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In Memoriam – November 2022

December 6th, 2022 1 comment

In a busy month for the Reaper, the age-range of victims he claimed was huge: the oldest was 104, the youngest 24. The former first appeared in stage in 1930 and had her first hit in 1939; the latter, Danish singer Hugo Helmig, had his first international hit in 2017. I had never heard of Helmig before, but he clearly was an appealing artist. As I’ll explain later, the In Memoriam series is a good way of discovering new music; I enjoyed checking out Helmig’s music, and feel sad that there won’t be any more of it.

Another death of a singer I had never heard of before touched me this month. Jake Flint, a singer-songwriter in the red dirt sub-genre of country, should have started a tour last Friday. Instead he died in his sleep at the age of 37. The tragic kicker: Flint died a day and a half after his wedding… His widow Brenda wrote: “We should be going through wedding photos but instead I have to pick out clothes to bury my husband in.”

 

The Perfect Christine
Nothing against the name McVie, but why would you take that name when your birth-name was Perfect, literally. When Christine Perfect married Fleetwood Mac’s John McVie she took his surname, to become Christine McVie — even though she had already enjoyed success with her “maiden” name, as a solo act and as the lead singer of Chicken Shack. With the latter, she had a big hit with a cover of Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind. In 1969 and 1970, she was voted female vocalist of the year in the UK music weekly Melody Maker.

Few would have bet on it that Christine McVie would become the first of the classic Fleetwood Mac line-up to die, even though at 79, she was the oldest. She just seemed the most grounded of the lot, the one least likely to overdo the drug and the booze.

Her songwriting contribution to Fleetwood Mac was immense, with songs such as Over My Head, Warm Ways, Say You Love Me, Don’t Stop, Songbird, You Make Loving Fun, Oh Daddy, Think About Me, Love In Store, Hold Me, Little Lies, and Everywhere. On the Fleetwood Mac’s 1988 Greatest Hits album, half of the 16 tracks were written or co-written by Christine McVie. Shhe was the centre of Fleetwood Mac.

Remember Her Name
She should have been a superstar, as a singer, an actress and a dancer. The 1980 film Fame set Irene Cara up for both, with her having already made a mark in the title role of the musical drama Sparkle. She played a central role in Fame, performed the superb title song, sang the showstopper Out Her On My Own, and was part of the other great Fame track, I Sing The Body Electric. Cara was the first singer to perform two Oscar-nominated songs at an Academy Awards show. With her talents and beauty, she should have been the biggest star in the world.

It didn’t go that way. Three years after Fame, Cara had a mega-hit with Flashdance…What A Feeling, one of the great pop sings of the 1980s, which she also co-wrote and for which she won an Oscar. But again, the huge success didn’t translate into great, well, fame. In 1984 she had a final US Top 10 hit, with the mediocre Breakdance. Her total US chart history: Three Top 10 hits, two Top 20s, one Top 40, two Top 100s.

Because of a long-running law suit with her record label over unpaid royalties (which she eventually won, after eight years), Cara was effectively blacklisted, with RSO — the label for which she had helped make so much money through the Fame soundtrack — sending out threatening letters to other labels, warning them off Cara. Her recording career ground to a halt after her 1987 Carasmatic album, until in 2011 she formed an R&B group called Hot Caramel, with whom she released one CD. Cara also recorded in Spanish (she was half-black Cuban, half-Puerto Rican). Before she was blackballed, she appeared in a few movies, contributed to soundtracks, and did backing vocals. In the 1990s, she had a few minor dance hits in Europe

The Black Monroe
In the 1950s, Joyce Bryant was known as the “Black Marilyn Monroe”, and inspired singers like Etta James to play with sexuality in their music. Born in 1928, Bryant made her mark as a nightclub singer in the 1940s. One night she decided to paint her hair silver in a bid to upstage Josephine Baker. It became her trademark. A young woman of great courage, she broke the colour barsin Miami when she performed at a whites-only club, despite threats and the KKK burning her in effigy.

Regarded as one of the first black sex symbols, Bryant also had a successful recording career in the early 1950s, scoring a hit with her version of Love For Sale, which got banned from radio for being too raunchy. And suddenly in 1955, she left the music business because it clashed with her fervent religious beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist, and because she was disgusted with the exploitative club culture, with its gangsters and violence against women (she once was beaten in her dressing room after rejecting the advances of a man). She’d later return in the 1960s as a vocal coach and opera singer.

By then, Bryant was immersed in civil rights activism and social upliftment projects, often working with Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

The Pub Rock Executioner
The roots of UK punk are diverse, but leading among them was the pub rock scene, some of whose exponents, such as The Stranglers, were considered part of the punk vanguard. Perhaps the most influential of those on punk and the post-punk wave was Dr. Feelgood, a blues-rock band formed in 1971. Its co-founder and guitarist was Wilko Johnson, whose moniker is a near anagram of his real name, John Wilkinson. His percussive fingerstyle guitar playing (without a pick) has been so influential that in some circles he became a cult figure.

Johnson, who has died at 75 after a long battle with cancer, founded a string of bands after leaving Dr. Feelgood in 1977, but in 1980 he joined an already successful band, Ian Dury’s Blockheads, for a few years. He was a friend of collaborations, the most high-profile of these may be the one he struck up with Who frontman Roger Daltrey in 2014.

In between, Johnson filled the central part in perhaps the most pivotal scene in the TV series Game Of Thrones: he played the executioner who cut off Ned Stark’s head. He was well-qualified for that role — his BA degree in English and Literature included courses on Anglo-Saxon and ancient Icelandic sagas, which pretty much is the GoT universe.

 

The Sinatra Discoverer
It is quite mind-blowing that until just a couple of weeks ago, a singer who had helped a still quite unknown Frank Sinatra along the way to stardom was still with us. Louise Tobin died on November 26 at the age of 104 — 92 year after she first performed on stage. In the 1930s she was singing with bandleaders like Benny Goodman while being married to another famous bandleader, Harry James. It was on Tobin’s recommendation that James signed Frank Sinatra to his first gig fronting a big band, in March 1939, before the kid moved on to Tommy Dorsey. It was with Harry James and his Orchestra that Sinatra recorded his first record, a commercial flop.

That same year, Tobin had a big hit as the vocalist for Benny Goodman with I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (a Rodgers & Hart song Sinatra would sing in 1954 for the film Pal Joey). Tobin recorded and performed with a string of big bands in the 1940s; her reputation was such that Johnny Mercer wrote a song about her, Louise Tobin Blues. In the 1950s Tobin withdrew from music to raise her sons.

She made a well-received comeback in 1962, and toured extensively for many years. In between, she co-owned a jazz club in Denver with second husband Peanuts Hucko, at which both also performed.

The Bob Marley Keyboardist
Do you remember Grace Jones’ 1983 song My Jamaican Guy? It was about reggae keyboardist Tyrone Downie, who has died at 66. By the time Grace serenaded about him, Downie was already a veteran of Jamaica’s reggae scene, as a recording artist in his own right and as keyboardist for several top acts, including Bob Marley & The Wailers (on albums like Exodus, Babylon By Bus, Kaya, Survival, and Uprising), and Peter Tosh (such as Legalize It, Equal Rights), sometimes also contributing backing vocals. He was also part of the Marley & The Wailer’s live band.

He also backed acts like Burning Spear, Johnny Nash, Dennis Brown, Rita Marley, Grace Jones, Tom Tom Club, Ian Dury, Sly & Robbie, Garland Jeffreys, Deniece Williams, Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGregor, Gregory Isaacs, Black Uhuru, Ziggy Marley, Youssou N’Dour, Shabba Ranks and many others.

The Lo-Fier
It is a shame that cancer claimed Mimi Parker, singer and drummer of indie band Low, just a few weeks before Christmas, since the band released a string of Christmas-themed songs over a three-decade career, with titles such as Just Like Christmas, If You Were Born Today (Song for Little Baby Jesus), Santa’s Coming Over, and Some Hearts (At Christmas Time). And yet, when it comes to long battles with cancer and the bastard is winning it, release may be a matter of joy. And as a Mormon, Parker believed that death would not be the end. I hope Mimi’s was a good death.

Low were Parker and husband Alan Sparhawk, plus the occasional bassist. Mimi was mostly in charge of the low-fi sound, which is said to have reflected her quiet nature, while Alan was the rockier component.

The Sound Man
Philly Soul is mostly the creation of Gamble, Huff and Bell, but it was also the sound of Joseph Tarsia, in whose Sigma Sound Studios much of the Sound of Philadelphia was created. And often, Tarsia would be involved in the recordings as an engineer, alone or with other engineers.

In the 1960s, Tarsia worked as a recording engineer with Cameo Parkway Records (whose roster included future Philly legends such as Dee Dee Sharp and Bunny Sigler). In 1967 he decided to set up his own studio. He sold his car, house and other possessions, and leased an old studio in Philadelphia, upgrading its equipment from 2-track to 8-track. Among the early clients were The Delfonics, who recorded their 1968 La La I Love You album there. Soon the studio had to run around the clock to accommodate demand that ranged from Aretha Franklin to ZZ Top.

In 1976 Tarsia opened three studios in New York, also named Sigma Sound Studios. Among those who recorded there were Steely Dan, Billy Joel, Whitney Houston, Madonna, and Paul Simon.

 

The Woodwinder
As a session musician who could chip in on the sax, clarinet, flute, oboe, English horn, piccolo or pretty much any woodwind instrument, Gene Cipriano by 2019 had played 58 successive years in the Academy Awards orchestra.

A long-time collaborator with Henry Mancini — for whom he played the flute on the timeless theme of Peter Gunn — and other film composers, going back to the 1950s, Cipriano played on many soundtracks, including the original West Side Story. For Some Like It Hot, Cipriano played the saxophone parts for Tony Curtis’ character. Later film contributions included Hatari!, The Tomas Crown Affair, Escape From Alcatraz, The Wild Bunch, Charade,  And Justice For All, Airplane!, The Right Stuff, Romancing The Stone, The Color Purple, The Goonies, The Karate Kid, Cocoon, The Naked Gun, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Bad Boys, and many others. Add to that a huge list of TV music he played on.

In the 1950s he played for people like Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, Nat King Cole, and Anita O’Day. As a member of the Wrecking Drew, he backed acts like Glen Campbell, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Mason Williams, Frank Zappa, The Monkees, The Beach Boys, Barbra Streisand, Michael Franks, Neil Diamond, Judee Sill, The 5th Dimension, Boodstone, Andy Williams, Dennis Coffey, Etta James, Peggy, Anne Murray, Nancy Wilson and John Denver. Later he played with the likes of Tom Waits, Lionel Richie, Prince, Frank Sinatra (on the Duets album), Natalie Cole (Unforgettable), Lady Gaga, Gregory Porter, and Barry Manilow, Michael Bublé, and Daft Punk.

The Nazareth Singer
In July we lost the lead guitarist of Nazareth’s classic line up, Manny Charlton; in November the Scottish hard rock band’s lead singer, Dan McCafferty, followed him. McCafferty had been a founding member of the group in 1968, and stayed with it until health forced his retirement in 2013. So it his voice that can’t make up its mind whether to love or hate the band’s best-known hit, a cover of the Everly Brothers’ Love Hurts.

Nazareth fun fact: The group didn’t name itself after Jesus’ hometown in Galilee but after the town by the same name in Pennsylvania, which got namechecked in The Band’s song The Weight.

The Post-punk Pioneer
In Public Image Ltd, or PiL, John Lydon and Jah Wobble were the stars, but fans will credit Keith Levene, who has died at 65, with being an at least equally important member of the band, as a guitarist, songwriter and producer. He was a member when PiL was formed as a post-Sex Pistols vehicle for Lydon, who at the same time dropped his Johnny Rotten moniker. Levene left PiL in 1983 over creative differences.

Levene was also a founding member of The Clash, and persuaded Joe Strummer to join the band. He left before The Clash recorded anything, but contributed the song What’s My Name to their first album.

The Star Rapper
I am so out of touch with the latest in popular music that I had no idea who rapper Takeoff was when his death, killed by what seems to be stray bullets in a shoot-out, was announced. It turns out that as a third of the hip hop trio Migos, the 28-year-old had scored a number of US Top 10 hits, including Stir Fry, MotorSport featuring Nicki Minaj & Cardi B, and Walk It Talk It featuring Drake. Her scored two #1 albums, and two Grammy nominations.

Remarkably, the man born as Kirshnik Khari Ball rapped in Migos with his uncle, Quavo, as well as a cousin — a true family affair. Shortly before the rapper’s killing on November 1, Takeoff and Quavo released a video for the song Messy. Apparently at 2:40 one can see a poster with the legend “RIP” next to Takeoff. In a spooky mindfuck, Takeoff was killed in a shooting at 02:40.

 

The Apple Outlaw
As a young record company exec with Capitol in the 1960s, Ken Mansfield oversaw the careers of acts like The Beach Boys, Glen Campbell, Bobbie Gentry, Lou Rawls, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard among others, but his biggest-name charges were The Beatles. And The Fab’s were so impressed with Mansfield’s promotion work for them in the States that they appointed him US manager of their new Apple label in 1968.

