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Song Swarm: Blue Moon

January 31st, 2018 6 comments

I’m reposting this to mark tonight’s Super Blue Red Moon, which much of the world will be able to witness.

The story of Blue Moon — its transition from a movie song that was rewritten several times to jazz song and then pop hit — was told in The Originals Vol. 40, which included the first version, The Bad In Every Man, sung on film by Shirley Ross.

This collection of 38 versions covers all manner of approaches. There are the early jazz interpretations, most of them with vocals (though Gene Krupa, Django Reinhardt and in 1944 the Cozy Cole Allstars do it instrumentally). Then it became something of a torchsong number in the hands of jazzy crooners such as Mel Tormé (whose 1960 re-recording is my favourite version), Billy Eckstine, Billie Holiday, Julie London and Ella Fitzgerald. Nat ‘King’ Cole weighed in with a more upbeat version. In 1960, Bert Kaempfert — the first producer of The Beatles — contrived an easy listening instrumental that is very much of its time.

Elvis on his debut album in 1956 gave it a minimalist, slow feel, with a rare falsetto (that take is later replicated in tribute by Chris Isaak and The Mavericks). Around the same time as Elvis, The Emanons recorded a doo wop version, which with Sam Cooke’s might have influenced that by The Marcels, which became a huge hit.

In 1970 Bob Dylan released a rather unexpected cover, with a unique arrangement. Another unexpected performer in this compilation is Robert de Niro, who performed it in the 1977 film New York, New York, in which Bob played a bandleader. Likewise, alt-country rockers My Morning Jacket are not the first band one would think of in a mix of covers of Blue Moon.

I’ve included a playlist file, which runs the versions in the chronological order, as listed below.

Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra (1934) • Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra  (1934) • Connie Boswell & Victor Young Orchestra  (1935) • Al Bowlly with the Ray Noble Orchestra (1935) • Benny Goodman and his Orchestra  (1935) • Django Reinhardt  (1935) • Gene Krupa  (1939) • Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra  (1939) • Cozy Cole Allstars (1944) • Mel Tormé (1949) • Billy Eckstine (1949) • Nat ‘King’ Cole (1951) • Jo Stafford (1952) •  Billie Holiday  (1952) •  Oscar Peterson  (1954) •  Ella Fitzgerald (1956) •  Elvis Presley (1956) •  The Emanons (1956) •  Sam Cooke  (1958) •  Julie London  (1958) •  Bert Kaempfert Orchester (1960) •  Mel Tormé  (1960) • Frank Sinatra (1961) • The Marcels  (1961) • The Ventures (1961) • Bobby Vinton (1963) • Dean Martin  (1964) • Bob Dylan  (1970) • Spooky & Sue  (1975) • Robert de Niro & Mary Kay (1977) • Sha Na Na  (1978) • Mark Isham with Tanita Tikaram  (1990) • Chris Isaak  (1994) • The Mavericks  (1995) • Tori Amos  (1996) • Vidal Brothers (1997) • Rod Stewart (2004) • My Morning Jacket  (2005)

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Any Major Guitar Vol. 1

January 25th, 2018 16 comments

You know you’re losing it as a writer when you start off writing padding crap in the amateur league of “Guitar solos, everybody loves ’em”. Obviously, to spare you the tedium I’ve deleted all the noodling on about guitars — just as one might wish some musicians would do on their recordings, and on stage.

Having said that, it’s not awfully difficult to compile a list of favourite guitar solos, some of which may even be very long. Hell, I even love me a dose of Freebird now and then.

By definition, a list of anything “favourites” is subjective. They may include unheralded guitarists and exclude masters of the craft. My list certainly does. Slash and Eddie and Sambora? Missing? Dudes from Metallica or Led Zep? Nope. Any number of blues guitarists? I’m afraid not there. But the session guy from Wuthering Heights features.

So this is not an attempt at compiling “greatest-ever” guitar solos, though some of those here are contenders, or to bring together the greatest guitarists, though by the nature of things, many of the greatest will feature. This mix puts together songs on which there is guitar work that makes me sing along in the style of “Byoong, bee-bee-byoom-bee-byum – diddiddiddiddi-byoong-byoo-byoo-byoo-byoo-byoooo”.

And, of course, I apply my usual terms & conditions: one song per guitarist and, if it can be helped, no repeated acts either. This is just Volume 1, so please don’t shout at me for excluding Jimi Hendrix.

And tell me what are some of your favourite guitar solos? What makes you sing “Byoong, bee-bee-byoom-bee-byum”?

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

Cream – White Room (1968)
Byoong moment: 4:00. Cream make us think that the song is over, and then Eric Clapton goes all guitar solo for the remaining minute. So many Clapton solos to choose from… Bell Bottom Blues was another leading contender.

