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Tapestry Recovered

February 9th, 2021 11 comments

February 10 marks the 50th anniversary of the great Tapestry album by Carole King, prompting the repost of this piece from 2012. It is one of the defining LPs of the early 1970s, and for me one of the go-to albums, perhaps the go-to album, if I do not know what else to play.

By the time Carole King released Tapestry she already was a veteran in the music business, having been a teenage songwriter for Aldon Music at 1650 Broadway (and the subject of Neil Sedaka’s hit Oh Carol; she responded with an answer record titled Oh Neil). She was 18 when she had her first #1 as a songwriter, with The Shirelles’ version of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow in 1961. In the ten years between that and the release of Tapestry she had a prolific songwriting career, but as a recording artist she had only a minor hit with It Might As Well Rain Till September. Her uneven 1970 debut album, Writer, was a commercial disappointment; it has many bright spots, but cannot nearly compare with the sublime perfection of Tapestry.

So when Tapestry became a critical triumph and a mammoth hit after its release in February 1971, topping the US album charts for 15 weeks, it was something of a surprise.

 

Jim McCrary in 1978

The cover photo was taken by Jim McCrary (who died in 2012) in the living room of her house at 8815 Appian Way in Laurel Canyon (McCrary’s website says it was at Wonderland Avenue; he also took the photo of the cover for Music, the location of which he identified as being on Appian Way). At first sight it is an unremarkable shot. A woman in her late 20s sits on a windowsill. The photo is in soft focus. And yet, the image is compelling. Viewing it feels like an intrusion into an intimate moment, a woman feeling at peace in her domain. Her bare feet suggest that we are not really invited into this domestic scene; if we came knocking at her door, she might put on footwear and her serene body language might change. And the cat would scram and hide.

The feline, who went by the name of Telemachus, was not there by accident, as it would appear. It may spoil the enjoyment of the cover a little to know that the tabby was a spontaneously employed prop. McCrary later recalled seeing Telemachus sleeping on his pillow across the room. Recalling a Kodak survey which revealed that after children, cats were the most popular photo subject, he asked King whether he could use the cat in a photo. “I saw a cat, and I wanted to get something good,” he remembered. Having ascertained that the cat was tame, he carried Telemachus on his pillow to the window ledge. He managed to take three photos before the cat, no doubt annoyed at having been awoken, had enough and made tracks. But McCrary had the perfect shot: the barefoot Carole with sunlight filtering upon her, holding a tapestry that she was busy creating, and her cat sitting in front of her, as if guarding the singer.

A remastered version of Tapestry was re-released in 2008 with a bonus CD featuring all but one of the tracks of the album in live versions, recorded between 1973 and 1976. It is highly recommended. The back-cover of it (pictured above) features another photo from the McCrary session.Here’s a mix of cover versions of the songs of Tapestry, with an appearance by Carole King from that bonus CD, in their original tracklisting order. Given my bias for soul covers, many of them are of that genre. Most were recorded soon after the release of Tapestry. One of the exceptions is the cover of Way Over Yonder by David Roe, a New Orleans street musician. Fans of The Originals will be interested in Kate Taylor’s version of Home Again, which was released shortly before Tapestry came out. Finally, the vocals on the Quincy Jones version of Smackwater Jack are by, unusually, Quincy himself.

TRACKLISTING
1. Carole King – I Feel The Earth Move (live) (1973)
2. Marlena Shaw – So Far Away (1972)
3. Mike James Kirkland – It’s Too Late (1972)
4. Kate Taylor – Home Again (1971)
5. Barbra Streisand – Beautiful (1971)
6. David Roe – Way Over Yonder (2004)
7. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You’ve Got A Friend (1972)
8. Faith Hill – Where You Lead (1995)
9. Zulema – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (1972)
10. Quincy Jones – Smackwater Jack (1971)
11. Jackie & Roy – Tapestry (1972)
12. Laura Nyro & Labelle – (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Live) (1971)
BONUS: The Isley Brothers – It’s Too Late (1972)

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Any Major Fusion Vol. 1

January 14th, 2021 3 comments

It began with Miles Davis and broke down with Kenny G. Jazz Fusion, and the various guises in which it revealed itself, began with the experimental fusion of jazz and rock of Davis’ 1968 album Miles In The Sky. The likes of John McLoughlin, Herbie Hancock, Al Di Meola, Chick Corea, Bob James and so on continued in that avant garde vein. But other, more funk and soul oriented musicians, emerged in the 1970s, and many of the avant garde crowd also contributed to the rise of the more accessible form of fusion, the kind that would be saddled with the horrible moniker “smooth jazz”.

And it”s from the tradition of that horribly monikered “smooth jazz” that this compilation draws, with the intention to rehabilitate the genre, and to reclaim it from the generic and often utterly dull rubbish that also goes by the horrible (but in their case entirely apt) moniker. Be assured that there’s also some unsmooth material by people like Oliver Sain and Bill Summers, plus a great jazz-disco number by veteran saxophonist Houston Person (and check out his phallocentric LP cover; will the lady blow it?).

There is nothing wrong with smooth. Marvin Gaye was smooth. Many great things are smooth. Smooth can be bad. Kenny G is smooth and bad. Gerald Albright is smooth and dull. But in his day, Grover Washington Jr was smooth and great.

Many of the fusion greats were session musicians. And many great session musicians would play on their colleagues” records. I would wager that the jazz fusion scene was the most racially integrated genre in modern music.

Dave Grusin is probably most famous as the Oscar-winning composer of film scores (he wrote the music for films such as Tootsie, The Milagro Beanfields, The Fabulous Baker Boys and The Firm), but through his GRP label, he fostered much great jazz. His beautiful Anthem International features Lee Ritenour on guitar and Steve Gadd on drums. You’ll have heard Gadd’s drumming: on Steely Dan’s Aja, perhaps, or on Paul Simon’s One Trick Pony (which also featured guitarist Eric Gale), or you might have seen him on DVD, backing Simon & Garfunkel in Central Park and Eric Clapton at Hyde Park. Or, of course, you might have downloaded the three mixes in the Steve Gadd Collections that have been posted here: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 Vol. 3 are all still up.

Gadd also appears on Grover Washington’s East River Drive, alongside the great percussionist Ralph McDonald (who also produced the album it comes from), the brilliant bassist Marcus Miller (who played with Ritenour on Tom Browne’s Funkin’ For Jamaica), keyboard player Richard Tee (whom you’ve also seen on Simon & Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park; but just check out his amazing list of credits, accumulated before his death at 49) and Eric Gale.

Meanwhile, Hugh Masekela guests on Eric Gale‘s equally gorgeous Blue Horizon, and Earth, Wind & Fire turn up on Ramsey Lewis‘ Whisper Zone (whose keyboard solo reaches a note that might shatter crystal). EWF’s Maurice White also co-produced Roy Ayers‘ Everybody Loves The Sunshine.

The Montana Sextet aren’t very famous, though the Heavy Vibes single did fairly well. They were led by and named after Vincent Montana Jr, founder of the Salsoul Orchestra and percussionist of Philadelphia International’s houseband MFSB, who died in 2013. The man’s credits were dizzying.

We encounter Joe Sample in this mix as a member of the Crusaders, but also as the composer of Blue Mitchell‘s catchy Asso-Kam, on which he also did keyboard duty.

All but two of the acts on this mix are American; quite by chance, the exceptions are the opener, Iceland’s Mezzoforte, and the closer, Sadao Watanabe, who is Japanese — and whose track features Dave Grusin, Ralph McDonald, Richard Tee and Steve Gadd.

And if all this sounded familiar, you might have been reading this nine years ago, when I first posted this mix.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and comes with homefused front and back cover. PW in comments

TRACKLISTING:
1. Mezzoforte – Garden Party (1983)
2. Montana Sextet – Heavy Vibes (1982)
3. George Duke – Brazilian Love Affair (1979)
4. Ramsey Lewis – Whisper Zone (1980)
5. Spyro Gyra – Morning Dance (1979)
6. Tania Maria – Come With Me (1982)
7. Blue Mitchell – Asso-Kam (1973)
8. Eric Gale – Blue Horizon (1981)
9. Dave Grusin – Anthem Internationale (1982)
10. Grover Washington Jr. – East River Drive (1981)
11. Crusaders – Keep That Same Old Feeling (1976)
12. Oliver Sain – London Express (1975)
13. Bill Summers & Summers Heat – Brazilian Skies (1977)
14. Houston Person – Do It While You Can (1977)
15. Roy Ayers – Everybody Loves The Sunshine (1976)
16. Sadao Watanabe – Nice Shot (1980)

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The Brill Building Covered Vol. 1

November 25th, 2020 13 comments

A number of people lately commented that they had discovered this corner of the Internet only recently. Some might trawl back a few years to catch up — I think most mixes are still up — but not everybody will. So I shall periodically repost good mixes which time has swallowed. “Recycling Wednesday”, we might call it. Here’s one from seven years ago, which in October 2013 I optimistically dubbed “Vol. 1”; I never got around to do a second volume. Maybe this post will be so popular as to get my sorry ass moving in that regard.

 

Brill Building Covered

 

It might be the greatest hit machine in pop history, in the good company of Tin Pan Alley and Motown; its influence on pop music was pivotal. The Brill Building was in New York, but the songs were recorded on both sides of the US coast, and anywhere in between.

The Brill Building, at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in Manhattan, serves as the collective term for the song factory that created an incredible string of classic pop hits in the 1960s. It was really an office block of music publishers, housing 165 of them in 1962. The songs were mostly written up the road, such as in the buildings at 1650 Broadway, HQ of Aldon Music, and at 1697 Broadway, the latter also housing the CBS TV auditorium, now known as the Ed Sullivan Theater.

