Archive for January, 2015

Covered With Soul Vol. 20

January 29th, 2015 8 comments

Covered With Soul Vol. 20

Twenty Covered With Soul mixes, and still there are some mindblowing tracks. Just check out Thelma Houston doing to Jumpin” Jack Flash what Mick could only dream of.

Bobby Womack recorded his take on All Along The Watchtower for the 1973 Facts of Life LP, which it closes. About half of the tracks on it are cover versions, which is actually an improvement on previous albums “” unless you love, as I do, Womack”s ability to cover any song, be it a crooner”s standard or a psychedelic rock song, and make it his own.

Motown fans are liable to argue the relative merits of Diana Ross vs fellow Supreme Florence Ballard. Diana became a diva megastar, and deservedly so. It takes nothing away from Ross to say that the tragic Florence was the more talented soul singer. After her acrimonious break with Motown, Ballard recorded an album for ABC, which the label did not release (it never has been issued, as far as I know). Instead two singles were issued, both failing to chart. Ballard”s excellent version of Little Anthony & the Imperials “˜s 1964 hit Going Out Of My Head was the b-side to the first of these, the unimpressively produced and not at all promoted It Doesn”t Matter How I Say It (It”s What I Say That Matters).

I love the instrumental break in Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes” version of Everybody”s Talkin”, with Teddy Pendergrass on vocals. It appeared on a compilation charity album released by Philadelphia International Records titled Let”s Clean Up the Ghetto, produced by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. It also features The Intruders, represented here with a fine interpretation of the Carpenters” Rainy Days And Mondays.

Also covering the Carpenters is Al Wilson, doing I Won”t Last A Day Without You in a medley with Let Me Be The One. It”s very lovely, though it also makes me want to hear Karen sing the original.

Two songs here have been covered to death: Yesterday and Bridge Over Troubled Water. But the two featured here are worth hearing. Carla Thomas” version of Yesterday was recorded live on a revue with Booker T & The MG”s, Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, The Mar-Keys, Eddie Floyd and Otis Redding.

I must confess to not being very enthusiastic about Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell“s cover of Something Stupid. It is included here for the sake of interest rather than on the merit of quality.

I”ve updated links to previous Covered With Soul mixes recently.

As always, this mix will fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-covered covers. PW in comments.

1. Thelma Houston – Jumpin” Jack Flash (1969)
2. Bobby Womack – All Along The Watchtower (1973)
3. Brothers Unlimited – Spoonful (1970)
4. Bobby Powell – Crazy Love (1973)
5. Randy Crawford – Desperado (1977)
6. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Everybody”s Talkin” (1977)
7. The Main Ingredient – By The Time I Get To Phoenix/Wichita Lineman (1970)
8. Florence Ballard – Goin” Out Of My Head (1968)
9. The Dells – One Less Bell To Answer (1971)
10. The Ovations – Hooked On A Feeling (1972)
11. The Intruders – Rainy Days And Mondays (1974)
12. Major Harris – Like A Rolling Stone (1969)
13. Roberta Flack – To Love Somebody (1971)
14. Carla Thomas – Yesterday (Live) (1967)
15. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Somethin’ Stupid (1967)
16. Al Wilson – I Won”t Last A Day Without You/Let Me Be The One (1974)
17. Nancy Wilson – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
18. Maxine Weldon – I (Who Have Nothing) (1971)
19. Sharon Cash – Nature Boy (1970)
20. The Deidre Wilson Tabac – Get Back (1970)



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Any Major Winter

January 22nd, 2015 8 comments

Any Major Winter

Having recently returned from the wintry climes of the northern hemisphere, I felt inspired to create a mix of songs about winter, to complement the four summer mixes posted over the past year (Vol 1   Vol. 2    Vol. 3   Vol. 4)

The selection required ground rules. Firstly, the songs must be about actual winter, not just use the notion of winter as a metaphor. It is Winter in America even during the heatwaves of July, so Gil Scott-Heron is out. If the song has it snowing outside by way of establishing a metaphor for the bleakness of life, it qualifies. Just let it snow.

Which brings me to the second category for disqualification. If the meteorologically inspired song is used in the popular canon of Christmas songs, it”s out, no matter how frightful the weather outside is said to be. But there is one exception: Baby It”s Cold Outside. I do not understand by what asinine process a song about seduction has wormed itself onto Christmas compilations, but a song about trying to get laid adds little to the true meaning of Christmas, elusive as that concept is.

In order to keep this mix down to the customary CD-R length I had to sacrifice a couple of contenders, such as Joni Mitchell”s River (another questionable addition to the Christmas catalogue; in any case, Joni already features), Frank Zappa”s Don”t Eat The Yellow Snow, Windjammer”s Winter Love, Cliff Bruner”s Snow Flakes, Jens Lekman”s The Cold Swedish Winter or Bob Dylan”s Girl From The North Country.

Instead there are some of the most joyful songs about winter, led by Aztec Camera”s exuberant Walk Out To Winter, one of the happiest songs I know.

As always, the mix includes home-frozen covers (the beautiful front cover image is from butkovicdub at, the back pic is mine). PW in comments.

1. Aztec Camera – Walk Out To Winter (1983)
2. Blood, Sweat & Tears – Sometimes In Winter (1969)
3. Rolling Stones – Winter (1973)
4. Lee Moses – California Dreaming (1971)
5. Love Unlimited – It May Be Winter Outside (1973)
6. The Impressions – Long Long Winter (1964)
7. Ray Charles & Betty Carter – Baby It”s Cold Outside (1961)
8. Dean Martin – June In January (live, 1963)
9. Tommy Roe – It”s Now Winter”s Day (1967)
10. Don McLean – Winter Has Me In Its Grip (1974)
11. Ron Sexsmith – Snow Angel (2006)
12. Tracey Thorn – Snow In The Sun (2012)
13. Josh Rouse – Winter In The Hamptons (2005)
14. The Weepies – Hope Tomorrow (2010)
15. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal (2008)
16. Steve Miller Band – Winter Time (1977)
17. Merle Haggard – If We Make It Through December (1973)
18. Jim Reeves – The Blizzard (1961)
19. Gordon Lightfoot – Song For A Winter”s Night (1967)
20. Joni Mitchell – Urge For Going (1968)
21. Simon & Garfunkel – A Hazy Shade Of Winter (1968)
22. The Doors – Wintertime Love (1968)
23. Donald Fagen – Snowbound (1993)


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In Memoriam – December 2014 – Part 2

January 15th, 2015 10 comments

When I posted the first half of the December In Memoriam last month, I promised the second half would be incorporated into the January edition. The Grim Reaper was too active in December to allow for that (37 listed in total; of those 22 in this post). So here is December”s In Memoriam, Part 2.

The month”s headline death was that of Joe Cocker, who had featured on the tribute collection to Bobby Keys, the saxophonist who died in early December. Much has been written about Cocker, though few obituaries made much of that note-missing final “me” in You Are So Beautiful, which to me defines Cocker. That was one of the many cover versions which Cocker was famed for. Indeed, I think he was a better interpreter of other people”s songs than of his own. Of course, the hit which provided his breakthrough, With A Little Help From My Friends, was a cover, one which he so comprehensively reworked as to make it his own “” succeeding in doing what his idols in the world of soul had been doing for so long before him.

IM1214_2Earlier this year, Germany celebrated the 80th birthday of singer Udo Jürgens in big style, with TV extravaganzas and all. Three months later, Jürgens” death returned the singer-songwriter to the front pages of German newspapers and magazines. At a time when the banal Schlager dominated German music, in the 1960s and “70s,  Jürgens was part of it and yet above it. His lyrics and music tended to be of a higher standard.

Jürgens was a decent satirist, though not one to piss off his wealthy fan base too much, and was among the first mainstream celebs to comment on German xenophobia, albeit gently and with resort to cliché, Read more…

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Any Major Country History: A mix & a book

January 12th, 2015 10 comments


Any Major Country Mix

It has been a couple of years now since brought my History of Country series under one roof, with a few edits, in an illustrated eBook (well, a booklet, really) in PDF format, titled A Brief History of Country. It seems like a good time to bump that link.

Please feel free to pass it on in good conscience or to link to it on your website: while I assert my copyright for the text, the eBook is completely free. The more people read it and, I hope, gain enough of an understanding of the genre so that they will never call it “Country & Western” again, or say “yee haw, pardner”, the more they will appreciate the wealth of country.

Download A Brief History of Country eBook


And to give you some music to go with that, here’s a compilation of some of my favourite songs from the 22-part series, one from each mix plus one to bring the set up to present times, with no claims to being representative of the development of country music. As always, timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes covers, and same PW as every time.

1. Jimmie Rodgers – Brakeman’s Blues (Blue Yodel No.2) (1928)
2. Moonshine Kate – My Man’s A Jolly Railroad Man (1930)
3. Carter Family – Can The Circle Be Unbroken (By And By) (1935)
4. Uncle Dave Macon – All In Down And Out Blues (1937)
5. Al Dexter and his Troopers – Pistol Packin’ Mama (1943)
6. Hank Williams – Move It On Over (1947)
7. Eddie Kirk – Sugar Baby (1950)
8. T. Texas Tyler – Bumming Around (1953)
9. Johnny Cash – Hey Porter (1955)
10. Hank Locklin – Send Me The Pillow You Dream On (1958)
11. Skeeter Davis – Don’t Let Me Cross Over (1962)
12. Red Sovine – Phantom 309 (1967)
13. Dolly Parton – Coat Of Many Colors (1971)
14. Faron Young – It’s Four In The Morning (1972)
15. Rusty Wier – Texas Morning (1974)
16. Emmylou Harris – Pancho & Lefty (1977)
17. Earl Thomas Conley – Holding Her And Loving You (1983)
18. Keith Whitley – I’m No Stranger To The Rain (1989)
19. Garth Brooks – Friends In Low Places (1990)
20. Lyle Lovett – Step Inside This House (1998)
21. Alison Krauss & Union Station – Restless (2004)
22. Tift Merritt – I Know What I’m Looking For Now (2008)
23. Kris Kristofferson – Feeling Mortal (2013)


 Click here for the complete History of Country series


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The Originals: Elvis Presley Vol. 1

January 8th, 2015 9 comments

On 8 January Elvis would have turned 80. Let that sink in. And when you bump into an 80-year-old man today — that could be Elvis now!

To mark Elvis’ birthday, here’s the first of two mixes of original versions of famous Elvis songs, this one covering Elvis’ output up to 1960. Four are actually not really originals: the last three are demos which were presented to Presley (and the Elvis recordings show just how great an interpreter of song he was). And Aura Lee was reworked as Love Me Tender; it was an old song first copyrighted in 1861. It was sung by Frances Farmer in the 1936 movie Come and Get It!, but wasn’t released on record.

Then there’s Hound Dog, featured twice: in Big Mama Thornton’s original recording of the song, and the version on which Elvis based his, by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, an Italo-American band he had seen during his discouraging concert engagement in Vegas in April/May 1956. Between Thornton and Presley the song had been brutalised in a series of covers which dismantled the original lyrics and added doggerel to it (such as the rabbit line) to become the nonsense we know today.

Freddie Bell & the Bellboys, on whose rendition of Hound Dog Elvis based his.

Freddie Bell & the Bellboys, on whose rendition of Hound Dog Elvis based his.


This collection of songs proves one thing: Elvis didn’t just, as the popular narrative has it, “steal” black music and made it big on its back. Elvis certainly was a big fan of the various strands of what we now call R&B, and no doubt was heavily influenced by it. But he also drew much from country music, as well as from gospel. Indeed, his first public performance was as a ten-year-old at a talent show in his hometown Tupelo, where he performed Old Shep, a hit from 1941 by Red Foley (he had first recorded it in 1935, about his German shepherd Hoover, who had been poisoned by a neighbour). Elvis first stage performances were on the country circuit, especially on the Louisiana Hayride. And it was through country star Hank Snow that he met the ghastly “Colonel” Parker.

Elvis’ first hit was, of course, a cover of a blues tune, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s That’s All Right Mama. It’s the song that changed Rock & Roll forever. Young Elvis was in the Sun studios in Memphis, auditioning for the legendary Sam Phillips (in other accounts the story is set, more credibly, during the first recording session). Elvis, the story goes, was failing the audition, having crooned one ballad after another in Dean Martin mode. It was not the sound Phillips was looking for.

During a break (or at the end of the session), Elvis starting goofing around with his guitar, singing That’s All Right. Session musicians Scotty Moore and Bill Black joined in. Sam Phillips later recalled: “The door to the control room was open, the mics were on, Scotty was in the process of packing up his guitar, I think Bill had already thrown his old bass down “he didn’t even have a cover for it” and the session was, to all intents and purposes, over. Then Elvis struck up on just his rhythm guitar, ‘That’s all right, mama..,’ and I mean he got my attention immediately. It could have been that it wouldn’t have sold ten copies, but that was what I was looking for!”

Elvis later also covered Crudup’s very similar My Baby Left Me. Crudup fought for the rest of his life Read more…

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