Chicago – 25 Or 6 To 4 (1970)
Byoong moment: 1:58. Whoever said Chicago were soft? Terry Kath threatens to let rip for a couple of minutes, then eases himself into his 2:15 minutes long second guitar solo which becomes increasingly aggressive.

Steely Dan – Reelin’ In The Years (1972)
Byoong moment: 1:58. His mini-solo kicks off the song, then session guitarist Elliott Randall gives us two solos for the price for one: first a “wanna-take-me-on” duel with the rhythm section, then a triumphant face-contorting solo.

America – Sister Golden Hair (1975)
Byoong moment: 0:00. It’s not really a solo; the slide guitar intro and its reprise after the break last only a few seconds, but what a beautiful ethereal sound. Rumour had it that it was played by George Harrison (since George Martin produced the song). Boringly, lead singer Gerry Beckley played the guitar, inspired by Harrison’s work on My Sweet Lord.

Wilco – Impossible Germany (2007)
Byoong moment: 2:29. If was asked to vote, I might nominate this as my all-time favourite guitar solo. Even if it features two soloists: Nels Cline (right speaker) and Jeff Tweedy (left speaker). It’s 3:28 minutes of exquisite, exciting and epic elation.

Foo Fighters – Everlong (live) (2006)
Byoong moment: 3:44. From the acoustic Skin And Bones live album, one doesn’t expect so much noise in the instrumental interlude and (aptly) climax. Not really a guitar solo, but those instrumental breaks are driven by Dave Grohl’s acoustic and Pat Smear’s electric guitars.

Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over (live) (1996)
Byoong moment: 2:24. Neil Finn’s glistening guitar is all over it, in the studio version and in this gorgeous live recording from Sydney on the Farewell To The World set, but it really kicks in after the organ solo, and certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Gary Moore – Still Got The Blues (For You) (1990)
Byoong moment: 3:39. Plenty of byoong throughout as Gary Moore puts on his orgasm-face and noodles exquisitely on his Les Paul. A court ruled that Moore plagiarised the solo from a 1974 song called Nordrach by the German prog rock act Jud’s Gallery — and the similarities are indeed there. But there’s a reason several thousands of people have had sex to Moore’s song, and only eight to that by Jud’s Gallery.

The Isley Brothers – Summer Breeze (1973)
Byoong moment: 3:51. There are few guitar solos in soul music, but when there is one, you can do worse than Ernie Isley laying it down, turning the gentle warm breeze into a heatwave. His solo on Who’s That Lady was another contender.

Toto – Georgy Porgy (1978)
Byoong moment: 1:58. There is so much musical excellence going on (and Cheryl Lynn’s superb vocals) here that the fleeting, half-minute guitar solo by Steve Lukather can be overlooked. But it is exquisite.

Eric Gale – Blue Horizon (1981)
Byoong moment: 3:44. The only instrumental here, by the late, great fusion guitarist Eric Gale. The real star of the show on this song is the recently late Hugh Masekela’s flugelhorn, perhaps even Peter Schott’s keyboards, to which Gale’s guitar offers accompaniment — until Gale takes centrestage with two brief solos; after which he lets his guitar sing like a bird that is desperate to mate.

Commodores – Easy (1977)
Byoong moment: 2:47. A guitar solo that comes from nowhere. Lionel goes: “Ooh!” and Thomas McClary lets his fuzz guitar sing. It’s superb, but be alert for another great McClary moment: that tiny fill at 2:23.

Carpenters – Goodbye To Love (1972)
Byoong moment: 2:47. Another fuzz guitar solo, by the late Tony Peloso. If you’ll disqualify the Cline/Tweedy solo, I’ll nominate this as my all-time favourite guitar solo, alone because it comes so unexpectedly in a Carpenters song; guitar solos did not really feature on easy listening numbers. The first solo, at 1:21, sounds at first melancholy, reflecting Karen’s resignation and sadness, then it tries to lift her up. But that second solo, if Karen doesn’t invite love back in after the big solo that closes the song, backed by celestial harmonies, then she really has no chance.

Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again (1977)
Byoong moment: 0:44. No “byoong” here, just lots of finger-picking acoustic guitar by what essentially is a Lindsey Buckingham solo track. I was very close to picking Buckingham’s solo for Landslide (which features on Any Major Fathers).

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights (1978)
Byoong moment: 3:47. Given that he discovered Kate Bush, I sort of guessed that the guitar solo that sees out Wuthering Heights, and takes centre-stage, was played by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. It was, in fact, the work of Scottish session musician Ian Bairnson, formerly of glam-pop band Pilot.

