Archive for December, 2013

Notable music deaths of 2013

December 26th, 2013 1 comment

2013 is almost over, and all kinds of media feature roll-calls of the year”s notable deaths in their annual round-ups. Regular readers will know that this blog has a monthly round-up of recent music deaths; I think it might be the most comprehensive such list on the Internet. The list for December will run next week.

As last year, here are the most notable deaths in the past year, in my subjective opinion, sorted by category in leagues of five or ten. Here is hoping nobody worthy of inclusion dies before the year is out (two names that will appear next week are already included here.

The average age of our notable deads this year is 75,8 — so much for “I hope I die before I get old”.

Sorry, no music this time; instead we will have pictures.

Lou Reed, 71, rock legend, on October 27
JJ Cale, 74, singer-songwriter, on July 26
Reg Presley, 71, singer of The Troggs, on February 4
Ray Manzarek, 74, keyboardist of The Doors, on May 20
Alvin Lee, 68, British guitarist and leader of Ten Years After, on March 6


Trevor Bolder, 62, British bassist (David Bowie, Uriah Heep), on May 21
Kevin Ayers, 68, English psychedelic rock musician (Soft Machine), on February 18
Allen Lanier, 67, keyboardist and guitarist with Blue Öyster Cult, on August 14
Philip Chevron, 56, singer-songwriter and guitarist of The Pogues, on October 8
Bernie Nolan, 52, lead singer of Irish pop group The Nolans, on July 4

Richard Street, 70, singer with The Temptations (1971-93), on February 27
Damon Harris, 62, singer with The Temptations (1971-75), on February 18
Bobby Smith, 76, singer with The Spinners, on March 16
Cecil Womack, 65, soul singer and songwriter, on February 1
Cleotha Staples, 77, member of The Staples Singers, on February 21


Marvin Junior, 77, lead singer of soul band The Dells, on May 29
Clarence Burke Jr, 62, singer, songwriter and guitarist with the Five Stairsteps, on May 25
Bobby Rogers, 73, songwriter and member of The Miracles, on March 3
Leroy “˜Sugarfoot” Bonner, 70, singer of funk legends Ohio Players, on January 26
Oliver Cheatham, 65, soul/funk singer, on November 29


George Jones, 81, country legend, on April 26
Richie Havens, 72, American folk singer and guitarist, on April 22
Ray Price, 87, country singer, on December 16
Tompall Glaser, 79, country singer and songwriter, on August 13
Slim Whitman, 90, country singer-songwriter, on June 19

Donald Byrd, 80, jazz trumpeter, founder of jazz-funk band The Blackbyrds, on February 4
George Duke, 67, jazz fusion keyboardist, on August 5 Read more…

Categories: In Memoriam Tags:

Any Smooth Christmas Vol. 2

December 19th, 2013 12 comments

Any Smooth Christmas Vol. 2

I think I might have exhausted the reservoir of great Christmas Soul from the 1960s and “70s with the trio of Any Major Soul Christmas mixes (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and Vol. 3). Like the first volume of the Any Smooth Christmas, this mix includes seasonal songs by soul (or soul-ish) acts mainly from the past 30 years. Though some sound a lot older.

Here, Aretha Franklin covers one of my favourite Christmas pop songs, The O”Jays” “Christmas Ain”t Christmas (Without the One You Love)”, while The O”Jays do “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, a song I like best in Lou Rawls” version which appeared on the first Smooth mix, while Lou does his excellent thing on “Merry Christmas Baby”, a song which featured on the first mix in the O”Jays version. Confused? Relax by putting on this kicked back mix.

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

And with that I wish you a very happy Christmas

1. Blind Boys Of Alabama – Last Month Of The Year
2. Lou Rawls – Merry Christmas Baby
3. Aretha Franklin – Christmas Ain’t Christmas (Without The One You Love)
4. Bobby Womack – Dear Santa Claus
5. Ray Charles – Christmas Time
6. The O’Jays – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
7. Alexander O’Neal – The Christmas Song
9. Vanessa Williams – Merry Christmas Darling
10. Take 6 – Christmas Time Is Here
11. Patti LaBelle – It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
12. The Stylistics – I’ll Be Home For Christmas
13. Bill Withers – The Gift Of Giving
14. Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson – As Long As There’s Christmas
15. Luther Vandross – This Is Christmas
16. BeBe & CeCe Winans – Silver Bells
17. Candi Staton – Christmas In My Heart
18. Will Downing – Love On Christmas Morning
19. Laima – Blue Christmas
20. CeeLo Green – What Christmas Means To Me
21. Aaron Neville – White Christmas
22. Natalie Cole – Jingle Bells



