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Archive for March, 2019

NYC: Any Major Mix Vol. 3

March 28th, 2019 10 comments

 

 

Here is the third New York City mix (or fourth if you include the New York in Black & White, as you should). This one includes a couple of obvious choices, but one of those in a rather good splendid version, plus a few lesser-known numbers.

As ever, CD-R length, home-queensed covers, PW in comments.

1. Conor Oberst – NYC – Gone, Gone (2008)
2. Lou Reed – NYC Man (1996)
3. Steely Dan – Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More (1975)
4. Chicago – Saturday In The Park (1972)
5. Candi Staton – Nights On Broadway (1977)
6. Bob & Earl – Harlem Shuffle (1963)
7. Brecker Brothers – East River (1978)
8. Billy Joel – Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway) (1981)
9. A-ha – Manhattan Skyline (1987)
10. Dar Williams – The Hudson (2005)
11. The Avett Brothers – Famous Flower Of Manhattan (2006)
12. The Statler Brothers – New York City (1970)
13. Steeleye Span feat. Peter Sellers – New York Girls (1975)
14. Belle & Sebastian – Piazza, New York Catcher (2003)
15. The Moldy Peaches – NYC’s Like A Graveyard (1997)
16. Fountains Of Wayne – Red Dragon Tattoo (1999)
17. Thomas Dybdahl – One Day You’ll Dance For Me, New York City (2004)
18. Suzanne Vega – Ludlow Street (2007)
19. Art Garfunkel – A Heart In New York (1981)
20. Horace Silver – Summer In Central Park (1973)
21. Sammy Davis Jr. – New York’s My Home (1956)
22. Bette Davis – Turn Me Loose On Broadway (1952)

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The Originals: Schlager edition

March 21st, 2019 6 comments

At first glance, this edition of The Originals seems narrowly aimed at Germans, but it should appeal to all fans of European and 1970s pop music.

The German Schlager has a reputation for being banal rubbish, and it’s not entirely unmerited. But the genre generated some legit entertainment and even moments of good quality. Often, those moments were the result of the Schlagermachine finding foreign songs and reproducing them for the German market. Sometimes what emerged was superior to the originals, as it was in the case of Danyel Gérard’s 1971 mammoth-hit Butterfly.

That song doesn’t feature here; only one track on this collection is the first version of a German hit sung by its original artist: Belgian singer Salvatore Adamo’s Petit Bonheur, which in German became Ein kleines Glück. The German version disproves the point I just made about teutonic production superiority. It’s a fairly strange bit of music in any version.

 

Before Giorgio Moroder became a pioneering trailblazer in Euro-disco and electronic music, he was a pop singer and Schlager producer. The Italian-born half-German came to Berlin in 1963. In 1969 he had a million-seller as Giorgio with Looky Looky, which topped the French charts. The following year he released Arizona Man, a Moog-driven, temp-changing pop number. His version went nowhere, but a German cover released shortly after gave Mary Roos her first hit.

Arguably the Schlager singer with the best strike-rate in choosing covers was Israeli-born Daliah Lavi. Four of her biggest hits were cover versions: three feature here; two were written by the same man: John Kongos. The South African singer went on to have two UK Top 10 hits (Tokoloshe Man and He’s Going To Step On You Again; both later covered by the Happy Mondays), but in 1970 his Would You Follow Me was translated into German and became a big hit for Lavi as Willst Du mit mir geh’n. The following year, the song was also covered by Olivia Newton-John.

 

Also in 1970, Kongos’ Won’t You Join Me was covered by the improbably-named Emil Dean Zoghby, who was a bit of a star in South Africa in the 1960s. Zoghby, who died in 2014 at 72, went on to be a stage actor in London and, back in South Africa, a record producer. Lavi’s cover, titled Wann kommst Du, was released in 1971.

The third original of a Lavi song is fairly well-known: Rod McKuen‘s catchy 1971 anti-war anthem Soldiers Who Want To Be Heroes, which enjoyed some success in Europe, especially in the Netherlands. In Laviâ’s hands, the peace song became a love song with the title Meine Art Liebe zu zeigen, which translates as My Way Of Showing Love.

 

Another astute selector of cover versions was Michael Holm. Most of these were quite well-known, so this mix of lesser-known originals picks the 1969 French song Fernando by Sheila, a singer whom the world of pop would get to know better as the lead of Sheila B. and The Devotions. Fernando – which was co-written by Danyel Vangarde, who’d later co-write hits such as the Gibson Brothers’ Cuba and Ottawan’s DISCO – became a Spanish hit as Un rayo de sol by Los Diablos, and for Michael Holm in Germany as Wie der Sonnenschein. Holm featured himself on the Christmas Originals for doing the first version of When A Child Is Born, which was itself based on an original instrumental, Le Rose blu by Ciro Dammicco (the song became later known as Soleado). Holm might feature again for doing the original of Chickory Tip’s Son Of My Father, which he co-wrote with Giorgio Moroder.

