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Any Major Cole Porter

October 31st, 2013 9 comments

Any Major Cole Porter

Today something quite different: A collection of songs by Cole Porter; not covered with post-modern irony — as if many of Porter’s lyrics weren’t full enough of that already — but delivered straight by vocalists treating the songs as Porter envisaged them, with humour or emotion, or both.

The music is, of course, glorious, but it’s the lyrics that give the performers so much room for interpretation. I need not sell Porter’s wit, but it often is overlooked that among the endless bon mots and sharp turns of phrase, Porter was also a romantic poet.

“Why the gods above me, who must be in the know, think so little of me, they allow you to go….”

Of course, Porter denied being a poet of romance by way of his opening verse to “De-Lovely”:

At words poetic, I’m so pathetic
That I always have found it best,
Instead of getting ’em off my chest,
To let ’em rest unexpressed,
I hate parading my serenading
As I’ll probably miss a bar,
But if this ditty is not so pretty
At least it’ll tell you
How great you are.

Pure self-deprecation by a man who knew his worth, of course. Even when Porter’s lyrics were obsessive and creepy, they sounded rather sweet, as they did in “All Of You”:

I’d love to gain complete control of you
And handle even the heart and soul of you
So love, at least, a small percent of me, do
For I love all of you

So, here are 26 Cole Porter tracks, recorded between 1933 and 1965. Includes covers. PW in comments.

1. Cole Porter – You’re The Top (1935)
2. Anita O’Day – It’s De-Lovely (1959)
3. Benny Goodman Orchestra with Peggy Lee – Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love) (1941)
4. Billie Holliday – You’d Be So Easy To Love (1952)
5. Tony Bennett and Count Basie & his Orchestra – Anything Goes (1959)
6. Mel Tormé – All Of You (1956)
7. Sarah Vaughan – Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye (1961)
8. Lena Horne – What Is This Thing Called Love (1952)
9. Jo Stafford – Begin The Beguine (1950)
10. Ethel Ennis – Love For Sale (1955)
11. Eddie Fisher – So In Love (1955)
12. Julie London – I Love You (1965)
13. Frank Sinatra – You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (1956)
14. Chris Connor and the Stan Kenton Orchestra – I Get A Kick Out Of You (1953)
15. Louis Prima and Keely Smith – I’ve Got You Under My Skin (1959)
16. Louis Armstrong and his All Stars with Velma Middleton – Don’t Fence Me In (1956)
17. Sammy Davis Jr – In The Still Of The Night (1961)
18. Ella Fitzgerald – Too Darn Hot (1956)
19. Dinah Washington – I Concentrate On You (1961)
20. Mabel Mercer – Ace In The Hole (1955)
21. Fred Astaire – Night And Day (1934)
22. Marlene Dietrich – You Do Something To Me (1957)
23. Bing Crosby – Just One Of Those Things (1945)
24. Ray Noble and his Orchestra with Al Bowlly – Experiment (1933)
25. Artie Shaw and his Orchestra with Helen Forrest – Do I Love You? (1939)
26. Carol Burnett – Blow, Gabriel, Blow (1960)

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Any Major Jimmy Webb Collection Vol. 2

July 18th, 2013 9 comments

The second mix of Jimmy Webb songs — you’ll find the first HERE — features several of the great songwriter’s lesser-known tunes. Some, of course, are well known, tracks such as Didn’t We (covered by Sinatra, featured here in Andy Williams’ version), Linda Ronstadt’s Easy For You To Say or If These Walls Could Speak. Many of the others are rarely heard today, but surely deserve an airing.

Any Major Jimmy Webb Collection 2

Some of the artists here have also been mostly forgotten, which is a pity. Peggy Lipton, also known as Peggy Jones, might be better remembered as Quincy Jones’ beautiful wife or as a TV actress (The Mod Squad, Twin Peaks) or as the mother of actress Rashida Jones (The Office, Parks & Recreation) than as a singer. But as a recording artist she bothered the Billboard charts on three occasions, though not with Webb’s gorgeous Red Clay Country Line.

Also known from TV, Connie Stevens previously featured on the Bacharach: The Lesser Known Songbook mix. She is best known for her part in the detective series Hawaiian Eye (1959-62) — and for once dating Elvis. Around the time of the TV series she also had a couple of US Top 5 singles, though neither are regarded as classics, even within the genre of novelty music. Like Peggy Lipton, Stevens has two acting daughters: Joely Fisher (from Ellen) and Tricia Leigh Fisher.

