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Any Major Blaxploitation Tracks

October 12th, 2021 5 comments

Last month filmmaker and musician Melvin Van Peebles died, so this is a good time to launch a mix of music from the Blaxploitation genre which Van Peebles helped pioneer with his 1971 film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.

There are lots of opinions about Blaxploitation movies: some see them as having given African-Americans a presence in film that previously had been lacking; others see them as a denigration of black dignity, much like gangsta rap in the 1990s. The NAACP was critical of many those movies, seeing unwelcome racial stereotypes and a glorification of crime and violence in them, while other leaders saw these movies as vehicles for Black Pride.

I wouldn’t like to offer my opinion on those arguments because, as a white man, it isn’t my place to do so. But there cannot be no blanket opinion about a genre that had many sub-genres. It wasn’t all movies about gritty drug dealers, pimps, junkies, vigilantes and private dicks who are bad mutha-shut-your-mouths, the kind which Quentin Tarantino would later appropriate and fetishize. There were also flicks of comedy, horror, martial arts, nostalgia, musical and so on.

I have enjoyed some films in that genre, including the gritty street movies. Especially as time capsules of a particular time and setting, even the less brilliant ones are fascinating. Some have greater artistic merit and production values than others, but the soundtracks tend to be quite outstanding, regardless of the quality of the movie. It is a happy circumstance that the era of Blaxploitation — roughly 1968 to 1978 — coincided with a creatively fertile period in soul and funk music.

Some of these soundtracks are rightly famous: Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street, Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly. In the case of the latter, Mayfield went as far subverting the tone of the movie, which took an agnostic view on the morality of the drug trade. Mayfield stakes out his position clearly: pushing dope for The Man is bad, and, as he sings in No Thing On Me, “You want it funky, but you don’t have to be no junkie”. But since most of Mayfield’s tracks were instrumentals in the film, with lyrics added for the soundtrack album, that message didn’t resound in the cinemas.

From Superfly, I’ve opted to include Freddie’s Dead, which on the single release was described as the movie’s theme song, presumably because it plays over the opening sequence.

Blaxploitation soundtrack music is usually associated with funky guitars, wah-wah pedals, driving basslines, and brass and/or flutes. It’s fair to say that these elements are common, but this mix shows that these soundtracks mustn’t be reduced to cliché.

Many of the acts here are well-known, but who were Sister Goose And The Ducklings? One (pretty great) song on the soundtrack of 1973’s Gordon’s War is the extent of their recording career, it seems.

For once, this mix doesn’t fit on a standard CD-R (it comes in at 1h45min), but it does includes home-shafted covers, this text in an illustrated PDF file, and a collection of posters of the films featured on this mix. PW in comments.

1. Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street (Across 110th Street) (1972)
2. Barry White – Somebody’s Gonna Off The Man (Together Brothers) (1974)
3. James Brown – Slaughter’s Theme (Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off) (1973)
4. Willie Hutch – Mack Man (Got to Get Over) (The Mack) (1972)
5. Isaac Hayes – Truck Turner Main Title (Truck Turner) (1974)
6. Curtis Mayfield – Freddie’s Dead (Superfly) (1972)
7. Marvin Gaye – Trouble Man (Trouble Man) (1972)
8. Millie Jackson – Love Doctor (Cleopatra Jones) (1973)
9. Edwin Starr – Don’t It Feel Good To Be Free (Hell Up In Harlem) (1973)
10. JJ. Johnson feat. Martha Reeves – Willie D (Willie Dynamite) (1974)
11. Dennis Coffey – Congress Six (Black Belt Jones) (1974)
12. Roy Ayers with Dee Dee Bridgewater – Coffy Is The Color (Coffy) (1973)
13. Monk Higgins & Alex Brown feat. Barbara Mason – Sheba, Baby (Sheba, Baby) (1975)
14. The Originals – Supernatural Voodoo Woman (Sugar Hill) (1974)
15. Sister Goose And The Ducklings – Super Shine #9 (Gordon’s War) (1973)
16. The Hues Corporation – There He Is Again (Blacula) (1972)
17. Lyn Collins – Mama Feelgood (Black Caesar) (1973)
18. Melvin Van Peebles – Mojo Woman (Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song) (1971)
19. Isaac Hayes – Soulsville (Shaft) (1971)
20. Mary Love – Power Of Your Love (Dolemite) (1975)
21. The Dells – No Way Back (No Way Back) (1976)
22. Willie Hutch – Foxy Lady (Foxy Brown) (1974)
23. Grant Green – The Final Comedown (The Final Comedown) (1972)
24. Rose Royce – Car Wash (Car Wash) (1977)
25. Rudy Ray Moore – The Human Tornado (The Human Tornado) (1976)
26. Don Julian & The Larks – Shorty The Pimp (Shorty The Pimp)(1972)
27. The Impressions – That’s What Love Will Do (Three The Hard Way) (1974)
28. H.B. Barnum – Hit Man (What You’re Gonna Do) (Hit Man) (1972)
29. Booker T. & the M.G.’s – Time Is Tight (UpTight) (1969)
30. Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street, Pt. 2 (Across 110th Street) (1972)

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In Memoriam – September 2021

October 5th, 2021 5 comments

September was another brutal month, requiring so many write-ups that I had to exclude some people who might have featured in most other months, such as R&B singer and songwriter Andrea Martin (dead at only 49), Carl Bean (whose 1977 gay anthem on Motown features here), soul bass-player Melvin Dunlap (who backed Bill Withers on many of his hits), or country-rock singer Cody Smith. But since almost every entry takes quite a lot of time for research, and the write-ups take even longer, I have to economise. Still, there are 14 write-ups this month.

