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Archive for May, 2019

The Originals: 1990s & 2000s

May 30th, 2019 5 comments

 

 

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that The Originals are running monthly now. This month we cover the 1990s and 2000s. My stash of lesser-known originals from that era is limited; so much so that I’m adding a few bonus tracks to exhaust those decades.

 

It’s Oh So Quiet
Bjork showed just how madcap crazy she is on the big band pastiche It’s Oh So Quiet. But the song was actually a cover of actress Betty Hutton‘s 1951 English version of the song, titled Blow A Fuse. It is no less maniacal than Bjork’s 1995 cover, right down to the frantic screams.

It’s fair to say that back in the day Hutton was a bit of a cook in her own right; her goofy performance in the musical Annie Get Your Gun (with which you apparently can’t get a man) testifies to a certain lack of restraint which is very much on exhibition on Bjork’cover.

Blow A Fuse itself was a cover of a 1948 German number by Austrian jazz musician Horst Winter, who knew it as Und jetzt ist es still (And now it’s quiet). It is included here as a bonus track.

Torn
When Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn had its long run in the upper reaches of the British and US charts in 1997, word was that the song was a cover of the Norwegian hit by Trine Rein. The truth is that it wasn’t even the first cover, or even the first Scandinavian version.

The song’s journey to hit-dom is a little complicated. The song was written by Ednaswap members Anne Preven and Scott Cutler in 1993. The same year it was recorded in Danish by Lis Sørensen as Brændt (“Burnt’) but by Ednaswap only in 1995. Still, those who overplayed the Norwegian angle aren’t entire wrong though: Imbruglia’s cover is a straight copy of Rein’s version, right down to the guitar solo.

Ednaswap were a not very successful ’90s grunge band, who came by their name when singer Anne Preven had a nightmare about fronting a group by that name being booed off the stage. Well, with a name like that… Preven has become a songwriter, receiving an Oscar nomination for co-writing the song Listen from  Dreamgirls.

 

I Swear & I Can Love You Like That
Before it was a worldwide mega-hit for soul crooners All-4-One, I Swear was a country song. In late 1993, singer John Michael Montgomery issued I Swear as a single. It did very well in the country charts and won the 1995 Grammy for Best Country Song, but reached only Read more…

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Any Major Soul 1979

May 23rd, 2019 2 comments

 

 

The great soul tracks on this mix are 40 years old – which means that no autotune is in sight. It was a time when disco was at its height, but I suppose when I put this playlist together I was in no disco mood. Indeed, a few tracks are old school soul, especially Shirley Brown‘s After A Night Like This. A couple of tracks later, 1960s star O.C. Smith makes an appearance here with a track that sounds at once old-fashioned and very much of its time.

I realise that I’ve fostered one track already on the faithful reader, though that was six years ago. The closing track here by David Ruffin appeared on the Any Major Morning Vol. 1 mix (one Is still play regularly, as I do Any Major Morning Vol. 2).

There are a few acts whom we have not met yet in this long series (Any Major Soul 1960-63 was posted in 2012, and there was a series of Any Major Soul mixes, covering two years each, before that).

Lowrell is one of them. Born Lowrell Simon, he was a member of a couple of groups – The Vondells and The Lost Generation – before acting mostly as a songwriter and producer. Among the songs he co-wrote was How Can You Say Goodbye by Sydney Joe Qualls, which featured on Any Major Soul 1974-75. In 1979 he released his one solo LP on a label owned by, of all people, Liberace. Lowrell died in June 2018.

Featuring here with Heaven Must Have Made You, recorded the same year by Tower Of Power, is jazz-funk/soul outfit Pieces, which later that year became jazz-funk/soul outfit L.A.X. And that’s probably as interesting as it gets, perhaps other than to note that all four members had surnames starting with L.

Also from a jazz-funk background was spelling-bee nemeses Niteflyte, who released two albums. The band worked with high-calibre singers such as Phyllis Hyman and Jean Carn, and musicians such as David Sanborn, Michael & Randy Brecker and drummer Stephen Ferrone. With the present track Nyteflite even broke the Billboard Top 40.

Two acts here did not live to see the end of 1979. Minnie Riperton, whose album Minnie was released two months before her death, died of breast cancer on July 12 that year. She was only 31.

Donny Hathaway didn’t even see the release of the song here, a duet with Roberta Flack. He died on January 9 from an apparent suicide. The Stevie Wonder co-written You Are My Heaven was released on single in November 1979. The album that featured the two duets he recorded shortly before his death with Flack, which also included the hit Back Together Again, would be released only in 1980.

So, now we have covered the 1960s and the 1970s. Should I enter the 1980s, or has this thing run its course? You tell me.

As always, CD-R length, home-souled covers, PW in comments.

