Archive

Archive for the ‘Covers Mixes’ Category

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

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes
More CD-R Mixes

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

Joni Mitchell’s Blue Recovered

June 30th, 2021 1 comment

 

 

I have a terrible confession to make: I find it difficult to listen to Joni Mitchell when she hits those high notes. I know the loss of mine: Mitchell obviously is a great interpreter of her lyrics, and because her lyrics are so personal, the obviously most authentic one. Moreover, few singers convey irony in the way Mitchell does. And yet, I struggle with her singing — whereas I tolerate the far less accomplished warblings of other singers; Dylan being an obvious example.

To me, Joni Mitchell (in her folk period, at least) is like broccoli: a lot of people love it, and it’s really good for you. But I’d rather eat string beans. I do like the look of broccoli though. And to swing the vegetable metaphor back to the artist, I love many of Mitchell’s songs. And I own several Mitchell albums.

It’s a tribulation that manifests itself this year in particular, as the world marks the 50th anniversary of Joni Mitchell’s Blue album. In previous months I marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark albums Tapestry and What’s Going On by recovering them. Blue is in their landmark league, and like the albums released by Carole King in February 1971 and Marvin Gaye in May that year, was so upon its release on 22 June 1971. It broke a mold: here was a high-profile album by an independent woman singing lyrics that were highly personal and at times brutally honest. And her experiences and that candidness with which she expressed the freedom she asserted in song — in her life and in her travels — gave a voice to women who could identify with or at least aspire to them.

 

 

Given all that, recovering Blue seems a task of necessity. Having done so has allowed me to appreciate the genius of the album without the distraction of my voice hang-up. The past 20 years have seen a great number of covers. Strangely, between the late 1970s and mid-’90s, there seemed to be a widespread reluctance to cover songs from Blue, even the much-covered River and A Case Of You. So on this mix, there is a gap between early/mid-1970s and the late-1990s.

The most surprising cover here is by Nazareth, whose version of This Flight Tonight is a proper reworking. Apparently its riff inspired the more famous one of Heart’s Barracuda. Conversely, the most faithful cover here is that by Goldie Hawn’s of Carey (the song which I’d pick as my favourite on Blue). Turns out, Goldie could sing.

The “best” cover here might be Prince doing A Case Of You (strange that I love a good falsetto, but not soprano). Or maybe Brandi Carlile, that dedicated and superb interpreter of Mitchell’s songs, singing Blue’s rawest song, Little Green, live on a webcast in July 2020. Her high notes I do like, just to prove the randomness of my Joni problem (Listen to Carlile’s amusing Joni story). And Dianne Reeves’ version of River is quite outstanding. I add Rosie Thomas’ lovely version as a bonus.

The Supremes version of Blue’s opener, All I Want, was arranged and produced by Jimmy Webb, who will feature prominently here in a couple of week’s time. That mix will include a song from the same album that featured the song here.

The star of Joni Mitchell is always the lyrics. So here are ten songs of those wonderful words recovered, with home-dulcimered covers. PW in comments.

1. The Supremes – All I Want (1972)
2. Mandy Lagan – My Old Man (2018) BUY
3. Brandi Carlile – Little Green (2020)
4. Goldie Hawn – Carey (1972)
5. Cat Power – Blue (2008)
6. Wilson Phillips – California (2004)
7. Nazareth – This Flight Tonight (1973)
8. Dianne Reeves – River (1999)
9. Prince – A Case Of You (2007)
10. Legião Urbana – The Last Time I Saw Richard (1999)

GET IT! or HERE!

More Recovered albums:
Tapestry
What’s Going On
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Every Beatles album

More Cover Mixes:
Bob Dylan Songbooks
John Prine Songbook
Bill Withers Songbook
Bruce Springsteen Songbook
Steely Dan Songbook
Leonard Cohen Songbook
Elvis Presley Songbook
Chuck Berry Songbook
ABBA Songbook

And check out the Covered With Soul series

Categories: Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

What’s Going On Recovered

May 25th, 2021 4 comments

 

On May 21, it was 50 years since the release of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On LP, an album that broke the mould.

It certainly broke Motown’s rules, which preferred its artists to be apolitical — social commentary was permissible if it brought in cash, as it did with Edwin Starr’s War or The Temptations’ Ball Of Confusion or Gaye’s own cover of Dion’s Abraham, Martin & John. But Marvin Gaye wasn’t proposing an album of politics you can dance or sing along to; quite the contrary. This was a meandering exercise in quiet reflection on social ills, from economic inequality to drug abuse to racism to war to the ecology. Even Gil Scott-Heron provided some light relief on his Pieces Of A Man, recorded the month before What’s Going On came out (like Gaye’s album, it also featured a track titled Save The Children).

Motown also wasn’t in a habit of issuing concept albums. What’s Going On is just that — it is a reflection on various social ills from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran, a proxy for Gaye’s own brother Frankie. Gaye’s Christian faith permeates the exercise, not only in the song God Is Love but in its hopeful tone that the mess we’re in now can be redeemed.

What’s Going On is a song cycle LP, with one song fading into another, almost like a jazz concept album. That wasn’t the clean-cut, vigorous Marvin with his beautiful smile; this was a troubled man in a depressive state, surrounded by toxic people, facing a hostile world. At one point, Gaye had contemplated suicide. He was talked off the proverbial ledge by Berry Gordy Sr — evidently a better father than the one Marvin had.Just as Gaye was becoming sensitised to the politics of social justices, so was Obie Benson of The Four Tops. After witnessing the brutal suppression of an anti-war demo at Berkeley, he and Motown songwriter Al Cleveland wrote what would become What’s Going On, the song. The other Four Tops were not interested in a protest song, but over a game of golf, Benson offered it to Gaye, who took the song and then added his own tweaks to it.

The final version of the song was a series of happy accidents, with its saxophone into and multi-layered voices. Motown wasn’t going to release it — too political, too jazzy — but executives Harry Balk and Barney Ales managed to swing a single release in January 1971. It turned out to become Motown’s fastest-selling single ever. Now Berry Gordy Jr was interested, and gave Gaye until the end of March to record whatever he wanted. That was unprecedented at Motown, and would encourage Stevie Wonder to demand full creative control when time came to renew his Motown contract a year later.

To his credit, Gordy backed the final result of What’s Going On, even if it delivered little obvious potential for hit singles, unlike Stevie Wonder’s album Where I’m Coming From, released in April 1971, on which personal and socially conscious material is leavened with traditional love-song tracks like If You Really Love Me or Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer. Happily for Gordy, What’s Going On yielded two more Top 10 hits, Mercy Mercy Me and Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler).

What’s Going On was a very different album from others on Motown in content, and it was different in its cover art. The cover was designed by Curtis McNair, who was responsible for hundreds of Motown covers, with photographs by Jim Hendin. The latter had presented several photos he had taken of Gaye in the singer’s Detroit backyard (note the kids’ swing on the back cover). It was a wet winter’s day. Sleet settled on Marvin’s hair, water on his coat, and Gaye is looking pensively into the distance, as if trying to make sense of all this madness. But there is a little smile trying to emerge: this man is sad but strangely hopeful. Physically, Gaye is no longer the pretty face of the 1960s, but the beard accentuates those beautiful dark eyes. He looks mature and sensual. See more Hendin photos here.

Recovering What’s Going On is not entirely easy, and it required the inclusion of a song that’s not on the LP, I Want You, since it is part of a two-song medley by Robert Palmer. The only version of Flying High I was happy to use was that by Dizzy Gillespie (or that by Everette Harp, who covered the whole album in 1997, but I need him to feature with God Is Love). But Gillespie’s instrumental comes with Save The Children. That track, however, must feature with its lyrics, so the great Marlena Shaw reprises that song, with lyrics. I think Marvin Gaye would approve.

There are two final contenders for the title track which I found difficult to choose between. But since the album ends with a reprise of What’s Going On, the “losing” contender can go there.

As ever, CD-R length, home-conceptualised covers. Text above in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Donny Hathaway – What’s Goin’ On (live, 1971)
2. Keb’ Mo’ – What’s Happening Brother (2004)
3. Dizzy Gillespie – Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Sky)/Save The Children (1988)
4. Marlena Shaw – Save The Children (1972)
5. Everette Harp – God Is Love (1997)
6. Robert Palmer – Mercy Mercy Me/I Want You (1990)
7. Sons Of Slum – Right On (1971)
8. John Legend & The Roots – Wholy Holy (2010)
9. Gil Scott-Heron – Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler) (1981)
10. The Undisputed Truth – What’s Going On (1971)

GET IT! or HERE!