We’ve had a couple of occasions when the sisters Franklin — Aretha, Erma and Carolyn — featured in some combination or other on CD-R mixes. Here we have the sisters Kunkel doing songs by Jimmy Webb: Leah Kunkel in 1980, and her sister, whom we know better as Cass Elliot, in 1972. Born Leah Cohen (Kunkel was from her marriage to drummer Russ Kunkel), the younger sister had little commercial success, despite being championed by Art Garfunkel.  She recorded only two albums; Never Gonna Lose My Dream Of Love Again is from the second LP, I Run With Trouble.

Despite their name, the Strawberry Children didn’t seem to have been siblings. In fact, there is little information available about them. Love Years Coming was recorded on the Soul City label, owned by Johnny Rivers, an early Webb patron who first recorded By The Time I Get To Phoenix and features here with a recording of a Webb song from 1974. Love Years Coming was a very minor hit, and the fruity kids disappeared after releasing this one single late in the summer of 1967.

That summer possibly influenced the moniker chosen by The Love Generation, an outfit that recorded from 1967-69. After breaking up, the core of the group morphed into The Going Thing, which recorded music for Ford commercials. They also provided backing vocals for artists like former Paul Revere & The Raiders singer Mark Lindsay, who also features on this mix. The band’s leaders, brothers John and Tom Bähler, were also part of the loose conglomerate of session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew.  Tom served as associate producer and arranger of many projects led by Peggy Lipton’s ex-husband Quincy Jones, including work on Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall (for which he also wrote She’s Out Of My Life) and Thriller albums, and the mega-charity hit We Are The World.

As for Webb’s brilliant song P.F. Sloan, the meaning has been a bit confused. In this interview (scroll halfway down) Webb tries to explain it. Oh, and only one act features on both mixes…

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R. Home-composed covers are included.

1. Jimmy Webb – P. F. Sloan (1970)
2. The 5th Dimension – Never Gonna Be The Same (1967)
3. Dusty Springfield – Mixed Up Girl (1972)
4. Strawberry Children – Love Years Coming (1967)
5. The Love Generation – Montage (1968)
6. Peggy Lipton – Red Clay Country Line (1969)
7. Cass Elliot – Saturday Suit (1972)
8. Mark Lindsay – First Hymn From Grand Terrace (1970)
9. The Vogues – Turn Around, Look At Me (1968)
10. Connie Stevens – 5:30 Plane (1970)
11. Jackie Trent – Everybody Gets To Go To The Moon (1971)
12. Everly Brothers – She Never Smiles Anymore (1967)
13. Johnny Rivers – See You Then (1974)
14. Nancy Wilson – This Time Last Summer (1975)
15. Leah Kunkel – Never Gonna Lose My Dream Of Love Again (1980)
16. Glen Campbell – If These Walls Could Speak (1988)
17. The Highwaymen – Highwayman (1985)
18. Linda Ronstadt – Easy For You To Say (1982)
19. Arlo Guthrie – Oklahoma Nights (1981)
20. Richard Harris – A Tramp Shining (1972)
21. Ray Charles – I Keep It Hid (1970)
22. Andy Williams – Didn’t We (1969)
23. Günter Kallmann Chorus – Where’s The Playground, Susie (1969)
24. Barbra Streisand – Little Tin Soldier (1969)

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Any Major Jimmy Webb Collection Vol. 1

May 30th, 2013 22 comments

Mention in conversation with pop music aficionados the name Jimmy Webb, and you will likely be met with approval for bringing up a respected yet generally underrated songwriter.

Any Major Jimmy Webb Collection 1

Of course, his quintet of stone-cold, indisputable classics — “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, “MacArthur Park” and “Up Up And Away” — are well known, but many other Webb compositions are not as ubiquitous as they may deserve to be. Listen to this lot of songs and decide for yourself whether Webb’s music, beyond the quintet of classics, merits greater currency than it presently enjoys (the fact of this compilations would suggest that in my view it does).

Choosing the right version, and deciding which songs to leave off this mix, was desperately difficult. One omission is a little comical: I decided to do a Webb cover mix when I heard Rumer’s lovely version of the glorious “P.F. Sloan” — and I realised only after I had completed the cover art that I had neglected to include the song. Well, if this mix goes down well, there will be a Volume 2.

