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Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 3

October 26th, 2021 1 comment

It’s Halloween this week, and to scare the children, here’s the third mix of Murder Songs. I didn’t post one last year, when the pandemic was claiming so many lives. But this year, death by Covid is mostly a matter of choice, at least in countries where vaccinations are freely available. So here we go.

These compilations of murder songs are a bit like a TV crime shows such as Law & Order. At least in some of the cases featured in the songs, the killers have been brought to justice. In some songs, that justice is distributed through the death penalty, which in itself could be defined as a form of murder (in that a person who is defenceless and doesn’t pose an immediate threat is being put to death by people who have the tools to perform that function, usually to extract a firm of retribution).

A couple of songs tell stories that describe acts which amount to vigilante justice. One can’t really justify that sort of thing, of course, but it is quite satisfying when Stagger Lee gets shot in the balls or the killer of Nell in the Cisco Houston song gets his comeuppance. I fear that there’s a bit of Charles Bronson in even the most liberal among us.

Some of our killers here are filled with remorse, and some with none at all. There seems to be a thread of mental illness issues in most of these cases — or all, if psychopathy is a mental illness.

In almost all of these songs, presented from various perspectives, there is a story being told that teaches us something about the human condition. Even the nasty Guns n’ Roses song is a reflection of an uncomfortable reality.

Happy listening!

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

  1. Blondie – Youth Nabbed As Sniper (1978)
    The Vic: Random people, by a sniper
  2. The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays (1979)
    The Vic: Two adults at Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego
  3. Bruce Springsteen – Johnny 99 (1986)
    The Vic: A night clerk, while Johnny was drunk and sad.
  4. Richard & Linda Thompson – Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed? (1982)
    The Vic: She. Could’ve been suicide, but they found some fingerprints right around her throat…
  5. Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone (1994)
    The Vic: Delia. In real life: 15-year-old Delia Green, shot by Mose Houston, also 15, on Christmas Eve 1900.
  6. Grateful Dead – Stagger Lee (1978)
    The Vic: Billy DeLions, thrower of a lucky dice. Here a Delia gets justice.
  7. Robert Cray – Smoking Gun (1986)
    The Vic: An unnamed woman, shot by a paranoid jealous partner.
  8. Barry Manilow – Copacabana (At The Copa) (1978)
    The Vic: Why, Tony, of course.
  9. Eminem feat. Dido – Stan (2000)
    The Vic: Stan’s pregnant girlfriend, tied up in the trunk…
  10. Alice Cooper – Killer (1971)
    The Vic: Do we know? Here the (unrepentant) killer goes off to be executed.
  11. Guns n’ Roses – Used To Love Her (1988)
    The Vic: A complaining girlfriend. The national anthem of Misogynia.
  12. Elvis Costello & The Imposters – The Name Of This Thing Is Not Love (2004)
    The Vic: A fling, according to the self-justifying murderer.
  13. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – Poor Ellen Smith (2020)
    The Vic: Poor Ellen Smith, shot through the heart. 20 years on, the killer gets out of jail.
  14. Cisco Houston – The Killer (rel. 1968)
    The Vic: Blake, the murderer of Nell.
  15. Kingston Trio – Tom Dooley (1958)
    The Vic: Unnamed victim, stabbed by Tom Dooley.
  16. Charley Pride – The Banks Of The Ohio (1968)
    The Vic: The only woman he loved, killed by the singer himself.
  17. Big Tom and The Mainliners – Life To Go (1973)
    The Vic: The singer’s honky-tonk friend, 18 years ago.
  18. Doc & Merle Watson – The Lawson Family Murder (1971)
    The Vic: Charlie Lawson’s family. On Christmas Eve. Why? Nobody knows.
  19. Momus – Murderers, The Hope Of Women (1988)
    The Vic: Sweet Fanny Adams, his wife.
  20. Rosie Thomas – Charlotte (2002)
    The Vic: Charlotte, a victim of domestic abuse.

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Any Major Blaxploitation Tracks

October 12th, 2021 5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Any Major Beatles In French Vol. 1

September 21st, 2021 13 comments

 

The Beatles, to state the obvious, made a big impact throughout Western culture. And in places like France and Spain, they helped give a name to a subculture of 1960s followers of pop culture: Yé-yé. The name derived from the English “Yeah Yeah”, such as in the hit She Loves You.  Building on the already existing rock & roll scene, spearheaded by Johnny Hallyday, yé-yé initially drew from the British “Beat” scene, but expanded to incorporate different genres, from bubblegum pop to baroque pop.

The leading exponents of yé-yé included the likes of Françoise Hardy, Sylvie Vartan (who married Johnny Hallyday in 1965), Claude François and France Gall, with Serge Gainsbourg one of the brains behind the scenes. Hardy actually was the first to sing the words “Yeah yeah yeah yeah” on a French recording, on La fille avec toi in 1962, giving birth to the term yé-yé. The yeahs in She Loves You in 1963 cemented it.

Unlike many other European countries, France had a thriving scene of songs in their own language. This meant that many English-language songs would be recorded in French. As the two collections of The Beatles in French show, that didn’t necessarily extend to only the big hits but also to lesser-known album tracks, such as There’s A Place, It Won’t Be Long, I’m A Loser, The Night Before, You Won’t See Me or Your Mother Should Know.

For the yé-yé period, which lasted till roughly 1967, there was an abundance of Beatles covers. After that, they became less frequent. This first mix covers songs which The Beatles issued between 1962 and 1965, and most of the French covers come from the same timespan.

The majority of the acts here are from France, or, like Petula Clark, recorded in French for the French market. But a few performers represent Québec, which had a thriving beat scene itself. The Canadian acts here are Les Bel Canto, Pierre Lalonde, Les Hou-Lops, Les Baronets, Christian & Getro, Les Monarques, and  Jacques Salvail.

Also not French but a star in France was Nancy Holloway, a US jazz singer who in the late 1950s performed at the Moulin Rouge before opening her own nightclub in Paris. But in the 1960s, already in her early thirties, Holloway had a line of hits with French covers of English-language pop hits, such as Don’t Make Me Over, My Guy, Hit The Road Jack, Sealed With A Kiss, and The Beatles’ She Loves You, which features on this mix. She died in 2019 at 86.

Holloway is not the only black act here. Les Surfs, a group of siblings, were stars in Madagascar when in 1963 they tried their luck in France — and after a TV performance became stars, topping the charts with a French cover of Be My Baby. They also had a string of hits in Spain and Italy before breaking up in 1971.

Two other acts came from afar. Tiny Yong was born in 1944 in present-day Cambodia of Vietnamese ancestry (her proper name is Thiên Hương). After her family moved to Paris in 1958, Yong was a teenage actress on the stage and recorded as a singer of chanson and cabaret. She hit her stride, however, as a yé-yé singer, having a string of hits before quitting the recording studios in 1966 and show business altogether in 1970. She then started a new career as a restaurant owner.

You might think that a group named Les Chaussettes Noires might have black members, but the noir in the name refers to socks. The band helped pioneer rock & roll in France in the early 1960s, with future star Eddy Mitchell as their frontman. Mitchell left in 1962 to pursue his solo career, so by the time the black socks recorded I Wanna Be Your Man in 1964, he was gone. And soon after  recording that, Les Chaussettes Noires split. Eddy Mitchell also features on this mix, with his version of You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.

Les Gam’s was an attempt at a French girl group. The quartet emanated from a popular youth choir called Les Djinns, which even made a couple of appearances of The Ed Sullivan Show. Les Gam’s — their name was an acronym of the members’ first names, plus a gratuitous apostrophe — mostly recorded French of covers of English-language songs, such as All My Loving, which attracted some attention, but by 1964 their time was already up.

In their time, Les Gam’s occasionally collaborated with Les Lionceaux (The Lion Cubs), who were founded in the early 1960s as a mostly instrumental band. They backed Johnny Hallyday, and enjoyed some popularity in the slipstream of The Beatles’ success. By 1965, they split.

Given the war France waged against Algerian independence from 1954-62, the name of the Algerian group here seems, well, interesting: Les Missiles. I haven’t been able to find much information about the group, but they were the sons of colonialism rather than local. The group was active from 1963-68. Their best-known song, Sacré Dollar, is a cover of Hoyt Axton’s Greenback Dollar, but the French lyrics are far more militantly anti-capitalist than those of the original. They feature here with their version of I’m A Loser.

As always, the mix fits on a standard CD-R, includes fait-maison covers, and illustrated PDF of the above text. PW in comments.

1. Les Bel Canto – J’en suis fou (Love Me Do) (1965)
2. Petula Clark – Tu perds ton temps (Please, Please Me) (1963)
3. Claude François – Des bises de moi pour toi (From Me To You) (1963)
4. Lucky Blondo – J’ai un secret a te dire (Do You Want To Know A Secret?) (1965)
5. Les Surfs – Adieu chagrin (There’s A Place) (1964)
6. Johnny Hallyday – Quand je l’ai vue devant moi (I Saw Her Standing There) (1963)
7. Nancy Holloway – Elle t’aime (She Loves You) (1964)
8. Pierre Lalonde – Oh! Donne moi ta main (I Want To Hold Your Hand) (1964)
9. Les Gam’s – Toi l’ami (All My Loving) (1964)
10. Chaussettes Noires – Je Te Veux Toute A Moi (I Wanna Be Your Man) (1964)
11. Martine – Il Faut Revenir (This Boy) (1964)
12. Les Lionceaux – Le temps est long (It Won’t Be Long) (1964)
13. Thierry Vincent – Je n’peux l’acheter (Can’t Buy Me Love) (1964)
14. Frank Alamo – Je me bats pour gagner (A Hard Day’s Night) (1964)
15. Les Hou-Lops – Ces mots qu’on oublie un jour (Things We Said Today) (1965)
16. Richard Anthony – La Corde au Cou (I Should Have Known Better) (1964)
17. Michèle Torr – Et le l’aime (And I Love Her) (1965)
18. Les Baronets – Si je te donne mon cœur (If I Fell) (1964)
19. Christian & Getro – Je suis revenu (I’ll Be Back) (1969)
20. Les Monarques – Elle est si belle (No Reply) (1965)
21. Les Missiles – Il faut oser (I’m A Loser) (1965)
22. Tiny Yong – Huit Jours Par Semaine (Eight Days A Week) (1965)
23. Akim – Hum! Qu’elle est belle (I Feel Fine) (1965)
24. Olivier Despax – Ne me mets pas du bleu (Yes It Is) (1965)
25. Dick Rivers – Prends un ticket avec moi (Ticket To Ride) (1965)
26. Eddy Mitchell – Tu Ferais Mieux De L’oublier (You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away) (1965)
27. Les ‘Faux’ Frères – Une fille pour deux garçons (I Like Too Much) (1965)
28. Renée Martel – Un certain soir (The Night Before) (1970)
29. Jacques Salvail – Y’a pas d’mal (It’s Only Love) (1975)
30. Michèle Arnaud – Je croyais (Yesterday) (1966)

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Any Major Albums of the Year: 1971

September 9th, 2021 7 comments

 

 

Was 1971 the greatest music year? The riveting recent series on the impact of music in that year, titled 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, made a comprehensive case for 1971 being the greatest year in music, with the release of landmark albums that actually did change music. And the fact that I’ve “recovered” three of these — Tapestry, What’s Going On and Blue — suggests that I might agree with that.

1971 — fifty years ago, FFS! — certainly was a better year for albums than it was for singles, though even among those there were some great cuts. Some of them made it onto the Any Major Hits From 1971 mix.

So here’s my Top 20 of albums released in 1971. As I made my shortlist, I became rather intimidated as its length grew. What would I have to leave out. There are years where I’d struggle to compile a really good Top 20. With 1971, I could have made a Top 40 and feel entirely comfortable commending all of the albums. Just a few 1971 albums that failed to make the cut:

David Bowie – Hunky Dory; Sly & the Family Stone – There’s A Riot Going On; Baby Huey – The Baby Huey Story; Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Love And Hate; Curtis Mayfield – Curtis Live; Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire de Melody Nelson; Dolly Parton – Coat Of Many Colors; Carole King – Music; Little Feat – Little Feat; Don McLean – American Pie; Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story; Isaac Hayes – Shaft;  Shuggie Otis – Freedom Flight; Led Zepellin – IV; The Who – Who’s Next, and others…

Maybe on another day, this or that album from the list above might displace some of the ones I picked for my personal Top 20. But these 20 are the ones I’ve chosen. Some of them are obvious, others betray my particular personal taste. I’m a little bit too young to have known any of these albums from the time of their release. I think I’ve owned Jethro Tull’s Aqualung the longest. I bought it when I was 12, after my older brother played it for me. I also bought Sticky Fingers early enough to own it with the cover that has an actual zipper. And my mother had Cat Stevens’ Teaser & The Firecat album, so I was sort of familiar with it in my childhood (though I didn’t really play LPs until I was 10 or 11).

Other albums crept into my life in the intervening years: some came into my life inspired by some song or other; some because I felt I had to investigate whether they satisfied their big reputation; some I have no idea how I came to them; I just did. Some I fell in love with instantly (John Prine’s eponymous debut, for instance), others were a struggle to fall for initially and required a bit of work (such as What’s Going On or Blue).

I won’t list my Top 20 in order, and the playlist runs in a random sequence, as far as rankings are concerned. If forced to choose a Top 3, I might go with Tapestry, John Prine and Pieces Of A Man. But one contender I deliberately omitted: Kris Kristofferson’s Me And Bobby McGee, which was released in 1971, but in fact was just a retitled release of KK’s sublime self-titled 1970 debut.

So, what are your albums of 1971?

1. The Rolling Stones – Sway (Sticky Fingers)
2. John Lennon – Gimme Some Truth (Imagine)
3. Jethro Tull – Mother Goose (Aqualung)
4. James Taylor – Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox (Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon)
5. Carole King – Home Again (Tapestry)
6. Gil Scott-Heron – When You Are Who You Are (Pieces Of A Man)
7. Isaac Hayes – Never Can Say Goodbye (Black Moses)
8. Bill Withers – Moanin’ And Groanin’ (Just As I Am)
9. Kris Kristofferson – Loving Her Was Easier (The Silver Tongued Devil And I)
10. Judee Sill – The Lamb Ran Away With The Crown (Judee Sill)
11. Joni Mitchell – All I Want (Blue)
12. John Prine – Pretty Good (John Prine)
13. Cat Stevens – Tuesday’s Dead (Teaser & The Firecat)
14. Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey (Tupelo Honey)
15. Roberta Flack – Let Them Talk (Quiet Fire)
16. Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (What’s Going On)
17. Curtis Mayfield – Keep On Keeping On (Roots)
18. King Curtis – A Whiter Shade of Pale (Live At Fillmore West)
19. Barbra Streisand – Space Captain (Barbra Joan Streisand)
20. Elton John – Razor Face (Madman Across The Water)

As ever, CR-R length, home-grooved covers, text in illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

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Barry Gibb Songbook Vol. 1 (Shaven Edition)

August 26th, 2021 2 comments

On September 1, Barry Gibb will reach the age of 75 — as did Jimmy Webb a couple of weeks ago — which is a good time to post the first of two compilation of songs which Gibb wrote, by himself or in collaboration with his brothers.

This first mix covers the pre-disco, pre-falsetto, pre-beard-and-blowdried-hair, Gibb period, from the Bee Gees’ 1966 UK debut single Spicks And Specks (covered here by Status Quo in their psych-rock incarnation) to 1974’s Charade. The second period in the Barry Gibb songbook will cover the incredible comeback as a disco act, and the work that followed the genre’s decline, mostly for other artists.

Barry Gibb, clean-shaven with a dandy’s shirt, on the cover of Germany’s Bravo magazine of 5 June 1968. (See more Bravo covers and posters at bravoposters.wordpress.com)

I have little knowledge of Barry Gibb’s personal life. I know he has at times fought with his brothers — which is quite natural; brothers can be assholes to each other — and he has mourned the death of his three younger brothers, which is a lot of heartache. He has been married to the same woman for 51 years, which in showbiz is remarkable.

The Gibb brothers were remarkably mature songwriters when they broke big in the latter half of the 1960s. Their lyrics were marked by a great deal of empathy, if sometimes a bit overambitious and occasionally verging on the mawkish. But even when they did so, the tunes usually compensated for such shortcomings. Still, lyrics such as those of, say, How Can You Mend A Broken Hearts (only one choice of versions for this mix!) or To Love Somebody are accompanied by sweet tunes that tell the song’s story.

Bee Gees lyrics could be cryptic. A lot of the masterpiece album Odessa is impenetrable, for example. But that album also included Marley Purt Drive, a storytelling song which is both empathetic and amusing. Odessa, like most Bee Gees material, was produced by the lads themselves. Barry — with and without Maurice and Robin — produced many of his compositions, especially later in their career. But on this mix we can hear P.P. Arnold — a great interpreter of Gibb songs — call out to Barry call out to Barry at the end of her song.

Many songs here are pop standards — Words, I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You, First Of May, New York Mining Disaster 1941, Massachusetts. I like them all, but there’s one Bee Gees hit I really don’t like: the cheesy Don’t Forget To Remember. There are no good covers of it; I include the most bearable of them as a bonus track, alongside three alternative covers of featured songs.

Ah, yes, the beard distinction… I call this first collection the shaven era (guess how I’ll mark Volume 2), but I’m quite aware that Barry started to dabble with facial hair by around 1970. I might not know a lot about the man, but I do know that.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-spicked-and-specked covers. PW in comments.

1. Bee Gees – World (1968)
2. Status Quo – Spicks And Specks (1968)
3. Tim Rose – I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You (1970)
4. P.P. Arnold – Bury Me Down By The River (1969)
5. Sweet Inspirations – To Love Somebody (1968)
6. Al Green – How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (1972)
7. Bettye Swann – Words (1969)
8. Nina Simone – I Can’t See Nobody (1969)
9. Sarah Vaughan – Run To Me (1972)
10. José Feliciano – And The Sun Will Shine (1968)
11. Vicky Leandros – Massachusetts (1967)
12. The Marbles – Only One Woman (1968)
13. Ashton, Gardner & Dyke – New York Mining Disaster 1941 (1970)
14. Richie Havens – I Started A Joke (1969)
15. Lulu – Melody Fair (1970)
16. Bonnie St. Claire – Marley Purt Drive (1969)
17. Jennifer Warnes – In The Morning (1972)
18. Olivia Newton-John – Come On Over (1976)
19. Sandie Shaw – Sun In My Eyes (1969)
20. Matt Monro – First Of May (1972)
21. Dean Martin – Sweetheart (1971)
22. Astrud Gilberto – Holiday (1970)
23. Samantha Sang – Charade (1978)
24. Moulin Rouge – Lonely Days (1979)
Bonus Tracks:
John & Anne Ryder – Don’t Forget To Remember (1969)
Percy Sledge – I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You (1970)
Flying Burrito Bros feat. Gram Parsons – To Love Somebody (1973)
The Wallflowers – I Started A Joke (2001)

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Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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Any Major Live Festival – Soul Vol. 1

August 19th, 2021 4 comments

 

This collection of soul acts performing their songs live on stage was inspired by the superb documentary The Summer of Soul, which tells the story of a series of six free music festivals held in Harlem in the summer of 1969 (see the trailer here). Despite drawing an audience of 300,000 and featuring an array of big stars, the Harlem Cultural Festival was practically forgotten — while the mostly white Woodstock was mythologised, in nearly an instant (and not unfairly so, as I suggested at its 50th anniversary).

I knew about 1972’s Operation PUSH Expo’s “Save The Children” festival in Chicago, having cherished the double album soundtrack since the 1980s, and about 1972’s Wattstax festival. Both events provide a number of tracks on this mix. But I had never heard of the Harlem Cultural Festival, and I don’t suppose that this owed to a blind spot in my soul education. The event was filmed, but found no takers. So it languished in a basement for decades.

It was as if a conspiracy of silence suppressed the event. Why? Well, it was an event of black consciousness at which the Panthers provided security (because the NYPD refused to)! There was no place in Nixon’s America for such subversion, even if Republican NYC mayor Lindsey made a turn at the event. And, yes, it was political. Nina Simone alone was so powerful, she’d have Dewey Crow raise his fist in salute. But Wattstax was also political, and in Chicago, even Nixon-supporting Sammy Davis Jr asserted his blackness.

There was little overlap between the three events. Rev Jesse Jackson spoke at all three of them, every time delivering the “I Am Somebody” litany.  Gladys Knight and the Pips were at the Harlem and PUSH events; The Staples Singers at Harlem and Wattstax. And Sly & The Family Stone were at Harlem and Woodstock, that summer of ’69.

I thoroughly recommend The Summer of Soul, which was directed by Qwestlove of The Roots. It is engrossing, exhilarating and emotional. The Guardian called it the best-ever music documentary ever, which is an excited claim. But if it isn’t, it’s certainly right up there among the best.

This mix is bringing together performances by soul acts from 1972 (the first six tracks are from the Wattstax and PUSH events) to 1985 (Maze featuring Frankie Beverley). In that way, it’s a festival across ages. I think the concept works well, and I probably will compile more such mixes for my pleasure. If this mix is getting a good reaction, I shall share those too.

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

1. Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft (Los Angeles, 1973)
2. Isaac Hayes – Soulsville (Los Angeles, 1973)
3. The Staple Singers – Respect Yourself (Los Angeles, 1973)
4. The Main Ingredient – Everybody Plays The Fool (Chicago, 1973)
5. The Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone (Chicago, 1973)
6. Rufus Thomas – The Breakdown (Los Angeles, 1973)
7. Curtis Mayfield – Superfly (Chicago, 1973)
8. Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine (New York, 1972)
9. Earth, Wind & Fire – Shining Star (1975)
10. Earth, Wind & Fire – Devotion (1975)
11. Maze feat. Frankie Beverley – Before I Let Go (Los Angeles, 1985)
12. Maze feat. Frankie Beverley – Joy And Pain (Los Angeles, 1985)
13. Al Jarreau – We’re In This Love Together (London, 1984)
14. Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Your Precious Love (Montreux, 1981)
15. Randy Crawford & Yellowjackets – Imagine (Montreux, 1981)
16. Rufus and Chaka Khan – Stay (New York, 1982)
17. Rufus and Chaka Khan – What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me (New York, 1982)

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Categories: 70s Soul, 80s soul, Live Mixes, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

Any Major Jimmy Webb Collection Vol. 3

August 12th, 2021 3 comments

On August 15, one of the great songwriters, of any generation, turns 75. It’s a good occasion to catch up with a long overdue third collection of Jimmy Webb compositions. The Jimmy Webb Collection Vol. 1 ran in May 2013, Vol. 2 a couple of months later.

Both of those mixes provide proof for just how many great songs — some more famous than others —  Webb wrote. Of course, tracks like Wichita Lineman, Galveston, Up Up And Away, Worst That Could Happen, MacArthur Park, or By The Time I Get To Phoenix (which I song-swarmed some time ago) are entrenched classics, but the list of superb Webb songs is so much longer.

Webb had a way of writing melodies that take residence under your skin, and lyrics that belong right up there with those of the likes of Hal David and Cole Porter. And like those two, Webb could do gentle pathos and humour. More than that, Webb could articulate extraordinary ideas in a pithy line. Take, by way of example, this line of If You Must Leave My Life: “Somewhere in my mouth, there’ll always be the taste of you.” Every time I hear it, it evokes a range of emotions from my own life: happy memories, bittersweet nostalgia, reflective regret…Webb enjoyed an astonishing series of hits before he was 25. In the 1970s, commercial success diminished, to the point that Webb wrote songs that expressed his frustration with the music business. The opening track here, Song Seller, is one of them.

The albums Webb recorded himself didn’t perform well, despite great reviews, which is a pity. One song here is sung by Webb. It’s from his excellent 1972 LP Letters, and features his sister Susan on co-vocals. Joni Mitchell fans might want to seek it out for her backing vocals on the song Simile (she also appeared on 1974’s Land’s End).

Jimmy’s vocals feature on another track on this collection, Once In The Morning (And Once At Night) by The Supremes. It comes from a 1972 album with the thoroughly self-explanatory title The Supremes Produced And Arranged By Jimmy Webb. Which brings us to the other Webbian superpower: the arrangements. As it is with Bacharach, you can recognise a Webb arrangement. There certainly is something as the Jimmy Webb sound. Apparently, Webb is the only artist ever to have received Grammy Awards for music, lyrics, and orchestration. I recommend Thelma Houston’s debut album Sunshower as the best representative example of these three qualities at work.

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

1. Raiders – Song Seller (1972)
2. Jimmy Webb – When Can Brown Begin (1972)
3. Johnny Rivers – Carpet Man (1967)
4. Dusty Springfield – Magic Garden (1968)
5. Thelma Houston – Someone Is Standing Outside (1969)
6. Eddie Kendricks – I Did It All For You (1971)
7. Billy Paul – This Is Your Life (1972)
8. Joe Cocker – Just Like Always (1982)
9. Swing Out Sister – Forever Blue (1989)
10. Art Garfunkel – Crying In My Sleep (1977)
11. Cher – Just This One Time (1975)
12. Kenny Loggins – If You Be Wise (1977)
13. David Crosby – Too Young To Die (1993)
14. Tanya Tucker – There’s A Tennessee Woman (1990)
15. Waylon Jennings – If You See Me Getting Smaller (1977)
16. Revelation – One Of The Nicer Things (1970)
17. Brooklyn Bridge – Requiem (1968)
18. Richard Harris – Name Of My Sorrow (1968)
19. Arrival – (Let My Life Be) Your Love Song (1971)
20. Little Janice – Mirror Mind (1969)
21. The Supremes – Once In The Morning (And Once At Night) (1972)

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Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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

Any Major Rain

July 29th, 2021 4 comments

Last week we had really bad weather. Rain, rain and more rain. Which is a blessing, of course, if you are living in regions of drought, but a curse when you have no secure home or live in a territory that floods in times of heavy rains.

So I put together a mix of songs about rain — real the actual meteorological phenomenon, and about wet weather as a metaphor. Some of the tracks are obvious. It was while humming Rainy Night In Georgia in the shower — artificial rain! — that I decided to compile this collection. A few obvious ones are missing: no raindrops keeping falling on heads, no always raining on me, no Beatles backward sound-noodling… Maybe in Volume 2, should here be one.

I think the result is a great way of spending a rainy day — or a hot day when one could do with a downpour. Funny enough, as I’m writing this, the sun is shining!

As ever, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-dried covers. PW in comments.

1. Love Unlimited – Walking In The Rain (1972)
2. Lea Roberts – Laughter In The Rain (1975)
3. Randy Crawford – Tender Falls The Rain (1980)
4. Ray Charles – Rainy Night In Georgia (1972)
5. The Pogues – A Rainy Night In Soho (1986)
6. The Jesus And Mary Chain – Happy When It Rains (1987)
7. Jimi Hendrix Experience – One Rainy Wish (1967)
8. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Have You Ever Seen The Rain (1970)
9. Flying Burrito Brothers – Wind and Rain (1975)
10. Lovin’ Spoonful – Rain On The Roof (1966)
11. Joni Mitchell – Rainy Night House (1970)
12. Keith Whitley – I’m No Stranger To The Rain (1989)
13. Chris Isaak – Waiting For The Rain To Fall (1987)
14. Justin Townes Earle – Memphis In The Rain (2012)
15. Richard Hawley – Early Morning Rain (2009)
16. The Everly Brothers – Crying In The Rain (1961)
17. Johnnie Ray – Just Walking In The Rain (1956)
18. Irma Thomas – It’s Raining (1962)
19. Bobby Womack – It’s Gonna Rain (1969)
20. Marvin Gaye – I Wish It Would Rain (1970)
21. Margie Joseph – How Beautiful The Rain (1971)
22. Carrie Smith – Some Rainy Day (1983)
23. Donald Fagen – Walk Between Raindrops (1982)
24. Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain (1987)

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Any Major Neil Diamond Songbook

July 22nd, 2021 8 comments

 

When I was little, Neil Diamond was one of my mother’s favourite singers, alongside Cat Stevens. She’d also get excited when Engelbert Humperdinck appeared on TV, but she had none of his records. I assume that more than us crooning, she liked Engelbert’s luxuriously blow-dried hair. Of which Neil Diamond had a lot, too. Plus the lamé jackets.

As I became a teenager, I regarded Diamond as lamé and lame. His easy listening music was aimed at my mom, not at me. Forever In Blue Jeans was a boomer hymn, not aimed at my generation. And I assumed the name was a presumptuous moniker (turns out, it’s the guy’s real name).

For a long time, I didn’t dare to go near Diamond. Then I became the age of the people at whom Diamond had aimed his music. I still don’t go for the Forever In Blue Jeans stuff or the Streisand duet, but his 1960s and earlier ’70s stuff… well, that works for me. I also have a lot of time for his 2000s albums, especially the wonderful 12 Songs from 2005.

What a pity, then, that for many people, Neil Diamond means the hackneyed DA-DA-DA inserted by sports crowds into Sweet Caroline.

Diamond (who was born in 1941 and grew up in Brooklyn with future duet partner Barbra Streisand in his orbit) started out as part of a singing duo, Neil & Jack, and as a Brill Building songwriter. The duo flopped, but he made a name as a songwriter for acts like The Monkees, whose mega-hit I’m A Believer he wrote. His first Top 20 composition was in 1965, with Sunday And Me for Jay and the Americans. By 1966 he had a recording contract, recording his first hit, Solitary Man. It was the beginning of a fruitful career.

This mix features covers of songs from that long career. Strangely, some great songs have not been covered (such as the magnificent Brooklyn Roads) or not covered by many acts other than your James Lasts and Hugo Montenegros.

When UB40 had a hit with Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine in 1983, they apparently had no idea that it was a song by the lame-suited balladeer. The group thought they were covering (and, we may assume, improving) an original by reggae singer Tony Tribe, whose own cover of the song was released in 1969, two years after Diamond’s (Tribe’s version is added here as a bonus track. It might have been inspired by the 1968 soul version of Jamaica’s Jimmy James & The Vagabonds).  Several reggae artists covered Diamond: Holly Holy, for example, was covered to good effect by both Byron Lee & The Dragonaires and Willie Lindo; Bunny Scott did I Am…I Said; Marcia Griffiths did Play Me. As recently as 2013, Third World got their hands on Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon.

This collection includes a handful of songs written by Diamond but first recorded by others:  I’m A Believer and A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You were first hits for The Monkees, but feature here as covers — the latter in Diamond’s version. The Monkees themselves feature with their original of Diamond’s composition Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow), The Box Tops with Ain’t No Way, the Jay & The Americans track, and Glen Campbell with Sunflower.

As ever, CD-R length, home-song-sung-blued covers, linernotes in illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Neil Diamond – I’m A Believer (1970)
2. Bobby Womack – Sweet Caroline (1972)
3. Jr. Walker & The All Stars – Holly Holy (1970)
4. Deep Purple – Kentucky Woman (1968)
5. David Garrick – I Got The Feelin’ (1967)
6. Elvis Presley – And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind (1970)
7. Glen Campbell – Sunflower (1977)
8. Johnny Cash feat. Tom Petty – Solitary Man (2000)
9. Shane MacGowan & The Popes – Cracklin’ Rosie (1994)
10. The Specials – A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You (1996)
11. Marcia Griffiths – Play Me (1974)
12. Jimmy James & The Vagabonds – Red Red Wine (1968)
13. Millie Jackson – Love On The Rocks (1981)
14. Bunny Walters – Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon (1972)
15. Caterina Caselli – La casa degli angeli (I Am…I Said) (1971)
16. The Box Tops – Ain’t No Way (1969)
17. Wishful Thinking – Cherry, Cherry (1967)
18. The Monkees – Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) (1967)
19. Lafayette – Porcupine Pie (1973)
20. Frank Sinatra – Song Sung Blue (1980)
21. Peggy Lee – Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show (1969)
22. Malcolm & The Les Humphries Singers – Soolaimon (1970)
23. Jay & The Americans – Sunday And Me (1966)
Bonus Tracks:
Elvis Presley – Sweet Caroline (1970)
Willie Lindo – Holly Holy (1974)
Tony Tribe – Red, Red Wine (1969)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Leonard Cohen
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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

Any Major Soul 1990-92

July 15th, 2021 1 comment

 

 

While the Any Major Soul series will continue with the mixes covering the 1980s year-by-year (the most recent being Any Major Soul 1981), we’ll also be jumping ahead to the 1990s.

It was arguably the last “golden age” of soul, and the last decade in which soul was the dominant African-American genre. One might have fruitful arguments about how hip hop and soul have fused to such an extent that they are merchandise in the same bag, symbolised by the union of Beyoncé and Jay-Z. But today is not the time for that discussion, though the flirtation between soul and hip hop had already begun in the 1990s.

As the 1980s turned into the 1990s, soul became more youthful, even as veterans such as Roberta Flack and Luther Vandross were still scoring hits. Indeed, on this mix, several veterans strut their middle-aged stuff: Chaka Khan, Curtis Mayfield, Anita Baker and Gerald Alston (former lead singer of The Manhattans).

At the dawn of the 1990s, there was the New Jack Swing movement, pioneered already in the ’80s by people like Keith Sweat (remarkably, his real name), which drew from the rhythms of hip hop. In its purest form, it was short-lived, but its legacy was heavily felt throughout the decade and beyond. The awful 1980s synthethisers and screeching movie soundtrack guitars were fading away, and the primacy of the bass returned.

Return of the Band

After a decade-and-half of solo singers grabbing most of the success, groups were back. And their influences went way back to doo wop, as outfits like Boyz II Men (featured here with the marvellous Motownphilly), Shai, All-4-One et al showed. Girl bands were also back, and this time they needn’t be families like the Pointers, Sledges or Joneses.  Now there were mostly trios of Sistas: TLC, En Vogue, SWV, Jade, Eternal, Xscape, Brownstone and so on.

Of course, there were still solo singers, and some of them were of the old school, like the singer of this set’s stand-out track, Keith Washington. But new stars emerged, even if for a brief shift at the top. One of them was Johnny Gill, alumnus of New Edition, whose My My My offered the promise of first-rate sex in the class of Teddy Pendergrass. But where TP was all hairy face, Gill was shaved balls. Soul machismo had a new look, all short-sides and flattop, and waxed chests.

Sex ‘n’ Soul

In the 1990s, soul music became more sexually explicit, though not yet in the misogynistic crudeness which would be spearheaded in hip hop with its demeaning rhymes about assorted bitches and ho’s who reportedly ain’t shit. Our soul singers were still cut from the romantic cloth, and their romancing included few sartorial uses, other than the strategic discarding of garments. The vague suggestion of sweet lovin’ through the night, baby, became more specific in the soul mainstream, recalling TP’s radical proposal a decade earlier of showering together for the purpose of mutually administered personal hygiene before sweaty proceedings could commence in the darkness.

Case in point: cunnilingus. Previously all kinds of metaphors would protect the fainthearted from exposure to this particular form of oral sex (and here we welcome the lost porn-googlers. Stick around, new arrivals, and enjoy the music). Pop band Spandau Ballet pushed the tongue out wide when in True, their 1983 hit, they referred to the “pill on my tongue”, which was not a pharmaceutical reference. Ten years later, Tony Toni Toné in their song Put Your Head On My Pillow issued an explicit instruction manual to cunnilingus (you find that track on Any Major Babymaking Music Vol. 2). And we will not even mention that unmentionable Bump n’ Grinder.

Soul Yodel

The 1990s produced the girl groups, but the decade also offered scope to female solo singers. The decade’s two biggest stars in soul were ground-breaking women: Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey (neither feature on this mix, but might well have). Both of them have become symbols for bombastic vocals with an excessive of melisma (the proper term for soul yodelling). Yet. both singers merit a thorough rehabilitation. They were magnificent vocalists with some great pop and a few superb soul songs (and also some unfortunate material). I shall discuss the melisma mania in the linernotes for the next mix, but it would be negligent of me to fail pointing out that summarily dismissing the vocals of I Will Always Love You or Vision Of Love simply because they include vocal gymnastics is an act of foolishness.

Women were taking their place of primacy in soul. I don’t imagine any major soul mix of the 1980s would kick off with five songs by women, or have a female presence of about two-thirds of the playlist. In my selection of tracks, this was entirely unintended. Even on the shortlist, men constituted only half of the volume. But it shows that in the 1990s, things in soul were changing.

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

1. Soul II Soul feat. Kym Mazelle – Missing You (1990)
2. The Chimes – True Love (1990)
3. Mary J. Blige – Real Love (1992)
4. SWV – Weak (1992)
5. Cheryl Pepsii Riley – I Don’t Wanna Be Alone (1991)
6. Keith Washington – Kissing You (1991)
7. Curtis Mayfield – Do Be Down (1990)
8. Gerald Alston – Slow Motion (1990)
9. Chanté Moore – Love’s Taken Over (1992)
10. Jade – Don’t Walk Away (1992)
11. Johnny Gill – My My My (1990)
12. Mica Paris – You Put A Move On My Heart (1992)
13. Lisa Fischer – How Can I Ease The Pain (1991)
14. Anita Baker – Soul Inspiration (1990)
15. Chaka Khan – Love You All My Lifetime (1992)
16. Boyz II Men – Motownphilly (1991)
17. Shai – If I Ever Fall In Love (1992)

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Any Major Soul 1960s
Any Major Soul 1970s
Any Major Soul 1980s

Categories: 80s soul, 90s Soul, Mix CD-Rs Tags: