Archive for May, 2013

Any Major Jimmy Webb Songbook Vol. 1

May 30th, 2013 24 comments

Mention in conversation with pop music aficionados the name Jimmy Webb, and you will likely be met with approval for bringing up a respected yet generally underrated songwriter.

Any Major Jimmy Webb Collection 1

Of course, his quintet of stone-cold, indisputable classics  —Wichita Lineman, Galveston, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, MacArthur Park and Up Up And Away — are well known, but many other Webb compositions are not as ubiquitous as they may deserve to be. Listen to this lot of songs and decide for yourself whether Webb’s music, beyond the quintet of classics, merits greater currency than it presently enjoys (the fact of this compilations would suggest that in my view it does).

Choosing the right version, and deciding which songs to leave off this mix, was desperately difficult. One omission is a little comical: I decided to do a Webb cover mix when I heard Rumer’s lovely version of the glorious P.F. Sloan — and I realised only after I had completed the cover art that I had neglected to include the song. Well, if this mix goes down well, there will be a Volume 2.

One of the songs which I really had trouble to decide which version to opt for was Do What You Gotta Do. Nina Simone’s version is glorious, as is Roberta Flack’s. The latter was already on the list (with See You Then); in the event the Four Tops won out by virtue of their version having been the first I had known of the song, and having loved it ever since the 1980s.

Among the great songs missing from this mix are Didn’t We, If These Walls Could Speak, I Keep It Hid and A Tramp Shining. Still, I managed to include the song with one of the weirdest song titles in the canon of pop: Himmler’s Ring, recorded by Little Feat’s late lead singer Lowell George in 1979.

Jimmy Webb, still only 66, is touring this year. In 2011 released an album, Cottonwood Farm, which he recorded with his five sons (including Christiaan, of our track 2 here) and the son of Glen Campbell, the singer who inspired the teenager Webb to become a songwriter and who made hits of Wichita Lineman, Galveston and By The Time I Get To Phoenix.

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

1. O.C. Smith – Wichita Lineman (1969)
2. Glen Campbell – Christiaan No (1976)
3. Scott Walker – All My Love’s Laughter (1973)
4. Four Tops – Do What You Gotta Do (1969)
5. Dee Dee Warwick – If This Was The Last Song (1970)
6. Thelma Houston – Pocketful Of Keys (1969)
7. Brooklyn Bridge – Worst That Could Happen (1969)
8. A.J. Marshall – By The Time I Get To Phoenix (1969)
9. Julie Rogers – Which Way To Nowhere (1969)
10. Art Garfunkel – All I Know (1973)
11. Joe Cocker – It’s A Sin (When You Love Somebody) (1974)
12. Roberta Flack – See You Then (1971)
13. Jimmy Webb – Galveston (1993)
14. Judy Collins – The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (1990)
15. Ian Matthews – Met Her On A Plane (1974)
16. Harry Nilsson – Life Line (1971, written by Nilsson, covered by Webb)
17. Chuck Jackson – Honey Come Back (1969)
18. The Supremes – Cheap Lovin’ (1972)
19. Nancy Sinatra – Up, Up And Away (1967)
20. B.J. Thomas – If You Must Leave My Life (1969)
21. The 5th Dimension – Rosecrans Boulevard (1967)
22. Waylon Jennings and The Kimberlys – MacArthur Park (1969)
23. Lowell George – Himmler’s Ring (1979)


Previous Songbooks:
Ashford & Simpson
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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The Ghetto Vol. 2

May 16th, 2013 6 comments

Like the first mix of The Ghetto, the second mix has some serious soul, with S.O.U.L. paying tribute to the sounds of the ghetto, including by sampling the track that follows theirs. And after Donny Hathaway‘s anthem comes Ruth McFadden‘s breathtaking Ghetto Woman, produced by Gamble & Huff of Philadelphia soul fame and released on the obscure Huff Puff label.

