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Any Major Cole Porter Vol. 2

September 24th, 2020 5 comments

Cole Porter - Any Major Collection Vol. 2

Rarely will you hear a vocal performances that merits a good flogging (not literally, of course. We are not savages). I’m not talking about bad warbling to a bad song. I mean singers who have the talent to sing a good song well but deliver a performance of such monumental abomination that the only reasonable punishment would be the metaphorical violence.

I am talking the territory of Michael F. Bolton murdering soul music and then molesting opera territory (though since he appeared on John Oliver’s show I have softened a little on Bolton). But the man I would be leading to the flogging post personally is our old friend Bono. What is Bono’s offence? His part in the duet with Frank Sinatra of I’ve Got You Under My Skin, recorded for the mostly deplorable Duets album in 1993.

Rarely has there been as risible a performance as when our smug friend revealed the full range of his jackassery by croaking his part in tandem with Sinatra and then proceeding to assault the big band break with an aggressively tuneless falsetto. In his delusional mind, Bono doubtless imagined he was improving on a perfectly good instrumental arrangement with what he might describe as harmonies, but which we readily recognise to be a wretched effort at attention-seeking.

Of course, the blame for this is not Bono’s alone. Bono tried his luck, as any one of us might in his position. Bono was just like the fools who stick out their tongue or make goofy handsigns when they take selfies with celebrities. The Duets producer ought to have told Bono, politely but firmly, as you would indulge an overacting child: “That was all very interesting, Bono, and I’ll see how we can use that in the final mix. But no promises, all right champ?” And yet, Bono’s disharmonies made it into the final mix. It is too late now to ask Phil Ramone or Sinatra for an explanation to shed light on what possessed them to submit to the kind of vocal stylings of the sort you or I could do better while driving in the car or crooning drunkenly in the shower, for both men are now dead.

The scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime.

The stupid singing is enough to convict Bono in the Supreme Court of Music. But a merciful judge might take pity on the fool in the way that witlessness is sometimes applied as an extenuating circumstance. What makes the severest sentence absolutely inevitable, however, is one of the most egregious instances of an egomaniac singer changing the words which the writer, in this instance Cole Porter, so carefully chose in his endeavour to convey the song’s full meaning. Bono croakingly croons:

“Don’t you know, Blue Eyes, you never can win…”

Bono had form with this kind of stuff. At Live Aid, held on a hot mid-summer day in July 1985, he ad-libbed during the Do They Know It’s Christmas finale the insane words: “Do they know that springtime is coming?” Yes, the Ethiopians did. Even extreme hunger could not rob them of the necessary ability to tell apart the seasons. “Springtime is coming” nine months from July, though. It is an extravagant prediction to make when spring is still to be preceded by the end of summer, and the full duration of autumn and winter.

Bono had sung this spontaneous ad-lib at every U2 concert throughout early 1985. By July, singing these words presumably was the unconscious reflex of an unthinking mind. There is no such excuse, however, for “Don’t you know, Blue Eyes, you never can win…”

Changing the lyrics to address a third party — in this case “Blue Eyes” — doesn’t make any sense in the song. In that line the singer is referring to himself, not to somebody else. The words for I’ve Got You Under My Skin are not Bono’s lyrics. They are Mr Porter’s lyrics. Even if he has been dead for a long time, Bono had no licence to turn his carefully crafted lyric into ingratiating doggerel, unless his intent was to satirise them in the manner the comedian Richard Cheese did with the U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday (“Tonight we fiesta while tomorrow they die”). Was Bono trying to be a funny guy when he was singing with Frank Sinatra?

Moreover, I doubt that Sinatra was called Ole Blue Eyes by anybody else but the press and those entertaining the illusion of his friendship (he also hated being called the “Chairman of the Board”).

Frank Sinatra tenses up as a man with an earring hugs him.

Frank Sinatra tenses up as a man with an earring hugs him at the 1994 Grammys.

 

And all this leads us to a mix of covers of Cole Porter songs. The first Cole Porter Collection comprised performances from the black-and-white era of music; this one covers the technicolour era, with tracks ranging from the 1970s to the present. Some of them go for Nelson Riddlesque arrangements, other reinvent Porter songs in more modern genres.

As always: CD-R length, covers included, PW in comments.

