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Any Major Hits from 1973 – Vol. 1

January 26th, 2023 1 comment

Flashback 50 years ago to 1973! This is the first of two mixes of hits in that year. As in the mixes covering past years, it’s supposed to be a snapshot of the year’s charts, rather than a representative overview — because if it was that, these mixes could be pretty bad (US top song of 1973? Tie A Yellow Ribbon…). I’ve also not necessarily chosen the biggest or even the best hits of the year; if I had, Superstition would feature.

So, the goal is to evoke a little bit of 1973, with some classics and some perhaps half-forgotten hits. The first mix for 1973 focuses on the US charts; the follow-up will cover the UK. What surprised me in researching these two mixes is how few British acts had hits in the US in 1973. The British invasion had been repelled.

In the Top 100 hits of the year, there were British mega acts like Elton John, Wings, George Harrison, Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd — all global stars whose fame transcended their passports. Otherwise, Sweet featured with Little Willy, Stealer’s Wheel with Stuck In The Middle With You, and Gilbert O’Sullivan (who was Irish) with the awful Get Down and the rather sweet Clair. Plus Focus, who were Dutch.

By contrast, the UK charts were full of US acts, including a number of tracks on this mix. That mix will drop later in the year.

The debates about the “first-ever disco record” are futile, because how do you define disco, a genre of several strands? But I think that any list of proto-disco songs should include First Choice’s quite wonderful Armed And Extremely Dangerous.

I suppose a companion series to this one before us today is A Life In Vinyl, which goes back to 1977, when I started to invest seriously in records.  That series tracks my music-buying behaviour in the decade or so that followed.

If you dig the feel of 1973, take a look at the collection of posters from West-Germany’s Bravo magazine in 1973 (other years are available, too).

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

1. Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water
2. Alice Cooper – No More Mr Nice Guy
3. Edgar Winter Group – Free Ride
4. Doobie Brothers – Long Train Runnin’
5. Jim Croce – I Got A Name
6. Helen Reddy – Delta Dawn
7. Skylark – Wildflower
8. Dobie Gray – Drift Away
9. The Independents – Leaving Me
10. Barry White – I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Babe
11. O’Jays – Love Train
12. Three Dog Night – Shambala
13. Ozark Mountain Daredevils – If You Wanna Get To Heaven
14. King Harvest – Dancing In The Moonlight
15. Seals & Crofts – We May Never Pass This Way (Again)
16. Chicago – Just You ‘N’ Me
17. The Isley Brothers – That Lady
18. Ike & Tina Turner – Nutbush City Limits
19. Billy Preston – Will It Go Round In Circles
20. First Choice – Armed And Extremely Dangerous
21. Carole King – Corazon
22. Maria Muldaur – Midnight At The Oasis

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Any Major Hits from 1944
Any Major Hits from 1947
Any Major Hits from 1961
Any Major Hits from 1970
Any Major Hits from 1971
Any Major Hits from 1972 Vol. 1
Any Major Hits from 1972 Vol. 2

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Any Major Favourites 2022 – Vol. 2

January 17th, 2023 2 comments

Last week I ran the first set of “favourites” from Any Major mixes in 2022, with links to the respective posts (with a PDF containing them included). Here’s the second volume.

I noted last week how popular the Songbooks have been. In 2022, I songbooked Carole King, Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson on their respective 80th birthdays, and Elton John, Carol Bayer Sager and the late Laura Nyro on their 75th, and Lamont Dozier (alone and with the Holland brothers) on his passing. I’ll have to see what jubilees there are in 2023 (a couple are pencilled in already); obviously there needn’t be a special occasion to run a Songbook.

Of course I’ll continue other regulars: Covered With Soul (for which I have a surprise coming up), Any Major Soul, A Year in Hits, Albums of the Year, and so on. And no doubt here’ll be a few stand-alones, like 2022’s Any Major Laurel Canyon, Any Major Party and Any Major Sugar. And there will be more Beatles in foreign languages.

All this presumes, of course, that I will have the time to continue as I have in the past. Professional and private priorities must obviously take precedence, but how can I think of cutting back when I get such kind comments, such as this by a reader signing off as Le Trev:

I have no idea how I came across your site only a few days ago but it is my best Christmas present so far. (Albeit the only one but no matter!) If you are a one-man Operator, then your knowledge of “popular music” probably cannot be bettered by anybody in ” The business”!

Of course, you are invited to leave comments on posts — even if to say you enjoyed or didn’t like a mix. In fact, I would be very happy if you could tell me which mixes you particularly liked over the past year. This mix also include a PDF with the links below, for later reference. PW in comments.

1. Jo Jo Gunne – Run Run Run (1972)
Any Major Hits from 1972 – Vol. 2

2. Ike & Tina Turner – Get Back (1973)
Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 1

3. Wilson Pickett – Sugar Sugar (1970)
Covered With Soul Vol. 24

4. The Monkees – Pleasant Valley Sunday (1967)
Any Major Carole King Songbook Vol. 2

5. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich – The Legend Of Xanadu (1968)
Any Major Teen Dreams

6. Southern Freeze – Freeez (1981)
Any Major Disco Vol. 10 – Party Like It’s 1981

7. Charles & Eddie – Would I Lie To You (Acoustic Version) (1992)
Any Major Charlies

8. Dexys Midnight Runners – Liars A To E (1982)
Any Major Albums of the Year: 1982

9. The Pogues – Streets Of Sorrow/Birmingham Six (1988)
Life in Vinyl 1988

10. Carole King – Sweet Seasons (1970)
Any Major Laurel Canyon

11. Salome Bey – Hit The Nail Right On The Head (1970)
Any Major ABC of Canada

12. Chairmen Of The Board – Everything’s Tuesday (1970)
Any Major Lamont Dozier Songbook

13. Z.Z. Hill – Cheating In The Next Room (1982)
Any Major Soul 1982

14. The Bushmen – Pioggia (1966)
Any Major Beatles in Italian

15. Jody Reynolds – Endless Sleep (1958)
Any Major Teenage Tragedy

16. Merle Travis – So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed (1947)
Any Major Hits From 1947

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Any Major Favourites 2022 – Vol. 1

January 10th, 2023 2 comments

 

I noticed with some surprise that I’ve been doing these reviews of mixes posted throughout the gone year since 2015. Happily, it seems that people aren’t getting tired of what I’m doing in this little corner of the Internet, so I hope that I’ll be able to offer new Any Major Favourites comps in 2024.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What we have here is the first of two mixes featuring a song from each mix posted in 2022 (with the exception of the Party Like It’s 1981 set, which ran in December 2021, and the year’s only Christmas album). These songs are among my favourites on each compilation.

In the tracklisting, I give a link to the particular mix these tracks come from, for easy click-through in case you missed it the first time around. I also have these links in a PDF file that is included.

So, which Any Majors have I listened to most? Obviously I don’t keep count — that would be weird — but the one I have loved the most is the Any Major Laurel Canyon mix, which I had put together long before I posted it. Because it is my top mix of the year, it will feature again on Vol. 2.

Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 12 got a lot of play, as did the Songbooks of Carole King (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) and Elton John (actually, all the Songbooks did), the Any Major Hits from 1972 (Vol. 1 and Vol.2), and Albums of 1972 and 1982.

The Songbooks seems to be a very popular feature, and I have a few more in store for 2023. Poignantly, I compiled this playlist last month, before the death on New Year’s Eve of Anita Pointer. It closes with a song by the Pointer Sisters, from the Carole Bayer Sager Songbook, on which Anita took the lead vocals.

Older Any Major Favourite posts contain links to mixes you might have missed. Many of their links are still live. This post is also included as a PDF, for later reference.

At this point I want to thank the good people who have bought me coffees over the past year, and thereby helped in covering the costs of running this thing. With that, I wish everybody a superb and superbly healthy 2023.1. Rhinestones – Party Music (1975)
Any Major Party

2. Sad Café – Every Day Hurts (1979)
Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 12

3. Malo – Suavecito (1972)
Any Major Hits from 1972 – Vol. 1

4. The Style Council – Long Hot Summer (1983)
Best of Any Major Summer

5. Soft Cell – Where Did Our Love Go (1981)
Holland-Dozier-Holland Songbook

6. Richie Havens – Band On The Run (1974)
Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 2

7. Martha Reeves – Dixie Highway (1974)
Any Major Carole King Songbook Vol. 1

8. Claudia Lennear – It Ain’t Easy (1973)
Ziggy Stardust Recovered (1972)

9. The Allman Brothers Band – Blue Sky (1972)
Any Major Albums of the Year: 1972

10. Jimi Hendrix – Angel (1971)
Saved! Vol. 6 – The Angels edition

11. Judee Sill – Crayon Angels (1971)
Any Major Laurel Canyon

12. Dave Alvin – Surfer Girl (2006)
Brian Wilson Songbook

13. Joseph Arthur – Honey And The Moon (2002)
Any Major Sugar

14. Neil Diamond – Rocket Man (1978)
Any Major Elton John & Bernie Taupin Songbook

15. Swing Out Sister – Stoned Soul Picnic (1997)
Any Major Laura Nyro Songbook

16. Candi Staton – Nights On Broadway (1977)
Barry Gibb Songbook Vol. 2

17. Pointer Sisters – The Love Too Good To Last (1980)
Any Major Carole Bayer Sager Songbook

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In Memoriam – December 2022

January 5th, 2023 5 comments

What a depressingly brutal, never-ending pestilent month closed down the year 2022! The list of music people who deserved a write-up is much longer than what I could find the time for. Those who might have featured most other months include Maxi Jazz of UK dance group Faithless, Lars Lönndahl (the “Swedish Sinatra”), the drummer of the Young Rascals or the bassist of The Tubes, Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, rock & roll singer Charlie Gracie, and more.

It was a truly awful month for soul fans, with three huge losses and a few smaller ones, and for English new wave/punk/indie/dance fans, for Portugal and Sweden….

Lastly, if you are of a sensitive nature, better don’t translate the title of the song by Italian band Stadio.

 

The Philly Soul Man
In July we lost Delfonics singer William ‘Poogie’ Hart, now the writer, producer and arranger of most of those great hits by The Delfonics (and The Stylistics and The Spinners) has left us. Thom Bell was in the vanguard in defining Philly Soul in the late 1960s and the ’70s, along with his collaborators Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

The son of Jamaican immigrants once sang in a band with Gamble, Huff and Daryl Hall, the future sidekick of John Oates. A classically-trained musician, Bell first worked for the Cameo/Parkway label, writing a series of songs and producing Chubby Checker and, by 1967, The Del Fonics (who’d soon streamline their name). With Poogie Hart, Bell wrote harmonies-heavy hits which would shape what we’d come to call Philly Soul, such as the parentheses-heavy classics La-La (Means I Love You), Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time), and Ready Or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love). Bell also produced and arranged these tracks, and many others he didn’t co-write.