Tony Clarke, featured here with 1967’s Ghetto Man, had a solitary hit with The Entertainer. He was more successful as a songwriter; among his credits were the Etta James hits Pushover and Two Sides To Every Story. Clarke died in 1971 at the age of 31, killed by his estranged wife in apparent self-defence.

The most bizarre track here is Ghetto Kung Fu by Mody-Vation, a cash-in on the martial arts craze of the mid-1970s, apparently recorded by a bunch Germans led by a long-haired guy called Thomas Glanz for the Hansa label, home to many Euro-disco artists. It’s catchy stuff.

There were several versions of Woman Of The Ghetto on my shortlist; I went for Marlena Shaw‘s original, because Marlena Shaw tends to trump everyone. But if there is a third mix, one of the contenders might make the cut.

The first mix was firmly set in the 1970s; this one strays into the 1980s. Sylvia St. James was a member of the  Mike Curb Congregation and then the singer of disco outfit Side Effect before she went solo, without great success.

The eagle-eyed reader will notice that one song here lacks the word “ghetto” in the title. But Isaac Hayes‘ Soulsville, from the Shaft sountrack, is very much set in the ghetto.

The ghetto is a common and obvious theme of social consciousness songs, but a few songs here note that the people of the ghetto also have normal lives which include romance and sex “” and who better to deal with these subjects than Marvin Sease and Rick James?

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a CD-R, and includes front and back covers. Do I still need to post the PW in the comments? It’s always the same.

1. S.O.U.L. – Down In The Ghetto (1971)
2. Donny Hathaway – The Ghetto (1970)
3. Ruth McFadden – Ghetto Woman (Parts 1 & 2) (1972)
4. Tony Clarke – Ghetto Man (1967)
5. Carlos Malcolm – Busting Out Of The Ghetto (1970)
6. The Mody-Vation – Ghetto Kung Fu (Part 1) (1974)
7. Gil Scott-Heron – Sex Education Ghetto Style (1972)
8. Marlena Shaw – Woman Of The Ghetto (1969)
9. Sylvia St. James – Ghetto Lament (1980)
10. Stevie Wonder – Village Ghetto Land (1976)
11. Isaac Hayes – Soulsville (1971)
12. Phillip Bailey – Children Of The Ghetto (1985)
13. Marvin Sease – Ghetto Man (1986)
14. Rick James – Ghetto Life (1982)
15. Luther Ingram – Ghetto Train (1972)
16. Boris Gardiner – Rough & Tough In The Ghetto (1973)
17. Jackie Mittoo – Ghetto Organ (1972)
18. B.B. King – Ghetto Woman (1971)


The Ghetto Vol. 1
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Bacharach: The Lesser Known Songbook

May 9th, 2013 6 comments

On 12 May, Burt Bacharach will celebrate his 85th birthday. Regular readers will know that I regard Bacharach to be in the highest echelons of songwriters. Unusually, he straddles different genres: the easy listening of Perry Como’s Magic Moments, the pure pop of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, the soul of Don’t Make Me Over, the cowboy song of The Man Who Shot Liberty Vance. This mix places the focus on the lesser known Bacharach songs, chronologically from his beginnings to the time of his zenith, more or less: 1954-1965.

Bacharach - front

Actually, it starts in 1952, with a Nat King Cole song that is usually incorrectly credited to Jerome Kern and Anne Caldwell. The jaunty instrumental Once In A Blue Moon is in fact the first known recording of a Bacharach song, a tune he had written with his father, a newspaper columnist (or, by his own admission, they adapted it from Rubenstein’s Melody in F).

Keep Me in Mind, the 1954 song Burt wrote with Jack Wolf, was his first pop song to be recorded when Patti Page sang it. He had tried, without success, to get his songs recorded for a year and a half after quitting his gig as arranger for the Ames Brothers. Too bad Bacharach hates the song, as he does most of the stuff he wrote during that period. It’s actually quite pleasant, if one ignores the chauvinist lyrics, though the sweet touches we associate Bacharach’s melodies with are still absent. I’d say that the earliest track on this compilation that hints at the Bacharach style of the 1960s is on Jane Morgan’s With Open Arms, a #15 pop hit in September 1959.

In 1956 the first Burt Bacharach/Hal David (or David/Bacharach, as it tended to be into the 1970s) composition was recorded, a track called The Morning Mail which a white vocal group called The Gallahads put on a b-side to a reputedly dull song called, perhaps appropriately, The Fool. Note the whistling: it featured also on the first two Bacharach/David hits the following year, Marty Robbins’ The Story of My Life (a chart-topper in Britain in Michael Holliday’s version) and Perry Como”s Magic Moments.

But the Bacharach/David artistic relationship, prolific as it was, was not yet monogamous. In fact, before they became an exclusive songwriting item in around 1963, Bacharach frequently wrote with Bob Hilliard (the guy who wrote the lyrics of Sinatra”s In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning). Their collaborations included here are Del Shannon‘s The Answer To Everything, The Drifters‘ (Don’t Go) Please Stay, Etta James‘ Waiting For Charlie (originally recorded by Jane Morgan), Dick Van Dyke‘s Three Wheels on My Wagon, Gene Pitney‘s Little Betty Falling Star, and Phil Colbert‘s Who”s Got The Action (possibly written in 1962).

Other songs were the product of more fleeting associations, such as Johnny Mathis‘ Heavenly and Keely Smith‘s Close, which Bacharach co-wrote with Sydney Shaw, Peggy Lee‘s Uninvited Dream (with Sammy Gallop, and arranged by Nelson Riddle) or Gene Vincent‘s Crazy Times (with Paul Hampton). He also wrote a few forgotten songs with our old friend Norman Gimbel, though none feature here.

Talking of Paul Hampton, as a bonus track I’m including his recording of the bizarre collaboration with Bacharach, Two Hour Honeymoon, as a bonus. Recorded in 1960, it was a riff on the death records which were popular at the time. It must be heard to be believed.


As the 1950s ended, Bacharach’s R&B sensibilities began to become evident. Listen to 1959’s Faker Faker by The Eligibles: beneath the feckless white bread interpretation which makes no nod to Hal David’s lyrics of heartbreak, neither in arrangement nor vocals, there lurks a useful R&B number. The Eligibles, incidentally turn up again to back Gene Vincent. In 1959, R&B singer Gene McDaniels recorded his first Bacharach song, but the earliest soul song featured here is The Wanderers outstanding I Could Make You Mine, the only one of Bacharach/David’s early soul songs to be covered later by Dionne Warwick.

A future soul legend recorded a Bacharach song long before she became famous. As Tammi Montgomery, Tammi Terrell recorded Sinner’s Devotion in around 1961 for Wand Records, with The Shirelles on backing vocals. The song was released only in 1967 on a “from the vaults” type record to cash in on Tammi’s Motown success.

Of course, Bacharach continued to write in other genres, including terrible novelty songs such as Dick van Dyke‘s Three Wheels On My Wagon, which features here solely as it also marked Bacharach’s first producer credit. But the Bacharach style we know manifests itself as the 1960s began, when he also started to supervise the arrangements. The Drifters‘ Please Stay in 1961 was the first song for which Bacharach submitted a demo with an arrangement, rather than just the usual piano and vocal treatment. The song was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and arranged by Ray Ellis. Later Bacharach would usually be in the studio at the first recordings of his songs, acting as de facto producer, even if he received no credit.

Already in the 1950s Bacharach employed the technique of voices imitating instruments. On Chuck Jackson‘s 1961 song The Breaking Point, an usually fast R&B song, Bacharach gets the singer to imitate a rhythm section, with the machine-gun skat of shagga dagga shagga dagga shick shick.

Many of the songs here are lesser known because they were b-sides, often to inferior a-sides. Richard Chamberlain‘s 1963 single Blue Guitar was a Bacharach/David a-side. They also wrote the flip side, a ditty you might know called (They Long To Be) Close To You.

burt (2)

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

1. Nat ‘King’ Cole – Once In A Blue Moon (1952)
2. Patti Page – Keep Me In Mind (1954)
3. Mel Tormé – These Desperate Hours (1955)
4. The Gallahads – The Morning Mail (1956)
5. Peggy Lee – Uninvited Dreams (1957)
6. Johnny Mathis – Heavenly (1959)
7. Jane Morgan – With Open Arms (1959)
8. Gloria Lambert – Moon Man (1959)
9. The Eligibles – Faker, Faker (1959)
10. Gene Vincent – Crazy Times (1960)
11. The Wanderers – I Could Make You Mine (1960)
12. Keely Smith – Close (1960)
13. Dick Van Dyke – Three Wheels On My Wagon (1961)
14. Connie Stevens – And This Is Mine (1961)
15. Del Shannon – The Answer To Everything (1961)
16. Tammi Montgomery (Tammi Terrell) – Sinner’s Devotion (1961, rel. 1967)
17. The Drifters – (Don’t Go) Please Stay (1961)
18. Dee Clark – You’re Telling Our Secrets (1961)
19. Chuck Jackson – The Breaking Point (1961)
20. The Shirelles – It’s Love That Really Counts (In The Long Run) (1962)
21. Etta James – Waiting For Charlie (1962)
22. Babs Tino – Forgive Me (For Giving You Such A Bad Time) (1962)
23. Helen Shapiro – Keep Away From Other Girls (1962)
24. Gene Pitney – Little Betty Falling Star (1962)
25. Jimmy Radcliffe – (There Goes) The Forgotten Man (1962)
26. Dionne Warwick – Make The Music Play (1963)
27. Jay and The Americans – To Wait For Love (Is To Waste Your Life Away) (1963)
28. Bobby Vee – Be True To Yourself (1963)
29. Richard Chamberlain – Blue Guitar (1963)
30. The Searchers – This Empty Place (1964)
31. Maxine Brown – I Cry Alone (1964)
32. Jackie DeShannon – A Lifetime Of Loneliness (1965)
33. Phil Colbert – Who’s Got The Action (1965)


Previous Songbooks:
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
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
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Lamont Dozier
Laura Nyro
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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In Memoriam: April 2013

May 2nd, 2013 5 comments

gallery_0413The unsung soul greats keep going. This month we lost Vince Montana (1), founder of the Salsoul Orchestra and member of Philadelphia International Records” houseband MFSB. He played on and/or arranged an endless list of late “60s and “70s classics by the likes of The Delfonics, The O”Jays, Billy Paul, The Stylistics, Wilson Pickett, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, The Intruders, Patti LaBelle, Ronny Dyson, The Whispers, William DeVaughn, Lou Rawls and many more.

I had been playing The Montana Sextet”s Heavy Vibes in my car on the day Montana died, and on a Friday almost two weeks later I played George Jones (2) (the song from the Any Major Telephone mix), who died later that day. I am making myself a car mix consisting of Michael F Bolton, Chris Brown, Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit and Ted Nugent as we speak. Jones was, of course, a giant in country music. In a genre that is as much soul music as soul music itself, Jones was as tower of soul. He used his voice to great effect, of course, but it was the interpretation of the emotions which his songs communicated which made him a great of any musical kind.

I take no blame for the other headline death of April: that of Richie Havens (3). I don”t think the man really received the recognition he merited, not as a singer nor as a guitarist. Many people remember him for being the opening act at Woodstock. Those who met him testify that he was also a one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. This series by nature tends to emphasise the contributions which recently deceased people have made to music, but I think it is good to sometimes remember a musician not only for his music, but for being a thoroughly decent and nice person. Richie Havens clearly deserves this paragraph on both counts.

Harry J (4) is perhaps best known as the owner of the studio where Bob Marley and the Wailers, and other Island acts, did many of their recordings. His 1969 instrumental The Liquidator served as an inspiration for the British ska movement of the early 1980s “” and was sampled by the Staple Singers for their 1972 hit I”ll Take You There. Chelsea fans will claim the song as their own.

US baby boomers might well have been fans of Annette Funicello (5), one of the original Mouseketeers Read more…

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