anger is on the verge of boiling over; but this is not just anger. With his delivery, with the encunciation of single syllables, he also communicates an utter contempt for the system which he is singing about. The effect is devastating; no other singer could do Hurricane to such great effect as Dylan does it. What does it matter that his voice isn’t lovely? Likewise, the menacing derision for the subjects of his contempt which he conveys in his vocals on mean-spirited songs like Positively 4th Street, Ballad of A Thin Man or Like A Rolling Stone hits you in the gut. Not many singers can do that.

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Dylan might have an ugly voice, but he has an extraordinary way of delivery — especially, as I’ve said, when he is invested in the words he is singing (which might explain why few of his covers of other people’s music are particularly outstanding). To be sure, there are also many Dylan songs which are immeasurably improved by cover versions.

One such song is All I Really Want To Do, from Dylan’s 1964 LP Another Side of Bob Dylan. I really like Dylan’s version, especially the idea of a songwriter laughing at his own lyrics. But in The Byrds’ version, a comprehensive reinvention, the song becomes a thing of special beauty. As does the lovely Every Grain Of Sand, which is okay when sung by Dylan, but sublime in Emmylou Harris’ treatment.

And this is the genius of Bob Dylan’s music: as it is with Beatles songs, they can be interpreted and reinvented them to good effect in so many ways. This second collection of Dylan covers testifies to this.

Incidentally, in the first post of Dylan covers I promised three mixes. Clearly, that is not enough. I’m up to five mixes now.

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

1. The Band – When I Paint My Masterpiece (1971)
2. The Byrds – All I Really Want To Do (1965)
3. Simon & Garfunkel – The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
4. Nina Simone – Ballad of Hollis Brown (1965)
5. Sam Cooke – Blowin’ In The Wind (1964)
6. Solomon Burke – Maggie’s Farm (1965)
7. Billy Preston – She Belongs To Me (1969)
8. The Flying Burrito Brothers – To Ramona (1971)
9. The Hollies – I Want You (1969)
10. The Piccadilly Line – Visions Of Johanna (1967)
11. Arlo Guthrie – When The Ship Comes In (1972)
12. New Riders Of The Purple Sage – You Angel You (1974)
13. Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson – Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright (2015)
14. John Mellencamp – Farewell, Angelina (1999)
15. Steve Earle & Lucia Micarelli – One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below) (2012)
16. Everly Brothers – Abandoned Love (1985)
17. Thea Gilmore – I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine (2003)
18. Jennifer Warnes – Sign On The Window (1979)
19. Leon Russell – It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (1971)
20. Joan Baez – One Too Many Mornings (1968)
21. Caravelli Orchestra – Wigwam (1977)

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