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Any Major Power Ballads Vol. 1

May 28th, 2020 10 comments

 

 

This mix, dear reader, is going out to Any Major Dudette, who expressed her wish for a mix of power ballads. And with the critical rehabilitation of the genre lately, I shall feel free to share the fruits of her request with you.

And here we don’t need to concern ourselves with the inconvenient truth that her desire was expressed upon hearing a Céline Dion song on the radio (not the Titanic one. The other one). It doesn’t matter, since the stylings of Ms Dion are not to my taste, and therefore do not feature on this mix.

Also very much excluded are Jennifer Rush’s Power Of Love, which I loathe with a special depth of repulsion.  The same applies to Chris de Burgh’s Lady In Red, which I wouldn’t call a power ballad anyway.

The long-time reader may wonder: “But, Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, did you find a place for Michael F. Bolton?” And funny that you should ask, but… no. Having said that, the same wretched radio station which Any Major Dudette tunes into recently played Bolton’s breakthrough hit “How Am I Supposed To Love Without You”. And, I must confess, I was sort of singing along. Not so enthusiastically that I’d include it here, nor to turn me into one of the Bobs from Office Space. Still, I suspect that had it been sung by somebody else, it might have… no, enough. Shudder.

But that is the key to the good power ballad: it allows you to like something by an artist you’d otherwise not engage with.

Surveying the present collection of songs, I find that I own albums by only nine of them; just over half. Half of my total collection of REO Speedwagon’s catalogue is represented here. The other one is also a power ballad.

Let’s not forget: power ballads are white people’s baby-making music. People conceived to Track 4 might have conceived their offspring to Tracks 13, 15 and 16.

So, yes, the power ballad is pop music’s joker: the occasion when even the purist can get out that lighter and wave it from side to side without having to write an excuse to the taste police.

I have enough power ballads for a second volume, if there’s a demand for it. But tell me your favourite power ballads in the comments.

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

1. Aerosmith – I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing (1998)
2. Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart (1983)
3. Phil Collins – Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) (1984)
4. Moody Blues – Nights In White Satin (1967)
5. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Simple Man (1973)
6. Boston – Amanda (1986)
7. Styx – Babe (1979)
8. REO Speedwagon – Keep On Loving You (1981)
9. Heart – Alone (1987)
10. Journey – Open Arms (1981)
11. Whitesnake – Here I Go Again (1987)
12. Meat Loaf – I’m Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us (1981)
13. Maria McKee – Show Me Heaven (1990)
14. Toto – I’ll Be Over You (1986)
15. Roxette – It Must Have Been Love (1990)
16. Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville – I Don’t Know Much (1989)
17. Prince – Purple Rain (1984)

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Any Major Soul 1980

May 21st, 2020 3 comments

By popular request, the Any Major Soul series will go into the 1980s. And by popular request I mean the two people who expressed their wish to this effect.

The Any Major Soul 1980/81 mix showed that soul was still in good health as the 1970s turned into the ’80s. Bass and synth-driven disco had already made its impact on soul, and the harmonising falsettos and strings of just five years earlier were out of fashion.

But by then disco was dying, living on by whatever name in black music, without the distractions of the cultural appropriation by white suits and Ethel Merman. It was a happy marriage between funky dance music and balladeering soul.

A good example of that is Positive Force, whose We Got The Funk (as featured on Any Major Funk Vol. 1) was a minor hit in many parts of the world — except in the US. Here they feature with a fine mid-tempo number. The eight-piece band recorded on Sugar Hill Records, and the party ambience on that label’s breakthrough hit, Rapper’s Delight, was created by them. After an unsuccessful second LP, the force turned negative, and the band was done.

The set opens with a track by a singer who deserves to be better known than she is. Sylvia St. James was a backing singer and member of Side Effect before going solo in 1979. Her two albums of sophisticated soul were very good but brought no commercial success. St. James returned to session work, backing acts like Stevie Wonder, George Duke, Barbra Streisand, Harry Connick, Jr. and Michael Bublé.

Her previous band, Side Effect, also feature here, with a song from the LP they released after St. James departed. The group was produced by the Crusaders’ Wayne Henderson, and at one point featured singer Niki Howard on vocals.

Two acts here have singers whose voices you may recognise (if you don’t already know that these singers fronted the bands). It is well-known that Jeffrey Osborne sang with L.T.D., who had 1970s hits with Back In Love Again and Love Ballad. The other group is Zingara, who featured James Ingram on the lead vocals.

