Archive for May, 2023

Tina Turner Sings Covers

May 25th, 2023 6 comments

The death of Tina Turner yesterday brought to a close one of the great stories in pop music. It’s a well-known story, and it requires no rehashing here (in any case, if you didn’t know it and missed the movie, you’ll read it in the obituaries). Still, it is a triumph of the human spirit that Tina left her abusive husband at the risk of everything she had and knew, and came back, eventually, a bigger star than she was with him.

I don’t have much love for Tina’s output after the Private Dancer album, her big comeback in 1984, but I love her success, which was a permanent fuck-you to her erstwhile abuser, who lived out huis days as a public fool. I hope Tina’s story inspired many abused women to leave their abusive partners (and before anyone objects, “Men are abused, too”, yeah, sure. But that is a different story).

It is remarkable that Tina Turner was seen as a bit of a rock granny when she made her comeback at the age of 44. It seemed so unlikely, and it was unprecedented that a woman of that age might have a second stab at superstardom (and here we might remember the role the members of Heaven 17 played in returning Tina to the big stage). If you were a woman, you were considered past-it once you had crossed the threshold of 30. That comeback helped change things for women in popular music. Beyoncé is only three years younger than Tina was in 1984; nobody would even think of calling her a granny, or even an aunty. At 43, Pink is topping the album charts around the world; try calling her “old”…

Poster of Tina Turner in Germany’s Bravo magazine in February 1974.

As performers, Ike and Tina were dynamite, especially when they were backed by The Ikettes. Ike’s arrangements were of such genius that the covers he produced often turned out to be new songs (check out what he and Tina did to the hoary old standard You Are My Sunshine as an example), or improved on the original, even when the initial version seemed pretty much perfect (Proud Mary is a good example).

Tina’s vocals might have lacked in elegant beauty, but Tina inserted so much character in their delivery — and when required also explosive energy. She sang with authority, even when she lacked that in her private life. Few vocalists have ever been both soul and rock singers simultaneously, and nobody in the way Tina Turner was. She was unique.

This mix of covers by Tina Turner demonstrates that duality in music sensibility; and a couple of tracks here — Kris Kristofferson’s Lovin’ Him Was Easier and Brenda Lee’s If This Is Our Last Time — are from her foray into country in 1974 , though they were released only in 1979.

By then she had already released her cover of Dan Hill’s Sometimes When We Touch, the original of which features on the Any Major Power Ballads Vol. 2 mix, which I posted only a day before Tina Turner’s death.

Some of Turner’s biggest post-comeback hits were covers, though they don’t feature here. The comeback started with her fine version of Al Greens Let’s Stay Together and took pace with What’s Love Got To Do With It, a much superior cover of a song by Bucks Fizz. Her signature tune probably is (Simply) The Best, a terrible song first recorded by Bonnie Tyler, which was included in The Originals: 1980s Vol. 2. None of them feature here, but I close the mix with her slowed-down interpretation of Help, from Private Dancer, which was in contention for the Beatles 1962-66 Recovered mix I posted in March.

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

1. Ike & Tina Turner – Proud Mary (1971)
2. Ike & Tina Turner and The Ikettes – Gimme Some Lovin’/Sweet Soul Music (1969)
3. Ike & Tina Turner and The Ikettes – Respect (1969)
4. Ike & Tina Turner – Honky Tonk Woman (1973)
5. Tina Turner – The Bitch Is Back (1978)
6. Tina Turner – Whole Lotta Love (1975)
7. Ike & Tina Turner – Higher Ground (1974)
8. Tina Turner – Back Stabbers (1979)
9. Ike & Tina Turner – You Are My Sunshine (1973)
10. Ike & Tina Turner and The Ikettes – Son Of A Preacher Man (1969)
11. Ike & Tina Turner – With A Little Help From My Friends (1973)
12. Tina Turner – Let’s Spend The Night Together (1975)
14. Ike & Tina Turner – I Wish It Would Rain (1969)
15. Ike & Tina Turner – I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (1969)
16. Ike & Tina Turner – Save The Last Dance For Me (1966)
17. Tina Turner – If This Is Our Last Time (1974)
18. Ike & Tina Turner – Drift Away (1973)
19. Tina Turner – Lovin’ Him Was Easier (1974)
20. Tina Turner – Sometimes When We Touch (1978)
21. Tina Turner – Help (1984)