The scene was a veritable hit conveyor belt, with songwriters working their 9-to-5s in cubicles, expected to turn in their masterpieces at regular intervals, often at command. Many of these songwriters, usually teams of two, have become legends in the trade: Carole King & Gerry Goffin, Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield, Cynthia Weil & Barry Mann… Some of these were supervised by another legendary pair of writers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, or by impresarios such as Don Kirshner, the co-owner of Aldon Music who’d later launch The Monkees. Neil Diamond launched his superstar career from the base of the Brill Buildings, were he started out as a songwriter, as did a youngster named Jerry Landis, whom you’d now address as Paul Simon, and the great, underrated Laura Nyro.

The Brill Building became a byname for a sound in the early 1960s, when producers like Phil Spector recorded them with acts like The Ronettes and The Chiffons (also receiving co-writing credits on some), and bands like the Beach Boys borrowed their songs. Many of the songs were recorded in LA with the backing of The Wrecking Crew, a group of session musicians on whom I intend to spend some time in future posts. In New York, acts like The Drifters relied on the Brill Building to supply their long string of timeless hits. British acts also recorded the Brill Sound. The Searchers did several, The Animals scored a huge hit with one, as did Manfred Mann, and The Beatles played one track, featured here, at their ill-fated Decca audition (they later recorded The Cookies’ “Chains”, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King).

 

Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King, Barry & Greenwich, Mann & Weil

Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King, Barry & Greenwich, Mann & Weil

It is sometimes argued that the Brill Building scene tamed rock & roll. Here music was run by business people as a business. The spontaneity and rebellion of the individualistic rock & roll was now displaced by managed calculation with both eyes on the bottomline, the argument goes.

I don’t quite buy it. When RCA signed Elvis, it calculated on his image. Most labels did the same. In fact, rock & roll had been tamed by the time Phil Spector collaborated with Greenwich and Barry to create hits like “Be My Baby”. Almost concurrent with the Brill Sound, Barry Gordy in Detroit constructed another hit factory that was rooted entirely in commercial calculation. In both instances, the entrepreneurs made their money, and we received a rich legacy of astonishing music.

Rock & roll would soon reassert its rebellion anyway, with the advent of the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, The Who and so on. At the same time, the Brill Building left us with an arsenal of incredible, timeless songs. Featured here are 26 of them, mostly covers. If the mix goes down well, there’ll be a second volume to include all the songs you just cannot believe I have omitted.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-decomposed covers. PW is the same as always.

1. The Beach Boys – I Can Hear Music (1969, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)
2. Dion and The Belmonts – Save The Last Dance For Me (1960, Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman)
3. The Four Seasons – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (1964, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield)
4. Helen Shapiro – It Might As Well Rain Until September (1964, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
5. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Then He Kissed Me (1963, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
6. The Searchers – Da Doo Ron Ron (1963, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
7. Françoise Hardy – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1968, King & Goffin)
8. Laura Nyro – Up On The Roof (Live) (1971, King & Goffin)
9. Cissy Houston – Be My Baby (1971, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
10. Peggy Lee – (You Made Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman (1969, King & Goffin)
11. Dusty Springfield – That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho) (1969, King & Goffin)
12. Dobie Gray – River Deep, Mountain High (1973, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
13. The 5th Dimension – Soul And Inspiration (1974, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil)
14. The Persuasions – Chapel Of Love (1979, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
15. The Beatles – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1962, King & Goffin)
16. The Walflower Complextion – Hanky Panky (1966, Barry & Greenwich)
17. The Mamas and The Papas – Spanish Harlem (1966, Jerry Leiber & Phil Spector)
18. Carpenters – One Fine Day (1973, King & Goffin)
19. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (1972, Mann, Weil & Spector)
20. Blue Öyster Cult – We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (1978, Mann & Weil)
21. Grand Funk Railroad – The Loco-Motion (1974, King & Goffin)
22. Ramones – Needles And Pins (1978, Jack Nitzsche & Sonny Bono)
23. Tracey Ullman – Where The Boys Are (1984, Sedaka & Greenfield)
24. Dave Edmunds – Baby I Love You (1972, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
25. Bette Midler – Leader Of The Pack (1972, Morton, Barry, Greenwich)
26. Ellie Greenwich – Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home (1973, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)

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In Memoriam – October 2020

November 5th, 2020 6 comments

 

Do you hear the people sing? The remarkable man who wrote those words for the musical Les Misérables died in October, as did two triple-named country outlaw legends, two reggae pioneers, and three men who gave their names to eminent bands. Fans of The Originals will enjoy hearing the first recordings of hits for Waylon Jennings (I’m A Ramblin’ Man), Willie Nelson (Whiskey River) and the classic Mr Bojangles.

The Professor
In his young days, Spencer Davis almost casually came into contact with future music legends, a status he himself attained before he was 30. One of his early bands included future Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman (then still William Perks). Then he got a girlfriend called Christine Perfect, who as Christine McVie became a creative force in Fleetwood Mac. And in 1963, Davis discovered 15-year-old Stevie Winwood and roped him and Stevie’s brother Muff into the band that would became the Spencer Davis Group. The band would rack up for UK Top 10 hits and two consecutive UK #1s, all with Stevie on vocals, all ’60s classics, especially Keep On Running and Gimme Some Lovin’.

