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Any Major Soul 1976 Vol. 1

June 22nd, 2017 4 comments

The year 1976 was a great year for soul. Even as disco made its influence felt, there was still a lot of music that built on the foundations of what had come in the years before, the more clinical sounds of the 1980s still in the future.

To exemplify, the opening track, by former James Brown sidekick Lyn Collins, has a vibe that would not have been out of place in 1968. The track that follows it, by the Brothers Johnson, follows Collins’ track quite naturally but also nods vaguely in the direction of disco, in a funky kind of way. Philly Soul, which is richly represented here, was in many ways part of the disco movement, but it always referenced the heritage of soul.

The most bizarre background story of acts featured on this mix concerns Spice, who recorded on the TSG label. Trouble was, TSG wasn’t really into making money, never mind making stars of their signings; their racket was to create tax write-offs. So Spice saw a single — the featured track — released, to no success. An LP was also produced, but it seems the band members didn’t know about it until about seven years ago when the singer’s octogenarian mother heard a track from it on a blog and recognised the voice of her son, Richard Brown Jr.  Brown was mentored by the Main Ingredient’s Donald McPherson in the craft of songwriting and arranging. Before too long they came to the attention of singer and label owner Lloyd Price, whom they also backed. But one night the band threw in the towel after another inadequate pay check. Their pretty good LP was never distributed, so the few copies that were circulation became a sought-after collector’s item — one that not even its singer would be aware of for almost 35 years. It finally was issued on CD in 2013.

Alas, I have virtually no information about Revelation. I can find no biographical detail other than the members’ names and producers, despite their having released five albums between 1976 and 1982. Revelation’s 1976 debut appeared on RSO, but most of the backing musicians where from the Philly Soul scene, and the album certainly sounds like it — which is a recommendation.

The Chi-Lites feature on this mix; a couple of songs later we encounter Maryann Farra & Satin Soul, for whom former Chi-Lites leader Eugene Record did arranging, though not on the featured track. That song is a gender-adapted cover of the Chi-Lites’ Living In The Footsteps Of Another Man, which featured on Any Major Soul 1972 Vol. 1. Farra and her band also covered Stoned Out Of My Mind, a great song which I’ve just realised inexplicably has never featured on any major mix. I really thought it had…

There have been many acts called First Class; the most famous of whom may be the lot that had a hit with Beach Baby (featured on Should Have Been A Top 10 Hit Vol. 3). The incarnation featuring here was from Baltimore, and enjoyed only limited success, mostly on the east coast. Their sound drew from Philly, with falsettos and the works.  By 1980 the band was done recording albums. Don’t be alarmed by the abrupt end to the song, and therefore to this compilation). The lyrics explain why.

As always, CD-R length, home-souled covers, PW in comments.

1. Lyn Collins – Me And My Baby Got A Good Thing Going
2. Brothers Johnson – Free and Single
3. Earth, Wind & Fire – On Your Face
4. The Drifters – You’re More Than A Number In My Little Red Book
5. Archie Bells & the Drells – I Could Dance All Night
6. Lou Rawls – Groovy People
7. Anthony White – Where Would I Be Without You
8. Ronnie McNeir – Selling My Heart To The Junkman
9. Revelation – We’ve Gotta Survive
10. Chi-Lites – Happy Being Lonely
11. The Ebonys – Mr. Me, Mrs. You
12. Maryann Farra & Satin Soul – Living In The Footsteps Of Another Girl
13. G.C. Cameron – Include Me In Your Life
14. Margie Joseph – Hear The Words, Feel The Feeling
15. Tommy Hunt – Loving On The Losing Side
16. David Ruffin – Good Good Times
17. Bo Kirkland & Ruth Davis – I Feel Love In This Room Tonight
18. Terry Huff – I Destroyed Your Love, Pt. 1
19. Spice – Everything Is You
20. Diana Ross – I Thought It Took A Little Time
21. Rose Royce – I Wanna To Get Next To You
22. First Class – Coming Back To You

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Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s

June 15th, 2017 10 comments

The release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50 years ago rewrote the rulebook of pop music. It’s not that it was the first concept album (in as far as it was even that in the sense we’ve come to understand the idea now), nor the first to dabble innovative studio tricks (The Beatles themselves had done so on Revolver, and Brian Wilson was perhaps even more innovative at the time). But for contemporaries, the album changed everything.