In that role Mansfield was one of the organisers of The Beatles’ famous rooftop concert in 1969, an event he later wrote a book about (another book he wrote on The Beatles apparently is the only one that received the approval of Paul, George, Ringo and Yoko, other than the Anthology). In the film footage of the Rooftop Concert, you can spot him wearing the white coat.

It was Mansfield whose intervention persuaded The Beatles to release Hey Jude as a single, instead of Revolution. Hey Jude was thought to be too long, so Mansfield played the two contenders to a sample of US radio DJs. They told him that Hey Jude would be a hit, even at its length. And so it turned out to be…

After the Apple adventure, Mansfield became a prolific, especially records by outlaw country musicians such as Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser. He also produced acts like Claudine Longet, Don Ho and Nick Gilder.

The Discovery
One of the great things about doing this series is to discover artists and music I’d never heard of. If these acts were still a going concern when circumstances conspired to make them known to me, then these discoveries are bitter-sweet, because there won’t be any new music made by them. So it is in the case of English soul singer Noel McKoy, whose death at 62 prompted me to investigate his music. I loved almost everything I heard of his retro-tinged soul music, and the acid jazz stuff he did with the James Taylor Quartet (not that James Taylor).

The Boomtown Rat
Where do #1 artists go when their group sinks? Garry Roberts, who has died at 72, scored a string of hits as guitarist behind Bob Geldof in The Boomtown Rats, including two #1s (Rat Trap; I Don’t Like Mondays) and seven more Top 20 hits between 1977-80. The Boomtown Rats, which Roberts had co-founded with pyjama-clad keyboardist Johnny Fingers, disbanded in 1986.

Subsequently, Roberts gigged as a sound engineer before becoming a financial adviser. After 15 years he was disillusioned with the insurance industry (who can blame him?) and became a central heating engineer. All the while, he kept playing with a reconstituted Boomtown Rats.

The Smurf Xenophobe
Vader Abraham didn’t mind his immigrants small and blue, but the Smurfs singer didn’t like them brown. For a short while, the Dutch singer and songwriter Pierre Kartner, one-time member of 1960s million-selling band Corry & de Rekels, brutalised much of Europe with his grating Smurfs songs. He also turned his talents to writing racist songs. In the 1970s — before he became the beloved father of the Smurfs — he asked in song: “What shall we do with the Arabs here? They can’t be trusted with our pretty women here.” He also warbled about the unemployed being to blame for their own condition since they all are drunks in bars. What a total klootzak! Later Kartner recorded a campaign song with far-right populist Pim Fortuyn. Alas, it wasn’t titled “Alle verdomde Smurfen haten me nu omdat ik een dweper ben”.

In his time Kartner is said to have written thousands of songs. Of those, one, Het kleine café aan de haven, was a hit that merited being recorded in different languages throughout Europe, for singers like Mireille Mathieu, Joe Dassin, Engelbert Humperdinck, Audrey Landers, Demis Roussos, and Peter Alexander (whose ingratiating German version, Unsere kleine Kneipe, was a big hit in Germany in 1977). It wasn’t very good, but at least it wasn’t intrinsically annoying nor did it promote racism.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.

Joseph Tarsia, 88, engineer and owner of Sigma Sound Studios, on Nov. 1
Daddy Kae & Yvonne – Eleven Commandments Of Woman (1966, as engineer)
The Delfonics – La La Means I Love You (1968, as engineer)
The O’Jays – I Love Music (1975, as engineer)

Takeoff, 28, rapper with hip hop trio Migos, murdered on Nov. 1
Migos – Stir Fry (2016)
Migos feat. Drake – Walk It Talk It (2018)

Gerd Dudek, 84, German jazz saxophonist, clarinetist and flautist, on Nov. 3

Noel McKoy, 62, British soul singer, on Nov. 3
James Taylor Quartet with Noel McKoy – Love The Life (1993)
Noel McKoy – Love Under Control (1998)
Noel McKoy – Fly Away With Me (2009)

Nicole Josy, 76, half of Belgian duo Nicole & Hugo, on Nov. 4

Carmelo La Bionda, 73, half of Italian disco duo La Bionda and songwriter, on Nov. 5
La Bionda – One For You, One For Me (1978, also as co-writer)

Mimi Parker, 55, singer and drummer of indie band Low, on Nov. 5
Low – Sleep At The Bottom (1998)
Low – Everybody’s Song (2005)
Low – Some Hearts (At Christmas Time) (2016)

Aaron Carter, 34, pop singer, on Nov. 5
Aaron Carter – Aaron’s Party (Come Get It) (2000)

Tyrone Downie, 66, Jamaican keyboardist, producer and arranger, on Nov. 5
Tyrone Downie – Movie Skank (1972)
Peter Tosh – Legalize It (1976)
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Is This Love (1978, on keyboards)

Tame One, 52, rapper, on Nov. 5

Dan Fawcett, 52, guitarist of Canadian rock band Helix (2202-04), found Nov. 6

Hurricane G, 52, rapper, on Nov. 6
Hurricane G. – Somebody Else (1997)

Joe Baque, 100, jazz pianist, on Nov. 6

Don Lewis, 81, synth pioneer, singer, engineer, on Nov. 6
The Don Lewis Experience – And They’ll Know

Ali Birra, 72, Ethiopian singer, on Nov. 6

Jeff Cook, 73, singer and musician with country band Alabama, on Nov. 7
Alabama – Mountain Music (1982)

Michel Bühler, 77, Swiss chanson singer-songwriter, on Nov. 7
Michel Bühler – Mon Père (1976)

Claes-Göran Hederström, 77, Swedish singer, on Nov. 8

Dan McCafferty, 76, singer of Scottish rock band Nazareth, on Nov. 8
Nazareth – Broken Down Angel (1973, also as co-writer)
Dan McCafferty – The Honky Tonk Downstairs (1978)
Nazareth – Where Are You Now (1983)

Will Ferdy, 95, Belgian singer, on Nov. 8

Garry Roberts, 72, guitarist of The Boomtown Rats, on Nov. 8
The Boomtown Rats – Looking After No 1 (1977)
The Boomtown Rats – Someone’s Looking At You (1979)

PierreVader Abraham’ Kartner, 87, Dutch singer, racist and songwriter, on Nov. 8
Mireille Mathieu – Le vieux café de la rue d’Amérique (1976, as co-writer)

Gal Costa, 77, Brazilian singer, on Nov. 8
Gal Costa – Meu nome é Gal (1969)
Gal Costa – Festa do interior (1982)

Mattis Hætta, 63, Norwegian singer, on Nov. 9

Nik Turner, 82, musician with rock band Hawkwind, on Nov. 10
Hawkwind – Master Of The Universe (1972, also as co-writer)
Nik Turner – The Visitor (Space Gypsy) (2013)

Chris Koerts, 74, guitarist of Dutch pop group Earth and Fire, on Nov. 10
Earth and Fire – Memories (1972)

Keith Levene, 65, English guitarist with Public Image Ltd, songwriter, on Nov. 11
The Clash – What’s My Name (1977, as writer)
Public Image Ltd – Public Image (1978)
Public Image Ltd – Flowers Of Romance (1981, also as co-writer, engineer)

Rab Noakes, 75, Scottish folk singer, songwriter and drummer, on Nov. 11
Rab Noakes – Together Forever (1970)

Sven-Bertil Taube, 87, Swedish folk singer and actor, on Nov. 11

Gene Cipriano, 94, woodwind musician and session musician, on Nov. 12
Henry Mancini – Theme from Peter Gunn (1958, on flute)
Barbra Streisand – Love (1971, on oboe and clarinet)
Claudia Lennear – Goin’ Down (1973, on baritone sax)
Daft Punk – Beyond (2013, on bass clarinet)

Jerzy Połomski, 89, Polish singer and actor, on Nov. 14

Mick Goodrick, 77, jazz guitarist, on Nov. 16

B. Smyth, 28, R&B singer and songwriter, on Nov. 17
B. Smyth – Win Win (2023)

Ken Mansfield, 85, producer and label manager (Apple), on Nov. 17
Claudine Longet – Wake Up To Me Gentle (1972, as writer and producer)
Jessi Colter – What’s Happened To Blue Eyes (1975, as co-producer)

Tommy Facenda, 83, rock & roll singer and guitarist, on Nov. 18
Tommy Facenda – High School USA (1959)

Nico Fidenco, 89, Italian singer and film composer, on Nov. 19
Nico Fidenco – Legata ad un granello di Sabbia (1961; Italy’s first million-seller)

Danny Kalb, 80, guitarist and singer with blues-rock band Blues Project, on Nov. 19
The Blues Project – Two Trains Running (1966, on lead vocals)

DJ Sumbody, South African dance musician and producer, shot on Nov. 20

Joyce Bryant, 95, American singer and civil rights activist, on Nov. 20
Joyce Bryant – Drunk With Love (1950)
Joyce Bryant – Love For Sale (1952)
Joyce Bryant – After You’ve Gone (1953)

David Ornette Cherry, 64, jazz musician, on Nov. 20

Wilko Johnson, 75, guitarist (Dr. Feelgood), songwriter, actor, on Nov. 21
Dr. Feelgood – Roxette (1974, also as writer)
Wilko Johnson – When I’m Gone (1980)
Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey – Ice On The Motorway (2014)

Pablo Milanés, 79, Cuban singer-songwriter, on Nov. 22
Pablo Milanés – El Guerrero (1983)

Erasmo Carlos, 81, Brazilian singer-songwriter, on Nov. 22
Erasmo Carlos – Sentado à beira do caminho (1969)

Hugo Helmig, 24, Danish singer-songwriter, on Nov. 23
Hugo Helmig – Please Don’t Lie (2017)

Shel Macrae, 77, singer, guitarist with British pop band The Fortunes, announced Nov. 23
The Fortunes – Things Go Better With Coke (1967)
The Fortunes – Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again (1971)

Irene Cara, 63, pop/soul singer, songwriter and actress, on. Nov. 25
Irene Cara – Makin’ Love With Me (1979)
Irene Cara – Out Here On My Own (1980)
Irene Cara – Flashdance (What A Feeling) (Extended Version) (1983)
Hot Caramel – Stop Frontin’ (2011, as founder-member, lead singer, synth, producer)

Sammie Okposo, 51, Nigerian gospel singer, on Nov. 25

Don Newkirk, 56, hip-hop and R&B musician, composer and producer, on Nov. 25
Don Newkirk – Do You Feel Like I (2021)

Louise Tobin, 104, jazz singer, on Nov. 26
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra – I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (1939, on lead vocals)
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra – There’ll Be Some Changes Made (1941, on lead vocals)
Peanuts Hucko & Louise Tobin – The Man I Love (1984)

Jake Flint, 37, red dirt country singer-songwriter, on Nov. 27
Jake Flint – Cold In This House (2020)

Galit Borg, 54, Israeli singer, in a traffic accident on Nov. 28

Christine McVie (Perfect), 79, English singer, keyboardist and songwriter, on Nov. 30
Chicken Shack – I’d Rather Go Blind (1969, as member and on lead vocals)
Fleetwood Mac – Songbird (1977, as writer and on lead vocals)
Christine McVie – Got A Hold On Me (1984, also as co-writer)
Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere (1987, as co-writer and on lead vocals)

Steve ‘Cast Iron’ Smith, singer with British punk band Red Alert, on Nov. 30
Red Alert – Third And Final (1980)

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Any Major Albums of the Year: 1982

November 29th, 2022 1 comment

Lately I have marked my favourite albums of 1971 (in Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) and of 1972. That era, five decades ago, was a golden period for LPs. I won’t argue that 1982 — 40 years ago — was such a golden time, or even a silver or bronze period. But it was the year when I first started to earn money and could blow much of it on music.

The Nightfly’s Chesterfield Kings
And I wasted a lot of it on irredeemable rubbish (step forward, Supertramp’s Famous Last Words). But 1982 also produced some all-time favourite albums. I loved Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly before I had ever heard a full Steely Dan album (the title of this blog tips you off that I have listened to at least one since then). I remember that I had to comb through several record stores to find a copy, having been seduced by lead single IGY. How delighted I was to discover that the album had such a great cover, with Fagen acting as DJ Lester, a 1950s jazz disc spinner  (I wrote about the cover many years ago).

One thing the cover didn’t do was to convince me of the charms of Chesterfield Kings cigarettes. When I was still stupidly tarring my lungs and stinking up my breath, I tried Chesterfields; the packet was Fagen-cool but the cigarettes tasted horrible. As a recovering smoker (clean for 13 years tomorrow), I’d now say that all cigarettes are abominable, but I had my favourite smokes at various stages of my nicotine addiction. But never Chesterfields.