1. John Barrowman & Kevin Kline – Night And Day (2004)
2. Barbra Streisand & Ryan O’Neal – You’re The Top (1972)
3. Bobby Caldwell – I Get A Kick Out Of You (1993)
4. Conal Fowkes – Let”s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love) (2011)
5. Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – Anything Goes (2014)
6. Bryan Ferry – You Do Something To Me (1999)
7. Dionne Warwick – I Love Paris (1990)
8. Grady Tate – Don’t Fence Me In (1974)
9. Jane Birkin – Love For Sale (1975)
10. Alex Chilton – All Of You (1993)
11. Lisa Stansfield – Down In The Depths (1990)
12. Freda Payne – You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (2014)
13. Helen Reddy – Blow, Gabriel Blow (1998)
14. Claire Martin – Too Darn Hot (2004)
15. Cybill Shepherd – Let’s Misbehave (1974)
16. Dianne Reeves – I Concentrate On You (2003)
17. Simply Red – Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye (1987)
18. Robbie Williams – It’s De-Lovely (2004)
19. Rosemary Clooney – Get Out Of Town (1982)
20. Linda Ronstadt – Miss Otis Regrets (2004)
21. Carly Simon – In The Still Of The Night (2005)
22. George Harrison – True Love (1976)
23. Seether – I’ve Got You Under My Skin (2009)

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Any Major ABC of Soul

September 10th, 2020 2 comments

 

These ABCs of… mixes are a great way to spend some time: making them and, I hope, listening to them.

The concept is simple: one artist per letter (with solo artists going by the first letter of their first name), from A-Z. And that’s where the fun comes in: for most letters there are so many different acts one can choose, and from those so many different songs. My method was easy: instead of surveying every soul artist beginning with B or S, I went for the acts that first came to mind. For X, the search went on for a bit longer…

I set myself a challenge: it was my goal to limit the running time of the mix to fit the whole thing on to a standard CD-R. All the while keeping in mind that I’ll have to enjoy the end result. Well, I’ve listened to the result many times over, and I do enjoy it very much.

PW in comments.

1. Arthur Conley – Sweet Soul Music (1967)
2. Blackbyrds – Walking In Rhythm (1974)
3. Chairmen Of The Board – Pay To The Piper (1970)
4. Denise LaSalle – Trapped By A Thing Called Love (1972)
5. Earth, Wind & Fire – Sing A Song (1975)
6. Flirtations – Nothing But A Heartache (1969)
7. Geno Washington – Michael (1966)
8. Honey Cone – Want Ads (1971)
9. Irma Thomas – It’s Raining (1962)
10. Jimmy Ruffin – Its Wonderful (To Be Loved By You) (1970)
11. Keni Stevens – Never Gonna Give You Up (1988)
12. Laura Lee – Wedlock Is A Padlock (1972)
13. Marlena Shaw – Liberation Conversation (1969)
14. Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators – If This Ain’t Love (Don’t Know What Is) (2005)
15. O’Jays – Love Train (1972)
16. Peaches & Herb – Close Your Eyes (1967)
17. Quincy Jones – Betcha’ Wouldn’t Hurt Me (1980)
18. Randy Crawford – Tender Falls The Rain (1980)
19. Sly and The Family Stone – Everyday People (1969)
20. Temptations – Since I Lost My Baby (1965)
21. Una Valli– Satisfaction (1968)
22. Velvelettes – Needle In A Haystack (1964)
23. Windjammer – Tossing And Turning (1984)
24. Xscape – Who Can I Run To (1995)
25. Yellow Sunshine – Yellow Sunshine (1973)
26. Zulema – You Changed On Me (1974)

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In Memoriam – August 2020

September 3rd, 2020 7 comments

This month we lost one of my favourite contemporary singers, and one of the last survivor of the 1921 Tulsa pogrom. The latter died at 100 on August 18, when this list records seven music deaths in one day.

There’s a lot great music to discover this month; I am surprised that the drum break that opens Steve Grossman’s Zulu Stomp has not been widely sampled. As in the last few months, I’ve created playlists in order of the listings below, and a playlist I have made for myself. This month’s is particularly good.

The Saint Of Lost Causes
The law of averages dictate that most of our favourites musicians tend to die when they are past their prime. It’s very rare that I’m looking forward to the next album of a newly-departed performer, even in the case of somebody like Prince. But in August I was devastated by the sudden death of Justin Towne Earle, one of the few contemporary singers I’d call myself a fan of, more so even than I am of his father, Steve Earle.

He never made a bad album I heard, and his Harlem River Blues album is a contender for my favourite of the 2010s, and Track 2 from it, One More Night in Brooklyn, one of my favourites of the decade. Last year’s The Saint Of Lost Causes was solid with some fine moments. It has his typical warmth and tinge of sadness, and is an agreeable companion. Justin Townes Earle’s music is generally classified as “Americana”, and Earle did justice to the concept: he drew his influences from almost every musical genre of the USA.