The Quo Man
With the death at 72 of Alan Lancaster, only half of Status Quo’s classic line-up remains with us. I always had a soft spot for Alan on account of him being the third wheel in the frontmen bromance. While Rick and Francis were shouting jokes into each other’s ears in bow-legged mid-solo, Alan usually stood a little aside. Having founded the band in 1962 with Francis Rossi, he certainly felt undervalued by the early 1980s, when he temporarily left the band. Later he emigrated to Australia. He soon returned but the break came in the mid-1980s, when Rossi and Rick Parfitt released Status Quo albums without Lancaster, or even his knowledge. They later found each other again in the mid-2010s.

In the interim, Lancaster joined Australian band Party Boys, whose 1987 hit debut album, including the Aussie #1 hit cover of John Kongos’ He’s Gonna Step On You Again,  he also produced. He then founded The Bombers, with long-time Quo friend John Coghlan on drums. Lancaster died on September 26 due to complications from multiple sclerosis.

The Labelle
On September 20, Patti LaBelle played a gig in in Atlantic City at which she called her old friend Sarah Dash on to the stage to sing with her, thus effecting a 2/3 reunion of the soul trio Labelle (Video clip of that performance). Two days later, Dash was dead, aged 76. The two women’s story goes back to 1962, when Patti (then still Patsy Holte) and pastor’s-daughter Sarah formed the group The Blue Belles with Nona Hendryx and Cindy Birdsong. They had some success, and in 1971 — four years after Birdsong decamped to The Supremes — renamed themselves LaBelle. With their flamboyant divas act, crazy outfits and great music, they became stars, culminating in the classic hit Lady Marmalade. Dash, the soprano (hear it at the beginning of Down The Aisle), was the calming buffer between the strong and often antagonistic personalities Patti and Nona.

After the group’s split in 1977, Dash recorded a string of soul and funk albums, did session work, and in the late 1980s worked and toured with the Rolling Stones (whom The Bluebells had supported on tour a quarter of a century earlier). Sporadic LaBelle reunions followed, as well as a few more solo recordings.

The JBs Bandleader
During last year’s anti-racism protests in the US, James Brown’s 1968 song Say It Loud-I’m Black And Proud served as an anthem. Brown co-wrote the track with Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis, who has died at 80. Ellis, a great saxophonist in his own right, was Brown’s bandleader and arranger during the early funk period. Coming from a jazz background — in his younger days, Ellis had played with his contemporaries Chuck Mangione, Ron Carter and Sonny Rollins — he instilled in James Brown’s music discipline, in service of the innovation. A songwriter, Ellis wrote the instrumental The Chicken for Brown. In the event, Brown didn’t record it, but it became a hit for jazzman Jaco Pistorius.

Ellis left Brown’s stable after four years in 1969. In 1972, he founded Gotham, a jazz-funk outfit which has been much sampled in hip hop. He played with other collectives, including those led by the likes of Ginger Baker and fellow Brown-alumni Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley. He worked widely as an arranger, including for Esther Philips’ superb 1972 albums From A Whisper To A Scream and Alone Again Naturally. In 1979 he became musical director for Van Morrison, playing on many of his records, for 20 years.

The Singing Twin
In 1968, Barry Ryan had a big hit with the enjoyably madcap  Eloise, written for him by his twin brother Paul (who died in 1992). The twins initially performed together as a duo, landing three UK Top 20 hits, before Paul decided to concentrate on songwriting. After Eloise, Barry had four more Top 40 hits in the UK between 1969 and 1972. In my view, it’s an injustice that his Can’t Let You Go failed to make the Top 10, hence its inclusion in Should Have Been A Top 10 Hit Vol. 2.

Ryan was more successful in Europe, especially in France and Germany. Living in Germany for a while, he even recorded in that country’s language. With his hit Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt, Barry became the first English pop star from outside the schlager scene to perform on the massively popular TV show ZDF Hitparade (video here). His very good 1972 album Sanctus, Sanctus Halleluja was his last until a brief comeback in 2003. A few singles later, he quietly retired from the music scene.

The Blaxploiter
Better known as the pioneer of the wave of blaxploitation movies in the early 1970s through his film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song!, Melvin Van Peebles was also an innovative musician.  The filmmaker, who has died at 89, scored his breakthrough film, with the help of the still unknown Earth, Wind & Fire, but by then he had two albums and a soundtrack out already. These albums, and most of those that followed, were spoken word: poetry, stories and commentaries set to soul-jazz. Peebles issued altogether 11 albums, including four soundtracks.

The Doctor
In the early 1970s, jazz organist Lonnie Smith adopted the nickname Doctor. Nobody knows where it came from — Smith had no PhD, and you’d not want him to perform your heart surgery — but it kind of suited the turbaned pioneer in the field of jazz-funk. He was part of the George Benson Trio in the 1960s, and recorded with an endless list of jazz acts. Smith issued around 30 albums in his own name between 1967 and 2021. He’s not to be confused with his contemporary jazz keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith, who is still with us.

The Great Composer
The colourful life of composer Mikis Theodorakis has come to an end at the age of 96. In Greece he’s regarded as his country’s greatest composer. Outside Greece, he’s perhaps best-known for the Zorba Dance, from the 1964 film Zorba The Greek. Other films Theodorakis scored include Serpico and Z. Although a classical composer, he drew from all manner of genres; his Mauthausen Cantata, a 1988 series of four arias in remembrance of the Holocaust, is strictly speaking a classical work, but it also draws from folk and religious tradition (as is evident in the featured track from the cantara).

Apart from his musical work, Theodorakis was also a politician of communist tradition, which saw him jailed and his music banned during the rule of the fascist junta from 1967-74. Periodically he was a parliamentarian, once puzzlingly as part of a right-wing ticket, and a government minister. He was a committed anti-Zionist and made some stupid comments that amounted to being anti-Semitic (for which he apologised), but he also had a great love for the Jewish people. Theodorakis doubtless was an unpredictable man in many ways.