1. Candi Staton – Ain’t Got Nowhere To Go
2. Kool & the Gang – Too Hot
3. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You Are My Heaven
4. Brenda Russell – So Good, So Right
5. Shirley Brown – After A Night Like This
6. Commodores – Sail On
7. O.C. Smith – Love To Burn
8. Minnie Riperton – Lover And Friend
9. Earth, Wind & Fire – Wait
10. Ronnie Dyson – Long Distance Lover
11. Patrice Rushen – Giving It Up Is Giving Up
12. High Inergy – Will We Ever Love Again
13. Pieces – Heaven Must Have Made You
14. Lowrell – You’re Playing Dirty
15. Ray, Goodman & Brown – Special Lady
16. Niteflyte – If You Want It
17. Leon Ware – What’s Your Name
18. Deniece Williams – Turn Around
19. Terry Callier – Pyramids Of Love
20. David Ruffin – Morning Sun Looks Blue

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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Recovered

May 16th, 2019 12 comments

As I have already done with albums by Bruce Springsteen, Carole King, David Bowie and many Beatles albums, here’s another track-by-track covers mix. Except there are some songs on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road for which no covers seem to exist, so I have filled gaps with three live performances by Elton John himself, from his Hammersmith Odeon concert on 22 December 1973. One song had to be omitted altogether, for lack of any alternative versions.

In 1973 there was no indication that one day Elton John would become one of the leading Friends of Dorothy, but he unintentionally hinted at the yet-to-be-invented codeword with the metaphors in the title and on the cover of his double album.

The album’s title, also the name of the lead single, seems to be at odds the artwork on the cover. Both, song and cover, take their imagery from The Wizard Of Oz, in which the yellow brick road played as much a central role as any thoroughfare ever did in the movies. Where the song tells of disillusion at the end of that bright road, the cover promises the beginning of an escape from reality as Elton– spangly mauve platforms instead of ruby slippers – steps into a poster and on to a yellow brick road.

The poster is on a tatty wall, covering a previous poster (the font of which suggests that it might have advertised a music hall), with chimneys in the background telling of a drab existence, quite at odds with Elton’s flamboyant get-up.

The cover was drawn by the illustrator Ian Beck, who was 26 at the time. Beck has since illustrated magazines, greeting cards, packaging and a few children’s books. He has also written a few novels.

Beck came to LP cover design through John Kosh, whose credits included the Abbey Road cover. They shared a studio at 6 Garrick Street in London’s Covent Garden when Kosh arranged for Beck to do illustrations for an LP cover he was designing for Irish folk singer Jonathan Kelly, Wait Till They Change The Backdrop.

Elton John bought that album on strength of the cover, and wanted the same graphic for his new album. Beck told him that this was not possible but offered to create new artwork for the cover.

He was given tapes of the songs (which included future classics like Benny And The Jets, Saturday Night Is Alright For Fighting, Candle In The Wind and the title track), and typed lyrics sheets, and began working on a concept. His friend, fashion illustrator Leslie McKinley Howell, stood in as a model for Elton John in polaroids which Beck took (hence the long legs) in preparation for his watercolour, pastel, and coloured crayon pencils artwork. The piano on the front cover and the teddy bear at the back were placed there at the request of Elsie, as Beck only later realised Elton was known to his staff.

It was the last LP cover Ian Beck designed, though this had nothing to do with his experience of creating the iconic sleeve for one of the great double albums in a decade of many double albums.

The album is regarded by many as Elton John’s finest work. It is indeed filled with many great songs, too many to be released on single, and too many to find inclusion on retrospectives. Songs like Sweet Painted Lady (a song Paul McCartney might have written), I’ve Seen That Movie Too, This Song Has No Title, Roy Rogers and Harmony could have been hits (and Harmony was intended to be the album’s fourth single release); now they are remembered only by fans of the album.

1. Dream Theater – Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (1995)
2. Sandy Denny – Candle In The Wind (1977)
3. Paul Young – Bennie And The Jets (2006)
4. Sara Bareilles – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (2013)
5. Elton John – This Song Has No Title (Live) (1973)
6. The Band Perry – Grey Seal (2014)
7. Judge Dread – Jamaica Jerk-off (1977)
8. Elton John – I’ve Seen That Movie Too (Live) (1973)
9. Bridget St. John – Sweet Painted Lady (1974)
10. Elton John – The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-1934) (Live) (1973)
11. Emeli Sand̩ РAll The Girls Love Alice (2014)
12. Imelda May – Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n’ Roll) (2014)
13. The Who – Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) (1991)
14. Kacey Musgraves – Roy Rogers (2018)
15. Jesse Malin – Harmony (2008)
Bonus: Diana Ross – Harmony (1976)
Hickoids – Bennie & The Jets (2011)

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Life In Vinyl 1986 Vol. 1

May 9th, 2019 3 comments

 

 

After a long time, we return to the Life In Vinyl series, with the year 1986. Why the long delay of almost two years? Well, I had written what I thought was a great piece on my relationship with music in 1986 – and lost it in a hard-drive crash. The lost essay was so good, I was put off by the thought of trying to replicate it. I have now come to terms that I won’t.

You can blame the revival of this series to my recent viewing of the film Pretty In Pink, which virtually defines 1986, and certainly the first half of that year, which is the range of this collection.

In 1986 I was turning 20 and living in London. That year I was a pop-crazed youngster caught up in chart music. The UK charts were like a sport. As it was in 1985, I’d still be an early adopter, finding records to champion, and see them climb the charts (or, sometimes, fail to do so). It seems I was particularly good at spotting hits that would get stuck just outside the Top 10. So, fittingly, the average chart position of the 17 tracks here is #18 (the spot at which the It’s Immaterial track here peaked). The whole exercise had as much to do with love for music as it had with the charts as a sport.

It meant that I bought some records which I would not buy today. I shall not inflict some of them on you, stuff like Hollywood Beyond’s What’s The Colour Of Money. But some of these hits are also coloured by nostalgia for that first half of 1986, when I was young and clever enough to get into the fancy Stringellows club in London’s West End. Supposedly it was a hang-out for popular stars, though the only one I recognised there on my two visits was singer Belouis Some, who hardly was a star. I do have photos of our small group shooting the breeze with two prostitutes who might have been men. Let it be recorded that Stringellows was not my scene.

Anyhow, among those nostalgia-tinged tracks is Calling All The Heroes by It Bites. That summer hit was discussed last year on Chart Music, the superb podcast which clinically dissects episodes of Top Of The Pops. The experts were emphatically dismissive of the artistic merits of It Bites. I revisited the song to mop up the blood. I don’t think it’s as awful as the Chart Music pundits say; it’s an innocuous and fairly catchy slice of pop. But I also think that I enjoy it only through the haze of nostalgia of that glorious summer of ’86.

And so back to Pretty In Pink. Did anybody in American high schools really dress like James Spader, the slightly less evil version of Donald Trump?

As always, CD-R length, home-legwarmed covers. PW as usual.

1. Full Force – Alice, I Want You Just For Me
2. Fine Young Cannibals – Suspicious Minds
3. The Damned – Eloise
4. P.I.L. – Rise
5. Hipsway – The Honeythief
6. Blow Monkeys – Diggin’ Your Scene
7. David Bowie – Absolute Beginners
8. George Michael – A Different Corner
9. Big Audio Dynamite – E=Mc2
10. New Order – Shell Shock
11. Big Country – Look Away
12. It’s Immaterial – Driving Away Form Home
13. OMD – If You Leave
14. The Bangles – If She Knew What She Wants
15. Stan Ridgway – Camouflage
16. Freddie McGregor – Push Comes To Shove
17. It Bites – Calling All the Heroes

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In Memoriam – April 2019

May 2nd, 2019 4 comments

April was shaping up to be a gentle month, and then there was a death that shook me, even if I had never heard of the artist before. But more about that later…

If there was an impossible-not-to sing-along-to English pop song in the charts in the 1960s, chances were that Les Reed co-wrote it (often with Geoff Stephens). His classic hits include It’s Not Unusual and Delilah (Tom Jones), The Last Waltz, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize and When There’s No You (Engelbert Humperdinck), There’s A Kind Of Hush (Hermanâ’s Hermits and later Carpenters), Everybody Knows (Dave Clark Five), Here It Comes Again (The Fortunes), I Pretend (Des O”™Connor), Leave A Little Love (Lulu) and many others. He also wrote song for Elvis and Bing Crosby.

In the 1980s, Earl Thomas Conley was one of the biggest country stars, notching up 18 Billboard Country #1s, plus a bunch of #2 hits – but he never achieved crossover success. That amazing run of hits came after a time of struggle in the 1970s, kicking off with the 1981 country chart-topper Fire And Smoke and neatly ending in 1989 with Love Out Loud. Another #2 hit followed in 1991, and that was the end of Conley’s chart dominance. He continued to record and write songs, including Blake Shelton’s 2002 hit All Over Me. Conley was the first (and possibly only) country star to appear on Soul Train when he performed his duet with Anita Pointer, Too Many Times, on the show.

Almost exactly a month after Danny and the Juniors member and songwriter David White died, baritone Joe Terry (or Terranova) passed away. While White had washed his hands off the Juniors by the 1960s, Terry led the group right to the end, with the now only surviving original member Frank Maffei and Maffei’s brother Bobby. Terry’s death has probably put an end to the 62-year career of Danny and The Juniors.

The month’s most heartbreaking pop death is that of teenage Brazilian singer and TV personality Yasmim Gabrielle. Well-known in Brazil as a child-singer on the TV shows of Raul Gil Junior, Yasmin died at only 17 of suicide, brought on by clinical depression, probably aggravated by personal tragedy and a sense of loss of purpose after her child career ended. Yasmim’s death is a reminder that depression is a disease that can kill, even teenagers – and perhaps especially such young people who have had no chance to accumulate the life skills to fight it, even by knowing to seek help.

 

William Carvan Isles II, 79, co-founder of the O’Jays, on March 25
The O”™Jays – Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette) (1965)

Armando Vega Gil, 64, composer, bassist of Mexican band Botellita de Jerez, suicide on April 1
Botellita de Jerez – El Zarco (1986)

Kim English, 48, house and gospel singer-songwriter, on April 2
Kim English – Treat Me Right (2010)

Rick Elias, 64, musician, member of A Ragamuffin Band, on April 2
Rick Elias – Confession Of Love (1990)

Einar Iversen, 88, Norwegian jazz pianist and composer, on April 3

Tiger Merritt, 31, singer-guitarist of rock band Morning Teleportation, on April 4
Morning Teleportation – Eyes The Same (2011)

Alberto Cortez, 79, Argentine singer and songwriter, on April 4

Sam Pilafian, 69, tuba player, on April 4
Sam Pilafian – Tiger Rag (1991)

Davey Williams, 66, guitarist with free-jazz band Curlew, music critic, on April 5

Shawn Smith, 53, alt.rock singer and songwriter, on April 5
Brad – The Day Brings (1997, on vocals)

Pastor Lopez, 74, Venezuelan cumbia singer-songwriter, on April 5
Pastor Lopez y Su Combo – Cali bonita (1982)

Ib Glindemann, 84, Danish jazz composer and bandleader, on April 5

Jim Glaser, 82, American country singer and songwriter, on April 6
Tompall & The Glaser Brothers – Rings (1972)
Jim Glaser – You’re Gettin’ to Me Again (1984)

Paul Severs, 70, Belgian singer, on April 9

Earl Thomas Conley, 77, country singer-songwriter, on April 10
Earl Thomas Conley – Holding Her And Loving You (1983)
Earl Thomas Conley & Anita Pointer – Too Many Times (1986)
Blake Shelton – All Over Me (2001)

Johnny Hutchinson, 78, drummer of English rock & roll band The Big Three, on April 12
The Big Three – Some Other Guy (1963)

Dina, 62, Portuguese singer, on April 12

Paul Raymond, 73, keyboardist (Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, UFO, on April 13
Chicken Shack – Maudie (1970)
UFO – Young Blood (1980)

Joe Terry (Terranova), 78, baritone of doo wop band Danny & the Juniors, on April 15
Danny & The Juniors – Rock & Roll Is Here to Stay (1958)

Les Reed, 83, English songwriter, on April 15
The Fortunes – Here It Comes Again (1965, as co-writer)
Herman’s Hermits – There’s A Kind Of Hush (1967, as co-writer)
Peter Alexander – Delilah (1968, as co-writer)
Elvis Presley – Girl Of Mine (1973, as co-writer)

Kent Harris, 88, American songwriter and producer, on April 16
The Coasters – Shoppin’ For Clothes (1960, as co-writer)

Eddie Tigner, 92, blues singer, keyboardist and songwriter, on April 18
Eddie Tigner – Home At Last (2009)

MC Sapão, 40, Brazilian singer, on April 19

Omar Higgins, 37, bassist of reggae-punk band Negro Terror, on April 20

Yasmim Gabrielle, 17, Brazilian singer and TV personality, of suicide on April 21

Dave Samuels, 70, percussionist of jazz-fusion band Spyro Gyra, on April 22
Spyro Gyra – Morning Dance (1979)

Dick Rivers, 74, French rock and roll singer with Les Chats Sauvages, on April 24
Les Chats Sauvages – Twist a Saint Tropez (1961)

Reijo Taipale, 79, Finnish singer, on April 26

Phil McCormack, 58, singer of rock band Molly Hatchet (after 1996), on April 26
Molly Hatchet – Mississippi Moon Dog (1998)

Jack de Mello, 102, Hawaiian music composer and producer, on April 27

Jo Loesser, 91, musical theatre actress, on April 28

Beth Carvalho, 72, Brazilian samba singer and guitarist, on April 30
Beth Carvalho – Coisinha do Pai (1979)

Boon Gould, 64, guitarist of Level 42, on April 30
Level 42 – Starchild (1981, also as co-writer)
Level 42 – Something About You (1985, also as co-writer)

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