One of the songs which I really had trouble to decide which version to opt for was “Do What You Gotta Do”. Nina Simone’s version is glorious, as is Roberta Flack’s. The latter was already on the list (with See You Then); in the event the Four Tops won out by virtue of their version having been the first I had known of the song, and having loved it ever since the 1980s.

Among the great songs missing from this mix are “Didn’t We”, “If These Walls Could Speak”, “I Keep It Hid” and “A Tramp Shining”. Still, I managed to include the song with one of the weirdest song titles in the canon of pop: “Himmler’s Ring”, recorded by Little Feat’s late lead singer Lowell George in 1979.

Jimmy Webb, still only 66, is touring this year (see HERE). In 2011 released an album, Cottonwood Farm, which he recorded with his five sons (including Christiaan, of our track 2 here) and the son of Glen Campbell, the singer who inspired the teenager Webb to become a songwriter and who made hits of “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston” and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”.

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

1. O.C. Smith – Wichita Lineman (1969)
2. Glen Campbell – Christiaan No (1976)
3. Scott Walker – All My Love’s Laughter (1973)
4. Four Tops – Do What You Gotta Do (1969)
5. Dee Dee Warwick – If This Was The Last Song (1970)
6. Thelma Houston – Pocketful Of Keys (1969)
7. Brooklyn Bridge – Worst That Could Happen (1969)
8. A.J. Marshall – By The Time I Get To Phoenix (1969)
9. Julie Rogers – Which Way To Nowhere (1969)
10. Art Garfunkel – All I Know (1973)
11. Joe Cocker – It’s A Sin (When You Love Somebody) (1974)
12. Roberta Flack – See You Then (1971)
13. Jimmy Webb – Galveston (1993)
14. Judy Collins – The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (1990)
15. Ian Matthews – Met Her On A Plane (1974)
16. Harry Nilsson – Life Line (1971, writtenm by Nilsson, covered by Webb)
17. Chuck Jackson – Honey Come Back (1969)
18. The Supremes – Cheap Lovin’ (1972)
19. Nancy Sinatra – Up, Up And Away (1967)
20. B.J. Thomas – If You Must Leave My Life (1969)
21. The 5th Dimension – Rosecrans Boulevard (1967)
22. Waylon Jennings and The Kimberlys – MacArthur Park (1969)
23. Lowell George – Himmler’s Ring (1979)

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Bacharach: The Lesser Known Songbook

May 9th, 2013 6 comments

On 12 May, Burt Bacharach will celebrate his 85th birthday. Regular readers will know that I regard Bacharach to be in the highest echelons of songwriters. Unusually, he straddles different genres: the easy listening of Perry Como’s Magic Moments, the pure pop of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, the soul of Don’t Make Me Over, the cowboy song of The Man Who Shot Liberty Vance… This mix places the focus on the lesser known Bacharach songs, chronologically from his beginnings to the time of his zenith, more or less: 1954-1965.

Bacharach - front

Actually, it starts in 1952, with a Nat ‘King’ Cole song that is usually incorrectly credited to Jerome Kern and Anne Caldwell. The jaunty instrumental Once In A Blue Moon is in fact the first known recording of a Bacharach song, a tune he had written with his father, a newspaper columnist (or, by his own admission, they adapted it from Rubenstein’s Melody in F).

Keep Me in Mind, the 1954 song Burt wrote with Jack Wolf, was his first pop song to be recorded when Patti Page sang it. He had tried, without success, to get his songs recorded for a year and a half after quitting his gig as arranger for the Ames Brothers. Too bad Bacharach hates the song, as he does most of the stuff he wrote during that period. It’s actually quite pleasant, if one ignores the chauvinist lyrics, though the sweet touches we associate Bacharach’s melodies with are still absent. I’d say that the earliest track on this compilation that hints at the Bacharach style of the 1960s is on Jane Morgan’s With Open Arms, a #15 pop hit in September 1959.

In 1956 the first Burt Bacharach/Hal David (or David/Bacharach, as it tended to be into the 1970s) composition was recorded, a track called The Morning Mail which a white vocal group called The Gallahads put on a b-side to a reputedly dull song called, perhaps appropriately, The Fool. Note the whistling: it featured also on the first two Bacharach/David hits the following year, Marty Robbins’ The Story of My Life (a chart-topper in Britain in Michael Holliday’s version) and Perry Como’s Magic Moments.