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Any Major Power Ballads Vol. 2

May 23rd, 2023 1 comment


When I posted the first Any Major Power Ballads mix in 2020, I promised that I had a second volume all lined up. Three years on, I finally get around to posting one. The shortlist grew a bit since, also thanks to the suggestions from readers — though, sorry, I can’t see Livin’ On A Prayer as a ballad.

It was sort of a given that Journey would feature again in some way. In the event, I opted for the solo hit by singer Steve Perry. One problem I have with Perry is his diction, which is permanently in the kind of state one might be temporarily after receiving new, ill-fitting dentures. On Oh Sherrie, is he really singing: “Oh Sherrie, how low, with clothes on, clothes off”?

On the notes for Volume 1 (which is still live, by the way), I ruled out the inclusion of Celine Dion. Since then, Jim Steinman died and I had to confront myself with Dion’s version of It’s All Coming Back To Me Now. It was time to discard my prejudices against the artistry of Ms Dion — she nails the song. I have since experimented with the music of Celine Dion (that is to say, I listened to a few of her hits on YouTube). It’s better than my memory had given it credit for, but you still won’t see much more of it featured here.

In any case, as I have previously noted, power ballads give us an excuse to like music by acts we’d normally not listen to. I have albums by five of the acts featured here, and even then, I have to question my wisdom in buying two of them. And yet, this mix is great. This is as close as I’ll ever get to giving any currency to the misconceived notion of “guilty pleasures”.

There recently was an entertaining two-part documentary on British TV on power balladry (they adopted a broader definition that I would allow), which riffed a bit on the guilty pleasure fallacy. The thing was titled “Sometimes When We Touch”, after the Dan Hill hit. So it seems right to include the song here, perhaps doing my bit to dismiss the myth that this perfectly good song is in some way deficient.

And then it seemed right to accompany it with the godfather of all power ballads: Harry Nilsson’s Without You, even if I prefer it in Badfinger’s original version (the story is told in The Originals: The 1970s).Here’s hoping that Volume 3 — yes, I have enough for another one, though I remain open to suggestions — won’t take another three years to run.

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

1. Aerosmith – Dream On (1973)
2. Nilsson – Without You (1971)
3. Dan Hill – Sometimes When We Touch (1977)
4. The Babys – Every Time I Think Of You (1978)
5. Heart – What About Love (1985)
6. REO Speedwagon – Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore (1984)
7. Steve Perry – Oh Sherrie (1984)
8. Firehouse – Love Of A Lifetime (1990)
9. Air Supply – All Out Of Love (1980)
10. Meat Loaf – Read ‘Em And Weep (1981)
11. Celine Dion – It’s All Coming Back To Me Now (1996)
12. Roxette – Listen To Your Heart (1988)
13. INXS – Never Tear Us Apart (1987)
14. Bad English – When I See You Smile (1989)
15. Whitesnake – Is This Love (1987)
16. April Wine – Just Between You And Me (1981)
17. Sheriff – When I’m With You (1982)
18. Bryan Adams – Heaven (1983)


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Any Major Gordon Lightfoot Songbook

May 11th, 2023 3 comments

On May 1 we lost the great Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, one of the great poets in popular music who also had a good turn in writing engaging music. And he was a fine singer with a warm, appealing voice. I would suggest that no time spent with the music of Gordon Lightfoot has ever been entirely wasted.

