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In Memoriam – June 2011

July 4th, 2011 5 comments

One of the true greats passed away this month: Clarence Clemons, a legend to every Springsteen fan. There are many things which made the E Street Band’s sound so unique, but the key ingredients, in my view, were Roy Bittan’s keyboards and Clemons’ sax. It is on Clemons’ shoulder on which Springseen leans on the Born To Run cover, literally and symbolically (and imagine the title track without that orgasmic saxophone build-up). The featured E Street Band song, here in the live version from  the 1975 Hammersmith Odeon concert, tells the story of how the E Street Band came together.

What would rock & roll have been without Elvis’ Hound Dog? This month we lost the trumpeter in the version of the song which Elvis heard in Las Vegas and decided to base his explosive version on (as recounted in The Originals Vol. 15). We also lost Carl Gardner, leader of The Coasters, who often are unjustly remembered as a novelty act because they knew how to be funny. I’d argue that The Coasters helped invent soul music.

Also noteworthy was the death of Andrew Gold, whom we previously encountered as the writer of the theme of The Golden Girls. He was also the son of Marni Nixon, who provided the singing voices on film for Natalie Wood, Deborah Kerr and Audrey Hepburn.

I rarely feature non-musicians in my monthly litany of mortality, but the designer of the iconic Rolling Stone magazine logo merits a mention.

A bizarre death this month was that of Anet Mook, Dutch ex-singer of ’90s grunge band Cay, who was hit by a train in her native Netherlands. I could find no indication of the date of her death, and so list the date of her funeral.

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Ray Bryant, 79, jazz pianist, on June 2
Ray Bryant – It’s Madison Time (1960)

Andrew Gold, 59, singer-songwriter, on June 3
Andrew Gold – Never Let Her Slip Away (1978)
Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend (1978, full version of The Golden Girls theme)

Benny Spellman, 79, R&B singer, on June 3
Benny Spellman – Life Is Too Short (1960)

Martin Rushent, 63, English record producer (Human League, The Stranglers, The Buzzcocks, Dr Feelgood), on June 4
The Stranglers – No More Heroes (1977)
Human League – Seconds (1981)

Kevin Kavanaugh, 59, keyboardist for Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, on June 4
Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes – Talk To Me (1978)
Frankie Toler, 59, American drummer with latter versions of The Allman Brothers Band and Marshall Tucker Band, on June 4

Leon Botha, 26, South African artist and DJ (appeared with Die Antwoord), progeria sufferer, on June 5
Die Antwoord – Enter The Ninja (2010)

J Harold Lane, 82, gospel songwriter and singer of the Speer Family Quartet, on June 6

Buddy Gask, 64, singer with Showaddywaddy, on June 7
Showaddywaddy – Under The Moon Of Love (1976)

Alan Rubin, 68, trumpeter with The Blues Brothers (Mr Fabulous in the film), on June 8
The Blues Brothers – Sweet Home Chicago (1980)
Darryl Pandy, 48, house music singer, on June 10
Farley’ Jackmaster’ Funk feat. Darryl Pandy – Love Can’t Turn Around (1986)

Gennaro Meoli, 76, trumpeter of Freddie Bell & the Bellboys, on June 10
Freddie Bell & the Bellboys – Hound Dog (1956)

Jamie Toulan, 31, guitarist For ’90s juvenile punk band Old Skull, on June 10

Seth Putnam, 43, member of charmingly named balladeers Anal Cunt, on June 11

Carl Gardner, 83, founder and lead singer of The Coasters, on June 12
The Coasters – Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart (1958)
The Coasters – Along Came Jones (1959)

Mack Self, 81, rockabilly singer, on June 14
Mack Self – Mad At You (1959)

Bill Johnson, 68, LP cover art director and designer of Rolling Stone magazine’s logo, on June 15
Dr Hook & the Medicine Show – Cover Of The Rolling Stone (1972)

Anet Mook, Dutch ex-singer of ’90s UK grunge band Cay, funeral on June 15

Wild Man Fischer, 66, eccentric singer-songwriter and pal of Frank Zappa, on June 16
Wild Man Fischer – Merry Go-Round (1969)