Other hits he wrote (many of them with Linda Creed) include The Stylistics’ I’m Stone In Love With You, You Make Me Feel Brand New, Betcha by Golly Wow, People Make The World Go Round, Ebony Eyes, Break Up To Make Up, Stop Look Listen (To Your Heart), and You Are Everything (the latter two were later covered by Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye); The Spinners’ I’ll Be Around, Ghetto Child, and The Rubberband Man (Bell only produced Could It Be I’m Falling In Love); Dusty Springfield’s Brand New Me (covered to great effect by Aretha Franklin); New York City’s I’m Doin’ Fine Now. (Links are to mixes that feature these tracks.)

Bell produced all the big Stylistics, Spinners and Delfonics hits, as well as records by acts like The O’Jays (including Backstabbers), Dionne Warwick (including her chart-topping duet with The Spinners, Then Came You), Johnny Mathis, Billy Paul, Ronnie Dyson, New York City, Elton John (including the 1979 hit Mama Can’t Buy You Love) and others. After Philly Soul faded away, Bell produced hits such as Deniece Williams’ It’s Gonna Take A Miracle James Ingram’s I Don’t Have The Heart.

In November we also lost Joseph Tarsia, in whose Sigma Sound Studios Bell created many of these hits.

The Pointer Sister
With the death on New Year’s Eve of Anita Pointer, there is only one surviving Pointer Sister, namely Ruth (who keeps carrying the Pointer flame with her daughter and granddaughter). Bonnie left us in 2020, and June in 2006.

Anita was the last sister to join the group. At one point, she was also in charge of making the most unexpected impact when she and Bonnie wrote the country-soul song Fairy Tale, a 1974 hit on which Anita took the lead vocals. It not only earned the sisters a Grammy for best country song but also a place on the stage of the usually integration-sceptic Grand Ole Opry. The following year, the song was covered by Elvis Presley. For the sisters, singing country was a normal extension of what they had grown up with. In 1986, Anita went on to have a country hit with Earl Thomas Conley, titled Too Many Times. The following year she released her only solo album.

Anita took the lead on many of Pointer Sister hits, including Yes We Can Can, Slow Hand, Fire (the original of which featured on Any Major Soul Originals Vol. 2), and the wonderful I’m So Excited.

The Specials One
Few artists manage to score hits with three different groups and then make a mark as a critically-acclaimed solo act. Terry Hall did so as lead singer of The Specials, then with his trio Fun Boy Three, then with The Colourfield — all in the space of just six years, between 1979 and ’85.

With The Specials he inspired a generation, in Britain and in many parts of Europe, of ska or two-tone fans. In 1981, Hall suddenly left The Specials and founded Fun Boy Three with two fellow Specials alumni. That group had hits of their own, and two more with Bananarama. One of these collaborations, with Bananarama as the headliners, was a cover of The Velvelettes’ Really Saying Something — and we lost a Velvelette in December, too.

In 1983, after four Top 10 hits — including Our Lips Are Sealed, which Hall wrote with The Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin — the trio split. Hall went on to found The Colourfield, another trio, which scored one hit with the wonderful Thinking Of You (featured on A Life In Vinyl 1985 Vol. 1). Further bands and collaborations — notably with the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart and Steven Duffy — followed.

For much of his life Hall suffered from depression, a result of a horrifying crime of sexual abuse when he was 12. Known for his political principles, humility and kindness, Hall was widely mourned after his death by cancer at only 63.

The Soul Builder
It was a fiddle-playing hillbilly who changed rhythm & blues music so fundamentally that the record label he co-founded and ran has become a byword for soul music. Jim Stewart, who has died at 92, was the co-founder of Stax Records, the label that gave us a galaxy of soul stars such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, William Bell, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Eddie Floyd, the Bar-Kays, Johnnie Taylor, The Staple Singers, and so on. The label’s name was a contraction of the first letters of Stewart’s surname and that of co-founder Estelle Axton, his sister.

Stax was a non-racial oasis in segregated Memphis, with even the house session band racially mixed. Atlantic Records sent many of their acts to record at Stax; Atlantic also was a distributor for Stax, and screwed over the label royally in the late 1960s. This and the death of Redding forced the label to rebuild itself, as a subsidiary of Paramount. It did so to spectacular effect in the early 1970s, giving us the eternal gift that is Isaac Hayes, culminating in 1972’s Wattstax concert, the “Black Woodstock”. Even Elvis Presley recorded at Stax.

But financial troubles soon hit, especially owed taxes. Stewart lost almost all he had trying to save Stax. He returned to producing in the 1980s, but soon left the music business.

 

The Inspirer
As half of the folky Canadian singing-songwriting duo Ian & Sylvia, Ian Tyson helped inspire the greats of the genre which his country would soon give to the world, such as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Gordon Lightfoot. The latter would later have a hit with his cover the duo’s Early Morning Rain, which featured in Any Major Orginals – The 1970s.

Tyson and Sylvia Fricker started performing in 1959, and had a number of hits as Ian & Sylvia and later with their band The Speckled Bird. They hosted a TV show, and in 2005 the Tyson-composed Four Strong Winds topped a poll by CBC Radio One listeners of the all-time greatest Canadian song. It has been covered by many great artists, including Canadians Neil Young and The Band.

Ian and Sylvia divorced amicably in 1975. Tyson enjoyed a long solo career in folk and country music.

The Strangler
In the first vanguard of punk in the UK were The Stranglers, though they could be better described as a pub-rock band. They certainly were older than the other bands in that vanguard, and drummer Jet Black was older than the other Stranglers. Black, who has died at 84, was in his late 30s when punk happened, and had success as a businessman before co-founding The Stranglers in 1974. He had 23 UK Top 40 singles with the band.

Black, born in 1938 as Brian Duffy, stayed with The Stranglers until 2018, when poor health forced his retirement.

The Velvelette
The narrative with Motown bands usually involve housing projects, high schools or factories. Not so with the Velvelettes, who had their roots at the music school of the Western Michigan University. There students Bertha Barbee-McNeal — who has died at 82 — and Mildred Gill formed The Velvelettes, roping in Bertha’s cousin Norma, Mildred’s sister Carolyn, and a friend. And it was their performances on campus that brought them to Motown’s attention in 1962.

The Velvelettes never broke huge — their biggest hit was the superb Needle In A Haystack, which reached US #45 — but they occupy a firm place in Motown’s history. By 1967, Bertha and all but one of the group left. Bertha went on to raise a family, obtained a masters degree in music education, and worked in that field in the Michigan city of Kalamazoo.

The Bob
The kindly Bob McGrath was a fixture of my childhood as one of the adults on Sesame Street, whose cast he joined at its inception 1969 and remained with for the following 36 years. Before he was Bob on Sesame Street, McGrath was a singer with easy listening legend Mitch Miller in the 1960s, and Miller presented an album of McGrath singing easy listening songs (it’s not my cup of tea, I have to say). McGrath also enjoyed a string of hits in Japan, singing in Japanese.

How decent a guy was Bob? Well, he remained married to his wife for 64 years, till his death at the age of 90.

 

The Composer
In June we lost Julee Cruise, who gave a voice to the theme of Twin Peaks. Now the theme’s composer Angelo Badalamenti, has followed her at the age of 85. The New York-born film and television composer had a rich vein of film scores, many with director David Lynch, including Blue Velvet, The Straight Story and Mulholland Drive. Badalamenti also scored films such as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The City of Lost Children, Holy Smoke!, and A Very Long Engagement.

In his long career, which started in 1962, he also recorded with acts like Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey, Pet Shop Boys, Dusty Springfield, Marianne Faithfull, and David Bowie.

The Krautrock Guitarist
As the leader of the groups Ash Ra Tempel (with drummer Klaus Schulze and bassist Hartmut Enke) and Ashra in the 1970s and 80s, Manuel Göttsching was one of the most influential guitarists of the Krautrock genre. Born in 1952 in West-Berlin, he drew his influences widely, from the pop and rock of the 1960s he grew up with, from classical music, and from the free jazz which encouraged the trained classical guitarist to improvise. According to Wikipedia, “his style and technique influenced dozens of artists in the post-Eno ambient and Berlin School of electronic music scenes in the 1980s and 1990s”, a statement I’m not qualified to cast doubt on.

The GOAT
I don’t know if Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo have conveyed their crooning skills to record, but Brazilian football legend Pelé made a couple of compentent turns as a bossa nova singer, in 1969 in a duet with Regina Elis (written by Pelé himself) and in 1977 for the Sergio Mendes-produced soundtrack to a film about the GOAT’s life. On the latter, Pelé was accompanied by singer Gracinha Leporace (who also happened to be Mendes’ wife). On saxophone we hear Gerry Mulligan, on drums Jim Keltner — both also legends in their fields.

The Latino Belgian
Among the most unusual exponents of Latin music were the Chakachas, whose recording career spanned almost 20 years, from 1958 to 1977. Formed in Brussels, its members were all Flemish Belgians (and a Dutchman), including bandleader and percussionist Gaston Bogaerts, who has died at 101.

In the 1950s and 1960s — a time when cultural appropriation was not a problem yet — the Chakachas created Latin dance music, and even entered the lower reaches of the UK charts once, The group may be best known for their superb 1970 Latin funk song Jungle Fever, or perhaps 1972’s funk groover Stories.

 

The Casey
When The Beatles were one of several beat groups among many, their rivals for Merseybeat supremacy included Cass & the Cassanovas, whose leader Brian Casser (a.k.a. Casey Jones) has died at 86. Casser also ran his own club in Liverpool, the Casanova Club, where The Silver Beetles appeared. There is a story according to which it was Casser who suggested that the young band change the spelling of their proposed rebranded name from The Beatals to The Beatles.

Having moved to London, Casser restyled himself as Casey Jones, and formed Casey Jones and The Engineers, with whom he recorded a 1963 single, One Way Ticket. The group at one point included pre-fame Eric Clapton and Tom McGuinness. Soon Casey moved to Germany, where his group, now Casey Jones & The Governors, followed in the Beatles’ footsteps with a residency at Hamburg’s Star Club. The group had a few hits in West Germany, including Don’t Ha Ha, a reworking of Huey Smith’s Don’t You Just Know It.

Casey remained in Germany, working later as a DJ, and died there on December 27.

The Moog Co-inventor
One featured track here isn’t much to listen to, except as a historic artefact: “Jazz Images – A Worksong And Blues” was the first piece of music ever written for the Moog synthesizer by the instrument’s co-inventor, Herbert Deutsch, who has died at 90.

For pop music, the introduction of the Moog was a moment of revolution, with Giorgio Moroder being at the forefront in popularising it through his song Son Of My Father, which became a global hit in Chicory Tip’s cover in 1972.

The Hep Swede
In the 1960s, one of Sweden’s biggest groups was the Hep Stars, whose keyboard player, Benny Anderson, went on to become a global star and musical genius as one of the Bs in ABBA. At the height of their success, the Hep Stars’ lead singer was Svenne Hedlund, who has died at 77.

Hedlund was also a member of the band Idolerna, and with his US-born singer wife Charlotte formed the duo Svenne & Lotta in the late 1960s, having a string of minor hits in Europe as Sven & Charlotte (they divorced in 2014). The featured songs by the duo were written by old pals: Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA. Dance is a cover of the ABBA album track, Funky Feet was intended for ABBA’s Arrival album but was rejected because it supposedly sounded too much like Dancing Queen.As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Andrew Speight, 58, Australian-born saxophonist, in train accident on Dec. 1

Jo Carol Pierce, 78, singer-songwriter and playwright, on Dec. 2
Jo Carol Pierce – Borderline Tango (1995)

Svenne Hedlund, 77, Swedish singer (Hep Stars), on Dec. 3
The Hep Stars – Sunny Girl (1966)
Sven & Charlotte – Dance (While The Music Still Goes On) (1974)
Svenne & Lotta – Funky Feet (1977)

Bobby Naughton, 78, jazz vibraphonist and pianist, on Dec. 3
Bobby Naughton – Nauxtagram (2014)

Alexandre Zelkine, 84, French folk music singer, on Dec. 3

Jamie Freeman, 57, British singer and songwriter (actor Martin’s brother), on Dec. 3
The Jamie Freeman Agreement – Steel Away (2013)

Manuel Göttsching, 70, German musician (Ash Ra Tempel) and composer, on Dec. 4
Ash Ra Tempel – Daydream (1973)
Ashra – Sunrain (1977)

Jim Stewart, 92, co-founder of Stax Records, producer, on Dec. 5
Otis Redding – Respect (1965, as producer)
Wilson Pickett – 634-5789 (Soulsville) (1966, as producer)
The Soul Children – Hearsay (1972, as producer)
Shirley Brown – Woman To Woman (1974, as co-producer)

Bob McGrath, 90, actor and singer (Sesame Street), on Dec. 4
Bob McGrath – On The Street Where You Live (1965)
Bob and Sesame Street Cast – People In Your Neighborhood (1969)

Hamsou Garba, 63, Niger singer, on Dec. 5

Jess Barr, 46, guitarist of alt.country band Slobberbone, on Dec. 5
Slobberbone – Pinball Song (2000)

Alexandre Zelkine, 84, French folk music singer, on Dec. 5

Jet Black, 84, drummer of The Stranglers, on Dec. 6
The Stranglers – (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) (1977)
The Stranglers – Nice ‘n’ Sleazy (1978)
The Stranglers – Always The Sun (1986)

Hamish Kilgour, 65, co-founder of New Zealand indie band The Clean, found Dec. 6
The Clean – Flowers (1982)

Peter Cooper, 52, country singer, songwriter, producer, exec, journalist, on Dec. 6
Peter Cooper – Wine (2008)

Fionna Duncan, 83, Scottish jazz singer, on Dec. 6

Carmen Jara, 85, Spanish copla singer, on Dec. 6
Carmen Jara – Amor que te di (1966)

Quin Ivy, 85, soul songwriter and producer, on Dec. 7
Percy Sledge – When A Man Loves A Woman (1966, as co-producer)
Bill Brandon – Rainbow Road (1969, as producer)

Roddy Jackson, 80, rock & roll singer, songwriter and pianist, on Dec. 7
Roddy Jackson – I’ve Got My Sights On Someone New (1958)

Mack Allen Smith, 84, rockabilly and blues singer, on Dec. 7
Mack Allen Smith – Skeleton Fight (1964)

Leno, 73, Brazilian singer, guitarist and composer, on Dec. 8

Djalma Corrêa, 80, Brazilian musician and composer, on Dec. 8
Djalma Correa – Salsa (1984)

Yitzhak Klepter, 72, guitarist of Israeli bands The Churchills, Kaveret, on Dec. 8

Gaston Bogaerts, 101, bandleader and percussionist of Belgian Latin-funk band Chakachas, on Dec. 9
Les Chakachas – Eso es el amor (1958)
Chakachas – Jungle Fever (1970)
Chakachas – Stories (1972)

Herbert Deutsch, 90, co-inventor of the Moog synthesizer, composer, on Dec. 9
Herbert Deutsch – Jazz Images – A Worksong And Blues (1960s, first music written for Moog)

Tony Hill, rhythm guitarist of UK-based rock group The Misunderstood, announced Dec. 10
The Misunderstood – I Can Take You To The Sun (1966, also as co-writer)

J.J. Barnes, 79, soul singer, on Dec. 10
J. J. Barnes – Hold On To It (1968)
J.J. Barnes – She’s Mine (1976)

Tshala Muana, 64, Congolese singer, on Dec. 10
Tshala Muana – Cicatrice d’amour (1985)

Zak Godwin, 57, rock guitarist and singer, in hit-and-run on Dec. 10
Zak Godwin – Missin’ The Muse (2000)

José Ángel Trelles, 78, Argentine singer, musician and composer, on Dec. 10

Tracy Hitchings, 60, former lead singer of UK prog-rock group Landmarq, on Dec. 10
Landmarq – Prayer (Coming Home) (2012)

Georgia Holt, 96, singer and actress (mother of Cher), on Dec. 10
Georgia Holt – I Sure Don’t Want To Love You (2013)

Angelo Badalamenti, 85, film and television composer, on Dec. 11
Christine Hunter – Santa Bring Me Ringo (1964, as co-writer and arranger)
Nina Simone – I Hold No Grudge (1967, as co-writer)
Angelo Badalamenti – Theme from Twin Peaks (1990, as writer and conductor)

Stuart Margolin, 82, TV actor, singer and songwriter, on Dec. 12
Shango – Day After Day (It’s Slippin’ Away) (1969, as co-writer)

Roberto Ferri, 75, Italian singer and songwriter, on Dec. 12

Ekambi Brillant, 74, Cameroonian makossa singer, on Dec. 12
Ekambi Brillant – Ayo Mba (1977)

Sol Amarfio, 84, Ghanaian drummer of Afro-funk band Osibisa, on Dec. 13
Osibisa – Flying Bird Anoma (1976)

Lalo Rodríguez, 64, Puerto Rican salsa singer, on Dec. 13
Lalo Rodriguez – Tu No Sabes Querer (1980)

Grand Daddy I.U., 54, rapper with Juice Crew, on Dec. 13
Grand Daddy I.U. – Something New (1990)

Kim Simmonds, 75, founder and guitarist of English rock group Savoy Brown, on Dec. 13
Savoy Brown – Cold Hearted Woman (1981)

Benjamin Bossi, 69, saxophonist of new wave band Romeo Void, on Dec. 13
Romeo Void – A Girl In Trouble (Is A Temporary Thing) (1984)

Koji Ryu, 60, member of Japanese pop band C-C-B, on Dec. 14

Rock Nalle, 79, Danish rock musician, on Dec. 14
Nalle – Amanda (1980)

Djene Djento, 59, Cameroonian singer-songwriter, on Dec. 14

Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss, 40, DJ on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, suicide announced Dec. 14

Dino Danelli, 78, drummer of The Rascals, on Dec. 15
The Young Rascals – Good Lovin’ (1966)
The Young Rascals – How Can I Be Sure (1967)

Shirley Eikhard, 67, Canadian singer-songwriter, on Dec. 15
Shirley Eikhard – Say You Love Me (1976, as writer)

Bertha Barbee-McNeal, 82, founding member of The Velvelettes, on Dec. 16
The Velvelettes – Needle In A Haystack (1964)
The Velvelettes – These Things Will Keep Me Loving You (1966)

Rick Anderson, 75, bassist of The Tubes, on Dec. 16
The Tubes – Don’t Touch Me There (1976)
The Tubes – The Monkey Time (1983)

Jean-Paul Corbineau, 74, singer-songwriter with French folk-rock band Tri Yann, on Dec. 16
Tri Yann – Si mort à mors (1981, also as co-writer)

DJ Shog, 46, German trance DJ and producer, on Dec. 16

Charlie Gracie, 86, rock & roll singer, on Dec. 17
Charlie Gracie – Butterfly (1957)

Yuji Tanaka, 65, drummer of Japanese rock band Anzen Chitai, on Dec. 17

Terry Hall, 63, English singer and songwriter, on Dec. 18
The Specials – Gangsters (1983)
Fun Boy Three – The Tunnel Of Love (1983)
Colourfield – Castles In The Air
Terry Hall – Sonny And His Sister (1997)

Martin Duffy, 55, keyboardist with English groups Felt, Primal Scream, on Dec. 18
Felt feat. Elizabeth Fraser – Primitive Painters (1985)
Primal Scream – Rocks (1994)

Sandy Edmonds, 74, New Zealand pop singer, on Dec. 19
Sandy Edmonds – Daylight Saving Time (1967)

Randy Begg, 71, drummer of Canadian pop band Wednesday, on Dec. 20
Wednesday – Last Kiss (1973)

Iain Templeton, drummer of British rock band Shack, on Dec. 20
Shack – Natalie’s Party (1999)

Anton Habibulin, 44, guitarist of Russian rick band Tantsy Minus, on Dec. 20

Claudisabel, 40, Portuguese singer, car accident on Dec. 20
Claudisabel – Não Vou Voltar A Chorar (2002)

Mauro Sabbione, 65, keyboardist of Italian pop group Matia Bazar, on Dec. 21

Harvey Jett, 73, guitarist of rock band Black Oak Arkansas (1970–74), on Dec. 21
Black Oak Arkansas – Hot And Nasty (1971)

Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington, 79, blues singer and guitarist, on Dec. 22
Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington – It’s Rainin’ In My Life (2011)

Thom Bell, 79, Jamaican-born soul songwriter, producer and arranger, on Dec. 22
The Delfonics – Ready Or Not Here I Come (1969, as co-writer, co-producer, arranger)
The Stylistics – You Make Me Feel Brandnew (1973, as co-writer, producer)
Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye – You Are Everything (1974, as writer)
The Spinners – Rubberband Man (1976, as co-writer, producer)

Big Scarr, 22, rapper, on Dec. 22

Maxi Jazz, 65, musician, rapper, singer, songwriter of UK electronic band Faithless, on Dec. 23
Maxi Jazz – What More Can I Say? (1992)
Faithless feat. Dido – One Step Too Far (2002, also as co-writer)

Massimo Savić, 60, Croatian singer of Yugoslav rock band Dorian Gray, on Dec. 23

Madosini, 78, South African traditional musician, on Dec. 24
Madonisi – Uthando Luphelile (1997)

Mampintsha, 40, member of South African kwaito band Big Nuz, on Dec. 24
Big Nuz – Serious (2013, also as co-writer)

Freddie Roulette, 83, blues guitarist and singer, on Dec. 24
Freddie Roulette – Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven (1999)

Luther ‘Guitar Junior’ Johnson, 83, blues singer and guitarist, on Dec. 25
Luther Johnson – Luther’s Blues (1976)

Camilo Azuquita, 76, Panamanian salsa singer and composer, on Dec. 25
Camilo Azuquita – Borombon (1969)

Penda Dallé, 64, Cameroonian Mokassa musician and artist, on Dec. 26

Lasse Lönndahl, 94, Swedish singer and actor, on Dec. 26
Lars Lönndahl – Tangokavaljeren (1949)

Alexander Shevchenko, 61, Russian singer, composer and producer, on Dec. 26

James ‘Jabbo’ Ware, 80, jazz saxophonist, on Dec. 26

Ashley Henderson, bassist of Australian soul-funk band Stylus, announced Dec. 27
Stylus – I Just Don’t Wanna Fall In Love (1976, also as writer)
Stylus  Funky Fig (1976, also as co-writer)

Harry Sheppard, 94, jazz vibraphonist, on Dec. 27

Brian Casser, 86, British rock & roll singer and guitarist, announced Dec. 27
Casey Jones and His Engineers – One Way Ticket (1963)
Casey Jones & The Governors – Don’t Ha Ha (1964)

Jo Mersa Marley, 31, Jamaican reggae musician, Bob’s grandson, on Dec. 27

John Neff, 71, musician, songwriter, producer, engineer, producer, on Dec. 27
Buffy Sainte-Marie – Starwalker (1992, on bass)

Pat Briggs, member of industrial band Psychotica, on Dec. 27

Scott Nash, bassist of Australian hard rock band Asteroid B-612, on Dec. 28
Asteroid B-612 – Edge A Little Closer (1994)

Linda de Suza, 74, Portuguese singer, on Dec. 28
Linda de Suza – Un Portugais (1978)

Black Stalin, 81, Trinidadian calypso musician, on Dec. 28

Ian Tyson, 89, Canadian folk singer and songwriter, half of Ian & Sylvia, on Dec. 29
Ian & Sylvia – Four Strong Winds (1963, also as writer)
Ian Tyson – Fifty Years Ago (1963, also as writer

Pelé, 82, Brazilian football legend and bossa nova singer, on Dec. 29
Pelé & Elis Regina – Perdão, Não Tem (1969, also as writer)
Pelé & Gracinha – Meu Mundo é Uma Bola (1977)

Margriet Eshuijs, 70, Dutch singer, on Dec. 29

Giovanni Pezzoli, 70, drummer of Italian pop-rock group Stadio, on Dec. 29
Stadio – Grande figlio di puttana (1982)

Vivienne Westwood, 81, British fashion designer and punk pioneer, on Dec. 29
The Sex Pistols – Who Killed Bambi (1979, as co-writer)

Jeremiah Green, 45, drummer of indie band Modest Mouse, on Dec. 30
Modest Mouse – The View (2004)

Anita Pointer, 74, singer and songwriter with the Pointer Sisters, on Dec. 31
The Pointer Sisters – Fairy Tale (1974, also as co-writer and on lead vocals)
The Pointer Sisters – Fire (1979, also on lead vocals)
The Pointer Sisters – I’m So Excited (1982, also as co-writer and on lead vocals)
Anita Pointer – Temporarily Blue (1987)

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Party Like It’s 1982

December 27th, 2022 3 comments

 

 

As every year since 2016, I see out the old year with a mix of old-school dance tracks which may move you to, as the kids say today, shake your tailfeather. Since 2018, these mixes are themed to cover the corresponding year 40 years previously. So this year, we’re partying like it’s 1982.

By 1982, disco was dead and yet still very much alive. Only, nobody called it “disco” anymore. Rap was starting to make inroads into the genre formerly known as disco, as was the sound that would become known as HiNRG, though not on any of the present tracks.

And while some of the dance music carried echoes of disco, some of it anticipated the future. On this collection, the most interesting example of that is Nasty Girl by Prince-protégées Vanity 6. A trio of female singers, the group anticipated Destiny’s Child by more than 15 years. 1982’s Nasty Girl — written and produced by Prince, though songwriting credit was given to Vanity — sounds like it could have been a Destiny’s Child song in the year 2000. And on her 2016 tour, Beyoncé mashed up the song with her song Blow.

Nasty Girl closes the CD-R length playlist, but there are seven bonus tracks to carry your New Year’s Eve party — be it with booty-shaking guests or just you and your loved one in the kitchen cooking a supper — for two hours. There are many previous Disco and Party Like It’s … mixes to revisit; I think all links are live.

And with that, I wish you a good slide into the New Year, and a 2023 marked by peace, exultations and absurdly good health.

1. Imagination – Music And Lights
2. Gwen Guthrie – It Should Have Been You
3. Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King – Love Come Down
4. Shalamar – A Night To Remember
5. Sharon Brown – I Specialise In Love
6. Fat Larry’s Band – Act Like You Know It
7. Linda Taylor – You And Me Just Started
8. Aretha Franklin – Jump To It
9. Stevie Wonder – Do I Do (Single Version)
10. Patrice Rushen – Number One
11. Skyy – Let Love Shine
12. Alicia Myers – I Want To Thank You
13. Sharon Redd – In The Name Of Love
14. Tony Sherman – Ellovee-Ee
15. Vanity 6 – Nasty Girl
BONUS TRACKS
16. Gap Band – You Dropped A Bomb On Me
17. Carrie Lucas – Show Me Where You’re Coming From
18. Shades Of Love – Keep In Touch (Body To Body)
19. Candela – Love You Madly
20. Melba Moore – Mind Up Tonight
21. Montana Sextet – Heavy Vibes
22. Third World – Try Jah Love

GET IT! or HERE!

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Any Major Hits From 1947

December 20th, 2022 7 comments

 

 

We had our fix of Any Major Christmas last week, with the multi-lingual festive mix. Today, there’s a chance to get a nice Christmas present for your mom, dad, aunt, uncle, friend, patient etc over 80, who may enjoy a nostalgia trip with hits from 1947 — 75 years ago. Of course, younger people and you might enjoy it, too. I’m enjoying this compilation tremendously.

1947 was just a short seven years before rock & roll exploded on the scene. In some of the featured songs, the rumblings of the nascent genre can be heard, like distant thunder before the lightning. Those tracks must have sounded quite startling 75 years ago.

Other songs are, of course, of their time. But, hell, you can feel how the jumpin’ boogie of the opening songs must have electrified the USA’s youngsters, and horrified their elders. The biggest juke box star of 1947 was Louis Jordan, a black musician to whose music white kids danced, much as their nieces and nephews would dance to Little Richard and Chuck Berry a decade later.

So this mix isn’t necessarily representative of the hits of 1947, though all were US hits. In compiling this collection, I tried to imagine what music I might have listened to, had I been a youngster in 1947 — and filtered out the many boring crooning ballads by tenors who come in only halfway slow big band tootlings. I certainly would have enjoyed the humour in several of these songs; Tex Williams’ Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! especially still makes me laugh. And if the squares thought that libertine attitudes arrived only with rock & roll, let them hear Julia Lee and Her Boy Friends talk about S-E-X.

I don’t know if I would have been able to swerve between genres; I’d be quite interested to know if such boundaries existed, or whether it was natural to hear jump one minute and country the next. For our purposes, let’s assume that it was possible.

This mix is a good companion piece to the Any Major Hits from 1944 collection I posted three years ago. And if you dig your music in black & white, there’s more, including several Christmas mixes. There’s

Any Major Christmas in Black & White Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas in Black & White Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas in Black & White Vol. 3
Any Major 1940s Christmas
Any Major 1950s Christmas
Any Major Doo Wop X-Mas
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Any Major ABCs: 1950s
New York in Black & White
Germany’s Hit Parade 1930-37
Germany’s Hit Parade 1938-45
Saved Vol. 1
Saved Vol. 4

And, of course, there are more recent Any Major Hits mixes: 1961, 1970, 1971, 1972 Vol. 1 and 1972 Vol. 2.

 

Beach-goers in California in December 1947.

 

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-rationed covers. The text above is included in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

And with that, I wish you a Merry Christmas!

1. Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five – Let The Good Times Roll
2. The Five Blazes – Chicago Boogie
3. Bull Moose Jackson and His Buffalo Bearcats – I Love You, Yes I Do
4. Ella Fitzgerald & Delta Rhythm Boys – (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons
5. Margaret Whiting – Old Devil Moon
6. Annie Laurie with Paul Gayten and His Trio – Since I Fell For You
7. Frank Sinatra – I Believe
8. Dorothy Shay – Feudin’ And Fightin’
9. Tex Williams – Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)
10. Merle Travis – So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed
11. Hank Williams – Move It On Over
12. Peggy Lee – It’s A Good Day
13. The Mills Brothers – Across The Alley From The Alamo
14. Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers – Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah
15. Hoagy Carmichael – Old Buttermilk Sky
16. Tony Pastor and His Orchestra – The Lady From 29 Palms
17. The Andrews Sisters – Near You
18. Art Lund – And Mimi
19. Dinah Shore – How Soon (Will I Be Seeing You)
20. Buddy Clark – Peg O’ My Heart
21. Savannah Churchill and The Sentimentalists – I Want To Be Loved (But Only By You)
22. King Cole Trio – Meet Me At No Special Place (And I’ll Be There At No Particular Time)
23. Julia Lee and Her Boy Friends – Snatch And Grab It
24. The Ink Spots – Ask Anyone Who Knows
25. Erskine Hawkins and His Orchestra – Hawk’s Boogie
26. Desi Arnaz and His Orchestra – Babalu’
27. Count Basie and His Orchestra – Open The Door, Richard!

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More Mixes
More A Year In Hits
More Music in Black & White

Any Major Polygot Christmas

December 12th, 2022 3 comments

This year there’ll be only one Any Major Christmas mix, simply because this one took so much time to put together — a compilation of Christmas pop standards covered in different languages: French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedish, Portuguese, Finnish, Icelandic, Greek, Czech, Hungarian, Korean… and one dialect, Kölsch, which is spoken in the German city of Cologne.

Apologies if your language didn’t make it. I hope you will enjoy hearing the Christmas songs we know in different languages anyway. Of course, I cannot vouch for it that the artists performing these songs have any kind of cool factor in their country, because most of them I know nothing about.

I do know that Heintje does not meet the definition of cool in Germany or the Netherlands. The Dutch-born boy singer was a superstar in Germany in the late 1960s and early ’70s, as the model-grandson singer of sentimental songs and as an actor in those compellingly bad German Schlager “comedies” (Schatzi haut den Pauker auf die Schnauze). In the 1970s, practically every West German family had Heintje’s first Christmas album rom 1968. The present track was released in 1971, just before poor Heintje’s voice broke. As Hein Simon, he tried to revive his career, but nobody wanted a grown-up Heintje.

Two acts here are superstar-famous, though one of them didn’t know her fame-filled future yet when the featured track was recorded. Céline Dion was a 13-year-old singer in Québec when she recorded her Christmas album, on which the producer must have had a yen for reggae.