The Electronic Pioneer
As founder and leader of the English industrial music group Cabaret Voltaire, which he co-founded at the age of 17 in 1973, Richard H Kirk exerted a great influence on electronic music, from new wave to dance to trance. With his compadres in shaping sound, Chris Watson und singer Stephen Mallinder, the Sheffield-born Kirk drew from glam rock and the experimental work of Krautrock acts like Can and Kraftwerk. In that way, Cabaret Voltaire influenced German new wave acts like Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft, who borrowed Cabaret Voltaire’s 1978 title Do The Mussolini for their own 1981 hit single. After Cabaret Voltaire split in 1990, Kirk kept experimenting with sounds under various monikers, even recording a house album. He reformed Cabaret Voltaire in 2009, with himself as the only permanent member.

The White Baccara
As an entirely unironic fan of the 1977 disco anthem Yes Sir, I Can Boogie, I was saddened by the death at 69 of María Mendiola, the Baccara singer dressed in white. On Boogie, María did the intro’s moaning, on Lady she did the spoken intro. That’s the extent of my love for Baccara’s artistry. Still, Boogie and its follow-up Sorry I’m A Lady have the power to evoke the feeling of 1977. I reflected in Baccara’s impact on me as a 11-year-old in the A Life In Vinyl 1977 post. (The one in black, Mayte Mateos, was my first star-crush, alongside Agnetha of ABBA, incidentally.)

María had been the prima ballerina of a Spanish TV ballet, and when she and colleague Mayte formed Baccara, their idea was to fuse Spanish folk music with pop — but their hits, produced by Germans in the Netherlands, were Euro-disco. By 1983 they split, with each carrying on with separate Baccaras. María’s New Baccara recorded a few club hits in the 1980s.

The Girl Aloud
For many British pop fans, the best of the many girl group of the ‘00s was Girls Aloud. They certainly were the most successful. Put together as a result of a TV talent show, the group had 20 consecutive UK Top 10 singles, with four #1 hits, between 2002 and 2012. With the death from cancer at 39 of Sarah Harding, Girl Aloud have lost their first member to the Reaper. Harding was also an actress and model.

The Charlie Brown Drummer
As a member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, drummer Colin Bailey had a hand in creating the timeless classic Cast Your Fate To The Wind, which was written by Guaraldi. But the English-born drummer’s handiwork is probably more famous for the trio’s soundtrack to the Peanuts films, including A Charlie Brown Christmas. Bailey also worked with, among many others, Benny Goodman, Julie London, Joe Pass, Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, Mike Melvoin, Jimmy Witherspoon and, outside jazz, he drummed for Rita Coolidge.

The Newport Man
For fans of jazz and folk, the Newport festivals are an important part of their genres’ development, and it was at Newport that Bob Dylan first was booed for going electric. Now George Wein, the founder of the annual Newport Jazz Festival and co-founder (with Pete Seeger and Theodore Bikel) of the Newport Folk Festival, has died at 95. Before he was a festival founder in Rhode Island, Wein had a jazz club and record label (both named Storyville) and taught jazz history at Boston University. And busy as he was behind the scenes, he was also a prolific jazz pianist.

The Bassist
Just over a week after Wein’s death, a Newport Jazz Festival alumnus died in the person of bassist Bob Moore. Although he had a hit as the leader of the Bob Moore Orchestra with the Easy Listening song Mexico in 1961, Moore’s great body of work was delivered behind the scenes. There he backed the likes of Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline (on all her big hits, including Crazy, Fall To Pieces, Sweet Dreams etc) as part of the Nashville A-Team of session musicians. As co-founder of Monument Records he arranged the first hits for Roy Orbison, and played the bass on songs like Only The Lonely, Crying, Blue Bayou and In Dreams. On Roger Miller’s King Of The Road, he played the instantly recognisable bass intro.

In his long career, Moore regularly backed many of the greatest names in country, including George Jones, The Statler Brothers, Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, Moe Bandy, Billy Jo Spears, Crystal Gayle, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, B.J. Thomas, and especially Tom T. Hall, whom we lost just last month. He was an uncredited double bass player on Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Now, those Elvis records Moore played on include all the early 1960s hits as well as a number of movie soundtracks. Deep breath now: His Latest Flame, Stuck On You, It’s Now Or Never, Are You Lonesome Tonight, Viva Las Vegas, Surrender, A Fool Such As I, Little Sister, Suspicion, Return To Sender, Good Luck Charm, A Big Hunk O’ Love, U.S. Male, Guitar Man, The Girl Of My Best Friend, Devil In Disguise, among others. Most of the songs on the Elvis movie songs mix posted last week feature Moore.

The Hillbilly
With the death at 98 of Don Maddox, all of the Maddox Brothers & (their sister) Rose are gone. They were a groundbreaking act in country music. Rose Maddox was among the pioneering women in country, even if she, as the frontwoman, still had to take second billing behind her brothers.

The Maddox family had migrated from Alabama to California, a couple of years before the dustbowl sharecroppers from Oklahoma made their exodus there. Living in Modesto, the Maddox kids quickly established a reputation as California’s best hillbilly band (in the days before the term hillbilly was a slur), specialising in what then passed for racy lyrics. Their country boogie won the Maddox Brothers & Rose a recording contract in 1946. They made their breakthrough in 1949 with a song written by Woody Guthrie, titled Philadelphia Lawyer.

It is said that Fred Maddox’s style of slap bass playing was central in the development of rockabilly, and therefore rock & roll. Their use of electric guitars and wild stage shows certainly influenced the new genre. The band split up in 1956. A year earlier, they recorded a song titled The Death Of Rock And Roll, an adapted cover of Ray Charles’ I Got A Woman (Charles got no writing credit for it. Those were different days).

Don, like his brothers a World War 2 veteran, still played in his nineties, including at the Grand Ole Opry in the Marty Stuart Show, and in 2014 headlined the first annual Rockabilly Rockout at Las Vegas’ Gold Coast Casino. In 2019, featured in the Ken Burns’ splendid documentary Country Music.