Calvin Scott, 73, soul singer, on June 17
Calvin Scott – Can I Get A Witness (1972)
Clarence Clemons, 69, saxophonist of the E Street Band, on June 18
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (live, 1975)
Clarence Clemons & Jackson Browne – You’re A Friend Of Mine (1985)

Gustaf Kjellvander, 31, Swedish singer-songwriter (as The Fine Arts Showcase) and brother of Christian Kjellvander, on June 18
The Fine Arts Showcase – Brother In Black (2006)

Mike Waterson, 70, British folk singer, on June 22
The Watersons – The Good Old Way (1975)

Jared Southwick, 34, guitarist of punk band The Dream Is Dead, on June 22

Fred Steiner, 88, film and TV composer (The Color Purple, Perry Mason, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, Dynasty)
Theme – Perry Mason (1959)
Theme – Rocky and Bullwinkle (1959)
Gaye Delorme, 64, Canadian musician and Cheech & Chong collaborator, on June 23
Gaye Delorme – Sailor Sailor (2007)

Benton Flippen, 90, old-time fiddler, on June 28

Perry Jordan, 62, guitarist of folk-rock group Heartsfield, on June 29
Heartsfield – Pass Me By (1974)

Jimmy Roselli, 85, crooner from Hoboken, NJ, on June 30
Jimmy Roselli – The Sheik Of Araby (1962)

Ron Foster, 61, drummer and singer of new wave bands The Silencers (US) and Iron City Houserockers, on June 30
The Silencers – Modern Love (1980)

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The Originals Vol. 3

September 9th, 2008 6 comments

In the third part of this series we look at the originals of songs made more famous by 70s doo wop revivalists Darts, Bobby Darin, Marianne Faithful, Carpenters and Gene Kelly.

EDIT: With DivShare having deleted three accounts, some of the links originally posted are dead or probably will go dead soon. I have compiled the originals of the featured song, except Daddy Cool, in one file:

The Originals Vol. 3
(The Wrens, Charles Trenet, Dr Hook, New Vaudeville Band, Herman’s Hermits, Cliff Edwards & the Brox Sisters)
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Daddy Cool & Come Back My Love
Every decade seems to enjoy a revival at roughly a 20-year cycle. We are slowly emerging from the 1970s revival, are full-on in the 1980s revival (which was officially launched with The Wedding Singer) and the 1990s revival has already begun – though I cannot imagine what there is to be nostalgic about. Essentially, the cultural decision-makers launch a wave of nostalgia to the years of their childhood. And, as this blog proves, I like nostalgia. In the ’70s, the big revival was the ’50s. It started early, with movies such as The Last Picture Show and climaxed with Grease and the death of Elvis. Bands such as Sha Na Na, Showaddywaddy, Racey and Long Tall Ernie & the Shakers had hits cashing in on the nostalgia boom (as did, at the tail-end of the revival, Shakin’ Stevens). All of these were more or less karaoke artists. Not so Darts. They got Rock ‘n’ Roll. They took old (usually obscure) numbers and gave them new life. In the case of both of these featured songs, released in 1977, the Darts revamped and improved on the original – if one overlooks the sample of Little Richard’s The Girl Can’t Help It in Daddy Cool. It is a shame they are not remembered by much more than the original artists.

The Wrens were a  Bronx doo wop trio that never hit the big time. Come Back My Love, recorded in 1954, should have been a massive hit, but (like their other records) never was. The Rays were a short-lived doo wop band who scored a US hit in 1957 with Silhouettes, of which Daddy Cool was the b-side (the Rays’ singer, Guy Darrell re-recorded the b-side as a single in 1961). But it was Daddy Cool which became the inspiration for an Australian ’70s group by that name. The Rays file has been borrowed, with permission, from the excellent Whiteray at Echoes In The Wind, who featured it in this post (and do read Whiteray’s amazing story associated with the song). The Wrens’ version I had been looking for unsuccessfully for a long time. Within minutes of asking my very generous new friend RH (whom we will have much more reason to be grateful to as this series progresses), he sent it to me.
The Rays – Daddy Cool
Darts – Come Back My Love
Darts – Daddy Cool/The Girl Can’t Help It
Also recorded by: The Cardinals/Daddy Cool, Drummond
Best versions: Darts, in both cases.