Album of the Year
Should I ever compile a list of the albums of any year and any genre which I love the most, ‘Too-Rye-Ay’ by Dexys Midnight Runners will rank very highly (as would their 1981 hit Geno, should I ever rank my most-loved singles). It is a richly rewarding album, one that ought to be heard in full as one goes on a musical journey that glides between genres even within the same song, such as in the albums 7-minute centrepiece, Until I Believe In My Soul, which has soul horns, Celtic fiddle and a jazz interlude. The arrangements are superb.

The lot is narrated by Kevin Rowland in his idiosyncratic vocal stylings, aided by some fantastic backing vocals (just listen to the featured track). In turn, Rowland exudes confidence, exasperation, frustration, even neurosis, and a barrel-full of a nervous energy that holds your attention. I think the nervous energy appealed to me most when I was 16, a time on the verge of adulthood when something was waiting to explode, like the furious fiddle in Come On Eileen (the huge hit which, incidentally, only the fourth single from the album! There is a fine piece about it posted recently on the fine Hooks and Harmonies blog).

The Dexys album also included swearing, which in 1982 was still exciting. In Until I Believe In My Soul, Rowland murmurs, “You must be fucking joking”; in the same tone, it has become a stockphrase of mine when I find myself confronted by an irritating circumstance.

And by way of general housekeeping, two things to note about Dexys: Firstly, no apostrophe. Secondly, not a one-hit wonder, even if the US record-buying public was a fool.

Another F-Bomb
I think it was a few weeks before I bought ‘Too-Rye-Ay’ that another new release I had hotly anticipated dropped the F-bomb. Billy Joel did so on Laura, his “White Album” tribute from The Nylon Curtain. I was a big Billy Joel fan at the time, but his new album didn’t excite me as much as I had hoped. It’s a cold album; still I played the LP often enough to get to know it very well. It includes some good tracks, and some that have not aged well. The Piano Man was now bearded, angry, frustrated and disillusioned. In my view, he didn’t need to try some new fashion; I had liked him just the way he was.

The Envoy
In the canon of Warren Zevon albums, The Envoy tends to get a bad rap. Indeed, it sports some duff tracks. But when the tracks do hit, they land their punches well. The featured Never Too Late For Love comes towards the end of Side 2, but it holds its own with any of the best Zevon songs.The One I Forgot
In my unbiased opinion, the recent Any Major Soul 1982 mix is very good, but I wonder how on earth I managed to omit Otis Clay from the mix. He featured on Any Major Soul 1982/83, and his 1982 album produced the lesser-known original The Only Way Is Up (featured on Any Major Originals – 1980s Vol. 2).  It’s not the greatest soul album of the year, I’m sure, but I’m always happy to play it in full. By 1982, Clay was something of a soul veteran — he featured on Any Major Southern Soul with a track from 1971 — and kept recording until shortly before his death at 73 in January 2016.

Luther!
Luther Vandross does feature on the Any Major Soul 1982 mix with the gorgeous Once You Know How. Luther has been rightly criticised for never producing a flawless album, except perhaps 1986’s Give Me The Reason. So it’s fair to say that Forever, For Always, For Love certainly has its flaws. But, hell, it’s Luther Vandross singing flawed material. If Luther sung it, then that usually elevated the material. I think his version of The Temptations’ glorious Since I Lost My Baby might even trump the original. I’ll not accept challenges to a duel to defend that point, but even if you regard the original as unassailable, you’d have a heart of tarmacadam not to applaud Luther’s version, which features here.

Yacht Rock
Yes, I absolutely hate that term and the knowing sneers that comes with it, but I love the genre (as 12 volumes and counting in the Not Feeling Guilty series has amply proved). One of my favourite albums in that genre is Bill LaBountry’s eponymous LP, which includes the glorious Living It Up (featured on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 1). LaBounty has featured several times in the Not Feeling Guilty series; it is an injustice that he never became one of the biggest names in soft rock.

Yacht Pop
One album that just about squeaked into my Top 20 is Duran Duran’s Rio. For purposes of doing this list, I listened to the album again. Back in the 1980s it was a favourite; I don’t think it has aged too well, least of all Simon Le Bon’s voice, which I find grating. Still, some of the tracks hold up today. Hungry Like The Wolf and the title track — talk about Yacht Pop — are proper pop classics.

Of the synth pop albums in this lot, Rio is the weakest link. ABC’s Lexicon Of Love still shimmers in its pop perfection, and Yazoo — isn’t it time the US accord the group its full name after 40 years? — issued a thoroughly engaging album in Upstairs At Eric’s, on which several deep tracks might well have become hits, especially the soaring Didn’t I Bring Your Love Down. Instead, only two sings were released as singles, Don’t Go and Only You, which were UK #2 and #3 hits respectively.

Prince vs MJ
The end of 1982 saw the release of the biggest album of all time. I’ve made my views of Michael Jackson’s Thriller know before when I put it head-to-head against Prince’s commercial opus, Purple Rain. In the Jackson canon, I very much prefer Off The Wall, but one cannot deny that Thriller was a game-changer; with its genre-blurring and its incredible promotion, it became a huge cultural phenomenon, as the gentle reader of this blog needn’t really be told. I’d say that Prince’s 1982 double-album 1999 was a superior musical enterprise, but Prince was still building his legend. With Thriller, MJ was making his. And to think that the leading single from Thriller was the much-derided The Girl Is Mine.

Not An Illusion
But in 1982, neither MJ nor Prince made me want to get up and put on my dancing shoes — that was Imagination’s In The Heat Of The Night album. Just An Illusion, Music And Lights, Changes, the title track… half the album is dazzlingly great. The rest is good, too. All’s good, except the awful cover. A couple of years later, a cassette tape of remixes of Imagination songs got stuck in my car stereo, and somehow the volume button was broken, too. For a while I heard more Imagination than was good for my soul or sanity. Why didn’t my Motown mix get stuck instead?

Albums on my shortlist that failed to make the cut include those by Iron Maiden, Toto, Marvin Gaye, Hall & Oates, Men At Work, Dire Straits, Lionel Richie, Marlena Shaw, Shakatak, Culture Club and Germany’s BAP.

As ever, there doubtless will be puzzled headscratchings at my omissions. How could I not include Kate Bush’s The Dreaming? Because I’ve never owned or even heard it in full. Same with Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s The Message, much as I love the title track. And if I allowed a live album in Casino Lights, why not Simon & Garfunkel’s The Concert In Central Park? Because whatever I’ve heard from it, I’d rather play the studio versions, or the superb bootleg of a 1960s concert I found somewhere.

Companion mixes for this collection are A Life In Vinyl 1982, Any Major Soul 1982 and Any Major Soul 1982/83. Annual expenses for hosting this corner of the web are coming up, so if you might throw a tip in my coffee jar above, I would be grateful.

So, here are my Top 20 albums of 1982. The length of the mix exceeds a standard CD-R, but I’ve made home-thrillered covers anyway. The above text is included in an illustrated PDF. Comments in PW.

1. Dexys Midnight Runners – Liars A To E (Too-Rye-Ay)
2. ABC – All Of My Heart (Lexicon Of Love)
3. Kid Creole & The Coconuts – I’m A Wonderful Thing, Baby (Tropical Gangsters)
4. Donald Fagen – New Frontier (The Nightfly)
5. Michael McDonald – I Gotta Try (If That’s What It Takes)
6. Bill LaBounty – Look Who’s Lonely Now (Bill LaBounty)
7. Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Sure Enough (Casino Lights)
8. Michael Jackson – Baby Be Mine (Thriller)
9. Luther Vandross – Since I Lost My Baby (Forever, For Always, For Love)
10. Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out (Night And Day)
11. Warren Zevon – Never Too Late For Love (The Envoy)
12. Billy Joel – Laura (The Nylon Curtain)
13. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Shame On The Moon (The Distance)
14. Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City (Nebraska)
15. Simple Minds – Someone Somewhere (In Summertime) (New Gold Dream)
16. Yazoo – Bad Connection (Upstairs At Eric’s)
17. Duran Duran – New Religion (Rio)
18. Prince – Delirious (1999)
19. Imagination – Just An Illusion (In The Heat Of The Night)
20. Otis Clay – Cheatin’ In The Next Room (The Only Way Is Up)

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Any Major Laura Nyro Songbook

November 22nd, 2022 3 comments

October 18 marked the 75th birthday of the great singer-songwriter Laura Nyro. Half a year earlier, April 8 marked the 25th anniversary of Nyro’s death, at the age 49.

By the time  the ovarian cancer claimed Nyro in 1997, her music was making a comeback of sorts, with a tribute album of her songs being recorded by the likes of Rosanne Cash, Suzanne Vega, Jill Sobule, Holly Cole, Phoebe Snow and others. It was released a month after Nyro’s death, but I hope she got to hear it before she left us. Since then, Nyro has become something of a cult figure, a songwriter who isn’t very well known but whose name is traded in reverential tones.

Nyro — pronounced Nero — deserves these reverential tones alone for the influence her exercised on others when her star was at the highest, from her groundbreaking debut in 1966 until early ’70s. Elton John, himself a subject of an Any Major Songbook earlier this year, cited her as a pivotal influence, and the mark of Nyro permeates Elton’s first few albums especially. Nyro, he has said, inspired him to abandon the rigid verse-chorus-verse structure, and to experiment with tempo changes. I wonder whether Elton’s lyricist, Bernie Taupin, was also inspired by Nyro; it would not surprise me.

Others who have named Laura Nyro as an influence include songwriting giants like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, who followed in her pioneering slipstream as a woman singer-songwriter. King, a veteran hit songwriter already when Nyro emerged on the scene in 1966 as a 19-year-old, was encouraged by Nyro to take her seat behind the piano and make it as a solo star. (Carole King has inspired two Songbooks — Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, plus a Tapestry Recovered mix — whole a Joni Mitchell Songbook will drop at some point, but in the interim, there’s the Blue Recovered mix.)

Laura’s ex-boyfriend Jackson Browne rode into LA on her coat tails. The Steely Dan guys and Alice Cooper dug her, as did Todd Rundgren, who modelled his songwriting style on Nyro’s. You can hear Nyro in Elvis Costello, Rickie Lee Jones and Cyndi Lauper, and even in artists as diverse as Kate Bush, Patti Smith and Bette Midler. Stevie Wonder based his If You Really Love Me on Nyro’s music.

In her short heyday, Nyro, the daughter of a jazz trumpeter, wrote a number of songs that became hits for others: And When I Die for first Peter, Paul and Mary and then Blood, Sweat and Tears (a group she was invited to join by founder Al Kooper); Eli’s Coming for Three Dog Night; Stoney End for Barbra Streisand; and for The Fifth Dimension Wedding Bell Blues, the deliciously grooving Stone Cold Picnic, Blowing Away, and Sweet Blindness.

Nyro was a gifted songwriter who fused genres so widely as to make it almost impossible to reduce her to any one classification (much like her chief apostles, The Fifth Dimension). It is quite astonishing to think that the lyrics and melody of When I Die were written by a teenager, at a time when the precedents for philosophical lyrical depth were still quite scarce in pop music. Stoney End was also written and released before Laura reached the age of 20, as was the musically complex Wedding Bell Blues, written when she was 18. As a teenage prodigy songwriter, Nyro stands alongside Jimmy Webb (Webb has been the subject of three Songbooks: Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3) and the Bee Gees guys (Barry Gibb yielded two Songbooks: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)

But the expressive, three-octave singer also loved to interpret the music of others. With LaBelle, she recorded a whole album of covers, and with the King/Goffin composition Up On The Roof she had her biggest chart hit — though its peak at #92 suggests that Nyro’s music was not the stuff of 7” singles stardom, or any kind of commercial success. Only one of her LPs entered the Billboard Album Top 40, New York Tendaberry (1969)

Apart from Laura’s distinctive voice, which not everybody loved, her own inability to market herself had something to do with that. Nyro was afflicted with debilitating stage-fright — no doubt exacerbated by being booed off stage at the 1967 Monterrey Festival — which impeded her ability to promote her records. Moreover, her personality was too intense and too idiosyncratic for the banality of the pop industry, even though her music demonstrably had popular appeal.

In 1971, at the age of 24, Nyro quit the industry, resurfacing only periodically. In 1993, she released her final album, Walk The Dog And Light The Light. It was well-received by the critics and widely ignored by the public.

Nyro was finally inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010, and two years later into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There were some people who thought her induction was elitist and controversial. Fuck those people. Ask Joni, ask Carole, ask Elton….

Annual expenses for hosting this corner of the web are coming up, so if you might throw a tip in my coffee jar above, I would be grateful.

As always, CD-R length, home-surried covers, the text above in illustrated PDF. PW in Comments.

1. Laura Nyro – Sweet Blindness (1968)
2. Three Dog Night – Eli’s Coming (1969)
3. Sammy Davis Jr. – And When I Die (1970)
4. The 5th Dimension – Black Patch (1972)
5. The Supremes – Time And Love (1971)
6. Bobbie Gentry – Wedding Bell Blues (1970)
7. Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys – Stoney End (1968)
8. Barbra Streisand – I Never Meant To Hurt You (1971)
9. Carmen McRae – Goodbye Joe (1970)
10. Karen Wyman – California Shoeshine Boys (1970)
11. Peggy Lipton – Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man) (1968)
12. Mama Cass – He’s A Runner (1969)
13. Claire Martin – Buy And Sell (1995)
14. Tuck & Patti – Captain For Dark Mornings (1998)
15. Swing Out Sister – Stoned Soul Picnic (1997)
16. Judy Kuhn – Luckie (2007)
17. Ronnie Dyson – Emmie (1970)
18. Melba Moore – Captain St Lucifer (1970)
19. Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – Save The Country (1975)
20. Green Lyte Sunday – Woman’s Blues (1970)
21. Laura Nyro – When I Was A Freeport And You Were The Main Drag (1970)

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

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Any Major Soul 1982

November 15th, 2022 2 comments

The alert follower of this corner of the Internet will have spotted that the Any Major Soul series now runs only once a year, to mark the 40th anniversary of the featured year. And when I contemplate that 1982 is now equidistant to 1942, I feel quite dizzy. But somehow, I don’t think the distance between now and 1982 is as culturally, socially or politically big as that between 1982 and 1942.

That, I think, applies to music as well. In fact, today’s R&B artists especially have an affinity for the stuff that was big four decades ago.

Before the ‘Betrayal’
The opening track on this mix shows how quick things can go downhill. In 1982, Stevie Wonder was still in best form, with songs like That Girl and the majestic Do I Do. By 1984, Stevie issued that song which for once confirms received wisdom, the shameful I Just Called To Say I Love You; a song I could not hate more if it was sung by Michael F Bolton. I had anticipated the new Stevie song with such anticipation that September day in 1984, and felt betrayed when I heard it on the radio. To wash the grease of I Just Called… out of my ears, I put on the Original Musiquarium album. On that “Best Of” type double-LP set, every side ended with a previously unreleased track. All of these would have merited a place on any of the great Stevie Wonder albums of the 1970s.

Knitted Jersey Soul
For those who lived through the ’80s, it is tempting to dismiss Lionel Richie as a somewhat naff pop singer of syrupy ballads and party tunes, whose sartorial style was like a parody of 1980s fashion when 1980s fashion was still happening. And fair enough, I don’t like Dancing On The Ceiling or Hello or Ballerina Girl. But Richie, we must never forget, was also the man from The Commodores, whose place in the pantheon of soul acts is unassailable. And that Richie was also present on his solo albums. The featured track, Round And Round, is a delightfully upbeat song from his eponymous 1982 album.

Not a Smith
I recall arriving in London in 1984 and seeing concert listings announcing gigs by Morrissey-Mullen. I had no ideas what music I might hear at such gigs, and I never sought to find out. But since I loved The Smiths, the name stuck in my mind. Later I learnt that this lot had no truck with the pretentious lyrics and nasty bigotry of their part-namesake. Morrissey-Mullen were a pretty funky jazz fusion act, with Dick Morrissey on saxophones and flute, and Jim Mullen on guitar. Morrissey left us in 2000 at the age of 60.

On the featured track, their groove is given life by the vocals by British singer Carol Kenyon, whose voice you may well know from Heaven 17’s 1983 hit Temptation (featured on A Life in Vinyl 1983), or from Paul Hardcastle’s 1986 hit Don’t Waste My Time. She was a prolific backing singer.

Fifth Stairstep
Keni Burke started his career as a kid in the Five Stairsteps, and wrote the group’s first successful single, You Waited Too Long, in 1966, before he was even 13. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he backed some of the biggest names in soul music while also pursuing a solo career that yielded three albums between 1977 and 1982, followed by another in 1998.

Short Careers
It is a little sad to know that Mighty Fire released only two albums, in 1981 and ’82, before they split. Member Darryl K. Roberts, a singer, bassist and keyboardist, went on to write the Anita Baker song Same Ole Love. Mel Bolton, who also produced the Mighty Fire, had been an arranger for Motown, including the tribute to Berry Gordy, Pops, We Love You, which was recorded by two acts that also feature on this mix: Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder (along with Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson).

Even fewer releases were issued by Wisconsin soul acts Majestics: one single, the featured The Key To Love Is Understanding. The song must have sounded dated in 1982. Today, it is a gorgeous slow burner that really belongs in the 1970s.

Was he?
You may recognise Sweet Pea Atkinson’s voice from Was (Not Was) hits like Spy In The House Of Love and Walk The Dinosaur. On his own Atkinson, who died in 2020, released only two albums, one in 1982 and the other in 2017. Who knows, maybe I’ll feature a track from the latter on this blog in 2057.

A Original?
On the Originals of 1990s hits I included Linda Clifford’s first version 1990 Whitney Houston hit All The Man I Need. It is actually not clear whether Clifford’s version or that by Sister Sledge was the original version. Both were released in 1980, and if Discogs and Wikipedia are correct, the Sister Sledge version came out a month before Clifford’s (other sources date the release of the former to four months later). If Secondhandsongs.com and Whosampledwho.com have it right, Clifford’s recording precedes that of the sisters. Whatever the case, the Sister Sledge version is included here. The uncredited male vocals on what is really Kathy Sledge’s song, by what sounds like Barry White’s kid brother, are those of Philadelphia singer David Simmons.

Long Note
Finally, Melba Moore needs no introduction. But do listen to that absurdly long note she holds at the end of The Other Side Of The Rainbow. That’s no saxophone; it’s Melba!

A companion mix to this collection is Any Major Soul 1982/83, which I posted — gulp — 12 years ago. The Zippy link is still live.

As always, CD-R length, covers, text above in PDF, PW in comments…

1. Stevie Wonder – That Girl
2. Junior – Mama Used To Say
3. Mighty Fire – Just A Little Bit
4. Marvin Gaye – My Love Is Waiting
5. Lionel Richie – Round And Round
6. Luther Vandross – Once You Know How
7. Morrissey-Mullen feat. Carol Kenyon – Ships That Pass In The Night
8. Marlena Shaw – Next Time I Fall In Love
9. Syl Johnson – They Can’t See Your Good Side
10. Majestics – Key To Love Is Understanding
11. Melba Moore – The Other Side Of The Rainbow
12. Patrice Rushen – Where There Is Love
13. Howard Johnson – Take Me Through The Night
14. Mike & Brenda Sutton – All Worth Loving For
15. Sweet Pea Atkinson – Don’t Walk Away
16. Z.Z. Hill – Cheating In The Next Room
17. Keni Burke – One Minute More
18. Sister Sledge feat. David Simmons – All The Man I Need

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In Memoriam – October 2022

November 3rd, 2022 4 comments

What a terrible month for Carly Simon, who lost her two sisters on successive days. Generally, it was a month that claimed several strong women, and a ghastly month for country music.

But the WTF Death of the Month must be that of Amou Haji. The 94-year-old Iranian was billed “The Dirtiest Man in the World”, on account of not having washed in 65 years. He didn’t bother anybody. Amou Haj lived in a hole and ate the meat of dead animals he found. Still, just a few months ago, the villagers persuaded Amou Haj to take a bath. I’m not saying that cleanliness kills you, but soon after Amou Haj had his first confrontation with soap and water in six and a half decades, he died…

The Dead Killer
Music history is filled with scumbags whose art we admire despite our objections to their character. These scumbags appear throughout the history of art (think of Caravaggio, a genius as well as a killer). Jerry Lee Lewis occupies a place of honour in the Artists’ Hall of Infamy. Marrying his 13-year-old cousin was just one strike against Lewis (and it screwed up his career). Of course he also beat his child-bride, as he did almost all of his seven wives. And the death of his fifth wife… well, let’s just say that a case has been made that Lewis’ nickname “The Killer” was not just a hilarious moniker. He earned that nickname long before Wife 5’s suspicious death, in high school, when he tried to strangle a teacher. The man was also a racist and a man given to extreme acts violence. To cut a very long and nasty story short, the man was a sociopath. And he knew it, and seemed pretty pleased about it.

But Lewis also provided at least two incendiary records to the canon of rock & roll, which placed him at the very vanguard of the nascent movement. After the deaths in recent years of Little Richard, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, Lewis was the last man standing of that vanguard. His contribution, the immediate massive impact notwithstanding, was also the slightest of that rarified group. Of course, even if we reduce his output to just Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Great Balls Of Fire, that contribution was huge.

Lewis is one of those artists whose personality has actively put me off from seeking out his catalogue, even as I rather liked those things I’ve stumbled across. It’s not that there is a code I subscribe to — for every Gary Glitter or R. Kelly whose music I avoid there’s a Michael Jackson whom I’ll cheerfully listen to, despite all the allegations. I’ll listen to Lewis stuff, and even enjoy it, but his death won’t encourage me to investigate his body of work.

The Coal Miner’s Daughter
After Kitty Wells broke barriers for women in country music in the 1950s, Loretta Lynn stepped up the cause for women in the 1960s and ’70s. The country legend did controversial songs about the stigma of divorce especially for women, the Pill, sexual autonomy, domestic abuse (in the unsubtly-titled Fist City), and war widowhood (during the Vietnam War, one may add), and did many other songs that spoke to and for women. Some of them were humorous; indeed, Loretta had a way of making funny songs without them becoming novelty records. Her duets with Conway Twitty in the 1970s are a good example of that, especially the superbly-titled You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.

Many of Loretta’s songs were from her own life. The autobiographical Coal Miner’s Daughter (later also the title of her best-selling memoirs and subsequently a hit film) is a macro example of that; and sometimes they were small touches. On the child-bearing anthem One’s On The Way, she exclaims “Gee, I hope it ain’t twins again!” Her last birth, six years earlier, produced twins.

While Loretta was progressive in many of her lyrics, she was no feminist. Women’s liberation was, for her, at best a necessary evil. Politically she supported mostly Republicans, with the exception of Jimmy Carter. Towards the end of her life she stumped for Trump — precisely the sort of man she censured and mocked in many of her songs.

The Country Folk Pop Singer
Known primarily as a country singer, Jody Miller started out as a folk and pop singer, and in 1965 even participated in the Sanremo Song Festival in Italy, singing “Io che non vivo (senza te)”, a year before Dusty Springfield had a hit with an English version of the song as You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (the story of that features on The Originals 1960s Vol. 1). Miller also recorded a string of songs in German (with quite good diction for that kind of thing; check out the Stars Sing German mix). Her breakthrough came with Queen Of The House, an answer record to the Roger Miller hit King Of The Road, which won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

She followed that with Home Of The Brave, a pop chart hit which due its (mild) anti-bigotry lyrics didn’t even make the country charts. Nevertheless she enjoyed a decent country career throughout the 1970s, especially as a fine interpreter of older hits. Quite remarkable is her lovely 1971 version of The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine, which prominently features a guitar line very similar to that of My Sweet Lord; the George Harrison track which the publishers of He’s So Fine claimed ripped of the song they had bought.

Miller retired temporarily from music in 1979 to breed horses. In 1987 she returned as a country gospel artist. In that field she was highly-respected. In 1999 she was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame — among the other inductees that year was Loretta Lynn.

The Motown Writer
Just a couple of months after the great Lamont Dozier died, another writer of Motown classics left us in Ivy Jo Hunter. Like Dozier and the Holland brothers, Hunter tried his hand at becoming a singer but ended up behind the scenes, as a keyboardist, producer and songwriter. Hunter co-wrote Dancing In The Streets for Martha & The Vandellas, Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead and I’ll Keep Holding On for The Marvelettes, Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever and Ask The Lonely for the Four Tops, Behind A Painted Smile for the Isley Brothers, Can You Jerk Like Me for The Contours, among others.

Motown didn’t release any of Hunter’s own recordings until much later, other than a soon-out-of-print album of his songs in 1969. In the 1970s Hunter went his own way, working with Funkadelic and in 1979 co-writing and producing graduation anthem Hold On (To Your Dream) for erstwhile Dramatics singer Wee Gee.

The Backing Leader
It was a really tough month for country music. After Kitty Wells and Jody Miller, Nashville mourned Anita Kerr, whose impressive vita included singer, arranger, composer, conductor, pianist and producer. Fulfilling all or any of these roles, she was central to the development of the Nashville sound in the 1950s. The Anita Kerr Singers provided backing vocals on countless country recordings, many of them classic hits. If it wasn’t The Jordanaires crooning background vocals on a country record in the 1950s to mid-‘60s, then it was the Anita Kerr Singers. And besides all that, Kerr often arranged and co-produced those recordings, usually with the A-Team of session musicians in the studio and not always credited.

Kerr and her singers debuted on record when they trilled in the background to Red Foley’s song Our Lady Of Fatima, a #16 hit in 1950 (Foley and Kerr were both Catholics, which explains this strange subject matter). They went on to back — with Kerr often also arranging — acts like Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Skeeter Davis, Dean Martin, Don Gibson, Burl Ives, Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Chet Atkins, Hank Snow, Brenda Lee, Perry Como, Pat Boone, Rosemary Clooney, Bobby Vinton, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Floyd Cramer, Al Hirt and many others.