The other superstar closes this set: In 1980 Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA recorded an album of Christmas songs in Swedish with her little daughter Linda, whose father was (and still is) Björn Ulvaeus. The album, released in 1981, featured no other ABBA members, but some of the usual studio gang were playing on it.

Next week I’ll help you out with a last-minute Christmas present for family or friends over 80: a mix of hits from 1947 (seeing as it’s 75 years ago). I think people under 80 will enjoy it, too.

I think all Any Major Christmas mixes are still up on Zippy. If you need one that isn’t, post your request in the comments.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and features joyeux-noëled covers. PW in comments.

1. Guy Cloutier – Voici le Père Noël (Here Comes Santa Claus, French) (1964)
2. Gerhard Wendland – Weißer Winderwald (Winter Wonderland, German) (1954)
3. Aldo Donà – Bianco Natale (White Christmas, Italian) (1948)
4. Michèle Richard – Joyeux Noël (The Christmas Song, French) (1966)
5. Fernand Gignac – C’est Noël (Silver Bells, French) (1961)
6. Gals & Pals – Jingeling-tingeling (Sleigh Ride, Swedish) (1963)
7. Castel et Casti – Monsieur la Neige (Frosty The Snowman, French) (1958)
8. Celly Campello – Jingle Bell Rock (Portuguese) (1960)
9. Cho Young Nam – Blue Christmas (Korean) (1971)
10. Vera Špinarová – Až za modrou horou (Merry X-Mas [War Is Over], Czech) (1974)
11. Katy Garbi – Ώρα Χριστουγέννων (I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Greek) (1998)
12. Szandi – Rock a karácsonyfa körül (Rock Around The Christmas Tree, Hungarian) (1993)
13. Willeke Alberti – Ik wil niet alleen zijn met Kerst (Lonely This Christmas, Dutch) (1991)
14. Nada Urbánková – Dlouhá zima (It’s Gonna Be A Cold Cold Christmas, Czech) (1982)
15. Lasse Lindbom Band – Om jag bara fick en elgitarr till jul (I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day, Swedish) (1979)
16. Erna Gunnarsdóttir – Enn Jólin (Last Christmas, Icelandic) (1986)
17. Menneisyyden Vangit – Hyvää Joulua Kaikille (Merry Xmas Everybody, Finnish) (2005)
18. Zoe Kluss – El Mejor Regalo Eres Tú (All I Want For Christmas, Spanish) (2017)
19. Köster & Hocker – Weihnachtsmärche us Kölle (Fairytale Of New York, Kölsch) (2017)
20. Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea – Santa Baby (Spanish) (2007)
21. Götz Alsmann  – Der Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, German) (2006)
22. Jaci Velasquez – Hoy que es Navidad (…Merry Little Christmas, Spanish) (2001)
23. Céline Dion – J’ai Vu Maman Embrasser Le Père Noël (I Saw Mommy…, French) (1981)
24. Eiríkur Hauksson – Jólaþankar (I Believe In Father Christmas, Icelandic) (1986)
25. Heintje – Der kleine Trommler (The Little Drummer Boy, German) (1971)
26. Agnetha & Linda – Bjallerklang (Jingle Bells, Swedish) (1981)

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More Christmas Mixes
Any Major Christmas Favourites
Any Major 1980s Christmas
Any Major 1970s Christmas
Any Major 1960s Christmas
Any Major 1950s Christmas
Any Major 1940s Christmas
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2

The Originals: Christmas Edition
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Christmas Bells
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 3
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Any Major Doo Wop Christmas
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Any Major X-Mas Blues
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
Any Major Christmas ABC
Any Major Gals’ Christmas
Any Major Santa Claus Vol. 1
Song Swarm: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Or all in one place

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In Memoriam – November 2022

December 6th, 2022 6 comments

In a busy month for the Reaper, the age-range of victims he claimed was huge: the oldest was 104, the youngest 24. The former first appeared in stage in 1930 and had her first hit in 1939; the latter, Danish singer Hugo Helmig, had his first international hit in 2017. I had never heard of Helmig before, but he clearly was an appealing artist. As I’ll explain later, the In Memoriam series is a good way of discovering new music; I enjoyed checking out Helmig’s music, and feel sad that there won’t be any more of it.

Another death of a singer I had never heard of before touched me this month. Jake Flint, a singer-songwriter in the red dirt sub-genre of country, should have started a tour last Friday. Instead he died in his sleep at the age of 37. The tragic kicker: Flint died a day and a half after his wedding… His widow Brenda wrote: “We should be going through wedding photos but instead I have to pick out clothes to bury my husband in.”

 

The Perfect Christine
Nothing against the name McVie, but why would you take that name when your birth-name was Perfect, literally. When Christine Perfect married Fleetwood Mac’s John McVie she took his surname, to become Christine McVie — even though she had already enjoyed success with her “maiden” name, as a solo act and as the lead singer of Chicken Shack. With the latter, she had a big hit with a cover of Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind. In 1969 and 1970, she was voted female vocalist of the year in the UK music weekly Melody Maker.

Few would have bet on it that Christine McVie would become the first of the classic Fleetwood Mac line-up to die, even though at 79, she was the oldest. She just seemed the most grounded of the lot, the one least likely to overdo the drug and the booze.

Her songwriting contribution to Fleetwood Mac was immense, with songs such as Over My Head, Warm Ways, Say You Love Me, Don’t Stop, Songbird, You Make Loving Fun, Oh Daddy, Think About Me, Love In Store, Hold Me, Little Lies, and Everywhere. On the Fleetwood Mac’s 1988 Greatest Hits album, half of the 16 tracks were written or co-written by Christine McVie. Shhe was the centre of Fleetwood Mac.

Remember Her Name
She should have been a superstar, as a singer, an actress and a dancer. The 1980 film Fame set Irene Cara up for both, with her having already made a mark in the title role of the musical drama Sparkle. She played a central role in Fame, performed the superb title song, sang the showstopper Out Her On My Own, and was part of the other great Fame track, I Sing The Body Electric. Cara was the first singer to perform two Oscar-nominated songs at an Academy Awards show. With her talents and beauty, she should have been the biggest star in the world.

It didn’t go that way. Three years after Fame, Cara had a mega-hit with Flashdance…What A Feeling, one of the great pop sings of the 1980s, which she also co-wrote and for which she won an Oscar. But again, the huge success didn’t translate into great, well, fame. In 1984 she had a final US Top 10 hit, with the mediocre Breakdance. Her total US chart history: Three Top 10 hits, two Top 20s, one Top 40, two Top 100s.

Because of a long-running law suit with her record label over unpaid royalties (which she eventually won, after eight years), Cara was effectively blacklisted, with RSO — the label for which she had helped make so much money through the Fame soundtrack — sending out threatening letters to other labels, warning them off Cara. Her recording career ground to a halt after her 1987 Carasmatic album, until in 2011 she formed an R&B group called Hot Caramel, with whom she released one CD. Cara also recorded in Spanish (she was half-black Cuban, half-Puerto Rican). Before she was blackballed, she appeared in a few movies, contributed to soundtracks, and did backing vocals. In the 1990s, she had a few minor dance hits in Europe

The Black Monroe
In the 1950s, Joyce Bryant was known as the “Black Marilyn Monroe”, and inspired singers like Etta James to play with sexuality in their music. Born in 1928, Bryant made her mark as a nightclub singer in the 1940s. One night she decided to paint her hair silver in a bid to upstage Josephine Baker. It became her trademark. A young woman of great courage, she broke the colour barsin Miami when she performed at a whites-only club, despite threats and the KKK burning her in effigy.

Regarded as one of the first black sex symbols, Bryant also had a successful recording career in the early 1950s, scoring a hit with her version of Love For Sale, which got banned from radio for being too raunchy. And suddenly in 1955, she left the music business because it clashed with her fervent religious beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist, and because she was disgusted with the exploitative club culture, with its gangsters and violence against women (she once was beaten in her dressing room after rejecting the advances of a man). She’d later return in the 1960s as a vocal coach and opera singer.

By then, Bryant was immersed in civil rights activism and social upliftment projects, often working with Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

The Pub Rock Executioner
The roots of UK punk are diverse, but leading among them was the pub rock scene, some of whose exponents, such as The Stranglers, were considered part of the punk vanguard. Perhaps the most influential of those on punk and the post-punk wave was Dr. Feelgood, a blues-rock band formed in 1971. Its co-founder and guitarist was Wilko Johnson, whose moniker is a near anagram of his real name, John Wilkinson. His percussive fingerstyle guitar playing (without a pick) has been so influential that in some circles he became a cult figure.

Johnson, who has died at 75 after a long battle with cancer, founded a string of bands after leaving Dr. Feelgood in 1977, but in 1980 he joined an already successful band, Ian Dury’s Blockheads, for a few years. He was a friend of collaborations, the most high-profile of these may be the one he struck up with Who frontman Roger Daltrey in 2014.

In between, Johnson filled the central part in perhaps the most pivotal scene in the TV series Game Of Thrones: he played the executioner who cut off Ned Stark’s head. He was well-qualified for that role — his BA degree in English and Literature included courses on Anglo-Saxon and ancient Icelandic sagas, which pretty much is the GoT universe.

 

The Sinatra Discoverer
It is quite mind-blowing that until just a couple of weeks ago, a singer who had helped a still quite unknown Frank Sinatra along the way to stardom was still with us. Louise Tobin died on November 26 at the age of 104 — 92 year after she first performed on stage. In the 1930s she was singing with bandleaders like Benny Goodman while being married to another famous bandleader, Harry James. It was on Tobin’s recommendation that James signed Frank Sinatra to his first gig fronting a big band, in March 1939, before the kid moved on to Tommy Dorsey. It was with Harry James and his Orchestra that Sinatra recorded his first record, a commercial flop.

That same year, Tobin had a big hit as the vocalist for Benny Goodman with I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (a Rodgers & Hart song Sinatra would sing in 1954 for the film Pal Joey). Tobin recorded and performed with a string of big bands in the 1940s; her reputation was such that Johnny Mercer wrote a song about her, Louise Tobin Blues. In the 1950s Tobin withdrew from music to raise her sons.

She made a well-received comeback in 1962, and toured extensively for many years. In between, she co-owned a jazz club in Denver with second husband Peanuts Hucko, at which both also performed.

The Bob Marley Keyboardist
Do you remember Grace Jones’ 1983 song My Jamaican Guy? It was about reggae keyboardist Tyrone Downie, who has died at 66. By the time Grace serenaded about him, Downie was already a veteran of Jamaica’s reggae scene, as a recording artist in his own right and as keyboardist for several top acts, including Bob Marley & The Wailers (on albums like Exodus, Babylon By Bus, Kaya, Survival, and Uprising), and Peter Tosh (such as Legalize It, Equal Rights), sometimes also contributing backing vocals. He was also part of the Marley & The Wailer’s live band.