The band stopped running in 1969, after Stevie had decamped to form Traffic two years earlier. Davis, known by many as “Professor” due to his university education — he had studied German, a language in which the band recorded a couple of novelty records — went to the US and recorded a couple of success-evading albums, reformed an iteration of the Spencer Davis Group to little interest. By the mid-1970s he was working as an executive for Island Records.

The Axeman
Confession time: much as I admire the technical skills and acknowledge the influence of the guitar soloing of Eddie Van Halen, they never were my cup of vodka & coke. Of course they were quite breathtaking in their technique, as is the expertise in synchronised swimming. But that should not detract from how they, and Eddie’s band, practically set the 1980s “hair rock” craze in motion. Eddie was one of the pivotal figures in rock history, and also in pop: his guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s Beat It, which at the time sounded super-hard, helped metal cross over into pop.

The Soul-Reggae Pioneer
Soul singer Johnny Nash was one of the pioneers of reggae in the UK especially. A superb soul singer, Nash recorded since he was 18 in 1958, but the decisive event was when he moved to Jamaica in the 1965. There he was influenced by the rising rocksteady scene, and recorded in that genre himself. That fusion of what would become known as reggae and US soul brought Nash three Top 10 hits in the UK in 1968/69. Three years later he had a #13 hit with a version of Stir It Up, the song by Bob Marley, who still had to break internationally. But soon came Nash’s own anthem: the much-covered I Can See Clearly Now. Another three years later, he topped the UK charts with the lilting reggae-soul number Tears On My Pillow. But that style wasn’t his only trick: Nash also released some very good soul albums, until he semi-retired from the music business in 1980.

The Drumming Centenarian
We have featured several centenarians over the years, but was any as old as 107? That is the age jazz drummer Viola Smith reached before she died five weeks short of her 108th. Her career went back to the 1920s when her concert hall-owner father set up his eight daughters in an all-girl band which he called the Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra (later Smith Sisters Orchestra). As her five elder sisters chose all the instruments Viola wanted to play, she settled for drums. The band broke out in the early 1930s, but by 1938 Viola and sister Mildred formed their own all-female swing band, The Coquettes, which lasted till Mildred got married in 1942. Viola then joined the Hour of Charm Orchestra, also all-female, in which she earned the reputation of being “the female Gene Krupa”. All these bands, and some that followed, were stage acts who didn’t put their music to record.

Not surprisingly, starting in the early ‘40s, Viola advocated for equality between men and women in music. In an interview on her 107th birthday last year, Smith said she still drummed on stage occasionally.

The Gospel-Soul Man
In the 1970s, few gospel groups crossed over as well as The Rance Allen Group, a band of three brothers led by, you guessed it, Rance Allen. The lyrics might have been about the Christian faith, though even then many could be taken as inspirational, but the music was soul; channeling Chi-Lites or Sly Stone rather than Andrae Crouch. Indeed, in their performance at the legendary Wattstax festival, Rance and brothers referenced Dance To The Music after delivering a shredding guitar solo. In that way, the group paved the way for acts like Kirk Franklin and The Winans.

Rance himself was a powerful singer with a great range; he could sing ballads and also hit the high notes like the funkiest soul screamer. Later was made a bishop in his church.

The Mr Bojangles Writer
Outlaw country singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker will always be remembered for writing the great Mr Bojangles, a song about a street performer whom he met in a holding cell in 1965. The story of that featured in The Originals: The Classics. Walker never reached the heights of fellow Outlaw singers, like Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings, but he was influential enough to receive a namecheck in Jennings’ Luckenbach, Texas (“Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and Jerry Jeff’s train songs…”).

The Other Outlaw
It was a bad month indeed for outlaw country musicians with three names: shortly after Walker, Billy Joe Shaver died (David Allen Coe and Michael Martin Murphey must be getting nervous now). Like Walker, Shaver was a collaborator with Waylon Jennings. And where Jennings was namechecked by Jennings, Shaver was mentioned in song by Bob Dylan (on 2009’s I Feel a Change Comin’ On). Shaver recorded 17 studio albums in his time, but he was especially prolific as a songwriter whose compositions were recorded by other big names in country.  As it happens, Jerry Jeff Walker was among them, featuring here with one of Shaver’s finest songs.

Shaver certainly was a character: In 2007, he shot a fellow named Billy Bryant Coker in the face with a handgun. Luckily, Coker’s injuries weren’t life-threatening. Shaver said he had acted in self-defence after Coker threatened him with a knife. According to witnesses, Shaver had asked Coker before shooting: “Where do you want it?” Having shot the guy, he demanded: “Tell me you are sorry. Nobody tells me to shut up.” Some years later Shaver told NPR that Coker indeed said “I’m sorry” after being shot. The singer said that Coker had been a bully and “I hit him right between a mother and a fucker.” A court acquitted Shaver.

The Writer
Here’s a thought: the same guy who wrote the lyrics for the silly novelty records by Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren in the early 1960s (including the vaguely racist Goodness Gracious Me) later wrote the profound and moving lyrics for the musical Les Misérables. South African-born English writer Herbert Kretzmer (whose brother went on to become mayor of Johannesburg) also wrote the English lyrics for the Charles Aznavour hit She, the Streisand favourite When You Gotta Go, the much-covered Yesterday When I Was Young, and — within hours of John F Kennedy’s assassination — the tribute song In The Summer Of His Years.

Kretzmer was also an award-winning journalist in Britain, as a long-running TV critic and as an interviewer of the likes of John Steinbeck, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Sugar Ray Robinson, Louis Armstrong, Henry Miller, Cary Grant and Duke Ellington.

As before, this post is included in PDF format in the package.

Lisa Schouw, South African-born singer of Australian band Girl Overboard, on Oct. 2
Girl Overboard – Wrap Your Arms Around Me (1989, also as co-writer)

Cookie Monsta, 31, British dubstep producer, on Oct. 2

Anthony Galindo, 41, Venezuelan singer, suicide on Oct. 3

Béatrice Arnac, 89, French singer, composer and actress, on Oct. 5
Béatrice Arnac – Athée ou à Té (1973)

Eddie Van Halen, 65, Dutch-born guitarist, composer, co-founder of Van Halen, on Oct. 6
Van Halen – Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love (1978)
Nicolette Larson – Can’t Get Away From You (1979, on guitar)
Michael Jackson – Beat It (1982, on guitar)
Van Halen – Hot For Teacher (1984)

Johnny Nash, 80, singer-songwriter, on Oct. 6
Johnny Nash – Love Ain’t Nothin’ (1964)
Johnny Nash – You Got Soul (1968)
Johnny Nash – Say It Ain’t True (1975)
Ray Charles – I Can See Clearly Now (1978, as writer)

Bunny Lee, 79, Jamaican reggae producer, on Oct. 6
Delroy Wilson – Better Must Come (1971, as writer and producer)
Eric Donaldson – Cherry Oh Baby (1971, as producer)

Reverend John Wilkins, 76, blues musician, on Oct. 6
Reverend John Wilkins – Trouble (2020) ORDER

Ray Pennington, 86, country singer-songwriter, in a fire on Oct. 7
Ray Pennington – Ramblin’ Man (1967, also as writer)

Brian Locking, 81, bassist with British guitar band The Shadows (1962-63), on Oct. 8
The Shadows – Dance On (1963)
Donovan – Catch The Wind (1965, on bass)

Pierre Kezdy, 58, punk bass player, on Oct. 9

David Refael ben Ami, 70, Israeli singer, COVID-19 on Oct. 9

Harold Betters, 92, jazz trombonist, on Oct. 11
Harold Betters – Do Anything You Wanna (1969)

Kim Massie, 63, blues singer, on Oct. 12

Saint Dog, 44, rapper with Kottonmouth Kings, on Oct. 13
Kottonmouth Kings – Life Ain’t What It Seems (1998)

Paul Matters, bassist of AC/DC (1975), on Oct. 14

Herbert Kretzmer, 95, South African-born lyricist, on Oct. 14
Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren – Bangers & Mash (1961, as lyricist)
Dusty Springfield – Yesterday When I Was Young (1972, as lyricst)
Charles Aznavour – She (1974, as lyricist)
Les Misérables Cast (London) – One Day More (1985, as lyricist)

Dave Munden, 76, English drummer and singer with The Tremeloes, on Oct. 15
The Tremeloes – Even The Bad Times Are Good (1967)
The Tremeloes – Me And My Life

Johnny Bush, 85, country singer-songwriter, on Oct. 16
Johnny Bush – Whiskey River (1972, also as co-writer)

Toshinori Kondo, 71, Japanese avant garde jazz trumpeter, on Oct. 17

Gordon Haskell, 74, English singer-songwriter and musician, on Oct. 17
King Crimson – Lady Of The Dancing Water (1970l, as member on bass)
Gordon Haskell – How Wonderful You Are (2001)

José Padilla, 64, Spanish DJ, producer of Café del Mar CDs, on Oct. 18
José Padilla feat. Angela John – Who Do You Love (1998)

Chet ‘JR’ White, 40, bassist with Indie band Girls, producer, on Oct. 18
Girls – Lust For Life (2009, also as producer)

Alfredo Cerruti, 78, Italian producer, singer, author, on Oct. 18

Tony Lewis, 62, bassist, songwriter with English band The Outfield, on Oct. 19
The Outfield – Your Love (1985)

Overton Berry, 84, jazz pianist, on Oct. 19

Spencer Davis, 81, Welsh musician, on Oct. 19
Spencer Davis Group – Keep On Running (1965)
Spencer Davis Group – Det war in Schöneberg (1966)
Spencer Davis Group – Mr Second Class (1969)

Viola Smith, 107, American drummer, on Oct. 21
The Coquettes – The Snake Charmer (1939)

