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NYC – Any Major Mix Vol. 1

January 23rd, 2018 18 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 3 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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Any Major Disco Vol. 6

December 28th, 2017 3 comments

It is becoming something of a tradition here to close the year with a disco mix to see out the old year and in the new. So don your boogie shoes and shake that booty like it’s 1978.

One track here is quite remarkable: the Boney M. song here was recorded before there was a Boney M. Schlager singer and producer Frank Farian recorded Baby Do You Wanna Bump, basically a remake of Prince Buster’s Al Capone — doing all the vocals himself, the deep voice and the falsetto. But because Farian was having as string of hits as a Schlager singer he couldn’t really release this thumping disco number under his own name, so he borrowed the title of an Australian TV series popular at the time in West-Germany, and stuck a meaningless M to it, because, he reasoned correctly, it sounded good. Odd thing is, Frank Farian isn’t the guy’s real name either; it’s Franz Reuther.

Baby Do You Wanna Bump was a hit in Belgium and the Netherlands, inspiring Farian to keep Boney M going with real band members. He’d still do the voices of two of those members, including dancer Bobby Farrell. And that is the amazing thing about Boney M: half of it was a pallid German guy pretending to be a black woman and a black dancer.

It was widely known that Farian was the voice of Bobby and Maizie Williams; the greater deception came a decade later with another Farian act, Milli Vanilli.

On the Minnie Riperton track (co-written by Stevie Wonder), check out the proto-house piano groove, played by the multi-instrumentalist and producer Sonny Burke, who also played on the albums which the tracks in this mix by Lenny Williams and Harvey Mason come from. I couldn’t ascertain that he played on those particular tracks. Let’s just imagine he did.

As always, CD-R length, home-bootyshaken covers, PW in comments. And have a Happy New Year!

1. Empress – Dyin’ To Be Dancin’ (1981)
2. Minnie Riperton – Stick Together (1977)
3. Peter Brown feat. Betty Wright – Dance With Me (1978)
4. Harvey Mason – Groovin’ You (1979)
5. Cerrone feat. Jocelyn Brown – Hooked On You (1981)
6. Deniece Williams – I’ve Got The Next Dance (1979)
7. Fat Larry’s Band – Looking For Love (1979)
8. Linda Clifford – If My Friends Could See Me Now (1978)
9. Debbie Jacobs – Don’t You Want My Love (1979)
10. Musique – Keep On Jumpin’ (1978)
11. Ritchie Family – American Generation (1978)
12. Gary’s Gang – Do It At The Disco (1978)
13. Boney M. – Baby Do You Wanna Bump (1975)
14. Carl Douglas – Run Back (1977)
15. The Choice Four – Come Down To Earth (1976)
16. Lenny Williams – Shoo Doo Fu Fu Ooh! (1977)
17. Crystal Grass – Dream On (1975)

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All The People Who’ve Died 2017

December 14th, 2017 10 comments

The past year has been, thankfully, much gentler than the cursed 2016 was. Still, we lost some big names such as Chuck Berry, Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, Glen Campbell, Al Jarreau, Tom Petty, Fats Domino, Gregg Allman, David Cassidy, AC/DC’s Malcolm Young, funk legend Junie Morrison, Don Williams, Chris Cornell, Cuba Gooding Sr, etc.

Two deaths prompted me to post a special mix in tribute: a mix of covers of Chuck Berry songs and with the death of Walter Becker a mix of covers of Steely Dan songs. I was playing with the idea of doing a mix of tracks produced by Tommy LiPuma, but time restraints prevented me from doing so.

The most significant deaths of 2017 (up to November 30) by my estimation are listed below; if there’s a name you’re missing it most likely featured in the monthly In Memoriam round-ups (so, yeah, not really “All The People Who’ve Died” here; the title borrows from this great tack by the Jim Carroll Band).

Two people whom I failed to give their dues in their respective months were Keith Wilder, lead singer of Heatwave, and soul singer Charles Bradley.

Keith Wilder died on October 29; I learnt of his death just as I was about to post the In Memoriam for that month; time prevented me from including a tribute. He deserved one. The US-born singer of the UK funk & soul band Heatwave died just over a year after his fellow bandmember Rod Temperton. Wilder was a superb singer, his gritty voice complementing the smoother tones of his co-lead singer and brother Johnny Wilder (who died in 2006).

Charles Bradley was not a name I was familiar with in September, when he died at the age of 68. Within a couple of weeks I was a keen admirer of his music after hearing a couple of his songs on the TV mini-series Big Little Lies. It turns out, Bradley’s songs, all recorded within the past 15 years, featured in many other shows, including Ray Donovan, Suits, Goliath, The Vampire Diaries and Black-ish.

The monthly In Memoriam round-ups are, I think, the most comprehensive on the Internet, and I don’t want to discontinue the feature. But I might scale back on the music and the potted obituaries since there seems to be not much of an audience for it; the feedback and page hits don’t justify the work that goes into them.

Somebody who did often comment on posts, via Facebook (become friends with me and be notified of new posts) and with wit and enthusiasm, was Michael Cheyne in England. I was sad to learn of his death earlier this month.

On that note, here is a mix of music, by way of tribute, of some of the big musicians who have died in 2016. As with last year’s compilation, I’ll limit myself to solo artists and people who were members of a featured band – so no songwriters, producers or session musicians feature, even if the body of their contributions was weighty.

 

POP/ROCK
Chuck Berry, 90, rock ‘n’ roll legend, on March 18
Fats Domino, 89, legendary R&B singer-songwriter, on October 24
Walter Becker
, 67, Steely Dan legend, producer, on September 3
Tom Petty
, 66, rock musician, on October 2
David Cassidy, 67, pop singer and actor, on November 21
Malcolm Young, 64, rhythm guitarist and songwriter of AC/DC, on November 18
Gregg Allman, 69, singer-songwriter, keyboardist of Allman Brothers Band, on May 27
Holger Czukay, 79, German rock musician, member of Can, on September 5
Jaki Liebezeit, 78, drummer of German rock band Can, on January 22
Chris Cornell, 52, frontman of alt.rock groups Soundgarden, Audioslave, of suicide on May 18

Pete Overend Watts, 69, English bassist of Mott the Hoople, on January 22
Chester Bennington, 41, singer of Linkin Park, suicide on July 20
Grant Hart, 56, drummer with Hüsker Dü, singer, songwriter, on September 14
J. Geils, 71, guitarist of The J. Geils Band, on April 11
Peter Sarstedt, 75, English singer-songwriter, on Jan. 8

 

SOUL/FUNK/HIP HOP
Al Jarreau, 76, jazz and soul singer, on February 12
Cuba Gooding Sr, 72, lead singer of The Main Ingredient, on April 20
Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, 62, musician with Ohio Players, Parliament-Funkadelic, on January 21
Joni Sledge, 60, singer with Sister Sledge, on March 10
Keith Wilder, 65, US-born singer of UK funk group Heatwave, on October 29

Leon Ware, 77, soul singer, songwriter, producer, on February 23
Bunny Sigler, 76, soul singer, songwriter and producer, on October 6
‘Pete’ Moore, 78, singer and songwriter with The Miracles, producer, on November 19
Brenda Jones, 62, singer with soul trio The Jones Girls, on April 3
Prodigy, 42, rapper with hip hop duo Mobb Deep, on June 20

 

COUNTRY
Glen Campbell, 81, country legend, on August 8
Mel Tillis
, 85, country singer-songwriter, on November 19
Don Williams, 78, country singer and songwriter, on September 8
Bob Wootton, 75, country guitarist for Johnny Cash, on April 9
Norro Wilson, 79, country singer-songwriter, on June 7

 

JAZZ/BLUES
Buddy Greco
, 90, jazz singer and pianist, on January 10
Jon Hendricks
, 96, singer- songwriter with jazz group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, on November 22
Della Reese, 86, jazz and gospel singer and actress, on November 19
Grady Tate, 85, jazz drummer and soul singer, on October 8
James Cotton, 81, blues singer, harmonica player, on March 15

 

SESSION PLAYERS
Clyde Stubblefield, 73, drummer with James Brown, on February 18
Robert ‘Pops’ Popwell
, 70, jazz-funk bass guitarist, on November 27
Bruce Langhorne, 78, folk guitarist and film score composer, on April 14
Laudir de Oliveira, 77, Brazilian percussionist with Chicago, on September 17
Butch Trucks, 69, drummer of the Allman Brothers Band, of suicide on January 24

 

PRODUCERSTommy LiPuma, 80, legendary record producer, on March 13
Buddy Bregman, 86, producer, arranger and composer, on Jan. 8
David Axelrod, 83, Jazz and R&B arranger, composer and producer, on February. 5
Bill Price, 72, sound engineer and producer, on Dec. 22 (announced in January)
George Young, 70, Australian musician, songwriter and producer, on October 22

 

MOVERS & SHAKERS
George Avakian, 98, producer and label executive, on November 22
Jerry Ross, 84, producer, songwriter, label owner on October 4
Paul Buckmaster, 71, English arranger, conductor and composer, on November 7
David Kapralik, 91, producer and label executive, on July 12
Pierre Henry, 89, French composer and electronic music pioneer, on July 5

The All The People Who Died 2017 mix
1. Fats Domino – I’m Walking (1959)
2. Chuck Berry – School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell) (1957)
3. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Ooo Baby Baby (1964)
4. Buddy Greco – Teach Me Tonight (1962)
5. Al Jarreau – We’re In This Love Together (live) (1985)
6. Heatwave – Always And Forever (1977)
7. The Main Ingredient – Work To Do (1973)
8. Della Reese – Games People Play (1969)
9. AC/DC – Ride On (1976)
10. Mott The Hoople – Roll Away The Stone (1973)
11. Steely Dan – Black Cow (1977)
12. Tom Petty – It’ll All Work Out (1987)
13. The Allman Brothers Band – Old Before My Time (2003)
14. Glen Campbell – Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) (2008)
15. Don Williams – Listen To The Radio (1982)
16. Mel Tillis – Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town (1976)
17. Johnny Cash – Wanted Man (live, 1969)
18. Grady Tate – Suicide Is Painless (1974)
19. David Cassidy – Daydreamer (1973)
20. Bunny Sigler – Things Are Gonna Get Better (1975)
21. Sister Sledge – Easier To Love (1979)
Bonus Track: Can – Bring Me Coffee Or Tea (1971)

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Al Green Sings Covers

November 30th, 2017 6 comments

Sometimes the less you know about your favourite singers, the better. Who knew that Al Green, the soul legend, is not an all-round good egg, nor, indeed, an all-round bad egg. The good Reverend is one hell of a conflicted cat. And that conflicted soul makes for intriguing reading in Jimmy’s McDonough new, authoritative biography of Al Green, Soul Survivor (Da Capo Press, 2017). For fans of popular music, and especially of soul, the book is a treasure.

Obviously the focus is on Green, but to understand Green – in as far as the man can be even remotely understood – one must also know the context in which he has existed and recorded. So McDonough introduces a cast of co-stars and supporting actors along the way. There is, naturally, Albert Leorn Greene’s family, including his pimp brothers.

The cover of Jimmy McDonough’s absorbing Al Green bio Soul Survivor, published in August 2017 by Da Capo Press.

A substantial portion of Soul Survivor is devoted to Willie Mitchell and his Hi Records. As Green’s producer and his musical home in the singer’s pomp, Mitchell and Hi are key to the Green story. So are backing musicians like the Hodges brothers—Charles on organ, Leroy on bass, and, perhaps most importantly, Mabon “Teenie” on guitar—as well drummers Howard Grimes and Al Jackson Jr and the Memphis Horns (mainly Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love), and later people like Reuben Fairfax.

It’s fascinating to learn how Mitchell turned Green, who fancied himself as a soul growler, into that quiet singer into whose vocals you can disappear, as McDonough eloquently puts it. Mitchell and Al Jackson Jr wrote the melody for Let’s Stay Together; Al Green’s task was to write the lyrics. So he locked himself up in a studio room and wrote them in 15 minutes – starting one of the great love songs as a reflection on black politics… Green then wanted to sing the song in shouty southern soul style. Mitchell insisted he sing it all mellow. Green was very unhappy with that idea and sped off in his car, wheels all a-screeching. When he returned, he deliberately sang the song as relaxed and with as little emotion he could muster, just to spite Mitchell – who in turn said that this was exactly the sound he wanted. No more takes were needed; a new kind of soul singer was born that day. The Hi Records part of the Al Green story is a most welcome bonus in this book.

Along the way we also encounter people like Laura Lee, a great soul singer in her own right and Green’s on-off girlfriend. It’s Lee about whom Green wrote Tired Of Being Alone. That song also introduced the backing vocals of the Rhodes sisters, who surprisingly were country singers, with sax player Charles Chalmers (Sandra Rhodes also played rhythm guitar on How Do You Mend A Broken Heart). If you are surprised to learn that Al Green’s soulful backing singers on those great Hi records were white, you surely are not alone.

Who’s a pretty pimp? Al Green makes his Soul Train debut in 1971, singing Tired Of Being Alone while wearing gold boxer boots, black vinyl hot pants, magenta vinyl vest, a gold chain, a pink pimp hat at a jaunty angle, and a man-bag on his shoulders. Give him a cane and he could fit into a scene from The Deuce.

 

McDonough is insightful in examining Al Green’s records. Obviously a devoted fan, he speaks with authority even as he expresses strong opinions. One wants to play the songs he is writing about just to hear what he hears. But at other times his opinions can be intrusive, such as the reference to the “dreaded Chicago”. And much as I agree with McDonough on the Talking Heads’ awful cover of Take Me To The River – “Fuck the Talking Heads”, he opines – in a book like this it’s better to not to try and force the reader’s mind. And only the good Lord knows how McDonough arrives at his churlishly-expressed opinion that “clown-haired” Lyle Lovett lacks talent.

But that is a minor criticism. McDonough marshals his widely collated resources well, even if it becomes difficult at some points to keep track of who is who. The author hopes that his book will be the definitive biography on Al Green, and he wasn’t going to leave many gaps.

Soul Survivor has a few moments of great trivia. We learn that Take Me To The River co-writer Teeny Hodges reported that his biggest payday had come not from the Green or Talking Heads recordings of the song but from royalties earned via the song’s “performance” by the animatronic fish Big Mouth Billy Bass in The Sopranos. And among the more startling revelation is that Green apparently is a freemason, in an African-American wing of the secret society that has also included such luminaries as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Richard Pryor.

Take Me To The River payday: the animatronic fish Big Mouth Billy Bass in The Sopranos.

 

There is an alarming story about how a goon gangster broke Al’s arm when the singer didn’t want to perform. But don’t feel too bad for Green, who allegedly felt quite entitled to assault women. Which takes us to the 1974 suicide of Mary Woodson and her attack on him with boiling grits (Green tends to insist it was Cream of Wheat) that preceded it. McDonough cites a lot of research on the incident; all it shows is that the official verdict of suicide should be seen as inconclusive. While a lot points to Woodson’s death having been self-inflicted, there are some questions that likely will never be answered.

Woodson’s death might or might not have played a role in Green’s conversion – which took place, of all places, after a gig at Disneyland, the result of a bargain he said he had made with God in 1969. A substantial section of the book covers Green’s career as a pastor (he’s now a bishop, whatever that means in non-hierarchical church). As with everything, Green is a walking contradiction in that role. One moment given to evangelical zeal and Christian charity, the next driven by that nasty underside that always seems to reside beneath his surface. Green’s style of ministry seems to be always a bit or a lot unhinged.

The man who emerges in the pages of Soul Survivor is alone and lonely, one who attracts people easily with charm and kindness, and then always finds ways to repel them with appalling behaviour. His outsized ego perhaps makes Al Green the only suitable companion for Albert Leorn Greene. It ain’t easy being Green.

And so to the mix. Whoopie Goldberg, in a rare moment of lucidity, said: “No one can cover Al Green.” It’s true: how many good covers of Al Green originals do you know? But Green is a superb interpreter of other people’s songs, most famously perhaps of The Bee Gee’s How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (an mind-blowing vocal performance, but don’t disregard Mitchell’s fine arrangement that sets the scene for those vocals). So here is a mix of Al Green singing other people’s songs. In the parentheses I cite the respective song’s most famous performer.

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

1. I’ve Never Found A Girl (1972 – Eddie Floyd)
2. I Can’t Get Next To You (1971 – The Temptations)
3. Drivin’ Wheel (1971 – Roosevelt Sykes/Junior Parker)
4. The Letter (1969 – The Box Tops)
5. Summertime (1969 – from ‘Porgy And Bess’)
6. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (1972 – The Bee Gees)
7. For The Good Times (1972 – Kris Kristofferson)
8. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (1973 – Hank Williams)
9. Funny How Time Slips Away (1973 – Jimmy Elledge/Joe Hinton)
10. I Stand Accused (1969 – Jerry Butler)
11. Unchained Melody (1973 – Righteous Brothers)
12. I Want To Hold Your Hand (1969 – The Beatles)
13. Oh, Pretty Woman (1972 – Roy Orbison)
14. Light My Fire (1971 – The Doors)
15. Together Again (1976 – Buck Owens)
16. Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home (1984 – Joe South)
17. People Get Ready (feat. Margie Joseph, 1981 – The Impressions)
18. A Change Is Gonna Come (live, 1994 – Sam Cooke)

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Any Major Freaks & Geeks

November 16th, 2017 11 comments

Every two or three years I make a pilgrimage to my set of 18 episodes of the short-lived TV series Freaks And Geeks. It is not only the greatest series ever to be cancelled after only one season, but one of the greatest TV series of all time. Almost every scene is a marvel.

To me, it completes the great American Schools Trilogy: The Wonder Years, Dazed And Confused; Freaks And Geeks. The first outlived its magnificence by about two or three seasons; the Linklater film absolutely needed no sequel; but Freaks And Geeks was put to death prematurely.

All three narratives about schooling succeeded because, though set in US schools with the culture that comes with it, the characters are almost universally recognisable. We’ve all met them, or some of them. Maybe we were them.

I went to school in Germany, where there no high school sports teams, and the sub-cultures were different. We had punks, poppers (New Romantic conservatives), rockers, Neo-Nazi skinheads… and mostly unaffiliated people. Not being much of a joiner I was among the unaffiliated. In Freaks And Geeks terms, I’d have been a “Freak” — though, like the Geeks, I loved Bill Murray and the movie Stripes (I even agree with Neal that the second half of that movie is best forgotten).

But whatever differences in the sub-cultures, I have known Wayne Arnold (who might as well have been modeled on my school nemesis, Marvin) and Paul Phyffer in The Wonder Years, Mitch Kramer and his two pals, Mike Newhouse and Tony Olson, Randall “Pink” Floyd, Fred O’Bannion and Don Dawson (another nemesis) in Dazed And Confused, and Sam Weir, Neal Schweiber, Bill Haverchuck (they were all my friends at some point), Alan White (bullies are all the same), Nick Andopolis and Ken Miller in Freaks And Geeks.

I’m on less safe ground identifying with girls, because if you’re a boy, your school domain is largely male. Still, I know Kim Kelly — the great Busy Philips in Freaks And Geeks —very well.

To me, Freaks And Geeks resonates in particular because in 1980/81, when the show is set, I was 14, the same age as the junior trio of Sam, Bill and Neal. While the cultural markers are different, these characters are my peers.

And so, if we can recognise the characters, or identify with them, then their experiences need not mirror ours exactly for us to be part of the story.

As in The Wonder Years and Dazed And Confused, the music is an important character in Freaks And Geeks (indeed, I did a mix of songs from The Wonder Years a few years ago; the mix has been re-upped). Here I cannot draw from the well of nostalgia. That American 1980/81 is not my 1980/81. And still, of the songs on this mix, which all featured on Freaks And Geeks, I owned six at the time (since you ask: Bowie, Seger, Billy Joel, Deep Purple, Supertramp, Jethro Tull).

As a bonus track I add “Lady L.”, the hackneyed love song Nick (Jason Segel) writes for Lindsay (Linda Cardellini), which has attained something of a cult status. The music-related scene that sticks with me, however, is the one where the Weir parents listen to The Who’s Squeeze Box to determine whether the British band’s concert is suitable for their teenage daughter.

The CD-R length rule required me to omit some worthy contenders; indeed, I expect to be hated for choosing Supertramp ahead of XTC (but I really don’t like No Language In Our Lungs) or Rush (whom I don’t really like, full stop). Maybe there’ll be a follow-up…

As ever, CD-R length, homeworked covers, PW in comments.

1. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation (1981)
2. Joe Jackson – I’m The Man (1979)
3. Warren Zevon – Poor, Poor Pitiful Me (1976)
4. Bob Seger – You’ll Accompany Me (1980)
5. Little River Band – Reminiscing (1978)
6. Billy Joel – Rosalinda’s Eyes (1978)
7. Kansas – Dust In The Wind (1978)
8. Jethro Tull – Aqualung (1971)
9. George Baker Selection – Little Green Bag (1969)
10. The Who – Squeeze Box (1975)
11. Deep Purple – Hush (1968)
12. Van Halen – Little Dreamer (1978)
13. Journey – Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ (1979)
14. Styx – Renegade (1978)
15. David Bowie – Fashion (1980)
16. Supertramp – Take The Long Way (1979)
17. Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia (1979)
18. Pure Prairie League – Amie (1972)
19. Grateful Dead – Ripple (1970)
20. Jason Segal – Lady L. (2000)

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Any Major Year

November 9th, 2017 12 comments

I was startled a little while ago while listening to Billy Joel’s Songs In The Attic album that its opening track about a post-apocalyptic USA is set in 2017. Things might be bad in real 2017, and the apocalypse might be a greater possibility now than it was just a couple of years ago, but the bridges of New York City are still standing.

Billy Joel first released the song in 1976 — featured here is the vastly superior  live version released five years later — when 2017 was 41 years away. Recently I read an article that we might have a post-apocalypse by 2050, i.e. only around 30 years from now. The future isn’t as far off a place as we may think.

Some other songs here anticipate the future. Boz Scaggs, singing in 1977, is having a bad trip. “It’s like 1993 and it’s weird as hell to me…This spoof reality is just like outer space to me.” Boz, lad, 1993 is cool. You should see 2017 and the Evil Keystone Kops running the show now!

Maybe Prince knew something. He didn’t expect the world to last much beyond the new millennium, hence is invitation to party now like it is 1999.

The Temptations in 1971 are looking at 1990 without mentioning 1990. It starts off like they’re in 1970, 1990 and 2017 at the same time. “Well, we got trouble in the White House, poverty in the ghetto…Thousand of jobless people walking the streets, with no food or place to sleep. What will become of them, America?” And so on in that righteous vein — until they go all Fox News on us with a sickly barrage of patriotic stuff about “America! I ain’t ashamed to say that I love ya. There ain’t another place on Earth I’d rather be.” Not even a place where there are no crooks in government and there are no poor and no ghettos?

A whole lot of songs in this mix look back into the past, including a couple of songs about World War I, most hauntingly the Motörhead track — and John Cale’s song about what I suppose is sexual frustration loosely set during the Versailles treaty negotiations.

Al Stewart’s The Last Day Of June 1934, from an album of historical vignettes, takes as its centrepiece the Night of the Long Knives, during which Hitler wiped out internal Nazi opposition (weep not for the victims here). Stewart frames that event around French lovers unconcerned about such things and British intellectuals discussing war.

Randy Newman in 1974 sang about the risible political response to the Louisiana flood in 1927; he would need to change only a few words to turn it into Louisiana 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, or 2017 with Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

Other songs take a very personal glance at the past. Randy Travis would like to fix a mistake he made in 1982 (four years earlier from the time of singing); Josh Rouse imagines the vibe in 1972, the year he was born.

And then there are a couple of songs that require little time travel. Swedish singer Hello Saferide welcomes the year 2006 with great scepticism — “January 1st and it’s already clear: It’s gonna be another shitty year” — and a hope that she’ll land that partner she seeks: “And on the top of the list there’s you. I’m going to be with you. I haven’t told you yet but I’m going to be with you.” I hope she got you.

Finally, The Barracudas in 1980 were nostalgically yearning for 1965. In today’s money that’s nostalgia for the year 2002. Suddenly I’m feeling so very fucking old…

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

1. Billy Joel – Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway) (1981)
2. Prince – 1999 (1983)
3. The Four Seasons – December ’63 (Oh What A Night) (1976)
4. Boz Scaggs – 1993 (1977)
5. New Order – 1963 (1987)
6. The Barracudas – (I Wish It Could Be) 1965 Again (1980)
7. The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979 (1995)
8. Hello Saferide – 2006 (2006)
9. Josh Rouse – 1972 (2003)
10. Al Stewart – The Last Day of June 1934 (1973)
11. Ralph McTell – England 1914 (1969)
12. Motörhead – 1916 (1991)
13. John Cale – Paris 1919 (1973)
14. Harry Nilsson – 1941 (1967)
15. Randy Newman – Louisiana 1927 (1974)
16. Loudon Wainwright – 1994 (1995)
17. Randy Travis – 1982 (1986)
18. The Statler Brothers – The Class of 57 (1975)
19. Gil Scott-Heron – The Summer of ’42 (1975)
20. The Temptations – 1990 (1973)
21. Paul McCartney & Wings – Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five (1973)

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Any Major Halloween Vol. 4

October 27th, 2017 5 comments

Here is the fourth and most likely final Halloween mix. This lot aims to be a bit spooky for about half of it, and then a little more relaxed, but without going too much novelty, other than that great disco track and that bizarre closing track.

One of the tracks here is in itself slightly spooky: The Doors’ Ghost Song was recorded in 1978, eight years after singer John Morrison’s death. Morrison’s spoken vocals were unscored recordings of his poetry; in 1978 the rest of the band put music to those recordings. The present track has very much a late ’70s disco-influenced vibe. This is what the Doors might have been.

So, four mixes of Halloween, and I have managed without the Rocky Horror Show, and didn’t need to consider those other Halloween staples, Ghostbusters and Thriller — though I did use The Monster Mash in the Halloween in black white mix from last year.

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

1. John Carpenter – Halloween Main Theme (1978)
2. Florence And The Machine – My Boy Builds Coffins (2009)
3. Kate Bush – Watching You Without Me (1985)
4. Genesis – Home By The Sea (1983)
5. The Chameleons – Swamp Thing (1986)
6. The Fall – Lucifer Over Lancashire (1986)
7. Ween – Cold Blows The Wind (1997)
8. Team Ghost – Dead Film Star (2013)
9. Menomena – Ghostship (2007)
10. Danny Elfman – This Is Halloween (1993)
11. Steeleye Span – Allison Gross (1973)
12. Tom Waits – Big Joe And Phantom 309 (1975)
13. The Doors – Ghost Song (1978/1970)
14. Oingo Boingo – Dead Man’s Party (1985)
15. Blue Magic – Born On Halloween (1975)
16. Hot Blood – Soul Dracula (1976)
17. Five Man Electrical Band – Werewolf (1974)
18. Iron Butterfly – Real Fright (1969)
19. France Gall – Frankenstein (1972)
20. Lambert, Hendricks and Ross – Halloween Spooks (1961)
Bonus track: Jethro Tull – Flying Dutchman (1979)

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Any Major Halloween Vol. 1
Any Major Halloween Vol. 2
Any Major Halloween Vol. 3

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