Lightfoot’s lyrics told of love, loss, nature, history and — sometimes and without occupying a podium — social issues. The man was an accomplished storyteller, and the acts featured on this songbook tell these stories.

Musically, Lightfoot rarely attracted covers from artists outside the folk-rock and country scene, except perhaps the odd easy listening merchant muzaking the hits. There are no soul covers on this mix because I know if no soul covers of Lightfoot songs — though I can imagine someone like Roberta Flack doing justice to If You Could Read My Mind.

Still, there are a couple of unexpected acts featured here. Indie band The Dandy Warhols, for example, or — talking of Warhol! — future Velvet Underground singer Nico. The German singer’s version of I’m Not Sayin (the label renders the song without the necessary apostrophe) was released in 1965, a year before she hooked up with the Velvet Underground.

It’s a bit poignant that this collection also features Harry Belafonte, who predeceased Lightfoot by less than a week.

As ever, the mix is timed to CD-R length, and includes home-mindread covers as well as the above text in an illustrated PDF. Password in comments.

1. Gordon Lightfoot – Rainy Day People (1975)
2. Richie Havens – I Can’t Make it Any More (1966)
3. Elvis Presley – That’s What You Get For Lovin Me (1973)
4. Eric Clapton – Looking At The Rain (1977)
5. Herb Pedersen – It’s Worth Believing (1984)
6. Richard Hawley – Early Morning Rain (2009)
7. Ron Sexsmith – Drifters (2003)
8. Gretchen Peters – Song For A Winter’s Night (2006)
9. Johnny Cash – If You Could Read My Mind (rel. 2006)
10. Eddy McManus – Carefree Highway (2018)
11. Trout Fishing In America – Ode To Big Blue (1990)
12. Nico – I’m Not Sayin (1965)
13. Spanky And Our Gang – Steel Rail Blues (1967)
14. Harry Belafonte – The Last Time I Saw Her (1969)
15. Johnny Mathis – Wherefore And Why (1970)
16. Joe Dassin – L’amour etc (Sundown) (1974)
17. The Dandy Warhols – The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald (1998)
18. Cowboy Junkies – The Way I Feel (2003)
19. Nanci Griffith – Ten Degrees And Getting Colder (1993)
20. Poco – Ribbon Of Darkness (1982)
21. Kenny Rankin – Pussywillows Cattails (1974)
22. Anne Murray – Cotton Jenny (1972)
23. Ronnie Hawkins – Bitter Green (1970)


Previous Songbooks:
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David Vol. 1
Burt Bacharach & Hal David Vol. 2
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
George Harrison
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Lamont Dozier
Laura Nyro
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Paul McCartney Vol. 2
Rod Temperton
Sly Stone
Steely Dan

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In Memoriam – April 2023

May 4th, 2023 1 comment

Apart from the passing of Harry Belafonte, and outside of music, the headliner in April was Al Jaffee, the Mad magazine artist who offered us the ingenious fold-ins, the Clever Answers To Stupid Questions and a range of crazy inventions which Elon Musk might have paid billions for. The man reached the age of 102! On the flip side, also departing this mortal coil in April was Carolyn Bryant, the Mississippi woman whose false claims of sexual harassment led to the lynching if Emmett Till.

You can see how the fold-in for “Rock Hits of Yesteryear” turned out in the included PDF or on my Facebook (are you a friend yet to keep up to date with what gets posted here?). RIP, Al Jaffee!

The Activist
At this point, there isn’t really much to add to the many obits for Harry Belafonte. Three things strike me as worth raising, however. Firstly, the man had integrity and courage. At the height of his Hollywood career, he walked away from it, because he believed the roles he was offered were demeaning. He might have been a bigger movie star even than Sydney Poitier, had he played their game. But he put his personal integrity first. That is admirable.

