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Any Major Rain

July 29th, 2021 4 comments

Last week we had really bad weather. Rain, rain and more rain. Which is a blessing, of course, if you are living in regions of drought, but a curse when you have no secure home or live in a territory that floods in times of heavy rains.

So I put together a mix of songs about rain — real the actual meteorological phenomenon, and about wet weather as a metaphor. Some of the tracks are obvious. It was while humming Rainy Night In Georgia in the shower — artificial rain! — that I decided to compile this collection. A few obvious ones are missing: no raindrops keeping falling on heads, no always raining on me, no Beatles backward sound-noodling… Maybe in Volume 2, should here be one.

I think the result is a great way of spending a rainy day — or a hot day when one could do with a downpour. Funny enough, as I’m writing this, the sun is shining!

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

1. Love Unlimited – Walking In The Rain (1972)
2. Lea Roberts – Laughter In The Rain (1975)
3. Randy Crawford – Tender Falls The Rain (1980)
4. Ray Charles – Rainy Night In Georgia (1972)
5. The Pogues – A Rainy Night In Soho (1986)
6. The Jesus And Mary Chain – Happy When It Rains (1987)
7. Jimi Hendrix Experience – One Rainy Wish (1967)
8. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Have You Ever Seen The Rain (1970)
9. Flying Burrito Brothers – Wind and Rain (1975)
10. Lovin’ Spoonful – Rain On The Roof (1966)
11. Joni Mitchell – Rainy Night House (1970)
12. Keith Whitley – I’m No Stranger To The Rain (1989)
13. Chris Isaak – Waiting For The Rain To Fall (1987)
14. Justin Townes Earle – Memphis In The Rain (2012)
15. Richard Hawley – Early Morning Rain (2009)
16. The Everly Brothers – Crying In The Rain (1961)
17. Johnnie Ray – Just Walking In The Rain (1956)
18. Irma Thomas – It’s Raining (1962)
19. Bobby Womack – It’s Gonna Rain (1969)
20. Marvin Gaye – I Wish It Would Rain (1970)
21. Margie Joseph – How Beautiful The Rain (1971)
22. Carrie Smith – Some Rainy Day (1983)
23. Donald Fagen – Walk Between Raindrops (1982)
24. Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain (1987)

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Any Major Neil Diamond Songbook

July 22nd, 2021 8 comments

 

When I was little, Neil Diamond was one of my mother’s favourite singers, alongside Cat Stevens. She’d also get excited when Engelbert Humperdinck appeared on TV, but she had none of his records. I assume that more than us crooning, she liked Engelbert’s luxuriously blow-dried hair. Of which Neil Diamond had a lot, too. Plus the lamé jackets.

As I became a teenager, I regarded Diamond as lamé and lame. His easy listening music was aimed at my mom, not at me. Forever In Blue Jeans was a boomer hymn, not aimed at my generation. And I assumed the name was a presumptuous moniker (turns out, it’s the guy’s real name).

For a long time, I didn’t dare to go near Diamond. Then I became the age of the people at whom Diamond had aimed his music. I still don’t go for the Forever In Blue Jeans stuff or the Streisand duet, but his 1960s and earlier ’70s stuff… well, that works for me. I also have a lot of time for his 2000s albums, especially the wonderful 12 Songs from 2005.

What a pity, then, that for many people, Neil Diamond means the hackneyed DA-DA-DA inserted by sports crowds into Sweet Caroline.

Diamond (who was born in 1941 and grew up in Brooklyn with future duet partner Barbra Streisand in his orbit) started out as part of a singing duo, Neil & Jack, and as a Brill Building songwriter. The duo flopped, but he made a name as a songwriter for acts like The Monkees, whose mega-hit I’m A Believer he wrote. His first Top 20 composition was in 1965, with Sunday And Me for Jay and the Americans. By 1966 he had a recording contract, recording his first hit, Solitary Man. It was the beginning of a fruitful career.

