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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(PW in comments)

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Any Major Disco Vol. 6

December 28th, 2017 3 comments

It is becoming something of a tradition here to close the year with a disco mix to see out the old year and in the new. So don your boogie shoes and shake that booty like it’s 1978.

One track here is quite remarkable: the Boney M. song here was recorded before there was a Boney M. Schlager singer and producer Frank Farian recorded Baby Do You Wanna Bump, basically a remake of Prince Buster’s Al Capone — doing all the vocals himself, the deep voice and the falsetto. But because Farian was having as string of hits as a Schlager singer he couldn’t really release this thumping disco number under his own name, so he borrowed the title of an Australian TV series popular at the time in West-Germany, and stuck a meaningless M to it, because, he reasoned correctly, it sounded good. Odd thing is, Frank Farian isn’t the guy’s real name either; it’s Franz Reuther.

Baby Do You Wanna Bump was a hit in Belgium and the Netherlands, inspiring Farian to keep Boney M going with real band members. He’d still do the voices of two of those members, including dancer Bobby Farrell. And that is the amazing thing about Boney M: half of it was a pallid German guy pretending to be a black woman and a black dancer.

It was widely known that Farian was the voice of Bobby and Maizie Williams; the greater deception came a decade later with another Farian act, Milli Vanilli.

On the Minnie Riperton track (co-written by Stevie Wonder), check out the proto-house piano groove, played by the multi-instrumentalist and producer Sonny Burke, who also played on the albums which the tracks in this mix by Lenny Williams and Harvey Mason come from. I couldn’t ascertain that he played on those particular tracks. Let’s just imagine he did.

As always, CD-R length, home-bootyshaken covers, PW in comments. And have a Happy New Year!

1. Empress – Dyin’ To Be Dancin’ (1981)
2. Minnie Riperton – Stick Together (1977)
3. Peter Brown feat. Betty Wright – Dance With Me (1978)
4. Harvey Mason – Groovin’ You (1979)
5. Cerrone feat. Jocelyn Brown – Hooked On You (1981)
6. Deniece Williams – I’ve Got The Next Dance (1979)
7. Fat Larry’s Band – Looking For Love (1979)
8. Linda Clifford – If My Friends Could See Me Now (1978)
9. Debbie Jacobs – Don’t You Want My Love (1979)
10. Musique – Keep On Jumpin’ (1978)
11. Ritchie Family – American Generation (1978)
12. Gary’s Gang – Do It At The Disco (1978)
13. Boney M. – Baby Do You Wanna Bump (1975)
14. Carl Douglas – Run Back (1977)
15. The Choice Four – Come Down To Earth (1976)
16. Lenny Williams – Shoo Doo Fu Fu Ooh! (1977)
17. Crystal Grass – Dream On (1975)

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Any Major 1960s Christmas

December 20th, 2017 14 comments

Last year we had Christmases mixes covering the 1950s and 1970s; this year we have the yulevibes of the groovy 1960s.

Not too long ago it seemed that things cultural changed in the course of a decade. 1962 looked nothing like 1968; 1971 nothing like 1977; 1980 nothing like 1989. Then, in the 1990s, time seemed to start moving more slowly. Today, it seems to me, 2017 might as well be 2007; Bieber and Perry and Beyoncé and Swift are still megastars… And Any Major Dude is still with you, as her was ten years ago…

The 1950s were the decade of seismic change in popular culture, what with the rise of rock & roll and the advent of The Teenager. But the 1960s probably saw the fastest developments in pop. The Beatles and the Beach Boys saw to that, as well as Stax, Motown, Atlantic et al in soul music.

This mix features The Beatles and The Beach Boys, and a few other exponents of the sounds of the latter 1960s. But the Christmas vibes find their most joyous, carefree, festive expression in the tracks from the early, more innocent parts of the decade, when Bing could still sing about “noggins” in the snow.

The Bee Gees are represented twice here: on their own with the rather melancholy sounding Thank You For Christmas. Before they come in, The Majority perform the Gibb Brothers composition All Our Christmases.

One song here featured on the Any Major Christmas Bells mix from two weeks ago, albeit in a different version. The Bacharach-David song The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle appears here by Bobby Vinton. A track that failed to make the bells compilation has been shifted to this mix: The Royal Guardsmen’s Snoopy’s Christmas. Seeing as this is the last centenary of a World War I Christmas, it seems appropriate to run it now.

Talking of war, the penultimate track is not very joyous: The Charmels want their man to come home from Vietnam. A similar theme — wanting a soldier boyfriend home at Christmas — is handled by Toni Wine in the closing track, though Toni is more Army Wives than Nam protester. Which makes some sense, since Wine’s track, recorded in 1963, precedes the heat of the Vietnam War. How might her song have panned out had it been recorded five years later?

At Christmas it might not be nice to make people feel old, but here’s a disturbing thought: The baby of whose first Christmas Connie Francis is crooning is now a grandparent aged 56.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes covers made by indentured elves. PW in comments, wherein you may wish me a merry Christmas.

Don’t forget: next week, before New Year’s Eve, I’ll post the now traditional Any Major Disco mix.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, or — in the words of Lou Rawls — I hope Santa socks it to you.

1. James Brown – Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year (1967)
2. Ike & Tina Turner – Merry Christmas Baby (1965)
3. The Ronettes – Sleigh Ride (1963)
4. The Majority – All Our Christmases (1968)
5. Bobby Vinton – The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle (1964)
6. Bobby Vee – Christmas Vacation (1962)
7. The Debonairs – Christmas Time (1961)
8. The Drifters – Christmas Song (1964)
9. Jackie Wilson – Silver Bells (1963)
10. The Soul Stirrers – Christmas Means Love (1968)
11. Nancy Wilson – That’s What I Want For Christmas (1963)
12. Lou Rawls – Christmas Is (1967)
13. Bing Crosby – The White World Of Winter (1964)
14. Doris Day – Be A Child At Christmas Time (1964)
15. Connie Francis – Baby’s First Christmas (1961)
16. Jim Reeves – An Old Christmas Card (1963)
17. The Echoes – Merry Christmas Baby Blue (1961)
18. The Bee Gees – Thank You For Christmas (1967)
19. Chad Mitchell Trio – The Marvelous Toy (1963)
20. Lisa Miller – The Loneliest Christmas Tree (1968)
21. Claudine Longet – I Don’t Intend To Spend Christmas Without You (1967)
22. The Playboys – The Night Before Christmas (1963)
23. King Curtis – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve (1968)
24. Canned Heat – Christmas Blues (1968)
25. The Beatles – Christmas Time (Is Here Again) (1967)
26. The Royal Guardsmen – Snoopy’s Christmas (1967)
27. Beach Boys – The Man With All The Toys (1967)
28. Four Seasons – Christmas Tears (1962)
29. The Dynamics – Christmas Plea (1962)
30. The Charmels – Please Uncle Sam (Send Back My Man) (1966)
31. Toni Wine – My Boyfriend’s Coming Home For Christmas (1963)

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More Christmas mixes
Any Major Christmas Favourites
Any Major 1970s Christmas
Any Major 1950s Christmas
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Smooth Christmas
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Acoustic Christmas
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 1
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 2
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3
Song Swarm: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Any Major Christmas Bells

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All The People Who’ve Died 2017

December 14th, 2017 10 comments

The past year has been, thankfully, much gentler than the cursed 2016 was. Still, we lost some big names such as Chuck Berry, Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, Glen Campbell, Al Jarreau, Tom Petty, Fats Domino, Gregg Allman, David Cassidy, AC/DC’s Malcolm Young, funk legend Junie Morrison, Don Williams, Chris Cornell, Cuba Gooding Sr, etc.

Two deaths prompted me to post a special mix in tribute: a mix of covers of Chuck Berry songs and with the death of Walter Becker a mix of covers of Steely Dan songs. I was playing with the idea of doing a mix of tracks produced by Tommy LiPuma, but time restraints prevented me from doing so.

The most significant deaths of 2017 (up to November 30) by my estimation are listed below; if there’s a name you’re missing it most likely featured in the monthly In Memoriam round-ups (so, yeah, not really “All The People Who’ve Died” here; the title borrows from this great tack by the Jim Carroll Band).

Two people whom I failed to give their dues in their respective months were Keith Wilder, lead singer of Heatwave, and soul singer Charles Bradley.

Keith Wilder died on October 29; I learnt of his death just as I was about to post the In Memoriam for that month; time prevented me from including a tribute. He deserved one. The US-born singer of the UK funk & soul band Heatwave died just over a year after his fellow bandmember Rod Temperton. Wilder was a superb singer, his gritty voice complementing the smoother tones of his co-lead singer and brother Johnny Wilder (who died in 2006).

Charles Bradley was not a name I was familiar with in September, when he died at the age of 68. Within a couple of weeks I was a keen admirer of his music after hearing a couple of his songs on the TV mini-series Big Little Lies. It turns out, Bradley’s songs, all recorded within the past 15 years, featured in many other shows, including Ray Donovan, Suits, Goliath, The Vampire Diaries and Black-ish.

The monthly In Memoriam round-ups are, I think, the most comprehensive on the Internet, and I don’t want to discontinue the feature. But I might scale back on the music and the potted obituaries since there seems to be not much of an audience for it; the feedback and page hits don’t justify the work that goes into them.

Somebody who did often comment on posts, via Facebook (become friends with me and be notified of new posts) and with wit and enthusiasm, was Michael Cheyne in England. I was sad to learn of his death earlier this month.

On that note, here is a mix of music, by way of tribute, of some of the big musicians who have died in 2016. As with last year’s compilation, I’ll limit myself to solo artists and people who were members of a featured band – so no songwriters, producers or session musicians feature, even if the body of their contributions was weighty.

 

POP/ROCK
Chuck Berry, 90, rock ‘n’ roll legend, on March 18
Fats Domino, 89, legendary R&B singer-songwriter, on October 24
Walter Becker
, 67, Steely Dan legend, producer, on September 3
Tom Petty
, 66, rock musician, on October 2
David Cassidy, 67, pop singer and actor, on November 21
Malcolm Young, 64, rhythm guitarist and songwriter of AC/DC, on November 18
Gregg Allman, 69, singer-songwriter, keyboardist of Allman Brothers Band, on May 27
Holger Czukay, 79, German rock musician, member of Can, on September 5
Jaki Liebezeit, 78, drummer of German rock band Can, on January 22
Chris Cornell, 52, frontman of alt.rock groups Soundgarden, Audioslave, of suicide on May 18

Pete Overend Watts, 69, English bassist of Mott the Hoople, on January 22
Chester Bennington, 41, singer of Linkin Park, suicide on July 20
Grant Hart, 56, drummer with Hüsker Dü, singer, songwriter, on September 14
J. Geils, 71, guitarist of The J. Geils Band, on April 11
Peter Sarstedt, 75, English singer-songwriter, on Jan. 8

 

SOUL/FUNK/HIP HOP
Al Jarreau, 76, jazz and soul singer, on February 12
Cuba Gooding Sr, 72, lead singer of The Main Ingredient, on April 20
Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, 62, musician with Ohio Players, Parliament-Funkadelic, on January 21
Joni Sledge, 60, singer with Sister Sledge, on March 10
Keith Wilder, 65, US-born singer of UK funk group Heatwave, on October 29

Leon Ware, 77, soul singer, songwriter, producer, on February 23
Bunny Sigler, 76, soul singer, songwriter and producer, on October 6
‘Pete’ Moore, 78, singer and songwriter with The Miracles, producer, on November 19
Brenda Jones, 62, singer with soul trio The Jones Girls, on April 3
Prodigy, 42, rapper with hip hop duo Mobb Deep, on June 20

 

COUNTRY
Glen Campbell, 81, country legend, on August 8
Mel Tillis
, 85, country singer-songwriter, on November 19
Don Williams, 78, country singer and songwriter, on September 8
Bob Wootton, 75, country guitarist for Johnny Cash, on April 9
Norro Wilson, 79, country singer-songwriter, on June 7

 

JAZZ/BLUES
Buddy Greco
, 90, jazz singer and pianist, on January 10
Jon Hendricks
, 96, singer- songwriter with jazz group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, on November 22
Della Reese, 86, jazz and gospel singer and actress, on November 19
Grady Tate, 85, jazz drummer and soul singer, on October 8
James Cotton, 81, blues singer, harmonica player, on March 15

 

SESSION PLAYERS
Clyde Stubblefield, 73, drummer with James Brown, on February 18
Robert ‘Pops’ Popwell
, 70, jazz-funk bass guitarist, on November 27
Bruce Langhorne, 78, folk guitarist and film score composer, on April 14
Laudir de Oliveira, 77, Brazilian percussionist with Chicago, on September 17
Butch Trucks, 69, drummer of the Allman Brothers Band, of suicide on January 24

 

PRODUCERSTommy LiPuma, 80, legendary record producer, on March 13
Buddy Bregman, 86, producer, arranger and composer, on Jan. 8
David Axelrod, 83, Jazz and R&B arranger, composer and producer, on February. 5
Bill Price, 72, sound engineer and producer, on Dec. 22 (announced in January)
George Young, 70, Australian musician, songwriter and producer, on October 22

 

MOVERS & SHAKERS
George Avakian, 98, producer and label executive, on November 22
Jerry Ross, 84, producer, songwriter, label owner on October 4
Paul Buckmaster, 71, English arranger, conductor and composer, on November 7
David Kapralik, 91, producer and label executive, on July 12
Pierre Henry, 89, French composer and electronic music pioneer, on July 5

The All The People Who Died 2017 mix
1. Fats Domino – I’m Walking (1959)
2. Chuck Berry – School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell) (1957)
3. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Ooo Baby Baby (1964)
4. Buddy Greco – Teach Me Tonight (1962)
5. Al Jarreau – We’re In This Love Together (live) (1985)
6. Heatwave – Always And Forever (1977)
7. The Main Ingredient – Work To Do (1973)
8. Della Reese – Games People Play (1969)
9. AC/DC – Ride On (1976)
10. Mott The Hoople – Roll Away The Stone (1973)
11. Steely Dan – Black Cow (1977)
12. Tom Petty – It’ll All Work Out (1987)
13. The Allman Brothers Band – Old Before My Time (2003)
14. Glen Campbell – Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) (2008)
15. Don Williams – Listen To The Radio (1982)
16. Mel Tillis – Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town (1976)
17. Johnny Cash – Wanted Man (live, 1969)
18. Grady Tate – Suicide Is Painless (1974)
19. David Cassidy – Daydreamer (1973)
20. Bunny Sigler – Things Are Gonna Get Better (1975)
21. Sister Sledge – Easier To Love (1979)
Bonus Track: Can – Bring Me Coffee Or Tea (1971)

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Any Major Christmas Bells

December 7th, 2017 10 comments

Regular readers, in their detective ways, may have deduced that I love Christmas music, as the 20-plus mixes posted over the past decade show. And if a Christmas song has bells in them, I’m particularly happy.

Peggy Lee in the song that opens this collection shares that view: “Some folks like to hear a Christmas song, but I like Christmas bells that go ding-dong, jingle-jangle, ding-a-ling or just bing-bong; I love to hear ’em ring.”

Of course, many of the greatest Christmas songs don’t need them — imagine Nat King Cole ringing the bells in The Christmas Song! — and yet, no sound signals Yuletide quite as those jingling, jangling bells. Maybe that’s why Mel Tormé, who co-wrote The Christmas Song, used them in his 1992 version of it.

Reader Fred is himself a keen collector of Christmas songs, and has quite a collection of tracks in that genre that are about bells. So he suggested that I make such a mix myself. Helpfully, Fred sent an extensive list of some songs on that theme he has in his collection. I didn’t consult it in case he offers to do a Volume 2 next year. Our respective lists coincide in 11 songs.

The qualification for this mix is fairly simple: have a jingle or a bell in the title (strangely, some promise bells and feature none); or include bells, such as Winter Wonderland, which in any case is alternatively titled Sleigh Bells Ring. Likewise, The Emotions’ melancholy What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas features the jingling of cheerful bells throughout.

Another Christmas mix will drop in the week after next. All mixes listed below should have live links.

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

1. Peggy Lee – Ring Those Christmas Bells (1953)
2. Nat ‘King’ Cole – Caroling, Caroling (1963)
3. Dean Martin – Jingle Bells (1966)
4. Bing Crosby – I Heard The Bells (1956)
5. Mel Tormé – The Christmas Song (1992)
6. Andy Williams – Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells (1963)
7. Burt Bacharach – The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle (1968)
8. The Beach Boys – Bells Of Christmas (1967)
9. Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz & Peter Tork – Christmas Is My Time Of Year (1976)
10. Johnny Cash – I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day (1963)
11. The Four Seasons – The Carol Of The Bells (1962)
12. The Funk Brothers – Winter Wonderland (1968)
13. The Emotions – What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas (1978)
14. The Trammps – Sleigh Ride (2000)
15. The Temptations – Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (1980)
16. Stevie Wonder – Silver Bells (1967)
17. Bobby Nunn – Christmas Bells (1951)
18. Freddy King – I Hear Jingle Bells (1961)
19. Bill Haley and his Comets – Jingle Bell Rock (1957)
20. Barry & Highlights – Xmas Bell Rock (1960)
21. The Modernaires – Jingle Bell Polka (1947)
22. The Penguins – Jingle Jangle (1955)
23. Burl Ives – Jingle Jingle Jingle (1961)
24. The Sinatra Family – The Bells Of Christmas (1968)
25. The Chieftains – The Bells of Dublin-Christmas Eve (1991)
26. George Harrison – Ding Dong, Ding Dong (1974)
27. Lenka – All My Bells Are Ringing (2008)
28. Smashing Pumpkins – Christmastime (1997)
29. The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) (2003)

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More Christmas mixes
Any Major Christmas Favourites
Any Major 1970s Christmas
Any Major 1950s Christmas
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 1
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 2
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3
The Christmas Originals
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Acoustic Christmas
Song Swarm: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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In Memoriam – November 2017

December 4th, 2017 3 comments

November was a brutal month. Women of a certain age will have mourned David Cassidy, whose image adorned many a teen girl’s bedroom wall in the early 1970s (Like Tiger Beat in the US, Germany’s Bravo magazine had loads of them). An exceptionally handsome young man with talent, a great voice and good manners, he was the full package. In The Partridge Family TV series, he and step-mom Shirley Jones were allowed to make music, alongside members of the Wrecking Crew. The quality of the pop music from that show has outlived the natural resistance to it: there are some great pop songs from that show (which was, it must be said, a pretty good sitcom. Of course, some of the songs were also awful). As a one-time teen idol it was tough for Cassidy to forge a career as a serious singer, sporadic hits like 1985’s The Last Kiss notwithstanding. In the 1980s he re-invented himself as a stage musical star. I saw him in a not very good show called Time in London. In the end he suffered from dementia.

On the day Cassidy died, we also saw the death of Wayne Cochran, another artist who had success with a song called Last Kiss. Cochran’s composition became a hit for J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers and later for Pearl Jam. Cochran was famous for being a white soul singer, and even more so for his white pompadour, which looked like a spoof Newt Gingrich haircut long before that horrid asshole arrived. He was friends with Otis Redding, for whom he played bass guitar on a couple of tracks. More importantly, he was friends with Elvis, who styled his jumpsuit Vegas costumes on Cochran, and included the blues classic C.C. Rider in his set as a tribute to Cochran’s erstwhile backing band. Cochran retired from music in the 1970s to become an evangelical minister.

Just a month after the death of his older brother George, AC/DC co-founder Malcolm Young died at 64. He had been suffering from dementia, like David Cassidy, so death was probably a sweet release. As a rhythm guitarist, Young is regarded as one of the greats in rock. That was rather overshadowed by younger brother Angus’ antics and lead guitar (Angus said his brother was actually the better lead guitarist), but Malcolm was said to be the driving force behind AC/DC.

In The Miracles, Warren ‘Pete’ Moore was the bass to the high tenor of Smokey Robinson. Lesser known is his contribution as uncredited arranger of many of those great Miracles hits. And rather overlooked is his co-writing role with Smokey and Marv Tarplin of such great Motown hits as The Tracks of My Tears, Going To A Go-Go, Ooo Baby Baby, Ain’t That Peculiar, I’ll Be Doggone and Since I Lost My Baby, and later the huge Miracles hit Love Machine, co-written with Bully Griffin.

When Mel Tillis wrote about “that crazy Asian war” in 1967’s Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town, he supposedly meant the Korean war — but it was released at the height of the Vietnam War (see the story of that song in The Originals Vol. 24). First released by Johnny Darrell in 1967, it was a hit for Kenny Rogers & The First Edition in 1969. Tillis recorded it himself in 1969, on the Life Turned Her That Way LP (with that great title song). Tillis revisited Ruby in 1976 to even better effect, with a blistering banjo solo. His singing success was preceded by a long songwriting career. He scored his first songwriting hit in 1957 with Webb Pierce’s I’m Tired (which Tillis later had a hit with himself), and later a big one with Bobby Bare’s Detroit City (a.k.a. I Wanna Go Home). Tillis also appeared in movies, including the Cannonball Run movies and Smokey And The Bandit II. And if musicians were patron saints, Tillis might be the one for people with speech defects: he was a stutterer.

Arriving at the pearly gates with Moore and Tillis on November 19 was the singer and actress Della Reese — after her role in TV’s Touched By An Angel, it was perhaps a homecoming. And it’s as the managing angel Tess that Reese is perhaps remembered by most, but before that she was a mighty jazz singer. She was discovered by Mahalia Jackson and was equally comfortable in gospel (she formed her own group in that genre) and jazz. By force of talent and personality she was an African-American icon (though she was also half Cherokee) by the early 1960s. The second part of Martha Reeves’ band’s name, The Vandellas, is a tribute to Reese. In the late 1960s she also began acting and that would become her major gig as time went on.

Some people are central in changing music but do so quietly. Producer and record executive George Avakian, who has died at 98, was one such pioneer. In the 1940s CBS appointed the young Armenian-born jazz producer to head up its reactivated Columbia imprint as a jazz label, especially with a view to re-issuing a back catalogue of jazz records. Avakian did so, releasing them with thoughtful linernotes. In between he also produced several acts, including Frank Sinatra (he later produced acts such as Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Odetta, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, John Cage and many others). The 33 13rpm long-playing album was developed by Columbia under Avakian’s watch. As a producer he pioneered live recordings for LPs, and was among the first producers to use modern multitrack recordings. In 1958 he left Columbia to start up a new record label for Warner Brothers, hitherto just a film production company. After that he became an A&R manager at RCA. Among the acts he managed and produced there was jazz trio Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan, whose Jon Hendricks died on the same day as Avakian.

Jon Hendricks was instrumental (as it were) in popularising a the jazz singing style known as vocalese, whereby the singer adds lyrics to a jazz improvisation and sings them note-for-original-note. The most famous example of it might be the track that inspired Hendricks, King Pleasure’s 1951 hit Moody’s Mood For Love, which was based on a sax solo by James Moody. By the late 1950s, Hendricks was part of the interracial jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross (later, in Avakian’s time with them, Yolande Bavan had replaced Annie Ross, who is now the last survivor of the trio in either iteration) which performed with the Count Basie Orchestra, taking Basie tunes and setting them to lyrics. In the 1960s the trio was popular — they very much inspired The Manhattan Transfer, with whom Hendricks later recorded — though also resented by the serious jazzheads for their playful lyrics.

English arranger/conductor Paul Buckmaster’s career ranged from scoring early hits by the likes of David Bowie (Space Oddity) and Elton John (Your Song) to Taylor Swift (2010’s Back To December) and Idina Menzel’s album last year. In between, his arrangement clients included The Rolling Stones (on Sticky Fingers), Shawn Phillips, Leonard Cohen, Nilsson (on Without You), Blood, Sweat & Tears  (on No Sweat), Carly Simon (on You’re So Vain), Miles Davis (on several 1970s albums), B.J. Thomas, Leo Sayer, Grateful Dead (on Terrapin Station), Nick Heyward, Stevie Nicks, Rodney Franklin, Meat Loaf (on Modern Day), Debbie Gibson, Paula Abdul, Lionel Richie, Lloyd Cole, Kenny Loggins, 10,000 Maniacs, Dwight Yoakam, Celine Dion, Counting Crows, Collective Soul, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, No Doubt, Tears For Fears, The Darkness, Ben Folds, Michael Bublé, Mika, Guns N’ Roses (on Chinese Democracy), Brandi Carlile and many more. He also played cello on some recordings, including Bowie’s Space Oddity. In 2002 he won a Grammy for his arrangement of the Train hit Drops Of Jupiter.

Just as I was preparing a mix of tracks on which guitarist Larry Carlton played, I learnt of the death of Carlton’s frequent sidekick on bass, Robert “Pops” Popwell. For a while he was practically a member of the Crusaders (as was Carlton). Popwell played for acts like The Young Rascals, Aretha Franklin, Irma Thomas, Dyane Allman, Randy Crawford, Eddie Money, Allen Toussaint, Hubert Laws, George Benson, Deodato, Ron Wood, Smokey Robinson, Letta Mbulu, Brenda Russell, Olivia Newton-John, Bill Withers, B.B. King, Bette Midler, Dr John and others. Powell also produced and arranged occasionally.

Soul singer Robert Knight had a minor US hit in 1968 with his song Everlasting Love, but when it was released in Britain it quickly caught on. The story goes that the English group Love Affair — or rather, singer Steve Ellis and a bunch of session musicians — rush-recorded and released the song before the original could chart with it. They had a #1 hit; Knight’s original, which entered the UK charts two weeks after the cover, stalled at #40. Then it went quiet around Knight until in late 1973 Britain’s Northern Soul scene — which grooved to obscure soul tracks — discovered Knight’s 1968 song Love On A Mountaintop. That joyful song, which had done very little business in the US, became a big UK hit, peaking at #10. And that was it for Knight’s chart career. By 1976 he released his last single. He later worked as a lab technician and chemistry teacher, still performing on stage occasionally.

Bonnie Flower might have been a star. She and her sister Wendy, who were the dreamy folk-rock duo Wendy & Bonnie, had musician parents, and jazz percussionist Cal Tjader was their godfather. With Gabor Szabo and producer Gary McFarland, Tjader owned a record label, Skye, for which the teenage Flower sisters recorded an album of self-composed tracks, titled Genesis. McFarland arranged it, and session musicians included a young Larry Carlton on guitar, drummer Jim Keltner and keyboardist Mike Melvoin. It’s a very good album, but shortly after its release Skye went bankrupt. Two years later McFarland was about to record the sisters again, but was murdered. The sisters never recorded together again.

I can’t say they ever were my jam, but one has to acknowledge the influence the US post-punk band Faith No More, whose former frontman Chuck Mosley has died, has had on bands that went on to influence others. These include acts like Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, System Of A Down, The Deftones, and, er, Slipknot and Korn.

Actor Jim Nabors made a name for himself in music as the singing mechanic Gomer Pyle in first the Andy Griffith Show and then his own spin-off series. Though he didn’t bother the US charts — his musical stylings are, let’s say, rather an acquired taste —he scored a Top 20 hit in Australia, of all places, with his version of The Impossible Dream. For more than 40 years he regularly sang the opening tune for the Indianapolis 500 season. For a seasonal reference I might mention that Nabors featured on Any Major Christmas in Black & White Vol. 1, which is a good time to mention that I’ll be having two new Christmas mixes in the coming weeks.

 

Katie Lee, 98, folk singer, on Nov. 1
Katie Lee – Gunslinger (1957)

Billy Mize, 88, country, singer, steel guitarist and broadcaster, on Nov. 1
Billy Mize – Who Will Buy The Wine (1956)

Jack Conrad, 69, bass guitarist, on Nov. 3
The Doors – In The Eye Of The Sun (1972, on bass guitar)
Gram Parsons – She (1973, on bass guitar)

Hank Hunter, 88, pop songwriter, on Nov. 4
Steve Lawrence – Footsteps (1960)

Robert Knight, 72, soul singer, on Nov. 5
Robert Knight – Everlasting Love (1967)
Robert Knight – Love On A Mountain Top (1968)
Robert Knight – Better Get Ready For Love (1974)

Paul Buckmaster, 71, English arranger, conductor and composer, on Nov. 7
Bee Gees – Odessa (City On The Black Sea) (1969, on cello)
Elton John – Tiny Dancer (1971, as arranger)
Nick Heyward – Whistle Down The Wind (1983, as arranger)
Ben Folds – Landed (Strings Version) (2005, as arranger)

Robert De Cormier, 95, folk music arranger and conductor, on Nov. 7
Harry Belafonte – Here Rattler Hear (1960, as arranger)

Pentti Glan, 71, Finnish-Canadian drummer, on Nov. 7
Lou Reed – Lady Day (1974)
Bette Midler – When A Man Loves A Woman (1979)

Chuck Mosley, 57, singer with post-punk band Faith No More (1984-88), on Nov. 9
Faith No More – We Care A Lot (1985)

Fred Cole, 69, rock singer and guitarist, on Nov. 9
The Lollipop Shoppe – You Must Be A Witch (1968, on lead vocals)
Dead Moon – Sabotage (2002, on lead vocals)

Hans Vermeulen, 70, singer with Dutch band Sandy Coast, and on Stars on 45, on Nov. 9
Sandy Coast – I See Your Face Again (1968)

Chad Hanks, 46, bassist of nu-metal band American Head Charge, on Nov. 12

Luis Bacalov, 84, Argentine-born Italian composer, on Nov. 15
Roberto Fia – Django (1968, as composer and conductor)
Itzhak Perlman & John Williams – Il Postino Theme (1996, as composer)

Bonnie Flower, 63, member of folk-rock duo Wendy & Bonnie, on Nov. 15
Wendy & Bonnie – The Paisley Window Pane (1969)

Lil Peep, 21, hip hop artist, on Nov. 15

Michael ‘Dik Mik’ Davies, c.73, keyboardist with English hard rock group Hawkwind, on Nov. 16
Hawkwind – Hurry On Sundown (1970)

Al Neil, 93, Canadian jazz musician, on Nov. 16

Malcolm Young, 64, rhythm guitarist and songwriter of AC/DC, on Nov. 18
AC/DC – Riff Raff (1978)
AC/DC – For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) (1981)
AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep (1991, live)

Ben Riley, 84, jazz drummer, on Nov. 18
Thelonious Monk – Straight No Chaser (1964, on drums)

Warren ‘Pete’ Moore, 78, singer, songwriter with The Miracles, producer, arranger, on Nov. 19
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – The Tracks Of My Tears (1965, also as co-writer)
The Temptations – Since I Lost My Baby (1965, as co-writer)
Otis Redding – It’s Growing (1966, as co-writer)

Della Reese, 86, jazz and gospel singer and actress, on November 19
Della Reese – Don’t You Know? (1959)
Della Reese – After Loving You (1965)
Della Reese – Compared To What (1970)

Mel Tillis, 85, country singer-songwriter, on Nov. 19
Webb Pierce – I’m Tired (1957, as writer)
Mel Tillis – Life Turned Her That Way (1969)
Mel Tillis – Coca Cola Cowboy (1979)

Ronnie Butler, 80, Bahamian calypso singer, on Nov. 19
Ronnie Butler – Married Man (2010)

David Cassidy, 67, pop singer and actor, on Nov. 21
The Partridge Family – Echo Valley 2-6809 (1971, as lead singer)
David Cassidy – I Am A Clown (1972)
David Cassidy – The Last Kiss (1985, featuring George Michael on backing vocals)

Wayne Cochran, 78, soul singer, songwriter, on Nov. 21
Wayne Cochran – Last Kiss (1961)
Wayne Cochran – Up In My Mind (1967)

George Avakian, 98, producer and label executive, on Nov. 22
Louis Armstrong & His All Stars – Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1955, as producer)
Johnny Mathis – Street Of Dreams (1956)

Jon Hendricks, 96, singer- songwriter with jazz group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, on Nov. 22
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross – Moanin’ (1959, also as writer)
Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan – Shiny Stockings (1963, produced by George Avakian)

John Coates Jr., 79, jazz pianist, on Nov. 22

Tommy Keene, 59, pop singer and songwriter, on Nov. 22
Tommy Keene – Back To Zero Now (1982)

Shawn Jones, 32, gospel singer, on Nov. 22

Mitch Margo, 70, singer with pop band The Tokens and producer, on Nov. 24
The Tokens – I Hear Trumpets Blow (1966, also as writer)

Patrick Bourgeois, 54, singer of Canadian rock band Les B.B., on Nov. 26

Robert ‘Pops’ Popwell, 70, jazz-funk bass guitarist, on Nov. 27
Doris Duke – Ghost Of Myself (1969)
George Benson – Love Ballad (1979)
The Crusaders with Randy Crawford – Street Life (1981)

Magín Díaz, 94, Colombian folk singer and songwriter, on Nov. 28

Robert ‘Bilbo’ Walker, 80, blues musician, on Nov. 29
Robert ‘Bilbo’ Walker – Everything Gonna Be Alright (1997)

Zé Pedro, 61, Portuguese guitarist, on Nov. 30

Jim Nabors, 87, actor and singer, on Nov. 30
Jim Nabors – Both Sides Now (1973)

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Al Green Sings Covers

November 30th, 2017 6 comments

Sometimes the less you know about your favourite singers, the better. Who knew that Al Green, the soul legend, is not an all-round good egg, nor, indeed, an all-round bad egg. The good Reverend is one hell of a conflicted cat. And that conflicted soul makes for intriguing reading in Jimmy’s McDonough new, authoritative biography of Al Green, Soul Survivor (Da Capo Press, 2017). For fans of popular music, and especially of soul, the book is a treasure.

Obviously the focus is on Green, but to understand Green – in as far as the man can be even remotely understood – one must also know the context in which he has existed and recorded. So McDonough introduces a cast of co-stars and supporting actors along the way. There is, naturally, Albert Leorn Greene’s family, including his pimp brothers.

The cover of Jimmy McDonough’s absorbing Al Green bio Soul Survivor, published in August 2017 by Da Capo Press.

A substantial portion of Soul Survivor is devoted to Willie Mitchell and his Hi Records. As Green’s producer and his musical home in the singer’s pomp, Mitchell and Hi are key to the Green story. So are backing musicians like the Hodges brothers—Charles on organ, Leroy on bass, and, perhaps most importantly, Mabon “Teenie” on guitar—as well drummers Howard Grimes and Al Jackson Jr and the Memphis Horns (mainly Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love), and later people like Reuben Fairfax.

It’s fascinating to learn how Mitchell turned Green, who fancied himself as a soul growler, into that quiet singer into whose vocals you can disappear, as McDonough eloquently puts it. Mitchell and Al Jackson Jr wrote the melody for Let’s Stay Together; Al Green’s task was to write the lyrics. So he locked himself up in a studio room and wrote them in 15 minutes – starting one of the great love songs as a reflection on black politics… Green then wanted to sing the song in shouty southern soul style. Mitchell insisted he sing it all mellow. Green was very unhappy with that idea and sped off in his car, wheels all a-screeching. When he returned, he deliberately sang the song as relaxed and with as little emotion he could muster, just to spite Mitchell – who in turn said that this was exactly the sound he wanted. No more takes were needed; a new kind of soul singer was born that day. The Hi Records part of the Al Green story is a most welcome bonus in this book.

Along the way we also encounter people like Laura Lee, a great soul singer in her own right and Green’s on-off girlfriend. It’s Lee about whom Green wrote Tired Of Being Alone. That song also introduced the backing vocals of the Rhodes sisters, who surprisingly were country singers, with sax player Charles Chalmers (Sandra Rhodes also played rhythm guitar on How Do You Mend A Broken Heart). If you are surprised to learn that Al Green’s soulful backing singers on those great Hi records were white, you surely are not alone.

Who’s a pretty pimp? Al Green makes his Soul Train debut in 1971, singing Tired Of Being Alone while wearing gold boxer boots, black vinyl hot pants, magenta vinyl vest, a gold chain, a pink pimp hat at a jaunty angle, and a man-bag on his shoulders. Give him a cane and he could fit into a scene from The Deuce.

 

McDonough is insightful in examining Al Green’s records. Obviously a devoted fan, he speaks with authority even as he expresses strong opinions. One wants to play the songs he is writing about just to hear what he hears. But at other times his opinions can be intrusive, such as the reference to the “dreaded Chicago”. And much as I agree with McDonough on the Talking Heads’ awful cover of Take Me To The River – “Fuck the Talking Heads”, he opines – in a book like this it’s better to not to try and force the reader’s mind. And only the good Lord knows how McDonough arrives at his churlishly-expressed opinion that “clown-haired” Lyle Lovett lacks talent.

But that is a minor criticism. McDonough marshals his widely collated resources well, even if it becomes difficult at some points to keep track of who is who. The author hopes that his book will be the definitive biography on Al Green, and he wasn’t going to leave many gaps.

Soul Survivor has a few moments of great trivia. We learn that Take Me To The River co-writer Teeny Hodges reported that his biggest payday had come not from the Green or Talking Heads recordings of the song but from royalties earned via the song’s “performance” by the animatronic fish Big Mouth Billy Bass in The Sopranos. And among the more startling revelation is that Green apparently is a freemason, in an African-American wing of the secret society that has also included such luminaries as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Richard Pryor.

Take Me To The River payday: the animatronic fish Big Mouth Billy Bass in The Sopranos.

 

There is an alarming story about how a goon gangster broke Al’s arm when the singer didn’t want to perform. But don’t feel too bad for Green, who allegedly felt quite entitled to assault women. Which takes us to the 1974 suicide of Mary Woodson and her attack on him with boiling grits (Green tends to insist it was Cream of Wheat) that preceded it. McDonough cites a lot of research on the incident; all it shows is that the official verdict of suicide should be seen as inconclusive. While a lot points to Woodson’s death having been self-inflicted, there are some questions that likely will never be answered.

Woodson’s death might or might not have played a role in Green’s conversion – which took place, of all places, after a gig at Disneyland, the result of a bargain he said he had made with God in 1969. A substantial section of the book covers Green’s career as a pastor (he’s now a bishop, whatever that means in non-hierarchical church). As with everything, Green is a walking contradiction in that role. One moment given to evangelical zeal and Christian charity, the next driven by that nasty underside that always seems to reside beneath his surface. Green’s style of ministry seems to be always a bit or a lot unhinged.

The man who emerges in the pages of Soul Survivor is alone and lonely, one who attracts people easily with charm and kindness, and then always finds ways to repel them with appalling behaviour. His outsized ego perhaps makes Al Green the only suitable companion for Albert Leorn Greene. It ain’t easy being Green.

And so to the mix. Whoopie Goldberg, in a rare moment of lucidity, said: “No one can cover Al Green.” It’s true: how many good covers of Al Green originals do you know? But Green is a superb interpreter of other people’s songs, most famously perhaps of The Bee Gee’s How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (an mind-blowing vocal performance, but don’t disregard Mitchell’s fine arrangement that sets the scene for those vocals). So here is a mix of Al Green singing other people’s songs. In the parentheses I cite the respective song’s most famous performer.

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

1. I’ve Never Found A Girl (1972 – Eddie Floyd)
2. I Can’t Get Next To You (1971 – The Temptations)
3. Drivin’ Wheel (1971 – Roosevelt Sykes/Junior Parker)
4. The Letter (1969 – The Box Tops)
5. Summertime (1969 – from ‘Porgy And Bess’)
6. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (1972 – The Bee Gees)
7. For The Good Times (1972 – Kris Kristofferson)
8. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (1973 – Hank Williams)
9. Funny How Time Slips Away (1973 – Jimmy Elledge/Joe Hinton)
10. I Stand Accused (1969 – Jerry Butler)
11. Unchained Melody (1973 – Righteous Brothers)
12. I Want To Hold Your Hand (1969 – The Beatles)
13. Oh, Pretty Woman (1972 – Roy Orbison)
14. Light My Fire (1971 – The Doors)
15. Together Again (1976 – Buck Owens)
16. Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home (1984 – Joe South)
17. People Get Ready (feat. Margie Joseph, 1981 – The Impressions)
18. A Change Is Gonna Come (live, 1994 – Sam Cooke)

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More Mix CD-Rs
Covered With Soul
1970s Soul

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Beatles Recovered: Magical Mystery Tour

November 23rd, 2017 7 comments

The Magical Mystery Tour LP, released 50 years ago on November 27 in the US (and in the UK on December 8 as a double EP) is something of a stepchild in the Beatles canon. The British EP comprised the original tracks from the British TV movie of the same name. On the album, those tracks make up side 1 of the LP. Side 2 of the LP are songs that appeared on single that year.

The British EP was lavishly packaged. The gatefold cover included a 28-page, full colour booklet of photos from the critically panned TV film and song lyrics. When I bought a Japanese pressing of the LP 14 years later, it came in a gatefold sleeve with the booklet, now in LP-size.

The Magical Mystery Tour LP was a success in the US, even earning Grammy nominations. And there are some stone-cold classics on that LP. Obviously the singles on Side 2 — All You Need Is Love, Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane and Hello Goodbye — plus the title track, Fool On The Hill and I Am The Walrus on Side 1. Then there is the glorious Baby You’re A Rich Man, which was the b-side of All You Need Is Love but could just as well have been a hit in its own right.

Which leaves us with the quite forgettable instrumental Flying (the only Beatles song credited to all four members); Harrison’s Blue Jay Way, another one of his Indian-flavoured tracks which are unloved by most Beatles fans; and Your Mother Should Know, one of those McCartney flapper-tinged nostalgia trips.

So, a strike rate of 9/12 is pretty good going. Even if one allows that half the LP is a singles collection, it is nevertheless remarkable that they were all recorded during or just after the Sgt Pepper’s sessions that culminated in the release of that watershed in rock history, only five months before Magical Mystery Tour came out. It’s The Beatles in 1967 that needed to put out a double album, not those of 1968. Sgt Pepper’s Recovered is still up.

The cover of the German release of the Magical Mystery Tour LP, under the imprint of TV magazine HörZu.

So, here are a bunch of covers of the tracks on The Magical Mystery Tour. Oddly, it was easier finding covers for Blue Jay Way that it was for Hello Goodbye. And I fear that there will be some resistance to the cover of that song included here. This can be explained by the shortage of alternatives, but it should be put on the record that Glee produced some very good cover versions. Hello Goodbye is not the best example of that, but it is not by any means objectionable. It’s, in fact, pretty joyful. Still, when Richie Havens follows on with his version of Strawberry Fields Forever we are on firmer ground.

Elvis Costello might have featured here with his version of All You Need Is Love from Live Aid, when the crowds filled in the horn section part. It’s on the Live Aid mix which is still available. Instead, Costello is representing Penny Lane here, performed live in 2010 at the Gershwin Prize for Paul McCartney.

All You Need Is Love is done here beautifully by the wonderful Brandi Carlile. And Bud Shank turns the unremarkable Flying into an engaging jazz number.

1. Cheap Trick – Magical Mystery Tour (1991)
2. Stone The Crows – Fool On The Hill (1970)
3. Bud Shank – Flying (1968)
4. Siouxsie and The Banshees – Blue Jay Way (2003)
5. Damita Jo – Your Mother Should Know (1969)
6. Oingo Boingo – I Am The Walrus (1994)
7. Glee Cast – Hello, Goodbye (2010)
8. Richie Havens – Strawberry Fields Forever (1969)
9. Elvis Costello – Penny Lane (2010)
10. Martin Newell – Baby You’re A Rich Man (1996)
11. Brandi Carlile – All You Need Is Love (2012)

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More great Beatles stuff:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Any Bizarre Beatles
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 1
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 2
Beatles Reunited: Everest (1971)
Beatles Reunited: Live ’72 (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Smile Away (1972)

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Any Major Freaks & Geeks

November 16th, 2017 11 comments

Every two or three years I make a pilgrimage to my set of 18 episodes of the short-lived TV series Freaks And Geeks. It is not only the greatest series ever to be cancelled after only one season, but one of the greatest TV series of all time. Almost every scene is a marvel.

To me, it completes the great American Schools Trilogy: The Wonder Years, Dazed And Confused; Freaks And Geeks. The first outlived its magnificence by about two or three seasons; the Linklater film absolutely needed no sequel; but Freaks And Geeks was put to death prematurely.

All three narratives about schooling succeeded because, though set in US schools with the culture that comes with it, the characters are almost universally recognisable. We’ve all met them, or some of them. Maybe we were them.

I went to school in Germany, where there no high school sports teams, and the sub-cultures were different. We had punks, poppers (New Romantic conservatives), rockers, Neo-Nazi skinheads… and mostly unaffiliated people. Not being much of a joiner I was among the unaffiliated. In Freaks And Geeks terms, I’d have been a “Freak” — though, like the Geeks, I loved Bill Murray and the movie Stripes (I even agree with Neal that the second half of that movie is best forgotten).

But whatever differences in the sub-cultures, I have known Wayne Arnold (who might as well have been modeled on my school nemesis, Marvin) and Paul Phyffer in The Wonder Years, Mitch Kramer and his two pals, Mike Newhouse and Tony Olson, Randall “Pink” Floyd, Fred O’Bannion and Don Dawson (another nemesis) in Dazed And Confused, and Sam Weir, Neal Schweiber, Bill Haverchuck (they were all my friends at some point), Alan White (bullies are all the same), Nick Andopolis and Ken Miller in Freaks And Geeks.

I’m on less safe ground identifying with girls, because if you’re a boy, your school domain is largely male. Still, I know Kim Kelly — the great Busy Philips in Freaks And Geeks —very well.

To me, Freaks And Geeks resonates in particular because in 1980/81, when the show is set, I was 14, the same age as the junior trio of Sam, Bill and Neal. While the cultural markers are different, these characters are my peers.

And so, if we can recognise the characters, or identify with them, then their experiences need not mirror ours exactly for us to be part of the story.

As in The Wonder Years and Dazed And Confused, the music is an important character in Freaks And Geeks (indeed, I did a mix of songs from The Wonder Years a few years ago; the mix has been re-upped). Here I cannot draw from the well of nostalgia. That American 1980/81 is not my 1980/81. And still, of the songs on this mix, which all featured on Freaks And Geeks, I owned six at the time (since you ask: Bowie, Seger, Billy Joel, Deep Purple, Supertramp, Jethro Tull).

As a bonus track I add “Lady L.”, the hackneyed love song Nick (Jason Segel) writes for Lindsay (Linda Cardellini), which has attained something of a cult status. The music-related scene that sticks with me, however, is the one where the Weir parents listen to The Who’s Squeeze Box to determine whether the British band’s concert is suitable for their teenage daughter.

The CD-R length rule required me to omit some worthy contenders; indeed, I expect to be hated for choosing Supertramp ahead of XTC (but I really don’t like No Language In Our Lungs) or Rush (whom I don’t really like, full stop). Maybe there’ll be a follow-up…

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

1. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation (1981)
2. Joe Jackson – I’m The Man (1979)
3. Warren Zevon – Poor, Poor Pitiful Me (1976)
4. Bob Seger – You’ll Accompany Me (1980)
5. Little River Band – Reminiscing (1978)
6. Billy Joel – Rosalinda’s Eyes (1978)
7. Kansas – Dust In The Wind (1978)
8. Jethro Tull – Aqualung (1971)
9. George Baker Selection – Little Green Bag (1969)
10. The Who – Squeeze Box (1975)
11. Deep Purple – Hush (1968)
12. Van Halen – Little Dreamer (1978)
13. Journey – Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ (1979)
14. Styx – Renegade (1978)
15. David Bowie – Fashion (1980)
16. Supertramp – Take The Long Way (1979)
17. Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia (1979)
18. Pure Prairie League – Amie (1972)
19. Grateful Dead – Ripple (1970)
20. Jason Segal – Lady L. (2000)

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Any Major Year

November 9th, 2017 12 comments

I was startled a little while ago while listening to Billy Joel’s Songs In The Attic album that its opening track about a post-apocalyptic USA is set in 2017. Things might be bad in real 2017, and the apocalypse might be a greater possibility now than it was just a couple of years ago, but the bridges of New York City are still standing.

Billy Joel first released the song in 1976 — featured here is the vastly superior  live version released five years later — when 2017 was 41 years away. Recently I read an article that we might have a post-apocalypse by 2050, i.e. only around 30 years from now. The future isn’t as far off a place as we may think.

Some other songs here anticipate the future. Boz Scaggs, singing in 1977, is having a bad trip. “It’s like 1993 and it’s weird as hell to me…This spoof reality is just like outer space to me.” Boz, lad, 1993 is cool. You should see 2017 and the Evil Keystone Kops running the show now!

Maybe Prince knew something. He didn’t expect the world to last much beyond the new millennium, hence is invitation to party now like it is 1999.

The Temptations in 1971 are looking at 1990 without mentioning 1990. It starts off like they’re in 1970, 1990 and 2017 at the same time. “Well, we got trouble in the White House, poverty in the ghetto…Thousand of jobless people walking the streets, with no food or place to sleep. What will become of them, America?” And so on in that righteous vein — until they go all Fox News on us with a sickly barrage of patriotic stuff about “America! I ain’t ashamed to say that I love ya. There ain’t another place on Earth I’d rather be.” Not even a place where there are no crooks in government and there are no poor and no ghettos?

A whole lot of songs in this mix look back into the past, including a couple of songs about World War I, most hauntingly the Motörhead track — and John Cale’s song about what I suppose is sexual frustration loosely set during the Versailles treaty negotiations.

Al Stewart’s The Last Day Of June 1934, from an album of historical vignettes, takes as its centrepiece the Night of the Long Knives, during which Hitler wiped out internal Nazi opposition (weep not for the victims here). Stewart frames that event around French lovers unconcerned about such things and British intellectuals discussing war.

Randy Newman in 1974 sang about the risible political response to the Louisiana flood in 1927; he would need to change only a few words to turn it into Louisiana 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, or 2017 with Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

Other songs take a very personal glance at the past. Randy Travis would like to fix a mistake he made in 1982 (four years earlier from the time of singing); Josh Rouse imagines the vibe in 1972, the year he was born.

And then there are a couple of songs that require little time travel. Swedish singer Hello Saferide welcomes the year 2006 with great scepticism — “January 1st and it’s already clear: It’s gonna be another shitty year” — and a hope that she’ll land that partner she seeks: “And on the top of the list there’s you. I’m going to be with you. I haven’t told you yet but I’m going to be with you.” I hope she got you.

Finally, The Barracudas in 1980 were nostalgically yearning for 1965. In today’s money that’s nostalgia for the year 2002. Suddenly I’m feeling so very fucking old…

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

1. Billy Joel – Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway) (1981)
2. Prince – 1999 (1983)
3. The Four Seasons – December ’63 (Oh What A Night) (1976)
4. Boz Scaggs – 1993 (1977)
5. New Order – 1963 (1987)
6. The Barracudas – (I Wish It Could Be) 1965 Again (1980)
7. The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979 (1995)
8. Hello Saferide – 2006 (2006)
9. Josh Rouse – 1972 (2003)
10. Al Stewart – The Last Day of June 1934 (1973)
11. Ralph McTell – England 1914 (1969)
12. Motörhead – 1916 (1991)
13. John Cale – Paris 1919 (1973)
14. Harry Nilsson – 1941 (1967)
15. Randy Newman – Louisiana 1927 (1974)
16. Loudon Wainwright – 1994 (1995)
17. Randy Travis – 1982 (1986)
18. The Statler Brothers – The Class of 57 (1975)
19. Gil Scott-Heron – The Summer of ’42 (1975)
20. The Temptations – 1990 (1973)
21. Paul McCartney & Wings – Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five (1973)

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