The expert and the eagle-eyed student of ID3 tags will notice that the Zingara album from which Love’s Calling comes was released in 1981; the song itself was issued as a single in 1980. The same applies to the Debra Laws song featured here.

Debra Laws, who featured on Any Major Disco Vol. 4 with the wonderful On My Own, comes from a famous jazz/soul family: she is the sister of Eloise, Ronnie and Hubert Laws. Two albums, in 1981 and 1993, and a bunch of singles accounted for Laws’ career.

Ty Karim is an insider’s tip for quality 1960s soul especially her 1967 song Lightin’ Up, but commercial success eluded her; she never even released an LP. In the 1970s she briefly recorded as Towana & The Total Destruction. Karim’s 1980 collaboration with George Griffin, Keep On Doin’ Whatcha Doin’, which features here, enjoyed some popularity on the UK club circuit, but didn’t provide a hit either. Karim died in 1983.

One singer who featured on previous Any Major Soul mixes died this month, and is represented here on backing vocals on the Stevie Winder track — quite by coincidence; this mix was put together well before the death of Betty Wright. She featured on Any Major Soul 1968, 1970-71, 1972 and 1974 as well as on Covered With Soul Vol. 5Any Major Disco Vol. 6

As always, CD-R length, home-souled covers, PW in comments. If you’re digging this mix, thank readers Wolfgang and JOI for asking me to carry Any Major Soul into the 1980s.

1. Sylvia St. James – Can’t Make You Mine
2. Randy Brown – We Ought To Be Doin’ It
3. L.T.D. – You Gave Me Love
4. Positive Force – Tell Me What You See
5. Crown Heights Affair – Tell Me You Love Me
6. The Manhattans – Shining Star
7. Zingara – Love’s Calling
8. George Benson – Midnight Love Affair
9. Stevie Wonder – All I Do
10. Earth, Wind & Fire – Sparkle
11. Debra Laws – Be Yourself
12. Chaka Khan – Papillon (AKA Hot Butterfly)
13. Edmund Sylvers – Beauty Of Nature
14. Sister Sledge – All The Man I Need
15. Dee Dee Sharp Gamble – If We’re Going To Stay Together
16. Odyssey – Never Had It At All
17. Larry Graham – One In A Million
18. Side Effect – The Thrill Is Gone
19. Ty Karim & George Griffin – Keep On Doin’ Whatcha Doin’

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Germany’s Hitparade 1938-45

May 14th, 2020 17 comments

This is the second part of the recycled German hitparade of the era just before and during the war. Again, if you dig genocidal fascism and want this mix to have a Nazi party, please go somewhere else. This mix was not made for your sorry Nazi asses. Part 1, covering 1930-37, was posted on Tuesday.

In 1944, the Third Reich’s propaganda and culture minister Joseph Goebbels issued a list of artists who were exempted from military duty. The list included individuals deemed too valuable for sacrifice on the battlefield — and friends of the regime. The Gottbegnadeten-Liste (God-gifted list) included authors, architects, painters, sculptors, composers (including 80-year-old Richard Strauss), conductors as well as singers and actors. Those included on that list have featured on these two compilations included Willy Fritsch, Paul Hörbiger (soon to be arrested for resistance activities), Hans Albers, Wilhelm Strienz, and Heinz Rühmann.

These artists enjoyed protection because of their sometimes unwitting collaboration in Goebbels’ endeavours of feeding a positive mood among an increasingly demoralised German population that had lost its youth on battlefields, its homes in bombed cities and its comforts with shortages in food, heat and clothing.

It had long been Goebbels’ strategy to distract the German population from the less savory sides of life under Nazism. Throughout the Nazi-era, he actively promoted light and apolitical feel-good films and songs (much as Hollywood did during the Depression). This meant that artists who were critical of the regime could work in the German film industry without troubling their conscience. Most probably did not realise that they were being used.

 

In the notes to the German Hitparade 1930-37 we encountered the affable Heinz Rühmann, who demonstrably differed with the Nazis on notions of racial purity. Yet it was he who prepared Germans for the war and the encouragement to see it through stoically when his signature hit Das kann doch einen Seemann nicht erschüttern (That can’t rattle a seaman) was released just a month before the invasion of Poland. The song came from the film Paradies der Junggesellen (with Josef Sieber and Hans Brausewetter, who also appear on the song; watch the clip and note the swastika on the walls of the hall). It seems more of a coincidence, however, that Lale Andersen recorded her famous Lili Marlen, the original, almost exactly a month before the start of World War 2.

Zarah Leander confidently predicts that there will be a miracle in the 1942 film Die grosse Liebe.