Not getting much play in the obituaries was his engagement in the struggle against apartheid, no doubt fuelled by his marriage to Miriam Makeba. But that commitment outlasted their brief marriage, and it found expression in his music much as the calypso did in his earlier recordings. When in 1988 he released an album partly recorded in Johannesburg, using South African musicians, nobody pulled a Paul Simon on him and accused him of breaking the cultural boycott. Belafonte’s commitment to South Africa, unlike that of some other anti-apartheid artists, continued long beyond the apartheid era.

Belafonte was also committed to the rest of Africa, it musicians and its people. In December 1984, he initiated the project that would become We Are The World and culminate in Live Aid. Unlike Bob Geldof in Britain, Belafonte didn’t put himself he centre of the thing. The story of USA For Africa was briefly recounted in the entry for the late Ken Kragen in In Memoriam – December 2021.

The Sultry Voice
The sultry voice of April Stevens has fallen silent. Born Carol LoTempio, she was best known for her duets with brother Nino Tempo, such as the 1960s hits All Strung Out, Deep Purple and Whispering.

But Stevens also had a successful solo career before that, kicking off in 1951 with the Cole Porter song I’m In Love Again. More hits followed, such as Gimme A Little Kiss Will Ya, Huh?, and And So To Sleep Again. Her most notorious hit was 1959’s Teach Me Tiger, which was considered too sensual for airplay in the puritanical USA. It was later covered by artists such as Peggy Lee and Sofie Tucker.

Stevens continued to record and perform throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but her popularity waned in the 1980s. She also appeared in several films and TV shows, including The Interns, The Red Skelton Hour, and The Love Boat.

The Cool Jazz Pioneer
With the death at 92 of Ahmad Jamal, jazz has lost another of its pioneers. The Pittsburgh-born jazz pianist, known to his school teachers as Frederick Jones, was a pioneer of the “cool jazz” movement. By the time he was 21, in 1951, he was recording with the trio named after him. With their hit Poinciana, the Ahmad Jamal Trio became one of the most popular jazz acts of their time.

In 2017, Jamal received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, one of many awards he accumulated over his long career.

The Experimenter
With the death of English musician, composer and producer Mark Stewart, music has lost a pioneer in alternative and experimental music. With his punk band The Pop Group and in his solo work, Stewart pushed the boundaries of pop music.

The Pop Group fused punk, funk, free jazz and dub influences. Its politically charged lyrics and confrontational performances helped to establish them as a major voice in the punk scene.

After The Pop Group split in 1981, Stewart continued to experiment with industrial, hip-hop and electronic music, and collaborated with acts like Tricky, Massive Attack and, just a couple of years ago, Jah Wobble. He also produced albums for artists such as Primal Scream and The Raincoats.

The Dub Pioneer
He might not have been a household name, but Jah Shaka had a huge influence on the development of dub music and other forms of dance music, with his heavy, bass-driven sound and his use of custom-built sound systems in his live performances.

Known to his mom as Clifton George Bailey III, the Jamaican-born Jah Shaka was instrumental (as it were) in popularising dub music in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s, and his sound system performances helped shape British reggae during that time.

Jah Shaka was also a social and political activist, with his lyrics often addressing themes of social injustice and resistance.

The Multi-instrumentalist
Session musician Ian Bairnson, who has died at 69, has had a namecheck before on this blog. In my collection of favourite guitar solos, his axemanship featured on Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. Formerly a member of Pilot, whose great song was Magic but biggest hit the inferior January, Bairnson was a sought-after session musician, and featured on every Alan Parsons Project album, right up to the last one, in 2019.

Apart from Bush, he also backed acts like Jon Anderson, Mick Fleetwood, Joe Cocker, Jon Anderson, Chris DeBurgh, Bucks Fizz, and Neil Diamond.