This mix features covers of songs from that long career. Strangely, some great songs have not been covered (such as the magnificent Brooklyn Roads) or not covered by many acts other than your James Lasts and Hugo Montenegros.

When UB40 had a hit with Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine in 1983, they apparently had no idea that it was a song by the lame-suited balladeer. The group thought they were covering (and, we may assume, improving) an original by reggae singer Tony Tribe, whose own cover of the song was released in 1969, two years after Diamond’s (Tribe’s version is added here as a bonus track. It might have been inspired by the 1968 soul version of Jamaica’s Jimmy James & The Vagabonds).  Several reggae artists covered Diamond: Holly Holy, for example, was covered to good effect by both Byron Lee & The Dragonaires and Willie Lindo; Bunny Scott did I Am…I Said; Marcia Griffiths did Play Me. As recently as 2013, Third World got their hands on Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon.

This collection includes a handful of songs written by Diamond but first recorded by others:  I’m A Believer and A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You were first hits for The Monkees, but feature here as covers — the latter in Diamond’s version. The Monkees themselves feature with their original of Diamond’s composition Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow), The Box Tops with Ain’t No Way, the Jay & The Americans track, and Glen Campbell with Sunflower.

As ever, CD-R length, home-song-sung-blued covers, linernotes in illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Neil Diamond – I’m A Believer (1970)
2. Bobby Womack – Sweet Caroline (1972)
3. Jr. Walker & The All Stars – Holly Holy (1970)
4. Deep Purple – Kentucky Woman (1968)
5. David Garrick – I Got The Feelin’ (1967)
6. Elvis Presley – And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind (1970)
7. Glen Campbell – Sunflower (1977)
8. Johnny Cash feat. Tom Petty – Solitary Man (2000)
9. Shane MacGowan & The Popes – Cracklin’ Rosie (1994)
10. The Specials – A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You (1996)
11. Marcia Griffiths – Play Me (1974)
12. Jimmy James & The Vagabonds – Red Red Wine (1968)
13. Millie Jackson – Love On The Rocks (1981)
14. Bunny Walters – Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon (1972)
15. Caterina Caselli – La casa degli angeli (I Am…I Said) (1971)
16. The Box Tops – Ain’t No Way (1969)
17. Wishful Thinking – Cherry, Cherry (1967)
18. The Monkees – Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) (1967)
19. Lafayette – Porcupine Pie (1973)
20. Frank Sinatra – Song Sung Blue (1980)
21. Peggy Lee – Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show (1969)
22. Malcolm & The Les Humphries Singers – Soolaimon (1970)
23. Jay & The Americans – Sunday And Me (1966)
Bonus Tracks:
Elvis Presley – Sweet Caroline (1970)
Willie Lindo – Holly Holy (1974)
Tony Tribe – Red, Red Wine (1969)

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Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Leonard Cohen
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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Categories: Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs, Songwriters Tags:

Any Major Soul 1990-92

July 15th, 2021 1 comment

 

 

While the Any Major Soul series will continue with the mixes covering the 1980s year-by-year (the most recent being Any Major Soul 1981), we’ll also be jumping ahead to the 1990s.

It was arguably the last “golden age” of soul, and the last decade in which soul was the dominant African-American genre. One might have fruitful arguments about how hip hop and soul have fused to such an extent that they are merchandise in the same bag, symbolised by the union of Beyoncé and Jay-Z. But today is not the time for that discussion, though the flirtation between soul and hip hop had already begun in the 1990s.

As the 1980s turned into the 1990s, soul became more youthful, even as veterans such as Roberta Flack and Luther Vandross were still scoring hits. Indeed, on this mix, several veterans strut their middle-aged stuff: Chaka Khan, Curtis Mayfield, Anita Baker and Gerald Alston (former lead singer of The Manhattans).

At the dawn of the 1990s, there was the New Jack Swing movement, pioneered already in the ’80s by people like Keith Sweat (remarkably, his real name), which drew from the rhythms of hip hop. In its purest form, it was short-lived, but its legacy was heavily felt throughout the decade and beyond. The awful 1980s synthethisers and screeching movie soundtrack guitars were fading away, and the primacy of the bass returned.

Return of the Band

After a decade-and-half of solo singers grabbing most of the success, groups were back. And their influences went way back to doo wop, as outfits like Boyz II Men (featured here with the marvellous Motownphilly), Shai, All-4-One et al showed. Girl bands were also back, and this time they needn’t be families like the Pointers, Sledges or Joneses.  Now there were mostly trios of Sistas: TLC, En Vogue, SWV, Jade, Eternal, Xscape, Brownstone and so on.

Of course, there were still solo singers, and some of them were of the old school, like the singer of this set’s stand-out track, Keith Washington. But new stars emerged, even if for a brief shift at the top. One of them was Johnny Gill, alumnus of New Edition, whose My My My offered the promise of first-rate sex in the class of Teddy Pendergrass. But where TP was all hairy face, Gill was shaved balls. Soul machismo had a new look, all short-sides and flattop, and waxed chests.

Sex ‘n’ Soul

In the 1990s, soul music became more sexually explicit, though not yet in the misogynistic crudeness which would be spearheaded in hip hop with its demeaning rhymes about assorted bitches and ho’s who reportedly ain’t shit. Our soul singers were still cut from the romantic cloth, and their romancing included few sartorial uses, other than the strategic discarding of garments. The vague suggestion of sweet lovin’ through the night, baby, became more specific in the soul mainstream, recalling TP’s radical proposal a decade earlier of showering together for the purpose of mutually administered personal hygiene before sweaty proceedings could commence in the darkness.

Case in point: cunnilingus. Previously all kinds of metaphors would protect the fainthearted from exposure to this particular form of oral sex (and here we welcome the lost porn-googlers. Stick around, new arrivals, and enjoy the music). Pop band Spandau Ballet pushed the tongue out wide when in True, their 1983 hit, they referred to the “pill on my tongue”, which was not a pharmaceutical reference. Ten years later, Tony Toni Toné in their song Put Your Head On My Pillow issued an explicit instruction manual to cunnilingus (you find that track on Any Major Babymaking Music Vol. 2). And we will not even mention that unmentionable Bump n’ Grinder.

Soul Yodel

The 1990s produced the girl groups, but the decade also offered scope to female solo singers. The decade’s two biggest stars in soul were ground-breaking women: Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey (neither feature on this mix, but might well have). Both of them have become symbols for bombastic vocals with an excessive of melisma (the proper term for soul yodelling). Yet. both singers merit a thorough rehabilitation. They were magnificent vocalists with some great pop and a few superb soul songs (and also some unfortunate material). I shall discuss the melisma mania in the linernotes for the next mix, but it would be negligent of me to fail pointing out that summarily dismissing the vocals of I Will Always Love You or Vision Of Love simply because they include vocal gymnastics is an act of foolishness.

Women were taking their place of primacy in soul. I don’t imagine any major soul mix of the 1980s would kick off with five songs by women, or have a female presence of about two-thirds of the playlist. In my selection of tracks, this was entirely unintended. Even on the shortlist, men constituted only half of the volume. But it shows that in the 1990s, things in soul were changing.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-shellsuited covers and the text above in PDF format. PW in comments.

1. Soul II Soul feat. Kym Mazelle – Missing You (1990)
2. The Chimes – True Love (1990)
3. Mary J. Blige – Real Love (1992)
4. SWV – Weak (1992)
5. Cheryl Pepsii Riley – I Don’t Wanna Be Alone (1991)
6. Keith Washington – Kissing You (1991)
7. Curtis Mayfield – Do Be Down (1990)
8. Gerald Alston – Slow Motion (1990)
9. Chanté Moore – Love’s Taken Over (1992)
10. Jade – Don’t Walk Away (1992)
11. Johnny Gill – My My My (1990)
12. Mica Paris – You Put A Move On My Heart (1992)
13. Lisa Fischer – How Can I Ease The Pain (1991)
14. Anita Baker – Soul Inspiration (1990)
15. Chaka Khan – Love You All My Lifetime (1992)
16. Boyz II Men – Motownphilly (1991)
17. Shai – If I Ever Fall In Love (1992)

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Any Major Soul 1960s
Any Major Soul 1970s
Any Major Soul 1980s

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In Memoriam – June 2021

July 6th, 2021 4 comments

Oh, Reaper, please keep on taking it easy. It was a merciful month — the least eventful in many years — though it might not seem that way for fans of Argentine rock or Japanese instrumentalists. Or presidents who liked to make music. The reward in months like this is in discovering great music from unexpected quarters.

The Mentor
The story of Grace Griffith — who has died at only 64 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease — is one of generosity of spirit, that appealing characteristic which is an essence of love. When she was signed by folk and Celtic music label Blix Street Records, Griffith was supposed to become its headliner. But Griffith urged them to also sign a loyal fan of hers by the name of Eva Cassidy.

Nothing much happened until September 1996, when Griffith learnt of Cassidy’s illness with cancer. Griffith immediately arranged to send a tape of Cassidy’s just recently self-released Live at Blues Alley album to Bill Straw from Blix Street Records. Two months later, Cassidy was dead and Griffiths sang at her funeral. Straw obtained the rights to Cassidy’s recordings, both previously released and demos, and put a collection of them out under the title Songbird. It became a huge hit, especially in Britain.

Alas, Griffith was diagnosed with Parkinson’s less than two years after Cassidy’s death. Soon she lost her ability to play the various instruments she had mastered, but her beautiful voice remained unaffected, allowing her to continue performing and recording.

The Fourth Worlder
A collaborator with the likes of Brian Eno, Ry Cooder, David Sylvian, and Peter Gabriel, American trumpeter and composer Jon Hassell developed the concept of “Fourth World” music, which — and here I yield to Wikipedia — describes a “unified primitive/futurist sound combining elements of various world ethnic traditions with modern electronic techniques”. A doctor of music, Hassel studied with avant garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

It all sounds terribly esoteric, but Hassell worked with many well-known names, including Tears for Fears, Talking Heads, Jackson Browne, k.d. lang, Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, Ani DiFranco, and Ibrahim Ferrer. And the electronic music on the TV series The Practice… that was Hassell as well.

The President
After his death at 97, former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda was mourned throughout Africa as one of its most beloved politicians. He was among the first African leaders to hand over power without hassles when he was defeated in a democratic election — which had not been taken for granted, since Kaunda was not a democrat during his 27-year presidency.

Kaunda was also a keen amateur musician, who often would accompany singers like Miriam Makeba on piano or guitar at functions. And in 1990 he entered the UK Dance Top 40, by way of a remix by disco legend Oliver Cheatham of a tune titled Tiyende Pamodzi, which Kaunda had written and, as conductor, recorded in 1974 under the snappy moniker Zambia Cabinet & Central Committee led by President Kenneth Kaunda. The recording of Tiyende Pamodzi marked the tenth anniversary of Zambia’s independence.

Kaunda used his guitar to rally crowds with his own compositions during the fight for independence, and even as president he would sing songs on the public stage, political tunes as well as love songs to his wife. A devout Christian, he also composed hymns.

Assassinated
On June 14, popular Colombian singer Junior Jein entered a nightclub in the city of Cali for a personal appearance. He left the club on a stretcher, having been shot six times. He died in hospital.

A socially engaged singer, Jein had protested in song and words against the state crackdown on protests since April, 28, in which at least 60 demonstrators have been killed and more than 2,300 injured by the authorities, and others were forcibly disappeared. Jein described the shooting of the protesters as a massacre. Soon after, he himself was shot dead…

As always, this post is reproduced in PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

 

Bob Edmondson, 86, trombonist, arranger, producer, on May 29
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Wade In The Water (1966, on trombone & as arranger)

Grace Griffith, 64, American and Celtic singer, on June 5
Grace Griffith – Demeter’s Daughter (1996)
Grace Griffith – My Life (2006)

Michele Merlo, 28, Italian singer-songwriter, on June 6

Jaime Junaro, 72, Bolivian singer-songwriter and guitarist, on June 6

David C. Lewis, keyboardist of soft-rock band Ambrosia, on June 7
Ambrosia – Heart to Heart (1978)
Shadowfax – Solar Wind (1988, as member and writer)

Dean Parrish, 79, soul singer, on June 8
Dean Parrish – I’m On My Way (1967)

Farhad Humayun, 42, singer and drummer of Pakistani rock band Overload, on June 8
Overload – Dhamaal (2005)

Torgny Björk, 82, Swedish singer, musician, composer, on June 9

Juan Nelson, 62, American bassist (Ben Harper), on June 9
Ben Harper – The Woman In You (1999, on bass)

Jon Lukas, 72, Maltese musician, on June 11
Jon Lukas – Can’t Afford To Lose (1970)

Pablo Larralde, 55, Argentinian heavy metal singer, on June 13

Raul de Souza, 86, Brazilian trombonist, on June 13
Raul De Souza – Only When You Can (1979)

Junior Jein, 38, Colombian singer, producer and composer, shot dead on June 14
Junior Jein – Si Dios Fuera Negro

Fane Flaws, 70, New Zealand musician and songwriter, on June 17

Kenneth Kaunda, 97, Zambian ex-president and hobby musician, on June 17
Zambia Cabinet & Central Committee led by President Kenneth Kaunda – Tiyende Pamodzi (1974)

Takeshi ‘Terry’ Terauchi, 82, Japanese rock guitarist and actor, on June 18
Takeshi Terauchi & The Blue Jeans – Kuroda Bushi (1966)

Lionel Leroy, 65, French singer, on June 20
Lionel Leroy – Starsky et Hutch (Chanson originale de la série télévisée) (1981)

Nobuo Hara, 94, Japanese jazz saxophonist, on June 21
Nobuo Hara and His Sharps & Flats – Five Spot After Dark (1970)

Mamady Keïta, 70, Guinean drummer, on June 21

Ike Stubblefield, 69, organ & keyboard player, on June 19
Ike Stubblefield – I Thought It Was You (2011)

Winsford Devine, 77, Trinidadian calypso & soca songwriter, on June 22
Winsford Devine – Dance All Night (1985)

Wojciech Karolak, 82, Polish jazz and R&B keyboardist, on June 23
Wojciech Karolak – Easy! (1974)

Ellen McIlwaine, 75, Canadian slide guitarist and blues/folk singer, on June 23
Ellen McIlwaine – I Don’t Want To Play (1973)

David Edwards, 56, singer of Welsh rock band Datblygu, announced June 23
Datblygu – Cân i Gymry (1993)

Rinaldo Rafanelli, 71, singer of Argentine rock band Sui Generis, on June 25
Sui Generis – Para quién canto yo entonces (1974)

Wes Madiko, 57, Cameroonian singer, on June 25
Wes – Alane (1997)

Hidefumi Toki, 71, Japanese jazz saxophonist, on June 26
Toki & Samba Friends – Morena (1981)

Jon Hassell, 84, trumpeter and avant garde composer, on June 26
Kenny Rogers – Something About Your Song (1978, as writer)
Lloyd Cole And The Commotions – Big Snake (1986, on trumpet)
Jon Hassel – Voiceprint (Blind From The Facts) (1990)
Ibrahim Ferrer – Boliviana (2003, on trumpet)

Johnny Solinger, 55, lead singer of Skid Row (1999-2015), on June 26
Skid Row – Ghost (2003)

Peps Persson, 74, Swedish blues and reggae musician, on June 27

Willy Crook, 55, saxophonist of Argentine rock band Redonditos de Ricota, on June 27
Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota  – Ya nadie va a escuchar tu remera (1986)

Burton Greene, 84, free jazz pianist, on June 28

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