Earle was just 38, younger even than the fine musician he was named after, Townes van Zandt. Police say it might have been a drug overdose that claimed Earle, and reportedly he had been on-and-off drugs since he was 12.

The Texan Mexican
Strange paths crossed with Trini Lopez, the son of Mexican person growing up in Texas. In the mid-1950s, Lopez and is band played in the Dallas nightclub owned by Jack Ruby, who’d later murder Harvey Oswald. Then it was Buddy Holly’s father at whose advice Lopez and his band, The Big Beats, were recorded by Buddy’s producer Norman Petty in 1957. They released one instrumental single, and Trini tried his hand at a solo career as a singer. A long string of singles went nowhere, and an idea for Trini to succeed Buddy Holly as the singer of The Crickets fell through. So he returned to club singing — where he was discovered in 1962 by Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra signed Lopez to his Reprise label, and Lopez rewarded Sinatra with a hit, a live recording of If I Had A Hammer. He continued to have a run of hit singles through the 1960s. In between that he designed two guitars for Gibson, both models now much sought-after by collectors, and appeared in a handful of movies, including The Dirty Dozen.

The Rock Opera Writer
We can thank Mark Wirtz and his collaborator Keith West for the concept of the rock opera, one which they pioneered in 1967 with their unfinished A Teenage Opera, from which West released the track often called Grocer Jack, which became a #2 hit in 1967. Wirtz — who was born in in the French city of Strasbourg, grew up in Cologne and moved to England in 1962 — also wrote and recorded the infectious A Touch Of Velvet-A Sting Of Brass in 1966 under the moniker Mood Mosaic (with vocals by The Ladybirds). It later served as the theme of the legendary German music TV show Musikladen.

In 1970 he moved to the US, where he arranged for a number of big-name acts, but left the business in the late 1970s. He tried his hands at various careers: working a telemarketer, maître d’, blood-stock agent, interpreter, voice-over artist, undercover agent, seminar leader and sales manager. He then moved into comedy, with success, and also became an award-winning newspaper columnist and writer.

The Pogrom Survivor
As a toddler, Hal “Cornbread” Singer survived the Tulsa race massacre, when whites razed a whole thriving district in the black suburb of Greenwood in a pogrom against African Americans. When he died at 100 on August 18, he was one of the last survivors of that act of genocide.

Singer grew up in Greenwood before he became a jazz musician, especially as a tenor saxophonist. He played with acts like Oran “Hot Lips” Page, Roy Eldridge, Marion Abernathy, Coleman Hawkins and Wynonie Harris and recorded under his own name, scoring a 1948 hit with the instrumental Corn Bread, which gave him his nickname.

The Hard Rock Producer
Martin Birch, who has died at 71, was a young recording engineer when he twiddled the buttons for the blues-era Fleetwood Mac, and more as they transitioned towards AOR (he played an acoustic guitar solo on their 1973 track Keep On Going, which he produced and has Christine McVie on vocals). But he made his name as the producer and engineer on all the great Deep Purple albums, and the successor bands such as Rainbow and Whitesnake. From Deep Purple he moved on to Iron Maiden, producing their golden 1980s run. He also worked on albums by Black Sabbath, Wayne County and Blue Öyster Cult.

The Mindbender
As the nominative frontman of ’60s British pop band The Mindbenders, Wayne Fontana has legitimate expectations of striking it big as a solo artist. So after a couple of UK Top 10 hits in 1964 and ‘65 (both featured here), Fontana left the band to go solo. While Fontana had a pair of Top 20 hits (on the Fontana label, coincidentally), the band he left behind scored a huge hit in 1966 with A Groovy Kind Of Love. That’s as good as it ever got for Fontana, by 1976 he quit the music business.

And if you ever thought Austin Powers was anything less than a documentary, listen to the Coca-Cola jingle featuring Fontana and The Mindbenders included in this collection.

The Last Hatchet Man
With Steve Holland, the last of the original line-up of Southern Rock outfit Molly Hatchet has died. The guitarist stuck with the band from its founding until a big fall-out moved Holland and two other members to drop out of a tour in 1983. Two decades later they joined up with former Molly Hatchet singer Jimmy Farrar to form Gator Country, named after their old band’s great 1978 song. They released one live album in 2008. All founding members of Gator Country are now all dead.

The Dealer
The contribution made by Cathy Smith to the canon of music is negligible — backing vocals for Hoyt Axton (harmonising with Nicolette Larsson) and Dan Hill — but her unexemplary life story is tied in with various acts, not always for the better. Born in 1947 in Canada, she went to the US as a teenager and hooked up with Levon Helms and his pre-Band group The Hawks, and then with members of The Band. When the paternity of her newborn couldn’t be established, the kid was known as “The Band Baby”. She had an on-off affair with fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot, whose big hit Sundown is about his troubled affair with Smith (the possessive Lightfoot was not just a victim of Smith’s wiles but also an abuser, once breaking Smith’s cheekbone).

In 1976 Smith became a heroin addict and dealer. Among her clients, according to Bob Woodward in his book Wired, were Ron Wood and Keith Richards. Another client was John Belushi, into whom she injected the drug cocktail that killed him. In a contender for Greatest Backfires of the 1980s, Smith gave an interview about it in the National Enquirer, under the headline “I killed John Belushi. I didn’t mean to, but I am responsible”. As a result of that, she was charged with murder and drug-dealing. Out on bail, she fled to Canada. She later served a 15-month sentence in a plea bargain.

 

Randy Barlow, 77, country singer, on July 30
Randy Barlow – No Sleep Tonight (1978)

Wilford Brimley, 85, actor and singer, on Aug. 1
Wilford Brimley – My Funny Valentine (1990)

Larry Novak, 87, jazz pianist, on Aug. 2

Steve Holland, 66, guitarist with Molly Hatchet, Gator Country, on Aug. 2
Molly Hatchet – Gator Country (1978)
Molly Hatchet – Bloody Reunion (1981)

Michael Peter Smith, 78, singer-songwriter and author, on Aug. 3
Steve Goodman – The Dutchman (1972, as writer)
Michael Smith – Three Monkeys (1987)

Tony Costanza, 52, drummer with metal bands Machine Head, Crowbar, on Aug. 4

Billy Goldenberg, 84, TV theme writer, musical director (Elvis ‘68), on Aug. 4
Barbra Streisand ‎- If I Close My Eyes (1973, as co-writer, arranger, producer)
Theme of ‘Kojak’ (full version) (1973, as writer)

FBG Duck, 26, rapper, shot dead on Aug. 4

Jan Savage, 77, guitarist of garage rock band The Seeds, on Aug. 5
The Seeds – Pushin’ Too Hard (1965)

Agathonas Iakovidis, 65, Greek folk singer, on Aug. 5
Koza Mostra & Agathonas Iakovidis – Alcohol Is Free (2013)

Vern Rumsey, 47, bassist and recording engineer, on Aug. 6

Wayne Fontana, 74, English singer, on Aug. 6
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders – Um, Um, Um, Um (1964)
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders – Game Of Love (1965)
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders – Coca-Cola commercial (1960s)
Wayne Fontana – Pamela, Pamela (1966)

Mark Wirtz, 76, French-born musician and producer, on Aug. 7
Mood Mosaic – A Touch Of Velvet-A Sting Of Brass (1966)
Keith West – Excerpt From ‘A Teenage Opera’ (1967, as co-writer, producer)

Alain Delorme, 70, French singer, on Aug. 7
Alain Delorme – Romantique avec toi (1975)

Paul Dokter, 59, singer, guitarist of Dutch indie band The Serenes, on Aug.7
The Serenes – Rebecca (You’re Gonna Be Alright) (1990)

Martin Birch, 71, British producer and engineer. On Aug. 9
Deep Purple – Hush (1968, as engineer)
Fleetwood Mac – Keep On Going (1973, as producer, engineer and on acoustic guitar)
Rainbow – Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (1978, as producer/engineer)
Iron Maiden – Run To The Hills (1982, as producer/engineer)

Salome Bey, 80, Canadian jazz singer, on Aug. 9
Salome Bey – Hit The Nail Right On The Head (1970)
Salome Bey – Lover Man (1992)

Don Martin, bassist of New Zealand new wave band Mi-Sex, on Aug. 10

Waldemar Bastos, 66, Angolan musician, on Aug. 10
Waldemar Bastos – Teresa Ana (1983)
Waldemar Bastos – Sofrimento (1998)

Trini Lopez, 83, singer and actor, on Aug. 11
The Big Beats – Clark’s Expedition (1957, as member on guitar)
Trini Lopez – A-me-ri-ca (1963)
Trini Lopez – Lemon Tree (1964)

Pat Fairley, 76, bassist of Scottish pop band Marmalade, on Aug. 11
Marmalade – Baby Make It Soon (1969)

Belle du Berry, 54, singer of French group Paris Combo, on Aug. 11
Paris Combo – Moi, mon âme, ma conscience (1997)

Carlos Burity, 67, Angolan semba musician, on Aug. 12

Steve Grossman, 69, jazz saxophonist, on Aug. 13
Steve Grossman – Zulu Stomp (1974)

Ewa Demarczyk, 79, Polish singer and poet, on Aug. 14

Pete Way, 69, bass guitarist with rock band UFO, on Aug. 14
UFO – Young Blood (1980, also as co-writer)

Valentina Legkostupova, 54, Russian pop singer, on Aug. 14

Ron Heathman, guitarist with rock band Supersuckers, on Aug. 18
The Supersuckers – Rock-n-Roll Records (Ain’t Selling This Year) (2003)

Jack Sherman, 64, guitarist with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (1983-84), on Aug. 18
Red Hot Chilli Peppers – True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes (1984, also as co-writer)

Sean Pentecost, drummer of Australian metal band Superheist, on Aug.18.

Roger Quigley, 51, singer-songwriter with indie duo Montgolfier Brothers, on Aug. 18
The Montgolfier Brothers – Between Two Points (1999)

Steve Gulley, 57, bluegrass singer-songwriter, on Aug. 18

Cathy Smith, 73, Canadian-born backup singer, on Aug. 18
Hoyt Axton – Evangelina (1976)

Hal ‘Cornbread’ Singer, 100, jazz tenor saxophonist, on Aug 18
Wynonie Harris – Good Rockin’ Tonight (1947, on tenor sax)
Hal Singer Orchestra – Easy Living (1953)
Hal Singer – Cloud Nine (1964)

Lou Ragland, 78, soul singer and producer, on Aug. 19
Lou Ragland – Understand Each Other (1978)

Todd Nance, 57, drummer of rock band Widespread Panic, on Aug. 19

Justin Townes Earle, 38, singer-songwriter, on Aug. 20
Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues (2010)
Justin Townes Earle – Am I That Lonely Tonight (2012)
Justin Townes Earle – Burning Pictures (2014)
Justin Townes Earle – The Saint Of Lost Causes (2019)

Piotr Szczepanik, 78, Polish singer and actor, on Aug. 20

Frankie Banali, 68, drummer of Quiet Riot, WASP, on Aug. 20
Quiet Riot – Metal Health (Bang Your Head) (1983, also as co-writer)
W.A.S.P. – Mean Man (1983)

Ron Tudor, 96, Australian producer and label owner (Fable Records), on Aug. 21

Bryan Lee, 77, blues musician, on Aug. 21
Bryan Lee – I’ll Play The Blues For You (1993)

Steve Sample Sr., 90, jazz bandleader, arranger and educator, on Aug. 22

J. Rogers, 72, soul singer and producer, on Aug. 22
D.J. Rogers – Listen To The Message (1973)
D.J. Rogers – Say You Love Me (1975)

Ulla Pia, 75, Danish singer, on Aug. 22

Walter Lure, 71, guitarist with The Heartbreakers, on Aug. 22
Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers – To Much Junkie Business (1992, also as writer)

Giannis Poulopoulos, 79, Greek singer-songwriter, on Aug. 23

Charlie Persip, 91, jazz drummer, on Aug. 23
Dizzy Gillespie Sextet – Devil And The Fish (1954, on drums)
Dinah Washington – Someone’s Rocking My Dreamboat (1957)

Peter King, 80, English jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, on Aug. 23
Everything But The Girl – The Night I Heard Caruso Sing (1988, on saxophone)

Riley Gale, 34, singer of metal band Power Trip, on Aug. 24

Itaru Oki, 78, Japanese jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist, on Aug. 25

Mick Hart, Australian folk-rock musician, on Aug. 25
Mick Hart – Watching It Fade (2001)

Gerry McGhee, 58, singer of Canadian rock band Brighton Rock, on Aug. 25

Chet Himes, 73, recording engineer, reported on Aug. 26
Christopher Cross – Ride Like The Wind (1979, as engineer)

Mike Noga, 43, Australian rock multi-instrumentalist, on Aug. 27
The Drones – The Minotaur (2008, as member on drums)

Ronnie Kole, 89, jazz pianist, New Orleans French Quarter Festival founder, on Aug. 27

Mark Colby, 71, jazz fusion saxophonist, on Aug. 31
Mark Colby – On And On (1979)

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