He also backed acts like Burning Spear, Johnny Nash, Dennis Brown, Rita Marley, Grace Jones, Tom Tom Club, Ian Dury, Sly & Robbie, Garland Jeffreys, Deniece Williams, Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGregor, Gregory Isaacs, Black Uhuru, Ziggy Marley, Youssou N’Dour, Shabba Ranks and many others.

The Lo-Fier
It is a shame that cancer claimed Mimi Parker, singer and drummer of indie band Low, just a few weeks before Christmas, since the band released a string of Christmas-themed songs over a three-decade career, with titles such as Just Like Christmas, If You Were Born Today (Song for Little Baby Jesus), Santa’s Coming Over, and Some Hearts (At Christmas Time). And yet, when it comes to long battles with cancer and the bastard is winning it, release may be a matter of joy. And as a Mormon, Parker believed that death would not be the end. I hope Mimi’s was a good death.

Low were Parker and husband Alan Sparhawk, plus the occasional bassist. Mimi was mostly in charge of the low-fi sound, which is said to have reflected her quiet nature, while Alan was the rockier component.

The Sound Man
Philly Soul is mostly the creation of Gamble, Huff and Bell, but it was also the sound of Joseph Tarsia, in whose Sigma Sound Studios much of the Sound of Philadelphia was created. And often, Tarsia would be involved in the recordings as an engineer, alone or with other engineers.

In the 1960s, Tarsia worked as a recording engineer with Cameo Parkway Records (whose roster included future Philly legends such as Dee Dee Sharp and Bunny Sigler). In 1967 he decided to set up his own studio. He sold his car, house and other possessions, and leased an old studio in Philadelphia, upgrading its equipment from 2-track to 8-track. Among the early clients were The Delfonics, who recorded their 1968 La La I Love You album there. Soon the studio had to run around the clock to accommodate demand that ranged from Aretha Franklin to ZZ Top.

In 1976 Tarsia opened three studios in New York, also named Sigma Sound Studios. Among those who recorded there were Steely Dan, Billy Joel, Whitney Houston, Madonna, and Paul Simon.

 

The Woodwinder
As a session musician who could chip in on the sax, clarinet, flute, oboe, English horn, piccolo or pretty much any woodwind instrument, Gene Cipriano by 2019 had played 58 successive years in the Academy Awards orchestra.

A long-time collaborator with Henry Mancini — for whom he played the flute on the timeless theme of Peter Gunn — and other film composers, going back to the 1950s, Cipriano played on many soundtracks, including the original West Side Story. For Some Like It Hot, Cipriano played the saxophone parts for Tony Curtis’ character. Later film contributions included Hatari!, The Tomas Crown Affair, Escape From Alcatraz, The Wild Bunch, Charade,  And Justice For All, Airplane!, The Right Stuff, Romancing The Stone, The Color Purple, The Goonies, The Karate Kid, Cocoon, The Naked Gun, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Bad Boys, and many others. Add to that a huge list of TV music he played on.

In the 1950s he played for people like Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, Nat King Cole, and Anita O’Day. As a member of the Wrecking Drew, he backed acts like Glen Campbell, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Mason Williams, Frank Zappa, The Monkees, The Beach Boys, Barbra Streisand, Michael Franks, Neil Diamond, Judee Sill, The 5th Dimension, Boodstone, Andy Williams, Dennis Coffey, Etta James, Peggy, Anne Murray, Nancy Wilson and John Denver. Later he played with the likes of Tom Waits, Lionel Richie, Prince, Frank Sinatra (on the Duets album), Natalie Cole (Unforgettable), Lady Gaga, Gregory Porter, and Barry Manilow, Michael Bublé, and Daft Punk.

The Nazareth Singer
In July we lost the lead guitarist of Nazareth’s classic line up, Manny Charlton; in November the Scottish hard rock band’s lead singer, Dan McCafferty, followed him. McCafferty had been a founding member of the group in 1968, and stayed with it until health forced his retirement in 2013. So it his voice that can’t make up its mind whether to love or hate the band’s best-known hit, a cover of the Everly Brothers’ Love Hurts.

Nazareth fun fact: The group didn’t name itself after Jesus’ hometown in Galilee but after the town by the same name in Pennsylvania, which got namechecked in The Band’s song The Weight.

The Post-punk Pioneer
In Public Image Ltd, or PiL, John Lydon and Jah Wobble were the stars, but fans will credit Keith Levene, who has died at 65, with being an at least equally important member of the band, as a guitarist, songwriter and producer. He was a member when PiL was formed as a post-Sex Pistols vehicle for Lydon, who at the same time dropped his Johnny Rotten moniker. Levene left PiL in 1983 over creative differences.

Levene was also a founding member of The Clash, and persuaded Joe Strummer to join the band. He left before The Clash recorded anything, but contributed the song What’s My Name to their first album.

The Star Rapper
I am so out of touch with the latest in popular music that I had no idea who rapper Takeoff was when his death, killed by what seems to be stray bullets in a shoot-out, was announced. It turns out that as a third of the hip hop trio Migos, the 28-year-old had scored a number of US Top 10 hits, including Stir Fry, MotorSport featuring Nicki Minaj & Cardi B, and Walk It Talk It featuring Drake. Her scored two #1 albums, and two Grammy nominations.

Remarkably, the man born as Kirshnik Khari Ball rapped in Migos with his uncle, Quavo, as well as a cousin — a true family affair. Shortly before the rapper’s killing on November 1, Takeoff and Quavo released a video for the song Messy. Apparently at 2:40 one can see a poster with the legend “RIP” next to Takeoff. In a spooky mindfuck, Takeoff was killed in a shooting at 02:40.

 

The Apple Outlaw
As a young record company exec with Capitol in the 1960s, Ken Mansfield oversaw the careers of acts like The Beach Boys, Glen Campbell, Bobbie Gentry, Lou Rawls, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard among others, but his biggest-name charges were The Beatles. And The Fab’s were so impressed with Mansfield’s promotion work for them in the States that they appointed him US manager of their new Apple label in 1968.

In that role Mansfield was one of the organisers of The Beatles’ famous rooftop concert in 1969, an event he later wrote a book about (another book he wrote on The Beatles apparently is the only one that received the approval of Paul, George, Ringo and Yoko, other than the Anthology). In the film footage of the Rooftop Concert, you can spot him wearing the white coat.

It was Mansfield whose intervention persuaded The Beatles to release Hey Jude as a single, instead of Revolution. Hey Jude was thought to be too long, so Mansfield played the two contenders to a sample of US radio DJs. They told him that Hey Jude would be a hit, even at its length. And so it turned out to be…

After the Apple adventure, Mansfield became a prolific, especially records by outlaw country musicians such as Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser. He also produced acts like Claudine Longet, Don Ho and Nick Gilder.

The Discovery
One of the great things about doing this series is to discover artists and music I’d never heard of. If these acts were still a going concern when circumstances conspired to make them known to me, then these discoveries are bitter-sweet, because there won’t be any new music made by them. So it is in the case of English soul singer Noel McKoy, whose death at 62 prompted me to investigate his music. I loved almost everything I heard of his retro-tinged soul music, and the acid jazz stuff he did with the James Taylor Quartet (not that James Taylor).

The Boomtown Rat
Where do #1 artists go when their group sinks? Garry Roberts, who has died at 72, scored a string of hits as guitarist behind Bob Geldof in The Boomtown Rats, including two #1s (Rat Trap; I Don’t Like Mondays) and seven more Top 20 hits between 1977-80. The Boomtown Rats, which Roberts had co-founded with pyjama-clad keyboardist Johnny Fingers, disbanded in 1986.

Subsequently, Roberts gigged as a sound engineer before becoming a financial adviser. After 15 years he was disillusioned with the insurance industry (who can blame him?) and became a central heating engineer. All the while, he kept playing with a reconstituted Boomtown Rats.

The Smurf Xenophobe
Vader Abraham didn’t mind his immigrants small and blue, but the Smurfs singer didn’t like them brown. For a short while, the Dutch singer and songwriter Pierre Kartner, one-time member of 1960s million-selling band Corry & de Rekels, brutalised much of Europe with his grating Smurfs songs. He also turned his talents to writing racist songs. In the 1970s — before he became the beloved father of the Smurfs — he asked in song: “What shall we do with the Arabs here? They can’t be trusted with our pretty women here.” He also warbled about the unemployed being to blame for their own condition since they all are drunks in bars. What a total klootzak! Later Kartner recorded a campaign song with far-right populist Pim Fortuyn. Alas, it wasn’t titled “Alle verdomde Smurfen haten me nu omdat ik een dweper ben”.

In his time Kartner is said to have written thousands of songs. Of those, one, Het kleine café aan de haven, was a hit that merited being recorded in different languages throughout Europe, for singers like Mireille Mathieu, Joe Dassin, Engelbert Humperdinck, Audrey Landers, Demis Roussos, and Peter Alexander (whose ingratiating German version, Unsere kleine Kneipe, was a big hit in Germany in 1977). It wasn’t very good, but at least it wasn’t intrinsically annoying nor did it promote racism.As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Joseph Tarsia, 88, engineer and owner of Sigma Sound Studios, on Nov. 1
Daddy Kae & Yvonne – Eleven Commandments Of Woman (1966, as engineer)
The Delfonics – La La Means I Love You (1968, as engineer)
The O’Jays – I Love Music (1975, as engineer)

Takeoff, 28, rapper with hip hop trio Migos, murdered on Nov. 1
Migos – Stir Fry (2016)
Migos feat. Drake – Walk It Talk It (2018)

Gerd Dudek, 84, German jazz saxophonist, clarinetist and flautist, on Nov. 3

Noel McKoy, 62, British soul singer, on Nov. 3
James Taylor Quartet with Noel McKoy – Love The Life (1993)
Noel McKoy – Love Under Control (1998)
Noel McKoy – Fly Away With Me (2009)

Nicole Josy, 76, half of Belgian duo Nicole & Hugo, on Nov. 4

Carmelo La Bionda, 73, half of Italian disco duo La Bionda and songwriter, on Nov. 5
La Bionda – One For You, One For Me (1978, also as co-writer)

Mimi Parker, 55, singer and drummer of indie band Low, on Nov. 5
Low – Sleep At The Bottom (1998)
Low – Everybody’s Song (2005)
Low – Some Hearts (At Christmas Time) (2016)

Aaron Carter, 34, pop singer, on Nov. 5
Aaron Carter – Aaron’s Party (Come Get It) (2000)

Tyrone Downie, 66, Jamaican keyboardist, producer and arranger, on Nov. 5
Tyrone Downie – Movie Skank (1972)
Peter Tosh – Legalize It (1976)
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Is This Love (1978, on keyboards)