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The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan
Shel Silverstein was something of a Renaissance Man: a poet, childrens’ author, cartoonist, screenwriter and composer. In the latter incarnation, Silverstein wrote several hit songs, including A Boy Named Sue and The Ballad of Lucy Jordan. He also wrote a few soundtracks, among them Ned Kelly and the snappily titled Dustin Hoffman film Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? In 1971. Silverstein selected the yet unknown Dr Hook & the Medicine Show to appear on the latter. He proceeded to write the lyrics for many Dr Hook songs, including the notorious Sylvia’s Mother, Cover Of The Rolling Stone and Lucy Jordan. Dr Hook’s 1974 version made negligible impact, but Marianne Faithfull’s cover five years later became a big hit. And quite rightly so: Faithfull’s raspy, slightly desperate voice elicited empathy with the eponymous character’s breakdown, whereas Dr Hook in their perfectly servicable version just told a story. When I posted the Faithfull version previously, I claimed it was about suicide. A reader strongly disagreed. I think the denouement – climbing on the roof, taking the man’s hand, driving away in a white car – can be read in two ways: suicide or institutionalisation. Faithfull has opted for the latter interpretation, but as far as I know, the writer never let on what he meant.
Dr Hook & the Medicine Show – The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan
Marianne Faithfull – The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan
Also recorded by: Lee Hazlewood, Belinda Carlisle, Bobby Bare
Best version: Faithfull’s.

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La Mer/ Beyond The Sea
It is perhaps unfair to speak of Bobby Darin’s Beyond The Sea, released in 1959, as a cover version of the French song La Mer by Charles Trenet. The melodies coincide, as does the nautical theme. From there on, they are really different songs. Trenet’s version, written in 1943 on toilet paper while travelling by train and released in 1946, floats along merrily; Darin’s take initially sails along similarly but then enters a storm of big band brass and brash bluster of vocals. Before Darin recorded the song, with lyrics by Jack Lawrence, it was released by three acts as Beyond The Sea. I have heard none of these versions, but the notion that Benny Goodman’s orchestra was among them would suggest that there is no truth to the idea that it was Darin’s masterstroke to give it the big band treatment. And yet, whatever sound preceded the 1959 recording, Bobby Darin totally appropriated the song, investing in it so much personality that the number can’t be divorced from him. Most covers are based on Darin’s masterpiece, and nobody who has strayed too far from his template has managed to mess it up completely. Not even Robbie Williams.
Also recorded by: Harry James & Orchestra, Benny Goodman & Orchestra, George Wright, Roger Williams (La Mer), Ray Conniff, Lawrence Welk, Helen Shapiro, Johnny Mathis, The Sandpipers, George Benson, Kevin Kline (La Mer), Django Reinhard (La Mer), Ewan McGregor & Cameron Diaz, Bobby Caldwell, Patricia Kaas (La Mer), Wet Wet Wet, Will Young, Robbie Williams, Celtic Women (yikes!), Barry Manilow a.o.
Best version: Bobby Darin should be regarded the King of Headbanging Big Band Swing, with Beyond The Sea as the anthem.

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There’s A Kind Of Hush
A clean-cut song recorded first by a clean-cut band and covered with greater success by an even more clean-cut act. It’s difficult to imagine it now, but at the height of the British Invasion, Herman’s Hermits were briefly challengers to the Beatles’ crown, ending 1965 as the best-selling act in the US. Peter Noone and pals weren’t quite as successful in their home country, where they nevertheless scored ten Top10 hits (and a solitary chart-topper) in between 1964 and 1970. Herman’s Hermits’ There’s A Kind Of Hush fell smack bang into the middle of that run, becoming a UK #7 and US #4 hit in 1967. The Carpenters’ cover nine years later didn’t do as well as that, #12 in the US, but to many people it is the more familiar version. Richard Carpenter does not have high praise for his own arrangement. The original, he has said, was perfect and could not be improved on (and how I wish that more musicians would have such humility), and he didn’t like the synth in his version. On the other hand, it does feature Karen’s voice, for which I am prepared to forgive anything – even this song. Edit: After posting this, our friend RH sent me the version by the New Vaudeville Band, whose founder Geoff Stevens co-wrote the song, and released in 1966 on the Winchester Cathedral album. In all my research, I found no reference to that until I read up on Stevens.
Also recorded by: Engelbert Humperdinck, John Davidson, Claude François, Dana Winner, Barry Manilow, Deerhoof
Best version: I don’t think the Herman’s Hermits version is perfect, but it certainly is superior.

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Singin’ In The Rain
Singin’ In The Rain, the greatest musical movie of all time, was set in the nascent age of the talkies, giving rise to a couple of incredibly funny scenes involving the efforts to adapt to the new technologies by sound engineers and thespians. The songs in the film were pillaged mostly from Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Bown’s back catalogue of songs written for MGM musicals (Freed’s idea was mainly to cash in on royalties. And why not?). One of these was the title track, performed by Cliff Edwards & the Brox Sisters and originally featured in The Hollywood Revue of 1929, a star-studded affair released not long after the transition from silent movies, and MGM’s only second musical. It therefore was an inspired choice to provide the title and centrepiece for the 1952 musical. And the sequence of Gene Kelly crooning it in the rain – filmed while he was running a high fever – can never and will never become a cliché. It is film’s equivalent of the Sistine Chapel (and that sequence in A Clockwork Orange the equivalent of pissing on it).
Gene Kelly – Singin’ In The Rain
Also recorded by: Jimmy Durante, Judy Garland; John Serry Sr, Lena Horne, John Martyn, Sammy Davis Jr, Taco, Lou Rawls, Jamie Cullum, Mint Royale a.o.
Best version: The one you can play while jumping in puddles while wearing shiny shoes, a suit and a hat.

More Originals

Great Moustaches in Rock: Dr Hook

August 21st, 2008 6 comments



Dr Hook once punned with prurient poise: “When you’re in love with a beautiful woman, it’s hard”. It is difficult to imagine that said beautiful woman would find it easy to relieve that rigidity when confronted with the explosion of ill-advised whiskers which served to detract from the occasional eyepatch and a calvary of tonsorial catastrophes. I suspect that even the promise of pants that get up and dance wouldn’t do the trick (or would it? Perhaps this blog’s four female readers can enlighten us).

The gala of lip thatch that was Dr Hook and the Medicine Show had a strange way with women. On Sylvia’s Mother, the Doctor (well, there is no Dr Hook, but in that agricultural festival of labiae hirsutus it might have been anyone) sobs as he begs the polite but impervious Mrs Apricot to put Sylvia on the phone. Contrary to popular interpretation, which sees Mrs Apricot as a malevolent trespasser in the affairs of the good but desolate Doctor and his oblivious subject of affection, I think she is being kind as she neglects to remind him of the restraining order which Sylvia – about to get happily married with a man whose weekly cuisine is not trapped on his upper lip – had taken out against her stalker. All ends happily, however, when we learn that the song was in fact a lampoon. Hurrah!

Indeed, our follically extravagant friends had a great line in satirical songs. Which is as much as you’d expect from a band which featured a Bill Bryson look-alike. Cover Of The Rolling Stone (or Cover Of The Radio Times, as it was retitled in Britain to ensure BBC airplay!) – written by the poet Shel Silverstein, who also wrote Johnny Cash’s A Boy Named Sue – set the template for the quirky self-deprecation now volunteered by the likes of Ben Folds, Barenaked Ladies or Weezer, with the asides from the other ’tache merchants particularly droll (“I want to be on the cover of the Rolling Stone” sings the Doctor, “That’s a very, very good idea” a drawling sidekick commends). Of course, our bewhiskered heroes did make it to the cover of the Rolling Stone, albeit in diminished numbers. And even then, with uncharacteristic concern for public health, the magazine opted to represent Dr Hook by way of cartoon lest the sight of the real thing on newstands across the United States unleash mass gagging – and I don’t mean humour breaking out on the streets of America.

Apart from a commentary on rock ‘n roll’s hedonism, the whimsical conceit of the song was that Dr Hook and the Medicine Show looked nothing like a popular rock band. To this day it seem inexplicable that Dr Hook successfully circumvented the strictly enforced law that at least on member of a rock band must not be pig ugly (the law was lifted only in 1977 to allow Genesis entry into the USA after the departure of Peter Gabriel). They might have looked like a clump of hip-in-their-own-minds school teachers – English and Geography, probably – but they also looked as though excess consumption of the green stuff had left its deleterious mark. Dr Hook sang about that in I Got Stoned And I Missed It. Among the memories gone astray is having had sex with a virgin (yeah, right!). So it is an anti-drug song – the type your cool English/Geography teacher might introduce to illustrate the hazards of narcotics.

Over the time, Dr Hook lost their extended moniker and their lyrical quirk – puns about being hard aside – but created some decent if ingratiating pop. A few treacly MOR ballads aside, When You’re In Love… is perhaps as close to disco country music ever got (or vice versa), and the toe-tapper Sexy Eyes could have been sung by Olivia Newton-John, Luther Vandross or Linda Ronstadt – but none of whom have ever found acclaim for the poetic stylings of their lip growth.

Dr Hook – When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman.mp3
Dr Hook – Sexy Eyes.mp3
Dr Hook – You Make My Pants Want To Get Up And Dance.mp3
Dr Hook & the Medicine Show – Cover Of The Rolling Stone.mp3
Dr Hook & the Medicine Show – Sylvia’s Mother.mp3

More great moustaches

More.

Categories: Pop moustaches Tags:

Music for Bloggers Vol. 5

April 26th, 2008 6 comments

Here’s more love for blogs I enjoy (or, in two cases, massively enjoyed over the past couple of days, inspiring this installment in an occasional series). As always, if your blog isn’t featured, but you think it should be, there will be more music for bloggers. I do enjoy an awful lot of blogs. Please open the links (in the red headings) by right-clicking and opening a new window or tab; I’d hate to lose you.

The Quietus
The Quietus is a new British-based music web-magazine, currently published as a blog, but apparently becoming a fully-fledged webmagsite within the next months. The beauty of The Quietus resides in its variety of hugely talented writers who apply their own style — and are given the freedom to do so! And look at the variety of contributors (a fair number of them Melody Maker alumni): Taylor Parkes, one of the finest music writers anywhere, who combines erudition with considerable wit; David Stubbs, who can write practically anything and is one of the funniest wordsmiths (no cliché, I employ the term literally here: he bangs words into shape); John Doran, whose forthright opinions are backed up by inventive invective (including the detailed description of jawdropping acts of violence he would like to visit upon certain kinds of people. Myself included, possibly); Simon Price, who will one day preside as the doyen of that faction of British music writers still gifted with credibility; Derek Walmseley, whose defence of Jay-Z is so well argued, I’d agree with it if I didn’t know better; or the elegant Luke Turner… You may now delete your NME and Q bookmarks.
Dr Hook & the Medicine Show – Cover Of The Rolling Stone.mp3

Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas
One of my two new weekend discoveries. I like an observational blog that is well written, the kind that can take a mundane moment (like watching a movie out of boredom) and yet entertain in the description of that event. Ian Plenderleith‘s blog is one (his Nashville series was particularly great). Rol Hirst’s Sunset Over Slawit is another. The Ghost Of Electricity pulls it off regularly. My new somnolent friend has produced a series of thoroughly engaging posts since starting his blog in March, including a fine tribute to Danny Federici, the E-Street keyboardist who died this month; a wonderfully exasperated piece on an amateur band strong on stamina and tiny on talent (here Frog man might like to contact John Doran for advice on suitable retribution); and a pretty funny story about Shirley Manson’s “fish eyes”. And all that comes with some well-chosen music.
Belle & Sebastian – Funny Little Frog.mp3

The Great Vinyl Meltdown
The other great weekend discovery, the Great Vinyl Meltdown is written by “caithesaich”, a US writer who provides some of his posts in Spanish. caithesaich (not his real name) charts his childhood obsession with music, recalling the people and events that shaped his love for music: his Uncle Tom, a juke box, and the kindly juke box record changing guy — possibly a real job title — who let him have an obscure EP, setting in motion a three-decade long search for the identity of the featured artist. caithesaich’s musical growth did not follow the normal trajectory of getting into records via the Top 20 before finding one’s own way. Much of the stuff he discusses (and provides usually scratchy vinyl rips of) is obscure and invariably fascinating. By contrast, my musical development began at a very low base: this was the first single I ever bought, at the age of 5.
Roy Black & Anita – Schön ist es auf der Welt zu sein.mp3

Fusion45
Fusion 45 combines his human experiences with his great love for and knowledge of music. Fusion has also said some very generous things about this blog. I point this out because on the current first page, there is one such comment (he also praises others, I must add), and an impression might arise that my praise of his blog is an act of reciprocity. It most certainly is not. I learn from Fusion45. For example, I had never heard the name Hal Blaine before. I bet nor have most of those reading this, unless they’ve been to Fusion45. Fusion’s two-parter on the session drummer was illuminating. I might not had heard of Hal Blaine before, but I have heard his drumming on many of my favourite songs. Fusion45 posts music, often in zipped files, for download, but seems to be strict about deleting them after a week. Which is not a very long time, it must be said. So better RSS feed his blog. There was a bit of a problem commenting on Fusion45’s blog a few weeks back when he discussed tracks with great drumming. I wanted to nominate this song:
John Lennon – Instant Karma.mp3


Inveresk Street Ingrate

It’s socialism, Karl, but not as we know it. Of course it is a stereotype that socialists are humourless, but in my experience there sometimes manifests itself a collective disinclination to propagate the left’s jocular tendencies. On Inveresk Street, which is currently changing its look, s

uch perceptions do not correspond with reality. Darren, who lives in that hotbed of revolutionary fervour Brooklyn, updates us on the class struggles’ progresses (such as the pop star history of a Socialist Workers’ Party commissar), reflects on the injustices experienced by Glasgow Celtic at the hands of covert Huns’ operative Gordon Strachan (OK, the analysis for Celtic’s failures is mine), and talks about music, such as the letters a young Morrissey sent to the NME (today he might leave acerbic comments on The Quietus). It’s all great fun, marked by brevity and a healthy dose of self-deprecation. I posted songs by The Redskins just recently, so I will dedicate this great lefty song to Darren of Inveresk Street.
The Housemartins – Freedom.mp3


The Songs That People Sing

I just had a look at Inveresk Street’s blogroll. It features a link to this here blog as well as one to The Songs That People Sing, and a few others I know and/or link to. This blogging thing is a small world. The Songs’ Simon has a broad taste in music, an attribute I greatly admire. On the current first page, there is a lengthy and very good post on Dexys Midnight Runners ‘This Is What She’s Like’, followed by some extraordinary ’60 Soul; Reggae icon John Holt; and neo-New Wave outfit Sons & Daughters. All that is underpinned by good writing and better use of pics than I make (I have yet to post a photo of lasagna to illustrate a musical point).
Matt Costa – Songs We Sing.mp3

Previously featured:
Music For Bloggers Vol. 1: Totally Fuzzy, Not Rock On, Serenity Now (RIP), Stay At Home Indie Pop, The Late Greats, Tsururadio, 200percent, Jefitoblog (RIP), Television Without Pity, Michael’s World
Music For Bloggers Vol. 2: Fullundie, Mr Agreeable, Greatest Films, Peanut’s Playground, Just Good Tunes, Csíkszereda Musings, Mulberry Panda, The Black Hole, Secret Love, Hot Chicks With Douchebags
Music For Bloggers Vol. 3: Girl On A Train, Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore, Earbleedingcountry, Spangly Princess, Ill Folks, Deacon Blues, One-Man Publisher, CD Rated
Music For Bloggers Vol. 4: Pop Dose, Todger Talk, Holy Goof (RIP), Echoes In The Wind, Sunset Over Slawit, The Hits Just Keep Coming, The Ghost of Electricity, Guitariotabs