Perhaps it was also the cover that had such an impact. It was not usual to create artworks for LP covers — the Beach Boys were still goofing about with animals on snapshots for the sleeve for Pet Sounds. One could study Peter Blake’s collage for the duration of Side 1 and while away the inferior second side studying it some more,, and return to it over and over again. Even today, it is a significant piece of 20th-century art.

But the thing is, Sgt Pepper’s is greater in its context than it is within the canon of Beatles albums. Of course, there are mighty tracks on it. A Day In The Life is a masterpiece, but I know few Beatles fans whose life would be poorer for the absence of Lovely Rita, or, indeed, Within You Without You (cleverly sequenced to start Side 2, for easy skipability). It doesn’t require clever revisionism by deliberate iconoclasts to regard Sgt Pepper’s as not the greatest album the Beatles made. But it does require the revisionism of fools to call it overrated. Sgt Pepper’s is a great album, especially the first side, and its historical impact cannot be overstated.

And if the later rule of already-released singles finding a place on albums had been in force, imagine how much better Sgt Pepper’s might have been with Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. In the event, EMI insisted on releasing the songs, which were recorded as part of the Sgt Pepper’s sessions, as a double a-sided single.

A poster of The Beatles in Sgt Pepper’s uniforms in the German youth magazine Bravo in July 1967. (see www.bravoposters.wordpress.com for daily vintage Bravo posters)

Just a couple of weeks after Sgt Pepper’s was released, The Beatles recorded All You Need Is Love. The boys — Ringo was just turning 27; John was 26, Paul was about to turn 25, George was 24 — were on a hot streak.

Of course, Paul McCartney will turn 75 this month. But 50 years ago he was already dead, and long-standing research shows that Sgt Pepper’s provided the proof we’d have confirmed by the Abbey Road cover, by way of very clear clues. To start with, there’s a new band with one Billy Shears as the singer (well, Ringo is Billy Shears, but let’s not have Failing Fake News disturb us). In A Day In The Life John sings: “He blew his mind out in a car”, indicating the method of Paul’s death. And if you play the song backwards, you apparently can hear the phrase, “Paul is dead, miss him, miss him”. At the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, John says, “I buried Paul”. Lennon claimed he mumbled “cranberry sauce”, but why would he say “cranberry sauce” when Paul is dead and he buried him? Wake up, sheeple!

And then there’s the cover. In the foreground is clearly a grave — Paul’s grave! Look at the wax figure Young Beatles: Ringo is sad, very sad, as he looks at Paul’s grave. John is putting a comforting hand on Ringo’s shoulder (George seems glad though. Was he involved in the plot to kill Paul?). On the back cover, “Paul” turns his back; even Fake Paul is trying to give us a clue, apparently trying to escape the conspiracy. And here’s the smoking gun: Place the cover in front of a mirror, and the words “Lonely Hearts” on the drum read, “1 ONE 1 X HE DIE 1 ONE 1”, as you can see very clearly below. It’s so obvious, folks.

So happy birthday to you, Sir Paul McCartney, whoever you are!

Which brings us to this selection of cover versions of songs from Sgt Pepper’s, in the proper sequence. The selection is eclectic, yet it all flows. You’d expect otherwise from a sequence that goes from psychedelic rock of Jimi Hendrix (recorded in concert in Stockholm) to bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs to soul singer Natalie Cole to rockers Status Quo to old comedian George Burns to folkie Richie Havens and so on. And still, it all fits together well. It helps that Scruggs isn’t banjoing the hell out of With A Little Help From My Friends, and that Natalie Cole rocks harder than the Quo, who sound more like Burns. On the LP, the closing song is the crowning glory. The same might be said here of War’s epic take on A Day In The Life.

I have added covers of Strawberry Fields and Penny Land to the mix. The best cover of the former is that by Richie Havens, but he already features with She’s Leaving Home. In any case, Havens’ version has featured before on one of the many mixes of Beatles covers.

Coming in at under an hour, the mix fits on a standard CD-R. Covers are included. PW in the comments section (the purpose of which is not really to declare passwords but for readers to say something).

1. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1968)
2. Earl Scruggs – With A Little Help From My Friends (1971)
3. Natalie Cole – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1978)
4. Status Quo – Getting Better (1976)
5. George Burns – Fixing A Hole (1978)
6. Richie Havens – She’s Leaving Home (1968)
7. Eddie Izzard – Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite (2007)
8. Sonic Youth – Within You Without You (1989)
9. Claudine Longet – When I’m Sixty-Four (1967)
10. Fats Domino – Lovely Rita (1968)
11. Micky Dolenz – Good Morning Good Morning (2012)
12. Stereophonics – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (2007)
13. War feat. Eric Burdon – A Day In The Life (1976)
14. Peter Gabriel – Strawberry Fields Forever (1976)
15. Amen Corner – Penny Lane (1969)

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More great Beatles stuff:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Any Bizarre Beatles
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 1
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 2
Beatles Reunited: Everest (1971)
Beatles Reunited: Live ’72 (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Smile Away (1972)

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In Memoriam – May 2017

June 8th, 2017 4 comments

The death of alt.rock legend Chris Cornell came out of the blue, as suicides often do. When successful celebrities end their lives, one is tempted to question the reasons, perhaps even to moralise. It’s not our job to do either, unless the suicide was the result of evading the consequences of one’s evil acts. But in Cornell’s case there seems to be the unusual dimension of a number of pharmaceuticals interacting to have impaired his judgment, leading to his death by hanging. According to his wife, Cornell had been excitedly making plans for the future just hours before his death; he had just come off stage after a successful gig with Soundgarden when he died. At 52, and off alcohol and proscribed substances, he was still young enough to make plans, to thrill his audience with that immense voice which could do anything, from rock screaming to soulful falsetto. We are right to mourn that this voice has fallen silent. And we may now hear Soundgarden songs like Pretty Noose, The Day I Tried To Live, and Like Suicide in a different, poignant way.

In January we lost Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, also to suicide. Now the last of the three founder members of the band has died. Gregg Allman and his brother Duane gave their name to the group. After Duane died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, there was no question about renaming the band: they remained the Allman Brothers, even if Gregg was the only Allman in it. Gregg was something of a contradiction. On the one hand, he was content to bury his head behind the keyboard and let others take the centre of the stage. On the other hand, he was truly a rock star, with the charisma and the looks and the love life that are part of the job description. He was, of course, also a gifted songwriter. Gregg was still performing until last year. In November he announced the cancellation of all tour plans for 2017, citing vocal cord damage. He promised he would tour again. Death broke that promise.

Of the five Womack Brothers who first shot to fame as The Valentinos, only one, Friendly Jr, is still alive, after the death of Curtis Womack. Curtis, or “Binky”, was the second-oldest, and when the brothers began playing as a group, the ten-year-old was the nominal leader. As Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers they released their first single, Buffallo Bill, in 1954. Two years later they were discovered by Sam Cooke, then still a star in the genre of gospel. Now led by Bobby, who switched lead vocals with Curtis, the Womack Brothers released a few gospel records, which flopped. Cooke then advised them to go secular. The group took the name The Valentinos. Success came soon: they reworked their gospel song Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray to Lookin’ For A Love. When they cut their song It’s All Over Now, it was covered to huge success by the Rolling Stones. The group slowly fell apart following Cooke’s death and the scandal surrounding Bobby’s marriage to Cooke’s widow. By 1968, the group was only a trio – Curtis, Friendly and Harry – and released one final single, Tired Of Being Nobody, before breaking up.

With her smoky voice, Israeli singer and actress Daliah Lavi was a massive star on the German Schlager circuit in the 1970s, trading in songs that were rather more sophisticated than the clap-along fare that were the standard on that scene. Two of her biggest hits — Wann kommst Du and Willst Du mit mir geh’n — were German covers of songs by South African singer-songwriter John Kongos; another was her take on Melanie’s What Have They Done To My Song Ma. Before that Lavi had enjoyed a career as an actress in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in Hollywood, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her part in Vincente Minnelli’s 1962 film Two Weeks in Another Town. Other notable parts included roles in Casino Royale and opposite Dean Martin in The Silencers. The end of her thespian career coincided roughly with her breakthrough as a singer in Germany in 1971. Despite her accent, the language doesn’t seem to have been a problem: her mother was a German Jew who emigrated to Palestine in the 1930s. Lavi said she never experienced anti-Semitism in Germany and made it clear that she didn’t hold the young people who made up her audience responsible for the Holocaust.

A blind singer being motivated by another blind singer to become a professional musician, and then making it big in his genre: it sounds like a Hallmark movie plot. That’s how it went with Jamaican reggae star Frankie Paul. Born blind, Frankie had his sight partially restored on a hospital ship. One day Stevie Wonder visited his school, and Frankie sang for him. Impressed, Wonder encouraged the boy, who then decided to make his career in music. Frankie went on to become a superstar in Jamaica, and one of the leading voiced in dancehall reggae, releasing 55 albums between 1982 and 2011.

On his deathbed, knowing the end of leukemia was near, English session drummer Jimmy Copley recorded a final EP to raise funds for the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre and Royal United Hospital in Bristol. In his career Copley had played with acts such as Jeff Beck, Tommy Iommi, Pretenders, Tears For Fears, Go West, Paul Rodgers, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Magnum. Early in his career, he was the drummer of UPP, the jazz-funk band featuring Jeff Beck. The guitar legend and other well-known musicians joined Copley on his 2008 solo album. As the end neared, musician pals came to his hospital room, which had been converted to a temporary recording studio, to record the Psyche Funk EP. Copley said: “I’m making the EP to give something back to the wonderful people at the NHS wards that have treated me. It gave me something to aim at during the dark days. I feel good about leaving some new music behind.” The NHS is the British National Health Service, which guarantees health coverage for the population something Theresa May’s Tories are aiming to destroy, finishing the job of the previous Tory government.

A contender for the longest music career ever must be gospel musician Rosa Nell Speer, who has died at 94. She was only three years old in 1925 when her father, George Tomas “Dad” Speer, roped her and older brother Brock into his full-time band which would be variously known as The Speer Family and The Speer Family Gospel Choir. Rosa Nell became a gifted pianist, and was still playing weekly at the First Church of the Nazarene in Tennessee until just shortly before her death, bringing to an end an almost 92-years-long life in music.

Bruce Hampton, 70, avant-garde musician and actor, on May 1
Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit – Satisfaction Guaranteed (1994)

Erkki Kurenniemi, 75, pioneering Finnish electronic musician, on May 1

Kevin Garcia, 41, bassist for indie band Grandaddy, on May 2
Grandaddy – Laughing Stock (1997)

Saxa, 87, Jamaican-born British ska saxophonist, on May 3
The Beat – Mirror In The Bathroom (1980)

Daliah Lavi, 74, Israeli singer and actress, on May 3
Daliah Lavi – Oh wann kommst Du (1970)
Daliah Lavi – This Is My Life (1973)

C’el Revuelta, tour bassist with Black Flag (1986/2003), on May 3

Bruce Tucker, bass player of garage rock band The Mustangs, on May 4
The Mustangs – That’s For Sure (1965)

Clive Brooks, 67, drummer of English prog-rock groups Egg, The Groundhogs, on May 5
Egg – While Growing My Hair (1970, also as co-writer)

Almir Guineto, 70, Brazilian samba musician, on May 5

Dave Pell, 92, jazz musician, on May 8
T Bones – No Matter What Shape (My Stomach Is In) (1966, as leader of the Wrecking Crew)

Robert Miles, 47, Swiss-born electronic dance musician, producer, on May 9
Robert Miles – Children (1996)

Joy Byers, 82, songwriter, on May 10
Timi Yuro – What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You) (1962, as writer)
Elvis Presley – C’mon Everybody (1963, as writer)

Bill Dowdy, 84, drummer of jazz trio The Three Sounds, on May 12
Gene Harris & The Three Sounds – Put On Train (1971)

Jimmy Copley, 63, English drummer, on May 13
UPP – Friendly Street (1975) (1975)
Jimmy Copley – It’s Your Thing (2009)

Tom McClung, 60, jazz pianist and composer, on May 14

Keith Mitchell, drummer of Mazzy Star, on May 14
Mazzy Star – Fade Into You (1993)

Derek Poindexter, 52, bassist of Indie-rock group The Waynes, on May 15

Rosa Nell Speer, 94, singer with gospel group The Speer Family, on May 16
The Speer Family – I Believe In The Old Time Way (1960)

Kevin Stanton, 61, guitarist of New Zealand rock band Mi-Sex, on May 17
Mi-Sex – Computer Games (1979)

Chris Cornell, 52, frontman of alt.rock groups Soundgarden, Audioslave, of suicide on May 18
Temple Of The Dog – Hunger Strike (1991)
Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun (1994)
Audioslave – Be Yourself (2005)

Frankie Paul, 51, Jamaican dancehall reggae singer, on May 18
Frankie Paul – Sara (1987)

Curtis Womack, 74, singer with the Womack Brothers/The Valentinos, on May 21
Bobby Womack & Womack Brothers – Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray (1961)
The Valentinos – It’s All Over Now (1964)
The Valentinos – Tired Of Being Nobody (1968)

Jimmy LaFave, 61, folk singer-songwriter, on May 21
Jimmy LaFave – Not Dark Yet (2007)

Tulsa Pittaway, 42, drummer of South African rock band Watershed, in car crash on May 21
Watershed – Shine On Me (2000)

Mickey Roker, 84, jazz drummer, on May 22
Sonny Rollins – On Green Dolphin Street (1965)
The Mary Lou Williams Trio – Free Spirits (1976)

Saucy Sylvia, 96, singer-comedian, on May 25

Gregg Allman, 69, singer-songwriter, keyboardist of Allman Brothers Band, on May 27
Allman Brothers Band – Whipping Post (1969)
Allman Brothers Band – Statesboro Blues (1971)
Gregg Allman – I’m No Angel (1987)

Marcus Intalex, British bass & drums musician, DJ, producer, on May 28

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Any Major Night Vol. 2

June 1st, 2017 4 comments

Any Major Night Vol. 2

Having played the megabytes out of the first Any Major Night mix — as I did with the Any Major Morning mixes (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 ) — it is time to go nocturnal again.

Regular readers will know my aversion to featuring artists more than once in a themed series, but like there was an exception in the Any Major Summer series for The Beach Boys, so must there be one for the habitually night-dwelling Bruce Springsteen. He was on Volume 1, and here he is twice: on his own and as the writer of Patti Smith’s 1978 hit.

Elvis Presley could feature here, but as last time I ran the original of his hit One Night, here I am including the original of Such A Night. Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters’ version, released in January 1954, was a hit on the R&B charts. Johnny Ray cleaned it up for the white folks and topped the charts with his version.

Charles Brown’s blues classic Black Night, on the other hand, features here in a cover version by Arthur Alexander, an artist who was at home in soul, blues and country. He was the first singer to record Elvis’ hit Burnin’ Love, and his song Anna was covered by The Beatles, who close this collection.

As always, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-moonlit covers. PW the same as always.

1. The Boomtown Rats – When The Night Comes (1979)
2. Patti Smith – Because The Night (1978)
3. Steely Dan – Night By Night (1974)
4. The Pogues – A Rainy Night In Soho (1986)
5. The Cure – A Night Like This (1985)
6. Josh Rouse – It’s The Nighttime (2005)
7. Keni Stevens – Night Moves (A Dark Secret) (1987)
8. Bill Withers – I Want To Spend The Night (1977)
9. Freddie North – Rainy Night in Georgia (1975)
10. Mitty Collier – I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night (1964)
11. Anna King – Night Time Is The Right Time (1964)
12. Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters – Such A Night (1954)
13. Betty Everett – June Night (1964)
14. Arthur Alexander – Black Night (1964)
15. Them – Here Comes The Night (1965)
16. Sandie Shaw – Till The Night Begins To Die (1964)
17. Bob Dylan – One More Night (1969)
18. Dylan LeBlanc – Tuesday Night Rain (2010)
19. Joe Ely – Every Night About This Time (19982)
20. Bruce Springsteen – Drive All Night (1980)
21. The Beatles – Good Night (1968)

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