Margie Bowes, 79, country singer, on Oct. 22
Margie Bowes – Poor Old Heartsick Me (1959)

Jerry Jeff Walker, 78, country singer-songwriter, on Oct. 23
Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles (1968)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Stoney (1970)
Jerry Jeff Walker – L.A. Freeway (1972)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Pissin’ In The Wind (1975)

Cal Vin, 35, Zimbabwean singer and rapper, in a hit-and-run on Oct. 24

Stan Kesler, 92, songwriter, musician and producer, on Oct. 26
Elvis Presley with Scotty & Bill – I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (1955, as writer)
Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs – Wooly Bully (1965, as producer)

Dolores Abril, 86, Spanish folkloric singer, on Oct. 26

Cano Estremera, 62, Puerto Rican salsa singer, on Oct. 27

Billy Joe Shaver, 81, country singer and songwriter, on Oct. 27
Billy Joe Shaver – Black Rose (1973)
The Allman Brothers Band – Sweet Mama (1975, as writer)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Old Five And Dimers Like Me (1976, as writer)
Billy Joe Shaver with Kris Kristofferson – No Earthly Good (2007)

Lou Pallo, 86, guitarist with Les Paul and His Trio, on Oct. 27

James Broad, singer, guitarist, songwriter with UK indie band Silver Sun, on Oct. 30
Silver Sun – Golden Skin (1997)

Rance Allen, 71, gospel singer and bandleader, on Oct. 31
The Rance Allen Group – There’s Gonna Be A Showdown (1972)
The Rance Allen Group – Up Above My Head (1972, live at Wattstax)
The Rance Allen Group – Harlem Heaven (1975)
The Rance Allen Group – Some People (1980)

Marc Fosset, 71, French jazz guitarist, on Oct. 31

Sean Connery, 90, Scottish actor, on Oct. 31
Janet Munro & Sean Connery – Pretty Irish Girl (1959)

MF Doom, 49, British-American rapper, on Oct. 31 (announced in December)

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Standing Together

November 2nd, 2020 29 comments

 

 

Dedicated followers of this quiet corner of the Internet might have found the site down for the past week. What happened? Well, it got attacked by hackers, infesting it with malware. I like to blame the spraytanned sphinctermouth’s agents for it, but it might just have been a coincidence that it followed the post of songs about orange.

Fixing the damage was quite expensive, and due to my current circumstances (thanks, 2020!) beyond my immediate possibilities. I posted of my woes on Facebook, and a number of followers came through in a big way, chipping in with contributions that enabled me to pay a service that removes malware and — importantly, as it turns out — protect me from Sphinctermouth’s agents.

This awkwardly-named mix is my thanks to the people who contributed so generously. It tells of friendship and solidarity. And, in good halfhearted fashion, it’s absurdly eclectic. So we have Syl Johnson covering The Beatles in funky fashion on an LP titled Is It Because I Am Black?, and eight tracks later a Beatle sings a kids’ song. And… I wasn’t aiming for irony. Yes, I’ll say it: I like We All Stand Together. It’s cute, it has a nice melody, and it is highly satisfying to sing along to it. Try it if you don’t believe me.

The reaction of people who came out to save this site has lifted me. They came from different places. They came from JB, who really wants Biden to win next week, and from TG, who supports Sphinctermouth. Music brings us together. Big support came from old friends from the early days of music blogging, and from some people unknown to me, but whom I shall love as I love my old compadres.

The support of kind people on Facebook — monetary and moral — has ensured the survival of the Any Major Dude With Half A Heart in more than technical ways. I was toying with the idea of retiring this blog, albeit with no firm plans of doing so. Their love showed that my work is actually appreciated, and thus has validated and encouraged me. I shall lock that in my heart, and draw from it every time a post gets no comments.

As ever, CD-R length, home-begged covers, PW in comments.

1. Big Star – Thank You Friends (1975)
2. Steely Dan – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (1974)
3. The Undisputed Truth – With A Little Help From My Friends (1973)
4. Rosetta Hightower – Friendship Train (1971)
5. Frederick Knight – Lean On Me (1973)
6. The Persuasions – He Ain’t Heavy / You’ve Got A Friend (1971)
7. Carole King – We Are All In This Together (1974)
8. Buzzy Linhart – Friends (1971)
9. The Kinks – All Of My Friends Were There (1968)
10. The Kingston Trio – Let’s Get Together (1964)
11. Wilbert Harrison – Let’s Work Together (1969)
12. Syl Johnson – Come Together (1970)
13. Leon Haywood – You Need A Friend Like Mine (1975)
14. Arrival – Friends (1969)
15. Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend (1978)
16. Randy Travis – Heroes and Friends (1990)
17. Garth Brooks – Friends In Low Places (live) (1998)
18. Barenaked Ladies – If I Had $1000000 (1992)
19. Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis Jr. – Me And My Shadow (1963)
20. Paul McCartney – We All Stand Together (1984)

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Any Major Orange

October 20th, 2020 11 comments

There is a saying that when the USA catches a cold, the world catches the ‘flu. Economically that may be true, but these days, when the USA catches Covid-19, the world shakes its head and says: “These clown are even crazier than we are.”

US voters will go to the polls in a couple of weeks’ time with an opportunity to get rid of the spraypainted blustermachine of venom and lies which has turned their country into an international laughing stock. And that is of vital interest to the world as well, because a United States that is run sensibly and with something approaching ethics (which, granted, it is only about 30% of the time) is better for the world than one that is so weak that it empowers Russia and China, and so hate-filled that it emboldens Nazis everywhere.

And while they are at it, US voters should also send packing those craven and spineless reptiles in the Houses of Congress who have enabled that racist, women-sexually-assaulting, truth-destroying, hatemongering, psychopathically misanthropic sphincter-mouth in the White House. Do it for your country, and do it for the world. And if you think others will do it for you because Biden has such a great lead: remember 2016!

And all this leads us into the Any Major Orange mix. A random mix (and aren’t they sometimes the best?) of songs that somehow riff on the theme of orange.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes an orange cover. PW in comments, where you might like to add “Orange Songs” to the list.

And, for the sake of love, vote that madman out of office!

1. Earth, Wind & Fire – Evolution Orange (1981)
2. The Attack – Lady Orange Peel (1968)
3. Lemon Pipers – Jelly Jungle Of Orange Marmalade (1968)
4. Peter Sarstedt – Frozen Orange Juice (1969)
5. Love – Orange Skies (1966)
6. Trash Can Sinatras – Orange Fell (1993)
7. Alexi Murdoch – Orange Sky (2002)
8. 10,000 Maniacs – Orange (1992)
9. John Prine – Bruised Orange (Chain Of Sorrow) (1978)
10. Johnny Cash – Orange Blossom Special (1969)
11. Bright Eyes – Bowl Of Oranges (2002)
12. R.E.M. – Orange Crush (Live) (2003)
13. Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks – Orange Crate Art (1995)
14. Tori Amos with Damien Rice – Power Of The Orange Knickers (2005)
15. Erykah Badu – Orange Moon (2000)
16. Mr. & Mrs. Garvey – Orange Nickelodeon (1968)
17. Bob Dylan & The Band – Orange Juice Blues (Blues For Breakfast) (1975)
18. Nat ‘King’ Cole with Stan Kenton – Orange Colored Sky (1950)
19. Eddie Burns – Orange Driver (1961)
20. Gilbert Bécaud – L’orange (1964)
21. Sesame Street – Fuzzy And Blue (And Orange) (1981)

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Beatles Recovered: Please Please Me

October 8th, 2020 8 comments

On 9 October, John Lennon would have turned 80. It’s a troubling math: the original rock & rollers are all octogenarians, or are inexorably heading that way (some, of course, already are nonagenarians). But then, almost all original punks are in their sixties now. And the punks would have been children when The Beatles first hit the scene in 1962/63.

After the initially stuttering success of first single, Love Me Do, the four lads from Liverpool suddenly exploded to become a phenomenon. Nobody had an idea about what incredible history would be launched when The Beatles — aged between 22 and 19 — entered the EMI studios in London’s Abbey Road in 1962 to record their first couple of sides, nor even when they returned on 11 February to record the rest of their debut album.

For the accomplished George Martin, it apparently was an act of penance to be assigned the job of producing these raw amateurs. It didn’t matter much that they didn’t have much material of their own; it was standard to record cover versions as fillers, and that first album was full of them: Anna, Chains, Boys, Baby It’s You, A Taste Of Honey, Twist And Shout (hear the originals of these at …..).

But they also had self-written songs which suggested that these boys McCartney and Lennon had something special. Love Me Do, Please Please Me, I Saw Her Standing There, Do You Want to Know A Secret, or PS I Love You are all excellent to very good songs. Even Ask Me Why, There’s A Place and Misery are not bad, though quite forgettable.

Most of the album was recorded, almost as a live set, on that single day on 11 February 1963. By then, Love Me Do had peaked at #17, and Please Please Me was climbing up the charts, were it would peak at #2. The album cover still suggested Love Me Do was the drawcard, but more or less coinciding with the LP’s release, From Me To You broke big, the first of 11 consecutive #1s.

So here we have Please Please Me recovered, with Carole King singing her composition Chains — which The Beatles covered from The Cookies — and Sonny Curtis giving Do You Want To Know A Secret a flamenco treatment. Towards the end it all becomes a bit novelty, with Mae West drawling her way through From Me To You in the Christmas spirit — you want to hear it, but not for the appreciation of excellence of vocal.

I’m adding the non-album single tracks of the Please Please Me era, particularly She Loves You. Here it is performed by 1980s English comedian Ted Chippington, whose stand-up relied on his delivery of jokes so bad that some idiots would heckle him — and these trapped dupes would be the subject of his jokes. Seeing Chippington in action was a delight. As is his She Loves You, which fuses the Peter Sellers of the past with the Richard Cheese of the future. (The teutonic Sellers version is included as a bonus track.)

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

1. Jerry Garcia – I Saw Her Standing There (1982)
2. Flamin’ Groovies – Misery (1976)
3. The Tams – Anna (Go To Him) (1964)
4. Carole King – Chains (1980)
5. Lee Curtis & The All Stars – Boys (1965)
6. Les Lionceaux – Je suis fou (Ask Me Why) (1964)
7. Mary Wells – Please Please Me (1965)
8. Sandie Shaw – Love Me Do (1969)
9. Keely Smith – P.S. I Love You (1965)
10. Smith – Baby, It’s You (1969)
11. Sonny Curtis – Do You Want To Know A Secret (1964)
12. Sarah Vaughan – A Taste Of Honey (1965)
13. The Smithereens – There’s A Place (2008)
14. The Miracles – Twist And Shout (1963)
15. Mae West – With Love From Me To You (1966)
16. Ted Chippington – She Loves You (1986)
17. The Merseyboys – I’ll Get You (1964)

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

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In Memoriam – September 2020

October 1st, 2020 6 comments

This was a relentlessly nasty month, as the number of 12 write-ups shows — in a month when I really didn’t have much time for that! It was particularly bad for soul singers and bassists. Still listing deaths from Covid-19, because as the orange commander of the Proud Stormtroopers said: “It is what it is.”

The Reggae Legend
To reggae fans, the question of Maytals or Wailers is akin to pop fans arguing about Beatles or Stones. Certainly, the Maytals’ leader Toots Hibbert, who has died at 71, was the one to give the genre its name with his 1968 song Do The Reggay. A gifted multi-instrumentalist — it is said he could play every instrument on his records — Hibbert was also a superb vocalist. Had he been born in the US, he might have been a soul singer. Having grown up in a Christian family before turning to Rastafarianism, he had a background in gospel music, which also found expression in some of his lyrics.

The Inspiration for Michelle
The incredible 93-years-long life of French chanteuse and actress Juliette Gréco has come to an end. As a teenager in occupied France during World War II, Juliette was involved in the Resistance, with her mother and sister. All three were arrested. Juliette was tortured by the Gestapo, but evaded internment in a concentration camp, unlike the other two. Instead, the 16-year-old was kept in jail for several month.

After the war, Gréco became part of the bohemian scene is Paris’ St Germain district (now more famous, alas, as the oligarch propaganda plaything football club owned by the state of Qatar), where she joined up with people like Sartre, Camus and Cocteau (who gave Gréco her first film role). In the 1960s, she was the inspiration for Paul McCartney’s song Michelle.

Gréco had a string of high-profile affairs (with, among others, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Sacha Distel, and Albert Camus), was married three times, and received the highest honours France bestows on civilians.

The Brother of Kool
Ronald Bell co-founded the legendary Kool & The Gang with his brother Robert, whose nickname gave the band its name. And while “Kool” gave his name to the band, Ronald was a musical force behind it, as a saxophonist, as a songwriter and as a producer. He wrote such classics as Jungle Boogie, Open Sesame, Ladies’ Night, Get Down On It, Big Fun, Hi-De-Hi Hi-De-Ho, In The Heart, Cherish, and Celebration. The latter was the song Bell regarded as his favourite, having been inspired to write it after picking up a bible in a hotel room. And that is interesting since Bell was a convert to Islam who took the name Khalis Bayyan.

The Honey Cone
On September 10 I posted the ABC of Soul Music mix, on which the letter H was represented by The Honey Cone. Two days later the lead singer of the featured track, Want Ads, died. Edna Wright, the younger sister of Darlene Love, started out as a backing singer for the likes of The Righteous Brothers, Johnny Rivers, and Ray Charles.

She released one unsuccessful single under the name Sandy Wynns, but her break came when Holland-Dozier-Holland, fresh from leaving Motown, discovered Wright as she filled in for her sister on the Andy Williams Show in 1969. Wright declined a solo deal but took the lead in The Honey Cone. Two years later the group had two mega hits with Want Ads and Stick-Up. After the Honey Cone, she resumed her career as backing singer, but did release one solo LP in 1977, the title track of which features here.

She Was Woman
With her hit I Am Woman, Australian-born singer Helen Reddy carved her name into the pantheon of female singers who articulated the demand for the emancipation of women. It was all the more powerful a statement in a time of rising feminism that Reddy didn’t look like the caricature of bra-burning activists that scared the supposedly silent majority; she actually looked like one of them — as did many other feminists. For a generation of women, I Am Woman (written by a man) became a statement of self-assertion.

The Australian-born singer had her first hit in 1970 with her second single, I Don’t Know How To Love Him, from Jesus Christ Superstar. It was actually the b-side of a track called I Believe In Music, written by Mac Davis, who died on the same day as Reddy. Many more hits followed, especially Delta Dawn, over the next decade. Reddy retired from the music business in 2002, returned to Australia, and became a hypnotherapist there.

The Humble Singer
Before he made it as a country singer, Mac Davis was Read more…

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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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More Mixes:
More ABCs
More ’60s Soul
More ’70s Soul
More ’80s Soul

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