More Christmas Mixes
Any Major Christmas Favourites
Any Major 1970s Christmas
Any Major 1960s Christmas
Any Major 1950s Christmas
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Christmas Bells
Any Major Smooth Christmas
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Any Major Doop Wop Christmas
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Acoustic Christmas
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 1
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 2
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3
Song Swarm: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Or all in one place

Categories: X-Mas Tags:

Donald Fagen’s new book

December 16th, 2013 3 comments

When a member of Steely Dan writes a book, then I suppose a blog named after a Steely Dan song has to read it and write about it. But I”m not in a mood to write a traditional book review, which is probably quite appropriate, because Donald Fagen”s Eminent Hipsters (Viking, 2013) is not a conventional book.

eminent_hipstersIt really is two ideas for a book, and with both of them too brief to qualify for a full-length book, they were combined. The first section, 85 pages long, comprises previously published essays in which Fagen writes with insight and erudition about his jazz favourites and DJs (fans of The Nightfly cover art are perking up as we speak), and how they influenced him, and about growing up in the jazz clubs of New York. It”s good stuff which made me dig out the innovative oeuvre of the Boswell Sisters. I expect that this would please Fagen.

The second part, all of 73 pages, is the star of the show though: Fagen”s diary of his “Dukes of September Rhythm Revue” tour in 2012 with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald (about whom we hear little), a more “low-rent” exercise than a Steely Dan tour.

Fagen, now a sextegenarian, seems a pretty tetchy fellow at the best of times, but he”s also blessed with wit. So when he is really annoyed about something “” overcrowded hotel pools, irritating audiences, modern culture, hotel linen that smells of soy sauce, the tedium of travel “” he is deliciously sarcastic company; in print, that is. I bet Fagen is awful company when he is in a dark mood.

There are touching moments: Fagen discusses suicide, depression and an uncle who was on a tough streak in business. There are also moments when you want to high-five Donald, or even identify with him.

One such moment is when he narrates a visit to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Noting impressive exhibits, such as Rosa Park”s bus and the Lincoln in which Kennedy was shot, Fagen proceeds to write: “I was going to ask if they had a vintage copy of The International Jew: The World”s Foremost Problem, the first of Ford”s screeds blaming the Jews for all the world”s ills, but I chickened out.” Don”t we all know the feeling?

A favourite passage concerns the Ray Charles-despising audience at a gig in San Antonio, “maybe tourists from Arizona, I don”t know. Probably right-wingers, too, the victims of an epidemic of mental illness that a British study has proven to be the result of having an inordinately large amygdala, a part of the primitive brain that causes them to be fearful past the point of delusion, which explains why their philosophy, their syntax and their manner of thought don”t seem to be reality-based.” The pay-off line to that is almost worth the price of admission alone.

Fagen is at times very funny, sometimes insightful, occasionally annoying (the “TV Babies” riff!). Throughout the book, he is engaging. You don”t come away knowing Fagen, but you”ll know what he thinks on any number of issues.

Steely Dan fans will be pleased to read about the genesis of “Deacon Blue”, but there”s very little of that kind of thing in Eminent Hipster. Still, even if the book doesn”t tell us much about the Dan, it could be said to be much like the band”s music: detached yet accessible.

Usually I don”t pay much mind to a book”s cover, unless it is so bad as to cause me a Fagenesque cantankerous disposition. The cover of Eminent Hipsters is marvellous, though, by virtue of the white area bearing the book”s title and author”s name being embossed in bond paper on the high-gloss jacket, as is the back-cover blurb. It”s lovely and random, and makes the book nice to touch.

Ah well, so this did come out a bit like a book review.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Any Major Christmas in Black and White Vol. 3

December 12th, 2013 13 comments

Any Major Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3

In 2009 I put up two well-received mixes of Christmas recordings from the 1930s to early “60s, calling the shebang Christmas in Black & White (HERE and HERE). And, like the football world cup, another instalment arrives four years later.

Of course, this being Christmas and the time before colour was invented, there”s a lot of cheese involved. But, hey, what would Christmas be without it? And there is much that is wonderful to make up for it, especially Ella”s take on “The Christmas Song”, and the cool jazz section in the middle (the drums on the Lionel Hampton track!). And how lovely is “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” by British singer Lita Roza? Also, do check out a young Aretha Franklin getting into the mistletoeing spirit of it all.

I”m not sure whether this compilation constitutes another mortar in the War on Christmas (™ Fox “News” and Britain”s Daily Stürmer). None of these songs are speaking of the Reason for the Season as embraced by the fear-mongering Tea Party demagogues: serving the Lord of Mammon by means of excess commercialism. I wonder what those idiots would make of the grinching Christmas, Not For Mother mix (link of which is live again).

I have considered doing a mix of Christmas songs that might appeal to that other bogeyman of Fox and Limbaugh, the Marxist Pope Francis; but that will have to wait till next year. Instead I”ll have another soulful seasonal mix next week, just in time for Christmas.

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

1. Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians – Ring Those Christmas Bells (1959)
2. Alma Cogan – Christmas Cards (1954)
3. Rosemary Clooney & Gene Autry – The Night Before Christmas Song (1952)
4. Ella Fitzgerald – The Christmas Song (1960)
5. Aretha Franklin – Kissin’ By The Mistletoe (1963)
6. Doris Day – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (1964)
7. Lita Roza – The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot (1953)
8. Nat ‘King’ Cole – Toys For Tots (1956)
9. The Andrews Sisters with Guy Lombardo – Merry Christmas Polka (1949)
10. Fats Waller – Swingin’ Them Jingle Bells (1936)
11. Lionel Hampton – Gin For Christmas (1939)
12. Louis Armstrong and the Commanders – Cool Yule (1953)
13. Louis Prima – Shake Hands With Santa Claus (1958)
14. The Enchanters – Mambo Santa Mambo (1957)
15. Perry Como & the Fontane Sisters – It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas (1951)
16. Mills Brothers – Here Comes Santa Claus (1959)
17. The De John Sisters – The Only Thing I Want For Christmas (1955)
18. Harry Belafonte – Christmas Is Coming (1958)
19. Vera Lynn – I’m Sending A Letter To Santa Claus (1945)
20. Johnny Mercer – Winter Wonderland (1946)
21. Dinah Washington – Ole Santa (1959)
22. Julie London – I’d Like You For Christmas (1958)
23. Connie Francis – I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1959)
24. Frank Sinatra – White Christmas (1946)
25. The Beverley Sisters – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1953)
26. Dick Roman – Christmas Village (1962)
27. Dickie Valentine – Christmas Alphabet (1955)
28. Eddie Fisher – You’re All I Want For Christmas (1952)



More Christmas Mixes
Any Major Christmas Favourites
Any Major 1980s Christmas
Any Major 1970s Christmas
Any Major 1960s Christmas
Any Major 1950s Christmas
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Christmas Bells
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Any Major Doop Wop Christmas
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Acoustic Christmas
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 1
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 2
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3
Song Swarm: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Or all in one place



Any Major Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3 - back

Categories: Black & White Music, X-Mas Tags:

The Nelson Mandela Mix

December 6th, 2013 6 comments


The obituaries have been written, so there seems little sense for me to add much to the overflow of verbage. Suffice it to say that there is no exaggeration in the praise Nelson Mandela has received, even as even some of his admirers try to engage in a bit of iconoclasm, perhaps because the unconditional universal admiration does recall the pandering directed at frauds such as Bono.

One might criticise Nelson Mandela for certain policy decisions (though that usually is non-contexual revisionism), his private life might not have been unblemished, and there are some pretty awful people in his family, and the foundations run in his name “” here I have to be careful, because they can afford very expensive lawyers “” give the appearance of being bloated bureaucracies with handsome parking lots. But all that notwithstanding, Mandela was all that.

So, here is my tribute to the great man, in the form of a CD-R length mix (plus a few bonus tracks which I was sorry to leave off).

The opening track is a recording of a struggle song, named after Mandela”s real first name. Note the pronunciation.

The second track, running under the acronym SAMA (which I think stood for SA Musicians’ Association) was recorded just after Mandela”s release from jail in February 1990. It was a “We Are The World” type of record, involving some of the big stars of South African music at the time, from Mango Groove singer Claire Johnstone and Brenda Fassie to Mahlatini and the Mahotella Queens to the “People”s Poet” Mzwakhe Mbuli, all under the leadership of the great Ray Phiri. In the event, the song was never released, nor was it played nor the video broadcast on the national broadcaster, the SABC, because the ruling National Party hardly welcomed an ode to their political opponent on what they saw as their own private propaganda station (as the ANC government does now). See the video here.

The stand-out track is, of course, Johnny Clegg & Savuka“s “Asimbonanga” (which is Zulu for “we have not seen him”). It imagines Mandela looking out from the island into the bay. The island would be Robben Island, where Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated for decades; the bay would be the one across which one usually sees the panoramic shots of Cape Town”s Table Mountain. By the time “Asimbonanga” came out in 1987, Mandela had been moved to Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town (another place with a nice view, were it not for the walls and bars).  Importantly, Clegg mentions a number of martyrs of the struggle against apartheid: it mustn”t be forgotten that the liberation from apartheid and the peaceful transition to democracy was not a solo effort. The peaceful transition always was the goal, Mandela or not.

The version of Hugh Masekela“s exuberant “Bring Him Back Home” comes from the Paul Simon-led “Graceland” concert in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1987. Masekela”s wish to see Mandela walking hand-in-hand with Winnie through the streets of Soweto did come true. Soon the marriage to Winnie was history and Nelson moved to the leafy Johannesburg suburb of Sandton (he also had a home in the Transkei village of Qunu).

