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Any Major Top 75 Acts (57-75)

January 26th, 2021 2 comments

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Any Major Dude Kills Fascism

January 19th, 2021 4 comments

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Any Major Fusion Vol. 1

January 14th, 2021 3 comments

It began with Miles Davis and broke down with Kenny G. Jazz Fusion, and the various guises in which it revealed itself, began with the experimental fusion of jazz and rock of Davis’ 1968 album Miles In The Sky. The likes of John McLoughlin, Herbie Hancock, Al Di Meola, Chick Corea, Bob James and so on continued in that avant garde vein. But other, more funk and soul oriented musicians, emerged in the 1970s, and many of the avant garde crowd also contributed to the rise of the more accessible form of fusion, the kind that would be saddled with the horrible moniker “smooth jazz”.

And it”s from the tradition of that horribly monikered “smooth jazz” that this compilation draws, with the intention to rehabilitate the genre, and to reclaim it from the generic and often utterly dull rubbish that also goes by the horrible (but in their case entirely apt) moniker. Be assured that there’s also some unsmooth material by people like Oliver Sain and Bill Summers, plus a great jazz-disco number by veteran saxophonist Houston Person (and check out his phallocentric LP cover; will the lady blow it?).

There is nothing wrong with smooth. Marvin Gaye was smooth. Many great things are smooth. Smooth can be bad. Kenny G is smooth and bad. Gerald Albright is smooth and dull. But in his day, Grover Washington Jr was smooth and great.

Many of the fusion greats were session musicians. And many great session musicians would play on their colleagues” records. I would wager that the jazz fusion scene was the most racially integrated genre in modern music.

Dave Grusin is probably most famous as the Oscar-winning composer of film scores (he wrote the music for films such as Tootsie, The Milagro Beanfields, The Fabulous Baker Boys and The Firm), but through his GRP label, he fostered much great jazz. His beautiful Anthem International features Lee Ritenour on guitar and Steve Gadd on drums. You’ll have heard Gadd’s drumming: on Steely Dan’s Aja, perhaps, or on Paul Simon’s One Trick Pony (which also featured guitarist Eric Gale), or you might have seen him on DVD, backing Simon & Garfunkel in Central Park and Eric Clapton at Hyde Park. Or, of course, you might have downloaded the three mixes in the Steve Gadd Collections that have been posted here: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 Vol. 3 are all still up.

Gadd also appears on Grover Washington’s East River Drive, alongside the great percussionist Ralph McDonald (who also produced the album it comes from), the brilliant bassist Marcus Miller (who played with Ritenour on Tom Browne’s Funkin’ For Jamaica), keyboard player Richard Tee (whom you’ve also seen on Simon & Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park; but just check out his amazing list of credits, accumulated before his death at 49) and Eric Gale.

Meanwhile, Hugh Masekela guests on Eric Gale‘s equally gorgeous Blue Horizon, and Earth, Wind & Fire turn up on Ramsey Lewis‘ Whisper Zone (whose keyboard solo reaches a note that might shatter crystal). EWF’s Maurice White also co-produced Roy Ayers‘ Everybody Loves The Sunshine.

The Montana Sextet aren’t very famous, though the Heavy Vibes single did fairly well. They were led by and named after Vincent Montana Jr, founder of the Salsoul Orchestra and percussionist of Philadelphia International’s houseband MFSB, who died in 2013. The man’s credits were dizzying.

We encounter Joe Sample in this mix as a member of the Crusaders, but also as the composer of Blue Mitchell‘s catchy Asso-Kam, on which he also did keyboard duty.

All but two of the acts on this mix are American; quite by chance, the exceptions are the opener, Iceland’s Mezzoforte, and the closer, Sadao Watanabe, who is Japanese — and whose track features Dave Grusin, Ralph McDonald, Richard Tee and Steve Gadd.

