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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 11

April 13th, 2021 5 comments

 

In the latest installment of the Not Feeling Guilty series, we are looking at singers whose names sound like those of school teachers; that is, artists who went by their given names, regardless of how ordinary and un-rock & roll they were (the gallery below, which is intended to inject a little gentle humour into the proceedings, might bear out my point. A bigger version of the collage is included in the package). You weren’t going to become a big star with the name Ruhnke (though LaBounty is a pretty cool name).

Many of these singers also looked like they might have been your teacher. And that is not a slur on teachers nor the artists. These singers were recording artists, not creations of image. Their names, bad beards and bald heads assured us that they were here to create music, for the sake of music. Their craft was honest. And, as this mix shows, there was plenty talent behind the ordinary names. If their music’s point is to make you feel good, these people have probably succeeded.

Only few of the acts here struck it really big, though one is married to a man who is one of the godfathers of this genre. Amy Holland married Michael McDonald, who produced and played keyboards on the featured song, the title track of the album which won her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 1981. Holland and McDonald have been married since 1983.

The biggest hit here is Alan O’Day’s Undercover Angel, which was a US #1 and a global hit. It wasn’t his first chart-topper: three years earlier his composition Angie Baby was a #1 hit for Helen Reddy. He also co-wrote the The Righteous Brothers’ 1974 hit Rock And Roll Heaven (originally by a group called Climax). Later O’Day won an Emmy for his music on the Muppets Babies show. O’Day, whose hairline moved forward as he got older, died at 72 in 2013.

US-born and Australia-raised Steve Kipner had some success as a young man in Australia, sang backing vocals on a number of the Bee Gees’ early recordings (which were produced by his father), and had a couple of hits as part of the band Tin Tin. He released only one solo album, in 1979. But his greater success came as the co-writer of a string of hit records spanning four decades. These include Olivia Newton-John’s Physical, Chicago’s Hard Habit To Break, Christina Aguilera’s Genie In A Bottle, Natasha Bedingfield’s These Words, The Hardest Thing by 98 Degrees, He Loves U Not by Dream, Kelly Rowland’s Stole, The Script’s Breakeven and The Man Who Can’t Be Moved, Cheryl Cole’s Fight for This Love, Camilla Cabello’s Crying In The Club, James Arthur’s Say You Won’t Let Go…

Another prolific songwriter was Bruce Roberts, whose co-writing credits includes the Donna Summer & Barbra Streisand disco classic No More Tears. He also co-wrote Streisand’s The Main Event, Bette Midler’s You’re Moving Out Today, Starmaker for Paul Anka/Judy Collins/The Kids from ‘Fame’, Rita Coolidge’s Fool That I Am, Laura Branigan’s The Lucky One, Dolly Parton’s You’re The Only One, Jeffrey Osborne’s You Should Be Mine (featured on Any Major Soul 1986/87), and more. He also co-wrote Lani Hall’s Where’s Your Angel?, which featured on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 10.

 

If AOR singers were teachers…

 

Yet another singer here with an impressive record of writing hits for others is Randy Goodrum, to whom we owe, as writer or co-writer, the Ann Murray hit You Needed Me, Kenny Rogers & Dottie West’s What Are We Doin’ In Love, Steve Perry’s Oh Sherrie, DeBarge’s Who’s Holding Donna Now, Toto’s I’ll Be Over You, and George Benson’s 20/20, among others. Goodrum also wrote songs for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns.

Goodrum also wrote two other (colour-coordinated) songs here. Pop-gospel-country singer Micki Fuhrman recorded Goodrum’s Blue River Of Tears in 1979; it was a single release only, and made no impact, which is a pity. Fuhrman released three albums and a bunch of singles until 1983.

Goodrum’s Bluer Than Blue was a hit in 1978 for Michael Johnson, an musical all-rounder. As a youth, he studied classical guitar in Barcelona; in the 1960s he was a member alongside John Denver in the folk outfit Chad Mitchell Trio. In the late 1970s he ventured into AOR, and in the 1980s became a country musician. One of Johnson’s hits was This Night Won’t Last Forever, a US #19 in 1979, which features here in Bill LaBounty’s 1978 original version. Johnson died in 2017 at 72.

In the 1960s, the British musician Graham Dee — the only artist in this lot operating with a stagename; his real name is Davidson — worked with future Led Zep members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, filled in for Syd Barrett in Pink Floyd and in Them, and played for Elkie Brooks, The Walker Brothers and Carl Perkins.

Near-namesake Larry Lee must not be confused with the guitarist of the same name who played with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. This Larry Lee was a founder member of the Ozark Mountains Daredevils. As the band’s drummer, Lee wrote and took lead vocals the band’s best-known song Judy Blue, which like the Warnes song mentioned above featured on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 10. Later he joined The Vinyl Kings, with Not Feeling Guilty alumnus Jim Photoglo (introduced on Vol. 7).