But the Bacharach/David artistic relationship, prolific as it was, was not yet monogamous. In fact, before they became an exclusive songwriting item in around 1963, Bacharach frequently wrote with Bob Hilliard (the guy who wrote the lyrics of Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning). Their collaborations included here are Del Shannon’ The Answer To Everything, The Drifters’ (Don’t Go) Please Stay, Etta James’ Waiting For Charlie (originally recorded by Jane Morgan), Dick Van Dyke’s Three Wheels on My Wagon, Gene Pitney’s Little Betty Falling Star, and Phil Colbert’s Who’s Got The Action (possibly written in 1962).

Other songs were the product of more fleeting associations, such as Johnny Mathis’ Heavenly and Keely Smith’s Close, which Bacharach co-wrote with Sydney Shaw, Peggy Lee’s Uninvited Dream (with Sammy Gallop, and arranged by Nelson Riddle) or Gene Vincent’s Crazy Times (with Paul Hampton). He also wrote a few forgotten songs with our old friend Norman Gimbel, though none feature here.

Talking of Paul Hampton, as a bonus track I’m including his recording of the bizarre collaboration with Bacharach, Two Hour Honeymoon, as a bonus. Recorded in 1960, it was a riff on the death records which were popular at the time. It must be heard to be believed.

burt-bacharach-64

As the 1950s ended, Bacharach’s R&B sensibilities began to become evident. Listen to 1959’s Faker Faker by The Eligibles: beneath the feckless white bread interpretation which makes no nod to Hal David’s lyrics of heartbreak, neither in arrangement nor vocals, there lurks a useful R&B number. The Eligibles, incidentally turn up again to back Gene Vincent. In 1959, R&B singer Gene McDaniels recorded his first Bacharach song, but the earliest soul song featured here is The Wanderers outstanding I Could Make You Mine, the only one of Bacharach/David’s early soul songs to be covered later by Dionne Warwick..

A future soul legend recorded a Bacharach song long before she became famous. As Tammi Montgomery, Tammi Terrell recorded Sinner’s Devotion in around 1961 for Wand Records, with The Shirelles on backing vocals. The song was released only in 1967 on a “from the vaults” type record to cash in on Tammi’s Motown success.

Of course, Bacharach continued to write in other genres, including terrible novelty songs such as Dick van Dyke’s Three Wheels On My Wagon, which features here solely as it also marked Bacharach’s first producer credit. But the Bacharach style we know manifests itself as the 1960s began, when he also started to supervise the arrangements. The Drifters’ Please Stay in 1961 was the first song for which Bacharach submitted a demo with an arrangement, rather than just the usual piano and vocal treatment. The song was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and arranged by Ray Ellis. Later Bacharach would usually be in the studio at the first recordings of his songs, acting as de facto producer, even if he received no credit.

Already in the 1950s Bacharach employed the technique of voices imitating instruments. On Chuck Jackson’ 1961 song The Breaking Point, an usually fast R&B song, Bacharach gets the singer to imitate a rhythm section, with the machine-gun skat of shagga dagga shagga dagga shick shick.

Many of the songs here are lesser known because they were b-sides, often to inferior a-sides. Richard Chamberlain’s 1963 single Blue Guitar was a Bacharach/David a-side. They also wrote the flip side, a ditty you might know called (They Long To Be) Close To You.

burt (2)

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

1. Nat ‘King’ Cole – Once In A Blue Moon (1952)
2. Patti Page – Keep Me In Mind (1954)
3. Mel Tormé – These Desperate Hours (1955)
4. The Gallahads – The Morning Mail (1956)
5. Peggy Lee – Uninvited Dreams (1957)
6. Johnny Mathis – Heavenly (1959)
7. Jane Morgan – With Open Arms (1959)
8. Gloria Lambert – Moon Man (1959)
9. The Eligibles – Faker, Faker (1959)
10. Gene Vincent – Crazy Times (1960)
11. The Wanderers – I Could Make You Mine (1960)
12. Keely Smith – Close (1960)
13. Dick Van Dyke – Three Wheels On My Wagon (1961)
14. Connie Stevens – And This Is Mine (1961)
15. Del Shannon – The Answer To Everything (1961)
16. Tammi Montgomery (Tammi Terrell) – Sinner’s Devotion (1961, rel. 1967)
17. The Drifters – (Don’t Go) Please Stay (1961)
18. Dee Clark – You’re Telling Our Secrets (1961)
19. Chuck Jackson – The Breaking Point (1961)
20. The Shirelles – It’s Love That Really Counts (In The Long Run) (1962)
21. Etta James – Waiting For Charlie (1962)
22. Babs Tino – Forgive Me (For Giving You Such A Bad Time) (1962)
23. Helen Shapiro – Keep Away From Other Girls (1962)
24. Gene Pitney – Little Betty Falling Star (1962)
25. Jimmy Radcliffe – (There Goes) The Forgotten Man (1962)
26. Dionne Warwick – Make The Music Play (1963)
27. Jay and The Americans – To Wait For Love (Is To Waste Your Life Away) (1963)
28. Bobby Vee – Be True To Yourself (1963)
29. Richard Chamberlain – Blue Guitar (1963)
30. The Searchers – This Empty Place (1964)
31. Maxine Brown – I Cry Alone (1964)
32. Jackie DeShannon – A Lifetime Of Loneliness (1965)
33. Phil Colbert – Who’s Got The Action (1965)

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Previous Bacharach mixes:
The Originals Vol. 45 – Bacharach Edition
Covered With Soul – Bacharach/David edition
The Burt Bacharach Mix

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The Originals – Bacharach Edition

February 21st, 2013 9 comments

Often Burt Bacharach had a lucky hand in producing the best known version of his compositions at the first attempt — and after 1963, he usually was the de facto producer and arranger of his songs’ first (and sometimes subsequent) recordings, even when others would get the credit.

So songs like Only Love Can Break A Heart, What’s New, Pussycat, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head and This Guy’s In Love are best known in their original versions by Gene Pitney, Tom Jones, B.J. Thomas and Herb Alpert respectively. And, of course, there are all the Dionne Warwick hits, such as Walk On By, Do You Know The Way To San José or Promises Promises which have been covered often but never eclipsed. The one Warwick/Bacharach hit that provides the rule-proving exception is I Say a Little Prayer, a US #10 hit for Aretha Franklin in 1968, two years after it reached #4 for Warwick.

So here are Bacharach songs which may be better known — and, in some cases, definitely are — in later versions. In many of these cases, geography is the key. For example, in the US, The Story Of My Life from 1957 will be associated with Marty Robbins, but in Britain it was a #1 hit for Michael Holliday. The same may apply to Anyone Who Had A Heart, which in Britain is Cilla Black’s song rather than Dionne’s (and, depending on generation, to some it is Luther Vandross’ song). The Story Of My Life was, incidentally, the first collaboration between Bacharach and Hal David to become a hit, years before they started to work together regularly and, for a time, exclusively. It went #1 Country, #15 Pop and reached #2 in Australia.

A few songs were bigger hits than their better-known covers. For example, The Shirelles had a US #8 hit with Baby It’s You in 1962, but The Beatles’ version enjoys greater familiarity by force of album sales.

Other songs were not hits until later. Keely Smith’s One Less Bell To Answer sank without a trace until The 5th Dimension had a hit with it three years later. I’ll Never Fall In Love Again might have been familiar to those who knew the soundtrack for the 1968 musical Promises, Promises (for which Jerry Orbach — yes, Lennie Briscoe from Law & Order — won a Tony Award. British fans will know it better as Bobbie Gentry’s hit, or in Dionne’s version, and younger generations might think of it as Elvis Costello’s song from the Austin Powers 2  movie.

I would guess that Bacharach probably was happy enough with most hit covers of his songs (though I wonder what he made of The Stranglers and Naked Eyes covers of his tunes); one which he apparently really dislikes is Love’s 1966 rock classic version of Manfred Mann’s My Little Red Book, which was written for the film What’s New, Pussycat.

Two more recent songs postscript this collection, both from movie soundtracks. Rod Stewart’s version of That’s What Friends Are For appeared on the soundtrack of the Michael Keaton vehicle Nightshift (1982) before it was revived by Dionne Warwick and her pals. Siedah Garrett’s Everchanging Times featured in the 1987 Diane Keaton flick Baby Boom before Aretha Franklin & Michael McDonald covered it to good effect in 1992.

Not all the songs here are Bacharach/David compositions. Tower Of Strength and Any Day Now were written with Bob Hilliard; Baby It’s You with Mack David (Hal’s brother) and Luther Dixon, and the two 1980s songs with Carol Bayer-Sager.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-made covers. PW in comments (and, yes, passwords are necessary).

TRACKLISTING (cover versions in brackets):
1. Marty Robbins – The Story Of My Life (1958 — Michael Holliday 1958; Gary Miller, 1958)
2. Gene McDaniels – Tower Of Strength (1961 — Frankie Vaughan, 1961)
3. Jerry Butler – Make It Easy On Yourself (1962  — Walker Brothers, 1965)
4. Chuck Jackson – Any Day Now (1962 — Elvis Presley, 1969, Ronnie Milsap, 1978)
5. The Shirelles – Baby, It’s You (1962 — The Beatles, 1963; Smith, 1969)
6. Tommy Hunt – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1962 – Dusty Springfield 1964; Dionne Warwick, 1966)
7. The Fairmount Singers – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962 — Gene Pitney, 1962)
8. Gene McDaniels – Another Tear Falls (1962 — Walker Brothers, 1966)
9. Dionne Warwick – Wishin’ And Hopin’ (1963; Dusty Springfield, 1964; Merseybeats, 1964)
10. Lou Johnson – Reach Out For Me (1963 — Dionne Warwick, 1964)
11. Jerry Butler – Message To Martha (1963 — Adam Faith, 1964; Dionne Warwick, 1966)
12. Dionne Warwick – Anyone Who Had A Heart (1963 — Cilla Black, 1964)
13. Richard Chamberlain – (They Long To Be) Close To You (1964 — Carpenters, 1970)
14. Brook Benton – A House Is Not A Home (1964 — Dionne Warwick, 1964; Luther Vandross, 1981)
15. Lou Johnson – (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me (1964 — Sandie Shaw, 1964; Naked Eyes, 1982)
16. Burt Bacharach – Trains And Boats And Planes (1965 — Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, 1965)
17. Dionne Warwick – You’ll Never Get To Heaven (1964 — The Stylistics, 1976)
18. Manfred Mann – My Little Red Book (1965 — Love, 1966)
19. Dusty Springfield – The Look Of Love (1967 — Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66, 1968)
20. Keely Smith – One Less Bell To Answer (1967 — The 5th Dimension, 1970)
21. Jill O’Hara & Jerry Orbach – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (1968 — Bobbie Gentry, 1969; Dionne Warwick, 1970)
22. Rod Stewart – That’s What Friends Are For (1982 — Dionne Warwick & Friends, 1986)
23. Siedah Garrett – Everchanging Times (1987 — Aretha Franklin & Michael McDonald, 1992)

HERE

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More Bacharach:
Burt Bacharach Mix
Covered With Soul – Bacharach/David edition

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The Burt Bacharach Mix

September 2nd, 2012 12 comments

To mark Saturday’s passing at the age of 91 of Hal David, lyricist of all those great songs composed by Burt Bacharach in the 1960s, I am reposting this mix, originally from 11 May 2008. Last year I posted a Covered With Soul mix of Bacharach/David songs to mark Hal’s 90th birthday; that link has been updated.

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Happy birthday, Burt Bacharach. The great man turns 80 on May 12. To celebrate, here is a mix CD-R of songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (right).

It is probably redundant to deliberate at length about Burt’s life and 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.

The breakthrough arguably was meeting Dionne Warwick in 1961, who would become something of a muse for the songwriters. Warwick was to act as a demo artist on new songs which would then be given to others. Warwick’s interpretations, however, were usually quite perfect. And so many songs were written with Dionne in mind. Some of these Warwick 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 ‘70s amid a flurry of lawsuits.

Soon the Bacharach style became unfashionable, incongruously labelled as an easy listening merchant. That he wasn’t: many Bacharach songs are best heard as soul songs. Still, when Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s singer Holly Johnson 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, and their version is quite lovely. 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 (Liam? Noel? I can never tell them apart. The one with the mono-brow) 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 Carle King. Bacharach’s 1998 album with Elvis Costello, Painted From Memory, was a patchy effort, as was his 2005 solo album, At This Time.

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

On this mix-tape (timed to fit on a CD-R) I have tried to mix well-known versions with some that are less famous. Soul singer Lou Johnson recorded several Bacharach 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 proves further that many Bacharach songs are really soul songs, as do Aretha Franklin and Isaac Hayes (of course, Warwick’s version of Don’t Make Me Over left no doubt about its place in soul history). Although absent from this set, Luther Vandross also was an outstanding interpreter of Bacharch.

While most of Hal David’s lyrics capture universal emotions with great perception and imagination, a few were shockingly sexist, at least by our standards today. I have deliberately appended the two worst offenders (one always sung by women) at the end.

1. Burt Bacharach – Alfie (1966)
2. The Shirelles – Baby, It’s You (1962)
3. Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (1964)
4. Dusty Springfield – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1964)
5. Cilla Black – Anyone Who Had A Heart (1964)
6. Jackie DeShannon – What The World Needs Now Is Love (1968)
7. Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Prayer (1968)
8. Lyn Collins – Don’t Make Me Over (1974)
9. Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You (1968)
10. Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (2000)
11. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – San José (The Way) (1984)
12. Sandie Shaw – Always Something There To Remind Me (1964)
13. Nancy Wilson – Reach Out For Me (1965)
14. Carpenters – (They Long To Be) Close To You (1970)
15. B.J. Thomas – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (1969)
16. Walker Brothers – Make It Easy On Yourself (1966)
17. Gene Pitney – Only Love Can Break A Heart (1963)
18. Lou Johnson – Kentucky Bluebird (Message To Martha) (1964)
19. Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas – Trains And Boats And Planes (1965)
20. The 5th Dimension – One Less Bell To Answer (1970)
21. The Stylistics – You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) (1971)
22. Isaac Hayes – The Look Of Love (live) (1973)
23. Brook Benton – A House Is Not A Home (1963)
24. Jack Jones – Wives And Lovers (1963)
25. Ani DiFranco – Wishin’ And Hopin’ (1997)

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Tribute to Ashford & Simpson

August 24th, 2011 9 comments

I was going to post another mix today, but when one of your favourite songwriters dies, priorities take over. And much as I love Jerry Leiber’s repository of great lyrics – he was he Cole Porter of rock & roll – my tribute is for Nickolas Ashford, who with his wife Valerie Simpson wrote, produced and recorded over their career of five decades some of the finest soul music.

They deserve a lifetime achievement award alone for that string of wonderful songs they wrote and produced for Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell: Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Your Precious Love, You’re All I Need To Get By, The Onion Song, Keep On Lovin’ Me Honey and, of course,  Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. The Onion Song is rumoured to have used Valerie Simpson’s voice to stand in for the ailing Terrell (Simpson has denied it).

The inclusion of Kenny Lattimore and Chanté Moore’s version of You’re All I Need To Get By – it was that or that by Martha Reeves and GC Cameron – is rather nice, I think. Lattimore and Moore are a married couple, hopefully as solid (yeah!) as the writers of the song.

Then there were the Diana Ross songs: Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand), Surrender Remember Me, The Boss, It’s My House etc. Or the double-whammy for Ray Charles: I Don’t Need No Doctor and Let’s Go Get Stoned.

One clarifying note: the version of Reach Out And Touch Somebody’s Hand was the first hit for Diana Ross after she left The Supremes; the version here is that by the Ross-less Supremes with The Four Tops. This is, of course, the song which Ashford & Simpson sang at Live Aid with Teddy Pendegrass.

Well, let the music do the talking. Here is a mix of Ashford & Simpson songs (which is so good, it did not need the inclusion of their great hit, Solid).

Nick Ashford died of cancer on August 22, 2011. He was 69. May he rest in peace.

TRACKLISTING:
1. Ashford & Simpson – It Seems To Hang On (1978)
2. Quincy Jones with Chaka Khan – Stuff Like That (1981)
3. Diana Ross – It’s My House (1979)
4. Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Your Precious Love (1982)
5. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Keep On Lovin’ Me Honey (1968)
6. The Marvelettes – Destination Anywhere (1968)
7. Ray Charles – Let’s Go Get Stoned (1966)
8. John Mayer & John Scofield – I Don’t Need No Doctor (2010)
9. Marlena Shaw – California Soul (1969)
10. Rosetta Hightower – Remember Me (1971)
11. Aretha Franklin – Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing (1974)
12. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Didn’t You Know (You’d Have To Cry Sometime) (1969)
13. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – The Onion Song (1969)
14. The Four Tops & The Supremes – Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand) (1970)
15. Chaka Khan – I’m Every Woman (1978)
16. Diana Ross – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (1970)
17. Kenny Lattimore & Chanté Moore – You’re All I Need To Get By (2003)
18. Roberta Flack – Uh-Uh Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes) (1989)
19. Brothers Johnson – Ride-O-Rocket (1978)
20. Ashford & Simpson – Found A Cure (1979)

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Covered With Soul Vol. 7 – Bacharach/David edition

May 25th, 2011 5 comments

Three years ago, on 12 May, this blog marked the 80th birthday of Burt Bacharach with a mix of his songs (it’s still available; check out Lyn Collins’ version of Don’t Make Me Over), most of which were written with Hal David, the often neglected lyricist, the writer of the often marvellous words that we sing to Bacharach’s gorgeous melodies.

Indeed, would Bacharach’s music be the same without such great phrases as “Let this be just the start of so many nights like this? “Let’s take a lover’s vow and then seal it with a kiss”, “And if the way I hold you can’t compare to his caress, no words of consolation will make me miss you less”, “I’m not meant to live alone. Turn this house into a home. When I climb the stair and turn the key, oh, please be there still in love with me” or “Like a summer rose needs the sun and rain, I need your sweet love to beat all the pain”? Of course, David also wrote some sexist lyrics – at least by the reckoning of our age – like those for Wives And Lovers and Wishin’ And Hopin’.

On 25 May Hal David will turn 90, and it seem right to mark his birthday with a mix consisting of vocalists in a genre that values the interpretative components of singing. I’m running this as part of the Covered In Soul series, for most of these songs are covers. Four songs here are original recordings: Make It Easy On Yourself, Always Something There To Remind, Tower Of Strength, and Any Day Now.  And the very eagle-eyed will spot that the lyrics of three tracks on this mix were not written by Hal David (Tower Of Strength, Any Day Now and Mexican Divorce were written by Bob Hilliard).

Unusually for these mixes, two artists feature more than once. It seems appropriate that Dionne Warwick, the great and prolific interpreter of Bacharach/David songs, should be represented twice: once with a version from 1970, the other a rather belated interpretation of an old classic, recorded in 1977. Her cousin Cissy Houston even features three times: once on her own, once with Bacharach, and once as a member of the Sweet Sensation. And to be clear: the versions here are not necessarily the best ever recorded; some are excellent, some are chosen for curiosity value (I don’t like Martha Reeves’ version of I Say A Little Prayer; others might disagree with me). And, strangely, some Bacharach/David songs have been covered more than others in soul music: I had three wonderful contenders for Alfie (the others by Stevie Wonder and Dee Dee Warwick), and none for Do You Know The Way To San José.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R. Homebaked front and back covers are included. PW in comments.

TRACKLISTING
1. Diana Ross – (They Long To Be) Close To You (1970)
2. Rhetta Hughes – Walk On By (1969)
3. Marva Whitney – This Girl’s In Love With You (1970)
4. Jerry Butler – Make It Easy On Yourself (1962)
5. Lou Johnson – (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me (1964)
6. Chuck Jackson – Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird) (1962)
7. Roy Hamilton – Reach Out For Me (1966)
8. Gene McDaniels – Tower Of Strength (1961)
9. The Glass House – A House Is Not A Home (1972)
10. Gladys Knight and the Pips – One Less Bell To Answer (1971)
11. Madeline Bell – What The World Needs Now Is Love (1968)
12. Cissy Houston – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1970)
13. Dionne Warwick – Only Love Can Break A Heart (1977)
14. The Pointer Sisters – Wanting Things (1975)
15. Nancy Wilson – Wives And Lovers (1964)
16. Isaac Hayes – Windows Of The World (live, 1973)
17. Brenda and the Tabulations – Don’t Make Me Over (1970)
18. The Dells – Trains And Boats And Planes (1972)
19. The Stylistics – You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) (1972)
20. Cissy Houston & Burt Bacharach – Mexican Divorce (1970)
21. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – I Say A Little Prayer (1968)
22. The Delfonics – The Look Of Love (1968)
23. Dionne Warwick – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (1970)
24. The Sweet Inspirations – Alfie (1968)
Bonus track: The Shirelles – It’s Love That Really Counts (In The Long Run) (1962)

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