 

More Recovered albums:
Tapestry
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Every Beatles album

More Cover Mixes:
Bob Dylan Songbooks
John Prine Songbook
Bill Withers Songbook
Bruce Springsteen Songbook
Steely Dan Songbook
Leonard Cohen Songbook
Elvis Presley Songbook
Chuck Berry Songbook
ABBA Songbook

And check out the Covered With Soul series

Categories: Album cover art, Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

Tapestry Recovered

February 9th, 2021 11 comments

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

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

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

 

Jim McCrary in 1978

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

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

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

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

GET IT! or HERE!

 

More Cover Mixes
Previous great covers
More CD-R Mixes

Categories: Album cover art, Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

With The Beatles Recovered

December 8th, 2020 6 comments

 

Forty years ago tonight I decided to give the “Blue Album” of The Beatles, the 1967-70 compilation, a spin. Strawberry Fields Forever still skipped, and I still skipped Old Brown Shoe, a song I have never liked. I don’t recall what made me revisit The Beatles that night, but the LP was still on my turntable next morning.

That morning I had just awoken to the news on the radio alarm clock. I was in the motion of sitting up when the news reader announced that John Lennon had been murdered overnight. I sank back. How on earth do Beatles get assassinated? And John Lennon, my favourite who had just released his long-awaited comeback single? Unthinkable.

But I had to rouse myself to go to school. At the age of 14, you don’t have the option of exercising discretion in making grief over the murder of a celebrity the reason for your absence from the reception of an education. True to form, the assholes I went to school with “congratulated” me and the other Beatles fan in our class on the death of Lennon.

That other fan, let’s call him Tommy (it’s close enough), and I had never been friends. Now we bonded over the death of Lennon, and became very good friends, a friendship that lasted until I moved away two years later and we lost touch. Tommy, whom I have encountered again of Facebook, is still a dedicated Beatles fanatic, unconditionally loyal to the cherished memory of St Lennon. I never lost my love for The Beatles, though I’d be hardpressed to join Tommy in canonising John Lennon.

Lennon’s canonisation was inevitable, given his charisma, his musical genius, and the nature of his death. He was one of music’s martyrs, and hagiography allowed for no taint on his tale. I won’t go into the complexities of Lennon’s character, but I’ll say as much as that there was much to admire, and some things that were not. Like JFK, John Lennon had feet of clay.

Two months ago, on Lennon’ 80th birthday in October, I posted the Please, Please Me Recovered mix. Now, on the 40th anniversary of his murder, I offer the final Beatles Recovered collection, of With The Beatles, the group’s second album which was released in the UK on November 22, 1963. This brings to a close a six-year-long series of all Beatles albums in cover versions, in the song sequence of the original LPs (and posted on the 50th anniversary of their release).

It all started in 2014 with Beatles For Sale, which many regard as The Beatles’ weakest album. But it features so many superb tracks that it can’t be dismissed as easily as that. To my mind, With The Beatles is the group’s poorest album, but the one with the best cover (I wrote about the making of the cover some years ago).

Six of the 14 tracks were covers (those featured in this mix all came out after the Beatles versions). Of the own compositions, two of the first three tracks stand out — All My Loving and It Won’t Long — thereafter it’s hard to spot any classics, other, perhaps, than I Wanna Be Your Man, which The Beatles lent to the Rolling Stones for their first Top 20 hit. But, with one exception, those uncelebrated tracks aren’t bad. They just are not the level of genius as some of the songs that followed, and a coupler are improved in the cover versions here. The exception is Harrison’s Don’t Bother Me is a contender for worst Beatles song of all, in lyrics, musically, in production, and in George’s off-key singing. One night argue that Hold Me Tight is not very good either, but on this mix Count Basie turns it into great jazz tune.

I Wanna Be Your Man is represented in this collection by Suzi Quatro, in her 1973 glam rock pomp. Suzi didn’t bother to adapt the gender, though she sings the word “man” with a knowing wink. Well, Ringo sang The Shirelles’ Boys without changing gender, so why shouldn’t Quatro?

Two Beatles classics of songs didn’t find their way on to the album: I Want To Hold Your Hand, with the flip side being the gorgeous This Boy (in the UK and Europe). The former is represented on this mix by the Sparks, but I include another version as a bonus. It’s by Enoch Light and His Orchestra, who I like to think inspired for the name Electric Light Orchestra (who also feature here). This Boy closes the mix, and in Joe Bataan’s version, it is perhaps the highlight of this collection.

And with that, all Beatles albums have been recovered. Homebeatled covers and this whole text in illustrated PDF included. PW in comments.

1. Billy Cross – It Won’t Be Long (1986)
2. Louise Goffin – All I’ve Got To Do (1979)
3. Matt Monro – All My Loving (1965)
4. Gregory Phillips – Don’t Bother Me (1965)
5. Sonny Curtis – Little Child (1965)
6. Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston – Till There Was You (1965)
7. Carpenters – Please Mr Postman (1975)
8. Electric Light Orchestra – Roll Over Beethoven (1972)
9. Count Basie and His Orchestra – Hold Me Tight (1966)
10. William Bell – You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me (1977)
11. Suzi Quatro – I Wanna Be Your Man (1973)
12. Los Reno – Con el diablo en mi corazón (Devil In Her Heart) (1965)
13. Pretenders – Not A Second Time (1990)
14. Flying Lizards – Money (1979)
15. Sparks – I Want To Hold Your Hand (1976)
16. Joe Bataan – This Boy (1972)
Bonus Track:
Enoch Light and His Orchestra – I Want To Hold Your Hand (1964)

GET IT! or HERE!

On earlier versions, the Matt Munro track was corrupted. If your version has a long silence, try this one.

More Beatles Recovered:
Beatles Recovered: Please, Please Me
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles Recovered: White Album
Beatles Recovered: Yellow Submarine
Beatles Recovered: Abbey Road
Beatles Revcovered: Let It Be

MORE BEATLES STUFF!

Categories: Beatles, Covers Mixes Tags:

Beatles Recovered: Please Please Me

October 8th, 2020 8 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GET IT! or HERE!

More Beatles Recovered:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles Recovered: White Album
Beatles Recovered: Yellow Submarine
Beatles Recovered: Abbey Road
Beatles Revcovered: Let It Be

Categories: Beatles, Covers Mixes Tags:

Any Major John Prine Songbook

April 16th, 2020 10 comments

 

Just days after we learned of the passing of Bill Withers, John Prine left us, a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic. I made a Bill Withers Songbook mix , and here’s one for Prine.

Within their respective genres, Withers and Prine shared similarities. Where Withers never was quite the insider in soul music, so was Prine very much not an insider in country music. Both infused their songs with folk influences. Both had an acute sense of and empathy for the human condition, born of kind hearts, and this found expression in their often poetic lyrics.

Prine knew how to write a good tune and deliver it convincingly, but his genius resided in his lyrics. Like a good country singer, he knew how to tell a story. Sometimes he named his protagonists, and you got to know them in the space of three minutes. From just a few lines, you can picture the drug-addicted Vietnam vet Sam Stone, or the lonely outsiders Lydia and Donald.

He wrote Angel From Montgomery from the perspective of a prematurely aged middle-aged woman, and persuasively so. Extraordinarily, Prine was 24 and from Chicago when he wrote the song. Prine never was a jailbird, but he could imagine himself in prison at Christmas (in a song which really should have been covered by The Pogues).

Hello In There, is another great example of Pine’s empathy, perhaps his best. And that empathy is not just in the lyrics but also in their delivery and the song’s arrangement. Take those matter-of-fact clipped lines about the dispersal of the kids and losing Davy in the Korean War, juxtaposed with the drawn out lines of longing, about old trees growing stronger and old rivers growing wilder every day.

Of course, the song about lonely older people has particular relevance during the health crisis that killed Prine. Fittingly, Brandi Carlile sung that song as a tribute on Stephen Colbert’s show. Prefacing Hello In There, Carlile puts it eloquently: “It reminds us that old people aren’t expendable, that they made us who were are and they’ve given us every single thing that we have. Even though John never got to get old, and we all would’ve liked for him to…at the age of 24, when he wrote this song, he understood this.” Colbert’s heartfelt tribute, preceding Carlile’s performance, is also worth listening to.

Prine had an extraordinary warmth, and a wonderfully wry sense of humour. Happily, he was given a lifetime achievement award by the Grammys just a few weeks before his death. It was overdue, for his exquisite body of work and for the great love and respect he inspired from his fans and his fellow musicians.

Here is a mix of covers of Prine songs. Fans will know the originals, but I hope that people who are not familiar with John Prine’s songbook will give this collection a listen, enjoy it, and then seek out the original recordings.

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

1. Manfred Mann’s Earthband – Pretty Good (1973)
2. Al Kooper – Sam Stone (1972)
3. Bonnie Raitt – Angel From Montgomery (1974)
4. Loretta Lynn – Somewhere Someone’s Falling In Love (2000)
5. 10,000 Maniacs – Hello In There (1989)
6. The Avett Brothers – Spanish Pipedream (2010)
7. Johnny Cash – The Hobo Song (1982)
8. Kris Kristofferson – Late John Garfield Blues (1972)
9. Steve Goodman – Donald And Lydia (1971)
10. Reilly & Maloney – That’s The Way That The World Goes ‘Round (1980)
11. Nanci Griffith – Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness (1993)
12. Justin Townes Earle – Far From Me (2010)
13. The Flying Burrito Brothers – Quiet Man (1976)
14. After The First Gallon – Illegal Smile (1978)
15. The Everly Brothers – Paradise (1972)
16. Priscilla Coolidge-Jones – If You Don’t Want My Love (1979)
17. George Strait – I Just Want To Dance With You (2011)
18. Josh Ritter – Mexican Home (2010)
19. Weeping Willows – Christmas In Prison (2005)

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
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Leonard Cohen
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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

Any Major Bill Withers Songbook

April 3rd, 2020 3 comments

With Bill Withers, a giant of soul has left us, at the age of 81. He died on March 30, but his death was reported only today, April 3.

Withers was a superb songwriter — Lovely Day, Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean On Me, Use Me, Grandma’s Hands, Who Is He (And Who Is He To You) and so on are stone-cold soul classics. These and others are perfectly rendered in Withers hands, in their studio versions and often more so in their live performances. But their simplicity allowed other artists great freedom of reinterpretation, especially the slower numbers.

Other than the much-violated Lean On Me, few mediocre acts dared to take on a Withers track. If you dared to, better be prepared to match Withers’ artistry.

Al Jarreau, a tremendous interpreter of other people’s songs, recorded a whole album of Withers songs in 1979. Isaac Hayes included a couple of Withers songs in his live sets, turning Wither’s brief and simple Ain’t No Sunshine into a mini-jazz opera on his Live At The Sahara Tahoe album. Likewise, in this set, The Temptations remold the song, without compromising its integrity.

In my mind, Bill Withers and Gil Scott-Heron were comrades in the trenches. Both were men with something to say  — just hear Withers’ anti-war anthem I Can’t Write Left Handed — and the capacity to do so poetically, and then they set these great lyrics to engaging music. Bill and Gil weren’t the only ones, of course, but they were of a rare breed. Happily, Gil Scott-Heron recorded a Withers track, which features here.

In this present collection, no singer is a mug — there are no pointless covers here. Whether they manage to justice to the originals, you may decide.

Rest in Peace, Bill Withers. May you be reunited with Grandma.

As ever, this mix fits on a standard CD-R, and includes home-made covers, plus a couple of bonus tracks. PW in comments.

1. Georgie Fame – Lovely Day (1979)
2. Al Green – Lean On Me (1984)
3. Gil Scott-Heron – Grandma’s Hands (1982)
4. Marlena Shaw – Just The Two Of Us (2004)
5. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Who Is She (And What Is She To You) (1973)
6. The Temptations – Ain’t No Sunshine (1972)
7. Scott Walker – Use Me (1973)
8. The 5th Dimension – Harlem (1974)
9. Aretha Franklin – Let Me In Your Life (1974)
10. Al Jarreau – Kissing My Love (1979)
11. Elkie Brooks – Paint Your Pretty Picture (1980)
12. Herb Alpert – Love Is (1979)
13. Carolyn Franklin – Sweet Naomi (1973)
14. Carmen McRae – I Wish You Well (1976)
15. Nancy Wilson – Hello Like Before (1997)
16. John Legend & The Roots – I Can’t Write Left Handed (2010)

GET IT! or HERE!