Perhaps the greatest Schlager singer-songwriter was Udo Jürgens, whose songs always stood a few steps above the standard Schlager fare. Jürgens had few needs for the songs of others, but one of his biggest hits, the cheeky seduction number Es wird Nacht Senorita of 1968, was a cover. Originally the song was recorded in 1965 as Le Rossignol Anglais by the popular French chansonnier Hugues Aufray, and the year after by Mireille Mathieu.

 

As a song travels the continent, its meaning can change. When Portuguese Brazilian singer Benito di Paula wrote and recorded his 1975 song Charlie Brown, a hit in Portugal, it was about the Peanuts character. Travelling eastwards it became a discofied number by Belgian outfit Two Man Sound (whose dance moves must be seen). Retaining the original lyrics, it was a huge hit in Belgium and Italy. But when it came to Germany, the hit version by Benny was no longer about the depressed protagonist of Charles M Schulz’s cartoon but about a promiscuous guy who beds every woman “between Mexico and Paraguay”, even your girlfriend.

One song here might just as well have featured in a 1970s edition of The Originals. A cover of Living Next Door To Alice was a big 1977 hit for Smokie. But it features here on strength Read more…

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Any Major Babymaking Music Vol. 1

March 14th, 2019 6 comments

The term “baby-making music” describes the sonic complement to the carnal act, and the stages preceding it, which is usually applied to create an ambience which facilitates the arousal of heightened sensuality. The purpose of such music does not necessarily require the objective of procreation, nor indeed the initiation of the carnal act, but its use may not, by definition, preclude these.

The selection of suitable music for that purpose is, by its nature, subjective. However, the following are not universally considered appropriate propositions to qualify inclusion under the genre “baby-making” music: Marilyn Manson’s This Is The New Shit, Aqua’s Barbie Girl, Sgt Barry Sadler’s Ballad of The Green Berets, Billy Ray Cyrus’ Achy Breaky Heart, Lawrence Welk’s Baby Elephant Walk, Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of, The Buoys’ Timothy Michael Jackson’s Ben, Insane Clown Posse’s Miracles, Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters, Toby Keith’s Courtesy Of The Red, White and Blue, the Carpenters’ Sing, Michael F Bolton’s opera album, anything by Creed, the Birdie Song, and others.

Should you find yourself in a situation where a lover cranks up the sounds of any of the above without the display of any discernible irony, then you might be in the company of a serial killer. Don’t wait to find out where the moment might lead you, regardless of what your libido tells you. Run!

If, however, your partner digs out a CD with the home-smooched cover you see above, you have a reasonable expectation of experiencing the best sex ever.

I do not wish to plant uncomfortable mental images in your head (though, since very few of you know what I look like, such mental images may take the form of the tanned and toned Adonis that I am), so I won’t reveal which of these songs I have made figurative babies to. But all of these songs make me want to make figurative babies.

 

Actually, I’m overegging the point. I think these songs are not so much humping-music (though none preclude that notion either) as they are suited to setting the mood for intense romantic moments, when two people share a deep intimacy. Some songs can express such intimacy, as anybody who has ever made out to, say, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face will know. Such songs are sexy because they feed that intimacy, that essence of being-in-love that is fundamental to the act of making love.

This is why this mix includes tracks like Isaac Hayes’ version of The Look Of Love (the live version on which he is dealing with love on a more personal basis) or Bob Marley’s Turn Your Lights Down Low, but none of Barry White’s advertising jingles for his baby-making prowess (great though these songs are). But if you need some Barry to get you into the groove, don’t despair: he’s doing his thing on Quincy Jones’ star-studded The Secret Garden, alongside the likes of James Ingram, El DeBarge and Al B. Sure.

An automatic choice would have been Earth, Wind & Fire’s I Write A Song For You, but that featured recently already. But if the stand-by is the glorious live version of Reasons, then the baby-making agenda remains uncompromised. The obvious song-choice by Billy Paul is deferred to the inevitable Volume 2.

Of course, the mix can be cheerfully played outside the setting of intimate relations. It’s just as great to listen to when driving, with no hopes of having sex in sight.

So, what are your baby-making songs?

As ever, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-smooched covers.

1. Al Green – Let’s Stay Together (1972)
2. Isaac Hayes – The Look Of Love (live) (1973)
3. Earth, Wind & Fire – Reasons (live) (1975)
4. Heatwave – Always and Forever (1977)
5. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Turn Your Lights Down Low (1977)
6. Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey (1971)
7. Joan Armatrading – Turn Out the Light (1980)
8. Roberta Flack – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (1969)
9. Randy Crawford – Tender Falls The Rain (1980)
10. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Help Me Make It Through The Night (1972)
11. Luther Vandross – If Only For One Night (1985)
12. Curtis Mayfield – Do Be Down (1990)
13. Derek and the Dominos – Bell Bottom Blues (1970)
14. Santana – Europa (1976)
15. Quincy Jones – The Secret Garden (1989)
16. Marvin Gaye – After The Dance (1976)

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R.I.P. Hal Blaine 1929-2019

March 12th, 2019 4 comments

 

 

Yesterday we lost a giant in music history, one of the greatest drummers in pop, a hitmaker, a true legend – and most people don’t even know his name. Hal Blaine was the fulcrum of The Wrecking Crew, that great collective of LA-based session musicians that played on an incredible number of pop classics, backing anything from Pet Sounds to The Partridge Family.

Blaine’s death comes just four months after that of bassist Joe Osborne, which means that the trio of musical masterminds who helped Simon & Garfunkel create masterpieces like Bridge Over Troubled Water or The Boxer are now gone (keyboardist Larry Knechtel die in 2009).

I posted two mixes of songs on which Hal Blaine played, with some background on him, in 2014. It might be worth revisiting them:

 

The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1 

 

The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2

 

Other session musicians’ collection:
The Joe Osborn Collection
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 1
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 3
The Larry Carlton Collection
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Ringo Starr Collection

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In Memoriam – February 2019

March 5th, 2019 3 comments

In February The Reaper spared us superstar deaths, though the deaths of a Monkee and the incredible André Previn are notweworthy, as is that of the man who produced Roy Orbison and Kris Kristofferson in their early prime. What this list lacks in famous names it make up with some fascinating background stories.

The Musician Monkee

With the death of Peter Tork, there are now only two Monkees. In the TV series, Tork (who got the gig on recommendation of Stephen Stills, who had unsuccessfully auditioned for the role), played the simple-minded one, quite in contrast to his real personality which valued intellectual pursuit. It is often said that the four Monkees were inferior musicians, which is why the Wecking Crew played on their early records. But Tork was the one member who did play on those recordings. A guitarist, bassist and keyboardist, he was a serious musician with a Greenwich Village folk background. The instantly recognisable keyboard bars that kick off I’m A Believer are Tork’s work. Strangely, for a serious musician, his post-Monkees career was patchy, in terms of output and in success.

Producer to Dolly, Kris and Roy

As a young man in the mid-1950s, Fred Foster worked for Mercury Records, being a nuisance to the suits with his promotion of that newfangled rockabilly music. So when he recommended that Mercury sign this young singer Elvis Presley from Sun Records, Mercury made a half-assed bid. When RCA bid more, Mercury (like Atlantic) dropped out of the bidding. Foster proceeded to found Monument Records, for which he produced that great string of Roy Orbison hits such as Pretty Woman, Only The Lonely, In Dreams, Crying and so on. He signed the young Dolly Parton to Monument and helped her to fame, and he produced country greats such as Willie Nelson, Grandpa Jones; Ray Stevens, Larry Gatlin; Larry Jon Wilson, Kris Kristofferson (that incredible string of records from 1970-72, and the duet albums with Rita Coolidge); swamp rock acts like the recently late Tony Joe White; novelty acts (sort of, for he was deadly serious) like Robert Mitchum; instrumental acts like Boots Randolph; and soul acts like Joe Simon and Arthur Alexander. Kris Kristofferson gave Foster a co-writing credit for Me and Bobby McGee for suggesting the title.

The All-round Genius

Born into a Jewish family in Germany, André Previn‘s family was lucky to get out in 1938. Having emigrated to the US, André was a precocious talent, already composing and conducting scores for MGM at the age of 18 – by which time he had already released a bunch of jazz records. He was not yet 30 when he had won successive Oscars for his scores of the musicals Gigi and Porgy & Bess in 1959 and 1960, repeating the feat in 1964-65 with his scores for Irma la Douce and My Fair Lady. He left MGM in the mid-1960s and became an acclaimed classical composer and conductor, also continuing his career in jazz as a performer and sideman, in which he also earned much acclaim, and continuing to write film scores.

No More Talk Talk

In the 1980s, Talk Talk were seen as the more sophisticated alternative to Duran Duran. T Read more…

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