 

During the war, many songs that ostensibly dealt with matters of romance had a rather unsubtle subtext that exhorted Germans to endure the war until the inevitable final victory. As the news from the fronts became increasingly troubling, so these songs became more frequent. While Bomber Arthur Harris destroyed German cities, Zarah Leander sang Davon geht die Welt nicht unter (Cheer up, the Volk, it’s not the end of the world) and the optimistic Ich weiss, es wird einmal ein Wunder gescheh’n (I know there’ll be a miracle one day). In the clip of the song from the film, note the angels. They are SS officers.

Lale Andersen suggested that everything will pass eventually. By then, Read more…

Categories: Black & White Music, German stuff Tags:

Germany’s Hitparade 1930-37

May 12th, 2020 19 comments

This mix was first posted in 2010, but with last week’s 75th anniversary of the the end of WW2 in Europe and the end of the Third Reich, the era covered by this collection and its follow-up is of heightened interest again — and maybe more so the stories behind the artists on this mix. Obviously, if you want this mix because you are nostalgic for the Third Reich, you are not welcome to it. As Indiana Jones so memorably put it: “Nazis. I hate these guys.” The 1938-45 mix follows on Thursday.

This is the first of two compilations of German hits covering the era from the rise of Nazism to its demise. The first compilation leads us through the latter years of the Weimar Republic to 1937, just before war became an inevitable prospect. The second mix will start in 1938 — the year of the Anschluss, or annexation of Austria — through the war to 1944 (there were no hits in 1945, it seems).

None of the pre-war Schlager featured here are of the Nazi propaganda sort, and even the propaganda of the war-period songs is subtle, framing national optimism and encouragement in romantic song (with sentiments such as “I know one day there’ll be a miracle” and “Everything must pass”), which was very much in line with Goebbels’ propaganda strategy which used film and song to distract the Volk‘s mind from matters of war.

The careers of some of the artists featured in the first mix ended with the advent of Nazism. Marlene Dietrich (1901-92), whose Ich bin die fesche Lola comes from Der Blaue Engel (filmed simultaneously as The Blue Angel in 1929), launched her Hollywood career before Hitler assumed power on 31 January 1933. While Dietrich agitated against the Nazis from the safety of Hollywood, her sister ran a cinema near the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, frequented mainly by SS guards. Marlene renounced her sister as a result, yet after the war helped her financially. In post-war West Germany, Dietrich was long regarded by many as a traitor on account of her support for the Allies in WW2. At a 1960 concert in Düsseldorf, an audience member threw an egg at her (in fairness, other audience members gave the offender a good beating for his troubles).

Comedian Harmonists

The sextett Comedian Harmonists created many pre-Nazi classics which became German standards (such as Veronika, der Lenz ist da; Wochenend und Sonnenschein; Ein Freund, ein guter Freund; Mein kleiner Kaktus). Half of the group comprised Jewish members, and the group struggled soon after the Nazis took power. In 1934 Read more…

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Beatles Recovered: Let It Be

May 8th, 2020 8 comments

Fifty years ago on May 8, the final Beatles album was released, almost a month after Paul McCartney had announced that the band had split. If proof was needed that The Beatles had reached the end of the road, this uneven set seemed to provide it.

Of course, most of it was recorded before the masterful Abbey Road, so who can tell how much juice was still in that apple. Be that as it may, Let It Be was the swansong. The last bit of work was done in February 1970, with Paul and George doing some tinkering with I Me Mine, which had been recorded in January 1970, without John’s contribution.

Few fans will list Let It Be as their favourite Beatles album, and only a few tracks on it were widely covered. Naturally, the three stand-out McCartney were liberally covered: Get Back, The Long And Winding Road and the title track. Others found few takers: Dig A Pony, I Me Mine, One After 909, For You Blue…

Still, what we have here is a pretty decent compilation. Even the superfluous Dig It, from Laibach’s song-by-song copy of Let It Be, is, at least, interesting.

One of the artists featured here as a cover act actually played with The Beatles during that period. Billy Preston was even co-credited on Get Back, though that song is featured here in the cover by Motown songstress Chris Clark (released after the single was out and before the LP was released). On his 1970 LP Encouraging Words, Preston covered I’ve Got A Feeling (he also played, uncredited, on the Beatles version), as well as Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and the first recording of My Sweet Lord.

Harrison’s song For Your Blue is covered here by his son Dhani; and on David Bowie’s cover of Across The Universe, we have John Lennon playing guitar.

One track here isn’t even a cover, but precedes Let It Be by 13 years. The version of Maggie Mae — a traditional song from Liverpool which was the first non-Beatles composition the group recorded since Act Naturally on Help! — is by the The Vipers Skiffle Group, a very popular skiffle outfit in the 1950s that was at times produced by… George Martin. Their Maggie May was the b-side of the Top 10 hit The Cumberland Gap; it seems plausible that the young Beatles were familiar with this recording.

So this brings to an end this series of Beatles albums covered song-by-song, all posted on the 50th anniversary of each album. But I got into it only in 2014 with A Hard Days’ Night. I’m playing with the thought of recovering the first two albums.

1. R. Dean Taylor – Two Of Us (1970)
2. California Guitar Trio – Dig A Pony (2016)
3. David Bowie – Across The Universe (1975)
4. Beth Orton – I Me Mine (2010)
5. Laibach – Dig It (1988)
6. Bill Withers – Let It Be (1971)
7. The Vipers Skiffle Group – Maggie Mae (1957)
8. Billy Preston – I’ve Got A Feeling (1970)
9. Willie Nelson – One After 909 (1995)
10. Ray Charles – The Long And Winding Road (1971)
11. Dhani Harrison – For You Blue (2013)
12. Chris Clark – Get Back (1969)

GET IT! or HERE!

More Beatles Recovered:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles Recovered: White Album
Beatles Recovered: Yellow Submarine
Beatles Recovered: Abbey Road
Beatles Revcovered: Let It Be

Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Any Bizarre Beatles

Beatles Reunited: Everest (1971)
Beatles Reunited: Live ’72 (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Smile Away (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Photographs (1974)
Beatles Reunited: ’77 (1977)
Beatles Reunited: Let It See (1980)

More Beatles stuff

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In Memoriam – April 2020

May 5th, 2020 9 comments

What a horrible month! Even without Covid-19, April would have been a cruel month. I count 16 coronavirus-related music deaths this month (excluding classical and national folk music musicians). Disclaimer: in many cases, as I understand it, Covid-19 is not the only or primary cause of death. Where it states that somebody died of Covid-19, it does not exclude associated causes of death.

The Soul Legend
The news of Bill Withers’ death took a while to be announced. He died on March 30, but his death was made publicly known only on April 3. I paid tribute to the great singer with a mix of cover versions of his songs. A couple of days later I caught up on Netflix on an excellent documentary about the backroom fixer Clarence Avant. Featured in the film was Bill Withers, who had been discovered by Avant when the singer was still an airplane mechanic.

The Singing Mailman
A few days after Withers died, another giant fell in John Prine, whose death I also marked with a tribute and mix of covers of his songs. Like Withers, Prine was a working man when he was discovered. The mailman in Chicago became something of an overnight sensation in 1971 with his astonishing self-titled debut album. It was the foundation for an impressive body of work which deserves to be much better known. Among Prine’s fans were gifted songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Kris Kristofferson (who namechecked Prine in the title of one of his songs). Prine beat cancer twice, but died of Covid-19 after having had a hip operation.

A Funky Drummer
Disco had many pioneers, but among those who most notably put the stomp on the dancefloor was Hamilton Bohannon. The luxuriously coiffured funkmaster cut his teeth in the 1960s as Little Stevie Wonder’s drummer and then Motown’s tour bandleader. In 1973 he started to release his drum-driven funk under the banner of his surname (occasionally giving his first name an airing). A devout Christian, he saw it necessary to issue a disclaimer to the effect that the title of his album Dance Your Ass Off was not profane.

The Drumming Pioneer
Nigerian drummer Tony Allen is regarded by many of his peers as the greatest exponent of his craft. He was the long-time drummer for Fela Kuti’s Africa ‘70, the outfit that is credited with being the primary founder of Afro-pop, a genre which fused African jazz, traditional African rhythms, US jazz, funk, soul and pop. Kuti said that the genre would not exist without Tony Allen.

The drummer left the band in 1979 to form his own band. In the 1980s he moved to London and then Paris where he backed African acts such Kuti, King Sunny Adé, Ray Lema, Khaled, and Manu Dibango (whom we lost in March), as well as French acts such as Charlotte Gainsbourg and Air, plus Jimmy Cliff, Groove Armada, Kid Creole & The Coconuts, Neil Finn, Grace Jones and, somehow, Irish Foster & Allen. On Blur’s 2000 single Music Is My Radar, Damon Albarn repeats the phrase “Tony Allen got me dancing”. Later Albarn got to collaborate with Allen.

The Award Winner
Another Covid-19 victim was Adam Schlesinger of the underrated Fountains of Wayne. Read more…

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