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.

 

Barbara Moore, 89, British singer and arranger, on Aug. 26
Barbara Moore – Steam Heat (1972)

Adalberto Álvarez, 72, Cuban son pianist, on Sept. 1
Adalberto Alvarez y Su Son – Buena Pero No Es Pa’ Tanto (2000)

Aleksandr Khrabunov, 61, guitarist of pioneering Russian rock band Zoopark, on Sept. 1

Carol Fran, 87, R&B singer, pianist and songwriter, on Sept. 1
Carol Fran – Emmitt Lee (1957, also as writer)

Alemayehu Eshete, 80, Ethiopian singer, on Sept. 2

Mikis Theodorakis, 96, Greek composer, on Sept. 2
Mikis Theodorakis – Zorba Dance (1964)
Mikis Theodorakis – Songs Of Songs (1986)

MadClip, 34, Greek rapper, in car crash on Sept. 2

Billy Cafaro, 84, Argentine rock & roll singer, on Sept. 4
Billy Cafaro – Marcianita (1960)

Sarah Harding, 39, singer with UK pop group Girls Aloud and actress, on Sept. 5
Girls Aloud – Life Got Cold (2003)
Girls Aloud – Love Machine (2004)

Susan Anway, 70, ex-singer with indie band The Magnetic Fields, on Sept. 5
The Magnetic Fields – 100,000 Fireflies (1991)

Rickie Lee Reynolds, 72, guitarist with rock band Black Oak Arkansas, on Sept. 5
Black Oak Arkansas – You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down (1976)

Ralph Irizarry, 67, American percussionist and bandleader, on Sept. 5
Ralph Irizarry & Los Viejos de la Salsa – Los Viejos (2012)

Sunil Perera, 68, singer with Sri Lankan band The Gypsies, on Sept. 6

Bennie Pete, 45, sousaphonist with New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band, on Sept. 6
Hot 8 Brass Band – Sexual Healing (2007)

Warren Storm, 84, swamp pop drummer and singer, on Sept. 7
Warren Storm – The Prisoner’s Song (1958)

Carl Bean, 77, singer, church leader and LGBT rights activist, on Sept. 7
Carl Bean – I Was Born This Way (1977)

Mike Jones, member of rock group of Man The Destroyer, on Sept. 8

Robin Russell, 70, soul drummer and songwriter, on Sept. 8
The New Birth – Sure Thing (1976, as member)

Michael Chapman, 80, English singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Sept. 10
Michael Chapman – Postcards Of Scarborough (1970)

Roger Newell, 73, English bassist, on Sept. 10
Rainbow Ffolly – Drive My Car (1968, as member)

María Mendiola, 69, singer with Spanish pop duo Baccara, on Sept. 11
Baccara – Sorry, I’m A Lady (1977)
New Baccara – Call Me Up (1986)

Don Maddox, 98, member of country group Maddox Brothers and Rose, on Sept. 12
Maddox Brothers & Rose – Philadelphia Lawyer (1948)
Maddox Brothers & Rose – The Death Of Rock And Roll (1955)

George Wein, 95, music festival promoter; jazz pianist and singer, on Sept. 13
George Wein – Why Try To Change Me Now (1955)
George Wein & The Newport All Stars – Crazy Rhythm (1963)

Melvin Dunlap, 76, soul and funk bassist, announced on Sept. 13
Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Express Yourself (1970, as member)
Bill Withers – Use Me (1972, on bass & as co-producer)

Guilherme Inês, 70, Portuguese rock percussionist, on Sept. 14

Leonard ‘Doc’ Gibbs, 73, soul & fusion percussionist, on Sept. 15
Doc Gibbs – Tingle (1981)
Eugene Wilde – Gotta Get You Home With Me Tonight (1984, on percussion)

George Mraz, 77, Czech-born jazz musician, on Sept. 16
George Mraz & Friends – Going Home (2003)

Mats Paulson, 83, Swedish singer-songwriter, on Sept. 19

Warner Williams, 91, member of blues trio Little Bit A Blues, on Sept. 20
Warner Williams with Jay Summerour – Little Bit A Blues Theme (2003)

Gary Eckstein, 73, Israeli blues-rock singer, on Sept. 20

Colin Bailey, 87, English-born jazz drummer, on Sept. 20
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Cast Your Fate To The Wind (1962, as member)
Julie London with the Bud Shank Quintet – I’ve Got You Under My Skin (1965, on drums)
Rita Coolidge – Am I Blue (1975, on drums)

Sarah Dash, 76, singer with soul group Labelle, on Sept. 20
Patti Labelle & Blue Belles – Down The Aisle (1963)
Labelle – Touch Me All Over (1972)
Sarah Dash – (Come And Take) This Candy From Your Baby (1978)
Keith Richards feat. Sarah Dash – Make No Mistake (1988)

Claude Lombard, 76, Belgian singer, on Sept. 20

Julz Sale, singer-songwriter, guitarist of UK post-punk band Delta 5, on Sept. 20
Delta 5 – Anticipation (1980)

La Prieta Linda, 88, Mexican singer and actress, on Sept. 21

Richard H Kirk, 65, English singer-songwriter with Cabaret Voltaire, on Sept. 21
Cabaret Voltaire – Seconds Too Late (1980)
Cabaret Voltaire – Don’t Argue (1987)

Melvin Van Peebles, 89, musician, film director and playwright, on Sept. 21
Melvin Van Peebles – Love, That’s America (1970)
Melvin Van Peebles with Earth, Wind & Fire – Sweetback’s Theme (1971)
Melvin Van Peebles – Chippin’ (1971)

Peter A Hood, 78, drummer of Australian surf group The Atlantics, on Sept. 22
The Atlantics – Bombora (1963)

Bob Moore, 88, bassist and orchestra leader, on Sept. 22
Sister Rosetta Tharpe with James Roots Quintet – Tell Him You Saw Me (1952, on bass)
Jim Reeves – He’ll Have To Go (1960)
Elvis Presley – (Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame (1961)
Roy Orbison – Crying (1961, on bass and as arranger)

Sue Thompson, 96, pop and country singer, on Sept. 23
Sue Thompson – Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) (1962)

Roberto Roena, 81, Puerto Rican salsa percussionist and bandleader, on Sept. 23
Roberto Roena – Mi Desengaño (1976)

Pee Wee Ellis, 80, saxophonist, composer, arranger, James Brown’s bandleader, on Sept. 24
Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis – In The Middle (Part1&2) (1968)
James Brown – Say It Loud-I’m Black And Proud (1968, as co-writer & on alto sax)
Esther Phillips – From A Whisper To A Scream (1972, as arranger)
Van Morrison – Days Like This (1995, on alto sax, horns arrangements)

Patricio Manns, 84, Chilean singer, composer, and writer, on Sept. 25
Patricio Manns – Arriba en la Cordillera (1966)

George ‘Commander Cody’ Frayne IV, 77, country rock singer, keyboardist, on Sept. 26
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen – Seeds And Stems (Again) (1971)
Commander Cody – Cry Baby Cry (1978)

Alan Lancaster, 72, bassist of English rock band Status Quo, on Sept. 26
The Status Quo – Sunny Cellophane Skies (1968, on lead vocals and as co-writer)
Status Quo – Backwater (1974, on lead vocals and as co-writer)
The Party Boys – He’s Gonna Step On You Again (1987, as member and producer)
The Bombers – Running In The Shadows (1989)

Darrell Bath, British punk and rock guitarist and singer, on Sept. 27
Darrell Bath – Eye For An Eye (2016)

Andrea Martin, 49, R&B singer-songwriter and producer, on Sept. 27
En Vogue – Don’t Let Go (Love) (1996, as co-writer)
Andrea Martin – Let Me Return The Favor (1998)

Nana Ampadu, 76, Ghanaian highlife musician, on Sept. 27

Lonnie Smith, 79, jazz organist, on Sept. 28
Lonnie Smith – Sideman (1967)
Lonnie Smith – It’s Changed (1977)
Lonnie Smith – My Latin Sky (1978)

Barry Ryan, 72, English pop singer, on Sept. 28
Paul & Barry Ryan – Don’t Bring Me Your Heartaches (1965)
Barry Ryan – Eloise (1968)
Barry Ryan – Life’s So Easy (1972)

Olivier Libaux, 57, French producer and musician, on Sept. 29
Nouvelle Vague – Blue Monday (2006, as founder and producer)

Mike Renzi, 80, jazz pianist, composer and music director, on Sept. 29
Was (Not Was) with Mel Tormé – Zaz Turned Blue (1983 on piano)

Les Gough (Allan), Australian bass player, announced Sept. 30
Somebody’s Image – Hide And Seek (1968, as member)

Lennart Åberg, 79, Swedish jazz saxophonist and composer, on Sept. 30

Greg Gilbert, 44, singer and guitarist of English indie group Delays, on Sept. 30
Delays – Long Time Coming (2004)

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Any Major Movie Elvis (and a quiz)

September 28th, 2021 11 comments

What it says in the title… A mix of songs from Elvis Presley movies — one from each. Plus a quiz: guess the Elvis movie from the synopsis. Clue: all the movies referred to in the quiz were made after Elvis served his fatherland. The answers are in the comments section (if some of the comments seem old, it’s because I first posted the quiz in 2008). Not that I expect anybody but the greatest Elvis fan to know most of the answers; the fun resides in the questions. When Elvis went to Hollywood, he hoped to inherit James Dean’s mantle of rebellion. As these questions may suggest, he didn’t even inherit Bing Crosby’s mantle of casually whistling acquiescence.

1. Elvis is a singing heir to a pineapple plantation in Hawaii who becomes, as you do when the future holds a panama hat, a tour guide. He falls in love and sings 14 (count ’em) songs, including that ghastly tune ignorant people tend to call “Wise Man Say”.

2. Elvis is a singing swimming pool lifeguard who couldn’t cut it in the circus. He falls in love. With a bullfighter. Alas, it is not an edgy message movie fighting a culture of homophobia well ahead of its time. The bullfighter is — and the shrewd reader guessed it — a woman.

3. Elvis is a singing rodeo rider. Looking for gold, he falls in love and — don’t say you didn’t see that one coming — gets married to his lady love. Aaah!

4. Elvis is a singing racing driver working as a bus boy (which means, he clears tables, not speed through the streets in a doubledecker). He falls in love with a swimming instructor. And — spoiler alert — together they win a talent competition. Hurrah!

5. Elvis is a singing charter boat pilot in Hawaii who is torn between two girls. In the end (spoiler alert redux!) he goes — gulp — for the good girl.

6. Elvis is a singing bush pilot who takes care of a little Chinese kid. He then, yes, falls in love.

7. Elvis plays a non-singing (!) gunslinger come good. He fails to sing, but — phew — he does fall in love (else what movie would there be?). With a dance hall queen, as you do.

8. Elvis is a singing rodeo rider (again), but with an ethnic twist: he is of Native-American descent. This time, Elvis doesn’t so much fall in love but play the field, going for a mother and daughter combo. Off-screen Elvis preferred the teenage daughters; will he go for the mom on-screen?

9. Elvis is, but of course, a singing racing driver who, plausibly enough, falls in love with a singing government agent in go-go boots. It’s a story all of us have to tell.

10. Elvis is a singing boxer who is supposed to take a fall. But he does fall. In love. With the love interest from movie (1).