The oldest song here, “West Wind” by Miriam Makeba, doesn”t mention Mandela, yet it is widely regarded as a Mandela song. The lyrics, “West wind, with your splendor, take my brothers by the hand. Sunshine, spread your glory, unify this promised land”, express the objective of Mandela”s leadership. The SABC was in no doubt about the meaning: it banned the song, as it did most of the songs here, even Brenda Fassie“s “Black President”, which was released in 1991.

Half the songs here are by South Africans, the other half express Mandela”s international appeal in songs from Britain (The Special A.K.A.), Burundi (the wonderful Khadja Nin), Senegal (Youssou N”Dour), USA (Tracy Chapman, Nona Nendryx), Mali (Salif Keita), Cameroon (Petit Pays), Burkina Faso (Farafina), and Jamaica (Shabba Ranks).

The mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-struggled covers. PW in comments.

1. Mayibuye – Rolihlahla (1980s)
2. S.A.M.A. – The People Want Mandela (1990)
3. Hugh Masekela – Bring Him Back Home (1987)
4. Special A.K.A. – Free Nelson Mandela (1984)
5. Brenda Fassie – Black President (1991)
6. Johnny Clegg and Savuka – Asimbonanga (1987)
7. Tracy Chapman – Freedom Now (1989)
8. Khadja Nin – Mzee Mandela (1998)
9. Miriam Makeba – West Wind (1966)
10. Abdullah Ibrahim – Mandela (1985)
11. Youssou N”Dour – Nelson Mandela (1985)
12. Nona Hendryx – Winds Of Change (Mandela To Mandela) (1987)
13. Salif Keita – Mandela (1995)
14. Petit Pays – Mandela Axania (1998)
15. Allou April – Madiba’s Jive (2002)
16. Vusi Mahlasela – When You Come Back (1992)
17. Farafina – Mandela (1989)
18. Shabba Ranks – Mandela Free (1990)
19. Nelson Mandela – Day of Release From Prison, Cape Town, 15 February 1990
Maze feat. Frankie Beverley – Mandela (1989)
Yammie Bolo – Free Mandela (1986)


More Mix CD-Rs

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In Memoriam – November 2013

December 5th, 2013 5 comments

In Memoriam - Nov 2013Before the last installment of In Memoriam even came out, Bobby Parker died at 76. It”s OK if you don”t know him, but know that his signature song “Watch Your Step” provided the template for the guitar intro of The Beatles “I Feel Fine” and also inspired “Day Tripper” (as well as “Moby Dick” by the oft-inspired Led Zep). Indeed, the future Fab Four played that song on stage before they hit the big time.

Viewers of the British cult TV show The Professionals were saddened by the death of actor Lewis Collins. Less well-known than his thespian career is Collins” musicianship. As a young man in Liverpool, he was a member of Merseybeat combo The Mojos, who had a #9 hit in 1963 with “Everything”s Allright”; the two follow-up singles also charted, peaking at #25 and 30. Collins was a friend of Paul McCartney”s brother Mike with whom he wrote songs. When The Beatles fired Pete Best, Mike suggested Lewis as a replacement. Ringo got the gig instead.

When I used to spin the platters at parties, one of the go-to records which would ensure a filling dance floor would be Oliver Cheatham“s “Get Down, Saturday Night”, an utterly infectious slice of disco-funk which even at six minutes-plus never outstayed its welcome. So I was saddened to hear of the death at 65 of Cheatham, of a heart-attack in his sleep.

One of the most bizarre deaths this year must be that of outlaw country singer Wayne Mills. According to reports, Mills was at a bar when he decided to light up a smoke. His friend, the bar owner, confronted him about it, and evidently the conversation was not entirely cordial. It ended with the friend shooting Mills, claiming self-defence. Insert your own inappropriate gag about the health hazards of smoking here. Get music by the Wayne Mills Band at

It”s a heartwarming story: music-loving teenager Georgina Anderson is diagnosed with fatal cancer; wants her music to be heard by many people before she dies; her song gets uploaded on YouTube; YouTube song goes viral; Georgina dies having had her dream realised. It”s a lovely story. Then the corporate jump on the bandwagon. Talk of a charity single, and the ghoulish overlord of serial twattery Simon Cowell is tweeting about “a brave young girl” whose song is available on download at iTunes. Urgh. (Watch Georgina”s videos HERE)

There”s a trend developing: another YouTube teenager with cancer died this month. Canadian Olivia Wise attracted more than a million YouTube hits with a video of her cover of Katy Perry”s “Roar”. Perry herself made a video, commending Olivia. Wise”s version of “Roar” was released as a single, for charity, and raised $115,000 to support brain tumor research.  (Watch HERE) Read more…

Categories: In Memoriam Tags: