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Any Major Springsteen Covers

April 27th, 2017 15 comments

 

When I was 14 I heard Hungry Heart on the radio. It was familiar and yet unlike any other sound I had heard. Looking back, I think it was the keyboards, which I still think are key to giving the E Street Band that distinctive sound (along with Max Weinstein’s booming drumming and, of course, Clarence’s sax). So I heard Hungry Heart and straight after school on a snowy day in February 1981 I rushed to town to find the new LP by this guy Springsteen. On my way home on the bus I could hardly wait to play it. As I held my new purchase, I liked the look of the face that filled the cover. This guy looked like a rock ‘n’ roll Al Pacino. Justice for all!

But before I could play the The River, I had an afternoon appointment with the optician who proceeded to shine a light into my eyes that virtually blinded me for a few hours. How auspicious that on the day my relationship with Bruce Springsteen began, I was blinded by the light.

I played sides 1 and 2 of The River to death. I rarely played the second disc. That first disc was perfect. With time I would become familiar with Bruce’s four previous albums, and come to regard Darkness On The Edge Of Town as one of the greatest LPs ever made. My loyalty to Springsteen began to waver in the 1990s, in as far as I didn’t rush out to buy every new album. But I have most of them.

So I was excited to read Springsteen’s autobiography. My biggest problem with it was the title. Could nobody come up with something less predictable than Born To Run? I like to think the title “Cars And Girls” would have been a great, even if very belated, riposte to the cutting Prefab Sprout song of that title from 1988. But that is my biggest gripe.

True, Bruce at times exceeds the waxing lyrical, and when he goes fan boy with CAPS LOCK switched on he sounds more like his fawning friend Bono than the poet laureate of a generation. But that’s minor quibbling. Born To Run is a welcome extension of the long prologues to songs in his concerts (usually The River). He is at once fully aware of his genius as he is also genuinely self-deprecating. Here is a man who knows his strengths and his limitations, and how to balance them. He knows his value and has no need for false modesty, even when he explains why he took the decision to be the boss of his backing band, the E Street Band. Incidentally, he says that he doesn’t like the nickname “The Boss”, much as Sinatra hated being called “Chairman of the Board”. I wonder what Bono calls Springsteen…

Born To Run mostly confirms that with Bruce, what you see is indeed what you get — mostly. I didn’t know about his battles with depression, and commend him for speaking about them with such honesty. I did know that Springsteen is a funny guy. Some of his songs are good comedy; take, for example, Sherry Darling. The book has some laugh-out-loud moments, such as when he describes his moves with Courtney Cox in the Dancing In The Dark video as “white-man boogaloo” and “dad dancing”.

Springsteen mentions a few memorable concerts he has played. To my delight, all three Springsteen gigs I have attended are included. His Wembley concert on 4 July 1985 might be the best of any act I have seen.

But I don’t want to write a book report on Born To Run, much as I recommend it. It rather serves as an intro to the mix I am presenting here: of covers of Springsteen songs. And it might seem easy to cover Springsteen. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band did so with Blinded By The Light. Patti Smith had a hit with Because The Night, and The Pointer Sisters with Fire. But Mann had his hit before Springsteen was famous, and our man hadn’t yet recorded the Smith or Pointer Sisters hits (the latter itself a cover of a record by Springsteen pal Robert Gordon, who sang it like Elvis might have).

It’s quite different covering Springsteen songs after Springsteen has recorded them, almost invariably producing the definitive version (differently to Bob Dylan). That is, I suppose, why so few dare to do that. It’s a risk, and it doesn’t always pay off. So, in absence of an abundance of any more quality choices, there most certainly will be no second mix of Springsteen covers.

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

1. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Born To Run (1984)
2. Nils Lofgren – Wreck On The Highway (1997)
3. The Band – Atlantic City (1993)
4. The Hollies – 4th Of July Asbury Park (Sandy) (1975)
5. Everything But The Girl – Tougher Than The Rest (1992)
6. Emmylou Harris – The Price You Pay (1981)
7. Cowboy Junkies – Thunder Road (2004)
8. Justin Townes Earle – Glory Days (2014)
9. John Wesley Harding – Jackson Cage (1997)
10. Raul Malo – Downbound Train (2000)
11. Patty Griffin – Stolen Car (2001)
12. Townes Van Zandt – Racing In The Streets (1992)
13. Richie Havens – Streets Of Philadelphia (1997)
14. Minnie Driver – Hungry Heart (2004)
15. Greg Kihn – For You (1977)
16. David Bowie – It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City (1989)
17. PJ Proby – I’m On Fire (1990)
18. Natalie Cole – Pink Cadillac (1987)
19. Big Daddy – Dancing In The Dark (1985)
20. The Flying Pickets – Factory (1984)

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Any Major American Road Trip – 6

April 20th, 2017 6 comments

 

It is high time we move on from beautiful St Louis, where we have been stuck since September (!) and begin our penultimate stage in the American Road Trip by going to Memphis. And we manage to do so without hitching a lift from Marc Cohn, much as I like his song.

To many, Memphis means Elvis, but I’ll leave him on the sidelines, too (other than by lyrical reference in the opening track). And still I was left with a broad choice of songs about Memphis — I should make a mix of Memphis songs at some point — which is only right, since Memphis is central to so many musical genres. One day I want to go there in real life…

Most of the songs here speak for themselves and have my endorsement. One, however, requires an explanation by way of caveat: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ I Care About Detroit was a civic exercise to calm racial tension a year after the 1967 riots and following the uprising that followed the murder of Martin Luther King (in the city where this mix kicks off).

Written by Jimmy Clark and Jack Combs — the former presumably was the Detroit soul singer; I have no idea who Combs was — the lyrics might as well have been written by Governor George Romney. Smokey was a bit of a stooge for agreeing to this exercise. Much as he declares his loyalty to his home city, Smokey soon joined Berry Gordy in upping sticks for sunny LA. The single had only one side — maybe the city was still waiting for Gil Scott-Heron’s song; maybe it was Gordy’s silent protest at the awfulness of the record.

One song here featured on the Right-Wing Pop for Bullshit Mountain mix I posted in happier times. The Pretender’s My City Was Gone, here to represent Akron, is not a right-wing song, of course. Quite the opposite. But it was hijacked, without permission, by the demagogue Rush Limbaugh (who, as it turns out, was not as harmless as those who tolerated his hate-filled propaganda claimed) for the theme of his radio show. In the end, Chrissie Hynde allowed its use because Limbaugh backed an animal rights cause. As I noted in the notes for the right-wing rock mix, Limbaugh has bragged about subverting the liberal Pretenders song, much like a misogynist who brags about having had sex with a woman he despises with the sole objective of defiling her.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes covers and a route-map (more detailed than the one above). PW in comments.
1. Bobby Charles with Delbert McClinton – Last Train To Memphis (2003 — Memphis, TN)
2. Nat ‘King’ Cole – Beale Street Blues (1963 — Memphis, TN)
3. Little Feat – Dixie Chicken (1973 — Memphis, TN)
4. Justin Townes Earle – Memphis In The Rain (2012 — Memphis, TN)
5. Johnny Cash & June Carter – Jackson (1967 — Jackson, TN)
6. Kris Kristofferson – To Beat The Devil (1970 —Nashville, TN)
7. Waylon Jennings – Nashville Bum (1966 — Nashville, TN)
8. Louis Armstrong & Bessie Smith – Nashville Women’s Blues (1925 — Nashville, TN)
9. The Andrews Sisters – Chattanooga Choo Choo (1942 — Chattanooga, TN)
10. Shel Silverstein – Boy Named Sue (1968 — Gatlinburg, TN)
11. The Louvin Brothers – Knoxville Girl (1956 — Knoxville, TN)
12. Leon Redbone – Big Bad Bill (1978 — Louisville, KY)
13. Aimee Mann – Ballantines (2007 — Lexington, KY)
14. Steve Carlisle – WKRP In Cincinnati (1978 — Cincinnati, OH)
15. Randy Newman – Dayton, Ohio 1903 (1978 — Dayton, OH)
16. Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – We Almost Lost Detroit (1977 — Detroit, MI)
17. The Kane Gang – Motortown (1987 — Detroit, MI)
18. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – I Care About Detroit (1968 — Detroit, MI)
19. Simon & Garfunkel – America (1968 — Saginaw, MI)
20. Sufjan Stevens – Flint (For The Unemployed And Underpaid) (2003 — Flint, MI)
21. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Prison Song (1974 — Ann Arbor, MI)
22. Ian Hunter – Cleveland Rocks (1979 — Cleveland, OH)
23. The Pretenders – My City Was Gone (1982 — Akron, OH)

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Previously on American Road Trip

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Any Major Decade: Best of Saved!

April 13th, 2017 9 comments

Over the past years it has become a tradition to for me to post a mix of songs about the Christian faith in the week before Easter. Predictably, they tend to be the least popular of mixes, by number of downloads (those who DL them tend to give great feedback).

I don’t now know whether it is because the subject matter is of no interest to some people, or because readers think I’m going all-born Christian Rock on their sorry asses. If it’s a case of the former: it’s about the music, not about conversion! Some of the best music has been about religious faith, from Bach to Mary Lou Williams to the Carter Family. And if it’s a case of the latter, you might not have followed this blog carefully. The music on the SAVED! mixes is great.

Unlike a lot of Christian Rock, what we get when artists in popular music address religious themes is absolute authenticity. That is true for the gospel singers of the 1940s and 1950s, who were as sure influential on the rise of rock & roll, as a musical form, as was R&B and country. Take Sister Rosetta Tharpe or Brother Joe May out of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard, and you remove an essential ingredient in their music.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Take away gospel, and rock & roll is a different thing.

 

The same goes for soul. The soul singers who modelled themselves after Sam Cooke drew their inspiration not from the crossover crooning in the mould of Twisting The Night Away of You Send Me. They modelled themselves on Gospel Sam. And perhaps the terminology of gospel needs to be redefined, if by that term most people think of massed choirs in flowing robes.

We have no flowing robes here, though there is a place for that too. We have soul singers, though. There was a time when soul singers recorded songs about their faith as a matter of course. They did so, the sequencing of these songs on the LPs suggests, not as a calculated nod to the folks who like that kind of thing, but because it was naturally part of their lives.

Then you get the surprise performances. Nick Cave has sung a few songs of religious content; The Mercy Seat, so incredibly covered by Johnny Cash, is one such song. Here we have Cave singing almost hymn-like about Jesus Christ in a most unexpected way. Cave is not a religious man of the traditional sort, unlike Alison Krauss, who has the voice of an angel (in as far as I am competent to make such comparisons, given my absence of exposure to choirs of cloud-sitting, winged angels). Oh, but when she sings A Living Prayer, even the most hardened atheist must get an idea of what it must be like to be in the presence of God. The same goes for the wonderful Mindy Smith.

 

Angels, plotting their next massacre.

 

Talking of angels, in the 1942 Nazi propaganda film Die große Liebe (The Great Love), the big Swedish star Zarah Leander had a showstopper song called Ich weiß es wird einmal ein Wunder gescheh’n (I know one day there will be a miracle), the video of which is HERE. The big production required a choir of angels, stacked together like a big cake. Trouble was, the producers could not get together a plausible cast of angels that could match Leander’s extraordinary height. So they turned to casting agency Stormtroopers, dressed up a group of elite SS soldiers in ways that the producers of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert would reject as being too camp, and stacked them up like a singing cake before they were let loose again in their day job of killing for the hell of it, using guns and, unlike their colleagues in occupied Poland, not poison gas. Sean Spicer, the SS of the media room, would approve. Read more about it HERE.

This mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R. Alas, the folder that contained the home-made covers was on an external (as opposed to eternal) harddrive that has suddenly died; so the devil was in the works…  PW in comments.

Happy Easter, and, if that is not your thing, Happy Chocolate Day.

1. Rance Allen Group – There”s Gonna Be A Showdown (1972)
2. The Relatives – Leave Something Worthwhile (1970s)
3. Honey Cone – Sunday Morning People (1971)
4. Soul Children – All Day Preachin” (1972)
5. Elvis Presley – Run On (1967)
6. Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers – Wonderful (1959)
7. Brother Joe May – When The Lord Gets Ready (1959)
8. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – This Train (1943)
9. Marie Knight – What Could I Do (1947)
10. Spirit Of Memphis – Atomic Telephone (1952)
11. Lula Reed – Just Whisper (1954)
12. Deep River Boys – I”m Tramping (1946)
13. Carter Family – Can The Circle Be Unbroken (Bye And Bye) (1935)
14. Natalie Merchant with Karen Paris – When They Ring The Golden Bells (1998)
15. Wilco – Airline To Heaven (2005)
16. Tom Waits – Come Up To The House (1999)
17. Pops Staples – Hope In A Hopeless World (1994)
18. Steve Earle – God Is God (2011)
19. Mindy Smith – Come To Jesus (2004)
20. Alison Krauss – A Living Prayer (2004)
21. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Bless His Ever Loving Heart (2005)
22. The Chambers Brothers – Travel On My Way (1970)
23. The Glass House – Touch Me Jesus (1971)
24. Loleatta Holloway – H.E.L.P. M.E. M.Y. L.O.R.D. (1975)

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Previous SAVED! mixes
Saved! Vol. 1 (Elvis Presley, Carter Family, LaVern Baker, Marvin Gaye”¦)
Saved! Vol. 2: Soul edition (Curtis Mayfield, The Supremes, The Trammps,  Jerry Butler”¦)
Saved! Vol. 3 (Prefab Sprout,  Wilco, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Lyle Lovett”¦)
Saved! Vol. 4 (Sam Cooke, Dixie Hummingbirds, Dinah Washington, Jerry Lee Lewis”¦)
Saved! Vol. 5 (Donny Hathaway, Holmes Brothers,  Steve Earle, The Bar-Kays”¦)
Saved! Vol. 6: Angels edition (Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, Rilo Kiley, Kris Kristofferson”¦)
Saved! Vol. 7: Soul edition (Earth, Wind & Fire, Billy Preston, Al Jarreau, Marlena Shaw, Al Green”¦.)

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Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 2

April 6th, 2017 9 comments

The first Protest Soul mix, posted to coincide with the inauguration of Honest Donald in January, seems to have been quite popular. More than that, I hope it brought some kind of relief from the anguish of seeing that sphinctermouthed spluttermachine being heaved into the presidency — and seeing him wreaking his revenge on common decency without having received a clear mandate.

More should be made of this: Trump lost the popular vote, so his mandate is not unambiguous. He won the presidency legitimately, and therefore occupies his office and nominally exercises its authority legitimately — but his mandate is tainted by having been invested in him against the will of the people. So when he drains the swamp and fills it with sewerage, he is doing so without a clear mandate. The question, again and again and again, should be: “What mandate do you have to do what you do without a majority of the popular vote?” Trump has no answer to that; he knows his mandate is mandate is tainted. That’s why he lies about the supposed voter fraud. So say it loud and say it clear: “President Trump, on whose mandate are you acting?”

But this mix is not about Sphinctermouth. I’m posting it to coincide with the 49th anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The songs here were released in a range of within a year of MLK’s murder to eight years after.

As with the first mix, this is collection of soul songs that make an appeal for social justice, for racial equality and harmony, for black consciousness, or for political activism — some deal with one or two of these issues, some with all of them. There is no party-line, and the sentiments of some songs may clash with those of others. Together, they reflect a conversation in the black politics of the time, even if not comprehensively so — the Black Panthers don’t have an equal voice. These mixes are good companion pieces to the Songs About The Ghetto Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 mixes.

Some of the artists here are well-known for having articulated voices in that conversation — Gil Scott-Heron, Curtis Mayfield, Staple Singers, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye (featuring here with a performance from 1973’s Save The Children concert) — but one who is not widely-known is Bama The Village Poet. Seek out his songs — one, the astonishing I Got Soul, featured on the Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1.

As far as I know, his 1972 Ghettoes Of The Mind album on Chess was his only release. It featured Purdie on drums, Richard Tee on keyboards, Gordon Edwards on bass and Cornell Dupree on guitar. All I know of him is that he was born as George McCord in Birmingham, Alabama (hence, I suspect, the name Bama). Bama’s incisive poetry deals with issues that remain relevant today, but even if one doesn’t dig the black consciousness vibe, the music is magnificent.

I”m adding a bonus track, a funky and much-sampled groove from 1973 by The Honey Drippers who are calling to “Impeach The President”. I”d love to see Trump impeached and, if there is justice, jailed for whatever huckster stuff it is that will get him impeached. But as a pragmatist, I’m not so sure that it is such as good idea. Mike Pence is pretty bad news in his own right. Impeach them both — and clear out the Democratic Party of their lobbyist-beholden, strategy-bereft, courage-eschewing, compromise-making, backbone-lacking deadwood so that the sewerage that holds control of the White House, Senate and Congress can be flushed out.

Fight the Power!

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-fist-raised covers. PW in comments. And feel free to comment, even Trump supporters who provided us with some good laughs in the comments to the last mix.

1. Eddie Floyd – People, Get It Together (1969)
2. Segments Of Time – Song To The System (1972)
3. Marlena Shaw – Woman Of The Ghetto (1969)
4. The Staple Singers – This Old Town (People In This Town) (1971)
5. Brothers Unlimited – A Change Is Gonna Come (1970)
6. The Four Tops – Right On Brother (1974)
7. Funkadelic – If You Don’t Like The Effects, Don’t Produce The Cause (1972)
8. Candi Staton – Clean Up America (1974)
9. Lyn Collins – People Make The World A Better Place (1975)
10. Change Of Pace – People (1971)
11. The Dells – Freedom Means (1971)
12. Bama The Village Poet – Welfare Slave (1972)
13. Lim Taylor – The World’s In A Bad Situation (1974)
14. Johnny Taylor – I Am Somebody (1970)
15. Brother To Brother – Hey, What’s That You Say (1974)
16. Gil Scott-Heron – Whitey On The Moon (1974)
17. Stevie Wonder – You Haven”t Done Nothin’ (1974)
18. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (live) (1973)
19. Curtis Mayfield – Miss Black America (1970)
20. Sounds Of The City Experience – Babylon (1976)
Bonus Track: The Honey Drippers – Impeach The President (1973)

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Any Major Soul: 1960s
Any Major Soul: 1970s
Covered With Soul
Mix CD-R

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In Memoriam – March 2017

April 4th, 2017 5 comments

The headline death of the month was, obviously, that of Chuck Berry, who died at the age of 90 years. I”ve had my say on his musical legacy in the Any Major Chuck Berry Covers post. I could write about how Berry”s character was on the side of those you”d be best advised to avoid. One could have long discussion about the point at which one ceases to separate a man”s dark personality from his musical genius “” is Chuck Berry a better man than, say, Gary Glitter? But let”s leave all that with just one observation: To celebrate an artist”s music and its impact must not mean that we lionise a deeply flawed man.

I felt one other death this month more than that of Berry”s. If I was to reduce the production style of Tommy LiPuma to one word, it would be “warmth”. Or, as in the title of an Al Jarreau album he produced, “glow”. There is such enormous intimacy in the recordings LiPuma produced for acts like George Benson, Michael Franks, Randy Crawford and Jarreau. It found perfect expression in that spectacular a-side of the 1982 Casino Lights album, of Jarreau and Crawford singing four cover songs live at the Montreaux festival. I post songs from it at every opportunity, as I did last month to mark Jarreau”s death (in fact, the first three of the songs posted in tribute to the singer were LiPuma productions). Before all that, in the 1960s, LiPuma produced on A&M records, including The Sandpipers” megahit Guantanamera and records for the likes of Claudine Longet and Chris Montez. In 1968 he founded a record company, Blue Thump, which would have on its roster such acts as Hugh Masekela, Ike & Tina Turner, The Crusaders, The Pointer Sisters, Phil Upchurch, Gerry Rafferty, Dave Mason and Gabor Szabo.

As a freelancer he produced the soundtrack for Barbra Streisand”s The Way We Were, including the title song, and soon after signed on as staff producer for Warner Bros. He won his first Grammy for George Benson”s version of This Masquerade, from the Breezin” album, the title track of which he had first produced with Gabor Szabo and Bobby Womack. In 1977 he became Warner”s vice-president for jazz and progressive music. He produced almost everything by Benson (other than the Quincy Jones-produced Give Me The Night), most of Randy Crawford”s and Al Jarreau”s output. Others he produced in the “˜70s, “˜80s and “˜90s included Michael Franks, Brenda Russell, Anita Baker, Peabo Bryson, Patti Austin, Joe Sample, David Sanborn, Bob James, Miles Davis, Earl Klugh, Yellowjackets, Deodato, Larsen-Feiten Band (including Who”ll Be The Fool Tonight), Randy Newman, Rubén Blades, Stephen Bishop, and Dr. John, as well as tracks for British bands Aztec Camera and Everything But The Girl. Later, working for GPR/Verve, he nurtured the career of Diane Krall while also producing for Natalie Cole, Michael Bublé, Queen Latifah, Willie Nelson, Paul McCartney, Gladys Knight and, again, Streisand.

Of the four Sledge sisters, youngest Kathy stood out as the most charismatic, and Debbie as the most distinctive-looking. Joni Sledge, the first of the four to pass away, turned out to be the creative one: she earned a Grammy nomination for her production of the band”s 1997 album African Eyes. With Kathy leaving in 1989 and Kim, an ordained minister, dropping in and out, Joni and Debbie were the only constant members of Sister Sledge, who started their career in 1971. They first earned international notice in the mid-1970s, and exploded huge in the disco era with Nile Rodgers-produced hits like We Are Family, The Greatest Dancer and, best of them, Thinking Of You.

You may have heard the voice of Valerie Carter, who has died at 64, backing up acts like James Taylor, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, Christopher Cross, Little Feat, Nicolette Larsson, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Aaron Neville, Outlaws, Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Lyle Lovett or Shawn Colvin. You might have heard her compositions for Judy Collins, Jackson Browne, Brothers Johnson or Earth, Wind & Fire. Or you might have heard songs from her albums with Howdy Moon or her three solo studio and one live albums. A couple of times she also featured in the Not Feeling Guilty series.

Few songs give me as much joy to croon along to as The Foundations’ Baby Now That I”ve Found You, the vocalist of which, Clem Curtis, Read more…

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