11. Elvis is a navy frogman. Oh, but he is. And the novel twist is, at night he sings in a nightclub. Oh, but he does. The unbelievable plot device here: Elvis fails to fall in love but goes treasure hunting instead. Will he find the treasure?

12. Elvis is a singing helicopter pilot. And guess where. No, really, please do take a wild stab in the dark. Why, he’s a singing helicopter pilot in Hawaii. But this movie is not like all the others in which Elvis is a singing action man who falls in love with a pretty girl while being pursued by the town harlot. Here he doesn’t fall in love with one or two women, but romances three, count ’em, of them.

13. Elvis is a singing racing car driver. Incredibly, the thing isn’t called Deja Fuckin’ Vu. Elvis again has three women to choose from, as he did in movie (12) which preceded this one (the 1960s morals had loosened, evidently). And they have some pretty ordinary jobs: drummer, self-help author, heiress…

14. Elvis is the singing heir to a rich Texas oilman who roughs it a bit as a waterski instructor (doing it fully clothed!). Among his clients is a woman who is looking for a rich husband. Oh, the hilarious complications that arise when Elvis falls in love. How will Elvis get out of this one?

15. Elvis is an occasionally singing photographer of stylish advertisements and of nudie pics (nobody showed the Colonel that script, I bet) who experiences psychedelic trips involving people in dog costumes (actually, was Tom Parker at all awake?). Yup, there is a love interest, seeing as you ask.

16. Elvis is a singing US soldier who falls in love with a dancer and sings a German folk song to a puppet.

17. Elvis is a ghetto doctor who doesn’t sing an awful lot. But he falls in love. With a nun. Oh, naughty Elvis. But how could he know of her profession when she is swanning about in civvies. No wimple warning. There isn’t even a happy ending: we never learn whether the nun, played by a TV legend, goes with Big El or with Big Al. No wonder this was the last Elvis movie (a couple of documentaries apart).

18. Elvis is a singing insurance salesman who moonlights as a lion tamer and falls in love with the circus clown’s daughter.

Answers in comments (and in the included illustrated PDF documents).

The movies were mostly terrible (and yet strangely alluring in a camp sort of way), and not infrequently so was the music. Still, there were some stomping numbers, few more so than Bossa Nova Baby (watch great the excerpt from Fun In Acapulco here) with its sample-worthy keyboard line. Written by the legendary Leiber & Stoller, who just a decade earlier had written Hound Dog and other rock & roll classics, it was first recorded in 1962 by Tippie & the Clovers, whose version the song’s composers preferred over Elvis”. Why the bossa nova sounds more like mambo as seen through blue eyes and nothing like a bossa nova is anybody’s guess.

Another Leiber & Stoller composition, one that hints at Elvis’ affection for gospel, is I Want To Be Free, from Jailhouse Rock. It has been an Elvis favourite of mine since I first heard it on 4-disc set of our boy”s rock & roll recordings which I bought when I was 12. The version featured here is the one from the film, not that from the soundtrack (which, it must be said, is superior).

Elvis might have gone soft on us after returning from the army, but on his version of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say, he rocks out. From 1964’s Viva Las Vegas, it was the b-side of the excellent title track. And on G.I. Blues Evis even revisits Blue Suede Shoes. And here’s the thing: the cover of the first cover is note-for-note faithful, the arrangement is the same, but it lacks the ejaculatory power of the 1956 version. The army demonstrably had emasculated Elvis.

From 1962’s Girls Girls Girls, Return To Sender sounds like it might have featured in a pre-army movie. In fact, it sounds like a good companion piece to King Creole. It was co-written by Otis Blackwell who had previously written All Shook Up, Don’t Be Cruel, Fever (all recorded by Elvis) as well as Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls Of Fire.

For a perfect fusion of Cool Rock & Roll Elvis and Cheesy Movie Elvis, one may turn to What A Wonderful Life from 1962’s Follow That Dream, in which Elvis plays the singing son of a vagabond heading down Florida way et cetera.

There was a period when the crapness of Elvis’ music coincided with the shittiness of his movies to create a sewerage of artlessness. I would locate that point at 1965/66. Some argue that Harum Scarum (1965) was the nadir, and it is a perfectly defensible position; I propose that this was just a stop before the all-time low: Spinout in 1965. There are no redeeming songs at all from that wretched movie. But rules are rules and I had to include one from each film. So you have the pleasure to sample the misogynistic Smorgasbord wherein our hero narrates his philandering ways by way of comparing his conquests to Scandinavian fingerfood. It’s so bad, it really is bad.

Things improved shortly, though not without further humiliations. You Gotta Stop from the following film, Easy Come, Easy Go is a few steps up from his nordic epicurean adventure, and then we get Long Legged Girl (With the Short Dress On) from Double Trouble (you remember Double Trouble, don’t you?), which is a fine performance, poor lyrics notwithstanding. Not that it saved poor Elvis’ dignity. In the same movie he was made to sing Old McDonald Had A Farm. Apparently he stormed out of the studio upon being told that the King of Rock & Roll was required to sing that. But sing that he did, on record and in the movie, for contracts are harsh mistresses. It is a pathetic spectacle.

But improve the things did. In 1967’s Clambake — another cinematic triumph —  Elvis sang Jerry Reed’s Guitar Man, getting deep into his country roots. On Stay Away, Joe (everybody remembers that fiesta of cinematic ingenuity) he reconnects with the blues, in a manner, with All I Need Is The Rain; and in 1968’s Live A Little, Love A Little, he hits on a career highlight with A Little Less Conversation, a song that would returned him to the charts almost 40 years later.

As always, CD-R length, home ducktailed covers, illustrated PDF for easy reading. PW in comments.