The group also recorded in its own rights, winning a Grammy in 1965 for singing Henry Mancini songs (incongruously beating The Beatles’ Help album in the best vocal group performance category). In a neat reversal, the singers from the country world dug into the repertoire of Ray Charles, who had enjoyed great success with reinterpreting country songs.

In 1965, Kerr packed in the Nashville country scene, and moved to LA, and in 1970 to Switzerland. In both places she recorded easy listening covers with reconstituted Anita Kerr Singers. In Switzerland, Kerr and husband Alex Grob set up Mountain Studios at Montreux Casino in 1975. Bought in 1979 by Queen, it has been the place of many noteworthy recordings.

The Songwriter
Last year and a few weeks ago, I compiled mixes to highlight my Top 20 albums of 1971 (with a second volume making it a Top 40), and 1972. If I make it as far as 2024, I shall compile my Top 20 albums of 1974. And that list will include the only album songwriter Bettye Crutcher ever released, the awkwardly titled Long As You Love Me (I’ll Be Alright). That album included the wonderful Up For A Let Down, which featured on Any Major Soul 1974.

Crutcher should have had a career in front of the mic, but most of her work was behind the scenes, as a songwriter and occasionally as producer. In the 1960s, Crutcher wrote a string of soul songs for artists on the Stax roster, as a third of the writing collective We Three. Their best-known hit is Johnnie Taylor’s widely-covered 1968 hit Who’s Making Love. In the 1970s, Crutcher wrote extensively with Mack Rice (the original singer of Mustang Sally), and a lot for Canadian-born soul singer Eric Mercury, whom we lost in March this year (a Crutcher co-wrote also appeared on Any Major ABC of Canada). She also wrote the majestic I’m Gonna Hate Myself In The Morning for Betty Wright. It is represented here by Otis Clay, an alumnus of Hi Records, for which Crutcher also wrote.

Crutcher, the only woman in Stax’s creative department, attended the Grammys in 1969, where Who’s Making Love was nominated. Also attending was John Lennon. “I wanted so much to meet him,” she later recalled, “but I found out that he wanted to meet me.”

After Stax folded in the mid-1970s, Crutcher retired from the music industry, other than writing the occasional song, and became an antiques dealer and jeweller.

The Older Sister
Perhaps Lucy Simon, who has died at 82, should be most famous for greater things than being the older sister of Carly Simon, with whom she formed a folk duo in the 1960s. The Simon Sisters came from a privileged background — their father was the co-founder of publishing giants Simon & Schuster, but their mother was also a social activist and singer. All three daughters went into music: oldest sister Joanna went into opera; Lucy and Carly into folk music as The Simon Sisters. In October, Joanna died one day (!) before Lucy, at the age of 84. Both were killed by cancer.

Starting in 1964, The Simon Sisters released three albums, appeared on TV and had a minor hit with Lucy’s adaptation of the poem Winkin’, Blinkin’ And Nod — the first song she ever wrote. As the 1960s fizzled out, Lucy got married and Carly pursued a solo career in LA, marrying fellow folkie James Taylor. Lucy would periodically do backing vocals on her sister’s recordings.

In the mid-1970s, Lucy returned full-time to music, recording two albums: 1975’s eponymous album was a folk affair, 1977’s Stolen Time an AOR effort. On the latter, Carly Simon and James Taylor did backing vocals on about half of the songs. But neither album did brisk business.

In 1980 Lucy and husband David Levine produced the Grammy-winning album In Harmony: A Sesame Street Record, on which some top stars (Doobie Brothers, George Benson, Bette Midler, Al Jarreau, Dr John, and, of course, Simon and Taylor) recorded songs for children which their boomer parents could groove to (truth be told, other than Ernie & Cookie Monster doing their turn, I suspect almost everything else bored the kids stiff). They also oversaw the sequel album in 1982. That set also included an all-star cast; among them Bruce Springsteen with his version of Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. That album also won a Grammy in the Best Recording for Children category.

Lucy then went into writing music for stage musicals, scoring notable successes with The Secret Garden and Doctor Zhivago.

The Enginering Producer
If you produce one classic album in your life, then doing it with Santana’s Abraxas — with Black Magic Woman, Oye Como Va, Samba Pa Ti etc —  isn’t a bad way to go. Of course, Fred Catero, who has died at 89, produced many other albums. And he engineered on many hit records for acts like Peaches & Herb, The Buckinghams, Blood Sweat & Tears, Big Brother & Holding Company, Janis Joplin, Linda Ronstadt, Chicago, Taj Mahal, Herbie Hancock, The Pointer Sisters, Bobby Womack, LaBelle and many others.

In the 1980s he founded the independent Catero Records label for jazz acts, with Herbie Hancock as the headliner act.

The Gay-Country Singer
Strangely, I’ve never considered the notion of there being a gay country scene. But whatever there is by way of gay country, it was spearheaded by the band Lavender Country, led by Patrick Haggerty, who has died at 78. In 1973, Lavender Country released the first known gay-themed album in country music.

The eponymously-titled album was funded by gay rights activists in Seattle, and only a thousand copies were pressed. That might not be the only reason why we haven’t seen Lavender Country on stage of the Grand Ole Opry singing their songs like Come Out Singing, Back In The Closet Again, Straight White Patterns, or the timeless Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears.

The band released their second album, Blackberry Rose, almost 50 years later, in February this year. In the intervening decades, Haggerty (who in the 1960s was kicked out of the Peace Corps for being gay!) was the only permanent member.

The Legend
Most of us probably associate Angela Lansbury with the TV series Murder, She Wrote, in which Jessica Fletcher’s presence at any social event would lead to at least one murder, which the author-sleuth would then solve. The episode would always end with a freeze-frame of Ms Fletcher laughing. Was she laughing at us, having committed all these murders herself, directly or by plotting, and framing some poor saps for them?

Lansbury, an all-round quality person, also appeared in the 1944 film that has given us the modern term “gaslighting”. Gaslight was more Hitchcockian than a film typical of director George Cukor. I recommend Gaslight highly.

Lansbury’s credits were many (The Manchurian Candidate!), and they included several eminent stage musicals, including Mame and Gypsy. As such, Lansbury featured on this funkin’, rockin’, soulin’ blog before, with her song We Need A Little Christmas from Mame, on Any Major X-Mas Favourites.

Another singing British actor left us this month in Robbie Coltrane, whose recording career was shortlived.

Expenses in running this joint are coming up again at the end of the year. If you are enjoying what you read, please consider buying me coffee to help keep this place going.

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.

Bin Valencia, 61, drummer of Argentine metal band Almafuerte, on Oct. 1

Mary McCaslin, 75, folk singer-songwriter, on Oct. 2
Mary McCaslin – Sunny California (1979)

Mon Legaspi, 54, bassist of Filipino rock band Wolfgang, on Oct. 3

Janet Thurlow, 96, jazz singer, on Oct. 4
Lionel Hampton Orchestra – I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me (1951, on vocals)

Loretta Lynn, 90, country singer-songwriter, on Oct. 4
Loretta Lynn – I’m A Honky Tonk Girl (1960)
Loretta Lynn – Coal Miner’s Daughter (1970)
Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty – You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly (1978)
Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose (2004)

Lenny Lipton, 82, poet and lyricist, on Oct. 5
Peter, Paul & Mary – Puff (The Magic Dragon) (1963, as co-writer)

Ann-Christine Nyström, 78, Finnish singer, on Oct. 5

Jody Miller, 80, folk and country singer, on Oct. 6
Jody Miller – Magic Town (1965)
Jody Miller – Liebelei hat keinen Sinn (1965)
Jody Miller – He’s So Fine (1971)
Jody Miller – Soft Lights And Slow Sexy Music (1978)

Ivy Jo Hunter, 82, Motown songwriter, singer and keyboardist, on Oct. 6
The Marvelettes – Danger! Heartbreak Dead Ahead (1965, as writer and co-producer)
Ivy Joe Hunter – Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever (1969, also as co-writer)
Wee Gee – Hold On (To Your Dreams) (1979, as co-writer and producer)
Ivy Jo Hunter – Running Through My Fingers (1991, also as co-writer)

Fred Catero, 89, producer and engineer, on Oct. 6
Blood, Sweat & Tears – Spinning Wheel (1968, as recording engineer)
Santana – Hope You’re Feeling Better (1970, as producer)
Webster Lewis – Give Me Some Emotion (1979, as engineer)

Winston Henry, 74, Trinidadian calypso artist, on Oct. 7

Ronnie Cuber, 80, jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 7
Ronnie Cuber – Cumana (1978)
Chaka Khan & George Benson – We Got The Love (1978, on baritone saxophone)

Chuck Deardorf, 68, jazz bass player, on Oct. 9

Andrés Cuervo, 34, Colombian singer-songwriter, on Oct. 9

Kenny Clayton, 86, British jazz pianist, producer, arranger, conductor, on Oct. 10
Kenny Clayton – Strawberry Fields (2008)

Anita Kerr, 94, singer, choir leader, arranger, pianist, producer, on Oct. 10
Tennessee Ernie & The Dinning Sisters – Rock City Boogie (1952, as co-writer)
Jim Reeves – He’ll Have To Go (1960, on backing vocals)
The Anita Kerr Quartet – Too Little Time (1965)

Angela Lansbury, 96, British actress and musicals singer, on Oct. 11
Angela Lansbury – If He Walked Into My Life (1969)

Willie Spence, 23, American Idol runner-up (2021), in car crash on Oct. 11

Monsta O, 56, American rapper, on Oct. 12

Verckys Kiamuangana Mateta, 78, Congolese bandleader, composer, label founder, on Oct. 13
Verckys & Son Ensemble – Bankoko Baboyi (1969, also on saxophone)

Mike Schank, 56, American musician and actor, on Oct. 13

Christina Moser, 70, Swiss half of Italian new wave duo Krisma, on Oct. 13
Chrisma – Lola (1977)

Steve Roberts, 68, drummer of British punk band U.K. Subs, by suicide on Oct. 13
U.K. Subs – Keep On Running (1981)

Robbie Coltrane, 72, Scottish actor, comedian, occasional singer, on Oct. 14
Robbie Coltrane – New Orleans (1988)

Marty Sammon, 45, blues pianist, on Oct. 15
Buddy Guy – Let The Door Knob Hit Ya (2010, on piano)

Mikaben, 41, Haitian singer, songwriter and producer, on Oct. 15

Joyce Sims, 63, soul singer-songwriter, on Oct. 15
Joyce Sims – (You Are My) All And All (1985)
Joyce Sims – Come Into My Life (1987)

Noel Duggan, 73, guitarist, singer with Irish folk group Clannad, on Oct. 15
Clannad – Theme From Harry’s Game (1982)
Clannad feat. Bono- In A Lifetime (1986)

Paul Dufour, 74, original drummer of UK rock band Libertines, announced Oct. 16

Robert Gordon, 75, rockabilly singer, on Oct. 18
Robert Gordon feat. Link Wray – The Way I Walk (1978)

Franco Gatti, 80, singer, musician with Italian pop band Ricchi e Poveri, on Oct. 18
Ricchi e Poveri – Sarà perché ti amo (1981)

Joanna Simon, 85, opera singer, sister of Carly Simon, on Oct. 19
Carly Simon – Older Sister (1974)

Lucy Simon, 82, folk-rock singer and songwriter, sister of Carly Simon, on Oct. 20
The Simon Sisters – Calico Pie (1968)
Lucy Simon – Silence Is Salvation (1975)
Lucy Simon – If You Ever Believed (1977)
The Doobie Brothers – Wynken, Blynken And Nod (1980, as producer, co-writer)

Bettye Crutcher, 83, soul singer and songwriter, on Oct. 20
Johnnie Taylor – Who’s Making Love (1968, as co-writer)
Eric Mercury – If I Make It To The Top (1973, as co-writer)
Bettye Crutcher – Up For A Let Down (1974, also as co-writer)
Otis Clay – I’m Gonna Hate Myself In The Morning (1982, as co-writer)

Zuri Craig, 44, actor and singer, on Oct. 21

Robert Gordy, 91, singer, songwriter, publishing executive, on Oct. 21
Bob Kayli with Barry Gordy Orchestra – Everyone Was There (1958, as singer, co-writer)

Luiz Galvão, 87, songwriter with Brazilian rock band Novos Baianos, on Oct. 22

Don Edwards, 86, western singer, on Oct. 23
Don Edwards – Deep Water, Ice And Snow (1992)

Gregg Philbin, bassist of REO Speedwagon (1968-77), on Oct. 24
REO Speedwagon – Ridin’ The Storm Out (1973)

Paul Stoddard, singer of metalcore band Diecast, on Oct. 25

Christie Nelhlick, drummer of rock band ROX, announced Oct. 26
ROX – American Kan Kan (1979)

Agustín Ramírez, 70, singer-songwriter with Mexican band Los Caminantes, on Oct. 26

Geraldine Hunt, 77, soul and disco singer and songwriter, on Oct. 27
Geraldine Hunt – Can’t Fake The Feeling (1980, also as co-writer)

Bruce Arnold, 76, singer and songwriter of rock band Orpheus, announced Oct. 28
Orpheus – Cant Find The Time (1968, also as writer)

Jerry Lee Lewis, 87, rock & roll and country singer and pianist, on Oct. 28
Jerry Lee Lewis – Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (1957)
Jerry Lee Lewis – Hound Dog (1974)
Jerry Lee Lewis – Sunday Morning Coming Down (2010)

H. Peligro, 63, drummer of the Dead Kennedys, on Oct. 28
Dead Kennedys – Bleed For Me (1982)

Robin Sylvester, c.71, British bassist of rock band RatDog, On Oct. 29
The Rubinoos – Early Winter (2000, on bass)

Ryan Karazija, 40, founder of Icelandic electronica project Low Roar, announced Oct. 29
Low Roar – Give Me An Answer (2017)

John McGale, 66, member of Canadian rock band Offenbach, on Oct. 30
Offenbach – Sad Song (2000)

Danny Javier, 75, member of Filipino band APO Hiking Society, on Oct. 31

Patrick Haggerty, 78, singer-songwriter of country band Lavender Country, on Oct. 31
Lavender Country – Come Out Singing (1973)
Lavender Country – Don’t Buy Her No More Roses (2022)

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Any Major Teenage Tragedy

October 27th, 2022 7 comments

 

For Halloween, no spooky songs nor murder ballads, but a fun mix about death! But the songs in this lot aren’t spooky, nor — caveat emptor — are they generally of great (or any) artistic merit (though some are pretty good). This is a collection spanning the age of teenage tragedy songs; tracks that gave the young people of the 1950s and early ’60s something a bit macabre to cry about. Some of the lyrics are good for a good laugh, even if some of those may be guffaws at the preposterous lyrics.  Above all, this collection represents a time capsule of a particular time in popular music which even some of the biggest names in pop got involved.

Some songs of the teenage tragedy genre are well-known. The Leader Of The Pack is also the leader of the genre, the apex of the genre which would soon be killed off by the British Invasion. Song like the exquisitely manipulative Teen Angel, the appalling Tell Laura I Love Her, Johnny Preston’s pretty racist Running Bear (not running here because of racism) and Pat Boone’s inexcusable Moody River topped the US charts. Others in this mix were cash-ins on the genre, and some were just taking the piss.

The collection kicks off with a satire on the genre, I Want My Baby Back by Jimmy Cross (who says he couldn’t hardly see nuthin’), with the immortal description of a car crash scene: “Over there was my baby, over there was my baby, and way over there was my baby”.

It also ends with what I hope is intended to be a joke, Two Hour Honeymoon by Paul Hampton, a B-side co-written and produced by a pre-fame Burt Bacharach. When I featured the song before as a bonus track on the Lesser-Known Bacharach mix (still up!), I exclaimed: “It must be heard to be believed.” Almost a decade later, I stand by that observation.

The first Teenage Tragedy Song was The Cheers’ Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and released in 1955, just before James Dean’s death. After that tragic September day which claimed Jimmy, the song became a hit. In France, Edith Piaf had a hit with her cover of it.

The genre would find representation in all genres of popular music, including country, rockabilly, doo wop and, especially, surf rock. But they all drew from the same pool of tropes: lovers in transport accidents, aquatic disasters, suicides because parents don’t approve of the assorted Johnnies and Jimmies…

I suppose especially the latter gave voice to rebellious teenagers. My own mother lived the lovers-torn-apart-by-disapproving-parents trope just as these songs reached the height of their popularity. If my grandparents hadn’t intervened, there’d be no Major Dude With Half A Heart as we know me (Mom’s 1961 loverboy turned out to be a bit of a crook; sometimes the parents were right).There is one bonus track. It’s not quite a teenage tragedy song, and it conveys the absolutely correct message that drink-driving is murderous. It’s also one of the worst records I have ever heard. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ferlin Husky’s The Drunken Driver from 1954!

I might be making light of death here, or rather of the songs that tell story of tragedies. Of course, many of us have known real people who have died in car crashes, or of suicide, or perhaps even in surfing accidents. To those of us who had such a real-life bereavement — I have had some myself —  I apologise if this mix is picking at old (or, God forbid, fresh) scars.

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

  1. Jimmy Cross – I Want My Baby Back (1965)
    OMG! What Happened? Car crash after Beatles concert!
  2. The Cheers – Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots (1955)
    OMG! What Happened? Asshole dies in motorcycle accident!
  3. The Everly Brothers – Ebony Eyes (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? A plan crash!
  4. Mark Dinning – Teen Angel (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? A stalled car, a train, and a class ring!
  5. The Mystics – Star Crossed Lovers (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Suicide pact!
  6. Del Shannon – The Prom (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Accident on the way to the prom!
  7. The Breakers – Surfin’ Tragedy (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? Wiped out while surfin’!
  8. Jan & Dean – Dead Man’s Curve (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? Reckless driving!
  9. Susan Lynne – Don’t Drag No More (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? Nobody dies, but boyfriend wears women’s frocks!
  10. The Shangri-Las – Leader Of The Pack (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? Look out! Look out! Look out! A motorcycle tragedy!
  11. Twinkle – Terry (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? Another motorcycle tragedy!
  12. The Beach Boys – A Young Man Is Gone (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? Police shooting? But he’ll live forever more!
  13. Roy Orbison – Leah (1962)
    OMG! What Happened? A pearl-diving accident!
  14. J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers – Last Kiss (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? Car crash and his baby went to heaven!
  15. Dickey Lee – Patches (1962)
    OMG! What Happened? Heartbroken Patches found face-down in river!
  16. The Browns – The Three Bells (1959)
    OMG! What Happened? Death on a wedding day!
  17. Gene Summers – Chapel Bells Ringing (1962)
    OMG! What Happened? Angels weep on a wedding day!
  18. Jody Reynolds – Endless Sleep (1958)
    OMG! What Happened? The sea took his baby away!
  19. Ray Peterson – Tell Laura I Love Her (1959)
    OMG! What Happened? Bad driving and a last-breath declaration!
  20. Johnny Cymbal – The Water Was Red (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Shark attack! And you should see the shark now!
  21. Pat Boone – Moody River (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Muddy waters took his baby’s life!
  22. Cathy Carroll – Jimmy Love (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Lightning struck!
  23. John Leyton – Johnny Remember Me (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Johnny’s true love haunts him!
  24. Bernadette Carroll – The Hero (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? Johnny and teammates die in bus crash!
  25. Barry Mann – Johnny Surfboard (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? The waves claim surfin’ Johnny!
  26. Kip Tyler – Eternity (A Surfer’s Lament) (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? The sea is calling Kip!
  27. The Four Seasons – No Surfin’ Today (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? The angry sea took his love away!
  28. Paul Hampton – Two Hour Honeymoon (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? Wedding night car crash!

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Halloween Mixes
Murder Songs

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Any Major Albums of the Year: 1972

October 15th, 2022 3 comments

Once upon a time I thought, instinctively, that 1972 — 50 years ago! — represented an apex in the history of LPs. Last year, I was thoroughly disabused of that idea. The greatest year in LPs clearly was 1971. I was able to compile a Top 20 of 1971, and followed it up with another set of 20 albums which would qualify for inclusion in any other Top 20. And I saw fit to “recover” three albums from 1971 (Tapestry, What’s Going On and Blue). From 1972, I’ve revovered only one, Ziggy Stardust.

Still, 1972 was a great year for albums. I’ve arrived at a Top 20 with plenty “bubbling-under” albums which might even have justified a second volume. But what I’ll do is to tack on tracks from a couple of these “bubbling-under” albums which may be less well-known.

I ignored live albums and compilations; if I had, then Neil Diamond and Donny Hathaway might have been included. Hathaway features anyway, in duet with Roberta Flack. And, of course, such list are entirely subjective. The 20 featured albums are not the best of 1972 —but those I like the best.

The sequence of songs does not suggest a ranking, though the mix starts with a track from the year’s top album. I join the general consensus that Ziggy Stardust is the best album of 1972. My undisputed #2 would be Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together, an album that is a masterpiece of production, arrangement, instrumentation and vocal delivery. All that compensates for whatever deficiencies one may locate in some of the songwriting. At #3 I might place the Carpenters’ A Song For You, a set so full of superb pop songs that it almost looks like a Best Of collection.

One of the Top 20 albums is rather obscure. I discovered Tracks’ Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day album while researching the Any Major Roy Bittan mix. Tracks was the country-rock band which Bittan was a member of before the great keyboardist hooked up with Springsteen’s E Street Band. I ended up listening to the album on loop. It connected with me. Poco’s Jim Messina was the engineer on the album.

Also less known than is just are The Fabulous Rhinestones, whose co-frontman Kal David we lost in August. I wrote a bit about him in the In Memoriam for August 2022.

One album I battled with was the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. Releasing it as a double LP was an act of self-indulgence. If I want a fix of 1972 blues-rock, I can eat a peach. Half of the set is pretty much gratuitous rubbish. And even when it’s great, there is the hazard of Jagger sounding like he really needs a laxative. The only side I’d play without skipping a track is Side 2; maybe Side 4, too, but without much conviction. Only one track here, Tumblin’ Dice, would make it into my Stones Top 20. But in this age of playlists we no longer are hostage to bad sequencing and artistic incontinence. So if I rejig Exile on Main St., I get a very good album out of it. So it squeezes into my Top 20. I won’t use Tumblin’ Dice on this mix, nor Torn And Frayed — both are among the album’s best tracks but they’re shortlisted for other Any Major Mixes I’m lining up. Instead, I’m using one of the other great songs where Mick is in soulfully constipated mode.

There are a number of albums that failed to make the cut, but might have made it on another day. Bill Withers’ Still Bill leads that pack. Lyn Collins’s Think (About It) and From A Whisper To A Scream by Esther Philips (one of two great albums she released that year) were other agonising omissions. And then there is Ghettos Of The Mind by Bama the Village Poet, an astonishing poetry set-to-beats album. His soulful voice gives the penetrating words extra power. Tracks from the latter two are included as bonus tracks.

Also contending were Kris Kristofferson (Border Lord), Neil Young (Harvest), Van Morrison (Saint Dominic’s Preview), Mike James Kirkland (Doin’ It Right), Barry Ryan (Sanctus), Barbara Jean English (So Many Ways To Die), The O’Jays (Backstabbers and Ship Ahoy), Denise LaSalle (Trapped By A Thing Called Love), Little Feat (Sailing Shoes), The Rance Allen Group (Truth Is Where It’s At), War (The World Is A Ghetto), Marlena Shaw (Marlena), John Denver (Rocky Mountain High) and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Bands (Will The Circle Be Unbroken). I might also have considered Mike Nesmith’s Tantamount To Treason.

One might expect Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book to feature somewhere. I appreciate its place in the history of soul music, I have no cause to disagree with the critics who value it highly, and it obviously includes some killer tracks, but I just can’t love that album.

Another omission worth noting is John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Some Time In New York. I loved it as a teenager, when the political messages met my level of youthful sophistication. It turned me on to the Irish Troubles and to Angela Davis. When I watched Dog Day Afternoon for the first time, and Pacino screams “Attica”, I knew what he was shouting about. And I loved the faux-newspaper album cover. I was happy to ignore the second LP in the double-set, with the self-indulgent jam sessions, and gave the first two sides another listen. Alas, it’s not a very good album, musically or lyrically or artistically.

Any other year or week, Van Morrison’s St Dominic’s Preview might have merited inclusion in my Top 20. For the purposes of this post I listened to it again. It has glistening moment, but I got bored listening to it, except for the lovely Redwood Tree, and the long, intense Listen To The Lion, the album’s centrepiece. A one point Van goes for a bizarre impression of a stoned lion doing an imitation of an inebriated buffoon’s tactless mimicking of a gibbering idiot. A bit like the man today when he pontificates on Covid and other things of the contemporary world he just fails to understand.

These two mixes serve as good companions to Any Major Hits from 1972 Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and Any Major Soul 1972 Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and Any Major Soul 1972/73.