And if all this sounded familiar, you might have been reading this nine years ago, when I first posted this mix.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and comes with homefused front and back cover. PW in comments

TRACKLISTING:
1. Mezzoforte – Garden Party (1983)
2. Montana Sextet – Heavy Vibes (1982)
3. George Duke – Brazilian Love Affair (1979)
4. Ramsey Lewis – Whisper Zone (1980)
5. Spyro Gyra – Morning Dance (1979)
6. Tania Maria – Come With Me (1982)
7. Blue Mitchell – Asso-Kam (1973)
8. Eric Gale – Blue Horizon (1981)
9. Dave Grusin – Anthem Internationale (1982)
10. Grover Washington Jr. – East River Drive (1981)
11. Crusaders – Keep That Same Old Feeling (1976)
12. Oliver Sain – London Express (1975)
13. Bill Summers & Summers Heat – Brazilian Skies (1977)
14. Houston Person – Do It While You Can (1977)
15. Roy Ayers – Everybody Loves The Sunshine (1976)
16. Sadao Watanabe – Nice Shot (1980)

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Any Major Favourites 2020 – Vol. 2

January 7th, 2021 3 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Any Major Favourites 2020 – Vol. 1

January 1st, 2021 6 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Brill Building Covered Vol. 1

November 25th, 2020 13 comments

A number of people lately commented that they had discovered this corner of the Internet only recently. Some might trawl back a few years to catch up — I think most mixes are still up — but not everybody will. So I shall periodically repost good mixes which time has swallowed. “Recycling Wednesday”, we might call it. Here’s one from seven years ago, which in October 2013 I optimistically dubbed “Vol. 1”; I never got around to do a second volume. Maybe this post will be so popular as to get my sorry ass moving in that regard.

 

Brill Building Covered

 

It might be the greatest hit machine in pop history, in the good company of Tin Pan Alley and Motown; its influence on pop music was pivotal. The Brill Building was in New York, but the songs were recorded on both sides of the US coast, and anywhere in between.

The Brill Building, at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in Manhattan, serves as the collective term for the song factory that created an incredible string of classic pop hits in the 1960s. It was really an office block of music publishers, housing 165 of them in 1962. The songs were mostly written up the road, such as in the buildings at 1650 Broadway, HQ of Aldon Music, and at 1697 Broadway, the latter also housing the CBS TV auditorium, now known as the Ed Sullivan Theater.

The scene was a veritable hit conveyor belt, with songwriters working their 9-to-5s in cubicles, expected to turn in their masterpieces at regular intervals, often at command. Many of these songwriters, usually teams of two, have become legends in the trade: Carole King & Gerry Goffin, Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield, Cynthia Weil & Barry Mann… Some of these were supervised by another legendary pair of writers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, or by impresarios such as Don Kirshner, the co-owner of Aldon Music who’d later launch The Monkees. Neil Diamond launched his superstar career from the base of the Brill Buildings, were he started out as a songwriter, as did a youngster named Jerry Landis, whom you’d now address as Paul Simon, and the great, underrated Laura Nyro.

The Brill Building became a byname for a sound in the early 1960s, when producers like Phil Spector recorded them with acts like The Ronettes and The Chiffons (also receiving co-writing credits on some), and bands like the Beach Boys borrowed their songs. Many of the songs were recorded in LA with the backing of The Wrecking Crew, a group of session musicians on whom I intend to spend some time in future posts. In New York, acts like The Drifters relied on the Brill Building to supply their long string of timeless hits. British acts also recorded the Brill Sound. The Searchers did several, The Animals scored a huge hit with one, as did Manfred Mann, and The Beatles played one track, featured here, at their ill-fated Decca audition (they later recorded The Cookies’ “Chains”, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King).

 

Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King, Barry & Greenwich, Mann & Weil

Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King, Barry & Greenwich, Mann & Weil

It is sometimes argued that the Brill Building scene tamed rock & roll. Here music was run by business people as a business. The spontaneity and rebellion of the individualistic rock & roll was now displaced by managed calculation with both eyes on the bottomline, the argument goes.

I don’t quite buy it. When RCA signed Elvis, it calculated on his image. Most labels did the same. In fact, rock & roll had been tamed by the time Phil Spector collaborated with Greenwich and Barry to create hits like “Be My Baby”. Almost concurrent with the Brill Sound, Barry Gordy in Detroit constructed another hit factory that was rooted entirely in commercial calculation. In both instances, the entrepreneurs made their money, and we received a rich legacy of astonishing music.

Rock & roll would soon reassert its rebellion anyway, with the advent of the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, The Who and so on. At the same time, the Brill Building left us with an arsenal of incredible, timeless songs. Featured here are 26 of them, mostly covers. If the mix goes down well, there’ll be a second volume to include all the songs you just cannot believe I have omitted.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-decomposed covers. PW is the same as always.

1. The Beach Boys – I Can Hear Music (1969, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)
2. Dion and The Belmonts – Save The Last Dance For Me (1960, Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman)
3. The Four Seasons – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (1964, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield)
4. Helen Shapiro – It Might As Well Rain Until September (1964, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
5. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Then He Kissed Me (1963, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
6. The Searchers – Da Doo Ron Ron (1963, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
7. Françoise Hardy – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1968, King & Goffin)
8. Laura Nyro – Up On The Roof (Live) (1971, King & Goffin)
9. Cissy Houston – Be My Baby (1971, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
10. Peggy Lee – (You Made Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman (1969, King & Goffin)
11. Dusty Springfield – That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho) (1969, King & Goffin)
12. Dobie Gray – River Deep, Mountain High (1973, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
13. The 5th Dimension – Soul And Inspiration (1974, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil)
14. The Persuasions – Chapel Of Love (1979, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
15. The Beatles – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1962, King & Goffin)
16. The Walflower Complextion – Hanky Panky (1966, Barry & Greenwich)
17. The Mamas and The Papas – Spanish Harlem (1966, Jerry Leiber & Phil Spector)
18. Carpenters – One Fine Day (1973, King & Goffin)
19. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (1972, Mann, Weil & Spector)
20. Blue Öyster Cult – We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (1978, Mann & Weil)
21. Grand Funk Railroad – The Loco-Motion (1974, King & Goffin)
22. Ramones – Needles And Pins (1978, Jack Nitzsche & Sonny Bono)
23. Tracey Ullman – Where The Boys Are (1984, Sedaka & Greenfield)
24. Dave Edmunds – Baby I Love You (1972, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
25. Bette Midler – Leader Of The Pack (1972, Morton, Barry, Greenwich)
26. Ellie Greenwich – Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home (1973, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)

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Any Major Southern Rock

November 12th, 2020 11 comments

After the events of last week, I thought some people may need a little solace through the medium of music. So here’s a mix of Southern Rock songs which should unite the blue and the red and the orange in displays of face-contorting air-guitar solos.

Of course, one of the great air-guitar songs is Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd. That doesn’t feature here. Nor does this mix feature their southern pride anthem Sweet Home Alabama. Nor Charlie Daniels’ The South Is Going To Do It Again — though both acts feature here, naturally.

The closest we come to Confederation flag-waving here is the opening track, which became an earworm whenever US election coverage mentioned Alleghene County in Pennsylvania. I had to remind myself that the song is about the land Dewey Crowe’s cousins from Justified (how would they have voted, I wonder).

Molly Hatchet’s Gator Country cites many of the fellow Southern Rock acts who appear on this mix, by way of humorous one-upmanship in defence of Florida’s superiority. “I’ve been to Alabama, people ain’t a whole lot to see; Skynyrd says it’s a real sweet home but it ain’t nothing to me. Charlie Daniels will tell you the good Lord lives in Tennessee, ha! But I’m going back to gator country where the wine and the women are free.”

Richard “Dickey” Betts gets namechecked, too. The guitarist with The Allman Brothers Band takes the lead vocals and lead guitar on the track featured here, which is also mentioned on Gator Country.

And how exactly do we define Southern Rock? According to Wikipedia, it drives from rock & roll, country and blues, and is focused generally on electric guitars and vocals. So far so easy, but who qualifies for inclusion and who doesn’t? Well, one condition ought to be origin in the southern states of the US, and some kind of lyrical affinity with the region. Some acts that are often (but not invariably) included in lists of Southern Rock acts are Creedence Clearwater Revival (from California) and The Band (Canada). Of course, the latter included Levon Helms, who was from Arkansas and sings lead on the featured track. How purist should one be about such things? I don’t know, but I excluded the Atlanta Rhythm Section and Orleans, because they don’t really sound like the others.

