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In Memoriam – February 2021

March 4th, 2021 5 comments

The Reaper continued his furious ways for the first half of the month, culminating in 16 deaths in four days, between February 16-19. After that, things eased up a little. And while I was preparing the February round-up, news came of the death of Bunny Wailer, who’ll feature next month.

The Supreme
In 1959, Detroit teenager Betty McGlown was roped in by her boyfriend Paul Williams to form a singing group. Betty recruited the talented local teenager Florence Ballard, who then recruited her friend Mary Wilson, and Mary in turn recruited a girl from her school called Diane. Finally Betty herself joined, but soon left again. The new group was called The Primettes, to support a boy band who called themselves The Primes, with guitarist Marvin Tarplin backing the girls.

You know how the story ends: The Primes became The Temptations, the group Betty, Florence and Mary founded became The Supremes, and Diane became Diana. Soon enough, Florence and Mary were reduced to be Diana’s backing singers, even though there are those who credit them with being as good, or even better, singers than Diana (but not as good interpreters of lyrics). Still, the trio had success like no girl group had ever had.

Eventually Florence would be thrown out of the band, and Diana would make a diva-like exit, but Wilson stuck it out with new line-ups, even enjoying a few hits without Diana (despite Motown’s less-than-enthusiastic promotion), until the group split in 1977. Wilson was a constant throughout the life of The Supremes. In 1979 she released a solo album, which was not bad and certainly showed that Mary really could sing. Motown didn’t promote it, and dropped Wilson while she was recording a follow-up.

Wilson worked in the theatre in the 1980s, and published her bestselling memoirs in 1986 in which she refers to Ross only as “Diane”, and generally took a dimmer view of her old friend than she would in later years. Wilson, who suffered personal tragedy in 1994 when her 14-year-old son died in a car accident, recorded intermittently, with her final outing in 2015. In 2019 she featured on the Dancing With the Stars TV show. She still planned for future when she suddenly died at 76.

The Fusion Pioneer
Without Chick Corea, who knows how jazz might have developed, especially in its fusion forms? Corea had a guiding hand in Miles Davis’ pioneering work in jazz-rock fusion. In his own work, he was always seeking, experimenting and breaking ground. Corea could be free-jazzing as well as producing works of exquisite melodic beauty, and even creating modern classical music.

Born Armando Corea, the son of a jazz musician was already in his early 20s played with pioneers such as Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Cal Tjader, Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, Hubert Laws, and Stan Getz. Corea won 23 Grammys and was nominated for 60, which is impressive, even if one regards those awards dimly.

The Knight Writer
Even if you don’t know the name of Jim Weatherly, the country singer-songwriter (and one-time all-star quarterback) who has died at 77, you’ll probably know his most famous three songs. All three were big hits for Gladys Knight & The Pips, who recorded a dozen of Weatherly compositions. There’s the gorgeous Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me, the heartbreaking Neither One Of Us, and the most famous one of them: Midnight Train To Georgia. That song wasn’t called that when Weatherly first wrote and recorded it. Then it was Midnight Plane To Houston (that was changed when, ironically enough, Cissy Houston covered it). The story and Weatherley’s original version, as well as the original of Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me by Steve Lawrence, is in The Originals – Soul Vol. 1. Neither One Of Us features on The Originals – Soul Vol. 2, which was in the works when Weatherly died.

The Salsa Pioneer
In the world of Latin music, Johnny Pacheco was a pivotal figure. Born in the Dominican Republic, Pacheco helped develop the salsa scene, fusing it with other Latin rhythms, especially Cuban styles. He even lent part of his name to a dancestyle and subgenre in the late 1950s, the Pachenga, which became hugely popular in the United States in the early 1960s.

Pacheco, a percussionist who came to the US at 11, co-founded a record label, Fania, in 1964. It became the premium producer of salsa records, while Pachega led its house band in jam sessions (descargas) with sine of the greatest names in Latin jazz, under the Fania All-Stars banner (among those playing on the featured track are Mongo Santamaria, Jan Hammer, Manu Dibango, Bobby Valentin and guitarist Jorge Santana). Pachega, who was also a prolific songwriter, was awarded the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and the Dominican Republic’s Presidential Medal of Honour.The Electric Light Conductor
Do you remember the Hooked On Classics series in the 1980s? Sort of based on the Stars on 45 model, it was created and produced by English arranger and conductor Louis Clark. If that doesn’t impress you (and it’s OK if it doesn’t), his marvellous work with the Electric Light Orchestra should. All those wonderful string arrangements on ELO songs were co-created by Clark. Later, in 1983, he played keyboards for ELO on tour. After ELO and the Royal Philharmonic hooking us on the classics, Clark arranged for the likes of Ozzy Osborne, Roy Orbison, Asia, Kiki Dee, and others.

The Producer
If you own a Neil Young record made between 1971 and 1992, chances are that producer and engineer Elliot Mazer had a hand in it. Before he hooked up with Young, he had worked with acts as diverse as Chubby Checker, Janis Joplin and Gordon Lightfoot. For Joplin he produced tracks like Try (Just A Little Bit Harder); for Lightfoot he produced If I Could. He produced and engineered Linda Ronstadt’s debut Silk Purse, and then set to work assembling the Stray Gators, the backing band for Neil Young with which they’d record the Harvest album (with the classics Heart Of Gold and The Needle And The Damage Done). He later produced acts such as Barclay James Harvest, Frankie Miller, Juice Newton, David Soul, and the Dead Kennedys.

The Silence Of Music
By cruel coincidence, The Sound of Music’s original London stage Maria, Jean Bayless, and the film’s Captain von Trapp died on the same day. Spookily, on that very day I learnt that Edelweiss was the last song Oscar Hammerstein ever wrote. In the film, it’s not Christopher Plummer who sings that song; it was dubbed. Plummer hated The Sound of Music with a special passion anyway. So the song included here as the tribute to him is from the stage musical Cyrano. Whereas Bayless gets the title song of the musical she helped inaugurate.

The Emcee
You’ll have watched, and probably admired, Danny Ray if you have ever watched James Brown’s theatrics during his performances of Please Please Please. Brown is led off in a state of emotional exhaustion, and Ray dotingly drapes a vape over his boss’ shoulders, whereupon Brown explodes with a burst of energy to restate his plea to the object of his affection to please not go. The scene repeats itself to comic effect.

Ray was the show’s emcee, so the introductions and outros (and occasional interjections) during Brown’s shows from the 1960s till the singer’s death in 2006 was his work. At Brown’s funeral, Ray draped a gold cape over the coffin of his boss, who had finally departed the stage.

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

Danny Ray, 85, James Brown’s emcee, on Feb. 2
Danny Ray – Introduction Of The J.B.s (1972)

Aaron Wegelin, ex-drummer of indie band Elf Power, on Feb. 2
Elf Power – Jane (1999)

Jim Weatherly, 77, country singer-songwriter, on Feb. 3
Cissy Houston – Midnight Train To Georgia (1972, as writer)
Jim Weatherly – Where Peaceful Waters Flow (1973, also as writer)
Gladys Knight & The Pips – Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me (1973, as writer)

Jim Weatherly – All That Keeps Me Going (1977, also as writer)

Anne Feeney, 69, folk singer-songwriter, on Feb. 3
Anne Feeney – Have You Been To Jail for Justice? (1969)

Kris De Bruyne, 70, Belgian singer, on Feb. 3

Nolan Porter, 71, soul singer-songwriter, on Feb. 3
N.F. Porter – Keep On Keeping On (1971)

Gil Saunders, soul singer with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, on Feb 3
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Today’s Your Lucky Day (1984, on lead vocals)

Jaime Murrell, 71, Panamanian Christian singer-songwriter, on Feb. 4

Matt Harris, bassist of rock band The Posies, on Feb. 4
The Posies – Second Time Around (2005)

Stefan Cush, 60, singer with UK folk-punk group The Men They Couldn’t Hang, on Feb. 4
The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Ironmaster (1975)
The Men They Couldn’t Hang – The Colours (1988)

Örs Siklósi, 29, singer of Hungarian metal band AWS, on Feb. 5

Christopher Plummer, 91, Canadian actor and stage singer, on Feb. 5
Christopher Plummer – Roxana (1973, from the musical Cyrano)

Jean Bayless, 88, British actress and original Sound of Music Maria, on Feb. 5
Jean Bayless – The Sound Of Music (1961)

Douglas Miller, 71, gospel singer, on Jan. 5

Elliot Mazer, 79, producer and engineer, on Feb. 7
Linda Ronstadt – Long Long Time (1970, as producer)
Neil Young – Old Man (1972, as co-producer)
Frankie Miller – A Fool In Love (1976, as producer)

Corrado Francia, 73, Italian singer, on Feb. 8

Mary Wilson, 76, soul singer with The Supremes, on Feb. 8
The Supremes – Our Day Will Come (1965, on lead vocals)
The Supremes – Floy Joy (1971, on lead vocals)
Mary Wilson – Pick Up The Pieces (1979)
Mary Wilson – Time To Move On (2015)

Servando Cano Rodríguez, 78, Mexican singer-songwriter and producer, on Feb. 8

Cedrick Cotton, 46, singer with R&B band Ideal, fatally stabbed on Feb. 9
Ideal – Get Gone (1999)

Chick Corea, 79, jazz keyboardist and songwriter, on Feb. 9
Hubert Laws – All Soul (1964, on piano as Armando Corea)
Chick Corea – Spain (1972, also as composer)
Chick Corea – The One Step (1978, also as composer)

Richie Albright, 81, drummer of Waylon Jennings’ group Waymore’s Outlaws, on Feb. 9
Jessi Colter – For The First Time (1975, on drums)
Waylon & Willie – Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (1978, on drums)

Lee Sexton, 92, banjo player, on Feb. 10

Jon Mark (Burchell), 77, English folk singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Feb. 10
Jon Mark – Paris Bells (1965)

Antonis Kalogiannis, 80, Greek singer, on Feb. 11

Milford Graves, 79, pioneering free jazz drummer, on Feb. 12

Louis Clark, 73, English arranger, conductor and keyboardist, on Feb. 13
Electric Light Orchestra – Mr. Blue Sky (1977, orchestral arranger)
Asia – Rock And Roll Dream (1985, as orchestral conductor)

Sydney Devine, 81, Scottish singer, on Feb. 13

Ari Gold, 47, American singer-songwriter, on Feb. 14
Ari Gold – Love Wasn’t Built In A Day (2007)

Erriquez, 60, singer, guitarist with Italian folk band Bandabardò, on Feb. 14

Raymond Lévesque, 92, Canadian singer-songwriter, actor, on Feb. 15
Raymond Lévesque – Quand les hommes vivront d’amour (1956, also as writer)