The ABBA Axeman
It cannot be said that ABBA’s music is predicated on heavy guitar riffs or face-contorting solos, and yet in their songs, there always is place for a bit of electric guitar. Most often, that was the work of Lasse Wellander, who accompanied the group in the studio and on stage. He arguably did his best work on ABBA’s 1977 LP The Album, notably on The Name Of The Game and Eagle. On the latter he even got a solo. He also played on hits like Knowing Me Knowing You (that lovely recurring guitar shape), Fernando, Take A Chance On Me, Summer Night City, Chiquitita, Gimme Gimme Gimme, The Winner Takes It All, Does Your Mother Know, One Of Us, and many others.

During and after ABBA, Wellander also released solo albums, and a rather fine LP with Swedish singer Mats Ronander. He also contributed to the Chess album (including the UK #1 I Know Him So Well), the Mamma Mia musical, various solo efforts by Agnetha, and ABBA’s 2021 comeback album.

The Discoverer
It takes something to start a small record label and go on to launch the careers of two hugely influential acts in different genres of pop. Seymour Stein, co-founder of Sire Records, did that with the Ramones and almost a decade later with Madonna. He also signed seminal acts like the Talking Heads and Ice-T, and gave US contracts to the UK-based likes of The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Cure and the Pretenders. But he also managed to reject Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s! It is said that Stein came up with the term “new wave” to counteract the word “punk”, which he disliked.

As a teenager in 1958, he worked at Billboard magazine, at a time when it developed its charts. Later he formed a partnership with Leiber & Stoller and was a denizen of the Brill Building music publishing scene. There he met producer Richard Gottehrer, with whom he founded Sire in 1966.As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Dario Campeotto, 84, Danish singer, entertainer and actor, on April 1

Seymour Stein, 80, co-founder of Sire Records, on April 2
Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop (1976, as label owner)
Madonna – Everybody (1982, as label owner)

Rena Koumioti, 81, Greek pop singer, on April 3
Rena Koumioti – Dose Mou To Stoma Sou (1970)

Jack Vreeswijk, 59, Swedish singer and composer, on April 3

Vivian Trimble, 59, keyboardist of alt.rock band Luscious Jackson, on April 4
Luscious Jackson – Naked Eye (1996)

Andrew Laing, drummer of UK punk band Cockney Rejects, on April 4

Booker Newberry III, 67, soul singer and keyboardist, on April 5
Sweet Thunder – ‎I Leave You Stronger (1979, as lead singer)
Booker Newberry III – Love Town (1983)

Duško Gojković, 91, Serbian jazz trumpeter, composer, on April 5

Paul Cattermole, 46, singer with British pop group S Club 7, on April 6
S Club 7 – Don’t Stop Movin’ (2001)

Harrison Bankhead, 68, jazz double bassist, on April 6

Lasse Wellander, 70, Swedish guitarist with ABBA, on April 7
ABBA – Eagle (1977, on lead guitar)
Wellander & Ronander – EMH 870 (1978)
Agnetha Fältskog – Wrap Your Arms Around Me (1983, on guitar)
ABBA – Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (live) (released 1986)

John Regan, 71, bassist with rock band Frehley’s Comet, on April 8
Billy Idol – To Be A Lover (1988, on bass)

Kidd Jordan, 87, jazz saxophonist, on April 7

Ian Bairnson, 69, Scottish multi-instrumentalist (Alan Parsons Project), on April 7
Pilot – Magic (1974)
Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights (1978, on electric guitar)
Alan Parsons Project – Damned If I Do (1979, on electric guitar)

Guy Bailey, guitarist and songwriter with UK rock band The Quireboys, on April 7
The Quireboys – Hey You (1989, also as co-writer)

Bob Heatlie, 76, Scottish songwriter and producer, on April 8
Shakin’ Stevens – Cry Just A Little Bit (1983, as writer)

Chuck Morris, 46, percussionist of electronic band Lotus, found on April 9

Cynara, 78, singer with Brazilian girl band Quarteto em Cy, on April 11
Quarteto em Cy – Pedro Pedreiro (1964)

Jah Shaka, 75, Jamaican dub/reggae musician and producer, on April 12
Jah Shaka – Conquering Lion (1980)
Jah Shaka – I And I Survive (1982)

Doug Tibbles, 83, drummer of The Stone Coyotes and TV writer, on April 12

Mark Sheehan, 46, guitarist and songwriter with Irish group The Script, on April 14
The Script – The Man Who Can’t Be Moved (2008, also as co-writer)
The Script feat. – Hall Of Fame (2012, also as co-writer)

Cliff Fish, 73, bassist of British pop group Paper Lace, on April 14
Paper Lace – Billy, Don’t Be A Hero (1974)

Peter Badie, 97, jazz bass player, on April 15
Lionel Hampton – Perdido (live) (1956, on double bass)

Ahmad Jamal, 92, jazz pianist, on April 16
Ahmad Jamal Trio – Poinciana (live, 1958)
Ahmad Jamal Trio – Falling In Love With Love (live, 1961)
Ahmad Jamal – Déjà Vu (1980)

Ivan Conti, 76, drummer of Brazilian jazz band Azymuth, on April 17
Azymuth – Manha (1972)

April Stevens, 93, pop and jazz singer, on April 17
April Stevens – I’m In Love Again (1951)
April Stevens – Teach Me Tiger (1959)
Nino Tempo & April Stevens – Deep Purple (1963)

Federico Salvatore, 63, Italian singer-songwriter and comedian, on April 19

Otis Redding III, 59, singer-guitarist with soul band The Reddings, son of Otis, on April 20
The Reddings – Remote Control (1980)

Moonbin, 25, South Korean singer with boy band Astro, on April 19

Mark Stewart, 62, English post-punk musician and songwriter, on April 21
The Pop Group – She Is Beyond Good And Evil (1979)
Mark Stewart – Stranger Than Love (1987)
Jah Wobble feat. Mark Stewart – A Very British Coup (2020)

Barry Humphries, 89, Australian comedian (Dame Edna Everage), on April 22
Dame Edna Everage – Every Mother Wants A Boy Like Elton (1978)

Keith Gattis, 52, country singer, songwriter, in tractor accident on April 23
Keith Gattis – El Cerrito Place (2005, also as writer)

Isaac Wiley Jr, 69, drummer of funk band Dazz Band, on April 23
The Dazz Band – Let It Whip (1982)
The Dazz Band – Swoop (I’m Yours) (1983)

Lilian Day Jackson, 63, US-born singer of Dutch disco band Spargo, on April 24
Spargo – You And Me (1980)

Harry Belafonte, 96, singer, actor, and civil rights activist, on April 25
Harry Belafonte – Suzanne (1956)
Harry Belafonte & Miriam Makeba – Give Us Our Land (1965)
Harry Belafonte – New York Taxi (1977)
Harry Belafonte – Capetown (1988)

MoneySign Suede, 22, American rapper, stabbed on April 25

Ralph Humphrey, 79, drummer with The Mothers of Invention (1973-74), on April 25
The Mothers – Camarillo Brillo (1973)

Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson, 97, R&B singer-songwriter, on April 25
Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson – Red Hot (1955)

Wee Willie Harris, 90, English rock & roll singer, on April 27
Wee Willie Harris – Rockin At The Two I’s (1957)

Claude Gray, 91, country singer-songwriter, on April 28
Claude Gray – I’ll Just Have A Cup of Coffee (Then I’ll Go) (1960)

Johnny Fean, 71, guitarist of Irish Celtic rock group Horslips, on April 28
Horslips – Faster Than The Hound (1973)

Tim Bachman, 71, founding guitarist of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, on April 28
Bachman-Turner Overdrive – Let It Ride (1973)

Helge Engelke, 61, guitarist of German hard rock band Fair Warning, on April 28
Fair Warning – When Love Fails (1992, also as writer)

Broderick Smith, 75, English-born Australian musician, on April 30
Broderick Smith’s Big Combo – Faded Roses (1981)


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