Tame One, 52, rapper, on Nov. 5

Dan Fawcett, 52, guitarist of Canadian rock band Helix (2202-04), found Nov. 6

Hurricane G, 52, rapper, on Nov. 6
Hurricane G. – Somebody Else (1997)

Joe Baque, 100, jazz pianist, on Nov. 6

Don Lewis, 81, synth pioneer, singer, engineer, on Nov. 6
The Don Lewis Experience – And They’ll Know

Ali Birra, 72, Ethiopian singer, on Nov. 6

Jeff Cook, 73, singer and musician with country band Alabama, on Nov. 7
Alabama – Mountain Music (1982)

Michel Bühler, 77, Swiss chanson singer-songwriter, on Nov. 7
Michel Bühler – Mon Père (1976)

Claes-Göran Hederström, 77, Swedish singer, on Nov. 8

Dan McCafferty, 76, singer of Scottish rock band Nazareth, on Nov. 8
Nazareth – Broken Down Angel (1973, also as co-writer)
Dan McCafferty – The Honky Tonk Downstairs (1978)
Nazareth – Where Are You Now (1983)

Will Ferdy, 95, Belgian singer, on Nov. 8

Garry Roberts, 72, guitarist of The Boomtown Rats, on Nov. 8
The Boomtown Rats – Looking After No 1 (1977)
The Boomtown Rats – Someone’s Looking At You (1979)

PierreVader Abraham’ Kartner, 87, Dutch singer, racist and songwriter, on Nov. 8
Mireille Mathieu – Le vieux café de la rue d’Amérique (1976, as co-writer)

Gal Costa, 77, Brazilian singer, on Nov. 8
Gal Costa – Meu nome é Gal (1969)
Gal Costa – Festa do interior (1982)

Mattis Hætta, 63, Norwegian singer, on Nov. 9

Nik Turner, 82, musician with rock band Hawkwind, on Nov. 10
Hawkwind – Master Of The Universe (1972, also as co-writer)
Nik Turner – The Visitor (Space Gypsy) (2013)

Chris Koerts, 74, guitarist of Dutch pop group Earth and Fire, on Nov. 10
Earth and Fire – Memories (1972)

Keith Levene, 65, English guitarist with Public Image Ltd, songwriter, on Nov. 11
The Clash – What’s My Name (1977, as writer)
Public Image Ltd – Public Image (1978)
Public Image Ltd – Flowers Of Romance (1981, also as co-writer, engineer)

Rab Noakes, 75, Scottish folk singer, songwriter and drummer, on Nov. 11
Rab Noakes – Together Forever (1970)

Sven-Bertil Taube, 87, Swedish folk singer and actor, on Nov. 11

Gene Cipriano, 94, woodwind musician and session musician, on Nov. 12
Henry Mancini – Theme from Peter Gunn (1958, on flute)
Barbra Streisand – Love (1971, on oboe and clarinet)
Claudia Lennear – Goin’ Down (1973, on baritone sax)
Daft Punk – Beyond (2013, on bass clarinet)

Jerzy Połomski, 89, Polish singer and actor, on Nov. 14

Mick Goodrick, 77, jazz guitarist, on Nov. 16

B. Smyth, 28, R&B singer and songwriter, on Nov. 17
B. Smyth – Win Win (2023)

Ken Mansfield, 85, producer and label manager (Apple), on Nov. 17
Claudine Longet – Wake Up To Me Gentle (1972, as writer and producer)
Jessi Colter – What’s Happened To Blue Eyes (1975, as co-producer)

Tommy Facenda, 83, rock & roll singer and guitarist, on Nov. 18
Tommy Facenda – High School USA (1959)

Nico Fidenco, 89, Italian singer and film composer, on Nov. 19
Nico Fidenco – Legata ad un granello di Sabbia (1961; Italy’s first million-seller)

Danny Kalb, 80, guitarist and singer with blues-rock band Blues Project, on Nov. 19
The Blues Project – Two Trains Running (1966, on lead vocals)

DJ Sumbody, South African dance musician and producer, shot on Nov. 20

Joyce Bryant, 95, American singer and civil rights activist, on Nov. 20
Joyce Bryant – Drunk With Love (1950)
Joyce Bryant – Love For Sale (1952)
Joyce Bryant – After You’ve Gone (1953)

David Ornette Cherry, 64, jazz musician, on Nov. 20

Wilko Johnson, 75, guitarist (Dr. Feelgood), songwriter, actor, on Nov. 21
Dr. Feelgood – Roxette (1974, also as writer)
Wilko Johnson – When I’m Gone (1980)
Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey – Ice On The Motorway (2014)

Pablo Milanés, 79, Cuban singer-songwriter, on Nov. 22
Pablo Milanés – El Guerrero (1983)

Erasmo Carlos, 81, Brazilian singer-songwriter, on Nov. 22
Erasmo Carlos – Sentado à beira do caminho (1969)

Hugo Helmig, 24, Danish singer-songwriter, on Nov. 23
Hugo Helmig – Please Don’t Lie (2017)

Shel Macrae, 77, singer, guitarist with British pop band The Fortunes, announced Nov. 23
The Fortunes – Things Go Better With Coke (1967)
The Fortunes – Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again (1971)

Irene Cara, 63, pop/soul singer, songwriter and actress, on. Nov. 25
Irene Cara – Makin’ Love With Me (1979)
Irene Cara – Out Here On My Own (1980)
Irene Cara – Flashdance (What A Feeling) (Extended Version) (1983)
Hot Caramel – Stop Frontin’ (2011, as founder-member, lead singer, synth, producer)

Sammie Okposo, 51, Nigerian gospel singer, on Nov. 25

Don Newkirk, 56, hip-hop and R&B musician, composer and producer, on Nov. 25
Don Newkirk – Do You Feel Like I (2021)

Louise Tobin, 104, jazz singer, on Nov. 26
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra – I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (1939, on lead vocals)
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra – There’ll Be Some Changes Made (1941, on lead vocals)
Peanuts Hucko & Louise Tobin – The Man I Love (1984)

Jake Flint, 37, red dirt country singer-songwriter, on Nov. 27
Jake Flint – Cold In This House (2020)

Galit Borg, 54, Israeli singer, in a traffic accident on Nov. 28

Christine McVie (Perfect), 79, English singer, keyboardist and songwriter, on Nov. 30
Chicken Shack – I’d Rather Go Blind (1969, as member and on lead vocals)
Fleetwood Mac – Songbird (1977, as writer and on lead vocals)
Christine McVie – Got A Hold On Me (1984, also as co-writer)
Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere (1987, as co-writer and on lead vocals)

Steve ‘Cast Iron’ Smith, singer with British punk band Red Alert, on Nov. 30
Red Alert – Third And Final (1980)

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Any Major Albums of the Year: 1982

November 29th, 2022 3 comments

Lately I have marked my favourite albums of 1971 (in Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) and of 1972. That era, five decades ago, was a golden period for LPs. I won’t argue that 1982 — 40 years ago — was such a golden time, or even a silver or bronze period. But it was the year when I first started to earn money and could blow much of it on music.

The Nightfly’s Chesterfield Kings
And I wasted a lot of it on irredeemable rubbish (step forward, Supertramp’s Famous Last Words). But 1982 also produced some all-time favourite albums. I loved Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly before I had ever heard a full Steely Dan album (the title of this blog tips you off that I have listened to at least one since then). I remember that I had to comb through several record stores to find a copy, having been seduced by lead single IGY. How delighted I was to discover that the album had such a great cover, with Fagen acting as DJ Lester, a 1950s jazz disc spinner  (I wrote about the cover many years ago).

One thing the cover didn’t do was to convince me of the charms of Chesterfield Kings cigarettes. When I was still stupidly tarring my lungs and stinking up my breath, I tried Chesterfields; the packet was Fagen-cool but the cigarettes tasted horrible. As a recovering smoker (clean for 13 years tomorrow), I’d now say that all cigarettes are abominable, but I had my favourite smokes at various stages of my nicotine addiction. But never Chesterfields.

Album of the Year
Should I ever compile a list of the albums of any year and any genre which I love the most, ‘Too-Rye-Ay’ by Dexys Midnight Runners will rank very highly (as would their 1981 hit Geno, should I ever rank my most-loved singles). It is a richly rewarding album, one that ought to be heard in full as one goes on a musical journey that glides between genres even within the same song, such as in the albums 7-minute centrepiece, Until I Believe In My Soul, which has soul horns, Celtic fiddle and a jazz interlude. The arrangements are superb.

The lot is narrated by Kevin Rowland in his idiosyncratic vocal stylings, aided by some fantastic backing vocals (just listen to the featured track). In turn, Rowland exudes confidence, exasperation, frustration, even neurosis, and a barrel-full of a nervous energy that holds your attention. I think the nervous energy appealed to me most when I was 16, a time on the verge of adulthood when something was waiting to explode, like the furious fiddle in Come On Eileen (the huge hit which, incidentally, only the fourth single from the album! There is a fine piece about it posted recently on the fine Hooks and Harmonies blog).

The Dexys album also included swearing, which in 1982 was still exciting. In Until I Believe In My Soul, Rowland murmurs, “You must be fucking joking”; in the same tone, it has become a stockphrase of mine when I find myself confronted by an irritating circumstance.

And by way of general housekeeping, two things to note about Dexys: Firstly, no apostrophe. Secondly, not a one-hit wonder, even if the US record-buying public was a fool.

Another F-Bomb
I think it was a few weeks before I bought ‘Too-Rye-Ay’ that another new release I had hotly anticipated dropped the F-bomb. Billy Joel did so on Laura, his “White Album” tribute from The Nylon Curtain. I was a big Billy Joel fan at the time, but his new album didn’t excite me as much as I had hoped. It’s a cold album; still I played the LP often enough to get to know it very well. It includes some good tracks, and some that have not aged well. The Piano Man was now bearded, angry, frustrated and disillusioned. In my view, he didn’t need to try some new fashion; I had liked him just the way he was.

The Envoy
In the canon of Warren Zevon albums, The Envoy tends to get a bad rap. Indeed, it sports some duff tracks. But when the tracks do hit, they land their punches well. The featured Never Too Late For Love comes towards the end of Side 2, but it holds its own with any of the best Zevon songs.The One I Forgot
In my unbiased opinion, the recent Any Major Soul 1982 mix is very good, but I wonder how on earth I managed to omit Otis Clay from the mix. He featured on Any Major Soul 1982/83, and his 1982 album produced the lesser-known original The Only Way Is Up (featured on Any Major Originals – 1980s Vol. 2).  It’s not the greatest soul album of the year, I’m sure, but I’m always happy to play it in full. By 1982, Clay was something of a soul veteran — he featured on Any Major Southern Soul with a track from 1971 — and kept recording until shortly before his death at 73 in January 2016.