Johnny Pacheco, 85, Dominican salsa musician and label executive, on Feb. 15
Pacheco Y Su Charanga – La Malanga (1961)
Johnny Pacheco with Pete Rodriguez – Alto Songo (1971)
Celia Cruz & Johnny Pacheco – Toro Mata (1974)
Fania All Stars – El Raton (1974)

Soul Jah Love, 31, Zimbabwean reggae singer, on Feb. 16

Tonton David, 53, French reggae singer, on Feb. 16
Tonton David – Pretoria (1991)

Erik Swanson, 57, Western swing musician, on Feb. 16

U-Roy, 78, Jamaican reggae singer, on Feb. 17
Hugh Roy & John Holt – Wear You To The Ball (1970)

Omar Moreno Palacios, 82, Argentine folk singer-songwriter, guitarist, on Feb. 17

Andrea Lo Vecchio, 78, Italian singer, songwriter, producer, on Feb. 17
Andrea Lo Vecchio – Dorme la città (1964)

Marc Ellington, 75, Scottish folk-rock singer-songwriter, on Feb. 17
Marc Ellington – Oh No, It Can’t Be So (1971)

Françoise Cactus, 56, French musician with Berlin duo Stereo Total, on Feb. 17
Stereo Total – L’amour à trois (2001)

Gaston Georis, 79, keyboardist of surf rock band The Sandals, on Feb. 17
The Sandals – Theme from Endless Summer (1964, also as co-writer)

Prince Markie Dee, 52, rapper with The Fat Boys, on Feb. 18
Fat Boys – Can You Feel It (1984)
Prince Markie Dee -Typical Reasons (Swing My Way) (1992)

Miles Seaton, 41, member of folk-rock group Akron/Family, announced Feb. 18
Akron/Family – Until The Morning (2013, on vocals)

Mark Ellen, drummer of Vanity Fare (1972-2015), on Feb. 18

James Burke, 70, singer with soul band Five Stairsteps, on Feb. 19
The Five Stairsteps – Don’t Waste Your Time (1966)
The Five Stairsteps – We Must Be in Love (1969)

Đorđe Balašević, 67, Serbian singer-songwriter, on Feb. 19

Philippe Chatel, 72, French singer-songwriter, on Feb. 19
Philippe Chatel – Ma lycéenne (1979)

Luigi Albertelli, 86, Italian songwriter, on Feb. 19
Bobby Solo – Zingara (1969, as co-writer)

Gene Taylor, 68, rock and blues keyboardist and guitarist, on Feb. 20
The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Roll Of The Dice (1995, on piano)

Chris Ajilo, 91, Nigerian highlife musician, on Feb. 20
Chris Ajilo & His Cubanos – Afro Mood (early 1960s)

Hélène Martin, 92, French singer and songwriter, on Feb. 21
Hélène Martin – Le condamné à mort (1968)

Sean Kennedy, 35, Australian metal bassist, suicide on Feb. 23

Peter Ostroushko, 67, folk-violinist and mandolinist, on Feb. 24
Bob Dylan – If You See Her, Say Hello (1975, on mandolin)
Peter Ostroushko – Heart Of The Heartland (1995)

Bob James, 68, singer-songwriter with rock band Montrose, on Feb. 26
Montrose – Let’s Go (1976, on lead vocals and as co-writer)

Danilo Rustici, 72, guitarist of Italian prog-rock band Osanna, on Feb. 27
Osanna – L’uomo (1971)

Ian North, 68, founder of power pop band Milk ‘N’ Cookies, on Feb. 28
Milk ‘N’ Cookies – The Last Letter (1975)

Anna Kast, 39, singer with Russian rave band Little Big, on Feb. 28

Jorge Oñate, 71, Colombian folk singer, on Feb. 28
Jorge Oñate & Nicolas ‘Colacho’ Mendoza – Ausencia (1977)

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The Originals – Soul Vol. 2

February 25th, 2021 5 comments

 

 

In part 2 of the lesser-known originals of soul classics, we look at the sources of two of Roberta Flack’s most famous songs, a few more originals of Gladys Knight hits, how the Pointer Sisters got to cover a Springsteen song he never recorded, the first version of ‘60s classic Tell Him, and much more… And when you hear the Kim Weston song, listen to the background vocals: they are by the trio known at Motown as The No-Hit Supremes. If you don’t feel like reading all this now, the package includes an illustrated PDF booklet with all the text below.

 

Tell Him
A few months before The Exciters had their 1963 hit with Tell Him, a singer named Gil Hamilton, one-time touring member of The Drifters, tried his luck with the first recording of what is now a quintessential girl-band song. Gil Hamilton had no hit with the Bert Berns-written track. Nor did he have any luck with his other two singles. Then he changed his name Johnny Thunder, made himself nine years younger, and had a 1963 hit with the novelty R&B number Loop de Loop (itself a cover), backed by The Bobettes, who featured on the ABC of the 1950s mix. It was his only hit of significance.

The Exciters had their hit in early 1963, with the production by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, recorded in October 1962, five months after Hamilton did. It would be their only Top 10, but apparently their version inspired Dusty Springfield to try her hand at a solo career.

 

Killing Me Softly With His Song
There are two stories describing the genesis of Killing Me Softly With His Song. The more widely-spread story has folk-singer Lori Lieberman so moved by Don McLean’s live performance of the song Empty Chairs that she wrote a poem about it, with the title Killing Me Softly With His Blues. The composers Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, who were taking time out from their impressive TV theme production line (such as Happy Days) to write songs for Lieberman’s self-titled debut album, used her poem as the basis for the song which she would be the first to record in 1971, releasing it the following year.

That is the version of Lieberman. Gimbel’s recollection is very different. In an e-mail to this blog some years ago, he explained how it was an unnamed book he was referred to years earlier by composer Lalo Shifre that featured the line “Killing Me Softly With His Blues” (the title of the poem Lieberman says she wrote). He liked the idea and stored it away for a few years until he needed lyrics for the Lieberman album, changing the word “blues” to “song”. Gimbel died in December 2018.

Which of these two versions is the correct one? Who can say? Lieberman didn’t score a big hit with the song, but Roberta Flack stumbled upon it in 1972 while reading about Lieberman in the TWA airline magazine. Her interest piqued by the title of the song, she tuned into it on the in-flight radio, and decided to record it herself. Over a period of three months, Flack experimented with and rearranged the song, changing the chord structure, adding the soaring ad libs and ending the song on a major chord where Lieberman did it with a minor. Her remake made an immediate impression, topping the US charts for four weeks and reaching #6 in Britain. Her version won Grammys for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance.

Almost a quarter of a century later, in 1996, Killing Me Softly – its full title by now routinely and redundantly castrated – made a return to the album charts in the form of the Fugees’ cover (it wasn’t released as a single so as to boost album sales). Lauryn Hill’s vocals are fine, though the hip hop arrangement negates the confessional intimacy of Flack’s, or indeed Lieberman’s, version. And that would be adequate; the mood of a lyric often is disengaged from a song’s sound to little detriment (think of all the great upbeat numbers with morose lyrics). Besides, the Fugees had conceived of the song as an anti-drug anthem with the revised title Killing Him Softly, a plan that was abandoned when they were denied permission for such modification.

The whole exercise becomes something of a prank, however, thanks to Wyclef Jean’s repeated intonation of “one time” and “two time”, as though he was auditioning for the role of parody DJ on Sesame Street. No matter how affecting Hill’s vocals, Wycount von Count’s antics render the Fugees’ version one of the most deplorable covers in pop.

 

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
The first time ever we heard this song probably was in the version by Roberta Flack, whose performance on her 1969 debut album was barely noticed until it was included in Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film Play Misty For Me. Those who dig deeper will know that it was written in the 1950s by British folk legend Ewan MacColl, for Peggy Seeger (Pete’s half-sister) with whom he was having an affair and who would become his third wife. She sang it on the song’s first recording, released in 1962.

For MacColl, the political troubadour, the song is a radical departure, supporting the notion that he didn’t just write it for inclusion in Peggy’s repertoire but as the intimate declaration of love it is. Followers of the 1960s folk scene might have known the song before they heard the Flack version; it was a staple of the genre. The Kingston Trio even cleaned up the lyrics, changing the line “The first time ever I lay with you…” to the more prissy “…ever I held you near”. After the success of Flack’s intense, tender, sensual, touching and definitive version — which captures the experience of being with somebody you love better than most other songs — there was an explosion of covers, with Elvis Presley’s bombastic version especially infuriating MacColl, who compared it to Romeo singing up at Juliet on the Post Office tower.

It does seem that he did not take kindly to the intimacy of his song being spread widely and, indeed, corrupted. And Peggy Seeger never sang the song again after Ewan’s death in 1989.

 

Neither One Of Us
In February this year we lost Jim Weatherley, who wrote Neither One Of Us, as well as Midnight Train To Georgia (featured on The Originals Soul Edition Vol. 1) and Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me, all hits for Gladys Knight & The Pips — who recorded a total of 12 Weatherley songs. Neither One Of Us was the first of them, giving Knight and Pips their biggest hit to date — with their final record on Motown before their fertile move to Buddah.

Neither One Of Us was first recorded by Weatherley, an ex-football player turned country singer-songwriter, and appeared on his eponymous debut album in 1972, which also featured the song then still known Midnight Plane To Houston, before its mode of transport and destination were changed.

 

I’ve Got To Use My Imagination
The move to Buddha was good for Gladys Knight & The Pips. Treated like unwanted stepchildren on Motown, they now enjoyed a string of hits. One of these was I’ve Got To Use My Imagination, which was written by Gerry Goffin (Carole King’s ex-partner) with blues musician Barry Goldberg, who released the song a month before it appeared on Knight’s Imagination album in November 1973. The single was the follow-up to the chart-topper Midnight Train To Georgia, and reached #4 in the US. Their next single was Weatherley’s Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me (the original version, by Steve Lawrence featured on the Soul Originals Vol. 1).

Goldberg’s version is very different from Gladys’ smooth interpretation. His blues background is very much evident. A decade earlier, Goldberg had played with Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, and Howlin’ Wolf. He then played keyboards with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, in which capacity he was part of the backing band as Bob Dylan went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. In 1967 he founded The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield, and then formed a band with Steve Miller.

 

Fire
We don’t really regard Bruce Springsteen as the writer of classic soul songs, and he wasn’t best pleased when The Pointer Sisters had a 1979 hit with the song that had failed to make the cut for his Darkness On The Edge Of Town album. While Springsteen was still searching for his first big hit, a year earlier Patti Smith scored a global smash with his Because The Night (another Darkness reject), and before that Manfred Mann’s Earthband had a hit with his Blinded By The Light. Now even a group of soul sisters had a hit with one of his songs. Springsteen would finally have a hit with Hungry Heart in 1980 — a song he had written with the Ramones in mind.