I’ll be intrigued to inspect the releases for 1973 for next year’s 50th anniversary Top 20. I have a hunch that year didn’t reach the heights of 1971-72.As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-ziggied covers and the above text in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments, where you can tell me your favourite albums of 1972 — who knows, I might have forgotten an essential one, or might (re)discover a new favourite…

1. David Bowie – Sufragette City (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars)
2. Big Star – The Ballad Of El Goodo (#1 Record)
3. Steely Dan – Only A Fool Would Say That (Can’t Buy A Thrill)
4. The Allman Brothers Band – Blue Sky (Eat A Peach)
5. The Fabulous Rhinestones – Living On My Own Time (The Fabulous Rhinestones)
6. Allen Toussaint – Soul Sister (Life, Love And Faith)
7. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – Be Real Black For Me (Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway)
8. Al Green – La-La For You (Let’s Stay Together)
9. Laura Lee – Women’s Love Rights (Women’s Love Rights)
10. Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady (Young, Gifted And Black)
11. Billy Paul – Am I Black Enough For You (360 Degrees Of Billy Paul)
12. Curtis Mayfield – Superfly (Superfly)
13. The Isley Brothers – Brother, Brother (Brother, Brother, Brother)
14. Carpenters – Hurting Each Other (A Song For You)
15. Elton John – Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Honky Château)
16. Nick Drake – Pink Moon (Pink Moon)
17. Lou Reed – Satellite Of Love (Transformer)
18. Tracks – Anyway Anyhow (Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day)
19. The Rolling Stones – Shine A Light (Exile On Main St.)
20. Staple Singers – We The People (Be Altitude: Respect Yourself)
Bonus Tracks:
21. Esther Phillips – Home Is Where The Hatred Is (From A Whisper To A Scream)
22. Bama The Village Poet – I Got Soul (Ghettos Of The Mind)

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Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 2

October 11th, 2022 4 comments

On October 11 it is 60 years ago that The Beatles’ first single, Love Me Do, entered the UK charts, the week after its release. It debuted in the Top 50 at #49, the fourth-highest new entry that week, after Swiss Maid by Del Shannon, Bobby’s Girl by Susan Maughan, and He Got What He Wanted by Little Richard. Shannon and Maughan went on to hit the Top 3; The Beatles stalled at #11 (and Little Richard flopped at #38).

The #1 hit that week was Telstar by the Tornados, followed in the Top 5 by Little Eva’s The Loco-motion, Tommy Roe’s Sheila, Carole King’s It Might As Well Rain Until September (a good week for King, with two Top 5 hits), and, down from #2, She’s Not You by Elvis (a song I don’t even know).

It’s strange to think that there was a brief time when The Beatles were selling records but Beatlemania didn’t yet exist. Nobody in October 1962 could have predicted what madness would ensue the following year. Nobody would have had a clue that just over three years later, this group would record something as pioneering as Tomorrow Never Knows, or that this group would become the biggest band in the world for six years.

For all the record-buyers of October 1962 knew, Love Me Do might have been the only thing ever worth buying by these lads from Liverpool — in as far as many people thought even this was worth owning, as the chart position of #11 suggests. Soon they’d know better.

After Please Please Me reached #2 in early 1963, The Beatles notched up 21 more UK Top 5 hits until they split in 1970. Only one of them was not in the Top 2 — Something in 1969 — and 17 topped the charts (including 11 consecutive #1s). In the US, The Beatles broke similar records.

Paul McCartney went solo only after The Beatles group broke up. By then Harrison and Lennon had already released solo stuff. Paul issued is debut solo album, McCartney, exactly a week after he announced the Beatles’ break-up on 10 April 1970. Five tracks from that album feature by way of covers on this second Paul McCartney Songbook. This mix follows the Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 1, which covered his compositions for The Beatles.

So here we have McCartney’s solo career — actually solo or with the Wings — in covers. It’s surprising that for some well-known hits there are no decent covers, at least none I can think of. These include Hi Hi Hi, which is a pity, and Mull Of Kintyre, which is just as well.

I’m pleased that another recent Songbook subject features here, in Brian Wilson. As mentioned before, Wilson was born only two days after Paul McCartney, which I find extraordinary. Alas, the Brian Wilson Songbook featured no cover by McCartney. And ex-Wings man Denny Laine turns up to do one of the more underrated McCartney numbers.

Many of the songs here featured on my Beatles Reunited series, which put together solo tracks by the respective Beatles alumni to create notional Beatles albums: Everest (1971), Smile Away (1972), Live (1972), Photographs (1974), Reunited 77 (1977), and Let It See (1980).

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

1. Maynard Ferguson – Jet (1974)
2. Billy Paul – Let ‘Em In (1976)
3. Sunday’s Child – Maybe I’m Amazed (1970)
4. Richie Havens – Band On The Run (1974)
5. The 5th Dimension – Every Night (1971)
6. Guns N’ Roses – Live And Let Die (1991)
7. Def Leppard – Helen Wheels (2014)
8. Big Sugar – Let Me Roll It (1998)
9. Denny Laine – Listen To What The Man Said (1996)
10. Michael Carpenter – Junior’s Farm (2011)
11. Brian Wilson – Wanderlust (2014)
12. Corinne Bailey Rae – Bluebird (2014)
13. John Pizzarelli feat. Michael McDonald – Coming Up (2015)
14. Ardijah – Silly Love Songs (1999)
15. Nancy Wilson – My Love (1974)
16. Peggy Lee – Let’s Love (1974)
17. John Denver – Junk (1971)
18. Grateful Dead – That Would Be Something (1991)
19. Death Cab For Cutie – Dear Boy (2009)
20. Robert Smith – C Moon (2014)
21. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Monkberry Moon Delight (1979)
Bonus Tracks:
22. Freddie Hubbard – Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (1971)
23. Cass Elliot – My Love (1973)

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

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

In Memoriam – September 2022

October 4th, 2022 3 comments

After last month’s carnage, the Reaper mercifully returned to the normal swing of things. He still took at least three artists who made a huge difference in their respective fields.

One artist who doesn’t get listed is Rommy Hunt Revson, who was a nightclub singer but never released any records (as far as I can ascertain). Her claim to fame resides outside the world of music: she invented the scrunchie, the fabric-covered elastic hair tie. After a year-long marriage to Revlon heir John Revson, then 43-year-old Rommy fashioned the tie to manage her brittle hair for a job interview in 1987. She patented the idea and made millions of it, until the patent expired in 2001. She never needed to return to the stages of smokey nightclubs.

The Game-changer
It can be argued that Coolio helped break a mold when his Gangsta’s Paradise became a massive hit. For the first time, a G-Funk rapper who actually knew life in the ghetto and rapped about it topped the US charts, and his song even became the year’s biggest hit. He was by no means the first credible hip hop artist to have a hit, nor even the first G-Funk rapper. Dr Dre preceded Gangsta’s Paradise in the Top 10 by a couple of years. But the mega-success of Gangsta’s Paradise helped make “gangsta rap” acceptable in polite society and white executives’ offices.

Coolio, despite his uncool name, came from the gangsta rap pool that was inhabited by the likes of Ice Cube and Dr Dre. But Dre wasn’t scoring soundtracks of mainstream movies, Snoop didnkt have Michelle Pfeifer, in his videos, and Ice Cube was yet to become a domesticated family movie actor. After Gangsta’s Paradise was a crossover hit, the mainstream doors were opened for others.

Before he embarked on his solo career, first blowing up with 1994’s great Fantastic Voyage, Coolio had been a member of gangsta rap outfit WC & The Maad Circle, which at one point toured with Ice Cube. Coolio still had a few hits after 1995’s Gangsta’s Paradise, but his career had fizzled out by the end of the 1990s. By 2004, he took part in a German talent TV show featuring artists trying out for a comeback, going up against the likes of Haddaway and eventual winner Smokie singer Chris Norman. Coolio, a man who had his share of legal and drug problems, then made more reality TV appearances than albums, but he remained a stage performer till the end.

The Jazz Hitmaker
Eight years to the day that we lost jazz keyboard legend Joe Sample, another jazz keyboard legend departed in Ramsey Lewis. In the 1960s, Lewis was among the few jazz artists to cross over into the mainstream, enjoying million-selling hits with his interpretations of songs like Wade In The Water, Hang On Sloopy, and especially The In-Crowd (the latter a US #5 hit).

Among the latter members of the Ramsey Lewis Trio was a young Maurice White, who’d go on to lead Earth, Wind & Fire to massive success. White would later produce and co-write Sun Godess, a 1975 hit for Lewis. For a few years Lewis toured with Earth, Wind & Fire, whose members would also guest on his albums.

Lewis wasn’t always loved by the critics or jazz purists, with his eclectic approach and supposed commercialism a source of regular criticism. The musician was unapologetic about “diluting” his jazz with other forms of popular music.

Apart from releasing more than 60 albums, Lewis also hosted a popular smooth jazz radio show from Chicago, and in 2006 presented a 13-episode Legends of Jazz TV series. A keen mentor to younger musicians, he set up a foundation to foster musical education among children.

The Freestyler
There are moments in compiling this monthly feature that I fear: the death of a giant in a field of music with which I have no affinity. This month, this is the case with jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, who has died at 81. I like jazz, but I have little interest in the avant-garde side of the genre, nor in the dissonant interplay of free jazz, even as I acknowledge that these sub-genres require an artistry much greater than my capacity to appreciate it. But there is a flip-side to my apprehension: it forces me to look into the life and work of such an artist.

No doubt, Sanders was a pioneer in his field. He joined John Coltrane’s band just as “Trane” (as his fans call him) went avant-garde. As a solo act, Sanders introduced spiritualism and African rhythms into his free jazz, influencing and playing with many young musicians along the way. There are many who regard as Sanders’ masterpiece the 30-minute free-jazz workout “The Creator Has A Master Plan” from 1969’s Karma LP. I’d never have listened to it had Sanders not died (or if I’d never started this series 12 years ago). But I listened to it, and I‘m very glad I did. This led me to seeking out more of Sanders’ music. Man, I’ve missed out on a lot, just because of that, at least in this instance, misleading “free jazz” label!

In the latter parts of the 1970s, Sanders experimented with a more commercial jazz-fusion and R&B sound, collaborating with the great soul singer Phyllis Hyman, but the great commercial success never came. In addition, Sanders had perpetually strained relationships with the many labels that signed him.

The Doobie Drummer
As a drummer of The Doobie Brothers, which he co-founded, John Hartman played on all the great hit albums and singles throughout the 1970s. Hartman recorded almost exclusively with the Doobies, a two-track excursion on Carly Simon’s 1976 album Another Passenger aside — and those included other Doobie Brothers.

As the group’s co-founder and thanks to his presence, the physically imposing Hartman was considered the Doobies’ leader in the early years of its success. He left the group after the 1978 Minute By Minute album, in order to breed horses. He briefly returned for a tour and two albums in the later 1980s. But Hartman’s dream was to become a policeman. He attended police academy, but his past association with drugs — and presumably having led a band named after drug slang — meant that no police department was willing to give him a job…

Here’s a bizarre twist: Hartman’s death was announced on September 22, but it appears that he had died almost nine months earlier, on December 29, 2021!

The Singing Actress
The noted Greek actress Irene Papas is best known for her roles in films such as as The Guns of Navarone (1961), Zorba the Greek (1964) and Z (1969), but she also was a recording artist, mostly in collaboration with Jon Vangelis, whom we lost in May this year. It was with Vangelis that Papas caused controversy in 1972, when she laid down an orgasmic-sounding chant of “I was, I am, I am to come” to the awkwardly-titled Aphrodite’s Child track ∞ (Infinity). Previous to that, Papas had released an album of songs by Mikis Theodorakis, whom we lost last year in September.

By then she was already in exile. Papas left Greece in 1967, when the right-wing military junta grabbed power. Over the following seven years, Papas campaigned for a cultural boycott of Greece. She returned home after the junta fell in 1974, and never moved away again.

The Reggae Man
Born in London as Angus Gaye to parents from Grenada, Drummie Zeb became a pivotal figure in the UK’s reggae movement as the lead singer and drummer of Aswad. He played on all of the band’s 15 albums. Apart from his work with Aswad, Drummie Zeb also did session work — notably on Janet Kay’s 1979 UK #2 hit Silly Games — and produced other acts, including Ace of Base’s 1994 hit cover  of Aswad’s own Don’t Turn Around. He is the first Aswad alumnus to leave us.

The Nashville A-Teamer
Whenever a member of a session collective dies, there’ll be an opportunity to list loads of pop classics they appeared on. So it is with Ray Edenton, a session guitarist associated with Nashville’s ‘A’ Team, who has died at the age of 95. You may not know the names of these musicians, but you’ve heard the songs. Edenton played on classics such as the Everly Brothers’ Bye Bye Love and Wake Up Little Susie, Johnny Cash’s Orange Blossom Special, Roy Orbison’s In Dreams and Dream Baby, Brenda Lee’s Break It To Me Gently, Patsy Cline’s Sweet Dreams, Roger Miller’s King Of The Road, Lyn Anderson’s Rose Garden, Mac Davies’ It’s Hard To Be Humble, Don McLean’s Crying — and many others on which he wasn’t credited. He also played on clean-shaven Willie Nelson’s recordings of Hello Walls, Crazy and Funny How Time Slips Away, and later on several bearded Nelson albums.

Edenton also backed acts like Marty Robbins, Elvis Presley, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, Chet Atkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones, Ray Price, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Faron Young, Country Joe McDonald, Tom T. Hall, Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge, Leon Russell, The Statler Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Don McLean, Charlie Rich, Neil Young, Crystal Gayle, B.J. Thomas, Reba McEntire, Sammy Davis Jr., Merle Haggard, J.J. Cale and many others.

A WW2 veteran, Edenton was closely associated with 1950s country legend Webb Pierce, whom he backed on almost all hits. As a regular backing guitarist at the Grand Ole Opry and a player known for his innovation, especially as a rhythm guitarist, Edenton was a highly sought-after country session musician until his retirement in 1991.

The Holly Writer
Buddy Holly wrote several stone-cold rock & roll classics, but two of his bigger hits were not by his hand. Oh Boy and Rave On were written by rockabilly singer Sonny West with Bill Tilghman. Producer Norman Petty arbitrarily attached his name to the credits, as was his custom.

Previously West — who has died at 85, just weeks after Crickets drummer Jerry Allison — had tried to sign with Sun Records in Memphis, but was rejected. Staying with his sister near Holly’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas, West looked around for other opportunities to make it as a musician, and eventually found one with Petty in his remote studios in Clovis. There he recorded one self-penned single, Rock-Ola Ruby, as Sonee West, before he bumped into Bill Tilghman, who proposed collaborating on songs for which he already had some basic lyrics.

When West presented Oh Boy — initially titled All My Love — to Petty, the manager declined to have the writer record it for release (a demo was recorded in February 1957, but remained unreleased until 2002, when it appeared on West’s Sweet Rockin’ Rock-Ola Ruby album). Instead, Petty gave the song to Buddy Holly and The Crickets. West reported having been a little bitter about it, because he had written the song for himself, not for Holly. Petty also gave Rave On, a song he didn’t rate, to Holly. West’s original recording of that is on The Originals: The 1950s.

West’s recording career would never take off, with a number of cuts remaining unreleased.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.

John Hartman, 72, drummer of the Doobie Brothers, on Dec. 29, 2021 (announced Sept. 22)
Doobie Brothers – Rockin’ Down The Highway (1971)
Doobie Brothers – Another Park, Another Sunday (1974)
Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute (1978)

Angus ‘Drummie Zeb’ Gaye, 62, lead singer, drummer of UK reggae band Aswad, producer, on Sept. 2
Aswad – Back To Africa (1976)
Janet Kay – Silly Games (1979, on drums)
Aswad – Pull Up (1986)

Pat Stay, 36, Canadian rapper, stabbed on Sept. 4

John Till, 76, Canadian guitarist of Janis Joplin’s backing group Full Tilt Boogie Band, on Sept. 4
Janis Joplin – Cry Baby (released 1971, on guitar and backing vocals)

Art Rosenbaum, 83, folk banjo player and filmmaker, on Sept. 4

Dave Sherman, 55, bassist and singer of doom metal band Earthride, on Sept. 7

Sonny West, 85, roackabilly songwriter and musician, on Sept. 8
Sonee West – Rock-Ola Ruby (1956, also as writer)
Sonny West – All My Love (Oh Boy) (1957, also as co-writer)
Buddy Holly – Rave On (1958, as co-writer)

Marciano Cantero, 62, singer of Argentine pop band Enanitos Verdes, on Sept. 8
Los Enanitos Verdes – Tus Viejas Cartas (1986)

Carol Arnauld, 61, French singer-songwriter, on Sept. 9
Carol Arnauld – C’est pas facile (1986)

Herschel Sizemore, 87, bluegrass mandolinist, on Sept. 9
Hershel Sizemore – Rebecca (1979, also as writer)

Trevor Tomkins, 81, drummer with UK jazz-fusion group Gilgamesh, on Sept. 9
Gilgamesh – Darker Brighter (1978)

Ramsey Lewis, 87, jazz pianist and composer, on Sept. 12
Ramsey Lewis Trio – The ‘In’ Crowd (1965)
Ramsey Lewis with Earth, Wind & Fire – Sun Goddess (1974)
Ramsey Lewis – Whisper Zone (1980)
Ramsey Lewis – Keys To The City (1987, also as co-writer)

Dennis East, 73, South African singer, songwriter and producer, on Sept. 12
Stingray – The Man In My Shoes (1979, as member on lead vocals & as writer)

PnB Rock, 30, rapper, shot in a robbery on Sept. 12
PnB Rock -Selfish (2016)

Jesse Powell, 51, R&B singer, on Sept. 13
Jesse Powell – You (1996)

Brother Cleve, 62, keyboardist of neo-lounge act Combustible Edison, announced Sept. 13
Combustible Edison – Dior (1998)

David Andersson, 47, guitarist of Swedish metal band Soilwork, on Sept. 14

Irene Papas, c.93, Greek actress and singer, on Sept. 14
Aphrodite’s Child – ∞ (Infinity) (1972, on vocals)
Irene Papas – Little Orange Tree (1979)

Paul Sartin, 51, English folk singer, musician and composer, on Sept. 14

Jim Post, 82, folk singer-songwriter, on Sept. 14
Friend & Lover – Reach Out Of The Darkness (1968, as member and writer)

Cherry Valentine, 28, English drag artist, on Sept. 16

Marva Hicks, 66, soul singer and actress, on Sept. 16
Marva Hicks – Never Been in Love Before (1991)

Eddie Pleasant, 95, country songwriter and producer, on Sept. 17

Diane ‘Belgazou’ Guérin, 74, Canadian singer and actress, on Sept. 18
Belgazou – Entre Mozart et Jagger (1987)

Jamie Roy, 33, Scottish DJ and producer, on Sept. 20

Kyle Maite, 37, guitarist of pop-punk band Hit The Lights, on Sept. 20
Hit The Lights – All Messed Up (2018)

Anton Fier, 66, drummer, bandleader, composer and producer, on Sept. 21
The Golden Palominos – Alive And Living Now (1991, as leader; Michael Stipe on vocals)

Ray Edenton, 95, country session guitarist, on Sept. 21
Kitty Wells & Red Foley – One By One (1959, on guitar)
Willie Nelson – Hello Walls  (1962, on rhythm guitar)
Country Joe McDonald – Roll On Columbia (1969, on guitar)

Stu Allan, 60, English dance music DJ, mix compiler and producer, on Sept. 22

Robert Marlow, 60, English new wave singer, on Sept. 22
Robert Marlow – The Face Of Dorian Gray (1983)

Gord Kirchin, 60, lead singer of Canadian metal band Piledriver, on Sept. 22

Pharoah Sanders, 81, jazz saxophonist, on Sept. 24
Pharoah Sanders – Thembi (1971)
Pharoah Sanders feat. Phyllis Hyman – As You Are (1978)
Pharoah Sanders – You’ve Got to Have Freedom (1987)

Sue Mingus, 92, producer and manager, wife of Charles, on Sept. 24

Boris Moiseev, 68, Russian pop singer and dancer, on Sept. 27

Coolio, 59, hip hop artist and actor, on Sept. 28
WC & The Maad Circle – Dress Code (1991, as member)
Coolio – Fantastic Voyage (1994)
Coolio – C U When U Get There (1997)

Joe Chambers, country guitarist, songwriter, Musicians’ Hall of Fame founder, on Sept. 28
Randy Travis – Old 8×10 (1987, as co-writer)

Prins Póló, 45, Icelandic singer-songwriter, on Sept. 28

John Mortensen, singer and bassist of rock band Mono Men, on Sept. 28
Mono Men – Watch Outside (1992)

David Malachowski, 67, blues rock guitarist, on Sept. 29
Savoy Brown – When It Rains (2004, on rhythm guitar)

Keith ‘Wonderboy’ Johnson, 50, gospel singer, on Sept. 30

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Any Major Lamont Dozier Songbook

September 27th, 2022 3 comments

 

A few weeks ago we marked the death on August 8 of Lamont Dozier with a mix of songs he wrote at Motown with the brothers Brian and Eddie Holland. This is a sequel to the Any Major Holland-Dozier-Holland Songbook, covering almost exclusively the post-Motown era, during which Dozier still worked with the Hollands, but also with others and on his own.

Holland-Dozier-Holland split from Motown acrimoniously. Having founded the Invictus label, which created some of the greatest early-‘70s soul music, the trio were precluded by a lawsuit from crediting themselves for the songs they wrote. That’s how the fictional Edith Wayne, a pseudonym for HDH, came to co-write soul classics such as Band Of Gold, Give Me Just A Little More Time, Dangling On A String, Everything’s Tuesday, Westbound No. 9, Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup), and others.

The legal strife with Berry Gordy Jr was nasty business, but according to Dozier it was exactly that: just business. So by the mid-1970s, the Hollands worked with Motown again, in a delightful twist producing The Supremes, the band which in the 1960s they had produced to superstardom (and listen to Freda Payne’s Deeper And Deeper to hear some of that residual Supremes-like magic). On The Supremes’ 1976’s hit album High Energy, only Mary Wilson was left of the classic line-up. Sharing the lead by then was Scherrie Payne, Freda’s younger sister. But on the featured track, the Dozier co-written Don’t Let My Teardrops Bother You, Wilson takes the lead.

Before Scherrie joined The Supremes in 1973, she was in the Invictus band The Glass House, featured here with the gospel-funk track Heaven Is There To Guide Us, for which she received a co-writer’s credit, as she did for Crumbs Off The Table, a Glass House track covered here by Dusty Springfield.

There are two other songs with a faith-based theme here, both glorious grooves. The Sylvers’ Touch Me Jesus and Harrison Kennedy’s Sunday Morning People (which attacks the hypocrisy of people in the pews). In their original versions, by The Glass House (actually recorded by Darlene Love’s The Blossoms) and The Honey Cone respectively, both songs featured on the excellent Saved! The Soul Edition mix.

Perhaps the second-most surprising cover artist here, after Motörhead, is Donny Osmond. He covers the Chairmen of the Board’s glorious Dangling On A String. One might fear the worst, since Donald’s artistic reputation did not hinge on his powress as a traditional soul man. In the event, it is an agreeable interpretation — and not surprisingly, since co-writer Brian Holland produced the 1977 album this comes from.

Motörhead’s contribution from 1977, Leaving Here, is the only song here that belongs firmly in the Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown era. It was one of the trio’s earliest compositions, having been first released as a single in 1963 by Eddie Holland. It made no commercial impression, but in 1977, Lemmy and his pals Phil and Eddie recorded the song as their debut single. It’s not like Motörhead were deep-tracking obscure Motown material; their inspiration was a 1965 recording by the group The Birds, which counted among its members a fresh-faced Ronnie Woods.

The mix kicks off with Odyssey’s magnificent version of Going Back To My Roots, a song Dozier wrote on his own and recorded in 1977. Hugh Masekela helped Dozier infuse the song with its Afro-pop sensibility, which the Odyssey cover retained (including the Yoruba chant). It had already been covered by Richie Haven, but Odyssey had a huge hit with it in Europe in 1981. It topped the charts in South Africa, the home which Masekela could not return to… Dozier’s original featured on Any Major Originals: Soul Vol. 1).

Most tracks here were co-written by Dozier with others; the writing credits can be found in the ID3 tags of the song files. On 12 of the 30 tracks here, Ron Dunbar got a co-writing credit, mostly alongside that of Edith Wayne. Dunbar left us in April 2018. Dozier later claimed that Dunbar, an A&R man for Invictus, served as a composing front for Brian Holland, again because of the legal troubles with Motown. Dozier and Dunbar can sort that out in pop heaven.

This mix features 30 tracks. If you want to cut it in a standard CD-R, take tracks 1-22. The mix includes home-produced covers, and the above in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Odyssey – Going Back To My Roots (1981)
2. Angela Clemmons – Give Me Just A Little More Time (1982)
3. Donny Osmond – Dangling On A String (1977)
4. Lamont Dozier – Why Can’t We Be Lovers (1974)
5. Flaming Ember – Westbound No. 9 (1971)
6. The Honey Cone – While You’re Out Looking For Sugar (1969)
7. Ronnie Dyson – Band Of Gold (1970)
8. Chairmen Of The Board – Everything’s Tuesday (1970)
9. 100 Proof Aged In Soul – Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup) (1971)
10. McKinley Jackson & Politicians – Love Machine (1971)
11. Dusty Springfield – Crumbs Off The Table (1972)
12. Harrison Kennedy – Sunday Morning People (1972)
13. Freda Payne – Deeper And Deeper (1970)
14. The Glass House – Heaven Is There To Guide Us (1971)
15. The Sylvers – Touch Me Jesus (1972)
16. The Blossoms – Cherish What Is Dear To You (1972)
17. The Jones Girls – Come Back (1972)
18. James Gilstrap – Put Out The Fire (1975)
19. Millie Jackson – You Created A Monster (1977)
20. Ben E. King – Let Me Live In Your Life (1978)
21. The Supremes – Don’t Let My Teardrops Bother You (1976)
22. Holland-Dozier – New Breed Kinda Woman (1973)
Bonus Tracks:
23. Syreeta – Mind, Body And Soul (c.1969)
24. Dionne Warwick – Don’t Burn The Bridge (That You Took Across) (1973)
25. The Originals – Sweet Rhapsody (1975)
26. Margie Joseph – All Cried Out (1976)
27. Alison Moyet – Invisible (1984)
28. Boy George – To Be Reborn (1987)
29. The Style Council – Hanging On To A Memory (live) (1984)
30. Motörhead – Leaving Here (1978)

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

Categories: Mix CD-Rs, Songbooks Tags: