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Any Major Schlager Covers Vol. 1

October 12th, 2017 7 comments

 

The germanised cover version was a staple of the Schlager scene. Often they were cash-ins of songs that were big hits in other countries — not just from the Anglophone world but also from other European countries, especially France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

But not all German covers were cash-ins. Some were sophisticated and sincere interpretations by artists who in France would record under the rather more satisfying title “chanson”. These artists included the likes of Daliah Lavi, Katja Ebstein, Dunja Raiter and Joy Fleming, who are represented here. And others were reinterpreted in ways that gave the artist a break from recording grandmother-approved music. Some of these were filler album tracks. For example, former Les Humphries Singers member Jürgen Drews covered Hotel California, which features here, as he eas having a hit with Eddie Rabbitt’s Rocky Mountain Music (as Barfuss durch den Sommer).

The collection kicks off with Joy Fleming’s cover of Aretha Franklin’s version of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And if there was one German singer qualified to sing soul, it was Fleming, a woman of big voice and big personality. In 1975 Fleming came third-last in the Eurovision Song Contest with a soul-touched song that deserved better, Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein. Fleming sadly died in September, after this mix had been compiled.

Former teen star Manuela gives us a version of Percy Sledge’s When A Man Loves A Woman. The title, which translates as When Night Falls In Harlem, is not promising, but her version turns out to be okay. The singer, who was something of Germany’s version of Connie Francis, resists the temptation to emote.

Also singing soul is Katja Ebstein with her 1972 take on Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay, which has a tasteful arrangement and is well interpreted. Ebstein also represented West-Germany in the Eurovision, coming third in 1970 with the excellent Wunder gibt es immer wieder, and again in 1971 (with the ecology song Diese Welt), and second in 1980 (backed by mimes, with Theater). A social-democrat, the now 72-year-old Ebstein is still an engaged social activist.

Like Ebstein, Israeli singer Daliah Lavi, who died this year, enjoyed mainstream success with music that transcended the clap-along fare of the Schlager scene. Her take on The Beatles’ Something is a proper, understated reinterpretation of the song, most of it spoken. Lavi had a powerful voice; she knew better than to let it loose here.

It’s probably a stretch to call Volker Lechtenbrink a Schlager star. He already had a long career as an actor when he recorded his well-received debut album in 1976, which consisted almost entirely of covers of Kris Kristofferson songs. As a KK afficionado I can confirm that he did the man’s songs no injustice. Hear his version of Sunday Morning, Coming Down to see if you agree.

Also starting out in acting was Croatian-born Dunja Raiter. In her musical career she was always was more chanteuse than Schlager singer. Her soulful version of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne bears that out. There was not much clapping-along to be had with that.

Given the poor production values of many German versions of international hits, one is entitled to expect awful things from Hoffmann & Hoffmann’s German take on The Boxer. The lads sing it well enough — neither will be mistaken for Art Garfunkel, though — and the arrangement stays clear of cliché and shortcuts.

Worse things might have happened to another ’60s classic here. Peter Haupt’s version of Monday Monday is not likely to displace the Mamas & the Papas’ original, with those gorgeous harmonies, in anyone’s affection, but he gives it his personality without disrespecting the song. Haupt never became famous and died in 1999 at 58.

Those who know the Schlager scene might suspect that I tagged on Nina & Mike with their version of In The Year 2525 as a bit of a joke. They were very much of the mind-killing rhythm-defying clap-along variety of Schlager (sample their hit Fahrende Musikanten as an example). But, Nina and Mike had higher aspirations than shitty Schlager music. Folk Music, not Volksmusik. In that they were much like their fellow husband-and-wife act Cindy & Bert, whose cover of Paranoid we encountered in Curious Germany.

That Curious Germany mix also included a bunch of songs sung in German by English-speaking artists. Two more feature here: Alma Cogan gives us her German take on Tennessee Waltz; Cliff Richard appears here with his German version of Power To All My Friends, his 1973 entry for the Eurovision (here he is just grateful for having friends; he doesn’t want to give Germans ideas about power). I once actually posted a whole mix of international stars singing their hits in Deutsch.

Another foreign Eurovision alumni, this one a winner, here is Dutch singer Cory Brokken, singing her very songbirdy version of Do You Know The Way To San José, which Bacharach would approve of. Here the coffee is hot in San José, presaging the liquid crimes that coffee chains like Starbucks (boo!) commit today. Brokken died last year, earning a backgrounder entry in In Memoriam thanks to her unusual career: from being a singer to becoming a lawyer in her 40s and then a judge — before making a showbiz comeback.

Also from far shores was Bill Ramsey, who was born in 1931 in Cincinnati. Stationed with the US Air Force in Germany in the 1950s he began to play on stage, and went on to have a career in Germany. Most of his early stuff was square, sometimes ingratiatingly so. With the advent of beat music, Ramsey found a new voice, which often delivered some clever lyrics in that genre. Here he is with an interesting version of Jimi Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary. A bit over a decade later, rock group Spliff seemed to borrow from Ramsey’s vocals on their hit Deja Vu.

Another artist who got his big break thanks to the US army was Gerhard Wendland — but in his case it was thanks to being a POW of the Americans after World War 2, through Berlin station RIAS. His first record actually already came out in 1943, under the mentorship of Franz Grothe, a full-on Nazi who unaccountably enjoyed a long career in West-Germany. In the 1950s Wendland, already in his 30s/40s, was one of the biggest singing stars in West-Germany. By the 1960s his star started to fade slowly; now in his 50s he was an anachronism. His Sweet Caroline is the worst of the lot here.

In the 1990s old Schlager music enjoyed a rehabilitation, along the lines of semi-ironic nostalgic cult, and few artists benefitted from the revival in reputations more than Marianne Rosenberg. The good girl from next-door started out as a performer of standard Schlager fare before in the mid-‘70s tapping into that new-fangled disco music. Her cover of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass belongs in that context. Rosenberg is one of the classic gay club favourites in Germany.

Rosenberg’s version of Heart Of Glass is not bad, nor is it particularly great. I do, however, like Christina Harrison’s rather faithful cover of ABBA’s S.O.S. The singer had previously released singles as Christina May. After her career, Christina became a practitioner of ayurveda (an Indian wellness approach) and an activist for Native American rights, having lived on a Lakota reservation. In 1990 she married old Beatles friend Klaus Voormann, the designer of the Revolver cover, with whom she still lives near Munich.

The most demented track here is Karel Gott’s take on the Stones’ Paint It Black. The Czechoslovakian singer with the presumptuous surname was better known for his clean-cut crooning; later he’d sing the theme song for an animated kids’ show about a bee. But here Karel, “The Sinatra of the East”, goes apeshit: the arrangement is Slavic gypsy, and the singer can barely contain his voice with arousal as he yelps and hits high notes for no good reason, and as the song climaxes, Gott lets out a devil-possessed scream. It’s bizarre and absolutely wonderful. You’d think a well-mannered crooner would have political views as bland as most of his music, but Gott was a committed supporter of his country’s communist regime — and apparently remained a communist even after the fall of the regime there.

Some of the songs here also featured in the Facebook group for rare German grooves, The In-Kraut.

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

1. Joy Fleming – Geld (1975 – Respect)
2. Mary Roos – Die Liebe kommt leis’ (1972 – You Can’t Hurry Love)
3. Corry Brokken – Heiß ist der Kaffee (1968 – Do You Know The Way To San José)
4. Monica – Bang Bang (1966 – Bang Bang)
5. Karel Gott – Rot und schwarz (1969 – Paint It Black)
6. Bill Ramsey – Der Wind ruft Mary (1971 – The Wind Cries Mary)
7. Daliah Lavi – Manchmal (1971 – Something)
8. Katja Ebstein – Der Mann am Meer (1972 – Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay)
9. Manuela – Wenn es Nacht wird in Harlem (1967 – When A Man Loves A Woman)
10. Dunja Rajter – Susann (1969 – Suzanne)
11. Hoffmann & Hoffmann – Der Boxer (1977 – The Boxer)
12. Volker Lechtenbrink – Sonntag Morgen (1976 – Sunday Morning, Coming Down)
13. Hans Hass Jr – American Pie (1972 – American Pie)
14. Jürgen Drews – Hotel California (1977 – Hotel California)
15. Olivia Molina – Aber wie (1972 – Let It Be)
16. Gerhard Wendland – Sweet Caroline (1970 – Sweet Caroline)
17. Christina Harrison – S.O.S. (1975 – S.O.S.)
18. Marianne Rosenberg – Herz aus Glas (1979 – Heart Of Glass)
19. Cliff Richard – Gut daß es Freunde gibt (1973 – Power To All Our Friends)
20. Alma Cogan – Tennessee Waltz (1964 – Tennessee Waltz)
21. Eileen – Die Stiefel sind zum wandern (1966 – These Boots Are Made For Walking)
22. Peter Haupt – Monday Monday, was bringst Du mir (1966 – Monday Monday)
23. Nina & Mike – Was wird sein in sieben Jahren (1972 – In The Year 2525)

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 8

September 28th, 2017 3 comments

Here is the eighth Not Feeling Guilty mix — and about time, too. The last one was in October, since when Valerie Carter, featured here on track 9, has died.

I don’t think there any acts left to introduce in this lot. The famous ones you know, and the not famous ones I’ve written about before.

So, everything is self-explanatory and you know how it works: CD-R length, home-crafted covers, PW in comments.

1. Steely Dan – FM (1978)
2. Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute (1978)
3. Gary Wright – Love Is Alive (1975)
4. Boz Scaggs – It’s Over (1976)
5. Bill LaBounty – Comin’ Back (1982)
6. Robbie Dupree – Brooklyn Girls (1981)
7. Ambrosia – If Heaven Could Find Me (1978)
8. David Roberts – Boys Of Autumn (1982)
9. Valerie Carter – Lady In The Dark (1978)
10. Rupert Holmes – Let’s Get Crazy Tonight (1978)
11. Dr. Hook – Sexy Eyes (1979)
12. Paulinho Da Costa with Bill Champlin – Seeing Is Believing (1979)
13. Pages – Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong (1979)
14. Paul Davis – ’65 Love Affair (1981)
15. Lauren Wood – Work On It (1981)
16. Orleans – Love Takes Time (1979)
17. Jim Photoglo – More To Love (1981)
18. Player – Let Me Down Easy (1978)
19. Atlanta Rhythm Section – Imaginary Lover (1978)
20. Christopher Cross – The Light Is On (1979)

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix 1
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 2
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 3
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 4
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 5
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 6
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 7

Bacharach & David Songbook Vol. 1

September 21st, 2017 9 comments

It is probably redundant to deliberate at length about Burt Bacharach’s massive influence, other than to point out how incongruous it is that there were times when it was seen as somehow uncool to dig Bacharach’s music. That, to me, is the equivalent of coffee being declared socially unacceptable. Still, a few words seem necessary.

Bacharach and lyricist Hal David probably were the most prolific Brill Building partnership; if others exceeded their output, then certainly not with as much success. And consider some of these Brill alumni: Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Leiber & Stoller, Sedaka & Greenfield, Barry & Greenwich, Neil Diamond, Laura Nyro… The pair scored their first major hit soon after taking over a cubicle in the Brill Building in 1957: Perry Como’s Magic Moments. Over the next few years they scored a series of minor hits, many of which featured on the Bacharach: The Lesser Known Songbook mix.

The breakthrough arguably was meeting Dionne Warwick in 1961, who would become something of a muse for the songwriters. Warwick’s initial task was to sing on the demo recordings of songs destined for others. Warwick’s interpretations, however, were usually quite perfect. And so many songs came to be written with Dionne in mind. Some of these Warwick would be the first to record, others would be given to other artists first, to be covered later by Warwick (who had 22 US Top 40 hits with Bacharach/David songs). The triumvirate fell apart in the early 1970s amid a flurry of lawsuits.

By the 1970s the Bacharach style became unfashionable, incongruously labelled as easy listening fare. But it wasn’t: many Bacharach songs are best heard as soul songs, as the Covered With Soul Bacharach/David mix proved.

Soul singer Lou Johnson recorded several Bacharach/David songs before they became hits, though Kentucky Bluebird (later a Warwick hit as Message To Michael) was recorded by fellow soulster Jerry Butler a year earlier. Lyn Collins in her 1974 recording (featured here in the superior single version) proves further that many Bacharach songs are really soul songs, as do Aretha Franklin and Isaac Hayes, who had a way of transforming Bacharach songs into acid trips, though the present live version of The Look Of Love is a straight take on the song. Luther Vandross also was an outstanding interpreter of Bacharach, as he shows here on the slooowed down version of Anyone Who Had A Heart.

But outside soul and a few pop visionaries, Bacharach was considered uncool for a long time. When Frankie Goes To Hollywood singer Holly Johnson in the mid-’80s wanted to record a version of (Do You Know The Way To) San José, his laddish colleagues vociferously opposed the idea. In the event, they did record it, — perhaps because they could play Born To Run in return — and their version is quite lovely, if a bit wedding bandish. Arguably this was a significant step towards the rehabilitation of Bacharach which was complete by the late ’90s, with even the likes of Oasis’ chief plagiarist Gallagher paying tribute to Bacharach.

Bacharach had made something of a comeback with a few hits in the 1980s, co-written with wife Carole Bayer Sager, such as Arthur’s Theme, On My Own and Dionne Warwick’s comeback saccharine hit That’s What Friends Are For (as so often with Bacharach and Warwick, it had been previously recorded, by Rod Stewart for the soundtrack of 1982’s Nightshift).

Bacharach went back to his roots, in a way, when he composed, with occasional collaborator Elvis Costello, the song God Give Me Strength for the 1996 film Grace Of My Heart, which was loosely based on Brill alumni Carole King. Bacharach’s 1998 album with Elvis Costello, Painted From Memory, was a patchy effort, as was his 2005 solo album, At This Time. Much better was their lovely retro reworking of I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.

Burt’s unusual surname is German; there is a town called Bacharach in the Rhineland.

 

Bacharach’s melodies and arrangements are, obviously, exquisite. They also work well as instrumentals. But the lyrics of Hal David, who died in 2012, elevate these songs. David brought an old-school approach to lyrics to what was then modern pop. It is not only the elegance and poetic wordsmithery that sets David apart from most of his contemporaries, but also the rhythm of the words. In both regards, David was the equal of any lyricist that came before him, bar Cole Porter.

I think that Cole Porter would have killed for a line like this: “What do you get when you kiss a girl? You get enough germs to catch pneumonia. After you do she’ll never phone ya…” Hal David’s lyrics capture universal emotions with great perception and imagination. A couple of lyrics — Wives And Lovers, Wishin’ And Hopin’ — are rather of their time and awfully sexist, at least by our standards today. Both will feature on Vol. 2. But these are exceptions. Few lyricists have communicated heartbreak quite as close to the nerve as David; just listen to One Less Bell To Answer.

So it is right that this mix bears both names, Bacharach and David, even if the eagle-eyed pedant will point out that not every song here features the lyrics of Hal David. One song on this mix, Any Day Now, has Bob Hilliard’s words, sung by Elvis Presley. At least one other Hilliard song (Tower Of Strength) will be on the second Bacharach/David mix.

On this mix I am not experimenting: every one of these version is a favourite; most of them are the definitive interpretations. Still, I have imposed my usual rule: no artist is going to appear twice on a mix. A few will appear twice over the two mixes; certainly the muse Dionne Warwick.

The showstopper here is Barbra Streisand’s duet of herself with a mash-up of One Less Bell To Answer/A House Is Not A Home, which was covered to great effect in 2010 on the TV show Glee by Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison.

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

1. Carpenters – (They Long To Be) Close To You (1970)
2. B.J. Thomas – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (1969)
3. Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You (1968)
4. Sandie Shaw – (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me (1964)
5. Dusty Springfield – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1964)
6. Jackie DeShannon – What The World Needs Now Is Love (1965)
7. Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (1964)
8. Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (2000)
9. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – San José (1984)
10. Luther Vandross – Anyone Who Had A Heart (1986)
11. Barbra Streisand – One Less Bell To Answer-A House Is Not A Home (1971)
12. Isaac Hayes – The Look Of Love (live) (1973)
13. Lyn Collins – Don’t Make Me Over (1975)
14. Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Prayer (1968)
15. The Sweet Inspirations – Reach Out For Me (1967)
16. The Stylistics – You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) (1972)
17. Lou Johnson – Kentucky Bluebird (Message To Martha) (1964)
18. Jimmy Radcliffe – There Goes The Forgotten Man (1962)
19. Walker Brothers – Make It Easy On Yourself (1966)
20. Gene Pitney – Only Love Can Break A Heart (1963)
21. Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas – Trains And Boats And Planes (1965)
22. Elvis Presley – Any Day Now (1969)
23. Trini Lopez – Made In Paris (1965)

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More Bacharach:
Bacharach: The Lesser Known Songbook
The Originals: Bacharach Edition
Covered With Soul Vol. 7: Bacharach/David Edition

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Any Major Steely Dan Covers

September 3rd, 2017 10 comments

The death today of Steely Dan’s equal half, Walter Becker, merits a tribute to the band, especially on a site titled Any Major Dude With Half A Heart.

Steely Dan is the kind of band that invites strong opinions. Their music is not very soulful but expertly executed, using some of the finest session players of their time. For some it’s too cold; others can bathe in glow of the music’s brilliance. I can see why one might not be touched by the music, even finding it too clever, too self-consciously sophisticated. It’s a fair criticism, even if I don’t share in it. But the musicianship and the innovation deserve admiration. Much of it was Walter Becker’s work.

After starting out as a conventional rock group, Steely Dan soon became the two-some of Becker and Donald Fagan, surrounding themselves with a collective of top session musicians. Almost all the drummers that have featured in the Session Players series have played with Steely Dan: Bernard Purdie, Steve Gadd, Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, Ricky Lawson

Fagan was pretty much the frontman, taking the lead vocals. Becker’s primary job was to see to the intricate arrangements, with those complex rhythm tracks and finely tuned harmonies.

And that is where the critics of Steely Dan might do well to listen with new ears. I think they’ll find many surprises in most tracks.

And now, having bigged up the arrangements, I’m presenting a collection of cover versions.

It is not easy to do covers of songs that rely on intricate arrangements, and only very few Dan songs have been covered any significant number of times. This is what Steely Dan share with ABBA. But where the versions on the ABBA covers mix mostly required reinvention to be any good, Steely Dan songs can be covered fairly straight and still be good.

One version here is not good. Donny and Marie Osmond singing Reelin’ In The Years as the opening production of their show on 13 January 1978. Having done their job on the song, the toothy siblings hand over to the easy listening choir that scores an ice-skating routine, complete with high kicks. It is quite a show; take a look at it! Strangely, even though Reelin’ In The Years is pretty much the simplest, most straight-forward Steely Dan track, I’ve not heard a cover of which that I really liked.

And with that, here’s to the legacy of the great Walter Becker. May he rest in peace.

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

1. Wilco – Any Major Dude Will Tell You (2000)
2. Ben Folds Five – Barrytown (2000)
3. Nathan Haines with Damon Albarn – F.M. (2003)
4. Turin Brakes – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (2011)
5. Minutemen – Dr. Wu (1984)
6. Rickie Lee Jones – Show Biz Kids (2000)
7. Atlanta Rhythm Section – Hey Nineteen (2011)
8. Michael McDonald with Donald Fagen – Pretzel Logic (1991)
9. Waylon Jennings – Do It Again (1980)
10. José Feliciano – Dirty Work (1974)
11. Poco – Dallas (1975)
12. Snake Davis Band – Deacon Blues (2016)
13. David Garfield – Josie (2003)
14. Sara Isaksson & Rebecka Törnqvist – Fire In The Hole (2006)
15. Ivy – Only A Fool Would Say That (2000)
16. Zo! feat. Phonte and Sy Smith – Black Cow (2011)
17. Toto – Bodhisattva (2002)
18. Woody Herman Band – Aja (1978)
19. Donny & Marie Osmond – Reelin’ In The Years (1978)

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Any Major Jones

August 31st, 2017 8 comments

No surname, surely, appears in pop songs more frequently than Jones. So it seems appropriate to issue a mix or two (or even three; I have enough songs for that) of songs referring to somebody called Jones. And I’ve so far excluded songs that use the name Jones as a noun (such as Love Jones), never mind as a verb (jonesing).

That John D. Loudermilk song sounds a lot like a later track, possibly by the Bee Gees, a real potential case for Copy Borrow Steal. Who can out me out of my misery and tell me which song I hear in this track?

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

1. Frank Sinatra – Have You Met Miss Jones (1961)
What the Jones? Well, he has met her and now Miss Jones is stuck with him forever, poor girl.

2. Amy Winehouse – Me And Mr. Jones (2006)
What the Jones? What kind of fuckery indeed is this with Mr Jones?

3. Kool & the Gang – Jones vs Jones (1980)
What the Jones? It got too hot, now it’s the end between him and her.

4. Billy Paul – Me And Mrs. Jones (1972)
What the Jones? They have, as you probably know, got a thing going on…

5. Dusty Springfield – Willie & Laura Mae Jones (1969)
What the Jones? A song about he temporary condition of racial harmony, but that was another place and another time…

6. Small Faces – Lazy Sunday (1968)
What the Jones? “Cor blimey, hello Mrs Jones, how’s your old Bert’s lumbago?”

7. John D. Loudermilk – Angela Jones (1962)
What the Jones? He’ll carry her books home if she’ll just give him one little Doot’n do doo.

8. Bee Gees – New York Mining Disaster 1941 (1967)
What the Jones? The logic of asking Mr Jones lots of questions and then telling him to answer at a volume nobody can hear lest he cause a landslide…

9. Bob Dylan – Ballad Of A Thin Man (1965)
What the Jones? Mr Jones the journalist has no clue. Or Bob’s just being an asshole.

10. Ben Folds – Fred Jones Part 2 (live, 2005)
What the Jones? Ben Folds witnesses the retirement of a veteran newspaper man (not Bob’s hack, though), and anticipates the manufactured decimation of the traditional newsroom by profiteering enemies of professional journalism.

11. Counting Crows – Mr. Jones (1993)
What the Jones? Mr J is Sideshow Bob’s partner in perving at women.

12. The Jam – Smithers Jones (1979)
What the Jones? Smithers Jones the conformist, like his cousin Fred, gets shafted by the capitalist exploiter.

13. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Brown To Blue (1981)
What the Jones? Another divorce knees-up. She’ll become Mrs Jones and he’ll be blue.

14. Porter Wagoner – The First Mrs. Jones (1967)
What the Jones? A pretty melody for a very disturbing murder song, with a hell of a scary punchline.

15. Bobby Bare – Mrs. Jones, Your Daughter Cried All Night (1970)
What the Jones? Bobby met Miss Jones, and Mrs Jones didn’t approve.

16. Claudia Lennear – Casey Jones (1973)
What the Jones? There are many songs about John Luther “Casey” Jones was a railroad engineer who was killed in an accident in 1900, becoming a hero for saving many lives in the process. Lennear’s version is that by Furry Lewis, written in 1928.

17. Jerry Butler – Tammy Jones (1970)
What the Jones? Jerry wants to elope with Tammy from their gossiping town. Hmmm, Tammy Wynette was married to George Jones at the time. No wonder the town was gossiping…

18. Flaming Ember – Westbound #9 (1970)
What the Jones? The Reverend Jones preaches in a town of hypocrites. Time to get out on the Westbound #9.

19. The Supremes – Nathan Jones (1971)
What the Jones? Nathan upped and left and broke The Supremes’ heart. Well, here’s hoping Nathan ended up like the idiot who ghosted his girlfriend who turned out to be his boss ten years later.

20. The 5th Dimension – Black Patch (1972)
What the Jones? Jones got his mean streak from the gutter, got his kindness from God. If he didn’t get the invite, the former would probably emerge.

21. Scott Engel – Mr. Jones (1961)
What the Jones? The future Scott Walker wants to make Mrs Jones’ daughter the future Mrs Engel.

22. Dr. John – Save The Bones For Henry Jones (2006)
What the Jones? Originally from 1953, is this the first song about vegetarianism?

23. Roberta Flack – Sunday And Sister Jones (1971)
What the Jones? Reverend Jones dies and Sister Jones doesn’t hang about.

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Any Major American Road Trip – 7

August 24th, 2017 4 comments

So finally we are reaching an end to our seven-part musical American Road Trip which began in Boston and took us via New York and Philly down to South Carolina, through the Deep South and Texas into the west via Arizona, up the coast of California, turning right via Las Vegas through the Mid-West, and leaving us in Akron, Ohio when we last stopped.

In this mix we are staying briefly in Ohio, at the university town of Kent to pay tribute to the students shot dead there in 1970. We then move into blue-collar Pennsylvania, an area that is said to have swung things Trump’s way last November. It’s safe to say that the men singing about life in Pittsburgh and Youngstown would not recommend voting for Trump, nor for the enemies of the working and middle classes that are leeching off the institutionalised corruption in Washington.

From Pittsburgh our journey covers destinations which one might describe as unsung, except this mix is proof that they, in fact, are sung: places like Wheeling, Roanoke, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Myrtle Beach. Revisiting South Carolina and, briefly, Georgia, we come to Florida, ending up right at the tip of The Keys, at Key West — as you will see on the back cover.

By then, we’ll have covered 119 towns in 153 songs. I hope you enjoyed the trip. Next Europe?

 

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

1. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Ohio (2004 – Kent, OH)
2. Bruce Springsteen – Youngstown (1995 – Youngstown, PA)
3. Pete Seeger – Pittsburgh Town (1957 – Pittsburgh, PA)
4. Billy Joel – The Ballad Of Billy The Kid (live) (1981 – Wheeling, WV)
5. Tim Rose – Roanoke (1969 – Roanoke, NC)
6. Chuck Berry – The Promised Land (1964 – Norfolk, VA)
7. Starbuck – Moonlight Feels Right (1976 – Chesapeake, VA)
8. Aimee Mann – Ghost World (2006 – Myrtle Beach, SC)
9. Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland – Yolanda (1974 – Charleston, SC)
10. Lovin’ Spoonful – Jug Band Music (1966 – Savannah, GA)
11. Josh Turner – Jacksonville (2003, Jacksonville, FL)
12. John Hiatt – The Tiki Bar Is Open (2001 – Daytona Beach, FL)
13. Jimmy Buffett – Ballad Of Skip Wiley (1995 – Orlando & St Augustine, FL)
14. The Jayhawks – Tampa To Tulsa (2003 – Tampa, FL)
15. Drive-By Truckers – The Flying Wallendas (2010 – Sarasota, FL)
16. Elvis Presley – Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce (1965 – Fort Lauderdale, FL)
17. Sarah Vaughan – Moon Over Miami (1960 – Miami, FL)
18. Keith Whitley – Miami, My Amy (1985 – Miami, FL)
19. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Miami (1986 – Miami, FL)
20. Bertie Higgins – Key Largo (1982 – Key Largo, FL)
21. Shel Silverstein – The Great Conch Train Robbery (1980 – Key West, FL)

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Previously on American Road Trip

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Any Major Elvis Covers

August 16th, 2017 9 comments

Where were you when you learned of Elvis’ death, 40 years ago on August 16? I was at a church summer camp. At 11 I didn’t really appreciate the importance of Elvis. To me, he was a name and face one just knew, like those of Charlie Chaplin or Bing Crosby — both of whom also died in 1977. But, as it so often is, the death of an icon kicked off a mania. Suddenly everybody was an Elvis fan, myself included.

A greatest hits type of double album was my introduction to Elvis. It had all the important stuff on it. Some months later I bought a four-album set of Elvis rock & roll stuff. I was blown away by it, and adopted I Want To Be Free as my nominal favourite Elvis song.

It took me longer to get into latter period Elvis, other than the usual suspects (Suspicious Minds, In The Ghetto etc), and only grudgingly came to appreciate some of Movie Elvis period output.

I have previously run two mixes of the originals of songs Elvis had hits with (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). To mark the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death, here is a mix of artists covering Elvis songs. Almost all were Elvis originals; the three that aren’t — All Shook Up, Suspicious Minds, Burning Love —were rather obscure before Elvis recorded them. So no Hound Dog or Blues Suede Shoes here.

James Brown recorded his version of Love Me Tender after Elvis’ death, by way of tribute by what he says is one king to another. Humility was never JB’s strong suite. Of the soul covers here, his is not the best: that would be Candi Staton’s In The Ghetto.  And yet I was tempted to include the bizarre cover by Sammy Davis Jr that featured on The Ghetto Vol. 1.

Three covers here are by people who wrote the songs. Otis Backwell’s version of Return To Sender appeared on an album defiantly titled These Are My Songs. Dennis Linde’s recording of Burning Love sounds like it ought to have been a hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival. And Mac Davis took four years before he recorded the Elvis hit he had co-written, A Little Less Conversation.

Most songs here more or less follow the Elvis template, with some variations. So The Pogues’ version of Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do is reworked in the band’s customary Irish folk-punk sound, but the song retains its intregrity; likewise Albert King gives Jailhouse Rock a blistering blues treatment, but it’s still discernibly Jailhouse Rock. I suppose it might be difficult to immediately recognise Teddy Thompson’s wonderful version of I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone as the rock & roll track Elvis created, but that’s just clever arranging.

Two tracks, however, totally rework Elvis: John Cale’s Heartbreak Hotel has only passing acquaintance with the original. The Jeff Beck Group — with “Extraordinaire Rod Stewart”, as the sleeve notes have it, on vocals, backed by Beck, Ron Wood and Nicky Hopkins — stir into All Shook Up a heavy dosed of blues-rock. What, one may wonders, could have been had Elvis adopted that kind of sound in the late’60s. Poor “Colonel” Parker might have spontaneously combusted, leaving behind a pile of dust and a rock where his heart once was.

The benefit of listening to others sing Elvis is that one can understand the lyrics. Presley was a wonderful singer, but his diction was awful. I don’t think there’s a single up-tempo Elvis song which has not required me to innovate some alternative lyrics. So a good number of songs here have helped me disabused me of misheard lyrics. One of those was Devil In Disguise, thanks to candidates for inclusion which I rejected in favour of the one cover here that isn’t in English. It’s in Czech and performed by veteran crooner Karel Gott, “the Sinatra of the East”. It is, let’s say, interesting. I suspect Elvis might have approved as left the building.

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

1. Albert King – Jailhouse Rock (1969)
2. Roy Orbison – Mean Woman Blues (1963)
3. Buddy Holly – You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care) (1958)
4. Otis Blackwell – Return To Sender (1977)
5. Ry Cooder – Little Sister (1979)
6. Dillard & Clark – Don’t Be Cruel (1968)
7. Teddy Thompson – I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (2007)
8. Mac Davis – A Little Less Conversation (1972)
9. Dennis Linde – Burning Love (1973)
10. Candi Staton – In The Ghetto (1972)
11. The Persuasions – Good Luck Charm (2003)
12. Chuck Jackson – (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear (1966)
13. James Brown – Love Me Tender (1978)
14. PJ Proby – If I Can Dream (2011)
15. Françoise Hardy – Loving You (1968)
16. Sandy Posey – Don’t (1973)
17. Chris Isaak – I Forgot To Remember To Forget (2011)
18. Fine Young Cannibals – Suspicious Minds (1986)
19. The Pogues – Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do (1990)
20. Bruce Springsteen – Viva Las Vegas (2003)
21. Wanda Jackson – Hard Headed Woman (1961)
22. Conway Twitty – Treat Me Nice (1961)
23. Bobby Stevens – Stuck On You (1960)
24. Robert Gordon with Link Wray – I Want To Be Free (1977)
25. Vince Eager – A Big Hunk O’Love (1972)
26. The Jeff Beck Group – All Shook Up (1968)
27. John Cale – Heartbreak Hotel (1975)
28. Karel Gott – Dábel tisíc tvárí má (Devil In Disguise) (2011)

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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 4

July 27th, 2017 7 comments

The first three volumes comprised covers of most of the better-known Dylan songs. This compilation, and the upcoming Vol. 5, enters the terrain of some lesser-known tracks (unless you’re a Dylanista, in which case there is no such thing as an obscure song).

This means that for many listeners, some of these cover versions serve as an introduction to Dylan songs they didn’t know; and for the Dylan fans, I hope there are some versions of the tracks they know which they hadn’t heard before.

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

1. George Thorogood and The Destroyers – Drifter’s Escape (2006)
2. Counting Crows – You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (2012)
3. Neko Case – Buckets Of Rain (2006)
4. Stan Ridgway – As I Went Out One Morning (1996)
5. Elvis Costello – Don’t Throw Your Love Away (2008)
6. Los Lobos – On A Night Like This (2003)
7. Yo La Tengo – 4th Time Around (2007)
8. Phoenix – Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands (2010)
9. The Dubliners with De Dannan – Boots Of Spanish Leather (1992)
10. The Neville Brothers – With God On Our Side (1989)
11. Patti LaBelle – Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine (1977)
12. The Persuasions – The Man In Me (1971)
13. The Faces – Wicked Messenger (1970)
14. The Leaves – Love Minus Zero (1965)
15. Jackie DeShannon – Walkin’ Down The Line (1963)
16. Jason and the Scorchers – Absolutely Sweet Marie (1984)
17. Gary U.S. Bonds – From A Buick 6 (1981)
18. Joe Cocker – Watching The River Flow (1978)
19. David Bowie – Trying To Get To Heaven (1999)
20. George Harrison – Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind (1970)

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Any Major Whistle Vol. 1

July 17th, 2017 17 comments

Here I am recycling a mix on whistling in pop I posted in 2009. As a vigorous (and in-tune!) whistler, I appreciate the art of musical blowing of air. I presume that most of the whistling was perpetrated by the performers themselves, but there have been moments when an act has made use of session whistlers. For example, the fade out whistling on Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (not featured here) is not Otis Redding’s lipwork; in fact, he berated the session whistler for being out of tune in the first take.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on to a standard CD-R.

1. Elvis Presley – A Whistling Tune (1962)
The perfect opener: it’s got the right title, it starts with a whistle, it’s Elvis (though I don’t know if it is him whistling). Elvis doesn’t strike me as the whistling type). Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 Whistling right off the bat.

2. Roger Miller – England Swings (1965)
London was swinging, as TIME magazine established, so country singer Roger Miller imagined its swingingness. Oh yeah, the Bobby is on a leisurely beat. It’ll take Plod two years to work out that Mick and Keef are smoking naughty stuff in the privacy of their own home. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 From the top and returning throughout.

3. Johnnie Ray – Just Walking In The Rain (1956)
Poor old Johnnie Ray. Sounded sad upon the radio. He moved a million hearts in mono. Here he is crying, believe it or not. And, happily, whistling a catchy blow-air riff. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 Johnnie lets blow from the start before singing, just like our fathers.

4. Pat Boone – Love Letters In The Sand (1957)
Pat Boone was never very cool. But I can forgive him his reactionary pop posing for his whistle solo in Love Letters In The Sand, proudly wearing his Bing Crosbyness on his lips.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:27  And all the girls play air whistle.

5. The Mamas & The Papas – Dream A Little Dream Of Me (1968)
If by 1968 anybody had a doubt who the star of the Mamas And the Papas was, here’s the proof: Cass gets a special intro. Glorious. Whistle-tastic moment: 2:58  Enough of the ad-libbing da-da-da-ing; give a little whistle.

6. Rilo Kiley – Ripchord (2004)
If there had been Indie rock in 1928, Ripchord (from the excellent More Adventurous album) would have been the hit. Whistle-tastic moment: 1:44  The whistling is not very good, and yet entirely charming.

7. Badly Drawn Boy – You Were Right (2002)
Why do some people not like Badly Drawn Boy? This is perhaps the wolly-hatted one’s best song, with great lyrics. I like his obliviousness to the deaths of stars, and his rejection of Madonna’s possible romantic designs on him.  Whistle-tastic moment: 4:03  The boy can whistle as well as Roger Whitaker (sorry, apartheid-boycott-busting fans; he won’t feature): a great 23 second solo.

bogartbacall

You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together, and blow.

8. Andrew Bird – Masterfade (2005)
It’s obvious a singer named Bird should make the whistle a regular element of his music. Happily, the whistling does not define Bird’s kicked-back indie sounds  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:39  Vibrato whistling!

9. Loose Fur – The Ruling Class (2006)
I’ve been told that the recurring whistling here is committed by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, for whom Loose Fur was a side-project and takes the vocals on this track. It’s a good riff.   Whistle-tastic moment: 0:09   Take care; the whistle riff might become a constant earworm.

10. The Lemonheads – If I Could Talk I’d Tell You (1996)
It took me a while to decide whether to use this version or Evan Dando’s solo live cut  (I love this song in either incarnation). Dando live is amusingly off-key on the first note of the whistle solo, an error I’ve tried hard to replicate. If I could talk I’d tell you why I went with the Lemonheads’ take (OK, put away your waterboard: it’s a question of sound quality).   Whistle-tastic moment: 1:53   One of the birds flying around Snow White’s head must have had some of the evil queen’s bad apples and turned up totally goofed at the Lemonheads’ recording studio.

11. Tenpole Tudor – Wünderbar (1981)
The indiscriminate use of the umlaut notwithstanding, this is still a great song – I’d have thought that 28 years on it would be vaguely embarrassing. Not so, I’m jiving to it as I write.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:38   An extended group whistle solo. Wonderful.

12. XTC – Generals And Majors (1980)
Post-punk new wave was not a fertile soil for the art of whistling. Except if you were XTC, who rocked the whistle more than once. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:41  The whistle interlude sets the scene for tempo change (listening closely, is it the synth whistling?).

13. Dexys Midnight Runners – Until I Believe In My Soul (7:01)
I held this one over from the flute series. If I was planning a series of fake laughing in pop – and I am not – or one about irritated mumbling interludes in music (ditto), this would be a contender too. Whistle-tastic moment: 5:05 After lots of emotional build-up, the song goes silent for a second; then Rowland whistles reassuringly to introduce the fiddle-backed mumblinations that precede the repeated YESes.

14. Eels – I Like Birds (live) (2006)
E insists that the song is about his appreciation of our feathered friends. The feeder for you to perch on is…for birds?  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:37  The whistle represents a bird.

15. Jens Lekman – A Man Walks Into A Bar (2005)
Oh Jens, you’re so ironic. The memories of a childhood amateur comedienne makes you sad, years after. Just beautiful.  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:54  The whistle interlude allows us to reflect on Lekman’s irony and wallow in his melancholy. And he repeats the trick. And gives us a harmonica solo to boot.

16. Josh Rouse – Quiet Town (2007)
Josh Rouse left Nashville, found love and settled in a quiet town in Spain which sounds like a relaxing place, with much leisure and contentment. And what do you do when you’re leisurely contented? Why, you whistle, contentedly.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:13  Josh is leisurely contented.

17. John Lennon – Nobody Loves You When You’re Down (1975)
It may seem impossible to imagine, but John Lennon had moments of self-pity. Oh yes, but he did. Rarely in his solo career did the self-pity serve him better than on this bitter song, extracting from Lennon fine, understated vocals.  Whistle-tastic moment: 4:27  John goes into resigned  “oh fuck it” whistling mode, repeating his party trick from Jealous Guy..

18. Shawn Phillips – Steel Eyes (1971)
Phillips is an unjustly ignored long-hair folk merchant now living in South Africa. Steel Eyes comes from the wonderful Second Contribution album (worth looking up just for the title of the opening track).  Whistle-tastic moment:2:12   You think the song is over; then, after a three-second silence, Phillips gives it a whistle interlude. Forty seconds later, it ends. But it doesn’t; he starts again. Oh how you tease, Shawn.

19. Sun City Girls – The Shining Path (1990)
And today’s prize question: Which famous melody are the unfeminine Sun City Girls ripping off here? And what on earth are they singing?  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01  Unlike your average spaghetti western, Sun City Girls don’t let you wait long for whistle action.

20. The Beach Boys – Disney Girls (1957) (1971)
The moment the Beach Boys, led here by Bruce Johnstone, turned into Paul McCartney. It has whistling and flute. Gorgeous.  Whistle-tastic moment: 3:47   The whistling comes in randomly at the end.

21. Paul Simon – Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard (1971)
Paul Simon once said he didn’t really know what Mama saw. Still, it seems obvious that an act of a sexual nature was observed. But let’s put to rest the idea that Rosie was the leading administrator of favours to matters phallic because she was the queen of something sharing the name with a cigar – Corona is a New York neighbourhood. Whistle-tastic moment: 1:12   Simon lets blow. Good job. Bad pun.

22. Danyel Gérard – Butterfly (French version) (1971)
I’ve posted the German version of this before, and I shall do so again. The German, English and French versions all have the whistling interlude. The song? Yeah, it is cheesy. And quite wonderful.  Whistle-tastic moment: 3:17   After establishing a sing-along party atmosphere, our floppy-hatted friend wistfully (look, Ma, no puns) whistles the song out.

23. Richard Cheese – Creep (2006)
It’s so mother-fucking special.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:07  Cheese announces it: WHISTLE SOLO!.

Bonus: Mrs Miller – Downtown (1966)
You have to love Mrs Miller: she was deadly serious about her singing, yet she knew that to everyone else it was amusing. Hear Mrs Miller fluff her line, get flustered, and then gamely catches herself to take us to perhaps the most disturbing whistle solos in the history of popular music — after which she fluffs the lyrics some more.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:07  Mrs Miller is so stoked about her whistling chops that she gives us an encore.

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Any Major Beach Vol. 2

July 13th, 2017 2 comments

It’s the middle of summer for most people who read this blog (though not for us poor southern hemisphereans), so it’s a good time to for summer music. For those of us in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or the colder parts of South America, there is always the Winter mix.

The four-part summer songs series finished a while ago, but last year I returned to the theme with a special focus on the subject of the beach. So this is the second mix on that theme.

The theme was suggested a while ago by reader Rob, who suggested the inclusion of The Drifters’ On The Boardwalk. The Drifters featured last time, but this mix includes a cover version of it by the never less than cheerful John Mellencamp. Here I again allow the Beach Boys an exemption from my one-artist-per-theme rule — if only to offset some of the less light-hearted songs on this mix.

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

And don’t forget to wear a sunhat.

1. First Class – Beach Baby (1974)
2. The 5th Dimension – On The Beach (In The Summertime) (1970)
3. Françoise Hardy – Sunshine (1970)
4. Glen Campbell – Galveston (1969)
5. Three Dog Night – Yellow Beach Umbrella (1976)
6. Michael Franks – Blue Pacific (1990)
7. Colin Hay – Beautiful World (2000)
8. Blake Shelton – Some Beach (2010)
9. George Strait – Marina Del Rey (1982)
10. Natalie Merchant – Maggie And Milly And Molly And May (2010)
11. The Pogues – House Of The Gods (1990)
12. John Mellencamp – Under The Boardwalk (1985)
13. Brenda Lee – White Silver Sands (1962)
14. The Brothers Four – Marianne (1960)
15. Frank Sinatra – Sand And Sea (1966)
16. Elvis Presley – Never Ending (1964)
17. The Who – Bell Boy (1973)
18. The Beach Boys – The Girls On The Beach (1974)
19. Brian Eno – On Some Faraway Beach (1974)
20. Diana King – Summer Breezin’ (2002)
21. The Bloodhound Gang – Screwing You On A Beach At Night (2007)

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