Springsteen didn’t record Fire, though it was part of his live setlist in the late 1970s. Instead he gave the song to a friend of E Street Band bassist Garry Talent, a rockabilly singer named Robert Gordon. Springsteen had seen Gordon on stage with guitarist Link Wray, and evidently thought that this singer would give the song the appropriate treatment. Gordon and Wray recorded it in December 1977.

The Pointer Sisters came to Fire through their producer, Richard Perry, who had a cassette bootleg of Springsteen singing it in concert. He thought it would make a great song for Anita Pointer — and the song’s success proved him right. Fire was released in October 1978 as the lead single for the Sisters’ Energy album. Springsteen finally had a hit with Fire in 1987, with a live recording from December 1978…

 

I’m In Love
Here’s one song that ties in three legends of soul: Bobby Womack, who wrote I’m In Love during his enforced social and professional exile for marrying Sam Cooke’s widow, as a declaration of the authenticity of his love for the erstwhile Mrs Cooke. But Womack gave the song to Wilson Pickett who recorded it in 1967. Just after Pickett’s version was released, Womack also recorded his version. Pickett’s version did fairly good business, reaching #4 on the R&B charts, and #45 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1974 Aretha Franklin released her marvellous version and had greater success with it, topping the R&B charts and reaching #19 on the Hit 100.

 

It Hurts So Good
Written by soul singer-songwriter and producer Philip Mitchell, It Hurts So Good was one of the signature songs for Millie Jackson and a 1975 hit for Susan Cadogan & The Diamonds. But first it was recorded in 1971 by Katie Love and The Four Shades of Black, for whom it was the only record. Katie Love would release one more single in 1973, and that was it for her recording career.

In Millie Jackson’s version, It Hurts So Good reached #3 the R&B charts and #24 on the US Billboard Hot 100 pop chart (it also featured in the blaxploitation film Cleopatra Jones). It was the first time Jackson’s appeared in her real voice — on her debut album, the producers sped up her deep voice to make it sound higher. So on the follow-up, Jackson was a co-producer, preventing any meddling with her natural voice.…

Due to Jackson’s raunchy image, people with impure minds have suggested that the song was about the joys of the kind of intercourse that could get you arrested in many states. It’s not, but if it was, I hope Millie’s partner did not “bounce me like a rubber ball”.

 

Love On A Two-Way Street
The song which The Moments recorded in 1968 and had a hit with two years later has been given second and third lives, first by the 1981 hit version by Stacy Lattislaw and later by way of the instantly recognisable sample on the Alicia Keys & Jay-Z hit Empire State of Mind. But before The Moments got around to it, a singer named Lezli Valentine recorded Love On A Two-Way Street (with the sample Jay-Z would lift from The Moments’ version). It was one of just three records she released, all on the All Platinum label, owned by future sex-song siren and hip-hop impresario Sylvia Robinson.

Robinson shares the writing credit with Bert Keyes, who had co-written Nat King Cole’s 1958 hit Angel Smile. But Valentine insisted that she should have received a writing credit, too, for contributing a significant chunk of the lyrics. Legal steps she took apparently amounted to nothing.

 

Show And Tell
It’s quite a coincidence that on the album on which Johnny Mathis gives us an original, he also covered two songs featured here: Neither One Of Us and Killing Me Softly With Her Song, the title track of his 1972 LP. Written by Jerry Fuller (whose biggest songwriting hit was Gary Puckett & Union Gap’s Young Girl), Show And Tell gave Mathis a minor Easy Listening hit.

In 1973, the song was covered by soul singer Al Wilson, who topped the US charts with in January 1974. It later was also a R&B hit for Peabo Bryson.

 

Ai No Corrida
It’s a far way from England’s gritty post-punk scene to the shiny LA studios governed by Quincy Jones, but so it was with Ai No Corrida. The song was first recorded by Chaz Jankel, erstwhile member of Ian Dury’s Blockheads, who co-wrote it with US songwriter Kenny Young, who sadly featured in the In Memoriam – April 2020 post.

Ai No Corrida was inspired by the Japanese 1976 film In the Realm of the Senses, originally titled Ai no Korīda (“Bullfight of Love”), a film that was precluded from general release due to scenes of unsimulated sex.

Somehow Jankel’s version came to the attention of Quincy Jones, who polished it up, handed the lead vocals to a singer going by the name of Dune (with Patti Austin assisting), and put it on his The Duke album, whence it became a global hit.

As always, CD-R length, home-basslined covers, all the above text in an illustrated PDF booklet, PW in comments. PLUS: three surprise bonus tracks of originals of future hits by Aretha Franklin!

1. Chaz Jankel – Ai No Corrida (1980)
The Usurper: Quincy Jones (1981)

2. Average White Band – What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me (1980)
The Usurper: Chaka Khan (1981)

3. Turley Richards – You Might Need Somebody (1979)
The Usurpers: Randy Crawford (1981), Shola Ama (1997)

4. Jim Weatherly – Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Good-bye) (1972)
The Usurpers: Gladys Knight & The Pips (1972), Bob Luman (1973)

5. Lori Lieberman – Killing Me Softly With His Song (1972)
The Usurpers: Roberta Flack (1968), The Fugees (1996)

6. Eddy Arnold – You Don’t Know Me (1956)
The Usurpers: Ray Charles (1962), Mickey Gilley (1981)

7. Sonny Thompson with Lula Reed – I’ll Drown In My Tears (1952)
The Usurpers: Ray Charles (1956), Aretha Franklin (1967), Simply Red (1986)

8. Al Braggs – Cigarettes And Coffee (1962)
The Usurper: Otis Redding (1966)

9. Arthur Prysock – My Special Prayer (1964)
The Usurper: Percy Sledge (1969)

10. Dan Penn – I’m Your Puppet (1965)
The Usurper: James & Bobby Purify (1966)

11. Jerry Butler – I Stand Accused (1964)
The Usurper: Isaac Hayes (1970)

12. Dyke & the Blazers – Funky Broadway (Part 1) (1966)
The Usurper: Wilson Pickett (1967)

13. Wilson Pickett – I’m In Love (1967)
The Usurper: Aretha Franklin (1974)

14. Katie Love and the Four Shades – It Hurts So Good (1971)
The Usurpers: Millie Jackson (1973), Susan Cadogan (1974), Jimmy Somerville (1995)

15. Lezli Valentine – Love On A Two Way Street (1968)
The Usurper: The Moments (1970), Stacy Lattisaw (1981)

16. Johnny Mathis – Show And Tell (1972)
The Usurper: Al Wilson (1973), Peabo Bryson (1989)

17. David Oliver – Love TKO (1980)
The Usurper: Teddy Pendergrass (1980)

18. Ruby and the Romantics – Hey There Lonely Boy (1963)
The Usurpers: Eddie Holman (as Hey There Lonely Girl, 1970)

19. Gil Hamilton – Tell Her (1962)
The Usurpers: The Exciters (as Tell Him, 1962), Billie Davis (as Tell Him, 1962)
Claude François (as Dis-lui, 1963), Hello (1974)

20. Kim Weston – It Should Have Been Me (1963)
The Usurper: Gladys Knight & the Pips (1967), Yvonne Fair (1975), Adeva (1991)

21. Barry Goldberg – I’ve Got To Use My Imagination (1973)
The Usurper: Gladys Knight & The Pips (1974)

22. Robert Gordon with Link Wray – Fire (1978)
The Usurper: The Pointer Sisters (1978)

23. Cheryl Ladd – I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again (1978)
The Usurper: Dionne Warwick (1979)

24. Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (1962)
The Usurper: Roberta Flack (1968)

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More Originals:
The Originals: The Classics
The Originals: Soul
The Originals: Motown
The Originals: Country
The Originals: The Rock & Roll Years
The Originals: 1960s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1960s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1980s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1980s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1990s & 2000s
The Originals: Beatles edition
The Originals: Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 1
The Originals:  Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 2
The Originals: Carpenters Edition
The Originals: Burt Bacharach Edition
The Originals: Rat Pack Edition
The Originals: Schlager Edition
The Originals: Christmas Edition

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Any Major Top 75 Acts (35-56)

February 18th, 2021 1 comment

 

Here’s the second instalment of our countdown of pop’s Top 75 acts. The first lot brought us down to #57; here we tumble up the charts to #35.

I described the method of rankings in the first part. To jog your memory, it’s a combination of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 100, my own Top 75, plus bonus points for the level of influence an act has had on pop history or their genre, and more bonus points for how many albums of each at I own (because the list should skew in some way to my taste).

Each act on the list is represented by my nominal favourite song of their output. Choosing songs is sometimes very easy, and other times a question of changing and substituting original choices. So there is no question that of all the Al Green songs, I love none as much as the obvious one: Let’s Stay Together. Other acts I agonised over: for Warren Zevon, John Prine and Bill Withers I must have selected and then replaced about five songs each. It reveals the futile nature of the concept of a “favourite song”, even as my Al Green example confirms the possibility of having absolute favourites.

By an act of serendipity, Muddy Waters and Led Zeppelin ended up in the same group. It so happens that the Muddy Waters track I like best is the one which Led Zep plagiarised for A Whole Lotta Love.As I made the home-hyped cover, I noticed that I had previously written about the artwork of a number of albums featured on this mix: Carole King’s Tapestry, the Clash’s London Calling, the Mama’s and The Papa’s bathroom extravaganza. The first of these I reposted last week.

The mix, timed to fit on a standard CD-R, runs in a more logical sequence than the rankings below. So, let’s count down from #56 to #35. Figures in brackets indicate the particular act’s standing in the Rolling Stone’s Top 100.

56 (28) The Clash (London Calling)
55 (25) Fats Domino (I’m Walking)
54 (24) Jerry Lee Lewis (Geat Balls Of Fire)
53 (—) Warren Zevon (Lawyers, Guns And Money)
52 (—) Bill Withers (Grandma’s Hands)
51 (20) Bo Diddley (Who Do You Love?)
50 (19) Velvet Underground (Sunday Morning)
49 (17) Muddy Waters (You Need Love)
48 (14) Led Zeppelin (Immigrant Song)
47 (26) Ramones (Rockaway Beach)
46 (—) The Mama’s and The Papa’s (Monday, Monday)
45 (84) James Taylor (Sweet Baby James)
44 (66) Al Green (Let’s Stay Together)
43 (—) Luther Vandross (A House Is Not A Home)
42 (51) Pink Floyd (Wish You Were Here)
41 (32) Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (Ooo Baby Baby)
40 (—) Crowded House (When You Come)
39 (—) Carole King (So Far Away)
38 (—) John Prine (All The Best)
37 (—) Carpenters (Goodbye To Love)
36 (75) Eagles (Take It Easy)
35 (68) The Temptations (I Wish It Would Rain)

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In Memoriam – January 2021

February 2nd, 2021 5 comments

The Reaper continues to wreak his relentless havoc in music. This month’s list is long!

The Guitar Animal
The guitar arpeggio intro of The Animal’s House Of The Rising Sun is one of rock music’s most iconic moments. Its creator, Hilton Valentine, has now died at 77, only the second of the five original Animals to go, after bassist Chas Chandler, who died in 1996. Valentine had been the missing piece in the puzzle for the Alan Price Combo that already included Chandler, Price and singer Eric Burdon. When shortly after drummer John Steel joined, the band renamed itself The Animals (Steel would trademark the name, leading the various later incarnations to adapt the name, such as Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Animals And Friends, New Animals, and Animals II).

Valentine stuck it out with The Animals until the split in 1966. An unsuccessful solo album in 1969 followed, and the guitarist joined up with his old chums when The Animals reunited (as The Original Animals) in 1975. Over the next eight years they produced two albums, neither of them hits. But the group, in various formations and under different monikers kept performing, with Valentine a regular feature (including a stint as leader of Valentine’s Animals) until 2001.

The NY Doll
With the death of rhythm guitarist Sylvain Sylvain, only one of the classic line-up of the New York Dolls — the 1973-75 iteration — is still alive, singer David Johansen. Co-founded by Sylvain, the New York Dolls were a shock to the American system, with their make-up, spandex, platforms and crazy hair. Their music was a mélange of garage rock, hard rock, glam rock, art rock and a healthy dose of rock & roll. They were not punk as we know it, but they set the scene for those who’d come in their slipstream. By the time the Ramones and punk arrived, the New York Dolls were already done. Then Mötley Crüe revived their image for a mainstream rock audience.

After the Dolls split, Sylvain, the son of Jewish immigrants from Egypt, went on to record a number of solo albums. When the New York Dolls reformed in 2004, he and Johansen were the two members from the heyday line-up.

The Exile
If you’re a Southern African jazz legend, you want to be particularly wary of the 23rd of January. In 2018, the great Hugh Masekela died on that date; in 2019 it was the Zimbabwean Oliver Mtukudzi; this year the Reaper went to South Africa to take the great trombonist Jonas Gwangwa — just 17 days after the death of his wife, Violet.

One of the giants on South Africa’s vibrant and exciting jazz scene, Gwangwa was one of the many great talents to go into exile because of apartheid, alongside the likes of Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semenya, Abdullah Ibrahim and so on. In the 1980s, Gwangwa headed the ANC’s cultural ensemble, Amandla. In 1987 Gwangwa co-wrote the Oscar-nominated score for the film Cry Freedom, a film about the relationship between the journalist Donald Woods and black consciousness leader Steven Biko. Gwangwa was so big in South Africa that on his death, even the country’s president, Cryril Ramaphosa, paid tribute: “The trombone that boomed with boldness and bravery, and equally warmed our hearts with mellow melody, has lost its life force.”

The Pacemaker
As The Beatles were recording their first single, producer George Martin presented his charges with a song which would be their debut single, a track called How Do You Do It. The Beatles reluctantly recorded it, but were relieved when Martin decided to release their own composition, Love Me Do, instead. Instead he gave the song to another client from Liverpool, Gerry & the Pacemakers — who promptly had a #1 hit with their debut. After three weeks, the Pacemakers, led by the late Gerry Marsden, were knocked off the top of the charts by The Beatles’ first #1 (with their third single, From Me To You). And in turn, Gerry’s lot knocked The Beatles off their perch with follow-up I Like It, and completed their hat-trick of chart-toppers with the old showtune You’ll Never Walk Alone (knocked off the top by… She Loves You).

Gerry and the Pacemakers went on to have three more UK Top 10 hits, but that would be that for the band. The Beatles went on to have a few hits, but the Pacemakers’ record of three #1s with the first three singles wasn’t equaled until 21 years later, by fellow Liverpudlians Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Marsden returned to the charts only in the 1980s with a couple of Band Aid-style charity singles, You’ll Never Walk Alone for the victims of the Bradford Stadium fire in 1985, and Ferry Cross The Mersey for the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1988.The Moral Conundrum
Fans of the art of people like R Kelly, Gary Glitter, Bill Cosby or Roman Polanski will know the moral challenge of separating the art from the person who created it. Phil Spector is the ultimate in that challenge. Here was a thoroughly fucked-up guy (rather more so than just “flawed”, as the BBC suggested in its obituary headline). He was a violent misogynist long before he became a murderer. It’s difficult to sing his praises without forgetting what a monstrous man he was. Perhaps it is easier to separate Spector from his art because his art is conveyed to us through the voices of others: Darlene and Ronnie, Bill and Bobby, Lennon and Harrison, or Joey Ramone.

Say a prayer/expend a thought/send energy, if you like, for Spector. But if you do so, do not forget the name of the woman he murdered on February 3, 2002: Lana Clarkson, a 40-year-old actress and model.

The Arranging Songwriter
A few weeks after Spector, the arranger he used on records such as River Deep, Mountain High, Black Pearl, and Ebb Tide died. By the time he worked with Spector, Perry Botkin Jr had already established a track record as arranger or producer for acts such as Sammy Davis Jr, Bobby Darin, The Lettermen, Connie Stevens, Rod McKuen, Ed Ames, Vic Damone and Glenn Yarborough. His co-writing and production credits also included Jimmy Cross’ bizarre I Want My Baby Back (see Any Major Halloween Vol. 3). Other clients included Harry Nilsson, The Sandpipers, Harpers Bizarre, The Electric Prunes, Bobbie Gentry, The Everly Brothers, Hoyt Axton, José Feliciano, Barbra Streisand, Melanie, Johnny Mathis, Carly Simon, Maureen McGovern, Peggy Lee, Jennifer Warnes, and many others.

His biggest success was his co-written, co-produced Nadia’s Theme, the theme for the soap The Young & The Restless, which in 1976 also served to score the perfect Olympic exploits of gymnast Nadia Comăneci. Decades later Maryy J Blige sample Nadia’s Theme on her hit No More Drama, earning Botkin a writing credit on the R&B diva’s iconic hit. In 1971, Botkin and his regular collaborator Barry DeVorzon received an Oscar nomination for the much-covered Bless the Beasts and Children.

The Manic Wham! Cult
Few producers can claim to have helped acts like Wham! and the Manic Street Preachers to stardom, but so it was with Steve Brown, who has died at 62. After producing the Boomtown Rats’ 1977 debut, Brown was behind the glass for ABC’s debut single, Tears Are Not Enough, and Wham!’s outstanding breakout hits Young Guns (Go For It) and Club Tropicana. In 1985 he produced The Cult’s hit She Sells Sanctuary, and in 1991 the Manic Street Preachers’ debut album Generation Terrorist. He also produced US singer-songwriter Randy Edelman, Freddie Mercury, Then Jericho, Runrig, Alison Moyet, The Pogues, The Alarm and others.

Before he was a producer, he was a recording engineer for acts like Roy Wood, Thin Lizzy, Kraftwerk, The Boomtown Rats, Joan Armatrading, Oingo Boingo and many of the acts whom he produced.The Blower
As a backing man in jazz bands, multi-instrumentalist Howard Johnson had a great track record, playing his saxophone or tuba with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Carles Mingus, Hank Crawford, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Charlie Haden, Gil Evans, Bill Evans, George Benson, Jaco Pistorius, Buddy Rich, David Sanborn, Bob James, Ralph McDonald, Bob Moses and more.

But he also had a line in backing blues like BB King, Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, Etta James and John Mayall, soul acts like Angela Bofill, Candi Staton, Ashford & Simpson, Chaka Khan, Linda Clifford, Lou Rawls, and rock acts like The Band (on Rock Of Ages and The Last Waltz), Carly Simon, Maria Muldaur, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Robert Wyatt, and John Lennon (on Walls And Bridges and Double Fantasy) and Yoko Ono. And when James Taylor sang Jelly Man Kelly on Sesame Street, he played the flute. In the 1970s Johnson was the live band conductor of the Saturday Night Live Band, also playing the sax on the famous King Tut sketch.

Bono’s Inspiration
U2 singer Bono claimed that it was seeing Middle of the Road singing Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep on TV that convinced him that anyone could become a pop star (though his band never made a pop record as good as that). But it was local Dublin soft-rock band Bagatelle which young Hewson and pal Larry Mullen Jr looked up to as models for rock success. Now the band’s singer, who saw no cause to adopt a stupid nickname but stuck by his thoroughly Irish name Liam Reilly, has died at 65.

Bagatelle were strictly local heroes, but Reilly got himself a bit of international attention when he came second in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1990 with his travelogue of clichés Somewhere In Europe, a song that should have become a huge country music hit. The jury liked it, and Reilly came joint-second, behind Italy’s Toto Cutugno.

The Other Jimmie Rodgers
As a singer Jimmie Rodgers made his name — which he shared with the country legend who died in 1933, four months before his own birth — by shifting millions of records in the US and UK in the 1950s with songs like Honeycomb, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again, Secretly, and (in 1962) English Country Garden, most on Roulette records.

But the more remarkable story is the mystery of what happened on December 1, 1967 on the San Diego Freeway in Los Angeles. What we know is that Rodgers was stopped by an off-duty cop, that at some spot he sustained a serious head injury, that the cops left the unconscious Rodgers in his car and left the scene, and that the singer had no memory of what had happened to him. The last thing he remembered was a bright light in his rear-view mirror. Police say Rodgers got hurt when he fell; the singer believed he had been assaulted. After much legal wrangling, the LAPD paid Rodgers $200,000 to make things go away.

In 2010, singer Tommy James offered a new and plausible theory. According to James, the attack was organised by the mafia-connected owner of Roulette Records, Morris Levy (on whom The Soprano’s Hesh is partly based), after Rodgers had repeatedly demanded to be paid royalties owed to him by the label.

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

Liam Reilly, 65, singer, songwriter with Irish rock band Bagatelle, on Jan. 1
Bagatelle – Summer In Dublin (1980)
Liam Reilly – Somewhere In Europe (1990)

George Gerdes, 72, singer-songwriter and actor, on Jan. 1
George Gerdes – Lap Of Luxury (1971)

Jan Vering, 66, German gospel singer and playwright, on Jan. 1

Misty Morgan, 75, half of country duo Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, on Jan. 1
Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan – Because We Love (1975)

Carlos do Carmo, 81, Portuguese fado singer, on Jan. 1
Carlos do Carmo – Lisboa menina e moça (1976)

Peter Thorp, 76, guitarist of British pop band The Roulettes, on Jan. 2
The Roulettes – Soon You’ll Be Leaving Me (1964)

Steve Brown, 62, British producer, on Jan. 2
Randy Edelman – Pretty Girls (1982, as producer)
Wham! – Young Guns (Go For It!) (1982, as producer)
The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary (1985, as producer, engineer)
Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness (1992, as producer, engineer)

Warren McLean, Australian rock drummer, on Jan. 3
Divinyls – Hey Little Boy (1988, on drums)

Gerry Marsden, 78, English musician, on Jan. 3
Gerry and The Pacemakers – How Do You Do It? (1963)
Gerry and The Pacemakers – Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying (1964)

Paul Travis, 73, English singer-guitarist, announced Jan. 4
Liar – Set The World On Fire (1978, as member)

Duris Maxwell, 74, Canadian drummer, on Jan. 4
Heart – How Deep It Goes (1975)

Elias Rahbani, 82, Lebanese composer, arranger, conductor, on Jan. 4
The News – From The Moon (1969, as member and writer)
Elias Rahbani – Love Theme From ‘Habibati’ (1973, also as composer)

Alexi Laiho, 41, singer-guitarist of Finnish death metal Children of Bodom, reported Jan. 5

Bobby Few, 85, jazz pianist, on Jan. 6
Bobby Few – Everybody Has The Right To Be Free (1983)

Yamandú Palacios, 80, Uruguayan singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Jan. 6

Deezer D, 55, rapper and actor (E.R.), on Jan. 7
Deezer D – Ya’ll In The House (2002)

Jamie O’Hara, 70, country singer and songwriter, on Jan. 7
The O’Kanes- Can’t Stop My Heart From Loving You (1987, as member and co-writer)

Ed Bruce, 81, country singer-songwriter, on Jan. 8
Tanya Tucker – The Man That Turned My Mama On (1974, as writer)
Ed Bruce – Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (1976, also as co-writer)

Gaynor Bunning, 78, Australian pop singer, on Jan. 8
Gaynor Bunning – Unlock Those Chains (1961)

Michael Fonfara, 74, Canadian keyboardist, on Jan. 8
Lou Reed – Ennui (1974, on mellotron)
Foreigner – Urgent (1981, on keyboards)

Thorleif Torstensson, 71, singer of Swedish danceband Thorleifs, on Jan. 10

Mark Keds, 50, singer of English pop-punk band Senseless Things, on Jan. 11
Senseless Things – Too Much Kissing (1989)

Don Miller, 80, baritone of vocal band The Vogues, on Jan. 11
The Vogues – Turn Around, Look At Me (1968)

Howard Johnson, 79, jazz musician, on Jan. 11
Hank Crawford – Bluff City Blues (1965, on baritone saxophone)
Melvin Van Peebles – Come On Feet Do Your Thing (1971, on saxophone)
The Band – It Makes No Difference (1978, on sax, horns arrangement)
Chaka Khan – Move Me No Mountain (1980, on tuba)

Celia Humphries, singer of British folk-rock band Trees, on Jan. 11
Trees – Geordie (1971)

Shingoose, 74, Canadian folk musician, on Jan. 12
Shingoose – Silver River (1975)

Duke Bootee, 69, rapper, producer and songwriter, on Jan. 13
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five – The Message (1982, as co-performer, co-writer)

Sylvain Sylvain, 69, rhythm guitarist of punk pioneers New York Dolls, on Jan. 13
New York Dolls – Jet Boy (1973)
New York Dolls – Stranded In The Jungle (1974)

Tim Bogert, 76, rock bassist, on Jan. 13
Vanilla Fudge – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1967, as member on bass)
Beck, Bogert & Appice – Superstition (1973, on bass and lead vocals)

Larry Willoughby, 73, country singer-songwriter and music executive, on Jan. 14
Larry Willoughby – Building Bridges (1983, also as co-writer)

Duranice Pace, 62, singer with gospel group The Anointed Pace Sisters, on Jan. 14

Rapper One, 41, Peruvian rapper, on Jan. 15

Phil Spector, 81, producer, songwriter, musician and convicted murderer, on Jan. 15
The Crystals – Then He Kissed Me (1963, as producer and co-writer)
Sonny Charles and The Checkmates – Black Pearl (1969, as producer and co-writer)
John Lennon – Love (1970, on piano & as co-producer)
Ramones – Baby, I Love You (1980, as producer)

Pave Maijanen, 70, producer, musician with Finnish rock bands Hurriganes, Dingo, on Jan. 16
Hurriganes – Bourbon Street (1980, as member and producer)

Jason Cope, 43, co-founder and guitarist of rock band Steel Woods, on Jan. 16
The Steel Woods – Let The Rain Come Down (2017)

Sammy Nestico, 96, jazz trombonist, composer and arranger, on Jan. 17
Count Basie – Hay Burner (1968, as composer and composer)
Sammy Nestico – Night Flight (1985, also as composer, arranger & producer)

Junior Mance, 92, jazz pianist, on Jan. 17
Dinah Washington – Sometimes I’m Happy (1956, on piano)
Junior Mance Trio – Oo-Bla-Dee (1960)

Ebe Gilkes, 90, Guyanese jazz pianist, on Jan. 17

Perry Botkin Jr., 87, composer, arranger, producer and musician, on Jan. 18
Ike & Tina Turner –  A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Every Day) (1966, as arranger)
Sonny Charles and The Checkmates – Black Pearl (1969, as arranger; see Spector entry)
Carpenters – Bless The Beasts And Children (1972, as co-writer)
Harry Nilsson – Down By The Sea (1975, as arranger)
Barry DeVorzon & Perry Botkin Jr. – Nadia’s Theme (1976, as co-writer, co-producer)

Jimmie Rodgers, 87, American pop singer, on Jan. 18
Jimmie Rodgers – Kisses Sweeter Than Wine (1957)
Jimmie Rodgers – It’s Over (1966)

Yvonne Sterling, 65, Jamaican reggae singer, on Jan. 18
Yvonne Sterling – Oh Jah (1978)

Maria Koterbska, 96, Polish singer, on Jan. 18

Tommy Brannick, 79, pop drummer, on Jan. 19
The Swampseeds – Can I Carry Your Balloon (1968)

Peter Wynne, English crooner, on Jan. 19
Peter Wynne – Ask Anyone In Love (1960)

Malcolm Griffiths, 79, English jazz musician, on Jan. 19

Ronnie Nasralla, 90, Jamaican producer, on Jan. 20
The Maytals – My New Name (1965, as producer)

John Russell, 66, English jazz guitarist, on Jan. 20

Randy Parton, 67, country singer-songwriter, Dolly’s brother, on Jan. 21
Randy Parton – Hold Me Like You Never Had Me (1981)

Keith Nichols, 75, English jazz musician and arranger, on Jan. 21

James Purify, 76, soul singer, on Jan. 22
James & Bobby Purify – I’m Your Puppet (1966)
James & Bobby Purify – Morning Glory (1976)

Gabriel Ruiz Díaz, 45, bassist of Argentine rock band Catupecu Machu, on Jan. 23

Jonas Gwangwa, 83, South African jazz trombonist, composer and producer, on Jan. 23
Jonas Gwangwa – Yebo (1978)
George Fenton & Jonas Gwangwa – The Funeral (Nkosi Sikeleli’ iAfrika) (1987)
Jonas Gwangwa – Theme of ‘Generations’ (1993)
Jonas Gwangwa – Morwa (2001)

Joe Camarillo, 52, drummer, on Jan. 24

Tom Stevens, 64, bassist of alt.country band The Long Ryders, on Jan. 24
The Long Ryders – A Stitch In Time (1987, also as writer)
Tom Stevens – Flying Out Of London In The Rain (2007)

6 Dogs, 21, rapper, suicide on Jan. 26

César Isella, 82, Argentine folk singer-songwriter, on Jan. 28
César Isella – Canción de lejos (1973)

Singing Sandra, 64, Trinidadian calypso singer, on Jan. 28

Sibongile Khumalo, 63, South African jazz, opera and classical singer, on Jan. 28
Sibongile Khumalo – Thula Mama (1996)

Hilton Valentine, 77, guitarist of The Animals, on Jan. 29
The Animals – Bury My Body (1964)
The Animals – I’m Going To Change The World (1965)
Hilton Valentine – Sitting In The Sun (1969)
The Original Animals – Brother Bill (The Last Clean Shirt) (1977)

Grady Gaines, 86, blues saxophonist, on Jan. 29
Little Richard – She’s Got It (1957, on tenor sax)
Grady Gaines & The Texas Upsetters – Looking For One Real Good Friend (1988)

Sophie, 34, Scottish singer-songwriter and producer, on Jan. 30
Sophie – It’s Okay To Cry (2017)

Double K, 43, half of hip hop duo People Under the Stairs, on Jan. 30
People Under The Stairs – We’ll Be There (2000)

Wambali Mkandawire, Malawian jazz musician, on Jan. 31
Friends First – Thula Sizwe/I Shall Be Released (1988, as member)
Mte Wambali Mkandawire – Calabrash Breath (2015)

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Any Major Top 75 Acts (57-75)

January 26th, 2021 2 comments

 

 

Notions about the greatest pop acts in history can be fun diversions, prompting the consumer of such lists to compare how these match up with their own. So what we have here is the first of four instalments of the Top 75 pop artists of the Rock & Roll era, as chosen by my good self and my trusty assistants at Rolling Stone magazine.

These four parts of the countdown are then accompanied by mixes featuring my notional “favourite” song of each of the listed acts. For the most part, there are no favourites. The chosen tracks will mostly be the favourite of the day I picked them, or songs I’ve always listed as my “favourites” of that particular artist. Take The Temptations: I picked the song I’ve always considered my “favourite” of theirs, but it might just as well have been My Girl, or Since I Lost My Baby, or Ball Of Confusion. Most chosen tracks will be unsurprising and probably quite obvious, not because I’m unfamiliar with the catalogue of most acts (though some are a bit of a foreign country to me), but because most acts’ best tracks tend to be famous. No pretentiousness here in picking tunes.

So, the method of listing the Top 75 acts… First I took the Rolling Stone list of the Top 100 greatest artists in popular music. Acts placed in the Top 10 got five points, Top 20 acts four, Top 40 three, Top 60 two, Top 100 one.

Then I compiled my own Top 100, allocating points by the same method. Obviously, acts not listed in the Rolling Stone list got zero points, as did acts on the RS list not on my list. Of this Top 75, there are 19 that did not make the RS Top 100.

Next I awarded points on as scale from four to one to reflect how influential an act was. So Nirvana or Chuck Berry would get the maximum four, because they shaped their respective genres. Billy Joel (not included in the RS list) shaped rather little, and received one point for his troubles.

Finally, I awarded points for how many albums of each act I own. A complete collection earned contenders three points; five albums or more two points, 3-4 albums one point.

The rankings were determined by total points. Only the winner scored the maximum 17 points (Spoiler alert: it’s Michael Bolton). The lowest points accumulation to merit inclusion on the list was six (four on the list, plus six bubbling under). I left the rankings by Rolling Stone in their original sequence, but inserted my nominated newcomers where I think they belong.

The final results produced surprising fluctuations. In my list, U2 actually rank higher than on the Rolling Stone list. I was quite startled by that. Half of my Top 10 resided outside the RS Top 20, but the Everly Brothers, whom I like well enough, dropped 41 places. If only I owed more of their albums…

Needless to say, several acts here would not come anywhere near my own Top 100. Their presence owes to their level of influence and the judgment of the editors of the Rolling Stone.

Finally, I did a little weeding on the RS list: I disqualified jazz acts, firstly because this is a pop list, and secondly, Rolling Stone included a few token jazz artists rather than giving the entire genre a fair shake. And I excluded the recently late Phil Spector, who rather stood out as the only producer in the lot. But if producers should qualify, where’s Quincy Jones (who’d merit consideration as a jazz artist as well)? Or Holland-Dozier-Holland?

For some inexplicable reason, Rolling Stone also excluded jazz singers and crooners — no Ella Fitzgerald or Dinah Washington or Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole or Sarah Vaughn or Tony Bennett — so I couldn’t consider them myself. Maybe those are worth a list of their own.

Lastly, the RS list is fairly old. I suppose an updated list might include the likes of Beyoncé (her husband features, but not on mine) or Lady Gaga or Pharrell Williams or John Legend or Kings of Leon. Much as I like some of the more recent icons of pop, none of them would make my Top 75 anyway.

So, here are places 57 to 75 (Rolling Stone Top 100 ranking in brackets), with featured track:

75 (43) Sly & Family Stone (Family Affair)
74 (33) The Everly Brothers (All I Have To Do Is Dream)
73 (—) The Bee Gees (Marley Purt Drive)
72 (—) Neil Diamond (Brooklyn Roads)
71 (—) Little Feat (Willin’)
70 (—) Ben Folds (Trusted)
69 (98) Curtis Mayfield (No Thing On Me)
68 (90) Santana (Jin-Go-Lo-Ba)
67 (74) Hank Williams (Your Cheatin’ Heart)
66 (70) The Police (So Lonely)
65 (62) Joni Mitchell (Carey)
64 (60) The Sex Pistols (Pretty Vacant)
63 (57) Grateful Dead (Ripple)
62 (49) Elton John (Tiny Dancer)
61 (45) The Byrds (Eight Miles High)
60 (34) Neil Young (Harvest Moon)
59 (30) Nirvana (Smells Like Teen Spirit)
58 (—) Billy Joel (Summer, Highland Falls)
57 (29) The Who (Won’t Get Fooled Again)

The playlist follows a different sequence. The mix is timed to fit on as standard CD-R.  Home-hyped covers included. PW in comments

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Any Major Dude Kills Fascism

January 19th, 2021 4 comments

 

Here’s a mix to celebrate the end of the most toxic US presidency in the past 150 years (or more, depending on how you count these things), with the theme of anti-fascism. It might get me implicated by Rhyming Slang Carlson over in Crazy Town as a provocateur in the actions of seditious Nazis, but that’s the least of my problems. Rhyming Slang and his fellow superannuated school ground bullies think that being anti-fascist is a bad thing, and I can hear the whole Fox gang spitting bile to the effect that of course they are not for fascism. But what are we to call people who on principle — rather than by the misleading slander of Antifa by Rhyming Slang, Sphincter Mouth and friends — actively oppose anti-fascism? Let’s call them, for little want of a better word, what they are: fascists.  If the jackboot fits, wear it comfortably.

Many anti-fascist songs tend to be not up my alley. Much of it is punk or hardcore, genres which I approach with admiration for spirit but musically with a selective mind. Lyrically, many are trite (step up, Graham Nash), or are good but approach the subject matter in such a way that it can be appropriated by assholes in horns or red caps. For example, I might have considered Rage Against The Machines’ left-wing anthem Take The Power Back, but that is exactly what these Ted Nugents would write on their MAGA placards.

I have also excluded songs about racism, racist oppression or civil rights, because there is a series on that theme already underway. I couldn’t include Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Won’t Be Televised, because a couple of weeks ago, an attempt at revolution was televised. I also didn’t include John Fogerty’s track Weeping In The Promised Land, on account of it having just been released. And I excluded the very obvious pick, Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off, on account of musical aesthetics, even though it features the important line: “In a real Fourth Reich, you’d be the first to go.”

Lastly, I excluded political songs that are very potent but aim its critique at the entire system which needs overthrowing (such as, say, Public Enemy’s Fight The Power), the crime of racism (which is covered in the Protest Soul mixes: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and Vol. 3) or war (see the anti-Vietnam War mixes: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2).

But we are left with a good selection, ranging from the old Italian anti-Mussolini partisan song Ciao Bella and memories of street battles against fascists in London’s Cable Street or Bob Dylan’s own history lessons to Pink Floyd’s perspective of the fascist to the obvious (like American Idiot, here in a live version), to Curtis Mayfield’s message of hope, which should resonate with every decent American right now. And, of course, Woody Guthrie — whose guitar inspired this mix’s rather hopeful title — features twice, by himself and in his song covered by Billy Bragg & Wilco.

Woody Guthrie and his fascist-killing machine (colourised picture).

 

Most of these songs are sweeping in their anti-fascism —Heaven 17 deliver pretty much what their title promise: informing us that we, in fact, do not need the fascist groove thang (though our interlocutors on the subject may need spelling lessons). Others qualify by dint of a line or two, such as the one in the Pogues song which refers to the protagonist having “decked some fucking blackshirt” (the line ends with a word I’d not like to reproduce, even as I assume it was used ironically in relation to the decked blackshirt).

Bright Blue’s Weeping, released in 1987 at the height of apartheid’s last stand, is a critique of the racist and, indeed, fascist system from which South Africa is still trying to recover, but it can apply to all notions of totalitarianism. Weeping was a hit on white South African radio, despite its subversive sample of the then-banned struggle (and now national) anthem Nkosi Sikeli’ Africa.

In his song, protest-singer Phil Ochs aims his guitar at Richard Nixon, but replace the name of the president who quit before he could be impeached with that of the president who has been impeached twice, and the message barely changes.

A special word for Depeche Mode, whose left-wing members are puzzled by their popularity with the so-called alt.right. Their 1983 song Everything Counts features here, partly idiotic lyrics notwithstanding. But as we wave goodbye to old Sphinctermouth, I think this verse (in which I replace one little word for another) anticipated him by more than three decades: “The graph on the wall / Tells the story of it all / Picture it now / See just how, the lies and deceit / Gained a little more power / Confidence taken in by a spray tan and a grin.”

Fascism isn’t a US problem only, obviously. Almost all of Latin America has suffered from fascism. Democratic systems in Europe and Britain are infected by that disease, Australia is flirting with it, and the Nazis in Chinos have entered the mainstream in France and Germany, two countries whose experience with fascism should serve as a deterrent to that philosophy.

This is not a complete selection of anti-fascist songs, of course, and you are free — for freedom is what we demand! — to list your nominations in the comments section.

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

1. Woody Guthrie – Tear The Fascists Down (1944)
2. Chumbawamba – On The Day The Nazi Died (1993)
3. Heaven 17 – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (1981)
4. Depeche Mode – Everything Counts (1983)
5. Manic Street Preachers – If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next (1998)
6. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Night Rally (1977)
7. Pink Floyd – Waiting For The Worms (1979)
8. Bright Blue – Weeping (1987)
9. Eugene McDaniels – Headless Heroes (1971)
10. Curtis Mayfield – Keep On Keeping On (1971)
11. Bama The Village Poet – Justice Isn’t Blind (1972)
12. Stevie Wonder – Big Brother (1972)
13. Phil Ochs – Here’s To The State Of Richard Nixon (1974)
14. Bob Dylan – Only A Pawn In Their Game (1964)
15. Billy Bragg & Wilco – All You Fascists (2000)
16. Sonic Youth – Youth Against Fascism (1992)
17. Green Day – American Idiot (Iive) (2005)
18. The Beat – Two Swords (1980)
19. The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Ghosts Of Cable Street (1986)
20. The Pogues – The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn (1985)
21. Marc Ribot – Bella Ciao (Goodbye Beautiful) (2018)
22. Les Misérables – Do You Hear The People Sing (1987)
BONUS:
Sham 69 – If The Kids Are United (1978)
Woody Guthrie & Sonny Terry – All You Fascists Bound To Lose (1944)

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Any Major Dylan Covers

January 12th, 2021 1 comment

Between 2016 and 2018, I created five mixes of covers of Bob Dylan songs. All links are dead now, so I have put them in convenient parcels. See the original posts for linernotes (also in text documents in the folders)

Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 1-5 (RG)

Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 1-3 (Zippy)

Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 4-5 (Zippy)

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Any Major Favourites 2020 – Vol. 2

January 7th, 2021 3 comments

On the first day of 2021, I posted Volume 1 of the Any Major Favourites, which collects one track from each of the playlists I posted in the past year (except the In Memoriams and Christmas mixes).

This collection recalls the typically-2020 event: when this site was hacked and thoroughly messed up. That happened days after I posted a mix on the subject of the colour orange. The accompanying text made no mention of the name of Agent Orange in the White House, but I’ll always claim that my little corner of the Internet was attacked by his friends, probably the Russian.

So for a couple of weeks the site was down. Having just lost my full-time job, I appealed for help on Facebook.  And, wow, did people rally! The Facebook friends of this blog, some still from the earliest days, kept it alive (become my friend here and be notified of all new posts — and, it seems, occasional drama). The Standing Together mix was my thank-you to these kind generous people.

At the same time (even preceding the Russian attack), several people encouraged me to set up something like the Buy Me A Coffee thing, whereby readers can express their appreciation for my work by, well, “buying me a cup of coffee”. An encouraging number of people have kept me running in caffeine — and helped to build up the fund to cover the costs of running this site (hosting, domain renewal, hacker protection subscription etc). Thank you, thank you, thank you, beautiful Any Major Readers!

Thank you also for your comments. These are the oxygen for any blogger. How good it is to read that somebody enjoyed a mix, or read with such attentiveness as to spot a factual error somewhere, or taking the time to commend me on the quality of my writing. And how encouraging it is to hear that my efforts helped somebody through this past year.

So, here are representative tracks of 17 more mixes posted in 2020. Both Any Major Favourites packages include a PDF version of the post, with all the links below, for easy access.