If this mix is popular, there will be a second volume. If so, I might extend it beyond the 1970s (which I do here once) to include acts like Drive-By Truckers, .38 Special, Doc Holliday, Georgia Satellites, Bishop Black or the Black Crowes. If that happens, rest assured that Kid Rock will not feature.

No Confederate flags may be flown while listening to this mix. As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-gatorwrestled covers.  PW in comments.

1. Molly Hatchet – Gator Country (1978)
2. Wet Willie – Country Side Of Life (1974)
3. Little Feat – Dixie Chicken (1973)
4. Marshall Tucker Band – Can’t You See (1973)
5. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Simple Man (1973)
6. Charlie Daniels Band – High Lonesome (1976)
7. Boondoggle & Balderdash – I’ve Been Delayed (1971)
8. The Allman Brothers Band – Ramblin’ Man (1973)
9. Ozark Mountain Daredevils – If You Want To Get To Heaven (1973)
10. Black Oak Arkansas – Uncle Lijiah (1971)
11. Barefoot Jerry – Smokies (1975)
12. The Band – Up On Cripple Creek (1969)
13. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Someday Never Comes (1972)
14. Blackfoot – Diary Of A Workingman (1981)
15. The Outlaws – Green Grass & High Tides (1975)
16. Edgar Winter’s White Trash – Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo (1972)
17. ZZ Top – Tush (1974)
18. Elvin Bishop – Have A Good Time (1975)

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Standing Together

November 2nd, 2020 29 comments

 

 

Dedicated followers of this quiet corner of the Internet might have found the site down for the past week. What happened? Well, it got attacked by hackers, infesting it with malware. I like to blame the spraytanned sphinctermouth’s agents for it, but it might just have been a coincidence that it followed the post of songs about orange.

Fixing the damage was quite expensive, and due to my current circumstances (thanks, 2020!) beyond my immediate possibilities. I posted of my woes on Facebook, and a number of followers came through in a big way, chipping in with contributions that enabled me to pay a service that removes malware and — importantly, as it turns out — protect me from Sphinctermouth’s agents.

This awkwardly-named mix is my thanks to the people who contributed so generously. It tells of friendship and solidarity. And, in good halfhearted fashion, it’s absurdly eclectic. So we have Syl Johnson covering The Beatles in funky fashion on an LP titled Is It Because I Am Black?, and eight tracks later a Beatle sings a kids’ song. And… I wasn’t aiming for irony. Yes, I’ll say it: I like We All Stand Together. It’s cute, it has a nice melody, and it is highly satisfying to sing along to it. Try it if you don’t believe me.

The reaction of people who came out to save this site has lifted me. They came from different places. They came from JB, who really wants Biden to win next week, and from TG, who supports Sphinctermouth. Music brings us together. Big support came from old friends from the early days of music blogging, and from some people unknown to me, but whom I shall love as I love my old compadres.

The support of kind people on Facebook — monetary and moral — has ensured the survival of the Any Major Dude With Half A Heart in more than technical ways. I was toying with the idea of retiring this blog, albeit with no firm plans of doing so. Their love showed that my work is actually appreciated, and thus has validated and encouraged me. I shall lock that in my heart, and draw from it every time a post gets no comments.

As ever, CD-R length, home-begged covers, PW in comments.

1. Big Star – Thank You Friends (1975)
2. Steely Dan – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (1974)
3. The Undisputed Truth – With A Little Help From My Friends (1973)
4. Rosetta Hightower – Friendship Train (1971)
5. Frederick Knight – Lean On Me (1973)
6. The Persuasions – He Ain’t Heavy / You’ve Got A Friend (1971)
7. Carole King – We Are All In This Together (1974)
8. Buzzy Linhart – Friends (1971)
9. The Kinks – All Of My Friends Were There (1968)
10. The Kingston Trio – Let’s Get Together (1964)
11. Wilbert Harrison – Let’s Work Together (1969)
12. Syl Johnson – Come Together (1970)
13. Leon Haywood – You Need A Friend Like Mine (1975)
14. Arrival – Friends (1969)
15. Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend (1978)
16. Randy Travis – Heroes and Friends (1990)
17. Garth Brooks – Friends In Low Places (live) (1998)
18. Barenaked Ladies – If I Had $1000000 (1992)
19. Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis Jr. – Me And My Shadow (1963)
20. Paul McCartney – We All Stand Together (1984)

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Any Major Orange

October 20th, 2020 11 comments

There is a saying that when the USA catches a cold, the world catches the ‘flu. Economically that may be true, but these days, when the USA catches Covid-19, the world shakes its head and says: “These clown are even crazier than we are.”

US voters will go to the polls in a couple of weeks’ time with an opportunity to get rid of the spraypainted blustermachine of venom and lies which has turned their country into an international laughing stock. And that is of vital interest to the world as well, because a United States that is run sensibly and with something approaching ethics (which, granted, it is only about 30% of the time) is better for the world than one that is so weak that it empowers Russia and China, and so hate-filled that it emboldens Nazis everywhere.

And while they are at it, US voters should also send packing those craven and spineless reptiles in the Houses of Congress who have enabled that racist, women-sexually-assaulting, truth-destroying, hatemongering, psychopathically misanthropic sphincter-mouth in the White House. Do it for your country, and do it for the world. And if you think others will do it for you because Biden has such a great lead: remember 2016!

And all this leads us into the Any Major Orange mix. A random mix (and aren’t they sometimes the best?) of songs that somehow riff on the theme of orange.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes an orange cover. PW in comments, where you might like to add “Orange Songs” to the list.

And, for the sake of love, vote that madman out of office!

1. Earth, Wind & Fire – Evolution Orange (1981)
2. The Attack – Lady Orange Peel (1968)
3. Lemon Pipers – Jelly Jungle Of Orange Marmalade (1968)
4. Peter Sarstedt – Frozen Orange Juice (1969)
5. Love – Orange Skies (1966)
6. Trash Can Sinatras – Orange Fell (1993)
7. Alexi Murdoch – Orange Sky (2002)
8. 10,000 Maniacs – Orange (1992)
9. John Prine – Bruised Orange (Chain Of Sorrow) (1978)
10. Johnny Cash – Orange Blossom Special (1969)
11. Bright Eyes – Bowl Of Oranges (2002)
12. R.E.M. – Orange Crush (Live) (2003)
13. Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks – Orange Crate Art (1995)
14. Tori Amos with Damien Rice – Power Of The Orange Knickers (2005)
15. Erykah Badu – Orange Moon (2000)
16. Mr. & Mrs. Garvey – Orange Nickelodeon (1968)
17. Bob Dylan & The Band – Orange Juice Blues (Blues For Breakfast) (1975)
18. Nat ‘King’ Cole with Stan Kenton – Orange Colored Sky (1950)
19. Eddie Burns – Orange Driver (1961)
20. Gilbert Bécaud – L’orange (1964)
21. Sesame Street – Fuzzy And Blue (And Orange) (1981)

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Any Major Cole Porter Vol. 2

September 24th, 2020 5 comments

Cole Porter - Any Major Collection Vol. 2

Rarely will you hear a vocal performances that merits a good flogging (not literally, of course. We are not savages). I’m not talking about bad warbling to a bad song. I mean singers who have the talent to sing a good song well but deliver a performance of such monumental abomination that the only reasonable punishment would be the metaphorical violence.

I am talking the territory of Michael F. Bolton murdering soul music and then molesting opera territory (though since he appeared on John Oliver’s show I have softened a little on Bolton). But the man I would be leading to the flogging post personally is our old friend Bono. What is Bono’s offence? His part in the duet with Frank Sinatra of I’ve Got You Under My Skin, recorded for the mostly deplorable Duets album in 1993.

Rarely has there been as risible a performance as when our smug friend revealed the full range of his jackassery by croaking his part in tandem with Sinatra and then proceeding to assault the big band break with an aggressively tuneless falsetto. In his delusional mind, Bono doubtless imagined he was improving on a perfectly good instrumental arrangement with what he might describe as harmonies, but which we readily recognise to be a wretched effort at attention-seeking.