1. We’re Gonna Move (Love Me Tender, 1956)
2. Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do (Loving You, 1957)
3. I Want To Be Free (Movie version) (Jailhouse Rock, 1957)
4. Hard Headed Woman (King Creole, 1958)
5. Blue Suede Shoes (G.I. Blues, 1960)
6. Flaming Star (Flaming Star, 1960)
7. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (Wild In The Country, 1961)
8. No More (Blue Hawaii, 1961)
9. What A Wonderful Life (Follow That Dream, 1962)
10. I Got Lucky (Kid Gallahad, 1962)
11. Return To Sender (Girls, Girls, Girls, 1962)
12. They Remind Me Too Much Of You (It Happened At The World Fair, 1963)
13. Bossa Nova Baby (Fun In Acapulca, 1963)
14. Kissin’ Cousins (Kissin’ Cousins, 1964)
15. What’d I Say (Viva Las Vegas, 1964)
16. Wheels On My Heels (Roustabout, 1964)
17. The Meanest Girl In Town (Girl Happy, 1965)
18. Put The Blame On Me (Tickle Me, 1965)
19. So Close, Yet So Far (From Paradise) (Harum Scarum, 1965)
20. A Dog’s Life (Frankie And Johnny, 1966)
21. Hard Luck (Paradise, Hawaii Style, 1966)
22. Smorgasbord (Spinout, 1966)
23. You Gotta Stop (Easy Come, Easy Go, 1967)
24. Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On) (Double Trouble, 1967)
25. Guitar Man (Clambake, 1967)
26. All I Needed Was The Rain (Stay Away, Joe, 1968)
27. Let Yourself Go (Speedway, 1968)
28. A Little Less Conversation (Live A Little, Love A Little, 1968)
29. Charro! (Charro!, 1969)
30. Clean Up Your Own Backyard (The Trouble With Girls, 1969)
31. Have A Happy (Change Of Habits, 1969)

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Any Major Eurovision

May 23rd, 2021 4 comments

 

After the victory of a tuneless tune by Italy’s Guitar Hero heroes L’Oscurità (12 hours later, I don’t recall their real name), I imagine some people need some relief. So I’m reposting this from three years ago.

For Europeans and other purveyors of musical kitsch, the Eurovision Song Contest is annual appointment TV. The international singing competition has been held since 1956. Up to the fall of the Iron Curtain, competing countries were drawn from Western, Southern, Northern and Central Europe, plus Israel and, a few times, Morocco. Today the contest is hugely popular in Eastern Europe — and lately even that well-known European country Australia has taken part (but if Israel can, then why not Australia?).

Making a list of “favourite” or “best” Eurovision songs is dicey business. The sober music fan will laugh at you for even considering such a thing; the hardcore Eurovision fan will absolutely hate you for not including Estonia’s entry for 1998 which never deserved to finish in 23rd place. Still, here I am and can do no other.

So, here is a collection of the songs I chose as those I like the best of the thousand-something songs that were composed in the hope of winning the Grand Prix (97,6% of which have been utterly awful). They may not be the best of the lot; the dominance of 1970s entries suggests that childhood nostalgia influences my choices. So I happily accept that Teach-In‘s 1975 winner Ding-A-Dong fails to represent a highwater mark in popular music, even in that dismal year. But when I hear it, I am transported to the cobblestoned street where I grew up, riding my green chopper bicycle, hatching new adventures with my friends.

I exclude some common favourites. There’s no place for Cliff Richard’s Congratulations, nor for Lulu, Brotherhood of Men, Nicole, Dana (Irish or International), Lordi, Katrina & the Waves, or Bucks Fizz, nor for many of the winners of the last few decades. I also have no love for Germany’s 1979 entry Dschinghis Khan, a song about a genocidal psychopath which the Germans saw fit to perform in, of all places, Jerusalem. And I really cannot stand Israel’s insipid winner that year, Milk & Honey’s Hallelujah.

With all these possibly worthy candidates sifted out, I expect to be asked what the hell Sophie & Magaly‘s Papa Pingouin, Luxembourg’s 1980 entry which finished 9th with a slightly disturbing performance featuring an absurd man-penguin, is doing here (indeed, my incredulous wife just earlier asked me, upon hearing me play it, what the fuck I am listening to). Well, it’s a catchy enough song, written by German serial Eurovision offender Ralph Siegel. Despite receiving little love from the juries, Papa Pingouin became a million-seller. Alas, due to a brutal contract the French twins saw very little of the loot. And then Siegel dropped the singers, trying to sting them out of the little money that was due to them. Magaly died in 1996 of AIDS; Sophie is battling with depression. Siegel is still churns out songs for the Eurovision.

Siegel wrote several entries for Germany, including the afore-mentioned Dschinghis Khan, the runners-up in 1980, ’81, and ’87 — Theater (Katja Epstein), Johnny Blue (Lena Valaitis) and Lass die Sonne in dein Herz (Wind) — and the 1982 winner, Nicole’s Ein bisschen Frieden. None of them feature here.

Germany’s best-ever entry, in my view, was 1970’s third-placed Wunder gibt es immer wieder by Katja Epstein, the arrangement of which is truly a marker of its time. The wonderful Epstein returned the following year, again finishing third with the ecological anthem Diese Welt, featured here in the English version, River Run River Flow.

The second-best German entry also features here in English: the late Joy Fleming‘s superb, soulful Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein (Bridge of Love). Incredibly, it finished 17th in a field of 19, despite being backed by soul singer Madeline Bell, close friend of Dusty Springfield and ex-member of Blue Mink. National juries are idiots.

I also really like Guildo Horn‘s Guildo hat Euch lieb (Guildo loves you all), which was Germany’s entry in 1998. Written by off-the-wall entertainer Stefan Raab under the pseudonym Alf Igl it was a parody of Ralph Siegel (as Raab’s alias suggests). In the national elimination round, the song beat out three Siegel compositions, despite the mass-circulation Bild running a campaign against Horn and his manic and anarchic ways. Raab took part himself in 2000, with an even more subversive number, sung in an invented German dialect.

The greatest Eurovision song of all time is, inevitably, ABBA‘s Waterloo, the winning entry for Sweden in 1974 (amazingly, ABBA failed to qualify in the national qualification contest the previous year. Sweden’s Decca moment). Waterloo had it all: a great tune, international lyrics, bright outfits, Björn’s star-shaped silver guitar, and a conductor dressed like Napoleon. But it wasn’t an easy win, as I explained in the article accompanying the ABBA cover versions mix. The nearest contender, Italian Gigliola Cinquetti‘s more traditional ballad Si, put up a strong fight. That song also features here, unlike Cinquetti’s 1964 winner Non ho l’età.

Running a close second, in my book, is Spain’s entry for 1973, Eres Tu by a singing group Mocedades. It finished in second place in a strong field, beaten by Anne-Marie David‘s also superb Tu Te Reconnaitras, winning it for Luxembourg. Cliff Richard‘s appeal for groovy social harmony, a track that has a better tune than lyrics, came third.

The deserved winner in 1967 was Sandie Shaw with Puppet On A String, the song the barefooted singer hated and performed virtually under duress. Coming only fourth that year, representing Luxembourg, was Greek-born and Germany-based singer Vicky Leandros with L’amour est bleu. That song became famous as the easy listening classic Love Is Blue by Paul Mauriat, who stripped the song of all the emotions, lyricism and style which Leandros had invested in it.

Leandros would eventually win the thing, also for Luxembourg, in 1972 with Aprés toi. This time around, she had an international hit with the song, in its original French version, in West Germany as Dann kamst Du, and in Britain, where it reached #2 as Come What May.

Luxembourg had a way of picking winners: in 1965 it was the appropriately-named French singer France Gall, whose Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son was penned by Serge Gainsbourg, inspired by Beethoven. Her performance was off-key, causing her lover at the time, singer Claude Francois, to scream at her in a discouraging manner. The charm of the catchy song, with its clever lyrics, and of France Gall herself evidently won over the juries.

Perhaps even more famous internationally than Waterloo and Love Is Blue is Italian singer Domenico Modugno‘s 1958 entry: Nel blu dipinto di blu. You’ll know it better as Volare, probably in Dean Martin”s version. Modugno finished only in third place with it. As I said, juries are idiots. The singer tried his luck again the following year, finishing 6th. A third Eurovision attempt in 1966 ended in disaster: Modugno came last, with nil points.

The winner that year was German-Austrian singer Udo Jürgens, winning the contest for Austria with Merci Chérie. It was Jürgens’ third successive participation in the Eurovision.

Austria would have to wait until 2014, shortly before Jürgens’ death, to win again. But what a winner that was: bearded drag artist Conchita Wurst singing a fantastically dramatic song which in the artist’s hands became a liberation anthem for LBGT+ communities. Before the contest, no Austrian record company was willing to release it, possibly because the vehement opposition by conservative and right-wing politicians to the mold-breaking artist. So national broadcaster ORF had to release it themselves. The song became a hit in many countries…

If I became the dictator of a newly-founded state and was looking for a rousing national anthem, I’d repurpose Séverine‘s 1971 Eurovision winner, Un banc, un arbre, un rue. Take the chorus (which, brazenly, kicks off the song), slow it down a bit and give it the national anthem arrangement. I could win wars with that national anthem. The song was the only winning entry for Monaco. I reckon my army could take on Monaco’s troops, especially with that anthem.

I hope this collection of songs will give lie to the notion that Eurovision has offered only cliché and acts of grievous musical battery. In fact, many of these songs may well stick in your head to give you not unpleasant earworms.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-nilpointed covers (the cover promises 25 tracks; I added one for your delight), as well as a larger version of the above collage of single covers, and the above text in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Abba – Waterloo (1974, Sweden #1)
2. Cliff Richard – Power To All Our Friends (1973, Great Britain #3)
3. Sandie Shaw – Puppet On A String (1967, Great Britain #1)
4. France Gall – Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son (1965, France #1)
5. Vicky Leandros – Aprés toi (1972, Luxembourg #1)
6. Katja Ebstein – Wunder gibt es immer wieder (1970, Germany #3)
7. Anne-Marie David – Tu Te Reconnaitras (1973, Luxembourg, #1)
8. The New Seekers – Beg, Steal Or Borrow (1972, Great Britain #2)
9. Joy Fleming – Bridge Of Love (1975, Germany, #17)
10. Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran – Rock Bottom (1977, Great Britain #2)
11. Teach In – Ding-A-Dong (1975, Netherlands #1)
12. Catherine Ferry – 1, 2, 3 (1976, France #2)
13. Sophie & Magaly – Papa Pingouin (1980, Luxembourg #9)
14. Guildo Horn – Guildo hat euch lieb (1998, Germany #7)
15. Charlotte Nilsson – Take Me To Your Heaven (1999, Sweden #1)
16. Conchita Wurst – Rise Like A Phoenix (2014, Austria #1)
17. Joélle Ursull – White And Black Blues (1990, France #2)
18. Secret Garden – Nocturne (1995, Norway #1)
19. Gigliola Cinquetti – Si (1974, Italy #2)
20. Katja Ebstein – River Run River Flow (Diese Welt) (1971, Germany #3)
21. Séverine – Un Banc, Un Arbre, Un Rue (1971, Monaco, #1)
22. Mocedades – Eres Tu (1973, Spain #2)
23. Vicky Leandros – L’amour Est Bleu (Love Is Blue) (1967, Luxembourg #4)
24. Udo Jürgens – Merci Cherie (1966, Austria #1)
25. Domenico Modugno – Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu) (1958, Italy #3)
26. Grethe & Jörgen Ingmann – Dansevise (1963, Denmark, #1)
Bonus:
Mary Hopkin – Knock, Knock Who’s There (1970, Great Britain #2)
Stefan Raab – Wadde hadde dudde da (2000, Germany #5)

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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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