Terence Boylan had cool classmates, who helped him record his debut album in 1969: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, yet to become Steely Dan. Boylan released three LPs between 1969 and 1980, and that was it for his recording career. Happily, Boylan had science to fall back on. He is now director of a foundation he founded to facilitate research and international scientist exchange fellowships.

The best teachers’ name here must be Dick St Nicklaus. I couldn’t find much about him, except that he once worked with Lamont & Dozier, released two albums which were huge hits in Japan, and wrote a number of sings which were recorded by the likes of Laura Branigan, Peter Allen, Vanilla Fudge and Bill Medley.

Craig Ruhnke was introduced in Vol. 9, Peter McCann in Vol. 10. Oh, and I think I’ll opt for religious instruction classes.

As ever, this mix is timed to fit on as standard CD-R and includes home-cruised covers, the whole caboodle above in PDF format, and the yearbook gallery above in larger format. PW in comments.

1. Roby Duke – Seasons Of Change (1982)
2. Alan O’Day – Undercover Angel (1977)
3. Randy Goodrum – Fool’s Paradise (1982)
4. Amy Holland – How Do I Survive (1980)
5. Graham Dee – Too Good To Last (1977)
6. Jim Schmidt – Love Has Taken It All Away (1983)
7. Bill Champlin – Tonight Tonight (1981)
8. Bill LaBounty – This Night Won’t Last Forever (1978)
9. Craig Ruhnke – It’s Been Such A Long Time (1983)
10. Terence Boylan – Tell Me (1980)
11. Larry Lee – Number One Girl (1982)
12. John Valenti – Did She Mention Me (1980)
13. Teri De Sario – The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of (1978)
14. Dwayne Ford – Lovin’ And Losin’ You (1981)
15. Richard Torrance – Anything’s Possible (1978)
16. Dick St. Nicklaus – Can’t Give Up (1979)
17. Michael Johnson – Bluer Than Blue (1978)
18. Micki Fuhrman – Blue River Of Tears (1979)
19. Peter McCann – Do You Wanna Make Love (1977)
20. Bruce Roberts – Cool Fool (1980)
21. Steve Kipner – The Ending (1979)

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix 1
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 2
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 3
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 4
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 5
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 6
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 7
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 8
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 9
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 10

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Any Major Soul 1981

March 25th, 2021 3 comments

There was still a lot of great soul in the early 1980s. In fact, there was a lot of great soul throughout the decade; it’s just the famous hits that got worse.

Dimples
One of the better hits of the mid-1980s was the rather misogynist Oran ‘Juice’ Jones hit The Rain, in which the singer delivers a spoken diatribe to effect a break-up with his cheating girlfriend (“Don’t touch that coat!”). On this mix, the roles are reversed as Betty Wright cuts down the hapless Richard ‘Dimples’ Fields, on whom she has served divorce papers. And with good reason, for he is seeking to get his jollies elsewhere. Her rap as she cuts the cad down to size is quite spectacular. Fields, who begins the track by framing himself as a victim, merits our applause for setting himself up in this song as a target for a woman’s righteous fury.

Fields went on to have an R&B hit in 1982 with If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another (a re-recording of a track he had originally released in 1975), and a number of low-charting releases, but he enjoyed less success than he deserved. Dimples, his nickname by which he went on his later recordings (given to him for his ready smile), died at only 57 in 2000.

Jones Girls
His She’s Got Papers On Me is one of two tracks here which I might have held back for a mix I’m plotting of songs with spoken words; the other is The Jones Girls I Just Love The Man, in which the girl’s take issue with the quality of a sister’s no-good boyfriend. In some families, I suspect, this song could be the national anthem.

The sisters — Shirley, Brenda and Valerie  — found success with Gamble & Huff, having first been mentored by Curtis Mayfield, through whom they got to work with Aretha Franklin. It was as a support act for Diana Ross that the Jones Girls came to Gamble & Huff’s attention. Besides releasing their own albums, they also provided backing vocals for the PIR roster. Of the three sisters, only lead singer Shirley (who in the featured song is the no-good man’s girlfriend) is still alive. Valorie died in 2001; Brenda in 2017. The Jones Girls previously featured on Any Major Soul 1980/81 and Any Major Soul 1978/79.

Apollo Creed sings!
One singer here is more famous as a movie star, or even as an American football player than as a soul crooner. In 1981, Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed in Rocky). You Ought To Be With Me, on which the actor has a writing credit, was his single foray into recording music. Which is a pity: Weathers is doing a creditable job of it.

