Archive for August, 2016

Any Major Soul 1975 Vol. 1

August 25th, 2016 5 comments

Any Major Soul 1975 Vol. 1

The first Any Major Soul mix for 1975 “” another excellent vintage “” has that wonderful sunny feel of Philly soul, even if most of the songs aren”t from Philadelphia. But that is how pervasive the sound was in the mid-“70s.

Of course, a fair number of acts here are Philly Soul exponents, such as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, The Intruders, Bunny Sigler. The Spinners were on Atlantic but had many of their records, including the present song, produced by Philly soul pioneer Thom Bell.

Sounding much like the O”Jays on the featured track are South Shore Commission, a Chicago band who had a dance hit that year with Free Man.

Defying our expectations, the Chicago Gangsters were actually from Ohio, recording in Cleveland. The song here is a very fine ballad, the title track of their debut album. The album also featured Gangster Boogie, which LL Cool J sampled for Mama Says Knock You Out.

Ronnie McNeir“s track Nothing But A Heartache has the joyful sound of Philly, but it”s very much a Detroit song: Alabama-born McNeir who arranged the album himself, recorded it at Holland, Dozier, Holland Studios in Detroit. On drums is Carl Graves, who”ll turn up in his own right on Volume 2.

Jimmy Ruffin“s track also has that Philly vibe, but that is thanks to Van McCoy producing the album for Motown. McCoy was, of course, the man who brought us the most Philly non-Philly song ever: The Hustle.

Also from Detroit was Sugar Billy, whose joyous Super Duper Love was covered almost three decades later by Joss Stone. There seems to be little known about Sugar Billy Garner.

I have introduced Jim Gilstrap before, but feel duty-bound to repeat: he”s the guy who sings the first verse of Stevie Wonder”s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. The track here is from his debut LP, Swing Your Daddy.

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

1. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Keep On Lovin’ You
2. Sugar Billy – Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin’ On Me)
3. Maxine Nightingale – If I Ever Lose This Heaven
4. James Gilstrap – House Of Stranger
5. The Intruders – A Nice Girl Like You
6. Bunny Sigler – Things Are Gonna Get Better
7. Black Ivory – Will We Ever Come Together
8. South Shore Commission – Train Called Freedom
9. Billy Paul – My Head’s On Straight
10. The Spinners – Honest I Do
11. Ronnie McNeir – Nothing But A Heartache
12. David Ruffin – I’ve Got Nothing But Time
13. Natalie Cole – Needing You
14. Jackie Moore – Make Me Feel Like A Woman
15. Bobby Womack – (If You Want My Love) Put Something Down On It
16. Joe Simon – It’s Crying Time In Memphis
17. Sam Dees – The Show Must Go On
18. Chicago Gangsters – Blind Over You
19. Gwen McCrae – He Keeps Something Groovy Goin’ On
20. Lea Roberts – Loving You Gets Better With Time
21. Maxine Weldon – I Want Sunday Back Again
22. Allen Toussaint – When The Party’s Over


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Life In Vinyl 1984 – Vol. 2

August 18th, 2016 2 comments

Life in Vinyl 1984-2

The first part of 1984 was the South African leg of the year; this part soundtracks the road trip in Europe and taking up residence in London.

I mostly listened to Motown and ’60s and ’70s soul and Purple Rain while I terrorised the highways of Europe, often on the way to football games. Among new releases at the time, I bought the cassette tapes of Heaven 17’s How Men Are, Madonna’s debut album, as well as by German acts BAP and Herbert Grönemeyer; the former sang in the Kölsch dialect that is peculiar to the city of Cologne — and yet they were about the biggest German act at the time. I went to see BAP in concert; it was one of the most energetic gigs I’ve ever been to. Frontman Wolfgang Niedecken had something of a German Springsteen (or Bono) about him.

The others of the first five tracks on this mix I recorded off the radio, as well as the 12″ mix of Wham!’s Freedom, which I include as a bonus track. There were other tracks that unaccountably played in my car which I don’t include here, for which you’ll thank me: Hazell Dean’s Whatever I Do, Fox the Fox’s Precious Little Diamond, Al Corley’s Square Rooms and a musical disaster by Jermaine Jackson and retired gerontophile Zia Padora called When The Rain Begins To Fall.

covers gallery 1

I remember listening to the radio in Germany one afternoon when the DJ announced that after the break he’d play Stevie Wonder’s brand-new single. Being a big Stevie Wonder fan — the Original Musiquarium collection was a regular in my tape deck — I was so excited. Then I heard I Just Called To Say I Love You. My heart sank. I still deeply dislike the song, as most other Stevie Wonder fans do. I still bought the Lady In Red album on cassette. Big mistake; it was not very good…

Coming to London, I was pleased to find Chaka Khan’s I Feel For You topping the charts. Armed with my excellent portable radio-tape combo, I prodigiously downloaded from Capital Radio, finding delight in discovering new songs that would still become hits.

Still, there are three hits of 1985 I found by other avenues in late 1984: Big Sound Authority’s This House (Is Where Our Love Stands), which featured on Shoulda Been A Top 10 Hit Vol. 1, was on the setlist of the excellent gig I attended at Camden Palace in December 1984 from which this video comes; Since Yesterday was performed by Strawberry Switchblade as they supported, ahem, Howard Jones. And Immaculate Fools’ eponymous song that closes this collection was on the video juke box in the Notting Hill pub I used to hang out in with my new Irish friends. I don’t think many people were pleased when I put it on — many times. It entered the charts in January 1985, peaking at #51.

covers gallery 2

1. Billy Idol – Eyes Without A Face
2. Heaven 17 – This Is Mine
3. OMD – Tesla Girls
4. Paul McCartney – No More Lonely Nights
5. Chaka Khan – I Feel For You
6. Alison Moyet – Invisible
7. Pointer Sister – I’m So Excited
8. Murray Head – One Night In Bangkok
9. The Stranglers – Skin Deep
10. Meat Loaf – Modern Girl
11. Paul Young – Everything Must Change
12. Eugene Wilde – Gotta Get You Home With Me Tonight
13. Spandau Ballet – Round And Round
14. Lloyd Cole And The Commotions – Rattlesnakes
15. Tears For Fears – Shout
16. Style Council – Shout To The Top
17. Aztec Camera – Still On Fire
18. Immaculate Fools – Immaculate Fools
Bonus Track: Wham! – Freedom (12″ mix)


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Song Swarm: Girl From Ipanema

August 11th, 2016 5 comments

ipanema covers gallery 3Once upon a time, The Girl From Ipanema was the ultimate square song. You’d hear it piped in the elevator before you entered the lounge where the piano player would tinkle out the most laid back song in pop history to the point of banality.

Today, the song is cool again. At the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics in 2016, supermodel Gisele Bundchen came out strutting out to it. And this song swarm shows a fairly high number of recent covers for a song that resides recognisably in the 1960s. The Girl From Ipanema is cool again.

Bundchen got to play the girl from Ipanema, but the actual woman who inspired the song was not invited to the opening ceremony. And it’s not like Helô Pinheiro fell into obscurity after the poet Vini­cius de Moraes immortalised her in the song.

Songwriters Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes were sitting in the Veloso bar in the Ipanema beachfront district of Rio one winter’s day in 1962 when they noticed a pretty school girl — Heloísa Pinheiro — walking past them in her jacket-and-tie school uniform, and later in her bikini on the way to the beach. And day by day, they’d see her again, passing by and being observed by the two middle-aged men. And sometimes the 15-year-old would come into the bar to buy cigarettes for her mother.

Heloísa Pinheiro, the inspiration for The Girl Fom Ipanema, on the beach.

Folklore has it that the men wrote this new, yet untitled song right there in the bar. In truth, they wrote it separately; Jobim working out the melody meticulously on his piano; de Moraes investing his poetic energy in creating that bitter-sweet erotic yearning of man for the unattainable — a melancholy underscored by the rising minor key changes in the “Oh, but he watches so sadly” set of lines. And so the song that started life as “Girl Passing By” emerged as Garota de Ipanema — The Girl From Ipanema.

The newly-hatched song was first performed at Rio’s Bon Gourmet restaurant, with the singer João Gilberto on vocals. Gilberto also recorded an unreleased version before it was cut on record by a vocal group called Os Cariocas (which means The Rio de Janeireans) and then by bossa nova singer Pery Ribeiro and the otherwise quite forgotten Tamba Trio. These four early versions are feature here. They are not bad, but it would take a stroke of genius to create the template from which almost every other version would flow.

In 1963 the jazz saxophonist Stan Getz had become obsessed with that new bossa nova sound from Brazil, and invited its pioneers, Tom Jobim and João Gilberto, to New York for an album of collaborations. Lyricist Norman Gimbel — the only famous songwriter to have corresponded with this blog — was called in to write English lyrics for the lilting tune about the girl from — oh, he was going to change that unpronounceable name. As Jobim remembered it years later in conversation with the music journalist James Woodall — and Gimbel might have different recall — it took a taxi ride in bitterly cold New York to persuade the American lyricist that firstly, a word such as Ipanema existed, and secondly to leave the name of the beach in the lyrics, for “maybe one day everyone will know about it”.

ipanema covers gallery 2And so Gilberto, Jobim and Getz found themselves in the studio with Gimbel’s reworked lyrics. The problem was that Gilberto’s English wasn’t really up for the new version. So his wife Astrud was roped in — not quite as much by chance as myth would have it, and she certainly wasn’t the novice of legend. Although not yet a professional singer, Astrud had sung with João before, and she was in the studio with a view of singing something. That this something was The Girl From Ipanema was the stroke of genius. Astrud’s cool voice gave the song an innocent sexuality, as if she was the girl from Ipanema singing about herself in the third person. And even as she made the song more sexual, by dint of being a sung by a woman the lyrics lost the innate creepiness of a middle-aged man lusting after a teenage girl.

The Girl From Ipanema was a big hit. Released on the Verve label, it peaked at #5 on the Billboard charts and won a Grammy. And it became an instant standard. Even Mrs Miller did a butchered version (it is here, if you dare to listen). Frank Sinatra recorded it with João Gilberto to great effect, as did fellow crooner Sammy Davis Jr, helped by Count Basie. And Lou Rawls’ take might be the best of the lot. Whereas Henry Mancini turned it into revoltingly cheesy easy listening. In Brazil the Astrud Gilberto template apparently didn’t hold: the 1965 version of by the flamboyant bossa nova singer Cauby Peixoto, who died in May this year, pays no mind to what came before.

What became of the protagonists in this story? Astrud had a moderately successful singing career, though she never shook off the Ipanema girl burden. She unofficially retired in 2002. Aged 76, she is still alive. Stan Getz, whose affair with Astrud put an end to his working relationship with João for the next 12 years, died in 1991. Jobim went three years later, shortly after finishing his final album, Antonio Brasileiro. He died a national treasure, having also written such Brazilian classics as Desafinado and One Note Samba. João Gilberto, who like Gimbel is still alive, is still recording [Edit: He died at 88 on 6 July 2019). Vinicius de Moraes died in 1980 at the age of 66.

And the Girl from Ipanema, Heloísa Pinheiro, who wasn’t invited to the opening ceremony of the Olympics where the famous song about her was highlighted as a legacy of Brazilian culture? She had stints as an actress and as a model, posing twice nude in Playboy (in 1987 and again 2003, with her daughter!).

In 2001 the heirs of the composers sued Pinheiro for naming her boutique Garota de Ipanema, arguing that her inspiration of the song was just incidental and she therefore had no right to use the song title for her store. Pinheiro, who received widespread public support, won the court case, having cited a press release by Jobim (who had been the best man at her wedding) and de Moraes in which the composers named her the original “Girl from Ipanema”.ipanema covers gallery 1And so here are 69 versions of The Girl From Ipanema/Garota de Ipanema. To unpack the lot you will need both files.

1962: João Gilberto Gilberto • Os Cariocas 1963: Pery Ribeiro • Tamba Trio • Getz/Gilberto • Antonio Carlos Jobim 7 Anita O’Day 1964: Henri Mancini • Andy Williams & Antonio Carlos Jobim • Oscar Peterson Trio • Peggy Lee • Stan Getz Quartet feat. Astrud Gilberto (Newport Jazz Festival) • Jacqueline Francois (as La Fille D’ipanema) • Little Anthony & The Imperials • Sarah Vaughan • Julie London • Sacha Distel & Dionne Warwick • Vince Guaraldi & Bona Sete • Nancy Wilson • Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass 1965: Cauby Peixoto • Nat King Cole • Sammy Davis & Count Basie • Charlie Byrd • Petula Clark • Esther Phillips 1966: Walter Wanderley • Lou Rawls • Shearing Quintet • Cher • Supremes • Chad & Jeremy • Freddie McCoy • Chris Montez • Mrs. Elva Miller 1967: Baden Powell • Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim 1968: Erroll Garner • Lena Horne 1969: Denny McLain 1970: Roger Williams 1971: Nara Leao 1972: Percy Faith and his Orchestra 1974: Toots Thielemans 1975: Eartha Kitt • John Holt 1976: Gilla (as Machen wir’s in Liebe) • Giovanni Fenatio  (as La Ragazza di Ipanema)  1977: Astrud Gilberto (Disco Version) 1981: Ella Fitzgerald 1983: Vinicius e Toquinho 1990: Nigel Kennedy 1996: Teddy Edwards & Houston Person • Crystal Waters 1997: Al Jarreau & Oleta Adams • Salena Jones 1998: Gabriela Anders 2000: Rosemary Clooney feat. Diana Krall 2001: Walter Bell 2003: Lisa Ono 2005: Dan Gibson’s Solitudes 2008: Eliane Elias 2011: Placido Domingo • Amy Winehouse • Pat Metheny 2013: Andrea Bocelli

GET IT: Part 1 & Part 2

Previous Song Swarms:
By The Time I Get To Phoenix
Hound Dog
These Boots Are Made For Walking
Sunday Morning Coming Down
Like A Rolling Stone
Papa Was A Rolling Stone
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Over The Rainbow
Georgia On My Mind
Blue Moon
Light My Fire

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In Memoriam – July 2016

August 4th, 2016 6 comments

IM0716_aAmong the many acts that are considered inventors of punk, Suicide have a good claim, having been among the first to use that term to advertise themselves. The New York duo even had the violence at their gigs to underscore that claim. With the death at 78 of singer Alan Vega of natural causes, half of Suicide is now gone (multi-instrumentalist Martin Rev is still alive at 68). After Suicide, Vega had a varied solo career, working a lot with The Cars” Ric Ocasek. His last album appeared in 2010, two years before he suffered a stroke. Vega was also an exhibited artist.

On the same day Vega died, we also lost the producer Gary S. Paxton, perhaps remembered best for producing the hits 1960s Monster Mash and The Associations” Cherish. If an enterprising scriptwriter were to tell Paxton”s lifestory faithfully in a film, he might be unjustly accused of taking literary licence. Born in 1939, Paxton was adopted at the age of 3 and grew up in rural poverty. He was molested when he was 7, and contracted spinal meningitis at 11. He recovered and at 14 joined a band that played country and the new-fangled rock & roll music. Stardom arrived in 1959 when he had a #1 hit with It Was I as Flip in Skip & Flip. They had another hit, Cherry Pie, and then split. Now living in LA, Paxton began producing records. Still only 21 he produced a #1 hit, Alley Oop, for The Hollywood Argyles. More hits followed as Paxton opened five studios and a series of record labels.

Paxton was a skilled, albeit eccentric, self-promoter. Once a radio station refused to play one of the records from his label because it was “too black”. Paxton registered his protest by staging a procession to the radio station building led by 15 cheerleaders and an elephant pulling a Volkswagen car. For his troubles Paxton was arrested ““ because the elephant was defecating in the street. In 1967 he returned to his country roots, first in Bakersfield and then in Nashville. In the early 1970s, following the suicide of his business partner and his own struggles with addiction, he found God and became a follower of the hippie Jesus movement while recording gospel music.

In 1980 he escaped an assassination attempt, apparently set up by a country musician whom he was producing. Paxton fought off the first hitman, getting part of a finger shot off after slapping away the gun that was pressed between his eyes. He got hold of the gun and shot the killer in the chest. But a second assassin managed to shoot Paxton three times in the back. It took Paxton eight years to recover; he later visited those involved in the hit in prison and forgave them. Shortly after recovering from the shooting, he nearly died of hepatitis C. Death finally claimed Gary S. Paxton at the age of 77 on July 16.

Classical sopranos don”t usually feature in this series, but Marni Nixon is an exception. When Audrey Hepburn sings in My Fair Lady, or Deborah Kerr in The King And I and An Affair To Remember, or Natalie Wood in West Side Story, it is Marni Read more…

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