Of course, the blame for this is not Bono’s alone. Bono tried his luck, as any one of us might in his position. Bono was just like the fools who stick out their tongue or make goofy handsigns when they take selfies with celebrities. The Duets producer ought to have told Bono, politely but firmly, as you would indulge an overacting child: “That was all very interesting, Bono, and I’ll see how we can use that in the final mix. But no promises, all right champ?” And yet, Bono’s disharmonies made it into the final mix. It is too late now to ask Phil Ramone or Sinatra for an explanation to shed light on what possessed them to submit to the kind of vocal stylings of the sort you or I could do better while driving in the car or crooning drunkenly in the shower, for both men are now dead.

The scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime.

The stupid singing is enough to convict Bono in the Supreme Court of Music. But a merciful judge might take pity on the fool in the way that witlessness is sometimes applied as an extenuating circumstance. What makes the severest sentence absolutely inevitable, however, is one of the most egregious instances of an egomaniac singer changing the words which the writer, in this instance Cole Porter, so carefully chose in his endeavour to convey the song’s full meaning. Bono croakingly croons:

“Don’t you know, Blue Eyes, you never can win…”

Bono had form with this kind of stuff. At Live Aid, held on a hot mid-summer day in July 1985, he ad-libbed during the Do They Know It’s Christmas finale the insane words: “Do they know that springtime is coming?” Yes, the Ethiopians did. Even extreme hunger could not rob them of the necessary ability to tell apart the seasons. “Springtime is coming” nine months from July, though. It is an extravagant prediction to make when spring is still to be preceded by the end of summer, and the full duration of autumn and winter.

Bono had sung this spontaneous ad-lib at every U2 concert throughout early 1985. By July, singing these words presumably was the unconscious reflex of an unthinking mind. There is no such excuse, however, for “Don’t you know, Blue Eyes, you never can win…”

Changing the lyrics to address a third party — in this case “Blue Eyes” — doesn’t make any sense in the song. In that line the singer is referring to himself, not to somebody else. The words for I’ve Got You Under My Skin are not Bono’s lyrics. They are Mr Porter’s lyrics. Even if he has been dead for a long time, Bono had no licence to turn his carefully crafted lyric into ingratiating doggerel, unless his intent was to satirise them in the manner the comedian Richard Cheese did with the U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday (“Tonight we fiesta while tomorrow they die”). Was Bono trying to be a funny guy when he was singing with Frank Sinatra?

Moreover, I doubt that Sinatra was called Ole Blue Eyes by anybody else but the press and those entertaining the illusion of his friendship (he also hated being called the “Chairman of the Board”).

Frank Sinatra tenses up as a man with an earring hugs him.

Frank Sinatra tenses up as a man with an earring hugs him at the 1994 Grammys.

 

And all this leads us to a mix of covers of Cole Porter songs. The first Cole Porter Collection comprised performances from the black-and-white era of music; this one covers the technicolour era, with tracks ranging from the 1970s to the present. Some of them go for Nelson Riddlesque arrangements, other reinvent Porter songs in more modern genres.

As always: CD-R length, covers included, PW in comments.

1. John Barrowman & Kevin Kline – Night And Day (2004)
2. Barbra Streisand & Ryan O’Neal – You’re The Top (1972)
3. Bobby Caldwell – I Get A Kick Out Of You (1993)
4. Conal Fowkes – Let”s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love) (2011)
5. Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – Anything Goes (2014)
6. Bryan Ferry – You Do Something To Me (1999)
7. Dionne Warwick – I Love Paris (1990)
8. Grady Tate – Don’t Fence Me In (1974)
9. Jane Birkin – Love For Sale (1975)
10. Alex Chilton – All Of You (1993)
11. Lisa Stansfield – Down In The Depths (1990)
12. Freda Payne – You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (2014)
13. Helen Reddy – Blow, Gabriel Blow (1998)
14. Claire Martin – Too Darn Hot (2004)
15. Cybill Shepherd – Let’s Misbehave (1974)
16. Dianne Reeves – I Concentrate On You (2003)
17. Simply Red – Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye (1987)
18. Robbie Williams – It’s De-Lovely (2004)
19. Rosemary Clooney – Get Out Of Town (1982)
20. Linda Ronstadt – Miss Otis Regrets (2004)
21. Carly Simon – In The Still Of The Night (2005)
22. George Harrison – True Love (1976)
23. Seether – I’ve Got You Under My Skin (2009)

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