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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Any Major The Wonder Years

February 6th, 2018 10 comments

Few TV shows ever have so accurately observed the condition of the suburban teenager as The Wonder Years did. One may regard the series, which started its run of six seasons exactly 30 years ago last week (it ran in the US from 31 January 1988 to 12 May 1993), as an exercise in nostalgia. Coming into the middle of a nostalgic  revival that celebrated the 1960s and the beginning of the ’70s, it benefited from fortuitous timing, but as a story of growing up as told by an adult man, the timeframe made perfect sense.

Some may accuse the show of being an apologia for the oppression of nameless bourgeois suburbia, or right-on rhetoric to that effect. Indeed, in the pilot episode the narrator does defend suburban life, arguing that far from being anonymous, suburbia has plenty individual stories to tell. Like that of Kevin Arnold. It may be rose-tintedly nostalgic, it may be middle-class, but it is also profoundly human.

Kevin’s stories are not extraordinary; they are universal, at least for those growing up in similar western middle-class circumstances. Imagine the teen embarrassment at having to take a three-year younger girl to a dance where everybody is a head smaller than you, as Kevin has to in one of my favourite episodes.

 

The Arnold family plus Best-Friend-Paul in The Wonder Years. Who didn’t loath bully brother Wayne?

 

Fred Savage as Kevin was outstanding. The nuances of his body language were as articulate as his delivery of the scripted lines. Daniel Stern narrates as the adult Kevin, and Savage expresses the inner life exposed in the commentary, with a half-smile here or raised eyebrow there. He was wonderfully understated.

And we can recognise the people around him. People much like them existed in our own families or in the circles of our childhood friends. The obnoxious brother Wayne? Know him. Geeky friend Paul? Know him? Grouchy dad Jack? Know him. Kindly mom Norma? Know her. Schoolmate Hobson? Oh dear, yes, I know that son of a bitch too.

I don’t think the female roles are as well realised. Winnie looks like she is going to cry even when she’s full of joy. Nemesis Becky Slater is one-dimensional. Sister Keren too often slides into the realms of caricature. But so does Wayne, even as his obnoxiousness is awesome.

The thing is, we are watching these people exclusively through the filter of Kevin’s memories, with all his biases. So Winnie is soft as a melting marshmallow because that’s how Kevin sees her. Keren is an overcompensating hippie because Kevin remembers her that way. And Mrs Arnold might be sexy, for all we know, but Kevin won’t see her like that, so nor shall we.

 

Kevin Arnold flanked by best pal Paul and marshmallow Winnie.

 

Almost three decades ago, when I first watched The Wonder Years, my empathy resided almost exclusively with Kevin. I was in my mid-twenties, and remembered well being a teenager. Now I have a grown son, and I can identify with the father, too. Well, not entirely. Although Dan Lauria, who played Jack Arnold, was younger than I am now when the show was filmed, he seems to be so much older, at least in my mind (I bet Jack Arnold wouldn’t write blogs about his favourite TV shows). But I can see the father’s point of view better now.

Lauria’s performance was admirably subtle, at least if one looks carefully. There is an almost imperceptible moment in the first season in which Lauria captures the loving father beneath the grumbling gruffness. Kevin and his dad had bonded during a day spent in Jack’s office. Back home at night, Jack lets Kevin look through his telescope. As Kevin looks through the instrument, Jack has his hand on the boy’s shoulder. He gently strokes it with his thumb, as fathers do. It’s a beautiful scene. I somehow grieve Jack’s death, though fictional and post-scripted in the final episode to 1975.

The first four seasons (the first consists of only six episodes) are as good as any half-hour show on TV. By the fourth season, the storylines became more laboured, and by the fifth the steam was beginning to run out. The sixth and final season, in which Kevin suddenly grows up, was one too many.  Still the latter seasons featured the always watchable Giovanni Ribisi (and a more regular future Friends star, David Schwimmer).

In The Wonder Years we were also introduced to Juliet Lewis, as Wayne’s girlfriend, and John Corbett (Northern Exposure, Sex And The City, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) as Keren’s libertine hippie boyfriend who gets fiercely interrogated by little Kevin. And Teri from Albuquerque (pictured right), whom Kevin kisses while on holiday in Ocean City in season 3, went on to become porn star Holly Sampson (article here).

Until recently, The Wonder Years was not available on DVD, apparently because of licensing problems with the many songs featured in the show – several repeatedly, such as The Byrds’ Turn Turn Turn, The Temptations’ My Girl, Joni Mitchell’s version of Both Sides Now, Joan Baez’s Forever Young, The Association’s Cherish, Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. The title song, Joe Cocker’s version of With A Little Help From My Friends, was astutely picked — suitably nostalgic with lyrics that invoke the broad premise of the show (that is, the importance of relationships).

The songs were well chosen — not many TV shows were scored with pop numbers back then. The pedantic music fan will, of course, be mildly irritated when scenes are scored by songs that had not yet been released at the time. But evident care was taken to ensure that songs that featured in a storyline – playing in the background on the radio, perhaps, or being referred to by name – already existed at the time the scenes are set in.

And so on to a mix of songs that featured in The Wonder Years. In brackets are the year of the song’s release, followed by the season and episode number it appeared in. As usual, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes covers. PW is in the comments section, where I have retained comments to a previous version of this post in 2011.

TRACKLISTING:
1. Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends (1968 – 4/68)
2. The Beach Boys – When I Grow Up (To Be A Man) (1964 – 6/111)
3. The Association – Cherish (1966 – 1/6)
4. Lovin’ Spoonful – Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind (1965 – 3/44)
5. Percy Faith Orchestra – Theme from A Summer Place (1960 – 2/23)
6. The Chordettes – Never On A Sunday (1961 – 2/23)
7. Hank Williams – Hey Good Lookin’ (1953 – 4/51)
8. Marty Robbins – A White Sport Coat (1957 – 6/113)
9. Johnny Rivers – Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancin’) (1977 – 6/105)
10. Jackson Browne – Jamaica Say You Will (1972 – 5/70)
11. Elton John – Seasons (1971 – 3/40)
12. The Spinners – Could It Be I’m Falling In Love (1973 – 6/109)
13. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – You’re All I Need To Get By (1967 – 3/37)
14. Fontella Bass – Rescue Me (1965 – 4/58)
15. John Fred & The Playboy Band – Judy In Disguise (With Glasses) (1968 – 5/89)
16. Ronny and the Daytonas – Little G.T.O (1964 – 5/74)
17. Jo Jo Gunne – Run Run Run (1972 – 5/85)
18. Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968 – 2/20 & 3/40)
19. Mott The Hoople – All The Way From Memphis (1973 – 6/106)
20. Johnny Cash & June Carter – If I Were A Carpenter (1970 – 5/73)
21. Randy Newman – I Think It’s Going To Rain Today (1968 – 4/68)
22. Joni Mitchell – The Circle Game (1970 – 3/27)
23. Joan Baez – Forever Young (1974 – 4/47 & 5/83)
24. Pachelbel – Canon In D Major (2/13)

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In Memoriam – January 2018

February 1st, 2018 6 comments

The year started with the Grim Reaper reaping rampantly through the world of music. So much for my plans to cut down on the work this series creates for me…

African liberation hero

In African music, few names were bigger than that of Hugh Masekela, the South African jazz trumpeter and singer whose career spanned six decades. Masekela was one of the first African musicians to make a big impact in the US, particularly when his song Grazing In The Grass became a huge hit in 1968. Along with his fellow exile from apartheid and one-time wife, Miriam Makeba, Masekela not only helped pave the way for other African artists. They were also political activists against the racist regime that forced their exile. They worked for the cultural boycott of South Africa from within the industry, and succeeded. Back home, “Bra Hugh” was a legend not only for his music but also for his social leadership. His early mentor, the Rev Trevor Huddlestone, would have been proud. The priest, himself an anti-apartheid legend, gave Masekela his first trumpet — which he had received from Louis Armstrong!