Blues ‘n’ Soul
Another act is not really known as a soul singer. Bobby Rush was a veteran blues singer by the time Talk To Your Daughter came out. As a young man, he was friends with blues legends like Elmore James and Pinetop Perkins, and with Ike Turner. The featured track is from the period in his long career when Rush was produced by Philly soul pioneer Kenny Gamble. Rush, who veers into the fields of soul, funk and even hip hop, won his first Grammy in 2017, at the age of 87.

Tutored by B.B.
And a nephew of Rush’s old pal Emore James features here, too. L.V. Johnson was better known as a session guitarist — he was taught to play that instrument by B.B. King — for acts like the Bar-Kays, Johnnie Taylor, and the Soul Children. After strumming and also writing for other acts, and releasing a few singles in the 1970s, he released his debut album in 1981 (it also included a soul version of Danny Boy, featured on Covered With Soul Vol. 22). Several albums followed, none particularly successful. L.V. Johnson died in 1994 at the age of 48.

Feva
Sandra Feva released three LPs and a succession of singles, under her stage name and real name, Sandra Richardson. The breakthrough never came, but in the 1980s Feva was also a session singer, backing he likes of Aretha Franklin (including on Who’s Zooming Who), Prince, George Clinton/Paliament/Funkadelic, and others. Feva died at 73 in 2020.

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

1. The Whispers – Love Is Where You Find It
2. Luther Vandross – Sugar And Spice
3. Ray Parker Jr. – A Woman Needs Love
4. Sandra Feva – Tell ’Em That I Heard It
5. Tyrone Davis – Love (Ain’t Over There)
6. Chaka Khan – Any Old Sunday
7. The Jones Girls – I Just Love The Man
8. Richard ‘Dimples’ Fields feat. Betty Wright – She’s Got Papers On Me
9. Al Jarreau – Breakin’ Away
10. Debra Laws feat. Ronnie Laws – Very Special
11. Bobby Womack – Where Do We Go From Here?
12. Thelma Houston – There’s No Running Away From Love
13. Carl Weathers – You Ought To Be With Me
14. Yvonne Gage – Tonight (I Wanna Love You)
15. Earth, Wind & Fire – Wanna Be With You
16. L.V. Johnson – We Belong Together
17. Bobby Rush – Talk To Your Daughter
Bonus track: Fifth Avenue – Miracles

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Any Major Top 75 Acts (18-34)

March 18th, 2021 3 comments

We’re now breaking into the Top 20 in the series of the Top 75 pop acts, as compiled by me and my trusty assistants at Rolling Stone magazine, compiled according to the system I explained in the first part. To jog your memory, it’s a combination of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 100, my own Top 75, plus bonus points for the level of influence an act has had on pop history or their genre, and more bonus points for how many albums of each at I own (because the list should skew in some way to my taste).

The listed acts are accompanied by a notional “favourite song”. As discussed last time, there usually isn’t such a thing as one “favourite” song. I also made concessions. In this lot, for example, I chose as AC/DC’s song the live version of A Whole Lotta Rosie. If pressed, I’d say Ride On is my favourite track of the group, because it has been that for the past 40 years. But Ride On, a slow blues-rock number, is not really representative of AC/DC. So Rosie it was.

Choosing a track for Chuck Berry also required consideration. It might have been School Days or Too Much Monkey Business or You Never Can Tell, but I opted for the one with the lyrics that frightened the WASP establishment (until people like #32 covered it, and drew that sting).

The Rock & Roll pioneers who ranked highly in the RS list dropped down on mine perhaps a little unfairly, losing crucial points in the category of albums by particular artists I own. I tend to have collections of their works, rather than albums (the same quirk pulled Hendrix and Ray Charles down, and gave Queen a rather unfair boost, thanks to the esteem I used to hold them when I accumulated their earlier LPs).

The rankings are subjective, of course. I acknowledge that most people will regard Cooke, Holly or Little Richard to be greater and certainly more influential acts than, say, Gil Scott-Heron (though impact was considered in the points allocation). But the points fell as they fell…

And they fell favourably towards John Lennon, who is featuring here purely on form of his solo output. Rolling Stone ranked him far too highly at #38 (and McCartney not at all); on my list he even crept up a few places, on strength of the great number of Lennon LPs I own (which reminds me that I once owned a Japanese pressing of the Wedding Album, with all the inserts. It’s worth about $99 now).

I’m glad that I have been able to give relief to the absurd ranking Rolling Stone gave Michael Jackson. Much as I think Thriller is overrated, and everything after Thriller substandard, Off The Wall is a near-perfect album, and his work with The Jackson 5/The Jacksons is superb. But, of course, the sum of his music isn’t the total of his career. Jackson’s influence was arguably third only to that of Elvis and The Beatles; that merited more than 35th place — and perhaps more than #18, especially when you see in the final instalment next month who’s at #17.

Here are places 34 to 18 (Rolling Stone Top 100 ranking in brackets), and featured track. The playlist follows a more logical sequence. As always, CD-R length, home-ranked covers, PW in comments. Plus: as before, the text here is included in PDF format for future reference.

34 (—-) Isaac Hayes – I Stand Accused (1970)
33 (16) Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come (1964)
32 (13) Buddy Holly – That’ll Be The Day (1957)
31  (8)  Little Richard – Ooh! My Soul (1958)
30 (38) John Lennon – Instant Karma (1970)
29 (—-) Kris Kristofferson – Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down (1970)
28 (—-) Gil Scott-Heron – The Needle’s Eye (1971)
27 (72) AC/DC – Whole Lotta Rosie (live, 1978)
26 (52) Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)
25 (39) David Bowie – Changes (1971)
24 (21) Otis Redding – I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (1965)
23 (10) Ray Charles – What’d I Say (1959)
22  (6)  Jimi Hendrix – The Wind Cries Mary (1967)
21  (5)  Chuck Berry – Brown Eyed Handsome Man (1956)
20 (42) Van Morrison – And It Stoned Me (1970)
19 (—-) Earth, Wind & Fire – Reasons (live, 1975)
18 (35) Michael Jackson – Rock With You (1979)

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Any Major Coffee Vol. 3

March 11th, 2021 7 comments

 

Lately my Gmail account has been swamped with spam, mostly of the variety that urges me to diet, lift weights or eat sourdough bread. I’m telling you this not because I consider the nature of my spam to be of global interest, but because I fear that in the anthill that is my inbox, I quite likely overlooked some emails from kind people who have bought me cups of coffee (to go with the sourdough bread?) whom I should have liked to thank for their benevolence.

So, if you have bought me “coffee” and I haven’t thanked you personally, I apologise and take this route to thank you very kindly for keeping me duly caffeinated (I’m referring, of course, to the Buy Me A Coffee thingy you find at www.buymeacoffee.com). I truly appreciate it.

And seeing as there are good people have bought me coffee, let me return the favour by offering this third mix of songs about coffee. For the purpose of this mix, I revisited the first two coffee mixes, which I posted in 2016. I hadn’t listened to them for a while; I was surprised by just good they are. Grab Any Major Coffee Vol. 1 and Any Major Coffee Vol. 2.

I hope this third mix matches the quality of the first two. Here I have slightly relaxed my rule that the songs have to be about actual coffee and allowed a couple of tracks that use coffee as a metaphor (still, no You’re So Vain, great song though it is). One of those, the deceptively simply-titled song by David Allen Coe, might best not be played around children, your granny or Mike Pence. Let’s just say that Coe had a lot of fun making coffee sound salacious. I’ve added a bonus track which you could replace the Coe song with, in case gran or Mike Pence come to visit.

And, as I said in the text for the first mix: If you are a coffee-drinker and this mix — or the mere reminder of caffeine — motivates you to go out in search for a fix, please do me a kindness and seek out an independent coffee shop/café. These independents are being squeezed out by the franchise stores, led by the unaccountably popular Starbucks. And Covid has turned the screws on them further. Help keep the independent coffeeshops and cafés going.

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

1. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – Black Caffeine (2013)
2. Nazareth – Java Blues (1981)
3. Ike & Tina Turner – Black Coffee (1972)
4. Hank Ballard – The Coffee Grind (1960)
5. Mississippi John Hurt – Coffee Blues (1966)
6. Brook Benton – Another Cup Of Coffee (1964)
7. Curtis Gordon – Caffeine And Nicotine (1954)
8. Glen Glenn – One Cup Of Coffee (And A Cigarette) (1958)
9. Mike Pedicin – Burnt Toast And Black Coffee (1961)
10. Eddie Marshall – Coffee, Cigarettes And Tears (1951)
11. Bobby Darin – Black Coffee (1959)
12. Abbey Lincoln – A Lonesome Cup Of Coffee (1957)
13. Frank Sinatra – The Coffee Song (1967)
14. The Andrews Sisters – Proper Cup Of Coffee (1958)
15. Michael O’Brien – Low Fat Latte (2007)
16. Ron Sexsmith & Don Kerr – Raindrops In My Coffee (2005)
17. Mark Heard – Nod Over Coffee (1991)
18. Amos Lee – Night Train (2006)
19. Squeeze – Black Coffee In Bed (1981)
20. Ben Folds – Free Coffee (2008)
21. Mischief Brew – Coffee, God, And Cigarettes (2006)
22. David Allen Coe – Coffee (1990)
23. Bill Anderson – Sugar In Your Coffee (1972)
24. Tom T. Hall – Don’t Forget The Coffee, Billie Joe (1973)
25. Conway Twitty – I’ll Have Another Cup Of Coffee (Then I’ll Go) (1966)

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Any Major Top 75 Acts (35-56)

February 18th, 2021 1 comment

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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)

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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 6 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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