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

 

More Mixes
More Songbooks
More Covers Mixes

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

Any Major Schlager Covers Vol. 2

March 12th, 2020 4 comments

 

In a 1979 interview with the Swiss-German pop magazine, Schlager singer Benny was asked whether recording German versions of foreign songs wasn’t a cop-out for producing good local music. Benny answered along the lines that German versions help listeners with no foreign language skills understand the original song.

But Benny was wrong: at the time the singer himself issued versions of Plastic Bertrand’s Ça Plane Pour Moi and Sham 69’s If The Kids Are Alright, and their lyrics failed to resemble the lyrics of the original. The interviewer had a point: good German tunes were thin on the ground, until the New German Wave hit a couple of years later.

In Any Major Schlager Covers Vol. 1 we looked at German covers of international hits, some of which were pretty good, and others were curious. This second mix repeats that exercise.

It kicks off with the most iconic of the lesser-known cover, a cover of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid by the most quintessential of square Schlager singers, the husband-and-wife duo Cindy & Bert. The Sabbath cover was released when they were still doing music part-time, seeing themselves as serious musicians. Soon Cindy & Bert became staples of clap-along Schlager songs, mostly on Fernweh themes of exotic locations and Spanish guitars in Malaga. Cindy & Bert competed in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, which Sweden’s ABBA won while the German pair finished rock bottom of the table.

Some Schlager singers successfully straddled the line between cultured chanson and banal Schlager. One of them was Greek-born and Germany-raised singer Vicky Leandros, whose father gave up his successful music career to mentor his daughter to stardom. His plan worked: Leandros created two of the great Eurovision classics, both in French representing Luxembourg (no Brexit in the Leandros household): L’amour est Bleu and Aprés Toi (better known in English as Love Is Blue and Then Came You; both featured on Any Major Eurovision). Here Leandros, who also did a fine cover of My Sweet Lord, reinterprets The Box Tops’ The Letter.

Likewise, the great Katja Ebstein was a credible singing artist who had success in Schlager (and in the Eurovision Song Contest, which she finished as runner-up three times). She featured in Vol. 1; here she covers Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now. In terms of vocals, I prefer Ebstein’s to those of Mitchell or Judy Collins.

Also part of the Schlager scene but transcending it was the sassy Juliane Werding, who as a 16-year-old landed a huge hit with an anti-drug version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Personal problems got in the way of her career which was marked by several comebacks.

The late Jürgen Marcus, on the other hand, was a Schlager singer of the intergenerational clap-along variety, though one always suspected that he could have been much better than that (as did he). His competent but unconvincing cover of the Bee Gees’ Massachussets gives little indication of that, though the arrangement is very nice. Perhaps he was better off singing those catchy Schlager hits.

Also going back to the canon of mid-1960s ballads is Thomas Fritsch’s version of Wichitia Lineman, which also is scored in good taste, with a nice piano solo. Fritsch was an acting star, starting his long career as a child, and never really had great success as a singer.

The weedy voice that croons the Eagles’ New Kid In Town on the old theme of seductive 17-year-olds is that of Frank Farian, who became the male and a female voice of Boney M., and later had Milli Vanilli lip-sync for him.

 

One act here comes from East-Germany, which was not exactly not a mine of pop jewels. So it seems quite fitting that ABBA would be covered by a choir ensemble, the eight-member Gerd Michaelis Chor. Their cover of Waterloo, recorded soon after ABBA won the Eurovision, does the right thing: play it straight, and accept that it won’t be superior to the original.

As a teenager Suzanne Doucet had her first hit with her German take on The Ronettes’ Be My Baby. The daughter of a well-known psychologist went on to become a prolific songwriter, producer and music entrepreneur, as well as an actress. Much of her career was devoted to new age music.

I take no responsibility for some pretty weird covers here. Rock & roll singer John Dattelbaum’s version of Dion’s Runaway is included for its WTF qualities. In it, the singer styles himself as Mädchenschreck (one who frightens off girls); his vocal performance confirms the validity of the title.

Gaby Baginsky recorded her German version of Paul McCartney’s Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey in 1972, a few years before she became a star with traditionally banal Schlager numbers. Incredibly, somebody thought it was a good idea to, firstly, cover that song, and, secondly, to issue her cover as a single. I recently learnt that I had once seen Baginsky in concert, as a support act. I had no memory of that in any way.

At least four acts here are very much not Schlager stars. Christopher & Michael were protest singers in the 1960s, so it seemed obvious that they would cover Barry McGuire’s Eve Of Destruction. The lyrics are certainly heartfelt, and issue a timely reminder that Germans should look at their own society before calling for “Death to Red Russia”. But some in the protest movement saw the twosome as a bit naïve and embarrassing. Joan Baez didn’t think so: she appeared alongside them during a famous protest in Frankfurt in 1966.

I have written before about Jürgen Zeltinger, an overweight, balding, openly gay punk singer often seen in a kaftan who delivered his lyrics in Kölsch, the dialect specific to Cologne. I’ve also posted his cover of the Ramones’ Rockaway Beach before, but include it here because it is so good.

Marius Müller-Westernhagen was better known as an actor before he became a well-known, often quotable rock singer. His voice was not very good, but his lyrics had punch, often of the satirical variety. And then it wasn’t always clear whether he meant it or not, as it was with his song Dicke (“fat people”), which lyrically more than borrowed from Randy Newman’s Short People. Here Müller-Westernhagen adapts Paul McCartney’s sincere but artless Give Ireland Back To The Irish to a call to give Bavaria back to the Bavarians, for the good of West-Germany. For US readers, it’s a bit like telling Texas to secede for the greater good of the USA — except many secession-minded Bavarians would agree with Marius.

Finally, there is The Hunters doing a German cover of the Sweet’s Fox On The Run. The Hunters were already active as an English-language rock band: The Scorpions.

As a bonus track, I offer you the first German rap record, a cover of Rapper’s Delight performed by a trio of German TV music show presenters: Frank Laufenberg, the superbly-named Manfred Sexauer, and Thomas Gottschalk as G.L.S.-United. It is a total disaster as the trio recall their musical influences: other than Gottschalk mentioning “disco, from time to time” and Sexauer remembering Little Richard, they have no black influences. But they rap…

 

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

1. Cindy & Bert – Der Hund von Baskerville (1970 – Paranoid)
2. Gus Ferlin – Es steht ein Haus im Westen (1966 – House Of The Rising Sun)
3. Inga – The Beat Goes On (1967 – The Beat Goes On)
4. Lisa Bauer – Song vom Hilfsarbeiter (1971 – Son Of A Preacherman)
5. Peter Horton – Mrs Robinson (1971 – Mrs Robinson)
6. Christopher & Michael – Wir sind am Ende (1965 – Eve Of Destruction)
7. Jürgen Marcus – Warum kann ich deine Liebe nicht vergessen? (1971 – Massachusetts)
8. Thomas Fritsch – Draht in der Sonne (1969 – Wichita Lineman)
9. Howard Carpendale – Heiss wie Feuer (1971 – Ring Of Fire)
10. Bernd Spier – Memphis Tennessee (1964 – Memphis, Tennessee)
11. John Dattelbaum – Mädchenschreck (1961 – Runaway)
12. Suzanne Doucet – Sei mein Baby (1964 – Be My Baby)
13. Die Five Tops – Frag doch nur dein Herz (1965 – Trains And Boats And Planes)
14. Marion Maerz – Warten und hoffen (1971 – Wishing And Hoping)
15. Vicky Leandros – Er hat mir geschrieben (1971 – The Letter)
16. Anita Traversi – Es ist so schön verliebt zu sein (1965 – As Tears Go By)
17. Katja Ebstein – Beide Seiten (1973 – Both Sides Now)
18. Drafi Deutscher – Weil ich Dich liebe (1970 – Wigwam [by Bob Dylan])
19. Frank Farian – Sie war erst 17 (1977 – New Kid In Town)
20. Gerd Michaelis Chor – Waterloo (1974 – Waterloo)
21. Juliane Werding – Da staunste, was (1977 – Howzat)
22. The Hunters (Scorpions) – Fuchs geh’ voran (1975 – Fox On The Run)
23. Zeltinger Band – Müngersdorfer Stadion (1979 – Rockaway Beach)
24. Benny – Bin wieder frei (1978 – Ça Plane Pour Moi)
25. Marius Müller-Westernhagen – Gebt Bayern zurück an die Bayern (1972 – Give Ireland Back To The Irish)
26. Gaby Baginsky – Von Calais nach Dover (1972 – Admiral Halsey)
Bonus:  G.L.S.-United – Rapper’s Deutsch (1980 – Rapper’s Delight)

GET IT! or HERE!

