Any Major Soul Train

April 12th, 2018 7 comments

 

If you say Soul Train, Americans of a certain generation and fans of soul and funk anywhere will think of funky dancers with big ’fros and hot threads, Don Cornelius’ flamboyantly fashionable suits and baritone voice, the animated train, hair care products ads, scrambleboards, awkward audience questions, cool catchphrases and great music. You could bet your last dollar, it was gonna be a stone gas, honey.

Soul Train’s cultural impact was tremendous. The first nationally syndicated black music show, it was owned by a black man (presenter Cornelius, who sadly committed suicide on February 1, 2012), staffed mostly by black people, sponsored by a black company selling black hair products, and featured black artists who did not often feature on TV. Socially, Soul Train was TV’s raised fist of black consciousness. Culturally, Soul Train helped popularise dances, fashion and hair.

 

Still from the famous Afro Sheen commercial with civil war era activist Frederick Douglass administering a lesson in ‘fro-dom. No wonder Donald Trump thought Douglass was still alive.

 

The afro, it is said, became so potent a symbol of black identity – the hirsute extension of the Rev Jesse Jackson’s “I Am Somebody” mantra – in large part thanks to Soul Train (and its sponsors, the Johnson Company with its Black Sheen products). The dances were widely copied, by the kids at home and by the stars. Michael Jackson copied the Moonwalk from Jeffrey Daniels, and breakdancing took its cue from Bodypopping, Locking, The Robot and other moves pioneered on Soul Train. And when rap broke in New York, Soul Train helped break it nationally – much as Cornelius resented hip hop. Soul Train even produced its own superstar musical act: Shalamar comprised Soul Train dancers Jeffrey Daniel, Jody Watley and, after a couple of personnel changes, Howard Hewett (boyfriend of Cornelius’ secretary), and in the US were signed to Cornelius’ Soul Train Records label.

 

Don Cornelius, who died on February 1, 2012 at the age of 75. This post, minus the mix but with other tracks, was first posted here in 2011 and re-posted after Don’s death. It is running here with a brandnew Soul Train mix.

 

And, of course, that’s what Soul Train was about most of all: spreading black music, from the smooth harmonies of The Delfonics to the gangsta rap of Snoop Dogg. This did not mean that the show practised apartheid. Gino Vanelli was the first white artist to appear on the show (Cornelius told the Italo-Canadian jazz-funkster that he was “half-black”; the first white act to feature was Dennis Coffey, whose funk anthem Scorpio provided the music for a Soul Train Gang dance number; the first mixed act to appear on the show was Tower of Power). Soon after, acts such as Elton John, David Bowie, Average White Band, Frankie Valli and Michael McDonald appeared on the show (in later years, such unsoul acts as Duran Duran, Sting, A-ha  and Berlin, as well as the dreaded Michael F Bolton, took a ride on the Soul Train).

 

The Soul Train Gang in action, 1972.

 

Soul Train’s theme song, in its second incarnation, became a #1 in the US, and a massive hit all over the world (to borrow from its brief lyrics). In 1973 Cornelius approached Philadelphia soul maestros Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff to come up with a theme for the show to replace King Curtis’ Hot Potatoes, which it did in November 1973. The result was so good, that the composers wanted to release The Theme of Soul Train as a single. When they did, recorded by the Philadelphia International Records (PIR) house band M.F.S.B. with The Three Degrees providing backing vocals, it topped the charts and provided the sound of 1974.

But it didn’t chart under the title The Theme of Soul Train. Cornelius baulked at the idea that PIR release it using the words “Soul Train” in the title because, as he recalled in a VH-1 documentary a couple of years ago, he was being overprotective of his trademark. He would describe that as the “worst decision” he had ever made. So today the Soul Train theme is known as T.S.O.P. (for The Sound Of Philadelphia).

In 1976, T.S.O.P. was replaced as a theme by The Soul Train Gang’s theme, but made a comeback in 1987 in George Duke’s version. It would remain the Soul Train theme, in several re-recordings, until the show’s end in 2006, some 13 years after Don Cornelius signed off for the last time with the words: “And as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and SOULLLLLL!”

If you dig the pics in this post, there are 179 more which I made of Soul Train scenes HERE.

 

Here is a mix of songs that were performed on Soul Train. To narrow down the selection I chose only from tracks that appeared on the wonderful 7-DVD set of Soul Train performances. The first two themes feature on the mix as they appeared on the show; the Soul Train Gang theme, which really is not great, is included as a bonus track on its full version.

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

1. Soul Train (King Curtis) – Hot Potatoes Theme (1971)
2. The Five Stairsteps – O-o-h Child (1970)
3. The Chi-Lites – Have You Seen Her (1971)
4. The Spinners – I’ll Be Around (1972)
5. Main Ingredient – Everybody Plays The Fool (1972)
6. Four Tops – Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got) (1972)
7. Brighter Side Of Darkness – Love Jones (1972)
8. The Sylvers – Wish That I Could Talk To You (1972)
9. O’Jays – Love Train (1972)
10. Soul Train – Souuuuuuuuuuuuul Train
11. Jermaine Jackson – Daddy’s Home (1973)
12. The Stylistics – You Make Me Feel Brandnew (1973)
13. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Neither One Of Us (1973)
14. Tower Of Power – So Very Hard To Go (1973)
15. Isley Brothers – That Lady (1973)
16. Soul Train Theme (1973)
17. Barry White – Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Baby (1974)
18. Billy Preston – Tell Me Something Good (1974)
19. Ecstasy, Passion & Pain – Good Things Don’t Last Forever (1974)
20. L.T.D. – Love Ballad (1976)
21. Lou Rawls – You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine (1976)
22. Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up (Part 1) (1977)
23. Teddy Pendergrass – The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me (1977)
24. Don Cornelius – Love, Peace and Soul
BONUS TRACKS: MFSB – TSOP (1974)
Soul Train Gang – Soul Train ’75 (1965)

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In Memoriam – March 2018

April 5th, 2018 3 comments

So far, 2018 has been fairly gentle on us, as if to make up for the massacres of the past two years. March saw no superstar deaths, but especially the world of hip hop suffered losses — including one of the least likely collaborator the genre has seen yet.

The Guitar Pioneer

The sound of The Ventures is the sound of instrumental surf rock, and the guitar of Nokie Edwards gave it its character. Edwards, who had previously backed country legend Buck Owens, stayed with The Ventures until 1968, and rejoined the band periodically thereafter. Many guitar greats credit The Ventures, especially the classic Walk Don’t Run (first a hit in 1960 and again, in a new recording, 1964), with influencing them. The Ventures did a lot of guitar covers of hits; they appear in the Song Swarm series remarkably often (Blue Moon, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Sunny, These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer).

Classic in his room

Not many people can claim that a classic album was recorded in their living room, but so it was with Matt Dike, who hosted The Beastie Boys as they recorded almost all of their Paul Boutique album in his apartment. As a member of The Dust Brothers, Dike received a production credit for the album. By then Dike was the co-owner of Delicious Vinyl which released such hip hop classics as Young MC’s Bust A Move and Tone Loc’s Wild Thing and Funky Cold Medina (all of which he co-wrote and co-produced). He was also a prolific remixer.

‘Hello, how’s the flow’

In a few weeks I’ll be posting a mix of good Eurovision Song Contest numbers. Lys Assia’s Das Alte Karussell, the inaugural winner from 1956), will not be among them. Assia, who had been recording prolifically since 1942, followed her triumph with a string of hits in West Germany, but her love clearly was Eurovision. She also competed in 1957 and ’58, and tried to make a comeback more than half a century later. In 2012 she failed in the national contest to qualify as Switzerland’s entry for Eurovision. She tried again a year later, at the age of 88, with a song titled All In Your Head, featuring the hip-hop band New Jack (“Hello, how’s the flow”, Assia inquires). Outrageously, she failed again to qualify. First the Nazi gold, then that. Shame on you, Switzerland!

Guardian of a heritage

Palestinian singer Rim Banna, who has died of breast cancer, devoted herself to preserving Palestinian folk and children’s songs as well as poetry that were on the verge of being lost, putting a modern, Western pop-influenced spin on those melodies. Banna, an Arab Israeli citizen, was also a political activist, supporting the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and in Gaza. In 2003 she gained popularity in Europe as a result of her duets with Norwegian singer Kari Bremnes, and participation in an anti-war album directed at the warmonger George W Bush, titled Lullabies from The Axis Of Evil, which also featured female singers from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Cuba.

Cellist to the stars

Jazz cellist and double-bassist Buell Neidlinger was once regarded as a child prodigy. As an adult he was a prolific collaborator with jazz musicians but rarely the headliner. He also picked up session credits for acts like Lionel Richie (including on Wandering Stranger, alongside Ndugu Chancler, who died last month), Neil Diamond, Earth Wind & Fire, Nina Simone, Yvonne Elliman, The Miracles, Kenny Rogers, Leo Kottke, Diane Schuur, Ry Cooder, Mike Bloomfield, Duane Eddy, Van Dyke Parks, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Cole, Bob Seger, Pops Staples, Frank Sinatra (on Duets) and many others. Apparently he also played on the Eagles’ Hotel California and on Tony Bennett’s I Left My Heart In San Francisco sessions.

The phrase-coiner

Even casual listeners to country will have heard the term Outlaw Country, to describe a sub-genre dominated by artists like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. The term was coined by Hazel Smith, who was chiefly a country music journalists and publicist. Smith also wrote a number of songs, including several for Dr Hook. They’ve been recorded by acts as diverse as Tammy Wynette and Nana Mouskouri.

The cover designer

Album cover designer and photographer Gary Burden is considered a pioneer of conceptual cover art in rock music. His clientele initially comprised the Laurel Canyon types around Cass Elliott and David Crosby. Among the iconic covers he designed were The Mamas and The Papas’The Papas & The Mamas, Crosby, Stills & Nash’s eponymous debut and (with Young) Déjà Vu (and virtually all of their covers), Neil Young’s After The Goldrush (and many of his covers thereafter), Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Albert Hammond’s It Never Rains In Southern California, Jackson Browne’s self-titled album and The Pretender, the Eagles’eponymous debut and Desperado, On The Border, One Of These Nights… In the 2000s he designed album covers for the likes of Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket and Devendra Banhart. His last published cover design for an album of new recordings was Conor Oberst’s Salutations in March last year (bottom right on the collage below).

 

Bill Burkette, 75, lead singer with pop band The Vogues, on March 1
The Vogues – It’s Getting Better (1968)

Bender, 37, Canadian rapper, on March 1

Van McLain, 62, lead singer and guitarist with rock band Shooting Star, on March 2
Shooting Star – Touch Me Tonight (1989)

Ronnie Prophet, 80, Canadian country singer, on March 2

Brandon Jenkins, 48, country/Red Dirt singer-songwriter, on March 2
Brandon Jenkins – Saturday Night (2006)

Joseph Israel, 40, US reggae musician, on March 2

Patrick Doyle, 32, drummer of Scottish indie band Veronica Falls, on March 3
Veronica Falls – Found Love In A Graveyard (2010)

Ulla Norden, 77, German Schlager singer and radio presenter, on March 5

Jeff St John, 71, Australian pop singer, on March 5
Jeff St. John – Teach Me How To Fly (1970)

Donna Butterworth, 62, child actress and singer, on March 6

Jerzy Milian, 82, Polish jazz vibraphonist, on March 7

Gary Burden, 84, album cover designer, on March 9
David Crosby – Music Is Love (1971, as “performer”; cover designer)

Maggie Stedder, 81, English backing singer, on March 9
Dusty Springfield – Bring Him Back (1967)

Ken Dodd, 90, comedian and singer, on March 11
Ken Dodd – Tears (1965)

Nokie Edwards, 82, lead guitarist with The Ventures, on March 12
The Ventures – Walk Don’t Run (1960)
The Ventures – Ghost Riders In The Sky (1961)

Craig Mack, 47, rapper, on March 12
Craig Mack – Flava In Ya Ear (1994)

Matt Dike, 55, hip hop producer, writer, mixer, label executive, on March 13
Tone-Loc – Funky Cold Medina (1989, as co-writer, co-producer)
The Beastie Boys – Shake Your Rump (1989, as co-producer)
Richard Cheese – Bust A Move (2006, as co-writer)

Charlie Quintana, 56, drummer of Latino punk band The Plugz, on March 13
The Plugz – Satisfied Die (1979)

Olly Wilson, 80, jazz musician and composer, on March 13

Claudia Fontaine, 57, singer with English soul trio Afrodiziak, on March 13
Jam – Beat Surrender (1982, as backing singer)
Special A.K.A. – Free Nelson Mandela (1984, as backing singer)

Jimmy Wisner, 86, pianist, arranger, songwriter, and producer, on March 13
Kokomo – Asia Minor (1961, Kokomo was his pseudonym)
The Searchers – Don’t Throw Your Love Away (1964, as writer)

Allah Real, 62, soul singer, on March 14
RZA – Grits (2003, on lead vocals)

Steve Mandell, bluegrass guitarist, on March 14
Eric Weissberg & Steve Mandell – Dueling Banjos (1972)

Enrico Ciacci, 75, Italian guitarist and bandleader, on March 14

Laurence Cleary, 60, guitarist of Irish new wave band The Blades, on March 16
The Blades – Hot For You (1980)

Hazel Smith, 83, country songwriter, journalist and publicist, on March 16
Dr. Hook – Making Love And Music (1976, as writer)

Buell Neidlinger, 82, jazz and session cellist and bassist, on March 16
Pops Staples – Down In Mississippi (1992, on bass)
Buell Neidlinger – The Gig (1995)

Thom Moore, 74, folk-rock singer and songwriter, on March 17
Mary Black – Carolína Rua (The Crooked Road) (1988, as writer)

Killjoy, 48, singer of death metal band Necrophagia, on March 18

Peter Cowling, 72, British blues-rock bassist, on March 20
Pat Travers – Stop And Smile (1976, on bass)

Paul Cram, 65, Canadian jazz musician, on March 20

Shawn Elliott, singer of hardcore rock band Capitalist Casualties, on March 22

CK Mann, 82, Ghanaian singer, on March 22

Kooster McAllister, 67, live engineer, co-owner of Record Plant mobile studio, on March 23
Bruce Springsteen – I’m On Fire (live) (1985, as engineer)

Rim Banna, 51, Palestinian singer, composer and activist, on March 24
Rim Banna – Supply Me With An Excess Of Love (2013)

Lys Assia, 94, Swiss singer, inaugural Eurovision Song Contest winner, on March 24
Lys Assia – Das Alte Karussell (1956)
Lys Assia feat. New Jack – All In Your Head (2012)

Mike Harrison, 72, singer of British rock group Spooky Tooth, on March 25
Spooky Tooth – That Was Only Yesterday (1969)

Seo Min-woo, 33, singer with South Korean boy band 100%, on March 25

Jerry Williams, 75, Swedish pop singer, on March 25
Jerry Williams – Keep On (1969)

Cameron Paul, pioneer remixer, on March 26
Salt-N-Pepa – Push It (Mixx-it Remix) (1986, as remixer)

Kenny O’Dell, 73, country singer-songwriter, on March 27
Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors (1973, as writer)
The Judds – Mama He’s Crazy (1984, as writer)

Caleb Scofield, 38, bassist and singer of metal band Cave In, in car crash on March 28

Alias, 41, rapper, producer and record label founder, on March 30
Alias – Final Act (2002)

Frode Viken, 63, guitarist and songwriter of Norwegian pop band D.D.E., on March 31

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(PW in comments)

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Any Major MLK

March 29th, 2018 2 comments

On April 4 we will observe the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Rev Martin Luther King Jr. There doubtless will be many tributes being paid and many opinions aired about the great man’s life and legacy. Here, I shall let the music do the talking by way of a mix of songs about MLK.

The two most obvious songs to include would be Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday and U2’s Pride (In The Name Of Love). You’ll know how to find them. There were too many good tacks I already had to exclude, because CD-R length. A few of them I include as bonus tracks.

The mix begins with a number of songs that mourn the assassination in Memphis, soon after the event. One song in that lot is of indeterminate date. The Norfleet Brothers, a gospel outfit, tell in two parts the story of Martin Luther King; part 2 features here. They note the 1958 assassination attempt by Izola Ware Curry in New York, but don’t refer to the murder by James Earl Ray. Either it was recorded before that awful day, or so soon after that it was not necessary to mention the glaring obvious, just as at a funeral you needn’t point out that the deceased has died.

In the song after, Shirley Wahls (like Minnie Riperton, another the Rotary Connection member) issues the reminder that the struggle must continue even after King’s death. The Impressions did likewise in 1968, to keep on pushing and moving on up. Curtis Mayfield would sing We’re A Winner on stage into the 1970s.

 

 

There aren’t an awful lot of songs about MLK that precede his death. Bob Dylan namechecked him, among many other celebs, in 1962’s I Shall Be Free, but another Dylan song features here. Jerry Moore’s The Ballad of Birmingham from 1967. Based on a poem by Dudley Randall, it recalls the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The lyrics imagine a girl asking her mother whether she may take part in a freedom march. Citing the dangers, mother sends the girl to church — which is then firebombed by the Ku Klax Klan terrorists.

In a coda, in 2002 a couple of these terrorists were convicted thanks to the work of Doug Jones who in late 2017 defeated the racist scumbag, alleged sexual predator and thinly disguised instrument of the devil Roy Moore in a senatorial election.

Some songs don’t need to refer to King to be about him. The lyrics of Minnie Riperton’s The Edge Of A Dream read like a King speech. The tangential link to MLK is, of course, the concept of the “Dream”, of which the martyr had one. Indeed, many lyrics obliquely refer to him as “The Man With The Dream”, to the point of that being a bit of a cliché. On such song, a catchy number by Tom Jones, features here. One of the more unusual representations of MLK here is in his Young New Mexican Puppeteer, wherein the eponymous marionette handler carves images of such bringers of hope as Lincoln, Twain and King.

Incidentally, it was a singer, the gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, who urged King to deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech. Sitting near him on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, Jackson reportedly told King, “Tell them about the dream, Martin”. So he did…

 

 

On some songs, King has to share the star billing. Most famously, on Dion’s 1968 hit Abraham, John And Martin he does so with Lincoln and John F Kennedy. The version featured here is by Tom Clay, a radio DJ who cut together spoken bits and pieces of the Bacharach composition What The World Needs Now with very 1960s vocals about JFK, MLK and Bobby Kennedy, who was assassinated just a couple of months after King. For the record, King thought that John F Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights was only “token”, and Bobby authorised the FBI to tap King’s phone.

On Bob Dylan’s 1986 song They Killed Him, MLK’s assassination stands alongside the execution of Jesus Christ and the murder of the Mahatma Ghandi.

Elvis Presley wasn’t much of a political guy, but two months after the murder of King he recorded a song written and tribute of and quoting from MLK. If I Can Dream was written at the last moment for Elvis’ 1968 televised comeback special by Walter Earl Brown. On hearing it, Elvis reportedly exclaimed: “I’m never going to sing another song I don’t believe in. I’m never going to make another picture I don’t believe in.” His manager “Colonel” Parker wasn’t keen on Elvis doing that kind of song, but The King put all his soul into this tribute to King, apparently making his backing singers weep.

Remember when that nice guy John McCain opposed the institution if the Martin Luther King holiday? Six years after Stevie Wonder launched the MLK holiday campaign in song, the 1980s custom of bringing together a conglomeration of stars to raise money or highlight a cause found expression in a single by the cumbersomely-named King Dream Chorus and Holiday Crew. There were some impressive artists behind those names. The King Dream Chorus included Whitney Houston, J.T. Taylor, El DeBarge, Stacy Lattisaw, Lisa Lisa with Full Force, Stephanie Mills and teen bands Menudo and New Edition. The Holiday Crew was rappers Run–D.M.C., Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Whodini and The Fat Boys. As so often, the sum of all the great talent is much less than its parts. That’s why it is a bonus track.

That nice guy McCain came around to The Fat Boys’ point of view in 1990. A year later Public Enemy turned their anger towards McCain’s home state Arizona, which along with New Hampshire refused to recognise the national Martin Luther King holiday. In the video Public Enemy showed the governor of Arizona being blown up in a car bomb. Presumably they referred to racist fuck Evan Mecham, a car salesman who was the first Arizona governor to be impeached, rather than his successor, Rose Perica Mofford, who seems to have been a decent person. A plebiscite in Arizona in 1991 confirmed Mecham’s refusal to recognise the MLK holiday.

Funeral procession of Martin Luther King in Atlanta, Georgia, on 9 April 1968.

 

Ben Harper’s track from 1994 draws a parallel between two Kings: Martin and Rodney. The assault on Rodney King by LA Police — which now, in an age where police killing black people has become so frequent, seems almost minor — was a betrayal of the promise of progress after the civil rights movement. Like the next track, it features here as a bonus track.

Brad Paisley sang his 2008 song Welcome To The Future in the White House for Barack Obama. The US had just elected its first black president and, as Steve Colbert (as his idiot right-wing alter ego) used to remind us: Racism has been solved. So our country-singing friend was just as naively optimistic as many people a decade ago when he observed: “I had a friend in school, running-back on a football team. They burned a cross in his front yard for asking out the home-coming queen. I thought about him today, everybody who’s seen what he’s seen – From a woman on a bus to a man with a dream. Hey, wake up Martin Luther, welcome to the future. Hey, Glory glory hallelujah, welcome to the future.”

Alas, in 2018, there is Trump and the racist establishment that supports him, both actively and by neglect. Fifty years after he was murdered, Rev Martin Luther King Jr would still look from the mountain top at the Promised Land, and say: “One day…”.

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

1. Big Maybelle – Heaven Will Welcome You, Dr. King (1968)
2. James Chapmen – In Memory Of Martin Luther King (1969)
3. The Norfleet Brothers – The Story of Martin Luther King (Part II) (c.1968)
4. Nina Simone – Why (The King Of Love Is Dead) (1968)
5. Shirley Wahls – We’ve Got To Keep On Movin’ On (1969)
6. The Impressions – We’re A Winner (1968)
7. Billy Paul – Let ’Em In (1976)
8. Leroy Hutson – Time Brings On A Change (1973)
9. Minnie Riperton – The Edge Of A Dream (1976)
10. Elvis Presley – If I Can Dream (1968)
11. Billy Bragg – Days Like These (1985)
12. UB40 – King (1980)
13. Public Enemy – By The Time I Get To Arizona (1991)
14. Bobby Womack – American Dream (1984)
15. Mavis Staples – MLK Song (2016)
16. Lyle Lovett – Good-Bye To Carolina (1994)
17. Bob Dylan – They Killed Him (1986)
18. Patty Griffin – Up To The Mountain (2007)
19. Tom Jones – The Young New Mexican Puppeteer (1972)
20. Tom Clay – What The World Needs Now-Abraham, Martin & John (1971)
21. U2 – MLK (1984)
Bonus Tracks: Ben Harper – Like A King (1993)
King Dream Chorus & Holiday Crew – King Holiday (1986)
Black Oak Arkansas – You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down (1976)
Brad Paisley – Welcome To The Future (2009)
James Taylor – Shed A Little Light (1991)

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Any Major TV Theme Songs Vol. 4

March 22nd, 2018 2 comments

This fourth mix of full-length versions of popular TV themes has been sitting almost ready to go for a couple of years. I was reminded to complete it a couple of months ago with the death of French composer and innovator Pierre Henry, whose 1967 song Psyché Rock served as the template for the theme from Futurama.

Good thing it went unposted, so as to include a couple tracks from newish TV shows, Bloodline (the first season of which was superb) and Big Little Lies (ditto).

This batch also features the extended versions of themes of two all-time great TV series: Game Of Thrones and The Shield. The latter tends to be overshadowed by The Wire; I think The Shield is The Wire’s equal — and that is not to underestimate the latter, which was a landmark TV show. But, my goodness, if you have never seen The Shield, do whatever you must to fill that gap.

All but one theme here is from the US; the exception is CCS’ cover of Led Zep’s A Whole Lotta Love, which served as the theme of the weekly BBC music show Top Of The Pops from 1970-77. For British youths, TOPT was required viewing. Its cultural and social impact was so immense that there is a highly entertaining podcast discussing — no, surgically dissecting — random old episodes from the 1970s and ‘80s. Titled Chart Music, it is presented with much humour by Al Needham with a rotating team of veteran music journalists such as David Stubbs, Simon Price and Neil Kulkarni. I recommend it.

This mix features a couple of familiar names. Mike Post was on Vol. 1 with the theme from Hill Street Blues and twice on Vol. 3, with the themes from Magnum and Quantum Leap. Here he returns with the theme from The A-Team and, as co-writer, with the theme from The Greatest American Hero, sung by Joey Scarbury under the title Believe It Or Not, which reached #2 on the US charts. One Mike Post theme of which there’s unlikely to be a full version is that of Law & Order. It’s shorter than many a ringtone, but it is instantly recognisable, and therefore spoofable.

Bill Conti appeared on Vol. 3 with theme from Cagney & Lacey, which always puts me in a happy mood, even though I was no fan of the show (still, with nothing else on TV I watched that as well). Here he returns with the theme from Dynasty, which in retrospect was probably the best thing about that load of drivel.

Anybody who has ever taken an interest in TV themes will know David Portnoy’s voice well: he wrote and sang the theme from Cheers.  TV themes was his thing, it seems. Here he is with the title song of 1980s show Punky Brewster. Portnoy also composed the theme from Mr Belvedere, sung by Leon Redbone.

Some themes are not properly credited (or, in the case of that from The Shield, awkwardly credited). One that doesn’t have a proper credit is of a show with a really good theme, Night Court. Where it appears, it is uncredited, so I’ve given the composer the headliner credit, featuring the saxophonist. Composer Jack Elliott also co-wrote the themes for shows such as Charlie’s Angels (on Vol. 1) and Barney Miller (Vol. 3). Saxophonist Ernie Watts has backed a Who’s Who of jazz; you might have heard him on Marvin Gaye’s LPs Let’s Get It On and I Want You. I don’t know who the bassist was; he certainly deserves a credit, too.

Few themes are sung by their stars, but so it was with the 1980s series The Fall Guy, whose lead, Lee Majors, sang the title song, entitled The Unknown Stuntman. In it, the narrating Stuntman namedrops the stars for whom he has stuntmanned, such as Burt Reynolds, Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood. He also kisses and tells (after telling us that he’s not the type to do that) about his conquests — including Farrah Fawcett, to whom he used to be married in real life. So, old Lee advertising his bedpost notches when he names Sally Fields, Bo Derek, “Jackie” Smith and Cheryl (presumably Ladd)?

I’ve linked already to Volumes 1 and 3 of the extended themes mixes. Volume 2 is still available, of course.

Short versions of TV themes (that is, as you knew them when you saw them on the gogglebox) are gathered together HERE, which also includes a mix of German TV themes.

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

1. Ray Anthony and his Orchestra – Dragnet Theme (1953, Dragnet)
2. CCS – Whole Lotta Love (1970, Top Of The Pops)
3. Christopher Tyng – Theme of Futurama (2007, Futurama)
4. Michael Kiwanuka – Cold Little Heart (2017, Big Little Lies)
5. Book Of Fears – The Water Let’s You In (2016, Bloodline)
6. Ramin Djawadi – Main Theme of Game Of Thrones (2011, Game Of Thrones)
7. Vivian Ann Romero, Ernesto J. Bautista & Rodney Ale – Just Another Day (2006, The Shield)
8. The Refreshments – Yahoos And Triangles (2009, King Of The Hill)
9. The Rembrandts – I’ll Be There For You (1994, Friends)
10. Paula Cole – I Don’t Want To Wait (1997, Dawson’s Creek)
11. David Schwartz – Theme from Northern Exposure (1992, Northern Exposure)
12. Vonda Shepard – Searchin’ My Soul (1998, Ally McBeal)
13. Dr. John – My Opinionation (1991, Blossom)
14. Joey Scarbury – Believe It Or Not (1981, The Greatest American Hero)
15. Jack Elliott feat. Ernie Watts – Night Court Theme (1984, Night Court)
16. José Feliciano – Chico And The Man (Main Theme) (1974, Chico And The Man)
17. The Mash – Suicide Is Painless (1970, M*A*S*H)
18. Bill Conti – Theme From Dynasty (1982, Dynasty)
19. Jack Jones – Love Boat Theme (1979, The Love Boat)
20. Maureen McGovern – Different Worlds (1979, Angie)
21. Lee Majors – The Unknown Stuntman (1982, The Fall Guy)
22. Thom Pace – Maybe (1977, The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams)
23. Gary Portnoy – Every Time I Turn Around (1984, Punky Brewster)
24. Mike Post & Pete Carpenter – Theme from The A-Team (1983, The A-Team)

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Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 5

March 15th, 2018 3 comments

The final collection in the series of Bob Dylan covers reveals which song I’ve chosen to represent Joan Baez: North Country Blues; his former lover covered it in 1968. At last, there are also Peter, Paul & Mary with a track from 1967.

Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs covers Dylan’s Song For Woody. Likely, Scruggs might have known Guthrie since they were contemporaries. His version comes from a star-studded 1975 album (which also starred Baez and Roger McGuinn, both of whom appear on this mix). On Song For Woody, he plays with Johnny Cash, New Riders Of The Purple Sage (including ex-Byrds bassist Skip Battin) and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

In Volume 1 of this series I promised that one track would appear twice. That song is Mr Tambourine Man, and when you hear William Shatner’s version you’ll know why it had to feature twice.

But Shatner’s plaintive cry at the end of his offering doesn’t quite conclude the series. There are a few bonus tracks that somehow failed to make it on any of the mixes, mostly owing to the CD-R length limit I set.

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

1. Dave Alvin – Highway 61 Revisited (2013)
2. The Black Crowes – When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky (1998)
3. The Waterboys – Nobody ’Cept You (1985)
4. Terence Trent D’Arby – It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) (1989)
5. Ben E. King – Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You (1970)
6. Bettye LaVette – Everything Is Broken (2012)
7. Luther Johnson – Pledging My Time (1995)
8. Taj Mahal – Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream (2012)
9. Sonic Youth – I’m Not There (2007)
10. Frank Black and The Catholics – Changing Of The Guards (1998)
11. Transvision Vamp – Crawl Out Your Window (1991)
12. Jeff Buckley – If You See Her, Say Hello (1993)
13. The Angels Of Light – I Pity The Poor Immigrant (2005)
14. Roger McGuinn – Up To Me (1976)
15. Joan Baez – North Country Blues (1968)
16. Earl Scruggs Revue – Song To Woody (1975)
17. Peter, Paul & Mary – Bob Dylan’s Dream (1967)
18. William Shatner – Mr Tambourine Man (1968)

Bonus tracks:
Julie Felix – Gates Of Eden (1968)
Spooky Tooth – Too Much Of Nothing (1968)
Manfred Mann’s Earthband – Father Of Day, Father Of Night (1973)
The Boo Radleys – One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) (1992)

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In Memoriam – February 2018

March 6th, 2018 4 comments

After last month’s mayhem, the Reaper took it a little easier in February — but still managed to rob us of a few legends. Oddly enough, two profiled deaths had a connection to songs featuring the words Rolling Stone.

Son of a Rollin’ Stone

With the death Dennis Edwards, all the leads on Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone are now dead. Only bass Otis Williams is still alive, but all he did on the song was do the “And Mama” bits. Indeed, of all eight members of the two legendary Temptations line-ups — 1960s and early-to mid-’70s— only Otis Williams is now still alive. Dennis Edwards was a more than able replacement for the great David Ruffin; his gruffer voice lent itself especially to the funkier and more psychedelic-flavoured songs, such as Cloud Nine. He did less crooning than Ruffin, with others taking the lead on songs like Just My Imagination. On Papa Was A Rolling Stone, producer Norman Whitfield played mind games with Edwards to coax out of him the right delivery for the opening, “it was the third of September…’cause that was the day my Daddy died.” The irony was that Edwards father had in fact died on a September 3, a coincidence which nevertheless left the singer with some explaining to do to Mother Edwards. (Also see the Papa Was A Rolling Stone song swarm).

Pioneer of hip hop

The etymology of the term “hip hop” has two versions; one has it that Lovebug Starski invented the term in the 1970s, when he was a DJ in the legendary Disco Fever club in New York and the genre was still known as Disco Rap. According to Grandmaster Flash, who in the 1970s was already a legendary DJ at Disco Fever, Starski was the first to both DJ and rap at the same time; a skill that would become standard. It is said that Sylvia Robinson, the singer who founded the Sugar Hill label, got the idea to release rap records when she heard Starski perform at a party. Starski was one of the early pioneers of rap, though internationally his big hit came later, with something of a novelty number, Amityville (House On The Hill), in 1986. It was his recording swansong. A year later, the British house act M/A/R/R/S sampled his 1980 track Positive Life to have a UK #1 with Pump Up The Volume. Starski, whose real name was Kevin Smith, died of a heart attack at 57.

The girl band star

When The Crystals recorded their first hit, There’s No Other (Like My Baby), three of the girls were still wearing their prom dresses, having come straight from the school’s dance to the studio. One of them was that night’s lead singer, Barbara Alston, who has died at 76. Alston also took lead on The Crystals’ big breakthrough hit, Uptown. She sang lead with great concern on the controversial and widely disowned He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss). Because of her shyness, she later ceded the frontwoman duties to La La Brooks (and, at one point, all the Crystals had to make way for The Blossoms, with Darlene Love, when Phil Spector released He’s A Rebel under the Crystals moniker). On the mega hits And Then He Kissed Me and Da Doo Ron Ron, Alston was on backing vocals. By 1968, it was all over for The Crystals.

Crooning with the mob

One fine day, crooner Vic Damone (born Vito Rocco Farinola) found himself hanging upside down a window, held up only by the hands of a mafioso. Apparently Damone had been engaged to the gangster’s daughter but dumped her after she was rude to his mother. The spurned father-in-law relented and Damone went on to live to the ripe age of 89. A singer blessed with an extraordinary voice, he had a fan in Frank Sinatra, who’d be available for assistance when Damone had mob problems. Out of respect to Sinatra, Damone turned down the role of Johnny Fontane in The Godfather.

The funky drummer

The series on session musicians has featured some great drummers — including Hal Blaine, Steve Gadd, Bernie Purdie, and Bobby KeysLeon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler wouldn’t be out of place in that company. It’s especially with the late Ricky Lawson, a fellow drummer, that his paths frequently crossed. Chancler’s most famous performance is on Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean; he also played on Baby Be Mine, PYT (Pretty Young Thing) and I Just Can’t Stop Loving You. His resumé also included songs like Joe Cocker’s Up Where We Belong, Donna Summer’s State Of Independence, Bloodstone’s Go On And Cry, Lionel Richie’s My Love and The Dazz Band’s Let It Whip (which he also co-wrote). Chancler made his drumming debut on record at the age of 16 with the Harold Johnson Sextet.; he was still a teenager when he drummed on stage with Miles Davis. He later drummed for Santana, Tina Turner, John Lee Hooker, Frank Sinatra and Kenny Rogers, and for some of the biggest names in soul and jazz, including George Duke, Stanley Clarke, The Crusaders, Weather Report, Jean-Luc Ponty, Patti LaBelle, The O’Jays, Patrice Rushen, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Minnie Riperton, Syreeta, George Benson, DeBarge, Letta Mbulu, Herbie Hancock, Maynard Ferguson, James Ingram, Phyllis Hyman, The Whispers, Erykah Badu and others.

Soul for Lennon

In British soul music, The Real Thing were among the pioneers even before they had breakthrough hits with You To Me Are Everything and Can’t By Without You in 1976. The core of the group were the three vocalists, the brothers Chris and Eddy Amoo and Dave Smith, and they were still touring when Eddy Amoo suddenly died in Australia. Before they were The Real Thing, they were a rock & roll band called The Champs of whom fellow Liverpudlian John Lennon was a fan. The Real Thing built a reputation without having much commercial success in the early ‘70s. When Eddy joined the band, the hits started coming, including the disco classic Can You Feel The Force, which featured on Any Major Disco Vol. 4.

Drum it fucking loud

Drummer Mickey Jones was witness to one of rock music’s most famous moments. In 1966 the former drummer for Johnny Rivers and Trini Lopez was invited to replace Levon Helms on the drums in Bob Dylan’s backing band on a tour of Europe. Which means he was on stage when that audience member in Manchester, England, shouted “Judas” at Dylan. Jones doubtless took Dylan’s instruction seriously to play the next song, Like A Rolling Stone, “fucking loud” (see the Like A Rolling Stone songswarm). Jones later joined Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, retiring from music in 1976 to concentrate on acting, which led to a bit-part on the ‘90s sitcom Home Improvements. More lately he had a recurrent role as doper-dealer Rodney “Hot Rod” Dunham in the superb series Justified.

Fallen through the cracks

One death that passed me by completely in January was that of fusion guitarist Wilbert Longmire. He seems to have fallen through the cracks: despite releasing six albums between 1969 and 1980 and meriting a “Best Of…” in 1981 (on Bob James’ Tappan Zee label), he has no Wikipedia entry, and biographies on him are scarce on the ground. Early in his career he backed Jean-Luc Ponty on a couple of albums, but his career was stalling. His friendship with fellow guitarist George Benson brought him to James’ attention in the mid-’70s, and things started to take off. Produced by James, he created a jazz-funk classic in 1978’s Black Is The Color (featuring an impressive line-up of Eric Gale, David Sanborn, Harvey Mason and Richard Tee), which prefigured acid jazz. His 1979 track Dianne’s Dilemma (with Idris Muhammad on drums, Michael Brecker on sax, Richard Tee on piano, Hugh McCracken on harmonica, and James on keyboard) is perhaps the best Bob James track which the composer never recorded himself. After Tappan Zee stopped recording other artists than Bob James, there were no more LPs for Longmire though he remained a fixture on Cincinnati’s music circuit.

And, yes, Shocking Blue’s 1969 track Love Buzz, included here, is the original of the Nirvana debut single.

 

Wilbert Thomas Longmire, 77, jazz-fusion guitarist, on Jan. 3
Wilbert Longmire – Black Is The Color (1978)
Wilbert Longmire – Dianne’s Dilemma (1979)

Dennis Edwards, 74, soul singer (The Temptations), on Feb. 1
The Temptations – War (1970)
The Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone (live, 1973)
Dennis Edwards feat. Siedah Garrett – Don’t Look Any Further (1984)
The Temptations – I Wonder Who She’s Seeing Now (1987)

Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler, 65, session drummer, on Feb. 3
Harold Johnson Sextet – We’re A Winner (1968, on drums)
Santana – Europa (1976, on drums)
Ramsey Lewis – Whisper Zone (1980, on drums)
Michael Jackson – Baby Be Mine (1982, on drums)

Zeno Roth, 61, German guitarist and songwriter, on Feb. 5
Zeno Roth – Hard Beat (2005)

Michael White, 58, author and musician, on Feb. 6
Colour Me Pop – The Girl Who Shares My Shirts (1983)

Rick Depofi, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer, on Feb. 6
The Wreckers – Way Back Home (2006, as co-producer, and on keyboards, percussions)

John Perry Barlow, 70, lyricist for the Grateful Dead and rights activist, on Feb. 6
Bob Weir – Black-Throated Wind (1972, as co-writer)
The Grateful Dead – The Music Never Stopped (1975, as co-writer)

Pat Torpey, 64, drummer of rock band Mr. Big, on Feb. 7
Mr. Big – Take Cover (1996)

Mickey Jones, 76, drummer and actor, on Feb. 7
Johnny Rivers – Secret Agent Man (1966)
Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone (Judas version, 1966)
The First Edition – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) (1968)

Algia Mae Hinton, 88, blues singer and guitarist, on Feb. 8
Algia Mae Hinton – Going Down This Road (1996, also as writer)

Lovebug Starski, 57, rapper and DJ, on Feb. 8
Little Starsky – Gangster Rock (1979)
Lovebug Starski & The Harlem World Crew – Positive Life (1980)
Lovebug Starski – Amityville (House On The Hill) (1986)

Ebony Reigns, 20, Ghanaian Afrobeat singer, in traffic accident on Feb. 8
Ebony Reigns – Kupe (2016)

Jóhann Jóhannsson, 48, Icelandic film composer, on Feb. 9
Jóhann Jóhannsson – The Sun’s Gone Dim And The Sky’s Turned Black (2006)

Craig MacGregor, 68, bassist of rock band Foghat, on Feb. 9
Foghat – Third Time Lucky (First Time I Was A Fool) (1979)

Tom Rapp, 70, singer-songwriter with folk-rock band Pearls Before Swine, on Feb. 11
Pearls Before Swine – Rocket Man (1970)
Tom Rapp – Fourth Day Of July (1972)

Vic Damone, 89, crooner, on Feb. 11
Vic Damone – You’re Breaking My Heart (1949)
Vic Damone – On The Street Where You Live (1956)
Vic Damone – The Glory Of Love (1968)

Daryle Singletary, 46, country singer, on Feb. 12
Daryle Singletary – Amen Kind Of Love (1996)

Scott Boyer, 70, songwriter and musician, on Feb. 13
Gregg Allman – All My Friends (1973, as writer & on guitars)

Klaasje van der Wal, 69, bassist of Dutch band Shocking Blue, on Feb. 13
Shocking Blue – Love Buzz (1969)
Shocking Blue – Venus (1969)

Al Garner, 88, British jazz musician, on Feb. 14

Barbara Alston, 74, singer with The Crystals, on Feb. 16
The Crystals – There’s No Other Like My Baby (1961, on lead vocals)
The Crystals – Uptown (1962, on lead vocals)

Little Sammy Davis, 89, blues singer-songwriter, on Feb. 16

Boyd Jarvis, 59, hip hop, house, R&B remixer, producer, musician, songwriter, on Feb. 16
Boyd Jarvis – In The Jungle (1991)

Heiner Stadler, 75, German-born jazz musician, composer, producer, on Feb. 18

Didier Lockwood, 62, French jazz violinist with prog/fusion band Magma, on Feb. 18
Magma – Lïhns (1975)

Stormin MC, 34, English grime musician, on Feb. 19

Norm Rogers, 61, drummer of alt.country band The Jayhawks (1984-88), on Feb. 19
The Jayhawks – I’m Not In Prison (1986)

Nanette Fabray, 97, musical actress and singer, on Feb. 22
Jack Buchanan, Fred Astaire, Nanette Fabray & Oscar Levant – That’s Entertainment (1953)

Eddie Amoo, 74, singer and guitarist with English soul group The Real Thing, on Feb. 23
The Chants – I Don’t Care (1963, as member and writer)
The Real Thing – Lovin’ You Is Like A Dream (1977)
The Real Thing – You To Me Are Everything (Decade Mix) (1986)

Wim Claes, 56, Belgian composer, songwriter and producer, on Feb. 24

James ‘Nick’ Nixon, 76, blues and gospel singer, on Feb. 28

Harvey Schmidt, 88, stage musicals writer and producer, on Feb. 28
Bobby Darin – Try To Remember (1966, as co-writer)

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(PW in comments)

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Any Major Happy Songs Vol. 1

March 1st, 2018 8 comments

Is there a scientific formula to create a song that makes you happy, that lifts your spirits to take you to another place where the sun shines and people always smile? If there is, I suppose Pharrell Williams figured it out when he wrote Happy, his mega hit from a couple of years ago.

I’ve tried to make Happy seem unhappy by singing along to a karaoke track of it with lyrics straight out of the Sad Country Songbook: my wife is a-cheatin’ with my best friend, I’m as broke as a rat in mud, the bossman fired me, them kids be ill etc. It didn’t work: I was still happy. The experiment was, of course imperfect. Not only was I in on the joke but I was also its perpetrator, having rather too much fun with my excruciating rhyme (or distinct lack thereof). I could have tried my experiment on unsuspecting bystanders, but I cannot escape the conclusion that their emotion would have been neither happy nor unhappy but excessively violent.

Still, Happy is self-evidently happy. So is Chuck Mangione’s Feels So Good or Bill Withers’ Lovely Day. They are upbeat and happy songs, and would be understood to have those qualities even if their titles didn’t give us emotional instructions.

Many songs on this mix fit the definition of the “happy song”; the Young Rascals even insert birdsong into their groove of chilled-out joy on this mix. Others suggest the happiness by their lyrics, such as Stoned Cold Picnic. But that can deceive. To me The Delfonics’ Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) has a giddily cheery sound but it is actually a pretty brutal break-up song (of course, it doesn’t feature). Likewise The Five Stairsteps’ O-o-h Child sounds like a happy number but the lyrics make only a promise in a time of darkness that things will get better — which might qualify it for this series, should there be one, anyway.

Some others may express my personal, subjective experience of being uplifted by a piece of music, perhaps even by a happy memory. Saturday In The Park is one such selection.

So, here’s a first batch of my happy songs. What would be yours?

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

1. Bill Withers – Lovely Day (1977)
2. Andy Gibb – I Just Wanna Be Your Everything (1977)
3. Earth, Wind & Fire – In The Stone (1979)
4. Chuck Mangione – Feels So Good (1977)
5. Fatima Rayney – Hey (1997)
6. Corinne Bailey Rae – Put Your Records On (2006)
7. Colbie Caillat – Bubbly (2007)
8. Hedwig and the Angry Inch – Wig in a Box (2001)
9. Lenny Kravitz – It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over (1991)
10. TLC – Diggin’ On You (1994)
11. Gwen Guthrie – (They Long To Be) Close To You (1986)
12. Blow Monkeys – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way (1986)
13. John Lennon – Instant Karma (1970)
14. Young Rascals – Groovin’ (1967)
15. The 5th Dimension – Stoned Soul Picnic (1968)
16. Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright) (1965)
17. Four Tops – I Can’t Help Myself (1965)
18. Mood Mosaic – A Touch Of Velvet-A Sting Of Brass (1966)
19. Chicago – Saturday In The Park (1972)
20. Mungo Jerry – Mighty Man (1970)

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Beatles Reunited – Photographs (1974)

February 22nd, 2018 7 comments

It’s two years after the alternate history Smile Away album of 1972; and here is the 1974 double album. The title of the last album was drawn from a Paul track; this one uses the plural of a Starr-Harrison song.

Another Ringo song comes very close to a being Beatles record in the post-split period: I’m The Greatest it features three Beatles in Ringo, John (who wrote it) and George. The third Ringo number made the cut only by squeezing shut an eye: All By Myself was written by Ringo with Vini Poncia (who in 1964 wrote a song titled Ringo I Love You for Bonnie Jo Mason, who soon after that became known as Cher). Let’s imagine Ringo passed it off as his own track until the album credits had to be written.

For George the period 1973-74 was pretty shallow; he gave three tracks (and his half of Photograph) to this album. I suppose his Sue Me, Sue You Blues might have needed a tweak in lyrics since the band hasn’t broken up and sued one another.

Paul and John obviously dominate here. John gets one song more than Paul, which I’m sure would have caused friction. But Paul could have given The Beatles the superb Live And Let Die, but he had to release it as a solo single (of course he would have)!

Obviously one can argue all night about my choices for this double LP, and even about its title (a quite ferocious critic last time around was quite certain that The Beatles would never have called an album Smile Away. I suspect that his mindreading skills are superior to mine, but, well, in my alternate history they damn well did). Alternate histories aren’t science; the fun is in discussing whether one’s idea of might have been coincide with that of another. But one ought to be civil about it.

These “Beatles Reunited” mixes are in a way inspired by Peter Lee’s commendable alternative-history novel The Life And Death of Mal Evans which is available in print or eBook from avonypublishing.com or from Amazon or Kobo. Also check out Peter’s blog of the book.

The set fits on a standard CD-R and includes very literal covers. PW in comments.

Side 1
1. What You Got (John)
2. Jet (Paul)
3. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) (George)
4. Photograph (Ringo)
5. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (John)

Side 2
6. Band On The Run (Paul)
7. Nobody Loves You When You’re Down (John)
8. Sue Me, Sue You Blues (George)
9. Bring On The Lucie (Freda Peeple) (John)

Side 3
10. Junior’s Farm (Paul)
11. I’m The Greatest (Ringo)
12. Let Me Roll It (Paul)
13. My Love (Paul)
14. # 9 Dream (John)

Side 4
15. All By Myself (Ringo)
16. Mind Games (John)
17. Helen Wheels (Paul)
18. Dark Horse (George)
19. Steel And Glass (John)

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Previous Beatles Reunited albums:
Everest (1971)
Live ’72 (1972)
Smile Away (1972)

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Any Major Impossible Love

February 13th, 2018 3 comments

In the past few years we have celebrated being happily in love, and happy in love in black and white; we have dealt with the pain of unrequited love. And for this year’s Valentine’s Day, here’s a mix of love that cannot be: the impossible love situations where two people want to be together but, for some reason or another, can’t.

Usually it involves one or both of these people being married, so this genre of love songs can veer into territory of furtive sex. So Billy Paul’s Me And Mrs Jones is usually classified as a cheating song. But I’m not sure it is one. Billy and Mrs Jones meet in a public place: the juke box is playing their favourite, and after some holding hands it’s time for them to be leaving. The relationship may or may noy be consummated; Billy Paul gives us no evidence of that.

Whereas Marilyn McCoo, in the original version of the future Whitney Houston hit, is definitely engaging in adultery. But the act of sex seems to add to the pain and the longing she has for the cad who is playing two women. That storyline is replicated on several songs here.

The Impossible Love genre is dominated by love thwarted by obligations, but there are songs about other reasons for love that cannot be. Class differences, family relations (the Romeo & Juliet theme, which isn’t explored on this mix), sexuality (Karma’s song here might be about same-sex attraction that cannot be acted on), mental illness (Joseph Arthur’s Honey And The Moon hints at that)…

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-lovelorn cover. PW in comments. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

1. Denise LaSalle – Married, But Not To Each Other (1975)
What’s stopping them? A hit for country singer Barbra Mandrell, this is the original by the recently late soul singer who co-wrote the song. The title reveals the romantic dilemma: “You’re tied to her and I’m tied to him. We don’t wanna hurt either one of them. So what can you do?” She finds an ambiguous answer: “Hurry up and love him, hurry up and please him. And when it gets right, you’ve got to leave him. You better leave him.”

2. The Soul Children – We’re Gettin’ Too Close (1974)
What’s stopping them? There’s an affair involving two otherwise attached people, but their love is becoming too obvious: “She’s gonna get hip to you, and he’s gonna get hip to me.” Time to call it off.

3. Billy Butler – I Know The Feeling Well (1977)
What’s stopping them? When you love two people and have to choose — and either way, you lose. Billy knows the feeling well.

4. Johnny Darrell – Margie’s At The Lincoln Park Inn (1969)
What’s stopping them? The singer (originally Bobby Bare, but Darrell sings it better) is torn: hot passion with Margie in a hotel, or family life with children and teaching Sunday school without bearing the conscience of a hypocrite.

5. Merle Haggard – Always Wanting You (1975)
What’s stopping them? Haggard wrote this about Dolly Parton, at a time when both were married. “Always loving you, but never touching you, sometimes hurts me almost more than I can stand.”

6. Randy Travis – On The Other Hand (1986)
What’s stopping them? On the one hand, in her arms he feels feel the passion which he thought had died. On the other hand is a golden ring…

7. Howie Day – Collide (2003)
What’s stopping them? Here opposites attract in an inexplicable love which the singer would probably prefer to be unrequited: “I’ve found I’m scared to know I’m always on your mind.”

8. Karma – Pachelbel (1998)
What’s stopping them? There’s hope in hopelessness: “And it’s too late to say goodbye, it’s too early yet to think you can’t be mine.” But, chin up, “there is pleasure to be found in this kind of pain.”

9. Jem – Flying High (2004)
What’s stopping them? Jem knows that she and the object of her desire can’t be together, for reasons unstated, and she “can’t pay the price” for acting on the reciprocal feeling, even if they are “so close to giving in”. The situation is painful by this impossible love also makes her giddy, as love tends to do. Hence she is “flying high”.

10. Joseph Arthur – Honey And The Moon (2002)
What’s stopping them? He loves her, she loves him back, they already seem to be together, but “right now, everything you want is wrong. And right now all your dreams are waking up.” He wants to follow her “to the shores of freedom, where no one lives”. It’s possibly a case where depression stands in the way of love’s final fulfilment.

11. Rilo Kiley – Does He Love You (2004)
What’s stopping them? A love triangle: a woman has an affair with her pregnant friend’s husband. He says he’ll leave her, but the protagonist knows he won’t.

12. The Decemberists – We Both Go Down Together (2005)
What’s stopping them? His parents will never consent to this love, for they are rich and the girl is “a dirty daughter from the labour camps” with tattoos (what?). But he’ll hold her hand…

13. Snow Patrol feat. Martha Wainwright – Set The Fire To The Third Bar (2006)
What’s stopping them? Two people are in love, but it’s long-distance. “I’m miles from where you are, I lay down on the cold ground. I pray that something picks me up, and sets me down in your warm arms.” Unlike many others in the impossible love predicament, our two friends may well activate their love fully when they do get together. Or the long distance will break them apart.

14. Bob Dylan – Ninety Miles An Hour (Down A Dead End Street) (1988)
What’s stopping them? Bob’s married, she’s married, and a drunken one-night stand turned into an affair which will end in disaster. “As a bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat, going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street… I didn’t want to want you, but now I have no choice, it’s too late to listen to that warning voice.” Kids, don’t try that at home.

15. Conway Twitty – Linda On My Mind (1975)
What’s stopping them? Oh, what complication: Linda had a crush on Conway but Conway loved her friend. Now Conway is tied to her friend but is in love with Linda, who is still in love with him. Who is now, as the title reveals, on his mind. As he is lying in bed next to his crying wife…

16. Hank Locklin – Please Help Me, I’m Falling (1960)
What’s stopping them? A desperate plea in the title, because Hank belongs to another whose arms have grown cold. But he promised “to have and to hold” the wife forever, so he can never be free.

17. Billy Joe Royal – Down In The Boondocks (1965)
What’s stopping them? He loves her and she loves him. But, coming from the boondocks, he doesn’t fit in her society.

18. Luther Ingram – (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right (1972)
What’s stopping them? Our man Luther is having affair and tries to rationalise his bid to have the love that can’t be. It’ll all end in tears, because he is not going to leave his wife, “who needs me just as much”, but he’ll continue his affair (perhaps he’s the cad in the last song on this mix). He asks: “Am I wrong trying to hold on to the best thing I ever had”? Well, is he?

19. Clydene Jackson – Somebody Else’s Love (1975)
What’s stopping them? More falling in love with somebody else’s love. All the playing in pools in the park wouldn’t get them to be together. It was never going to be, so that fling is a thing of the past.

20. The Glass House – Stealing Moments From Another Woman’s Life (1972)
What’s stopping them? The singer has the self-awareness that being with the man of her desire affects another woman, “stealing moments” from her. So now she dumps the guy.

21. Billy Paul – Me And Mrs. Jones (1972)
What’s stopping them? She’s got her own obligations, and so, and so-o-o, does he-e-e-e.

22. Marilyn McCoo – Saving All My Love For You (1978)
What’s stopping them? He says: “Be patient, just wait a little longer”. Which translates to: he’ll never leave his wife.

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Any Major Soul 1976 Vol. 2

February 8th, 2018 2 comments

It’s 1976 in Any Major Soul land, with Volume 2. It was the last really great year for soul of the great soul decade, and therefore arguably the last really  great year for soul.

One artist who appears here made it big in the 1980s. Luther Vandross features as the lead singer of the group Luther, which presumably took its name not as an homage to 16th-century religious performers. Vandross had already enjoyed a career as a session singer, most famously on David Bowie’s Young Americans album, on which he also co-wrote the song Fascination with Bowie. Later he also backed acts like Roberta Flack, Chic, Sister Sledge, Odyssey, Carly Simon, Average White Band, Bette Middler, Chaka Khan, J. Geils Band and others on their hit albums, duetted on two tracks of Quincy Joiners’ Stuff Like That album, joined the group Change, and finally in 1981 released his first solo album, Never Too Much.

Some big names failed to make the cut — Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, The Isley Brothers — but one soul legend had to feature in 1976: Stevie Wonder. Songs In The Key Of Life, released that year, is the opus in a great decade of soul music. That isn’t to say it is flawless. The fusion work-out that is Contusion is misplaced, and some songs go on for double its natural lifespan (basically all of Side 3). But, oh, Side 4! There are many great songs on the album, so the exquisite Knocks Me Off My Feet features here.

The Choice Four was a Washington DC act that was produced by Van McCoy. The band may be remembered better as a disco act, especially for their hit Come Down To Earth (by the time it became a hit, the group had split). They also recorded the first version of the David Ruffin hit Walk Away From Love. Both featured on In Memoriam – July 2017.

The mix kicks off with something rather more obscure. A 12-piece band from Milwaukee, Step By Step released one single album, I Always Wanted To Be In The Band.

Norma Jenkins sounds like a southern soul singer but actually hailed from New Jersey. She released only one album, in 1976, though her recording career went back into the 1960s. After 1976 she disappeared from the music scene.

You may recognise John Edwards as the future lead singer of The Spinners, joining the band in 1977. He led on Working My Way Back to You. He had enjoyed a career before that, enjoying a few hits in the R&B charts. A stroke in 2000 forced his retirement.

The artist who on this mix follows Edwards also has a Spinners connection. Lee Garrett co-wrote the bands hit It’s A Shame. He also co-wrote Stevie Wonder’s Signed Sealed And Delivered (like Wonder, incidentally, Garrett is blind) and Jermaine Jackson’s Let’s Get Serious. As a singer, he enjoyed success with 1976’s You’re My Everything. I picked a different song for this mix.

The cover of Tomorrow’s People’s LP suggests female membership. Not so: the group comprised four brothers. A little gem that was long forgotten (and sought after by collectors), it was re-released on CD recently. With the masters long lost, that CD had to be compiled from various sources. The real highlight of the album is the 20-minute track that fills Side 2.

One of the bright spots in 1990s soul was La Bouche, who were produced in Germany. Hearing their hit Fallin’ In Love invariably puts me in a good mood. That song was originally done in 1975 by AOR  act Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds — their version featured on the Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 4. Here it is covered by The New Birth, in a way that neither recalls the original nor presages the 1990s cover.

It also closes with an obscure outfit, Sounds Of The City Experience. How this New York City band never broke big is one for the Cold Case Files. And it won’t be too difficult to finger the bad guy: mafia frontman and full-time crook Morris Levy, the template for The Sopranos’ Hersh Rabkin (who was rather more likable than Levy). Levy signed this talented band to his tax dodge label. Their one shot at stardom was sabotaged so that it wouldn’t sell, in order to make a scumbag money. Fuck Morris Levy.

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

1. Step By Step – Cool Days Are Out Of Style
2. The O’Jays – Let Life Flow
3. Zulema – New Day Coming
4. Marlena Shaw – You And Me
5. G.C. Cameron – Include Me In Your Life
6. Al Green – Soon As I Get Home
7. Curtis Mayfield – Only You Babe
8. Stevie Wonder – Knocks Me Off My Feet
9. Al Jarreau – Rainbow In Your Eyes
10. Luther – This Strange Feeling
11. The Choice Four – Just Let Me Hold You For A Night
12. Norma Jenkins – I Did It For Real
13. Carolyn Franklin – From The Bottom Of My Heart (To The Bottom Of Yours)
14. Tomorrow’s People – Hurry On Up Tomorrow
15. Charles Brimmer – Your Man’s Gonna Be In Trouble
16. The New Birth – Fallin’ In Love
17. John Edwards – That’s That
18. Lee Garrett – Heart Be Still
19. Rufus & Chaka Khan – Do You Love What You Feel
20. Sounds Of The City Experience – Keep On Keepin’ On
Bonus track: Vivian Reed – Baby, You’re A Good Thang

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