1. Elias & His Zigzag Jive Flutes – Tom Hark (1957)
The Originals: 1980s Vol. 2

2. Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Scatterlings Of Africa (1987)
A Life in Vinyl 1987 Vol. 1

3. John Lennon – Nobody Told Me (rel. 1984)
Beatles Reunited: Let It See (1980)

4. Alexi Murdoch – Orange Sky (2002)
Any Major Orange

5. Warren Zevon – Splendid Isolation (1989)
Any Major Pandemic

6. Smith – Baby, It’s You (1969)
Beatles Recovered: Please, Please Me

7. Carole King – We Are All In This Together (1974)
Any Major Standing Together

8. Phil Collins – Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) (1984)
Any Major Power Ballads Vol. 1

9. Brenton Wood – Baby You Got It (1967)
Any Major Southern Soul

10. Nicole Willis And The Soul Investigators – If This Ain’t Love (2005)
Any Major ABC  of Soul

11. Diane Schuur – Louisiana Sunday Afternoon (1988)
Any Major Week Vol. 2

12. Bobby Caldwell – I Get A Kick Out Of You (1993)
Any Major Cole Porter Vol. 2

13. Merle Travis – Sixteen Tons (1947)
The Originals: Country Edition

14. Buddy Jones – Rockin’ Rollin’ Mama (1939)
Any Major Firsts

15. Lena Horne – One For My Baby (1944)
The Originals: Rat Pack Edition

16. Zarah Leander – Davon geht die Welt nicht unter (1942)
Germany’s Hit Parade 1930-37
Germany’s Hit Parade 1938-45

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In Memoriam – December 2020

January 4th, 2021 8 comments

It was a pretty bad month for bass players, electric or standing. One of the bass thumpers we lost was the last survivor of the Dave Brubeck Quartet that recorded Take Five. Also gone is the last of the McGuire sisters, the one with the most colourful life of the trio.

For a couple of months I stopped marking deaths as being related to Covid-19 but given the second waves in many parts of the world, and the incomprehensibly casual behaviour of some people, some governments and some defeated presidents, noting them might help highlight the need to just be responsible until this pandemic is over.

The Barrier-Breaker
Though I am not a particular fan of his music, I had huge admiration for Charley Pride as a barrier-breaker (even if his career hasn’t produced an excess of black country performers). Apart from a bit of dabbling in gospel, Pride was uncompromisingly country. In that way he reclaimed a little of the black influence on that genre, which in the early days was significant (see my free eBook A Brief History of Country Music). Arguably Pride was not, as the obituaries claimed, country’s first black superstar — that probably was DeFord Bailey, who was a founding member of the Opry until he was abruptly dismissed in 1941. Pride, however, was certainly the biggest black star in country, and he transcended race — without being obsequious, selling out or denying the evil of systemic racism or its effects — as was evidenced when he was named Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards in 1971.

And like some other country singers, Pride had a colourful background story. Born into a poor sharecropper family in Sledge, Mississippi, Pride became a professional baseball player. Injuries prevented a sparkling career, but at his last station as a semi-pro (while working for a lead smelter, shovelling coal into the furnace), the team manager recognised Pride’s singing talent and paid him to sing for 15 minutes at games. This led Pride to revive his old dream of recording music — he tried his luck at Sun Records in the 1950s. Local gigs led him to RCA and what turned out to be a fruitful career in music.

The Zorro Rapper
In the rise of hip hop, Whodini played a pioneering role, as we were reminded of by the death at only 56 of co-vocalist John Fletcher, or Ecstasy. In 1982, Whodini became the first rap act to have a proper music video produced to promote a single, their debut Magic’s Wand (whose bassist and co-writer Matthew Seligmann died in April). Whodini were innovators in drawing from influences beyond hip hop and dance music. They were early adopters of R&B and electronic pop. New wave type Thomas Dolby produced that debut single, and Krautrock giant Conny Plank produced Whodini’s eponymous debut album — not in rap capital New York but a bucolic suburb of ancient Cologne. With that sound, Whodini were among the first hip hop acts to cross over to mainstream black radio. While co-vocalist Jalil Hutchins was the main writer, Fletcher was the focal point, with his Zorro hat.

The British Invader
In the vanguard of the British invasion were a softly-singing duo with the well-mannered names of Chad and Jeremy, the first half of which, Chad Stuart (born David Stuart Chadwick) has died. They first hit on both sides of the Atlantic with Yesterday’s Gone, followed by songs such as A Summer Song, Willow Weep for Me, and Before And After. But by 1966 the hits dried up when Jeremy Clyde went on a year’s break to appear in a stage play in London. Chad meanwhile tried to keep the buzz going in the US with his wife Jill, but with no great success.

Back in the UK, Chad and Jeremy collaborated whenever the latter had the time. They also made friends with a young folk singer from the US who had just split from his own duo partner after their debut album flopped. Paul Simon gave Chad & Jeremy a song titled Homeward Bound to record. A few weeks later, Simon & Garfunkel reunited, following the surprise success of a remixed version of their Sound of Silence. Chad & Jeremy had considered Homeward Bound for a single release, but having got wind of Simon & Garfunkel considering the song as a follow-up to their first hit, the British duo opted for a song titled Teenage Failure. It turned out to be just that, a failure, teenage or not. Chad & Jeremy in the end released Homeward Bound in August 1966 on their Distant Shores album. Simon & Garfunkel had a #5 hit with it earlier that year.

Chad & Jeremy recorded another couple of albums and a movie soundtrack, which were critically praised but commercially unsuccessful. They split in 1968, having sporadic reunions thereafter.

The Five Bassist
The last surviving member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet which recorded the timeless Take Five has departed. Bass player Eugene Wright died at the age of 97. The Chicago-born musician made his recording debut in 1947 as a member of Leo Parker’s All Stars, where he played alongside future jazz great Gene Ammons, whom he later backed. Wright went on to play with acts like Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Cal Tjader, Buddy de Franco, Kenny Drew, and Sonny Stitt. But Wright’s big break came with the Dave Bubeck Quartet, which he belonged to throughout its glory years from the late 1950s to late-1960s. He also backed by the quartet’s saxophonist Paul Desmond, who wrote Take Five, on his solo records.

In between he released one solo record, The Wright Groove in 1962. Unusually, he recorded it in New Zealand, with a trio of local jazz musicians. After Brubeck, Wright joined the Monty Alexander Trio. Wright rarely ventured outside jazz; one occasion when he did so was to play the double-bass on Simon & Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song.

The Songwriter
On Christmas Eve I stood in my kitchen preparing seasonal deserts and crooning along to Dana’s It’s Going To Be A Cold, Cold Christmas; it was the day the song’s co-writer died, at the age of 86. Geoff Stephens had his first taste of success as the founder of The New Vaudeville Band, who had a worldwide hit with the Grammy-winning Winchester Cathedral, a Stephens composition, in 1967. Stephens also wrote There’s A Kind Of Hush for his band, though it would be a hit for Herman’s Hermits and in the 1960s for the Carpenters. By then he had already written or co-written hits for Dave Berry (The Crying Game, later a hit for Boy George) and The Applejacks (Tell Me When), and co-produced Donovan’s breakout hits Catch The Wind and Universal Soldier.

Stephens’ list of subsequent hits, most of them co-written with Les Reed, is impressive, regardless of what one might think of their uneven quality. His biggest hit was David Soul’s 1977 Silver Lady. Others included You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me (The New Seekers), Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James (Manfred Mann), Lights of Cincinnati (Scott Walker), Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast (Wayne Newton), Sorry Suzanne (The Hollies), Daughter of Darkness (Tom Jones), Like Sister And Brother (The Drifters), Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha (Cliff Richard), Knock, Knock Who’s There (Mary Hopkin), It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye (Crystal Gayle), and I’ll Put You Together Again (Hot Chocolate).

The Hard Rocker
With the passing of Leslie West, we have lost another musician who took to the stage at Woodstock in 1969 (see mixes here). As guitarist and singer of hard-rock band Mountain, West played a pivotal part in the development of heavy metal, with songs like the cowbell-anthem Mississippi Queen. After Mountain split in 1972, West and Mountain drummer Corky Laing teamed up with Cream’s Jack Bruce and Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat & Tears to record two studio albums, as well as a live set. Soon the band broke up.

Mountain appeared in 2009 at the Woodstock 40th anniversary concert. After they played their set, Leslie West married his fiancée Jenni Maurer on stage under a canopy of guitars. Two years later, he lost a leg due to diabetes, but West kept performing. He released his final album, Soundcheck, in 2015.

The Last Sister
With the death of Phyllis McGuire at 89, the last McGuire Sister has left the stage, with Dottie dying in 2012 and oldest sister Ruby two years and a day before Phyllis. The trio started performing in 1935, when Phyllis was just four years old, launching a 33-year-long career that included two US #1s, Sincerely and Sugartime. The end came in 1968, with a performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, due to Phyllis’ relationship with mafia boss Sam Giancana, which had seen the sisters widely blacklisted. Phyllis had already released a number of solo singles by then, on the Reprise label founded by, of course, Frank Sinatra.

Phyllis certainly picked up architectural taste from her lovers’ milieu. Her Las Vegas mansion included a swan moat and a replica of the Eiffel Tower which protruded through the structure’s roof. She denied that Giancana had bought her that mansion and claimed that she had invested in oil to produce the wealth which she could flaunt in such absurd ways. The sisters reunited in 1986 and performed on and off for the next two decades. The McGuire Sisters featured a few times here: on Any Major ABC of the 1950s; Any Major Jones Vol. 2; and Any Major 1950s Christmas.

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

Dan Morrison, drummer of Australian ska punk band Area-7, on Dec. 1

Ron Mathewson, 76, Scottish jazz double bassist and bass guitarist, of Covid-19 on Dec. 2
Joan Armatrading – Cool Blue Stole My Heart (1975, on double-bass)

Kenny Jeremiah, 77, lead singer of soul group Soul Survivors, of Covid-19 on Dec. 4
Soul Survivors – Expressway To Your Heart (1967)

Franco Bolignari, 91, Italian jazz singer, on Dec. 4
Franco Bolignari – Crudelia De Mon (1961)

Sara Carreira, 21, French-Portuguese singer, traffic collision on Dec. 5

Eric Pacheco, 53, bass guitarist with hard rock band Babylon A.D., on Dec. 6

Howard Wales, 77, keyboardist, on Dec. 7
Grateful Dead – Candyman (1970, on keyboards)
Howard Wales – Rendezvous (Part I) (1976)

Dawn Lindberg, 75, South African folk-singer, of Covid-19 on Dec. 7
Des & Dawn Lindberg – The Seagull’s Name Was Nelson (1971)

LD Beghtol, 55, musician and writer, on Dec. 7
The Magnetic Fields – All My Little Words (1999, vocals)

Harold Budd, 84, avant-garde composer and poet, of Covid-19 on Dec. 8
Harold Budd & Brian Eno – The Silver Ball (1984)

Jason Slater, 49, rock bassist (Third Eye Blind), producer, mixer, on Dec. 9
Snake River Conspiracy – You And Your Friend (2000, as member)
Queensrÿche – All The Promises (2008, as producer, bassist, second drummer)

Sean Malone, 50, bassist with metal bands Cynic, Gordian Knot, Aghora, on Dec. 9

Joseph ‘Mojo’ Morganfield, 56, blues singer (son of Muddy Waters), on Dec. 10
Mojo Morganfield – Who’s Gonna Be Your Sweet Man When I’m Gone (2018)

Barbara Windsor, 83, English actress and singer, on Dec. 10
Barbara Windsor – When I Was A Child (1970)

Ubirany, 80, singer with Brazilian samba band Fundo de Quintal, of Covid-19 on Dec. 11
Fundo de Quintal – Saber Viver (1983)

Dariusz Malinowski, 55, bassist with Polish punk band Siekiera, on Dec. 12

Charley Pride, 86, country legend, of Covid-19 on Dec. 13
Charley Pride – She’s Still Got A Hold On You (1969)
Charley Pride – Kiss An Angel Good Morning (1971)
Charley Pride – Let Me Live (1971)
Charley Pride – Shouldn’t It Be Easier Than This? (1987)

Andrey Sapunov, 64, singer-bassist of Russian rock band Voskreseniye, on Dec. 13

Paulinho dos Santos, 68, singer of Brazilian rock band Roupa Nova, of Covid 19 on Dec. 14
Roupa Nova – Volta pra mim (1987)

Pauline Anna Strom, 74. electronic composer, on Dec. 14

Albert Griffiths, 74, guitarist-singer of Jamaican reggae band The Gladiators, on Dec. 15
The Gladiators – Music Makers From Jamaica (1978)

Sam Jayne, 46, singer of hardcore band Lync, indie band Love as Laughter, found on Dec. 15
Love as Laughter – Don’t Worry (2008)

Carl Mann, 78, rockabilly singer, on Dec. 16
Carl Mann – Mona Lisa (1958)

Emil Cadkin, 100, TV and film composer, on Dec. 16

Stanley Cowell, 79, jazz pianist, co-founder of Strata-East Records, on Dec. 17
Stanley Cowell – Blues For The Viet Cong (1969)
Stanley Cowell – Trying To Find A Way (1975)

Jeff Clayton, 66, jazz saxophonist, on Dec. 17
Patrice Rushen – Wishful Thinking (1978, on oboe)
The Clayton Brothers – Saturday Night Special (1997, on alto sax)

Vinicio Franco, 87, Dominican merengue singer-songwriter, of Covid-19, on Dec. 19

Pepe Salvaderi, guitarist-singer with Italian pop band Dik Dik, on Dec. 19
I Dik Dik – Il Primo Giorno Di Primavera (1969)

Per Alsing, 60, drummer of Roxette, on Dec. 19
Roxette – Sleeping In My Car (1994)

Clay Anthony, 61, bassist of rock band Junkyard (1987-91), traffic accident on Dec. 19
Junkyard – Simple Man (1989)

Chad Stuart, 79, half of English duo Chad & Jeremy, on Dec. 20
Chad & Jeremy – A Summer Song (1964)
Chad & Jeremy – Teenage Failure (1966)
Chad & Jeremy – Homeward Bound (1966)
Chad & Jeremy – Painted Dayglow Smile (1967)

Art DeIrorio, Cajun/country fiddler, on Dec. 20
Link Davis – Have You Heard The News (1948, on fiddle)

K.T. Oslin, 78, country singer-songwriter, on Dec. 21
K.T. Oslin – 80’s Ladies (1987)

Rebecca Luker, 59, musical actress and singer, on Dec. 23
Rebecca Luker – Remember (2009)

Rika Zaraï, 82, Israeli singer and writer, on Dec. 23

Leslie West, 75, singer-guitarist of rock band Mountain, on Dec. 23
The Vagrants – I Can’t Make A Friend (1966)
Mountain – Long Red (Live at Woodstock) (1969)
Mountain – Mississippi Queen (1970)
West, Bruce & Laing – Backfire (1972)

John ‘Ecstasy’ Fletcher, 56, rapper with hip-hop pioneers Whodini, on Dec. 23
Whodini – Friends (1984)
Whodini – Last Night (I Had A Long Talk With Myself) (1986)
Whodini feat. Millie Jackson – Be Yourself (1987)

Geoff Stephens, 86, English songwriter, producer and musician, on Dec. 24
Scott Walker – Lights Of Cincinnati (1969)
Mary Hopkin – Knock Knock Who’s There (1970, as co- writer)
Hot Chocolate – I’ll Put You Together Again (1978)
Boy George – The Crying Game (1992)

Tony Rice, 69, bluegrass musician, on Dec. 25
Tony Rice – Banks Of The Ohio (1977)

Amadeu Casas, 66, Spanish guitarist and blues singer, on Dec. 26

Tito Rojas, 65, Puerto Rican salsa singer, on Dec. 26
Tito Rojas – Siempre Sere (1990)

Víctor Cuica, 71, Venezuelan jazz saxophonist, on Dec. 26
Víctor Cuica  – El Ratón (1993)

Jeff Jacks, singer of rock band The Termites, reported on Dec. 27

Armando Manzanero, 85, Mexican singer-songwriter, Covid-19 on Dec. 28
Armando Manzanero – Somos novios (1968)
Armando Manzanero & Lisset – Nada Personal (1996)

Claude Bolling, 90, French jazz pianist and composer, on Dec. 29
Claude Bolling – Baroque And Blue (1975)

Rudy Salas, 71, member of Latin R&B groups El Chicano, Tierra, on Dec. 29
El Chicano – One More Night (1975)
Tierra – Together (1980)

Gösta Linderholm, 79, Swedish singer and composer, on Dec. 29

Alto Reed, 72, saxophonist in Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, on Dec. 30
Bob Seger – Turn The Page (Live) (1976, on saxophone)
Bob Seger – The Horizontal Bop (1980, on saxophone)

Phyllis McGuire, 89, third of The McGuire Sisters, on Dec. 30
McGuire Sisters – Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight (1954)
McGuire Sisters – Sugartime (1957)
Phyllis McGuire – That’s Life (1966)

‘Senator’ Eugene Wright, 97, bassist with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, on Dec. 30
Leo Parker’s All Stars – El Sino (1947, on double bass)
Dave Brubeck Quartet – Blue Rondo a La Turk (1959, on double bass)
Eugene Wright – The Wright Groove (1962)
Simon & Garfunkel – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) (1969, on double bass)

Frank Kimbrough, 64, jazz pianist, on Dec. 30
Frank Kimbrough Trio – Hymn (2012)

Seaman Dan, 91, Australian musician, on Dec. 30

Mick Bolton, 72, British keyboardist, reported on Dec. 31
Mott The Hoople – Sweet Angeline (Live) (1974, on keyboards)

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Any Major Favourites 2020 – Vol. 1

January 1st, 2021 6 comments

HAPPY NEW YEAR. May this new year 2021, despite the hangover it carries over from the past annus horribilis, be a great one for us all. Stay healthy, keep others healthy, and please get vaccinated!

As every year, the mixes of the past year (excluding the In Memoriams and Christmas mixes) are revisited by the choice of one favourite song from them — like an annual Greatest Hits of Any Major Dude. I hope it is useful to provide a link to the relevant mix in the playlist, so that you might discover a compilation here or there which you might have missed.

The past year seems to have been dominated by Beatles: three Beatles Recovered mixes (first for Let It Be on the 50th anniversary of its release, then Please, Please Me and With The Beatles to mark John Lennon’s 80th birthday and 40th anniversary of his murder respectively), as well as the final Beatles Reunited mix in the series of fictional Beatles album comprising the Fabs’ solo tracks between 1970 and 1980.

There were fewer Originals mixes than in the previous year; still there were five of them: 1960s Vol.2, 1980s Vol. 2, Country, Rat Pack and Burt Bacharach.

Two mixes were tributes to giants in music who died within days of one another: Bill Withers and John Prine, two particular favourites of mine, for whom I wrote what I hope were worthy tributes. The collections were of covers of their songs, but it was a bitter-sweet joy to also revisit their original music with some intensity.

Withers features on this first volume of Any Major Favourites of 2020, representing the Let It Be Recovered mix. That track is followed by Gil Scott-Heron’s stunning reinterpretation of Withers’ wonderful Grandma’s Hands.Ask me which was my favourite mix of 2020? The Any Major Firsts mix in February was the most fun to put together. The most topical was Any Major Pandemic in March (who knew what lay ahead?). Without planning it, the Any Major Cole Porter Vol. 2 mix was also topical: It turned out that I posted it a day before the 30th anniversary of the release of the groundbreaking Red Hot + Blue charity compilation of modern interpretations of Porter songs.

My most-played mixes were Any Major Southern Rock, Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 3, Any Major Falsetto and Any Major Hits From 1970. What were your favourites?

The second volume follows next week, after the In Memoriam for December drops. Both packages include a PDF version of the post, with all the links below, for easy access.

1. The Ronettes – I Can Hear Music (1966)
The Originals: 1960s Vol. 2

2. Gene McDaniels – Tower Of Strength (1961)
The Originals: Burth Bacharach Edition

3. Laura Nyro – Up On The Roof (Live) (1971)
The Brill Building Vol. 1

4. Bill Withers – Let It Be (1971)
Beatles Recovered: Let It Be

5. Gil Scott-Heron – Grandma’s Hands (1981)
Any Major Bill Withers Songbook

6. Blues Image – Ride Captain Ride (1970)
Any Major Hits From 1970

7. Ozark Mountain Daredevils – Jackie Blue (1974)
Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 10

8. Poco – A Good Feeling To Know (1972)
Any Major Happy Songs Vol. 2

9. Boondoggle & Balderdash – I’ve Been Delayed (1971)
Any Major Southern Rock

10. Al Kooper – Sam Stone (1972)
Any Major John Prine Songbook

11. The Rolling Stones – Fool To Cry (1976)
Any Major Falsetto Vol. 1

12. Katja Ebstein – Beide Seiten (1973)
Any Major Schlager Covers Vol. 2

13. Elvis Costello – Alison (1977)
Any Major Women Vol. 2

14. Joe Bataan – This Boy (1972)
Beatles Recovered: With The Beatles

15. The Pointer Sisters – Yes We Can Can (1973)
Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 3

16. Stevie Wonder – All I Do (1980)
Any Major Soul 1980

17. The Neville Brothers – Sweet Honey Dripper (1979)
Any Major Disco Vol. 8 – Party Like It’s 1979

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