More Curious German
More mixes

Categories: Covers Mixes, German stuff, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

Beatles Recovered: Abbey Road

September 26th, 2019 6 comments

 

September 26 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Abbey Road, the album which many regard as The Beatles’ true masterpiece. I count myself among those, even as I prefer to listen to Help. Abbey Road certainly was an audacious album, with its collection of half-finished songs on Side 2.

And what a collection of half-finished songs they are. Because none of them were singles or feature on compilations, they are The Beatles’ “hidden” treasures. The people who feature here obviously saw the genius that runs through the medley, and most covered these tracks as songs in their own, full right.

It is Side 2 that deserves genius status, from Here Comes The Sun — the side’s only fully-fledged song — to The End (we’ll disregard McCartney’s silly coda to the queen as the unnecessary gimmick of a royalist toady which it was). Side 1 is rather hit-and-miss. Of course, Something is a stone-cold classic, and Come Together is great, if you don’t get annoyed by it. But until the great slow-burning blues of I Want You, with its moog-created wind effect, there’s a trio of entirely dispensable songs.

Of those, Paul’s attempt at doing soul, Oh Darling, can be said to have some value, but the Yellow Submarine sequel Octopus’s Garden is a weak point on the album. Some suggest that Ringo’s song is still better than Paul’s murder ballad Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. Here Paul again went into dancehall mode, as he did on Sgt Pepper’s with When I’m 64 and on the White Album with Honey Pie.

Not surprisingly, few artists have bothered to cover Maxwell’s Silver Hammer with great seriousness. The version here is in German by a Brazilian singer called Teddy Lee who seems to have been part of The Rotations, who had an early 1970s hit in Europe with Ra-Ta-Ta. His version is what the song deserves: not lacking in respect, but nothing that merits huge respect either.

On the other hand, the great a cappella band The Persuasions deliver an appealing version of Octopus’s Garden, and Oh Darling produced three strong contenders. In the event, I picked Roberta Flack’s slow-burning version over those by Joy Unlimited and The Persuasions (whose lead singer Jerry Lawson died shortly after I compiled this mix).

There are four bonus tracks of songs which The Beatles released on single during the Abbey Road timeframe. Of those, Get Back gets a gratuitous airing, since it will reappear (in a different version, obviously) on Let It Be Recovered.

As ever, CD-R mix, home-zebracrossed covers. PW in comments.

1. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Come Together (1975)
2. Isaac Hayes – Something (1970)
3. Teddy Lee – Maxwells Silberhammer (1969)
4. Roberta Flack – Oh! Darling (2012)
5. The Persuasions – Octopus’s Garden (2002)
6. George Benson – I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (1969)
7. Nina Simone – Here Comes The Sun (1971)
8. Gary McFarland – Because (1970)
9. Sarah Vaughan – You Never Give Me Your Money (1981)
10. The Bee Gees – Sun King (1976)
11. Cornershop – Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam (2009)
12. Los Lonely Boys – She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (2009)
13. Carmen McRae – Golden Slumber/Carry That Weight (1971)
14. London Sympathy Orchestra – The End (1987)
15. Tok Tok Tok – Her Majesty (2005)

Bonus Tracks
Jessi Colter – Get Back (1976)
Randy Crawford – Don’t Let Me Down (1976)
Teenage Fanclub – The Ballad Of John And Yoko (1995)
Leslie West – Old Brown Shoe (2004)

GET IT!

More Beatles Recovered:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles Recovered: White Album
Beatles Recovered: Yellow Submarine
Beatles Recovered: Abbey Road
Beatles Revcovered: Let It Be

Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Any Bizarre Beatles

Beatles Reunited: Everest (1971)
Beatles Reunited: Live ’72 (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Smile Away (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Photographs (1974)
Beatles Reunited: ’77 (1977)
Beatles Reunited: Let It See (1980)

Categories: Beatles, Covers Mixes Tags: