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Any Major Cohen Covers

November 17th, 2016 20 comments

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At this year’s Emmy awards in September, some breathy, note-swallowing songstress sang Leonard Cohen’s magnificent though now overcooked Hallelujah over the section listing the year’s departed TV people. I don’t know why she sang that particular song, but it didn’t cross my mind that within a couple of months, Cohen himself would find inclusion on In Memoriam lists.

Cohen himself knew, though. And he checked out the day before Americans rejected notions of respect and decency. His death on November 7 was made public only four days later.

In April this year, Marianne Ihlen (née Jensen), Cohen’s muse who was immortalised in his song So Long Marianne, died. As Marianne lay dying of leukemia, Cohen wrote her a letter. In it he said: “Well, Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and for your wisdom … but now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

Now dab dry those most eyes, and take delight in this mix of covers of Leonard Cohen’s songs. It is a strange thing, but Cohen is not really widely covered, a few select songs aside. Often the same artists would return to the Cohen songbook. And yet, I think his songs are very coverable indeed, as this mix shows.

The most covered song in the Cohen canon is 1984’s Hallelujah. Jeff Buckley’s version is the standard, of course, but I also like the two Shrek versions, John Cale’s in the film, and Rufus Wainwright’s on the soundtrack. Some versions are awful (apparently even Michael F. Bolton has molested the song). Here I’ve gone for Brandi Carlile’s lovely version — she is one of the finest contemporary singers — which was recorded live with The Seattle Symphony (the live album, Live at Benaroya Hall, is superb). Newsweek ranked it at #7 in its entertaining list of Top 60 versions of Hallelujah.

A few singers here are people with whom Cohen had close relationships. He was a mentor to Anjani Thomas and to some extent to Jennifer Warnes (they also wrote some songs together).  Judy Collins was his mentor. When Cohen was still a struggling poet-songwriter with no plans to become a singer, his fellow Canadian folkie recorded a couple of his compositions — and had a hit with Suzanne. I wrote about it in The Originals.

Cohen had some success with his latter albums, stepping in the gerontophile path smoothed by Johnny Cash. There is something about the wisdom of songs being delivered by a worn voice. Three Cohen songs are covered here by such worn voices; those of Johnny Cash, Marianne Faithful and Tom Jones. The latter nails his song especially.

I was going to run the second volume of the Bob Dylan covers this week, to follow up on the first mix. That will now have to wait.

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

1. Nick Cave – I’m Your Man (2006)
2. Pixies – I Can’t Forget (1991)
3. Joe Cocker – First We Take Manhattan (1999)
4. Lloyd Cole – Chelsea Hotel (1991)
5. Johnny Cash – Bird On A Wire (1994)
6. Roberta Flack – Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (1969)
7. Françoise Hardy – Suzanne (1970)
8. Bell + Arc – So Long, Marianne (1971)
9. Judy Collins – Famous Blue Raincoat (1971)
10. Pearls Before Swine – Seems So Long Ago, Nancy (1971)
11. Esther Ofarim – You Know Who I Am (1969)
12. Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris – Sisters Of Mercy (1999)
13. Brandi Carlile – Hallelujah (2011)
14. Harvey Milk – One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong (1996)
15. Anjani Thomas – Blue Alert (2006)
16. Tom Jones – Tower Of Song (2012)
17. Marianne Faithfull – Going Home (2014)
18. Jennifer Warnes – A Singer Must Die (1986)
Bonus track: Madeleine Peyroux – Dance Me To The End Of Love (2004)

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Any Major Radio Vol. 2

November 10th, 2016 16 comments

Any Major Radio Vol. 2

The second edition of Any Major Radio has a real radio feel: these songs aren’t just about radio, but sound like they ought to be on the radio.

I never really got the difference between FM and AM types of music on US radio, but I suppose some of these songs could be on the FM movie soundtrack. I particularly like the sequence from Track 5 to 12 on this mix; the whole thing is rather good to drive to.

Some of these songs here were requests from readers in comments to Any Major Radio Vol. 1 — I have a few more suggestions in hand in case the response to this mix indicates interest in a third volume.

As always, CD-R length, covers, PW in comments. (As I was posting this I spotted that the cover says “Vol. 1”. Oops.)

1. Theme – News Radio (1995)
2. The Smiths – Panic (1986)
3. Elvis Costello and The Attractions – Radio Radio (1978)
4. Talking Heads – Radio Head (1986)
5. The Ravyns – Raised On Radio (1984)
6. Bruce Springsteen – Radio Nowhere (2007)
7. Steve Earle – Satellite Radio (2007)
8. Dillard & Clark – The Radio Song (1968)
9. Don Williams – Listen To The Radio (1982)
10. Helen Reddy – Angie Baby (1975)
11. Dr. Hook – The Radio (1976)
12. The Velvet Underground – Rock & Roll (1970)
13. The Clash – Capital Radio One (1980)
14. Cheap Trick – On The Radio (1978)
15. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner (1977)
16. Tom Petty – The Last DJ (2002)
17. Rick Mathews – Playin’ On The Radio (1991)
18. The Sports – Who Listens To The Radio (1979)
19. The Blasters – Border Radio (1981)
20. Larry Graham and Graham Central Station – My Radio Sure Sounds Good To Me (1979)
21. Edwin Starr – H.A.P.P.Y. Radio (1979)
22. Donna Summer – On The Radio (1979)
23. Zhané – Request Line (1997)

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Any Major Mexico

October 27th, 2016 15 comments

Any Major Mexico

On Tuesday, November 8, US citizens will have the option to elect as their president a spittle-spewing sphincter-mouthed polemicist who peddles the delusion the USA can build a wall across the long Mexican border — and make Mexico pay for it.