The last of classic Motörhead

In the space of just over two years, all three members of the classic Motörhead line-up — the Ace of Spades era — have died. Drummer Phil Taylor went in November 2015, Lemmy a month later. And now guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke has been killed by death. Before joining Motörhead in 1976, Clarke had been a member of several bands, and put out a record in 1974 as a member of blues/prog rock band Curtis Knight Zeus. Clarke left Motörhead in 1982 — he blamed Taylor for having him forced out — at the height of the band’s success. The band had success after Fast Eddie left, but never as much as with him. Clarke went on to co-found heavy metal band Fastway.

France’s France for Luxembourg

There is something quite charming about some Eurovision Song Contest winners of the 1960s, and the 1965 Luxembourg winner by the appropriately-named French singer France Gall, Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son (penned by Serge Gainsbourg, inspired by Beethoven), was one such song. Gall’s performance that night was off-key, causing her lover at the time, singer Claude Francois, to scream at her in a, let’s say, discouraging manner. The charm of the catchy song with its clever lyrics, and of France Gall herself evidently won over the juries. As the 1960s progressed, Gall evolved from pop puppet to psychedelic chanteuse, recording also some success on the German market.

The great soul producer

The producer Rick Hall’s FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, not only created a sound of his own but also helped build careers of such legends as Otis Redding, Clarence Carter, Wilson Picket, Candi Station, Duane Allman, Mac Davis and Leon Russell — and, above all, Aretha Franklin whom Hall turned from being a jazz crooner into a great soul legend when Atlantic began sending their artists to Muscle Shoals. Like his colleagues at Stax in Memphis, Hall employed musicians and produced with no regard for race. In the 1970s he still produced soul greats, but also the likes of Donny Osmond (and later Marie), Tom Jones, Wayne Newton and Paul Anka. Hall produced Clarence Carter’s Patches, which was originally recorded by the Chairmen of the Board, whose member Danny Woods also died this month.

The Pope’s alt.rock pal

Irish singer Dolores O’Riordan, frontwoman of The Cranberries, had many detractors who didn’t like her music, her yodelling, her often abrasive demeanour. But she also had big fans, many of whom say that her songs accompanied them in dark times. Last year O’Riordan revealed that she had been diagnosed as bipolar depressive, which might explain some of her excessive behaviour and also her unforthcoming nature in interviews. As a Catholic, she played for Pope Francis in 2013, met Pope John Paul II, and had a fan in Princess Diana. After her death at 46, in a hotel while she was in London to record, the Irish prime minister paid tribute to the singer who retained her Limerick accent while singing, even when she became an international star with The Cranberries.

Sex advice from a soul legend

It’s rather a shame that many people will remember Denise LaSalle for her 1985 novelty hit My Toot Toot, an inferior cover of Rockin’ Sydney’s hit. LaSalle was a great soul singer, as her Willie Mitchell-produced hit Trapped By A Thing Called Love (1971) showed, and a highly rated blues singer. She also had a wicked sense of humour: her 2000 song Lick It (Before You Stick It) is an instruction manual dedicated “to all the men out there that don’t seem to know how to keep their woman happy”.

Musician first, Holocaust survivor second

German jazz legend Coco Schumann discovered his love for music, especially swing, in Berlin in 1936. That was not good in 1930s Germany: not only did the Nazis not approve of jazz, but Schumann was Jewish, through his mother (his Christian father was a convert to Judaism). In 1943 Schumann was transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, which the Nazis styled to the outside world as a ghetto were Jews were living in some comfort and exercising their culture. As such Schumann and fellow members of the Ghetto Swingers (!) were filmed playing swing for a propaganda film. Soon after that the musicians, including Schumann, were transported to Auschwitz where all but three were murdered. Schumann, who was forced to play music on Auschwitz’s death ramp, just about survived the Holocaust, unlike most of his family members. His parents survived: the father hid his wife, having declared her dead in a fire.  After the war, Schumann became the first German musician to play an electric guitar. Throughout his career, he insisted: “I’m a musician who was in a concentration camp; not a concentration camp survivor who plays music.” In 2012 his autobiography was turned into a stage musical.

The end of the Smith. Ah.

The problem with doing these write-ups — I was going to cut back on them; the Reaper had other ideas! — manifested itself with the death of Mark E. Smith, the head of The Fall. Smith was significant, influential and fascinating… and somebody about whose craft I’ve always been indifferent. I have to say something and I have nothing much to say about the music. Except that I found his tendency to end every line with an “ah” very irritating. Smith famously was a difficult kind of guy. But since his death, stories of his kindness have emerged. And Smith was a keen sender of Christmas cards, even posting them to his favourite football magazine, the independent When Saturday Comes. Plus he really hated the bigot and all-round disappointment Stephen Morrissey, formerly of (ironically) The Smiths, which is very much a good thing. On the other hand, he was not above assaulting women, which is very much a bad thing.

Oh unhappy day

With his song Oh Happy Day, Edwin Hawkins changed gospel music and the way gospel was perceived by followers of popular music. Hawkins was a pioneer in developing what is now called “contemporary gospel”, and Oh Happy Day — which was an old hymn given a new arrangement — made it fashionable to incorporate gospel sounds in pop. George Harrison said that he was inspired in writing My Sweet Lord not be He’s So Fine but by Oh Happy Day. And when one hears Billy Preston’s original recording of My Sweet Lord, Harrison’s claim sounds true.

You know the flute

Ray Thomas played what may be a contender for the most famous flute solo in rock, on The Moody Blues’ Nights In White Satin. The flute of Thomas, who co-founded the band, would become a common feature of many Moody Blues songs, a large number of which were written or co-written by him. Thomas was a multi-instrumentalist; he also played saxophone, percussions, keyboards and even the oboe, and reportedly composed songs on the glockenspiel.

Austin Powers’ spoken record

British actor Peter Wyngarde, apparently the template for Austin Powers, was not famous for his exploits in the arena of popular music. But he did release one album on RCA, on which Wyngarde’s spoken word recordings were set to music arrangements. It is said that RCA produced the 1970 LP as a tax write-off, imagining that nobody would buy it. But the album sold very quickly, become a cult item (it’s also quite good, certainly when compared to William Shatner’s similar record). RCA refused to press more copies, to Wyngarde’s understandable anger, and did not honour the three-record deal they had signed with the actor. Perhaps song titles like “Peter Wyngarde Commits Rape” diminished RCA’s enthusiasm.

The man who put Mel Brooks to music

Fans of Mel Brooks movies will note with sadness the passing of his favoured film score composer, John Morris, who arranged and conducted the soundtrack of Springtime For Hitler, wrote or co-wrote the music for Blazing Saddles — including the Oscar-nominated title track — and arranged and/or wrote the music for films like Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, To Be Or Not To Be and others. He also wrote the score for The Elephant Man, and wrote and/or arranged for other films such as Dirty Dancing and The Woman In Red. He also wrote the theme song for the TV series Coach.

A tragic story to start the year

The year began with an utterly depressing story. 1960s soul singer Betty Willis, now 76, had fallen on hard times. Being homeless, she was sleeping outdoors when a homeless man sexually attacked her. Willis screamed, whereupon the rapist beat and choked her. By the time people could pull him off Willis, she was dead. Willis began her singing career with a forgotten duet with a guy called Ray, but her debut solo single, the doo-wop style number Someday You’ll Need My Love, earned her some attention. In 1962 she took the lead vocals of the Brian Wilson-produced Rachel & The Revolvers. By the mid-60s she had reinvented herself as a deep soul singer, at one point being something of a protégé of Leon Russell. Apparently her younger sister was Carolyn Willis of The Honey Cone.

The Butter Queen

Occasionally this series may include record label owners or LP cover designers, but it might stretch things a little to include groupies. But if the Rolling Stones mentioned her name in song, and Led Zeppelin dedicated Dazed And Confused to her on several bootleg concerts, then it seems right to mark the death of Barbara Cope, a.k.a. The Butter Queen (because she always carried butter with her as a lubricant). She featured prominently in the documentary on Joe Cocker’s 1970 tour, and is namechecked on the Stones’ Gimme Shelter film (and, in part, inspired the film Almost Famous). David Cassidy recalled in his autobiography that his band and crew “just gasped when they heard that Barbara the Butter Queen was actually coming to do them all”.  The alumna of a school named Bryan Adams High (!) claimed to have slept with 2,000 musicians until her retirement from groupie life in 1972 when she was 21 or 22 (you do the math). Cope died at 67 in a house fire.

One of music’s January dead is not being included; how do you list a convicted child porn fiends who were better known as actors? I’m not sure what I will do when Gary Glitter dies…

Betty Willis, 76, soul singer, murdered on Jan. 1
Betty Willis – Someday You’ll Need My Love (1960)
Rachel & The Revolvers – The Revo-Lution (1962, on lead vocals)
Betty Willis – Ain’t Gonna Do You No Good (1968)

Rick Hall, 85, producer, songwriter, owner of FAME Studios, on Jan. 2
Arthur Alexander – You Better Move On (1961, as producer)
Clarence Carter – Slip Away (1968, as producer)
Laura Lee – Another Man’s Woman (1972, as producer & arranger)
Mac Davis – Rock n’ Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life) (174, as producer)

Ray Thomas, 76, songwriter, co-founder of The Moody Blues, on Jan. 4
The Moody Blues – Something You’ve Got (1965)
The Moody Blues – For My Lady (1972, also as songwriter)
Ray Thomas – Keep On Searching (1976)

Jerry Van Dyke, 86, comedian and Dick’s brother, occasional singer, on Jan. 5
Jerry Van Dyke – I Wanna Say Hello (1964)

Chris Tsangarides, 61, British producer, on Jan. 6
Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways (1978, as co-producer, engineer)

France Gall, 70, French singer, on Jan. 7
France Gall – Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son (1965)
France Gall – Der Computer Nr. 3 (1968)
France Gall – La déclaration d’amour (1974)

Buster Stiggs, 63, drummer of New Zealand bands Suburban Reptiles, The Swingers, on Jan. 7

Denise LaSalle, 78, soul and blues singer, on Jan. 8
Denise LaSalle – Trapped By A Thing Called Love (1972)
Denise LaSalle – Under The Influence (1978)
Denise LaSalle – Lick It (Before You Stick It) (2000)

Moriss Taylor, 93, country singer and TV personality, on Jan. 8

‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, 67, British heavy metal guitarist, on Jan. 10
Curtis Knight Zeus – The Confession (1974, also as co-writer)
Motörhead – Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers (1980, also as co-lead singer)
Motörhead – Ace Of Spades (live) (1981)
Fastway – Say What You Will (1983)

Alfred Morris III, 60, guitarist of heavy metal band Iron Man, on Jan. 10

Françoise Dorin, 89, French songwriter and actress, on Jan. 12
Charles Aznavour – Que c’est triste Venise (1964, as co-writer)

Danny Woods, 73, co-founder of soul group Chairmen of the Board, on January 13
Danny Woods – 90 Days In The County Jail (1967)
Chairmen Of The Board – Pay To The Piper (1970)

Barbara Cope, 67, Rock groupie, on Jan. 14
Rolling Stones – Rip This Joint (1972, “…’Cross to Dallas, Texas with the Butter Queen”)

Marlene VerPlanck, 84, jazz singer, on Jan. 14
Marlene VerPlanck – If I Love Again (1955)

Peter Wyngarde, 90, British actor and recording artist, on Jan. 15
Peter Wyngarde – Neville Thumbcatch (1968)

Edwin Hawkins, 74, American gospel musician, on Jan. 15
The Edwin Hawkins Singers – Oh Happy Day (1967)
Melanie with The Edwin Hawkins Singers – Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) (1970)

Dolores O’Riordan, 46, singer of Irish band The Cranberries, on Jan. 15
The Cranberries – Linger (1992)
The Cranberries – Zombie (Unplugged) (1996)

Micki Varro, 75, actress and jazz singer, on Jan. 16

Dave Holland, 69, English heavy metal drummer (Judas Priest, Trapeze) on Jan. 16
Judas Priest – Breaking The Law (1980)

Nathan Jatcko, 31, keyboardist of rock band Pavlov’s Dog (2015-18), on Jan. 17

Christian Burchard, 71, co-founder of Krautrock collective Embryo, on Jan. 17
Embryo – Tausendfüßler (1971, on drums, piano and leslie)

Javiera Muñoz, 40, Swedish singer, on Jan. 18

Steve Nisbett, 69, drummer of British reggae band Steel Pulse, on Jan. 18
Steel Pulse – Can’t Stand It (1989)

Fredo Santana, 27, rapper, on Jan. 19

Jim Rodford, 76, English bassist (Argent, The Kinks), on Jan. 20
Argent – God Gave Rock And Roll To You (1973)
The Kinks – Come Dancin’ (1982)

Mario Guccio, 64, singer of Belgian prog-rock band Machiavel, on Jan. 20
Machiavel – Fly (1980)

Terry Evans, 80, R&B and blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, on Jan. 20
Terry Evans & Group – Just ‘Cause (1963)
Pops Staples – Love Is A Precious Things (1992, as writer)

Robert Arthur, 89, composer and conductor (Ed Sullivan Show), on Jan. 21

Preston Shannon, 70, blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, on Jan. 22
Preston Shannon – Midnight In Memphis (1996)

Billy Hancock, 71, Rockabilly singer, songwriter and musician, on Jan. 22
Billy Hancock – All The Cats Join In (1985)

Hugh Masekela, 78, South African jazz trumpeter, on Jan. 23
The Jazz Epistles – Carols Drive (1960)
Hugh Masekela – Grazing In The Grass (1868)
Hugh Masekela – The Boy’s Doin’ It (1975)
Hugh Masekela – Bring Him Back Home (1987, live)

John Morris, 91, film composer, on Jan. 24
The Producers – Springtime for Hitler (1968, as arranger & conductor)
Frankie Laine – Blazing Saddles (1974, as co-writer)

Lari White, 52, country singer, on Jan. 23
Lari White – Now I Know (1994)

Mark E. Smith, 60, English songwriter, singer and leader of The Fall, on Jan. 24
The Fall – Fantastic Life (1981)
The Fall – Immortality (1992)
The Fall – Ride Away (2005)

Fred Bridges, 79, soul musician and producer, announced Jan. 25
The Brothers Of Soul – Dream (1971)

Tommy Banks, 81, Canadian jazz pianist, composer and politician, on Jan. 25

Buzz Clifford, 76, American singer and songwriter, on Jan. 26
Buzz Clifford – Baby Sittin’ Boogie (1961)

Floyd Miles, 74, blues musician and singer, on Jan. 26
Floyd Miles feat. Gregg Allman – Spending Christmas With The Blues (1996)

Grant Fell, 56, bassist of New Zealand band Headless Chickens, on Jan. 27

Neil Harris, 63, guitarist of English punk band Sham 69 (1975-77), on Jan. 28

Coco Schumann, 93, German jazz musician, on Jan. 28
Amiga Star Band – Honeysuckle Rose (1948, on electric guitar)
Helmut Zacharias – Deep Purple (1976, on guitar)

Eddie Shaw, 80, blues saxophonist, arranger and bandleader, on Jan. 29
Eddie Shaw – Blues Dues (1982)

Del Delker, 93, gospel singer, on Jan. 31

Leah LaBelle, 31, Canadian-born pop singer, in car crash on Jan. 31

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Song Swarm: Blue Moon

January 31st, 2018 6 comments

I’m reposting this to mark tonight’s Super Blue Red Moon, which much of the world will be able to witness.

The story of Blue Moon — its transition from a movie song that was rewritten several times to jazz song and then pop hit — was told in The Originals Vol. 40, which included the first version, The Bad In Every Man, sung on film by Shirley Ross.

This collection of 38 versions covers all manner of approaches. There are the early jazz interpretations, most of them with vocals (though Gene Krupa, Django Reinhardt and in 1944 the Cozy Cole Allstars do it instrumentally). Then it became something of a torchsong number in the hands of jazzy crooners such as Mel Tormé (whose 1960 re-recording is my favourite version), Billy Eckstine, Billie Holiday, Julie London and Ella Fitzgerald. Nat ‘King’ Cole weighed in with a more upbeat version. In 1960, Bert Kaempfert — the first producer of The Beatles — contrived an easy listening instrumental that is very much of its time.

Elvis on his debut album in 1956 gave it a minimalist, slow feel, with a rare falsetto (that take is later replicated in tribute by Chris Isaak and The Mavericks). Around the same time as Elvis, The Emanons recorded a doo wop version, which with Sam Cooke’s might have influenced that by The Marcels, which became a huge hit.

In 1970 Bob Dylan released a rather unexpected cover, with a unique arrangement. Another unexpected performer in this compilation is Robert de Niro, who performed it in the 1977 film New York, New York, in which Bob played a bandleader. Likewise, alt-country rockers My Morning Jacket are not the first band one would think of in a mix of covers of Blue Moon.

I’ve included a playlist file, which runs the versions in the chronological order, as listed below.

Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra (1934) • Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra  (1934) • Connie Boswell & Victor Young Orchestra  (1935) • Al Bowlly with the Ray Noble Orchestra (1935) • Benny Goodman and his Orchestra  (1935) • Django Reinhardt  (1935) • Gene Krupa  (1939) • Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra  (1939) • Cozy Cole Allstars (1944) • Mel Tormé (1949) • Billy Eckstine (1949) • Nat ‘King’ Cole (1951) • Jo Stafford (1952) •  Billie Holiday  (1952) •  Oscar Peterson  (1954) •  Ella Fitzgerald (1956) •  Elvis Presley (1956) •  The Emanons (1956) •  Sam Cooke  (1958) •  Julie London  (1958) •  Bert Kaempfert Orchester (1960) •  Mel Tormé  (1960) • Frank Sinatra (1961) • The Marcels  (1961) • The Ventures (1961) • Bobby Vinton (1963) • Dean Martin  (1964) • Bob Dylan  (1970) • Spooky & Sue  (1975) • Robert de Niro & Mary Kay (1977) • Sha Na Na  (1978) • Mark Isham with Tanita Tikaram  (1990) • Chris Isaak  (1994) • The Mavericks  (1995) • Tori Amos  (1996) • Vidal Brothers (1997) • Rod Stewart (2004) • My Morning Jacket  (2005)

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Any Major Guitar Vol. 1

January 25th, 2018 15 comments

You know you’re losing it as a writer when you start off writing padding crap in the amateur league of “Guitar solos, everybody loves ’em”. Obviously, to spare you the tedium I’ve deleted all the noodling on about guitars — just as one might wish some musicians would do on their recordings, and on stage.

Having said that, it’s not awfully difficult to compile a list of favourite guitar solos, some of which may even be very long. Hell, I even love me a dose of Freebird now and then.

By definition, a list of anything “favourites” is subjective. They may include unheralded guitarists and exclude masters of the craft. My list certainly does. Slash and Eddie and Sambora? Missing? Dudes from Metallica or Led Zep? Nope. Any number of blues guitarists? I’m afraid not there. But the session guy from Wuthering Heights features.

So this is not an attempt at compiling “greatest-ever” guitar solos, though some of those here are contenders, or to bring together the greatest guitarists, though by the nature of things, many of the greatest will feature. This mix puts together songs on which there is guitar work that makes me sing along in the style of “Byoong, bee-bee-byoom-bee-byum – diddiddiddiddi-byoong-byoo-byoo-byoo-byoo-byoooo”.

And, of course, I apply my usual terms & conditions: one song per guitarist and, if it can be helped, no repeated acts either. This is just Volume 1, so please don’t shout at me for excluding Jimi Hendrix.

And tell me what are some of your favourite guitar solos? What makes you sing “Byoong, bee-bee-byoom-bee-byum”?

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

Cream – White Room (1968)
Byoong moment: 4:00. Cream make us think that the song is over, and then Eric Clapton goes all guitar solo for the remaining minute. So many Clapton solos to choose from… Bell Bottom Blues was another leading contender.

Chicago – 25 Or 6 To 4 (1970)
Byoong moment: 1:58. Whoever said Chicago were soft? Terry Kath threatens to let rip for a couple of minutes, then eases himself into his 2:15 minutes long second guitar solo which becomes increasingly aggressive.

Steely Dan – Reelin’ In The Years (1972)
Byoong moment: 1:58. His mini-solo kicks off the song, then session guitarist Elliott Randall gives us two solos for the price for one: first a “wanna-take-me-on” duel with the rhythm section, then a triumphant face-contorting solo.

America – Sister Golden Hair (1975)
Byoong moment: 0:00. It’s not really a solo; the slide guitar intro and its reprise after the break last only a few seconds, but what a beautiful ethereal sound. Rumour had it that it was played by George Harrison (since George Martin produced the song). Boringly, lead singer Gerry Beckley played the guitar, inspired by Harrison’s work on My Sweet Lord.

Wilco – Impossible Germany (2007)
Byoong moment: 2:29. If was asked to vote, I might nominate this as my all-time favourite guitar solo. Even if it features two soloists: Nels Cline (right speaker) and Jeff Tweedy (left speaker). It’s 3:28 minutes of exquisite, exciting and epic elation.

Foo Fighters – Everlong (live) (2006)
Byoong moment: 3:44. From the acoustic Skin And Bones live album, one doesn’t expect so much noise in the instrumental interlude and (aptly) climax. Not really a guitar solo, but those instrumental breaks are driven by Dave Grohl’s acoustic and Pat Smear’s electric guitars.

Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over (live) (1996)
Byoong moment: 2:24. Neil Finn’s glistening guitar is all over it, in the studio version and in this gorgeous live recording from Sydney on the Farewell To The World set, but it really kicks in after the organ solo, and certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Gary Moore – Still Got The Blues (For You) (1990)
Byoong moment: 3:39. Plenty of byoong throughout as Gary Moore puts on his orgasm-face and noodles exquisitely on his Les Paul. A court ruled that Moore plagiarised the solo from a 1974 song called Nordrach by the German prog rock act Jud’s Gallery — and the similarities are indeed there. But there’s a reason several thousands of people have had sex to Moore’s song, and only eight to that by Jud’s Gallery.

The Isley Brothers – Summer Breeze (1973)
Byoong moment: 3:51. There are few guitar solos in soul music, but when there is one, you can do worse than Ernie Isley laying it down, turning the gentle warm breeze into a heatwave. His solo on Who’s That Lady was another contender.

Toto – Georgy Porgy (1978)
Byoong moment: 1:58. There is so much musical excellence going on (and Cheryl Lynn’s superb vocals) here that the fleeting, half-minute guitar solo by Steve Lukather can be overlooked. But it is exquisite.

Eric Gale – Blue Horizon (1981)
Byoong moment: 3:44. The only instrumental here, by the late, great fusion guitarist Eric Gale. The real star of the show on this song is the recently late Hugh Masekela’s flugelhorn, perhaps even Peter Schott’s keyboards, to which Gale’s guitar offers accompaniment — until Gale takes centrestage with two brief solos; after which he lets his guitar sing like a bird that is desperate to mate.

Commodores – Easy (1977)
Byoong moment: 2:47. A guitar solo that comes from nowhere. Lionel goes: “Ooh!” and Thomas McClary lets his fuzz guitar sing. It’s superb, but be alert for another great McClary moment: that tiny fill at 2:23.

Carpenters – Goodbye To Love (1972)
Byoong moment: 2:47. Another fuzz guitar solo, by the late Tony Peloso. If you’ll disqualify the Cline/Tweedy solo, I’ll nominate this as my all-time favourite guitar solo, alone because it comes so unexpectedly in a Carpenters song; guitar solos did not really feature on easy listening numbers. The first solo, at 1:21, sounds at first melancholy, reflecting Karen’s resignation and sadness, then it tries to lift her up. But that second solo, if Karen doesn’t invite love back in after the big solo that closes the song, backed by celestial harmonies, then she really has no chance.

Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again (1977)
Byoong moment: 0:44. No “byoong” here, just lots of finger-picking acoustic guitar by what essentially is a Lindsey Buckingham solo track. I was very close to picking Buckingham’s solo for Landslide (which features on Any Major Fathers).

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights (1978)
Byoong moment: 3:47. Given that he discovered Kate Bush, I sort of guessed that the guitar solo that sees out Wuthering Heights, and takes centre-stage, was played by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. It was, in fact, the work of Scottish session musician Ian Bairnson, formerly of glam-pop band Pilot.

The Knack – My Sharona (1979)
Byoong moment: 2:43. My Sharona is dominated by that insistent riff and the stuttering vocals and “whooo”s, but that guitar solo by Berton Averre is one of the finest in late 1970s pop music. It goes on a bit, so it does need that furious power pop drumming, with the brutal assault on the cymbals, to sustain it. The Freebird for the new wave generation.

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NYC – Any Major Mix Vol. 1

January 23rd, 2018 20 comments

I am among the many who are profoundly fascinated by New York. Without ever having been there, I feel an affinity with the place (at this point I might invite the multi-millionaires among my loyal readers to come forward with offers for an all-expenses trip to NYC for me and my family). Obviously I’m not alone.

When I first made up this collection in 2009, I thought I’d even make it two mixes. Then I began shortlisting. The list grew longer and longer. Then I culled, ruthlessly. I ended up with five mixes, including the New York in Black & White mix I re-posted a couple of years ago.

So, how much do I love NYC, without ever having been there? Well, consider this: a large framed print of the photo below, bought almost 25 years ago, hangs above my bed. As I said, wealthy benefactors…..

 

1. Billie Holiday – Autumn In New York (1954)
NYC hook: When Harry repeatedly met Sally, his creepiness was relieved by the beauty of NYC’s fallen, brown leaves. I’m not sure that match-making via Harry Connick is what Billie had in mind. It’s beautiful nonetheless. No wonder the creep eventually managed to hook the rather attractive Sally, playing lovely music like this for, to and at her.

2. Ray Charles – New York’s My Home (1961)
NYC hook: Well, it’s his favourite city, not just a visiting place. It’s, as the title shrewdly implies, his home.

3. Bobby Darin – Sunday In New York (1964)
NYC hook: Ah, those innocent days when shops would be closed on Sundays, and there’d be nothing better to do than window shopping — and sing infectiously upbeat songs about it.

4. Ad Libs – Boy From NY City (1964)
NYC hook: Well, there’s a boy, and he’s from New York City, and a girl named Kitty, for reason of rhyme, is urged to tell us about him. We learn that he is no clown, which is a relief.

5. Harpers Bizarre – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) (1967)
NYC hook: Slowly following the S&G city map, Harpers Bizarre are finding cause to feel pretty good — or groovy, in the era’s vernacular. As the title might have told you. What else can make you feel groovy?

6. Gerard Kenny – New York, New York (1978)
NYC hook: It’s safe to say that Gerard Kenny likes New York. In his enthusiasm, he claims inaccurately that on account of how good the city is, it was named twice, like the pederast in Nabokov’s Lolita. Of course we know that his Sesame Street level assertion does not correspond with reality, yet we would feel guilty disabusing him of his error. It would crush him.

7. Russ Ballard – New York Groove (1975)
NYC hook: A little under a decade after people were feeling gently groovy, Russ thumped us with the NY GROOOVE, symbolising the transition from weed to coke. Ex-Argent member Ballard wrote the song, but didn’t release it. Instead, Hello in 1975 and Ace Fehley of Kiss in 1978 had hits with it.

8. Nicole Atkins – Brooklyn’s On Fire (2007)
NYC hook: It’s Independence Day and, Nicole counsels us, Brooklyn is on fire. Not literally, even though the chorus does sound deceptively alarming. It’s the fireworks, and romance is in the air.

9. Ramones – Rockaway Beach (1977)
NYC hook: Joey and his “brothers” hitch a ride to the Beach. The Surfin’ USA for New Yorkers.

10. Bruce Springsteen – Sherry Darling (1980)
NYC hook: New York traffic is a bastard, and more so when you have to ferry around your nagging future mother-in-law. Our Bruce likes his Sherry, but one more word out of Mom, and she walks.

11. Ryan Adams – New York New York (2001)
NYC hook: Ryan loves New York a lot, and this is his declaration of love. The video for this song was filmed four days before 9/11, and apparently the song played on loop for days after the attack. Apologies to New Yorkers in whom this track evokes horrible memories.

12. Elliot Smith – Amity (1998)
NYC hook: This mix is like a soap opera. Remember Kitty who told us about the boy from New York City? Well, it seems the Boy from New York City has returned to New York City, with Kitty. “Hello, hello Kitty, happy in New York City.”

13. Bright Eyes – Old Soul Song (For The New World Order) (2005)
NYC hook: The only song in this mix not to mention New York, its geography or landmarks. But it is set in New York, describing the big February 2003 demonstration against George W Bush’s illicit, indefensible declaration of war against a state that posed no threat to his country’s security. As we knew then, if we were ready to refuse to believe the brazen lies peddled by Dick, Don and Dubya, and their gurning poodle in Britain. Remember them? These evil fucks seem so innocent in Trump’s 2018…

14. Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go (2007)
NYC hook: A broken heart in New York City, with the Statue of Liberty as a prop. Without wishing to engage in undue hyperbole, this is a most beautiful song.

15. Rufus Wainwright – Chelsea Hotel No 2 (2006)
NYC hook: Casual celebrity oral sex; it’s the New York way. The cover may be even better than Laughing Len’s original.

16. Everything But The Girl – The Only Living Boy In New York (1997)
NYC hook: One person leaves New York, the other stays behind. The second Simon & Garfunkel cover in the mix, and I have two more of their songs lined up…

17. Mondo Kané feat. Georgie Fame – New York Afternoon (1986)
NYC hook: We’ve had Billie Holiday in autumn and Rosie Thomas in winter; here Mondo Kané and Georgie Fame (produced by the soon-to-be-evil-but-still-excellent Stock Aitken Waterman) enjoy a nice summer afternoon in various New York landmarks.

18. Prefab Sprout – Hey Manhattan! (1988)
NYC hook: And coming in on the flight after Mondo Kané’s are wide-eyed tourists Prefab Sprout, admitting to being entirely star-struck. Brooklyn Bridge, 5th Avenue (where Sinatra walked), JFK hang-out The Carlyle… But look out for the denouement as our tourist friends become aware of New York’s class division.

19. Neil Diamond – Brooklyn Roads (1968)
NYC hook: Neil grew up in Brooklyn. No dazzled observations about famous landmarks and celebrities here. Reminiscing on his childhood, Neil is smelling cooking in the hallways of his block; I get the scent of Mrs Diamond’s boiled cabbage. Wistfully, he imagines a new generation of children living in his old room, perhaps dreaming, as he did, of busting loose.

20. Gil Scott-Heron – New York City (1976)
NYC hook: You’d think angry Gil would hate New York. But he doesn’t. He loves it. Not quite sure why. Nothing much wrong with it, he says. And that’s just as well, seeing as the city reminds Gil of himself.

21. Steely Dan – Brooklyn (1972)
NYC hook: The charmer under me is…the guy who lived below Fagen and Becker in Brooklyn. All there is to it.

22. Lou Reed – Dirty Blvd. (1989)
NYC hook: Face it, Lou Reed could sing ice cream commercials on a gondola or pack a surf board on a beach surrounded by gaggle of busty blondes, and whatever he was singing would still be about the grime of New York City’s underbelly. The Venetian gondolier would be a pimp, the surfer a pusher and the busty blondes junkie hookers. It’s what Lou did.

23. Bob Dylan – Hard Times In New York Town (1961)
NYC hook: Young Bobby Zimmerman escaped from cold Minnesota to Greenwich Village and joined the folk circuit. Recorded before he released his (not terribly good) debut album, we can sympathise here with the complications he is facing in his adopted home.

24. Bob James – Angela (Theme from Taxi) (1978)
NYC hook: What would a series of songs about New York be without reference to the yellow cabs. Taxi was, of course, the show about, well, taxis which brought together Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Jeff Conaway, Carol Kane, Randall Carver, Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Christopher Lloyd and Andy Kaufman.

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Any Major Favourites 2017 – Vol. 2

January 18th, 2018 5 comments

This is the second of two compilations of tracks from the compilations I posted over the past year, with one song chosen from each mix.

Last year this blog celebrated its 10th birthday. Things have changed from those days; the number of music blogs is diminishing, and even the MP3 culture is being drowned by a migration to listening to streaming audio.

It was fun looking back at ten years in 2017, and at some of the nice feedback this blog used to get from media, especially, of course, Playboy which featured Any Major Dude With Half A Heart as the only website in its annual Music Guide in 2013 (the mix I posted to mark that occasion went back up by popular request). I featured right above the then still new-fangled Kendrick Lamar. I was also pleased by the many nice comments on the 10th anniversary from readers. Comments are the lifeblood to keep this site going.

I mentioned in the blurb for the first of these mixes that I don’t know how much longer I’ll run with this blog, though I have no immediate plans to call it a day. Indeed, I have loads of great ideas for new mixes, so I hope to be posting two more great compilations of songs from 2018’s compilations…

1. Wilco – Any Major Dude Will Tell You (2000)
Any Major Steely Dan Covers
2. Counting Crows – You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (2012)
Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 4
3. Ben Folds – Fred Jones Part 2 (2005)
Any Major Jones
4. Joe Ely – Every Night About This Time (1992)
Any Major Night Vol. 2
5. The Jayhawks – Tampa To Tulsa (Acoustic Version) (2003)
Any Major American Road Trip Part 7
6. Pure Prairie League – Amie (1972)
Any Major Freaks & Geeks
7. Stone The Crows – Fool On The Hill (1970)
Beatles Recovered: Magical Mystery Tour
8. Five Man Electrical Band – Werewolf (1974)
Any Major Halloween Vol. 4
9. Dave Mason – Save Me (1980)
Michael Jackson Backing Vocals Collection
10. Earth, Wind & Fire – On Your Face (1976)
Any Major Soul 1976 Vol. 1
11. Natalie Cole – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1978)
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s
12. Al Green – Funny How Time Slips Away
Al Green Sings Covers
13. Melba Moore – Get Into My Mind (1975)
Any Major Soul 1975 Vol. 2
14. Andrea True Connection – More, More, More (1976)
Any Major Disco Vol. 5
15. First Class – Beach Baby (1974)
Any Major Beach Vol. 2
16. Wet Wet Wet – Temptation (1987)
Should Have Been A UK Top 10 Hit – Vol. 3
17. Fine Young Cannibals – Blue (1985)
Life In Vinyl 1985 – Vol. 2
18. Jimmy Radcliff – There Goes The Forgotten Man (1962)
Bacharach & David Songbook Vol. 1
19. Elvis Presley – What A Wonderful Life (1962)
Elvis movies mix & quiz
20. Karel Gott – Rot und schwarz (1969)
Any Major Schlager Covers Vol. 1

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Stars Sing German

January 16th, 2018 21 comments

I have previously posted some German versions of English-language hits sung by the stars of these songs themselves. Here’s a mix of 29 such songs, spanning just over a decade, from 1961-72.

The fashion of Anglophone artists to record in various European languages hit overdrive in the mid-’60s. As mainland Europe’s biggest record market, Germany benefited (or not) from that fashion in particular. Some artists just recorded a few songs, often used as b-sides (for example, The Supremes’ German version of Where Did Our Love Go was the flip side of the English-language Moonlight And Kisses). Others recorded more regularly. British singers such as Petula Clark, Sandie Shaw and Peter & Gordon, as well as Connie Francis recorded several original German songs.

Some singers clearly could not speak German and sang their lyrics phonetically, often poorly, such as Millie, The Searchers, The Temptations and Dionne Warwick. Others made at the very least an effort, such as The Supremes, Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw, Connie Francis, Brian Hyland, The Honeycombs or Manfred Mann.

And some either spoke German or made a great effort to learn the proper pronunciation of words. Top of the class would be The New Christy Minstrels, Peter Paul & Mary, Olivia Newton-John (whose mother was German, the daughter of physics Nobel laureate Max Born) and ABBA (whose Agnetha once tried to make it as a Schlager singer, as we saw in Curious Germany Vol 2).

Johnny Cash, who as a GI was stationed in Bavaria, does a good job on In Virginia (which features here), but did some violence to German on his version of I Walk The Line (featured on Curious Germany Vol. 3)

Most of the translations more or less reflect the original; but a few take a whole new theme. Sandie Shaw’s Puppet On A String becomes Wiedehopf im Mai, for example.  A Wiedehopf is a bird (picture here). Of course, she also recorded the Eurovision Song Contest-winning song in French, Spanish and Italian, possibly without reference to tongue-twisting feathered friends. And then there is Donny Osmond, whose Go Away, Little Girl becomes the opposite: Bleib’ bei mir (Stay with me).

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-deutsched covers (as well as a larger version of the above collage of single covers). PW in comments.

1. Gene Pitney – Bleibe bei mir (Town Without Pity) (1961)
2. Connie Francis – Schöner fremder Mann (Someone Else’s Boy) (1961)
3. Brian Hyland – Schön war die Zeit (Sealed With A Kiss) (1962)
4. Leroy Van Dyke – Geh nicht vorbei (Walk On By) (1962)
5. Peter, Paul & Mary – Die Antwort weiß ganz allein der Wind (Blowin’ In The Wind) (1962)
6. The New Christy Minstrels – Grün, grün ist Tennessee (Geen Green) (1963)
7. Roy Orbison – Mama (Mama) (1963)
8. Willie Nelson – Little Darling (Pretty Paper) (1964)
9. Millie – My Boy Lollipop (My Boy Lollipop) (1964)
10. The Beatles – Komm, gib mir deine Hand (I Want To Hold Your Hand) (1964)
11. The Honeycombs – Hab’ ich das Recht (Have I The Right) (1964)
12. The Searchers – Süss ist sie (Sugar And Spice) (1964)
13. Marvin Gaye – Wie schön das ist (How Sweet It Is) (1964)
14. The Temptations – Mein Girl (My Girl) (1964)
15. Dionne Warwick – Geh Vorbei (Walk On By) (1964)
16. Dusty Springfield – Warten und hoffen (Wishin’ And Hopin’) (1965)
17. The Supremes – Baby, Baby, wo ist unsere Liebe (Where Did Our Love Go) (1965)
18. Georgie Fame – Yeah, Yeh, Yeh (Yeh Yeh) (1965)
19. Manfred Mann – Sie (She) (1965)
20. The Beach Boys – Ganz allein (In My Room) (1965)
21. Johnny Cash – In Virginia (In Virginia) (1966)
22. Petula Clark – Downtown (Downtown) (1966)
23. Sandie Shaw – Wiedehopf im Mai (Puppet On A String) (1967)
24. Donny Osmond – Bleib bei mir, little Girl (Go Away Little Girl) (1971)
25. Olivia Newton-John – Unten am Fluß, der Ohio heißt (On The Banks Of The Ohio) (1972)
26. The New Seekers – Oh, ich will betteln, ich will stehlen (Beg Steal Or Borrow) (1972)
27. Daniel Boone – Beautiful Sunday (Beautiful Sunday) (1972)
28. Abba – Ring Ring (Ring Ring) (1973)
29. Abba – Waterloo (Waterloo) (1974)

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Any Major Favourites 2017 – Vol. 1

January 11th, 2018 7 comments

As I did last year and the year before that, I am putting up two compilations of tracks from the compilations I posted over the past year, with one song chosen from each mix (except for the Any Major Favourites 2016 mixes, two mixes of songs from my favourite compilations over the past decade, the Christmas selections, the Any Major Disco Vol. 6 mix I posted just before New Year’s, and In Memoriams). All of the songs here are among my favourite tracks from the respective mixes.

In 2017 I put up a total of 44 mixes, plus the 12 monthly In Memoriams. One labour-intensive series came to an end with the American Road Trip, which covered the USA in some detail over seven mixes in a reasonable (if not very efficient) itinerary. I also think I’ve posted my final Halloween mix, and perhaps the last one in the eight-part series of soft rock mixes I’ve called Not Feeling Guilty.

Lack of good feedback suggests that the Life In Vinyl series is not very popular anymore. That might be due to 1985 being a pretty bad year for music, and the remainder of the 1980s wasn’t much better. Though I think that the mixes were quite good, I might not carry on with that.

Some regular favourites will continue, especially Any Major Soul. I’m having great fun doing the mixes based on the selections of music of guests on the BBC radio show Desert Island Discs. The mix of music from Freaks & Geeks was well received, so there’ll be more of that, with a compilation of music from The Deuce coming up. I’ve been playing that one to death already in my car.

Periodically I might put together mixes in tribute of big names that have died. In 2017 I did so for Chuck Berry and Walter Becker of Steely Dan by way of cover versions of their songs. The series of covers of Bob Dylan songs has one more instalment to go.

So I have plans and, I hope, some nice surprises in store.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a CD-R length. I’ve not bothered with organic home-crafted covers for this offering. PW in comments, where you are always welcome to say something.

1. Billy Joel – Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway) (1981)
Any Major Year
2. The Band – Atlantic City (1993)
Any Major Springsteen Covers
3. Leon Russell – Too Much Monkey Business (1992)
Any Major Chuck Berry Covers
4. Little Feat – Dixie Chicken (1973)
Any Major American Road Trip – Part 6
5. Michael Stanley – Subterranean Homesick Blues (1973)
Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 3
6. Bill LaBounty – Comin’ Back (1982)
Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 8
7. Ernie Hines – A Better World (For Everyone) (1972)
Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 1
8. Isaac Hayes – For The Good Times (1971)
Covered With Soul Vol. 22
9. Della Reese – Games People Play (1969)
All The People Who’ve Died 2017
10. Gil Scott-Heron – The Bottle (1974)
Any Major Flute Vol. 4
11. Bama The Village Poet – Welfare Slave (1972)
Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 2
12. Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam (1964)
Stars Pick Your Songs Vol. 2: Actors
13. Brother Joe May – When The Lord Gets Ready (1959)
Any Major Decade: Best of Saved!
14. Warren Smith – Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache (1957)
Any Major Roads Vol. 3
15. Bob Dylan – My Back Pages (1964)
Stars Pick Your Songs Vol. 1: Musicians
16. Teddy Thompson – I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (2007)
Any Major Elvis Covers
17. Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday (1985)
Life In Vinyl 1985 – Vol. 1
18. Dexys Midnight Runners – Until I Believe In My Soul (1982)
Any Major Whistle Vol. 1
19. Hildegard Knef – From Here On It Got Rough (1969)
Curious Germany – The Collection

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In Memoriam – December 2017

January 4th, 2018 9 comments

The last two Decembers delivers a kick in the balls just before the year ends. Last Christmas it was the death of George Michael; in 2015 it was Lemmy and Natalie Cole (ringing in that annus horribilis 2016). This year we were spared such shenanigans by the Grim Reaper.

I can’t say that I have ever been a keen fan of Johnny Hallyday, the French icon who has died at 74. But you can’t argue with a career that spanned 60 years, much of it at the top, selling more than 110 million records worldwide. Born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet, he borrowed his stage name from a cousin’s husband who performed in the US as Lee Halliday. Lee was a mentor to the youngster and gave him the name Johnny. And with that name the erstwhile Jean-Philippe Smet became France’s first rock & roll star as the 1960s began. Although he appeared on US TV and worked with many British artists, Hallyday was not very well-known in Anglophone countries, though he was a superstar in much of Europe.

Keely Smith was sort of the straight-woman to her first husband, Louis Prima, though she was very funny in her deadpan way. Smith, who was of Irish and Cherokee ancestry, was a useful vocalist as well, though she certainly benefitted from working with some of the greatest arrangers, particularly Nelson Riddle. In the 1960s she updated her sound, in the Petula Clark vein, and recorded the first version of the Bacharach/David classic One Less Bell To Answer (which featured on Bacharach: The Originals). As the 1960s ended her career petered out. She made a brief comeback in 1985, but a string of critically acclaimed albums in the 2000s returned her to success, including a Grammy nomination.

Actress Rose Marie (Mazzetta), who has died at 94, is best known in the US as the proto feminist scriptwriter Sally Rogers on The Dick van Dyke Show, and as a long-standing contestant on Hollywood Squares. She also had regular roles in shows such as S.W.A.T. and Murphy Brown. But she was a big star long before all that. As a five-year-old she began a recording career that made her one of the many child stars of the 1930s. She appeared in movies and had nationwide hits with songs such as 1932’s Say That You Were Teasing Me. As a young adult she became a nightclub and lounge singer, especially at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, which was owned by Bugsy Siegel. The mafia forthwith controlled her singing career. Late in life Rose Marie was active in conscientising about sexual harassment; the #metoo campaign will have pleased her.

For many British TV fans of a certain age, the death of Keith Chegwin marked the passing of a national institution. Most famous for hosting children’s TV programmes such as Cheggers Plays Pop and Swap Shop in the 1970s and 80s, Chegwin remained a fixture on the telly, not least through his appearance on the while range of reality TV shows that feature celebrities. But before he became a TV legend, “Cheggers” tried his hand at becoming a pop star…unsuccessfully. None of the five singles he released between 1973 and 1981 charted. He did hit the charts in 1981 as part of novelty celeb trio Brown Sauce, alongside fellow TV presenters Maggie Philbin and the unspeakably awful and thoroughly objectionable Noel Edmonds. It reached #15.

If you watched TV in the 1970s, chances are that you’ve heard the compositions of Mundell Lowe, who has died at the age of 95. A very successful jazz guitarist, Lowe wrote scores for TV shows like Hawaii Five-O, Wild Wild West and Starsky & Hutch, as well as for some movies. As a solo artist or bandleader he released albums from 1951 till 2015, though he worked as a session guitarist from 1947 onwards. His session work was prolific especially in the 1950s and ‘60s, playing for the likes of Sammy Davis Jr, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Herbie Mann, Charlie Parker, Shirley Scott, Quincy Jones, Chris Connor, Tony Bennett, Dinah Washington, Rosemary Clooney, Harry Belafonte, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Edye Gormé, LaVern Baker and so on.

We owe one of the great Western themes, that of the 1868 film Hang ‘em High, to Dominic Frontiere, who has died at 86. Frontiere, who as a jazz accordionist released a number of records, also wrote the themes of early TV classics like The Flying Nun, The Outer Limits and The Rat Patrol. Later the protegé of film composing legend Alfred Newman wrote scores for TV shows like Vega$ and The Invaders, and for films like The Stuntman in the 1980s and The Color of Night in the ‘90s. He also arranged for acts such as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Dan Fogelberg, Nils Lofgren, Chicago and The Tubes. Frontiere also wrote the song Hang Ten High, recorded by The Smithereens, whose singer Pat DiNizio died nine days before Frontiere. Less salubriously, Frontiere served a few months of a one-year sentence in the ‘80s for tax fraud and ticket scalping.

The Smithereens’ Pat DiNizio, who has died at 62, was absolutely loyal to his music, even when things were not going great. Before the US power pop band found success in the 1980s, he and his bandmates persevered through many years of rejection. When their star waned in the ‘90s, they still carried on, taking day jobs if necessary. The Smithereens last performed in December, just before DiNizio suffered a series of bad falls, and were planning to record a new album.

In the USA, rich reality TV stars become the president; in Haiti a folk singer-songwriter who lived in exile and narrowly avoided murder by a military junta became mayor of his country’s capital. Manno Charlemagne, who sang his political songs in French and Creole, went into exile under the murderous Duvalier tryrannies, and returned to exile frequently throughout his life. After Baby Doc’s fall in 1986 he returned to Haiti and supported the priest Bertrand Aristide, who was elected president in 1990. The good times didn’t last; a year later the murderer Raoul Cédras deposed Aristide, with the help of the US, and Charlemagne was among those immediately brutalised and detained by the junta. With Aristide’s return in 1995, Charlemagne served a four-year term as mayor of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. It turned out that he was not as good as a politician as he was as the conscience of the nation which held corrupt politicians to account.

 

Mundell Lowe, 95, jazz guitarist and composer, on Dec. 2
Rosemary Clooney & Marlene Dietrich – Too Old To Cut The Mustard (1951, on guitar)
Mundell Lowe – Memories Of You (1956)
Peggy Lee – Lean On Me (1969, as co-writer)
Randy Crawford – Everything Must Change (live) (1977, on guitar)

Norihiko Hashida, 72, Japanese folk singer-songwriter, on Dec. 2

Johnny Hallyday, 74, French rock singer and actor, on Dec. 6
Johnny Hallyday – T’aimer follement (1960)
Johnny Hallyday – Requiem pour un fou (1976)

Sir Christus, 39, guitarist of Finnish rock band Negative, on Dec. 7

Vincent Nguini, 65, Cameroonian guitarist, on Dec. 8
Paul Simon – Further To Fly (1990, on guitar and bass)

Sunny Murray, 81, free jazz drummer, on Dec. 8

Leon Rhodes, 85, country guitarist (Ernest Tubb), on Dec. 9
Waylon Jennings – I’m A Ramblin’ Man (1974, on bass guitar)

Lando Fiorini, 79, Italian actor and singer, on Dec. 9

Manno Charlemagne, 69, Haitian singer-songwriter, activist, on Dec. 10
Manno Charlemagne – Le Mal du Pays (1994)

Keith Chegwin, 60, English TV presenter, actor and singer, on Dec. 11
Keith Chegwin – I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (1977)

Pat DiNizio, 62, singer of power pop The Smithereens, on Dec. 12
The Smithereens – Blood And Roses (1986)
The Smithereens – Groovy Tuesday (1986)

Warrel Dane, 56, singer with metal bands Sanctuary, Nevermore, on Dec. 13
Nevermore – She Comes In Colors (2010)

Willie Pickens, 86, jazz pianist and educator, on Dec. 13

Dave Christenson, 54, singer of pop duo Stabilizers, on Dec. 15
Stabilizers – One Simple Thing (1986)

John Critchinson, 82, English jazz pianist, on Dec. 15

Keely Smith, 89, jazz singer, on Dec. 16
Louis Prima & Keely Smith – Basta (1958)
Keely Smith – All The Way (1958)
Keely Smith – Open Your Heart (1966)
Keely Smith – Cherokee (2002)

Ralph Carney, 61, saxophonist, composer, member of prog-rock band Tin Huey, on Dec. 16
Tom Waits – Come Up To The House (1999, on saxophone)
St. Vincent – Digital Witness (2015, on horns)

Z’EV, 66, industrial pop percussionist and poet, on Dec. 16

Richard Dobson, 75, country singer-songwriter, on Dec. 16
Richard Dobson – Baby Ride Easy (1977)

Michael Prophet, 60, Jamaican reggae singer, on Dec. 16
Michael Prophet – You Are A No Good (1980)

Randy Hongo, 70, Hawaiian Christian singer, on Dec. 16

Kevin Mahogany, 59, jazz singer, on Dec. 17
Kevin Mahogany – Since I Fell For You (1993)

Larry Harris, 70, co-founder of Casablanca Records, on Dec. 18

Jim Forrester, 43, bassist of rock band Sixty Watt Shaman, murdered on Dec. 18
Sixty Watt Shaman – Southern Gentleman (1999)

Kim Jong-hyun, 27, singer with South Korean boy band Shinee, on Dec. 18

Leo ‘Bud’ Welch, 85, blues and gospel musician, on Dec. 19
Leo Bud Welch – Goin’ Down Slow (2014)

Roswell Rudd, 82, free jazz trombonist, on Dec. 21

Dominic Frontiere, 86, film & TV composer, arranger and jazz accordionist, on Dec. 21
Dominic Frontiere – Theme from Hang ‘em High (1968)
Chicago – Baby What A Big Surprise (1977, as co-arranger)
Dusty Springfield – Bits and Pieces (1980, as producer and co-writer)

Halvard Kausland, 72, Norwegian jazz guitarist, on Dec. 21
Helle Brunvoll & Halvard Kausland – Be Cool (2009)

Pam the Funkstress, 51, hip hop DJ, on Dec. 22
The Coup – Not Yet Free (1993, on turntables)

Jim Burns, 65, co-creator of MTV Unplugged, in car crash on Dec. 23

Robbie Malinga, 47, South African musician and producer, on Dec. 25
Robbie Malinga – Sondela (2016)

Curly Seckler, 98, bluegrass musician (Foggy Mountain Boys 1949-62), on Dec. 27
Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs – Foggy Mountain Breakdown (1949, on mandolin)

Rose Marie, 94, actress and singer, on Dec. 28
Rose Marie – Say That You Were Teasing Me (1932)

Melton Mustafa, 70, jazz musician, on Dec. 28
Diane Schuur & The Count Basie Orchestra – Travelin’ Blues (1987, on trumpet)

Hanery Amman, 65, co-founder of Swiss dialect rock band Rumpelstilz, on Dec. 30

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