The Knack – My Sharona (1979)
Byoong moment: 2:43. My Sharona is dominated by that insistent riff and the stuttering vocals and “whooo”s, but that guitar solo by Berton Averre is one of the finest in late 1970s pop music. It goes on a bit, so it does need that furious power pop drumming, with the brutal assault on the cymbals, to sustain it. The Freebird for the new wave generation.

https://rg.to/file/9ba6e89b69fd80f91fcf60e7bed56e34/guit_1.rar.html

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NYC – Any Major Mix Vol. 1

January 23rd, 2018 20 comments

I am among the many who are profoundly fascinated by New York. Without ever having been there, I feel an affinity with the place (at this point I might invite the multi-millionaires among my loyal readers to come forward with offers for an all-expenses trip to NYC for me and my family). Obviously I’m not alone.

When I first made up this collection in 2009, I thought I’d even make it two mixes. Then I began shortlisting. The list grew longer and longer. Then I culled, ruthlessly. I ended up with five mixes, including the New York in Black & White mix I re-posted a couple of years ago.

So, how much do I love NYC, without ever having been there? Well, consider this: a large framed print of the photo below, bought almost 25 years ago, hangs above my bed. As I said, wealthy benefactors…..

 

1. Billie Holiday – Autumn In New York (1954)
NYC hook: When Harry repeatedly met Sally, his creepiness was relieved by the beauty of NYC’s fallen, brown leaves. I’m not sure that match-making via Harry Connick is what Billie had in mind. It’s beautiful nonetheless. No wonder the creep eventually managed to hook the rather attractive Sally, playing lovely music like this for, to and at her.

2. Ray Charles – New York’s My Home (1961)
NYC hook: Well, it’s his favourite city, not just a visiting place. It’s, as the title shrewdly implies, his home.

3. Bobby Darin – Sunday In New York (1964)
NYC hook: Ah, those innocent days when shops would be closed on Sundays, and there’d be nothing better to do than window shopping — and sing infectiously upbeat songs about it.

4. Ad Libs – Boy From NY City (1964)
NYC hook: Well, there’s a boy, and he’s from New York City, and a girl named Kitty, for reason of rhyme, is urged to tell us about him. We learn that he is no clown, which is a relief.

5. Harpers Bizarre – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) (1967)
NYC hook: Slowly following the S&G city map, Harpers Bizarre are finding cause to feel pretty good — or groovy, in the era’s vernacular. As the title might have told you. What else can make you feel groovy?

6. Gerard Kenny – New York, New York (1978)
NYC hook: It’s safe to say that Gerard Kenny likes New York. In his enthusiasm, he claims inaccurately that on account of how good the city is, it was named twice, like the pederast in Nabokov’s Lolita. Of course we know that his Sesame Street level assertion does not correspond with reality, yet we would feel guilty disabusing him of his error. It would crush him.

7. Russ Ballard – New York Groove (1975)
NYC hook: A little under a decade after people were feeling gently groovy, Russ thumped us with the NY GROOOVE, symbolising the transition from weed to coke. Ex-Argent member Ballard wrote the song, but didn’t release it. Instead, Hello in 1975 and Ace Fehley of Kiss in 1978 had hits with it.

8. Nicole Atkins – Brooklyn’s On Fire (2007)
NYC hook: It’s Independence Day and, Nicole counsels us, Brooklyn is on fire. Not literally, even though the chorus does sound deceptively alarming. It’s the fireworks, and romance is in the air.

9. Ramones – Rockaway Beach (1977)
NYC hook: Joey and his “brothers” hitch a ride to the Beach. The Surfin’ USA for New Yorkers.

10. Bruce Springsteen – Sherry Darling (1980)
NYC hook: New York traffic is a bastard, and more so when you have to ferry around your nagging future mother-in-law. Our Bruce likes his Sherry, but one more word out of Mom, and she walks.

11. Ryan Adams – New York New York (2001)
NYC hook: Ryan loves New York a lot, and this is his declaration of love. The video for this song was filmed four days before 9/11, and apparently the song played on loop for days after the attack. Apologies to New Yorkers in whom this track evokes horrible memories.

12. Elliot Smith – Amity (1998)
NYC hook: This mix is like a soap opera. Remember Kitty who told us about the boy from New York City? Well, it seems the Boy from New York City has returned to New York City, with Kitty. “Hello, hello Kitty, happy in New York City.”

13. Bright Eyes – Old Soul Song (For The New World Order) (2005)
NYC hook: The only song in this mix not to mention New York, its geography or landmarks. But it is set in New York, describing the big February 2003 demonstration against George W Bush’s illicit, indefensible declaration of war against a state that posed no threat to his country’s security. As we knew then, if we were ready to refuse to believe the brazen lies peddled by Dick, Don and Dubya, and their gurning poodle in Britain. Remember them? These evil fucks seem so innocent in Trump’s 2018…

14. Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go (2007)
NYC hook: A broken heart in New York City, with the Statue of Liberty as a prop. Without wishing to engage in undue hyperbole, this is a most beautiful song.

15. Rufus Wainwright – Chelsea Hotel No 2 (2006)
NYC hook: Casual celebrity oral sex; it’s the New York way. The cover may be even better than Laughing Len’s original.

16. Everything But The Girl – The Only Living Boy In New York (1997)
NYC hook: One person leaves New York, the other stays behind. The second Simon & Garfunkel cover in the mix, and I have two more of their songs lined up…

17. Mondo Kané feat. Georgie Fame – New York Afternoon (1986)
NYC hook: We’ve had Billie Holiday in autumn and Rosie Thomas in winter; here Mondo Kané and Georgie Fame (produced by the soon-to-be-evil-but-still-excellent Stock Aitken Waterman) enjoy a nice summer afternoon in various New York landmarks.

18. Prefab Sprout – Hey Manhattan! (1988)
NYC hook: And coming in on the flight after Mondo Kané’s are wide-eyed tourists Prefab Sprout, admitting to being entirely star-struck. Brooklyn Bridge, 5th Avenue (where Sinatra walked), JFK hang-out The Carlyle… But look out for the denouement as our tourist friends become aware of New York’s class division.

19. Neil Diamond – Brooklyn Roads (1968)
NYC hook: Neil grew up in Brooklyn. No dazzled observations about famous landmarks and celebrities here. Reminiscing on his childhood, Neil is smelling cooking in the hallways of his block; I get the scent of Mrs Diamond’s boiled cabbage. Wistfully, he imagines a new generation of children living in his old room, perhaps dreaming, as he did, of busting loose.

20. Gil Scott-Heron – New York City (1976)
NYC hook: You’d think angry Gil would hate New York. But he doesn’t. He loves it. Not quite sure why. Nothing much wrong with it, he says. And that’s just as well, seeing as the city reminds Gil of himself.

21. Steely Dan – Brooklyn (1972)
NYC hook: The charmer under me is…the guy who lived below Fagen and Becker in Brooklyn. All there is to it.

22. Lou Reed – Dirty Blvd. (1989)
NYC hook: Face it, Lou Reed could sing ice cream commercials on a gondola or pack a surf board on a beach surrounded by gaggle of busty blondes, and whatever he was singing would still be about the grime of New York City’s underbelly. The Venetian gondolier would be a pimp, the surfer a pusher and the busty blondes junkie hookers. It’s what Lou did.

23. Bob Dylan – Hard Times In New York Town (1961)
NYC hook: Young Bobby Zimmerman escaped from cold Minnesota to Greenwich Village and joined the folk circuit. Recorded before he released his (not terribly good) debut album, we can sympathise here with the complications he is facing in his adopted home.

24. Bob James – Angela (Theme from Taxi) (1978)
NYC hook: What would a series of songs about New York be without reference to the yellow cabs. Taxi was, of course, the show about, well, taxis which brought together Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Jeff Conaway, Carol Kane, Randall Carver, Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Christopher Lloyd and Andy Kaufman.

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(PW in Comments)

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Any Major Favourites 2017 – Vol. 2

January 18th, 2018 5 comments

This is the second of two compilations of tracks from the compilations I posted over the past year, with one song chosen from each mix.

Last year this blog celebrated its 10th birthday. Things have changed from those days; the number of music blogs is diminishing, and even the MP3 culture is being drowned by a migration to listening to streaming audio.

It was fun looking back at ten years in 2017, and at some of the nice feedback this blog used to get from media, especially, of course, Playboy which featured Any Major Dude With Half A Heart as the only website in its annual Music Guide in 2013 (the mix I posted to mark that occasion went back up by popular request). I featured right above the then still new-fangled Kendrick Lamar. I was also pleased by the many nice comments on the 10th anniversary from readers. Comments are the lifeblood to keep this site going.

I mentioned in the blurb for the first of these mixes that I don’t know how much longer I’ll run with this blog, though I have no immediate plans to call it a day. Indeed, I have loads of great ideas for new mixes, so I hope to be posting two more great compilations of songs from 2018’s compilations…

1. Wilco – Any Major Dude Will Tell You (2000)
Any Major Steely Dan Covers
2. Counting Crows – You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (2012)
Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 4
3. Ben Folds – Fred Jones Part 2 (2005)
Any Major Jones
4. Joe Ely – Every Night About This Time (1992)
Any Major Night Vol. 2
5. The Jayhawks – Tampa To Tulsa (Acoustic Version) (2003)
Any Major American Road Trip Part 7
6. Pure Prairie League – Amie (1972)
Any Major Freaks & Geeks
7. Stone The Crows – Fool On The Hill (1970)
Beatles Recovered: Magical Mystery Tour
8. Five Man Electrical Band – Werewolf (1974)
Any Major Halloween Vol. 4
9. Dave Mason – Save Me (1980)
Michael Jackson Backing Vocals Collection
10. Earth, Wind & Fire – On Your Face (1976)
Any Major Soul 1976 Vol. 1
11. Natalie Cole – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1978)
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s
12. Al Green – Funny How Time Slips Away
Al Green Sings Covers
13. Melba Moore – Get Into My Mind (1975)
Any Major Soul 1975 Vol. 2
14. Andrea True Connection – More, More, More (1976)
Any Major Disco Vol. 5
15. First Class – Beach Baby (1974)
Any Major Beach Vol. 2
16. Wet Wet Wet – Temptation (1987)
Should Have Been A UK Top 10 Hit – Vol. 3
17. Fine Young Cannibals – Blue (1985)
Life In Vinyl 1985 – Vol. 2
18. Jimmy Radcliff – There Goes The Forgotten Man (1962)
Bacharach & David Songbook Vol. 1
19. Elvis Presley – What A Wonderful Life (1962)
Elvis movies mix & quiz
20. Karel Gott – Rot und schwarz (1969)
Any Major Schlager Covers Vol. 1

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Stars Sing German

January 16th, 2018 21 comments

I have previously posted some German versions of English-language hits sung by the stars of these songs themselves. Here’s a mix of 29 such songs, spanning just over a decade, from 1961-72.

The fashion of Anglophone artists to record in various European languages hit overdrive in the mid-’60s. As mainland Europe’s biggest record market, Germany benefited (or not) from that fashion in particular. Some artists just recorded a few songs, often used as b-sides (for example, The Supremes’ German version of Where Did Our Love Go was the flip side of the English-language Moonlight And Kisses). Others recorded more regularly. British singers such as Petula Clark, Sandie Shaw and Peter & Gordon, as well as Connie Francis recorded several original German songs.

Some singers clearly could not speak German and sang their lyrics phonetically, often poorly, such as Millie, The Searchers, The Temptations and Dionne Warwick. Others made at the very least an effort, such as The Supremes, Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw, Connie Francis, Brian Hyland, The Honeycombs or Manfred Mann.

And some either spoke German or made a great effort to learn the proper pronunciation of words. Top of the class would be The New Christy Minstrels, Peter Paul & Mary, Olivia Newton-John (whose mother was German, the daughter of physics Nobel laureate Max Born) and ABBA (whose Agnetha once tried to make it as a Schlager singer, as we saw in Curious Germany Vol 2).

Johnny Cash, who as a GI was stationed in Bavaria, does a good job on In Virginia (which features here), but did some violence to German on his version of I Walk The Line (featured on Curious Germany Vol. 3)

Most of the translations more or less reflect the original; but a few take a whole new theme. Sandie Shaw’s Puppet On A String becomes Wiedehopf im Mai, for example.  A Wiedehopf is a bird (picture here). Of course, she also recorded the Eurovision Song Contest-winning song in French, Spanish and Italian, possibly without reference to tongue-twisting feathered friends. And then there is Donny Osmond, whose Go Away, Little Girl becomes the opposite: Bleib’ bei mir (Stay with me).

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-deutsched covers (as well as a larger version of the above collage of single covers). PW in comments.

1. Gene Pitney – Bleibe bei mir (Town Without Pity) (1961)
2. Connie Francis – Schöner fremder Mann (Someone Else’s Boy) (1961)
3. Brian Hyland – Schön war die Zeit (Sealed With A Kiss) (1962)
4. Leroy Van Dyke – Geh nicht vorbei (Walk On By) (1962)
5. Peter, Paul & Mary – Die Antwort weiß ganz allein der Wind (Blowin’ In The Wind) (1962)
6. The New Christy Minstrels – Grün, grün ist Tennessee (Geen Green) (1963)
7. Roy Orbison – Mama (Mama) (1963)
8. Willie Nelson – Little Darling (Pretty Paper) (1964)
9. Millie – My Boy Lollipop (My Boy Lollipop) (1964)
10. The Beatles – Komm, gib mir deine Hand (I Want To Hold Your Hand) (1964)
11. The Honeycombs – Hab’ ich das Recht (Have I The Right) (1964)
12. The Searchers – Süss ist sie (Sugar And Spice) (1964)
13. Marvin Gaye – Wie schön das ist (How Sweet It Is) (1964)
14. The Temptations – Mein Girl (My Girl) (1964)
15. Dionne Warwick – Geh Vorbei (Walk On By) (1964)
16. Dusty Springfield – Warten und hoffen (Wishin’ And Hopin’) (1965)
17. The Supremes – Baby, Baby, wo ist unsere Liebe (Where Did Our Love Go) (1965)
18. Georgie Fame – Yeah, Yeh, Yeh (Yeh Yeh) (1965)
19. Manfred Mann – Sie (She) (1965)
20. The Beach Boys – Ganz allein (In My Room) (1965)
21. Johnny Cash – In Virginia (In Virginia) (1966)
22. Petula Clark – Downtown (Downtown) (1966)
23. Sandie Shaw – Wiedehopf im Mai (Puppet On A String) (1967)
24. Donny Osmond – Bleib bei mir, little Girl (Go Away Little Girl) (1971)
25. Olivia Newton-John – Unten am Fluß, der Ohio heißt (On The Banks Of The Ohio) (1972)
26. The New Seekers – Oh, ich will betteln, ich will stehlen (Beg Steal Or Borrow) (1972)
27. Daniel Boone – Beautiful Sunday (Beautiful Sunday) (1972)
28. Abba – Ring Ring (Ring Ring) (1973)
29. Abba – Waterloo (Waterloo) (1974)

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Any Major Favourites 2017 – Vol. 1

January 11th, 2018 7 comments

As I did last year and the year before that, I am putting up two compilations of tracks from the compilations I posted over the past year, with one song chosen from each mix (except for the Any Major Favourites 2016 mixes, two mixes of songs from my favourite compilations over the past decade, the Christmas selections, the Any Major Disco Vol. 6 mix I posted just before New Year’s, and In Memoriams). All of the songs here are among my favourite tracks from the respective mixes.

In 2017 I put up a total of 44 mixes, plus the 12 monthly In Memoriams. One labour-intensive series came to an end with the American Road Trip, which covered the USA in some detail over seven mixes in a reasonable (if not very efficient) itinerary. I also think I’ve posted my final Halloween mix, and perhaps the last one in the eight-part series of soft rock mixes I’ve called Not Feeling Guilty.

Lack of good feedback suggests that the Life In Vinyl series is not very popular anymore. That might be due to 1985 being a pretty bad year for music, and the remainder of the 1980s wasn’t much better. Though I think that the mixes were quite good, I might not carry on with that.

Some regular favourites will continue, especially Any Major Soul. I’m having great fun doing the mixes based on the selections of music of guests on the BBC radio show Desert Island Discs. The mix of music from Freaks & Geeks was well received, so there’ll be more of that, with a compilation of music from The Deuce coming up. I’ve been playing that one to death already in my car.

Periodically I might put together mixes in tribute of big names that have died. In 2017 I did so for Chuck Berry and Walter Becker of Steely Dan by way of cover versions of their songs. The series of covers of Bob Dylan songs has one more instalment to go.

So I have plans and, I hope, some nice surprises in store.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a CD-R length. I’ve not bothered with organic home-crafted covers for this offering. PW in comments, where you are always welcome to say something.

1. Billy Joel – Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway) (1981)
Any Major Year
2. The Band – Atlantic City (1993)
Any Major Springsteen Covers
3. Leon Russell – Too Much Monkey Business (1992)
Any Major Chuck Berry Covers
4. Little Feat – Dixie Chicken (1973)
Any Major American Road Trip – Part 6
5. Michael Stanley – Subterranean Homesick Blues (1973)
Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 3
6. Bill LaBounty – Comin’ Back (1982)
Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 8
7. Ernie Hines – A Better World (For Everyone) (1972)
Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 1
8. Isaac Hayes – For The Good Times (1971)
Covered With Soul Vol. 22
9. Della Reese – Games People Play (1969)
All The People Who’ve Died 2017
10. Gil Scott-Heron – The Bottle (1974)
Any Major Flute Vol. 4
11. Bama The Village Poet – Welfare Slave (1972)
Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 2
12. Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam (1964)
Stars Pick Your Songs Vol. 2: Actors
13. Brother Joe May – When The Lord Gets Ready (1959)
Any Major Decade: Best of Saved!
14. Warren Smith – Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache (1957)
Any Major Roads Vol. 3
15. Bob Dylan – My Back Pages (1964)
Stars Pick Your Songs Vol. 1: Musicians
16. Teddy Thompson – I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (2007)
Any Major Elvis Covers
17. Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday (1985)
Life In Vinyl 1985 – Vol. 1
18. Dexys Midnight Runners – Until I Believe In My Soul (1982)
Any Major Whistle Vol. 1
19. Hildegard Knef – From Here On It Got Rough (1969)
Curious Germany – The Collection

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In Memoriam – December 2017

January 4th, 2018 9 comments

The last two Decembers delivers a kick in the balls just before the year ends. Last Christmas it was the death of George Michael; in 2015 it was Lemmy and Natalie Cole (ringing in that annus horribilis 2016). This year we were spared such shenanigans by the Grim Reaper.

I can’t say that I have ever been a keen fan of Johnny Hallyday, the French icon who has died at 74. But you can’t argue with a career that spanned 60 years, much of it at the top, selling more than 110 million records worldwide. Born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet, he borrowed his stage name from a cousin’s husband who performed in the US as Lee Halliday. Lee was a mentor to the youngster and gave him the name Johnny. And with that name the erstwhile Jean-Philippe Smet became France’s first rock & roll star as the 1960s began. Although he appeared on US TV and worked with many British artists, Hallyday was not very well-known in Anglophone countries, though he was a superstar in much of Europe.

Keely Smith was sort of the straight-woman to her first husband, Louis Prima, though she was very funny in her deadpan way. Smith, who was of Irish and Cherokee ancestry, was a useful vocalist as well, though she certainly benefitted from working with some of the greatest arrangers, particularly Nelson Riddle. In the 1960s she updated her sound, in the Petula Clark vein, and recorded the first version of the Bacharach/David classic One Less Bell To Answer (which featured on Bacharach: The Originals). As the 1960s ended her career petered out. She made a brief comeback in 1985, but a string of critically acclaimed albums in the 2000s returned her to success, including a Grammy nomination.

Actress Rose Marie (Mazzetta), who has died at 94, is best known in the US as the proto feminist scriptwriter Sally Rogers on The Dick van Dyke Show, and as a long-standing contestant on Hollywood Squares. She also had regular roles in shows such as S.W.A.T. and Murphy Brown. But she was a big star long before all that. As a five-year-old she began a recording career that made her one of the many child stars of the 1930s. She appeared in movies and had nationwide hits with songs such as 1932’s Say That You Were Teasing Me. As a young adult she became a nightclub and lounge singer, especially at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, which was owned by Bugsy Siegel. The mafia forthwith controlled her singing career. Late in life Rose Marie was active in conscientising about sexual harassment; the #metoo campaign will have pleased her.

For many British TV fans of a certain age, the death of Keith Chegwin marked the passing of a national institution. Most famous for hosting children’s TV programmes such as Cheggers Plays Pop and Swap Shop in the 1970s and 80s, Chegwin remained a fixture on the telly, not least through his appearance on the while range of reality TV shows that feature celebrities. But before he became a TV legend, “Cheggers” tried his hand at becoming a pop star…unsuccessfully. None of the five singles he released between 1973 and 1981 charted. He did hit the charts in 1981 as part of novelty celeb trio Brown Sauce, alongside fellow TV presenters Maggie Philbin and the unspeakably awful and thoroughly objectionable Noel Edmonds. It reached #15.

If you watched TV in the 1970s, chances are that you’ve heard the compositions of Mundell Lowe, who has died at the age of 95. A very successful jazz guitarist, Lowe wrote scores for TV shows like Hawaii Five-O, Wild Wild West and Starsky & Hutch, as well as for some movies. As a solo artist or bandleader he released albums from 1951 till 2015, though he worked as a session guitarist from 1947 onwards. His session work was prolific especially in the 1950s and ‘60s, playing for the likes of Sammy Davis Jr, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Herbie Mann, Charlie Parker, Shirley Scott, Quincy Jones, Chris Connor, Tony Bennett, Dinah Washington, Rosemary Clooney, Harry Belafonte, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Edye Gormé, LaVern Baker and so on.

We owe one of the great Western themes, that of the 1868 film Hang ‘em High, to Dominic Frontiere, who has died at 86. Frontiere, who as a jazz accordionist released a number of records, also wrote the themes of early TV classics like The Flying Nun, The Outer Limits and The Rat Patrol. Later the protegé of film composing legend Alfred Newman wrote scores for TV shows like Vega$ and The Invaders, and for films like The Stuntman in the 1980s and The Color of Night in the ‘90s. He also arranged for acts such as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Dan Fogelberg, Nils Lofgren, Chicago and The Tubes. Frontiere also wrote the song Hang Ten High, recorded by The Smithereens, whose singer Pat DiNizio died nine days before Frontiere. Less salubriously, Frontiere served a few months of a one-year sentence in the ‘80s for tax fraud and ticket scalping.

The Smithereens’ Pat DiNizio, who has died at 62, was absolutely loyal to his music, even when things were not going great. Before the US power pop band found success in the 1980s, he and his bandmates persevered through many years of rejection. When their star waned in the ‘90s, they still carried on, taking day jobs if necessary. The Smithereens last performed in December, just before DiNizio suffered a series of bad falls, and were planning to record a new album.

In the USA, rich reality TV stars become the president; in Haiti a folk singer-songwriter who lived in exile and narrowly avoided murder by a military junta became mayor of his country’s capital. Manno Charlemagne, who sang his political songs in French and Creole, went into exile under the murderous Duvalier tryrannies, and returned to exile frequently throughout his life. After Baby Doc’s fall in 1986 he returned to Haiti and supported the priest Bertrand Aristide, who was elected president in 1990. The good times didn’t last; a year later the murderer Raoul Cédras deposed Aristide, with the help of the US, and Charlemagne was among those immediately brutalised and detained by the junta. With Aristide’s return in 1995, Charlemagne served a four-year term as mayor of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. It turned out that he was not as good as a politician as he was as the conscience of the nation which held corrupt politicians to account.

 

Mundell Lowe, 95, jazz guitarist and composer, on Dec. 2
Rosemary Clooney & Marlene Dietrich – Too Old To Cut The Mustard (1951, on guitar)
Mundell Lowe – Memories Of You (1956)
Peggy Lee – Lean On Me (1969, as co-writer)
Randy Crawford – Everything Must Change (live) (1977, on guitar)

Norihiko Hashida, 72, Japanese folk singer-songwriter, on Dec. 2

Johnny Hallyday, 74, French rock singer and actor, on Dec. 6
Johnny Hallyday – T’aimer follement (1960)
Johnny Hallyday – Requiem pour un fou (1976)

Sir Christus, 39, guitarist of Finnish rock band Negative, on Dec. 7

Vincent Nguini, 65, Cameroonian guitarist, on Dec. 8
Paul Simon – Further To Fly (1990, on guitar and bass)

Sunny Murray, 81, free jazz drummer, on Dec. 8

Leon Rhodes, 85, country guitarist (Ernest Tubb), on Dec. 9
Waylon Jennings – I’m A Ramblin’ Man (1974, on bass guitar)

Lando Fiorini, 79, Italian actor and singer, on Dec. 9

Manno Charlemagne, 69, Haitian singer-songwriter, activist, on Dec. 10
Manno Charlemagne – Le Mal du Pays (1994)

Keith Chegwin, 60, English TV presenter, actor and singer, on Dec. 11
Keith Chegwin – I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (1977)

Pat DiNizio, 62, singer of power pop The Smithereens, on Dec. 12
The Smithereens – Blood And Roses (1986)
The Smithereens – Groovy Tuesday (1986)

Warrel Dane, 56, singer with metal bands Sanctuary, Nevermore, on Dec. 13
Nevermore – She Comes In Colors (2010)

Willie Pickens, 86, jazz pianist and educator, on Dec. 13

Dave Christenson, 54, singer of pop duo Stabilizers, on Dec. 15
Stabilizers – One Simple Thing (1986)

John Critchinson, 82, English jazz pianist, on Dec. 15

Keely Smith, 89, jazz singer, on Dec. 16
Louis Prima & Keely Smith – Basta (1958)
Keely Smith – All The Way (1958)
Keely Smith – Open Your Heart (1966)
Keely Smith – Cherokee (2002)

Ralph Carney, 61, saxophonist, composer, member of prog-rock band Tin Huey, on Dec. 16
Tom Waits – Come Up To The House (1999, on saxophone)
St. Vincent – Digital Witness (2015, on horns)

Z’EV, 66, industrial pop percussionist and poet, on Dec. 16

Richard Dobson, 75, country singer-songwriter, on Dec. 16
Richard Dobson – Baby Ride Easy (1977)

Michael Prophet, 60, Jamaican reggae singer, on Dec. 16
Michael Prophet – You Are A No Good (1980)

Randy Hongo, 70, Hawaiian Christian singer, on Dec. 16

Kevin Mahogany, 59, jazz singer, on Dec. 17
Kevin Mahogany – Since I Fell For You (1993)

Larry Harris, 70, co-founder of Casablanca Records, on Dec. 18

Jim Forrester, 43, bassist of rock band Sixty Watt Shaman, murdered on Dec. 18
Sixty Watt Shaman – Southern Gentleman (1999)

Kim Jong-hyun, 27, singer with South Korean boy band Shinee, on Dec. 18

Leo ‘Bud’ Welch, 85, blues and gospel musician, on Dec. 19
Leo Bud Welch – Goin’ Down Slow (2014)

Roswell Rudd, 82, free jazz trombonist, on Dec. 21

Dominic Frontiere, 86, film & TV composer, arranger and jazz accordionist, on Dec. 21
Dominic Frontiere – Theme from Hang ‘em High (1968)
Chicago – Baby What A Big Surprise (1977, as co-arranger)
Dusty Springfield – Bits and Pieces (1980, as producer and co-writer)

Halvard Kausland, 72, Norwegian jazz guitarist, on Dec. 21
Helle Brunvoll & Halvard Kausland – Be Cool (2009)

Pam the Funkstress, 51, hip hop DJ, on Dec. 22
The Coup – Not Yet Free (1993, on turntables)

Jim Burns, 65, co-creator of MTV Unplugged, in car crash on Dec. 23

Robbie Malinga, 47, South African musician and producer, on Dec. 25
Robbie Malinga – Sondela (2016)

Curly Seckler, 98, bluegrass musician (Foggy Mountain Boys 1949-62), on Dec. 27
Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs – Foggy Mountain Breakdown (1949, on mandolin)

Rose Marie, 94, actress and singer, on Dec. 28
Rose Marie – Say That You Were Teasing Me (1932)

Melton Mustafa, 70, jazz musician, on Dec. 28
Diane Schuur & The Count Basie Orchestra – Travelin’ Blues (1987, on trumpet)

Hanery Amman, 65, co-founder of Swiss dialect rock band Rumpelstilz, on Dec. 30

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