At least a third of Americans think that the streams of excrement that is being pumped into the US political discourse (and not only by old sphincter-mouth) is reasonable, aside from all the other poisonous stench which that bluster-bully has emitted from the putrid cesspool inside his corroded cranial cavity.

I have no idea whether former Mexican President Vicente Fox has any other redeeming features, but I enjoyed that particular Bad Hombre’s response to the crazy clown’s idea: “We’re not paying for that fucking wall.” This angered the bankrupt billionaire so much that he demanded an apology!

So this seems like a good time to observe the US-Mexico relationship via the medium of song, through which no demagogic dickhead can build a barrier.

Mexico has always fascinated songwriters. In Germany’s Schlager scene of the 1960s and ’70s, Mexico was the big thing. The biggest hit of them all was Rex Gildo’s rousing Fiesta Mexicana, which remains a cult hit in Germany, despite (or perhaps because) its cheesy arrangement. Still, Gildo’s exclamations of “Hossa!” rank among the most-inspired moments in ’70s pop, in any language. I include it as a bonus track.

In other songs the dreaded Heino sang about Tampico, Tony Marshall had Adios Amigos, Freddy Quinn chipped in with some Mexico song, Caterina Valente with another, and others with yet more songs about tequila and fiestas and senoritas. The Germany-based Les Humphries Singers sang their 1972 Schlager about Mexico in English (shamelessly ripping off Jimmy Driftwood’s The Battle Of New Orleans), and that is included here.

Old Sphincter mouth.

Old Sphincter mouth.

And Cuban singer Roberto Blanco made a German version of Tom Jones’ The Young New Mexican Puppeteer — and that takes us back to the US elections and the bigotry and fear-mongering and lack of kindness exhibited by the narcissistic nutter and the freak show that is doing his bidding. The song, by Jones or Blanco, isn’t set in Mexico but in a town near Albuquerque (which, of course, was annexed from Mexico), so it doesn’t qualify for inclusion in this mix. But listen to its lyrics HERE; they reference Lincoln, King and Twain. “The young New Mexican puppeteer, he saw the people all lived in fear. He thought that maybe they would listen to a puppet telling them what to do.” Hell, if the US doesn’t need a New Mexican puppeteer right now to bring peace and joy and civil rights, rather than Putin’s or Wall Street’s puppet.

One act German Schlager singers didn’t tend to cover was The Grateful Dead. They feature here in the guise of Bob Weir, from his 1972 Ace LP, which basically was a Dead album. Indeed, Mexicali Blues was a staple of the Deads’ live shows and was included on their 1974 greatest hits collection.

Frank Sinatra confuses matters a little. His 1956 cover of the 1930 hit It Happened In Monterrey takes the spelling of the California town, but the lyrics indicate that the song is still set in the city in Nuevo León state.

To be sure: This set is not intended to showcase Mexican music or Mexican acts, though the set closes with a tejano-fusion act, the Texas Tornados, whose members included Sir Douglas Quintet founders Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers, swamp rocker Freddy Fender, and accordionist Flaco Jiménez, one of those artists who have worked with some of the greatest acts in rock (such as like Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder and the Rolling Stones, who open this set) but whose name isn’t widely known.

Indeed, much of the mix is pretty relaxed, with few sounds of mariachi and no Speedy Gonzalez clichés abounding.

Above I disqualify Tom Jones’ song for being set in Albuquerque, not in Mexico. I also excluded Christopher Cross’ Ride Like The Wind for stopping at the border to Mexico. But at least two songs are not located in Mexico either: James Taylor is singing about his desire to go to Mexico, but he certainly is there already in his mind.

Dave Alvin’s sublime Rio Grande takes various stops in places in Texas and New Mexico, but from there he observes the storm clouds above Juarez and stares at the lights of Mexico before walking to the border bridge where the eponymous river forms the border. The song is wonderful; it also featured on Any Major Country Vol. 20.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R (so there were a few good songs I had to exclude) and includes home-fiestad covers. PW in comments.

1. The Rolling Stones – I’m Going Down (1975)
2. John Prine – Mexican Home (1973)
3. Delbert McClinton – Down Into Mexico (2005)
4. Carbon Leaf – Mexico (2009)
5. Blake Shelton – Playboys Of The Southwestern World (2003)
6. Dave Alvin – Rio Grande (2004)
7. Chris Isaak – South Of The Border (1996)
8. Merle Haggard – Mexican Bands (2010)
9. Steve Earle – Goodbye (1995)
10. Warren Zevon – Veracruz (1978)
11. Hoyt Axton – Evangelina (1975)
12. Emmylou Harris – Spanish Is A Loving Tongue (1981)
13. James Taylor – Mexico (1975)
14. Townes Van Zandt – Pancho And Lefty (1993)
15. Donovan – Sand And Foam (1967)
16. Bob Weir – Mexicali Blues (1972)
17. The Kingston Trio – Tijuana Jail (1959)
18. Long John Baldry – Mexico (1968)
19. Frank Sinatra – It Happened In Monterey (1956)
20. Stan Kenton and His Orchestra feat. June Christy – Tampico (1945)
21. Herb Alpert – Tijuana Taxi (1966)
22. Les Humphries Singers – Mexico (1972)
23. Texas Tornados – Adios Mexico (1990)
Bonus: Rex Gildo – Fiesta Mexicana (1972)

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Any Major Halloween Vol. 3

October 20th, 2016 5 comments

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Being nothing if not seasonal, I have put together a third Halloween mix. This one covers the black & white era of rock & roll, from the mid-’50s to the mid-’60s — which also happened to be the golden era for Halloween novelty songs. Some of these are utter gems; the value of others resides in their novelty.

Billy Lee Riley was a big influence on Bob Dylan Dylan influence. Like Warren Smith, another Dylan favourite, he was on Sun Records at a time when Sam Philips diverted all his promotional resources to Jerry Lee Lewis’ career. Dylan reckons Riley might have been a bigger star than Lewis. Like Smith, Riley left Sun and went west. He had a few minor hits, and worked as a session musician. In the early 1970 Riley quit music and moved into construction. He made a comeback in the 1990s, even earning a Grammy nomination for his 1997 blues album Hot Damn!. Billy Lee Riley died in 2009 at the age of 75.

Another Sun Records alumnus features here: Jumpin’ Gene Simmons who used to open for the young Elvis. He had only one single on Sun. His only hit, Haunted House, was released by Hi Records, future home to soul legends such as Al Green. One of the singer’s fans was young Israeli-American musician named Chaim Witz. When Witz — a name that, quite suitably, means “joke” — needed a cool name, he took that of Gene Simmons. The real Gene Simmons died in 2006 at the age of 73. The long-tongued douchebag is still around.

Not all acts here are rock & roll and R&B acts; some are garage rock bands. The Kingsmen are represented here with the instrumental Haunted Castle, the song that was the flip-side to their massive hit Louie Louie.

The Castle Kings released only two singles, including the track featured here. The writers of the 1961 song did rather better: Atlantic boss Ahmed Ertugun and future Halloween story Phil Spector.

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The Five Blobs were not even a band, but a collection of session musicians assembled by musician Bernie Knee to record the title song for the 1958 Steve McQueen movie The Blob, an early collaboration by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. In the 1970s, Knee recorded a song in support of Richard Nixon as the crook was fighting impeachment charges.

Round Robin does/do some impressive growling on his/their song — except it is not really clear who Round Robin was. Wikipedia suggests it was the songwriter Baker Thomas (who wrote The Wonder Of You); and in absence of any better info, I’ll go with that.

Music wasn’t really Bob McFadden’s claim to fame. He was rather better known as a voice actor on animated shows: his credits include Milton the Monster, Cool McCool and Snarf from the ThunderCats. His appearance here owes to an album he recorded in 1959 with folk-poet Rod McKuen. His background as a cartoon voice shows on the song. McFadden died in 2000 at the age of 76.

If producer/comedian Dickie Goodman sounds like an early version of a white rapper on his 1961 song, consider this: Goodman was the inventor of the “break-in” technique, an early type of sampling.

Of all the weird tracks here, the most bizarre must be Jimmy Cross’ 1964 song. It is a parody of the road death songs that were popular at the time — Dead Man’s Curve, Leader Of The Pack, Tell Laura I Love Her, Teen Angel or Last Kiss by J. Frank Wilson, whose similarly bizarre song in this mix precedes that by Cross. I Want MY Baby Back moves swiftly from the ridiculous to pure WTF. You have to love lines like this: “Well, when I come to I looked around, and there was the leader, and there was the pack, and over there was my baby.” But the denouement… well, it’s the reason the song features on a Halloween mix.halloween-labels_2Some people may think that I have yielded to cliché by including The Monster Mash. But in this collection, the song is placed within its context and very much belongs here.What is striking is how little it actually stand out from the rest of the crowd.

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

1. Jackie Morningstar – Rockin’ In The Graveyard (1959)
2. Billy Lee Riley – Nightmare Mash (1963)
3. Johnny Fuller – Haunted House (1959)
4. The Duponts – Screamin’ Ball (At Dracula Hall) (1958)
5. Bo Diddley – Bo Meets The Monster (1956)
6. Johnny Otis Show with Marci Lee – Castin’ My Spell (1969)
7. Kip Tyler – She’s My Witch (1958)
8. Little Richard – Heeby Jeebies (1956)
9. David Seville – Witch Doctor (1958)
10. The Monotones – Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1958)
11. Round Robin – I’m The Wolfman (1965)
12. The Kingsmen – Haunted Castle (1963)
13. The Diamonds – Batman, Wolfman, Frankenstein Or Dracula (1959)
14. Ronnie Cook and The Gaylads – Goo Goo Muck (1965)
15. The Castle Kings – You Can Get Him – Frankenstein (1961)
16. Dickie Goodman – Horror Movies (1961)
17. Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers – Monster Mash (1962)
18. Jumpin’ Gene Simmons – Haunted House (1964)
19. Lloyd Price – Under Your Spell Again (1962)
20. Lee Ross – The Mummy’s Bracelet (1958)
21. Leroy Bowman – Graveyard (1958)
22. Allen Sherman – I See Bones (1963)
23. Bobby Rydell – That Old Black Magic (1960)
24. The Five Blobs – The Blob (1958)
25. Big Bee Kornegay – At The House Of Frankenstein (1958)
26. The Moontrekkers – Night Of The Vampire (1961)
27. Hollywood Flames – Frankenstein’s Den (1958)
28. J. Frank Wilson – Unmarked And Covered With Sand (1964)
29. Jimmy Cross – I Want My Baby Back (1965)
30. Bob McFadden – The Mummy (1959)
31. Gary ‘Spider’ Webb – The Cave (Part 1) (1961)

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

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 7

October 13th, 2016 8 comments

Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 7

Man, how I enjoy this mix, the seventh in the Not Feeling Guilty series of songs one might call soft rock, or smooth rock, or the dreadful term “yacht rock”. I’ve played it so much in my car, the bitrate is deteriorating!

If you share my view that no such mix is complete without the sound of Michael McDonald’s distinctive baritone but are puzzled by his omission upon perusal of the tracklisting — assuming that this is what you do before you read my blurbs, if you remember to read them — take heart. The half-man, half-beard appears on two songs here: singing with Lauren Wood and helping out former Ambrosia frontman David Pack, alongside his pal James Ingram.

David Pack has featured previously in this series as lead singer of Ambrosia’s great soft rock hits The Biggest Part Of Me (Vol. 3), How Much I Feel (Vol. 1)and You’re The Only Woman (Vol. 5). Pack has since become a successful  producer, and was the music director for the 1993 and 1997 presidential inaugurations of Bill Clinton.

Lauren Wood is perhaps best known for her hit from the 1990 film Pretty Woman, Fallen. Her 1979 debut album featured McDonald, drummers Jim Keltner, Alvin Taylor and Jeff Porcaro (and his Toto mates Lukather and Hungate), bassist Abraham Laboriel, saxophonist Andrew Love (half of the Memphis Horns) and Little Feat’s Fred Tackett  and Bill Payne, the latter of whom contributes a synth solo on Please Don’t Go.

And then there is Pages, a group that sounds like Michael McDonald should be singing backing vocals with. Pages’ two regular members, lead singer-bassist Richard Page and keyboardist Steve George, who would have greater success later in the 1980s as founder members of Mr Mister. Before Pages, the two and other future collaborators backed Andy Gibb on his big 1977 hit I Want To Be Your Everything. Their song Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong was later covered by both Kenny Loggins (on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 4) and to wonderful effect by Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford. That original version might yet appear in a future Not Feeling Guilty mix.

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You might wonder whether I’ve lost my sequencing mind, putting Alice Cooper and Seals & Crofts after one another. Isn’t Alice Cooper more liable to bite off Crofts’ head and then proceed to bash Seals? Well, here we catch Cooper in a smooth rock mood, and Seals & Crofts are waking grandma with some relatively loud guitars. But fear not for Cooper, who on his live album of the same year, 1977, sandwiched his soft You And Me between songs titled Devil’s Food, The Black Widow, I Love The Dead and Go To Hell.

Really serious movie buffs may recognise the name Chris Montan. Once a soft-rock singer, Montan is now president of Walt Disney Music, which means that the music in Disney and Pixar movies from Pocahontas and Toy Story in 1995 to more recently Frozen are ultimately Montan’s responsibility.

Richard Clapton is not always a soft-rock kind of guy. The versatile Australian can rock hard, and even dabbled with the sounds of new wave. His The Great Escape LP was a favourite of mine when it came out in 1982. Not all of it has aged well, but The Best Years Of Our Lives, featured here, and the slow-burning Walk On Water are still very good tracks.

You don’t often get a marimba solo in rock music, but there it is on Starbuck’s 1976 hit Moonlight Feels Right. I am glad to know that the corporate coffeehouse chain of similar moniker did not take their name from this Mississippi group (it was borrowed from a minor character in Moby Dick). I trust you downloaded the Any Major Coffee mixes (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) and agree with my plea to use independent coffee places instead of McStarbucks.

The coolest name here must be Jim Photoglo, which sounds like the sort of name the bassist of A Flock of Seagulls should have (disappointingly, his name was the rather glamourless Frank Maudsley). Very pleasingly, Photoglo is the singer’s real name. After his career as a soft-rock singer he became the bass player for Dan Fogelberg — another artist whose real name sounds made-up and who features here — and a country songwriter for an impressive list of stars. He still releases records as a folk singer.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes covers. PW in comments. Feel free to leave a comment in that section; even if you have nothing important to say, a hello and thanks is always appreciated.

1. Kenny Loggins & Stevie Nicks – Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’ (1978)
2. Boz Scaggs – Lowdown (1976)
3. James Walsh Gypsy Band – Cuz It’s You Girl (1978)
4. Jim Photoglo – Fool In Love With You (1981)
5. Bobby Caldwell – Carry On (1982)
6. Pages – You Need A Hero (1981)
7. Nicolette Larson – Isn’t It Always Love (1979)
8. David Pack – I Just Can’t Let Go (1985)
9. Dan Fogelberg – Heart Hotels (1979)
10. David Roberts – Anywhere You Run To (1982)
11. Alice Cooper – You And Me (1977)
12. Seals & Crofts – Nobody Gets Over Loving You (1979)
13. America – You Can Do Magic (1982)
14. Starbuck – Moonlight Feels Right (1976)
15. Lauren Wood – Please Don’t Leave (1979)
16. Walter Egan – Magnet And Steel (1978)
17. Chris Montan – Intentions (1980)
18. Richard Clapton – The Best Years Of Our Lives (1982)
19. Bill Champlin – Fly With Me (1978)
20. Bertie Higgins – Just Another Day In Paradise (1982)

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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

 

The Rod Temperton Collection

October 5th, 2016 6 comments

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The man who gave us such classics as Thriller, Rock With You, Off The Wall and Stomp has died, and I won’t wait till the next In Memoriam to pay tribute.

Rod Temperton died of cancer some time last week, about a week short of his 69th birthday, which would have been on Sunday. His death was announced only today (October 5).

English-born Temperton got his start as keyboardist and main songwriter of the British funk and soul group Heatwave. As the writer of hits like the dancefloor burners Groove Line and Boogie Nights, and soul burners like Always And Forever and Mindblowing Decisions, Temperton came to the attention of Quincy Jones.

Quincy quickly collaborated with Temperton on songs for Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall LP, for which the Brit wrote the title track, Rock With You and Burn This Disco Out. And not only did Temperton come up with music and lyrics, but also did the arrangements. On many of the songs he wrote, Temperton would arrange and often also produce.

He co-wrote the Brothers Johnson classic Stomp!, as well as a few other songs for the duo. Bassist Louis Johnson and Temperton often worked together on other projects; it is no coincidence that the Louis Johnson Collection which I put together on Johnson’s death in May 2015 and the present Rod Temperton Collection share many artists and even a few songs.

Temperton wrote the three best tracks on George Benson’s Give Me The Night album (the title track, Love X Love, and Off Broadway), and in 1982 contributed another title track to a classic LP: Michael Jackson’s Thriller, for which he also wrote Baby Be Mine and the frequently forgotten but surprisingly often covered (and sampled) The Lady In My Life.

Later he wrote songs like Yah Mo Be There and Sweet Freedom for Michael McDonald, and Baby Come To Me for Patti Austin. The former McDonald song and the Austin track are duets with James Ingram, who also turns up on Quincy Jones’ The Secret Garden (which surely must have been intended originally for Michael Jackson).

And so to this tribute to Rod Temperton of songs he wrote, or in some instances co-wrote. As always, it is timed to fit on a standard CD-R (without the bonus tracks), and includes hastily home-arranged covers. PW in comments.

1. Michael Jackson – Rock With You (1979)
2. Heatwave – Boogie Nights (1976)
3. Brothers Johnson – Light Up the Night (1979)
4. Herbie Hancock – Gettin’ To The Good Part (1982)
5. George Benson – Love X Love (1980)
6. Patti Austin & James Ingram – Baby Come To Me (1981)
7. Luther Vandross – Always And Forever (1994)
8. Anita Baker – Mystery (1986)
9. Lou Rawls – The Lady In My Life (1984)
10. Karen Carpenter – If We Try (1979/80)
11. Bob James – Sign Of The Times (1981)
12. Michael McDonald – Sweet Freedom (1986)
13. Mica Paris – You Put A Move On My Heart (1992)
14. Quincy Jones feat. Barry White, Al B. Sure, James Ingram, El Debarge – The Secret Garden (1989)
15. Randy Crawford – Give Me The Night (Chill Night Mix) (1995)
16. Geno Jordan – Thriller (1983)
17. Marcia Hines – Stomp (2006)
Bonus Tracks:
Michael Jackson – Off The Wall (1979)
Heatwave – Mind Blowing Decisions (1978)
Quincy Jones – Razzamatazz (1980)
Klymaxx – Man Size Love (1986)
Diane Schuur – Nobody Does Me (1991)

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Any Major Flute Vol. 3

September 29th, 2016 12 comments

Any Major Flute Vol. 3

When I initially made these mixes in 2009, I had noted down songs featuring the flute for about a year, and I still stumbled across flutes that had previously passed me by, even in songs I know very well, such as Kris Kristofferson’s Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I Ever Did Before) and The 5th Dimension’s Up Up And Away, a song I have loved since I was a little boy. In the case of the latter I picked up the flute only while watching a clip of the song being performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. There will still be more flute mixes.

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1. Van McCoy – The Hustle (1975)
Flute moment: 0:35 Well, this is the soul anthem of flutology which everyone knows how to whistle, straight after chanting “Do the hustle!”

2. The 5th Dimension – Up-Up And Away (1967)
Flute moment: 1:43  The flute creeps in almost unnoticed in the background at 0:52, disappears and then asserts itself almost a minute later.

3. Dusty Springfield – I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face (1967)
Flute moment: 0:01 The alto flute sets up the song with a 17-second intro. The job done it lets Dusty do her lovely thing. Check out Baby Washington’s equally flutetastic version.

4. Aretha Franklin – Until You Come Back to Me (1973)
Flute moment: 2:27   On Aretha’s cover version of Stevie Wonder’s much-neglected song, the flute serves as an occasional member of the rhythm section until it gets to show off its solo chops in the final third.

5. The Style Council – How She Threw It All Away (1988)
Flute moment:0:01  The flute comes in right away and returns periodically throughout, and gets a cool 15-second solo at 2:01, and from 3:41 stays with us till the end.

6. The National – So Far Around The Bend (2009)
Flute moment: 0:49  In 2009, The National show that the flute is not out of fashion. It has the flute (well, I’m not totally convinced it’s a flute, but something flute-ish) and the xylophone. Reader Itallstarted suggested this track in the comments section; thanks for alerting me to my new current favourite song.

7. Mercury Rev – Something For Joey (1993)
Flute moment: 1:57  Amid all the multi-instrumental wall of sound, the flute pipes up merrily, as was Mercury Rev’s wont.

8. Golden Earring – Back Home (1970)
Flute moments: 0:10 & 2:38  Traffic did it. Jethro Tull did it. Moody Blues did it. Why shouldn’t hoary Dutch rock acts?

9. Jeremy Steig – Howling For Judy (1969)
Flute moment: All of it. It is cheating a bit to include a flute-jazz track here, but this is fantastic and more rock than jazz: two flutes and a bit of bass. This tack was the basis for the Beastie Boys track on Any Major Flute Vol. 1. Steig passed away on April 13, 2016 — exactly a week after I re-posted the flute mix with his sample on the Beastie Boys track.

10. Joe Walsh – Days Gone By (1973)
Flute moment: 3:55   The future Eagle kicks off with flute, returning to the flute hook periodically before giving the instrument the opportunity to take over for a minute. Thanks to Johnny Bacardi for sending this to me.

11. Blood, Sweat & Tears – Sometimes In Winter (1969)
Flute moment:0:22  The flute is with us from the start on this track, but really helps set the scene after 22 seconds, staying prominently with us through out the first minute, taking a break for another minute, and returning after the 2-minute mark and never leaves us again.

12. Kris Kristofferson – Loving Her Was Easier (1971)
Flute moment: 0:20  Blink and you might miss it. For a long time, I did not take notice of the three moments of brief flutesomeness, all within in the first minute. And I have listened to this song, an all-time favourite, more than most KK songs.

13. The Dillards – Listen To The Sound (1968)
Flute moment:0:01  The flute is not particularly big in country. But here we’ve had KK and now The Dillards, the hugely influential but largely forgotten country/bluegrass band.

14. The Association – Windy (1967)
Flute moment: 1:07  Flute solo! And the flute returns at 2:27, staying until the song fades out.

15. Billy Joel – Get It Right The First Time (1977)
Flute moment: 0:16  This is possibly the only Billy Joel that features the flute. I can’t think of any other. Funny then that it is my least favourite song from The Stranger.

16. The Isley Brothers – For The Love Of You (1975)
Flute moment: 0:01  Early ’70s soul music frequently incorporated the flute to great profit. For The Love Of You signalled the advent of the much-maligned Quiet Storm genre (named after the Smokey Robinson album, the title track of which will feature in Volume 4). The lovely flute hook accompanies the song discreetly throughout.

17. S.O.U.L. – Burning Spear (1973)
Flute moment: 0:18  Where the flute was inhibited on the previous song, on this funk instrumental it takes the centre stage and sounds as sexy as any wind instrument ever did (oh dear, one could manufacture a terrible double entrendez from that statement).

18. Procol Harum – Pandora’s Box (1975)
Flute moment: 1:39  Borrowing liberally from the Tull, the rock legends turn to the flute in an interplay with the guitar.

19. Stackridge – To The Sun And Moon (1974)
Flute moment: 1:19   Fun fact: Folk outfit Stackridge were the first act to play at the very first Glastonbury Festival. A flute-friendly act, they take their time to bring in the instrument here.

20. Focus – Hocus Pocus (1971)
Flute moment: 4:14  When I asked earlier why Dutch rock bands shouldn’t use the flute, I merely restated what Focus pondered almost 40 years ago. The flute takes its time to turn up in this entirely strange strong which includes prodigious yodelling, a momentary lapse of the singer’s mental faculties as he does speaking in tongues, and all manner of other madness. Odd then that it is the flutes that are best remembered — after the yodels, obviously.

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Any Major Flute Vol. 1
Any Major Flute Vol. 2

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Any Major Coffee Vol. 2

September 22nd, 2016 4 comments

Any Major Coffee_2

Here’s the second mix of songs about coffee, or in which coffee features among the leading cast. As in the first Any Major Coffee mix, the rule is that a featured songs must be about coffee or the act or idea of drinking coffee. In some songs the act of drinking coffee is at the centre of the lyrics, in others coffee plays an incidental but not unimportant role.

Everybody here likes coffee, but not everybody is happy with the quality. The Monkees like the face-warming properties of their streaming cup, but disapprove of the taste — so they drink it slowly. Dave Dudley, on the other hand, clearly is as caffeine addict, in his 1966 version of the Tom T. Hall-penned song. Hall will still feature in this series in his own right. He frequently mentioned coffee in his lyrics; the brew also is included in the list of things he has a particular affection for in his song I Love.

The opener is Afro-funk band’s Osibisa’s take on big band favourite The Coffee Song, which is most famous in Frank Sinatra’s version. Apparently they have an awful lot of coffee in Brazil. The track of the same title by Cream is a different song. It was recorded in 1966 as part of the Fresh Cream sessions. The Coffee Song didn’t make the cut but was included when Fresh Cream was re-released in 1974 as Cream.

I might have used Saint Etienne’s lovely Saturday for the Borrow Copy Steal mix: the intro sounds like Candlewick Green’s 1973 hit Who Do You Think You Are.

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

1. Osibisa – The Coffee Song (1976)
2. Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs – Sugar Shack (1963)
3. The Monkees – Early Morning Blues And Greens (1967)
4. Saint Etienne – Saturday (1999)
5. Josh Rouse – Wonderful (2006)
6. Blur – Coffee + TV (1999)
7. Ryan Bingham – Long Way From Georgia (2007)
8. Don Williams – I Don’t Think About Her No More (1974)
9. Dave Dudley – Coffee Coffee Coffee (1966)
10. Charlie Daniels Band – High Lonesome (1976)
11. Albert Collins – Blue Monday Hangover (1980)
12. Gene Harris & Jack McDuff – Smack Dab In The Middle (1996)
13. Cream – The Coffee Song (1966)
14. Ray Charles – Hallelujah I Love Her So (1957)
15. The Castelles – Over A Cup Of Coffee (1954)
16. Johnnie Ray – Gee, But I’m Lonesome (1952)
17. Barbra Streisand – Deep In The Night (1978)
18. Axelle Red – Mon Café (The Coffee Song) (2007)
19. Mandy Moore – Can’t You Just Adore Her (2007)
20. Michelle Featherstone – Coffee & Cigarettes (2006)
21. Graham Coxon – Latte (2002)
22. Suzanne Vega – Tom’s Diner (1987)
23. Shel Silverstein – Have Another Espresso (1962)

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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 1

September 15th, 2016 20 comments

Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 1

A few years ago a reader suggested that a mix of cover versions of sings by Bob Dylan might alleviate the discomfort many feel at hearing the great songwriter’s voice. As a fan of cover versions I was keen on the idea. So I created a Dylan covers folder and began collecting. Something like eight years later I’m ready to present a series of Any Major Dylan Covers.

This will be a series of three CD-R length collections — 62 songs plus three bonus tracks. As always, I set myself strict rules: no artist may feature twice, and no song may be repeated — except one, which will end the series.

Since these are supposed to be covers of Dylan songs, he must have released the songs first. That means that those tracks he wrote for others, or which others recorded before he released them, don’t qualify — except two, which I’ll address in a moment. A song like Blowin’ In The Wind might have been recorded first by others (Dylan historians have no consensus on that), but it is so essentially a Dylan song that it can’t be excluded.

Dylan never released Wanted Man before it was first recorded by Johnny Cash on the St Quentin live album. So it isn’t really a cover. But it broke my heart to consider not including a Dylan/Cash hybrid, so — in best Cash fashion — rules be damned. In the spoken intro Cash says he wrote the song with Dylan at the Cash home, but Dylan has the sole writing credit. Anyway, the great list-song writer has his lyrics performed by the great list-song singer.

The first volume kicks off with the best of all Dylan covers: Jimi Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower. Hendrix had received a pre-release acetate of Dylan’s recording, and his version was recorded only two months after Dylan’s. From there on it was Jimi’s song. Bob was cool about it. In the liner notes to his Biograph collection, he wrote: “Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way. I liked Hendrix’s record, and ever since he died, I’ve been doing it that way.”

But Dylan has also said that the version of any of his songs he treasures most is Elvis Presley’s 1966 interpretation of Tomorrow Is A Long Time, a song Dylan recorded in 1962 but didn’t release until 1971 as a live track from eight years earlier. So Elvis’ version isn’t really a Dylan cover, but rather of the folk singer Odetta’s recording.

But how great is Kris Kristofferson singing Quinn The Eskimo?

Which brings me to two acts who are notably excluded in this series: Odetta and Peter, Paul & Mary had a great reputation for singing Dylan songs (Odetta, in turn, was something of a mentor to the budding songwriter from Minnesota). Their exclusion was not deliberate: where I had candidate songs by them, there were others which were a better fit.

Mr Tambourine Man is covered here by Johnny Rivers — so I’ll leave you to wonder which Dylan cover by The Byrds will feature in this series? And what will we have Joan Baez singing? And whose version of Blowin’ In The Wind will feature?

The mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-busked covers. PW in comments (you are welcome to leave a message there).

1. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower (1968)
2. Merry Clayton – Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (1975)
3. Elvis Presley – Tomorrow Is A Long Time (1966)
4. Johnny Cash – Wanted Man (1969)
5. Hoyt Axton – Lay Lady Lay (1975)
6. Marshall Crenshaw – My Back Pages (1999)
7. Jeff Tweedy – Simple Twist Of Fate (2007)
8. Bruce Springsteen – Chimes Of Freedom (1988)
9. Kris Kristofferson – Quinn The Eskimo (2012)
10. Emmylou Harris – Every Grain Of Sand (1995)
11. The Pretenders – Forever Young (1994)
12. Richie Havens – Just Like A Woman (1968)
13. Them – It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (1966)
14. The Grass Roots – Mr. Jones (Ballad Of A Thin Man) (1966)
15. Johnny Rivers – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
16. The Turtles – It Ain’t Me Babe (1965)
17. Stereophonics – Positively 4th Street (1999)
18. Eels – Girl From The North Country (2006)
19. Lloyd Cole – You’re A Big Girl Now (2001)
20. Josh Kelley – To Make You Feel My Love (2004)
21. Norah Jones – I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (2002)
Bonus track: Ani DiFranco – Hurricane (2000)

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Any Major American Road Trip – 4

September 1st, 2016 1 comment

Any Major American Road Trip - Stage 4

On the fourth stage of our musical road trip through the USA we are staying in California. Parts of the state have a strong country influence because it was in the inland portions of California that many of the southern Dust Bowl refugees from Steinbeck’s Grapes Of Wrath (the greatest novel ever written, in my non-expert opinion) settled. Bakersfield is the place that produced Merle Haggard and Gram Parsons and, though he was a Texan, Buck Owens.

But our journey begins on the coast where the living and the loving is good, places like Big Sur and Santa Cruz and Monterey. The latter was home to the second true rock festival (as opposed to a rock revue), organised in 1967 by the Mamas & the Papas with Lou Adler. Eric Burdon & The Animals, who performed, sing about it here. A week earlier the lesser known Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival was held on Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, also in California.

Another performer at Monterey was Otis Redding, who, with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, pretty much stole the show (and if you see his performance of I’ve Been Loving You, you’ll see why). Otis, who was from the South, loved the California scene, and stuck around. He wrote his most famous song about it, Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay. The place where he wrote it, Sausalito, is featured here.

From Sausalito, about half an hour’s drive in easy traffic From San Francisco (crossing the Golden Gate Bridge) we drive another hour to Santa Rosa. I was going to let the Nitty Gritty Band honour the place; in the event I settled for a more unexpected choice: a pre-fame b-side from 1972 by the group we’d come to know as ABBA. Then we drive another hour north to Ukiah, to see if we can get the fresh, clean smell of the pines which The Doobie Brothers are promising us.

Map - Stage 4

At Ukiah we find ourselves at a crossroad: Do we go north to Oregon and then Seattle, or do we turn south-east to make it to Vegas? There’s more music Vegas way, so that’s where we’ll go, via inland California with its capital Sacramento, making a little detour to Folsom prison. We’ll go to Lodi (apparently pronounced low-die) , which Credence Clearwater Revival sang about on the b-side to Bad Moon Rising. The song made the farming town of 60,000 a byword for boredom. Lodi has capitalised on that by hosting “Stuck in Lodi” events.

We end the fourth leg of our road trip in Bakersfield, which gets, due it being the capital of Californian country, two songs — though only one of them is country.

The centrepoint is, of course, San Francisco. I expect to get accusatory looks for giving New Orleans only two songs and Frisco five. Well, folks, that’s the nature of travel: On the leg including The Big Easy I had little time to linger. In San Francisco I have plenty of time because I need to be in Vegas only by the next mix.

In this leg we’ll have traveled 1,000km or 620m miles. It’s another music-less 1,400km or 870 miles to Las Vegas, where the fifth leg will begin.

The next leg will see us travelling close to 5000km or 3000 miles, taking us from Las Vegas via several detours to St Louis. Along the way we’ll encounter more great music.

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

1. The Thrills – Big Sur (2003 – Big Sur)
2. Eric Burdon & The Animals – Monterey (1967 – Monterey)
3. Kris Kristofferson – Me and Bobby McGee (1970 – Salinas)
4. Robert Earl Keen – I’m Comin Home (1994 – Santa Cruz)
5. Dionne Warwick – Do You Know The Way To San José (1968 – San José)
6. Otis Redding – Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (1968 – San Francisco)
7. Bobby Womack – I Left My Heart In San Francisco (1969 – San Francisco)
8. O.C. Smith – San Francisco Is A Lonely Town (live) (1969 – San Francisco)
9. Counting Crows – Richard Manuel Is Dead (live, 2006 – San Francisco)
10. Chris Isaak – San Francisco Days (1993 – San Francisco)
11. Conor Oberst – Sausalito (2008 – Sausalito)
12. Van Morrison – Snow In San Anselmo (1973 — San Anselmo/San Rafael)
13. Johnny Cash – San Quentin (live, 1969 – San Quentin)
14. Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid – Santa Rosa (1972 – Santa Rosa)
15. The Doobie Brothers – Ukiah (1973 – Ukiah)
16. Middle Of The Road – Sacramento (A Wonderful Town) (1972 – Sacramento)
17. Conway Twitty – Folsom Prison Blues (1968 – Folsom)
18. Credence Clearwater Revival – Lodi (1969 – Lodi)
19. Beck – Modesto (1994 – Modesto)
20. Merle Haggard – One Row At A Time (1971 – Fresno)
21. Buck Owens – Streets Of Bakersfield (1973 – Bakersfield)
22. Social Distortion – Bakersfield (2011 – Bakersfield)

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