Luther!
Luther Vandross does feature on the Any Major Soul 1982 mix with the gorgeous Once You Know How. Luther has been rightly criticised for never producing a flawless album, except perhaps 1986’s Give Me The Reason. So it’s fair to say that Forever, For Always, For Love certainly has its flaws. But, hell, it’s Luther Vandross singing flawed material. If Luther sung it, then that usually elevated the material. I think his version of The Temptations’ glorious Since I Lost My Baby might even trump the original. I’ll not accept challenges to a duel to defend that point, but even if you regard the original as unassailable, you’d have a heart of tarmacadam not to applaud Luther’s version, which features here.

Yacht Rock
Yes, I absolutely hate that term and the knowing sneers that comes with it, but I love the genre (as 12 volumes and counting in the Not Feeling Guilty series has amply proved). One of my favourite albums in that genre is Bill LaBountry’s eponymous LP, which includes the glorious Living It Up (featured on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 1). LaBounty has featured several times in the Not Feeling Guilty series; it is an injustice that he never became one of the biggest names in soft rock.

Yacht Pop
One album that just about squeaked into my Top 20 is Duran Duran’s Rio. For purposes of doing this list, I listened to the album again. Back in the 1980s it was a favourite; I don’t think it has aged too well, least of all Simon Le Bon’s voice, which I find grating. Still, some of the tracks hold up today. Hungry Like The Wolf and the title track — talk about Yacht Pop — are proper pop classics.

Of the synth pop albums in this lot, Rio is the weakest link. ABC’s Lexicon Of Love still shimmers in its pop perfection, and Yazoo — isn’t it time the US accord the group its full name after 40 years? — issued a thoroughly engaging album in Upstairs At Eric’s, on which several deep tracks might well have become hits, especially the soaring Didn’t I Bring Your Love Down. Instead, only two sings were released as singles, Don’t Go and Only You, which were UK #2 and #3 hits respectively.

Prince vs MJ
The end of 1982 saw the release of the biggest album of all time. I’ve made my views of Michael Jackson’s Thriller know before when I put it head-to-head against Prince’s commercial opus, Purple Rain. In the Jackson canon, I very much prefer Off The Wall, but one cannot deny that Thriller was a game-changer; with its genre-blurring and its incredible promotion, it became a huge cultural phenomenon, as the gentle reader of this blog needn’t really be told. I’d say that Prince’s 1982 double-album 1999 was a superior musical enterprise, but Prince was still building his legend. With Thriller, MJ was making his. And to think that the leading single from Thriller was the much-derided The Girl Is Mine.

Not An Illusion
But in 1982, neither MJ nor Prince made me want to get up and put on my dancing shoes — that was Imagination’s In The Heat Of The Night album. Just An Illusion, Music And Lights, Changes, the title track… half the album is dazzlingly great. The rest is good, too. All’s good, except the awful cover. A couple of years later, a cassette tape of remixes of Imagination songs got stuck in my car stereo, and somehow the volume button was broken, too. For a while I heard more Imagination than was good for my soul or sanity. Why didn’t my Motown mix get stuck instead?

Albums on my shortlist that failed to make the cut include those by Iron Maiden, Toto, Marvin Gaye, Hall & Oates, Men At Work, Dire Straits, Lionel Richie, Marlena Shaw, Shakatak, Culture Club and Germany’s BAP.

As ever, there doubtless will be puzzled headscratchings at my omissions. How could I not include Kate Bush’s The Dreaming? Because I’ve never owned or even heard it in full. Same with Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s The Message, much as I love the title track. And if I allowed a live album in Casino Lights, why not Simon & Garfunkel’s The Concert In Central Park? Because whatever I’ve heard from it, I’d rather play the studio versions, or the superb bootleg of a 1960s concert I found somewhere.

Companion mixes for this collection are A Life In Vinyl 1982, Any Major Soul 1982 and Any Major Soul 1982/83. Annual expenses for hosting this corner of the web are coming up, so if you might throw a tip in my coffee jar above, I would be grateful.

So, here are my Top 20 albums of 1982. The length of the mix exceeds a standard CD-R, but I’ve made home-thrillered covers anyway. The above text is included in an illustrated PDF. Comments in PW.

1. Dexys Midnight Runners – Liars A To E (Too-Rye-Ay)
2. ABC – All Of My Heart (Lexicon Of Love)
3. Kid Creole & The Coconuts – I’m A Wonderful Thing, Baby (Tropical Gangsters)
4. Donald Fagen – New Frontier (The Nightfly)
5. Michael McDonald – I Gotta Try (If That’s What It Takes)
6. Bill LaBounty – Look Who’s Lonely Now (Bill LaBounty)
7. Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Sure Enough (Casino Lights)
8. Michael Jackson – Baby Be Mine (Thriller)
9. Luther Vandross – Since I Lost My Baby (Forever, For Always, For Love)
10. Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out (Night And Day)
11. Warren Zevon – Never Too Late For Love (The Envoy)
12. Billy Joel – Laura (The Nylon Curtain)
13. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Shame On The Moon (The Distance)
14. Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City (Nebraska)
15. Simple Minds – Someone Somewhere (In Summertime) (New Gold Dream)
16. Yazoo – Bad Connection (Upstairs At Eric’s)
17. Duran Duran – New Religion (Rio)
18. Prince – Delirious (1999)
19. Imagination – Just An Illusion (In The Heat Of The Night)
20. Otis Clay – Cheatin’ In The Next Room (The Only Way Is Up)

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Any Major Laura Nyro Songbook

November 22nd, 2022 4 comments

October 18 marked the 75th birthday of the great singer-songwriter Laura Nyro. Half a year earlier, April 8 marked the 25th anniversary of Nyro’s death, at the age 49.

By the time  the ovarian cancer claimed Nyro in 1997, her music was making a comeback of sorts, with a tribute album of her songs being recorded by the likes of Rosanne Cash, Suzanne Vega, Jill Sobule, Holly Cole, Phoebe Snow and others. It was released a month after Nyro’s death, but I hope she got to hear it before she left us. Since then, Nyro has become something of a cult figure, a songwriter who isn’t very well known but whose name is traded in reverential tones.

Nyro — pronounced Nero — deserves these reverential tones alone for the influence her exercised on others when her star was at the highest, from her groundbreaking debut in 1966 until early ’70s. Elton John, himself a subject of an Any Major Songbook earlier this year, cited her as a pivotal influence, and the mark of Nyro permeates Elton’s first few albums especially. Nyro, he has said, inspired him to abandon the rigid verse-chorus-verse structure, and to experiment with tempo changes. I wonder whether Elton’s lyricist, Bernie Taupin, was also inspired by Nyro; it would not surprise me.

Others who have named Laura Nyro as an influence include songwriting giants like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, who followed in her pioneering slipstream as a woman singer-songwriter. King, a veteran hit songwriter already when Nyro emerged on the scene in 1966 as a 19-year-old, was encouraged by Nyro to take her seat behind the piano and make it as a solo star. (Carole King has inspired two Songbooks — Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, plus a Tapestry Recovered mix — whole a Joni Mitchell Songbook will drop at some point, but in the interim, there’s the Blue Recovered mix.)

Laura’s ex-boyfriend Jackson Browne rode into LA on her coat tails. The Steely Dan guys and Alice Cooper dug her, as did Todd Rundgren, who modelled his songwriting style on Nyro’s. You can hear Nyro in Elvis Costello, Rickie Lee Jones and Cyndi Lauper, and even in artists as diverse as Kate Bush, Patti Smith and Bette Midler. Stevie Wonder based his If You Really Love Me on Nyro’s music.

In her short heyday, Nyro, the daughter of a jazz trumpeter, wrote a number of songs that became hits for others: And When I Die for first Peter, Paul and Mary and then Blood, Sweat and Tears (a group she was invited to join by founder Al Kooper); Eli’s Coming for Three Dog Night; Stoney End for Barbra Streisand; and for The Fifth Dimension Wedding Bell Blues, the deliciously grooving Stone Cold Picnic, Blowing Away, and Sweet Blindness.

Nyro was a gifted songwriter who fused genres so widely as to make it almost impossible to reduce her to any one classification (much like her chief apostles, The Fifth Dimension). It is quite astonishing to think that the lyrics and melody of When I Die were written by a teenager, at a time when the precedents for philosophical lyrical depth were still quite scarce in pop music. Stoney End was also written and released before Laura reached the age of 20, as was the musically complex Wedding Bell Blues, written when she was 18. As a teenage prodigy songwriter, Nyro stands alongside Jimmy Webb (Webb has been the subject of three Songbooks: Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3) and the Bee Gees guys (Barry Gibb yielded two Songbooks: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)

But the expressive, three-octave singer also loved to interpret the music of others. With LaBelle, she recorded a whole album of covers, and with the King/Goffin composition Up On The Roof she had her biggest chart hit — though its peak at #92 suggests that Nyro’s music was not the stuff of 7” singles stardom, or any kind of commercial success. Only one of her LPs entered the Billboard Album Top 40, New York Tendaberry (1969)

Apart from Laura’s distinctive voice, which not everybody loved, her own inability to market herself had something to do with that. Nyro was afflicted with debilitating stage-fright — no doubt exacerbated by being booed off stage at the 1967 Monterrey Festival — which impeded her ability to promote her records. Moreover, her personality was too intense and too idiosyncratic for the banality of the pop industry, even though her music demonstrably had popular appeal.

In 1971, at the age of 24, Nyro quit the industry, resurfacing only periodically. In 1993, she released her final album, Walk The Dog And Light The Light. It was well-received by the critics and widely ignored by the public.

Nyro was finally inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010, and two years later into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There were some people who thought her induction was elitist and controversial. Fuck those people. Ask Joni, ask Carole, ask Elton….

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As always, CD-R length, home-surried covers, the text above in illustrated PDF. PW in Comments.

1. Laura Nyro – Sweet Blindness (1968)
2. Three Dog Night – Eli’s Coming (1969)
3. Sammy Davis Jr. – And When I Die (1970)
4. The 5th Dimension – Black Patch (1972)
5. The Supremes – Time And Love (1971)
6. Bobbie Gentry – Wedding Bell Blues (1970)
7. Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys – Stoney End (1968)
8. Barbra Streisand – I Never Meant To Hurt You (1971)
9. Carmen McRae – Goodbye Joe (1970)
10. Karen Wyman – California Shoeshine Boys (1970)
11. Peggy Lipton – Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man) (1968)
12. Mama Cass – He’s A Runner (1969)
13. Claire Martin – Buy And Sell (1995)
14. Tuck & Patti – Captain For Dark Mornings (1998)
15. Swing Out Sister – Stoned Soul Picnic (1997)
16. Judy Kuhn – Luckie (2007)
17. Ronnie Dyson – Emmie (1970)
18. Melba Moore – Captain St Lucifer (1970)
19. Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – Save The Country (1975)
20. Green Lyte Sunday – Woman’s Blues (1970)
21. Laura Nyro – When I Was A Freeport And You Were The Main Drag (1970)

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Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
Holland-Dozier-Holland
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Lamont Dozier
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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