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Brian Wilson Songbook

June 21st, 2022 3 comments

 

 

Yesterday, on June 20, Brian Wilson turned 80, just two days after his fellow songwriting genius Paul McCartney, who was the subject of a Songbook last week, turned 80 himself. How were the stars aligned (if you subscribe to that kind of thing) that June 1942 to create two such man within two days of one another?

Wilson and McCartney (and his fellow Beatles) ran a pop music innovations race in the mid-1960s, a serious but friendly competition that spurred each other to greater heights. If a winner must be declared, then it is McCartney, who kept going with some great work while Wilson collapsed under the weight of his own ambitions, and fragile mental health. Crucially, where McCartney had the support, even if often troubled, of his fellow Beatles, who shared in the processes of artistic growth, Wilson had to contend with those, in the band and commercial departments, who still wanted fun fun fun songs about hot cars ‘n’ tanned gals.

 

The Beach Boys and their striped shirts. Brian Wilson is front right.

 

When Wilson heard The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album in 1965, he immediately wrote God Only Knows (with Tony Asher), the first track for what would become the Pet Sounds albums. That album, in turn, motivated The Beatles to up their game — from the already astonishing Revolver album — to create Sgt Pepper’s.

Four months before that album was released in June 1967, The Beatles had released Lennon’s Strawberry Fields Forever. Reportedly, when Wilson heard that song, he broke down and cried, saying: “They got there first!” That was quite a concession from the man who by then had already produced the stroke of eternal genius that is Good Vibrations.

Wilson’s attempt to top Sgt Pepper’s — and let’s cut a sad story short — ended in artistic and personal decline following the stressful production of the aborted Smile project, and the disastrous reception of what turned out to be the compromise album, Smiley Smile. Wilson completed that project in 2005 with the release of his Smile album.

In the studio during that productive mid-‘60s period, Wilson didn’t even have the Beach Boys with him. His “band” comprised various members of the Wrecking Crew, the collective of highly professional session musicians. One of them, guitarist Glenn Campbell, actually became a member of The Beach Boys in their touring formation. Carl and Dennis, Jardine and Love would come in to lay down vocal tracks — and, of course, their harmonies were integral to the Beach Boys sound. Mike Love would co-write some songs, though in many cases, the extent of his contributions is a matter of diverging memories.

Actors like De Niro and Pacino have their ways of getting into character; Wilson was a method musician, once even filling his home studio with sand to recreate a beach (as if a feature of beaches is grand pianos just standing there). By then he had already experimented with LSD — a year before that drug reached The Beatles — and other drugs. The riff for California Girls came to him after his acid trip.

The progress in Wilson’s songwriting was as spectacular as that of The Beatles. Between the plagiarised Surfin’ USA in 1963 (for which Chuck Berry rightly got a co-writing credit) and the intricate but appealing Wouldn’t It Be Nice were only three years.

 

So here we have the Brian Wilson Songbook. Nancy Sinatra’s version of California Girls from a 2003 album, features the backing vocals of Brian Wilson and ex-Beach Boy Jeffrey Foskett. Nancy’s version opens this set, so suitably the first voice we hear is Brian Wilson’s. And Wilson closes this collection with a cover of his own song from 2005’s Smile album, Surf’s Up. The Nancy Sinatra track was co-produced by the legendary Billy Strange, who arranged These Boots Are Made For Walking, as well as Duane Eddy and The Ventures, who in turn had influenced the Beach Boys.

Wilson originally offered Don’t Worry Baby to The Ronettes, and was profoundly inspired by their hit Be My Baby. They didn’t record it because Phil Spector declined it. Instead The Beach Boys recorded in 1964. Wilson once said he thought it was their finest moment. It later was a hit for BJ Thomas. Thirty-odd years after Spector vetoed Don’t Worry Baby, Ronnie Spector finally recorded it, co-produced by Joey Ramone, a fan of both The Ronettes and The Beach Boys. The Ramones themselves feature later in the mix with Surfin’ Safari.

Spector might have rejected Wilson’s composition, but fellow Capitol signing Sharon Marie recorded Wilson and Mike Love’s Thinkin’ ’Bout You Baby, which Wilson also produced and arranged, with another Wilson/Love composition, The Story Of My Life, on the flip-side. It was not a success, nor was the previous year’s Wilson job Run-Around Lover. The Beach Boys rejigged Thinkin’ ’Bout You Baby and recorded it as Darlin’ in 1967.

If we have ever wondered what ABBA might have sounded like if they had been The Beach Boys, Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s Swedish cover of Wouldn’t It Be Nice gives us a hint. She recorded it for her 1975 Swedish language LP Frida Ensam, which was produced by Benny Anderson, another genius of arrangement, with Björn Ulvaeus on guitar. The album also included the original version of ABBA’s Fernando (featured on Any Major Originals: 1970s).

There are some Beach Boys songs that are impossible to cover well, unless you change the whole structure of it. Good Vibrations is a good example of that. The original is one of pop music’s towering achievements; covering it straight is to punch upwards, even if you do it competent, as Todd Rundgren did in 1976. So I’ve opted for the 1975 cover by The Troggs, which deconstructs the original’s entire arrangement, and does to it what William Shatner had done a few years earlier with other hits, though The Troggs do it with greater discipline and restraint than old Cap’n Kirk. I doubt I’ll ever love what The Troggs did with it, but it’s good fun fun fun.

The same applies to I Get Around; the psychedelic version by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra — whose version of the Rolling Stone’s The Last Time (featured on the Copy Borrow Steal mix) gave the Verve’s Bitter-Sweet Symphony its hook — is joyfully mad.

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

1. Nancy Sinatra – California Girls (2003)
2. The Carpenters – Fun, Fun, Fun (1973)
3. Anni-Frid Lyngstad – Skulle de’ va’ skönt (Wouldn’t It Be Nice, 1975)
4. Johnny Rivers – Help Me Rhonda (1975)
5. Ronnie Spector – Don’t Worry Baby (1999)
6. Bruce Springsteen – When I Grow Up To Be A Man (live, 1985)
7. Dave Alvin – Surfer Girl (2006)
8. Rumer – The Warmth Of The Sun (2015)
9. Linda Ronstadt – In My Room (1996)
10. Andrew Oldham Orchestra – I Get Around (1965)
11. The Troggs – Good Vibrations (1975)
12. Bobby Vee – Here Today (1966)
13. P.P. Arnold – God Only Knows (1968)
14. Carmen McRae – Don’t Talk (1967)
15. Sharon Marie – Thinkin’ ‘Bout You Baby (1964)
16. Jan & Dean – Surf City (1963)
17. The Surfaris – Be True To Your School (1964)
18. Nick DeCaro – Caroline, No (1969)
19. Nazareth – Wild Honey (1976)
20. David Garland – I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times (1993)
21. Kirsty MacColl – You Still Believe In Me (1981)
22. Wall Of Voodoo – Do It Again (1987)
23. The Rubinoos – Heroes And Villains (2002)
24. The Smithereens – Girl Don’t Tell Me (1995)
25. Ramones – Surfin’ Safari (1993)
26. Frank Black – Hang On To Your Ego (1993)
27. Brian Wilson – Surf’s Up (2005)

GET IT! or HERE!

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

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

Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 1

June 14th, 2022 4 comments

 

It is remarkable that two songwriters who were at the absolute vanguard in changing pop music in the 1960s were born within two days of one another. They were friendly rivals whose mutual admiration spurred one another on to greater heights.

They were born within two days of one another, but they grew up in very different circumstances. Paul McCartney, who turns 80 on June 18, was born into a war whose effects scarred his hometown of Liverpool throughout his youth. He grew up in monochrome Britain, but in a loving family. Brian Wilson, who turns 80 on June 20, grew up in technicolour California, the son of an ambitious and tyrannical father. Paul and Brian came from vastly different backgrounds, but they had in common a knack for writing songs and innovating on them; Brian mostly on his own, Paul with his friend John Lennon.

Both had massive success and exercised great influence with their respective bands, which even shared the first three letters of their names. Both stopped touring in order to innovate in the studio.

As you would expect, a Brian Wilson Songbook will follow next week, a few days after the great man turns 80. Today, however, we have the first of two Paul McCartney Songbooks, a couple of days before he turns 80. This volume covers his Beatles era; the follow-up will cover — as the fiendishly clever reader will have worked out — Macca’s solo output.

There’s little point in discussing McCartney’s compositions in great detail; many people haver done so to much greater effect than I could hope to do. One thing that does strike me, though, is that Paul’s songs tend to be more adaptable to other genres than John’s. That is true, of course, of Paul’s ballads in particular. Some of them have been spoiled by having been covered too many times, and too often by easy listening merchants. Can one listen to Yesterday without having the fear of Mantovani put into them? Well, in this collection, Dr John exorcises all of these cheesy versions of Yesterday, and puts some meat on the song first known as “Scambled Eggs”. A mention must be made of Una Valli’s excellent interpretation of Yesterday on Covered With Soul Vol. 15.

 

 

I might be open to persuasion otherwise, but it seems to me than Paul’s songs lend them themselves better to soul covers than John’s. The two Beatles specials in the Covered With Soul series, Vol. 14 and the aforementioned Vol. 15, bear out this observation. About half of the songs on the present mix are soul or soul-inflected tracks.

I’ve posted many mixes of covers of Beatles songs before, including track-by-track Recovered mixes of every Beatles album (you will find them all here, among other Beatles-related stuff). I’ve tried not to repeat any previously-used cover on this collection. The only recycled track is Got To Get You Into My Life by Thelma Houston, which appeared on the first of two mixes of songs on which Wrecking Crew drummer Jim Gordon played.

One track here is sort of a repeat, but it isn’t. On the Let It Be Recovered mix, the Long And Winding Road duties were done by Ray Charles, in his version from 1971. Featured here is Ray’s 1973 live recording, performed with the Count Basie Orchestra. It was unreleased until 2006 because the recording track of the orchestra was of poor sound quality. Charles’ vocal track was fine, so some very clever people got the new Count Basie Orchestra into the studio to re-record the instrumental track, and mixed these with Ray’s 1973 vocals.

It was only when I looked over the tracklisting that I noticed that all acts here are North American, except one. Joy Unlimited was a band from Mannheim, Germany. They were headed by Joy Fleming, who probably is Germany’s greatest soul singer — though the pool of contenders may not be enormous. Certainly Joy’s soulfulness belied her very unfunky birthname: Erna Raad. Fleming, who died in 2017, has featured here a couple of times before: on Any Major Schlager Covers with her version of Respect, on Any Major Eurovision with her superb Bridge Of Love, and with Joy Unlimited on Yellow Submarine Recovered.

 

Paul McCartney poster in Germany’s Bravo magazine in July 1966.

 

One act here is not really known as a singer but as a recording engineer and producer: Glyn Johns. Among his many charges were The Beatles, whose Get Back sessions he engineered (his mixes were later released as Let It Be Naked. He’d later also co-engineer McCartney’s Red Rose Speedway album). Between 1962 and ’67, Johns tried to carve out a career as a singer, while engineering acts like The Rolling Stones and the Small Faces. One of his seven singles was a cover of The Beatles’ I’ll Follow The Sun, released in 1965, and it features here.

A little twist: Johns also engineered for Humble Pie, but the present track by the band, a 1975 cover of We Can Work It Out, was engineered by Steve Marriott — who was a member of the Small Faces when Johns engineered them…

One act here actually was co-credited with The Beatles, the only artist ever to be thus honoured by the band. Billy Preston played on Let It Be, contributing that searing organ solo. His version of the song here appeared on his 1974 live album, Live European Tour. And it was engineered by Glyn Johns’ younger brother Andy.

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

1. Pat Benatar – Helter Skelter (1981)
2. Aerosmith – I’m Down (1987)
3. Ike & Tina Turner – Get Back (1973)
4. Thelma Houston & Pressure Cooker – Got To Get You Into My Life (1975)
5. El Chicano – Eleanor Rigby (1970)
6. Billy Preston – Let It Be (1974)
7. O.C. Smith – Hey Jude (1969)
8. Bobby Womack – And I Love Her (1972)
9. Humble Pie – We Can Work It Out (1975)
10. Dr. John – Yesterday (1975)
11. Joy Unlimited – Oh Darling (1969)
12. George Benson – Here, There And Everywhere (1989)
13. Rickie Lee Jones – For No One (2000)
14. Dar Williams – You Won’t See Me (2005)
15. Carly Simon – Blackbird (2006)
16. Sheryl Crow – Mother Nature’s Son (2002)
17. Bobbie Gentry – The Fool On The Hill (1968)
18. Glyn Johns – I’ll Follow The Sun (1965)
19. José Feliciano – She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (1970)
20. R.B. Greaves – Paperback Writer (1971)
21. Ray Charles & The Count Basie Orchestra – The Long And Winding Road (1973/2006)
22. Sarah Vaughan – Michelle (1966)
23. Lou Rawls – Golden Slumbers (1972)

GET IT! or HERE!

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

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes
More Beatles-related Stuff
More CD-R Mixes

Categories: Beatles, Covers Mixes, Songwriters Tags:

Barry Gibb Songbook Vol. 2 (Bearded Edition)

May 20th, 2022 2 comments

 

To coincide with Barry Gibb’s 75th birthday on September 1 last year, I posted Volume 1 of the Barry Gibb Songbook. Here’s Volume 2, covering the years after 1975, when the Brothers Gibb stumbled into disco to become their supposed kings (it’s a discussion for another day why they most certainly were not).

The falsetto disco era brought the Gibbs much fortune, but at the end of it, they — much as Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernie Edwards — were not wanted any longer as headliners. And like the Chic collective, the Bee Gees moved into the background, writing and producing mid-tempo stuff for adult acts like Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick and, later, Diana Ross.

While the early-era Bee Gees were eminently coverable, as we saw on Volume 1, the disco stuff was more difficult to reinterpret. It’s no accident that two of the Bee Gees’ greatest disco-era hits —Night Fever and Tragedy (I wasn’t going to use the Steps cover of Tragedy, thank you) — are missing here. On the other hand, in the hands of the gifted, the disco stuff could be covered to great effect. Exhibit A: Chaka Khan’s slow-burning take on Jive Talking.

I also found no takers for the Streisand ballad Woman In Love, which was rather overplayed when it came out (Babs features here with the infinitely superior Guilty). Even Too Much Heaven has rarely been well covered. In the end, it was a toss-up between the reggae version by Claudette Miller or the cover by serial-coverer Bunny Chanel, the recording moniker used by Filipina actress Helen Gamboa. Chanel’s lush arrangement and warm vocals won out, but Miller’s lovers rock version is included as a bonus track..

A word about the beards designation: let it serve as a rough guide. Of course Barry sported beards for some time during the Volume 1 period, and was clean-shaven for some of the disco years. But latter-day Barry certainly was more often than not luxuriously hirsute.

That dealt with, here’s the conclusion of the Barry Gibb Songbook, which in large part is also the Maurice and Robin Songbook. So it makes perfect sense to issue this second volume on the 10th anniversary of Robin’s death, which we mark today, on May 20.

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

1. Barbra Streisand feat. Barry Gibb – Guilty (1980)
2. Candi Staton – Nights On Broadway (1977)
3. Rufus featuring Chaka Khan – Jive Talkin’ (1975)
4. Foo Fighters – You Should Be Dancing (2021)
5. Tavares – More Than A Woman (1977)
6. Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams – Emotion (1978)
7. Bunny Chanel – Too Much Heaven (1979)
8. Andy Gibb & Olivia Newton-John – Rest Your Love On Me (1980)
9. En Vogue – How Deep Is Your Love (2003)
10. Nick Lowe – Heartbreaker (2018)
11. The Twang – Staying Alive (2018)
12. Feist – Inside And Out (2004)
13. Vivian Reed – Shadow Dancing (1979)
14. Melba Moore – You Stepped Into My Life (1978)
15. Donnie Elbert – Love So Right (1977)
16. Dionne Warwick – All The Love In The World (1982)
17. Diana Ross – Chain Reaction (1986)
18. The McAuley Boys – I Just Want To Be Your Everything (1996)
19. Bee Gees – If I Can’t Have You (1977)
Bonus Tracks:
Garth Taylor & Melanie Louw – Islands In The Stream (2003)
The Salsoul Strings – More Than A Woman (1978)
Lionel Hampton – You Should Be Dancing (1978)
Claudette Miller & The Ebonies – Too Much Heaven (1977)
Connie Smith – I Just Want To Be Your Everything (1977)

GET IT! or HERE!

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

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

Any Major Carole King Songbook Vol. 2

April 28th, 2022 1 comment

 

All she ever wanted to be was a suburban housewife, and yet she wrote some of the greatest hits of the early 1960s, and in a second career released one of the great albums of all time. She inspired Lennon-McCartney, having written as bunch of hits by the time her contemporaries started to record theirs. Carole King wrote or co-write so many sings that her career merits a second Songbook, following on from Any Major Carole King Songbook Vol. 1.

Carole King framed her music around the lyrics created by her songwriting partners — chiefly one-time husband Gerry Goffin and later Toni Stern — or, of course, by herself. Sometimes the melody would be at odds with the lyrics. Take Good Care Of My Baby is far too jolly — but what a tune. It features here in King’s demo version. More often, the melody would give the lyrics their character. Think of Natural Woman, whose gorgeous melody complements those beautiful lyrics (written by a man, Gerry Goffin, and performed on this mix by a man, Bobby Womack), or the percussive thrusting melody of I Feel The Earth Move.

I love King as a singer. I love that intimate, slightly imperfect voice and its economic application. That impeccable phrasing. So it’s rather a pity that King did not record all those great hits of the early and mid-1960s herself: Up On The Roof, I’m Into Something Good, One Fine Day, Chains, The Loco-motion and so on. We have an idea of how that might have been when a decade after it was a #1 for The Shirelles (when King was still 18!), she recorded Will You Love Me Tomorrow on Tapestry. Or, of course, listen to her 1962 single It Might As Well Rain Until September.

Before her solo career, King had a shot at vocal stardom as the lead singer of The City — with future husband Charles Larkey and future Tapestry collaborator Danny Kortchmar — but King’s reluctance to play live and distribution troubles prevented their one album from becoming a hit. But what a star King might have been even before Tapestry (for which she also the Tapestry Recovered mix).

But in those the division of labour was still entrenched: songwriters wrote the songs, singers sang them. Funny enough, it was those guys whom King had inspired — Lennon-McCartney, Brian Wilson — and those whose work opened the way for auteur albums like Tapestry — Dylan et al — who were at the spearhead which broke down that old way of doing things.

In any case, King was not interested in being a pop star. During the Brill Building days, her vision of life was to be a mother in the suburbs. And after Tapestry, she was drawn to the rural life in Idaho (not undramatically; her lifestory had its share of commotion). So here we have the reluctant music legend who resides in music history as one of pop’s greatest treasures

As on Volume 1, the bulk of the songs here were written with Gerry Goffin (tracks 1-3,6-7,10-11,14-24). Others were written with Toni Stern (4 and 8), and the rest were all Carole on her own (5,9, 12-13). The track by The Isley Brothers incorporates their own Keep On Walkin’. There are more covers of Carole King songs on the Brill Building Covered mix.

So, here’s the first lot of Carole King compositions. The lot is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-locomotioned covers and the above text in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Little Eva – Some Kind-A Wonderful (1962)
2. The Chiffons – One Fine Day (1963)
3. The Monkees – Pleasant Valley Sunday (1967)
4. The City – Now That Everything’s Been Said (1968)
5. Johnny Rivers – So Far Away (1971)
6. Bobby Womack – Natural Man (1973)
7. Isaac Hayes – Hey Girl (1986)
8. The Isley Brothers – Sweet Season/Keep On Walkin’ (1972)
9. Rita Coolidge – Walk On In (1981)
10. The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Never Born To Follow (1996)
11. Nick Lowe – Halfway To Paradise (1977)
12. Jo Mama – Smack Water Jack (1971)
13. Anne Murray – Beautiful (1972)
14. Roberta Flack – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1971)
15. Turley Richards – Child Of Mine (1971)
16. Paul Davis – When My Little Girl Is Smiling (1971)
17. Sandie Shaw – The Right To Cry (1969)
18. Dusty Springfield – No Easy Way Down (1969)
19. Percy Sledge – So Much Love (1966)
20. The Drifters – At The Club (1965)
21. Betty Everett – I Can’t Hear You (1964)
22. Everly Brothers – Chains (1962)
23. The Righteous Brothers – Just Once In My Life (1965)
24. Carole King – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1961)
BONUS TRACK:
Gene McDaniels – Point Of No Return (1962)
Crusaders – So Far Away (live) (1981)

GET IT! or HERE!

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

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes
More CD-R Mixes

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

Any Major Elton John & Bernie Taupin Songbook

March 24th, 2022 10 comments

 

Just a couple of hours ago as I write this, Elton John’s 1985 hit Nikita came on the car radio. I hadn’t heard that song for a long while, and I was grateful for that, in as far as I paid the wretched song’s absence in my life any attention. I dislike it now as much as I did when I first heard it in November 1985. And it’s not like I was anti-Elton back in 1985. I bought Act Of War, his duet with Millie Jackson, on 12” that summer, unheard. Which was a mistake. I also bought the follow-up to Nikita, a record called Wrap Her Up featuring the late Wham! bassist Deon Estus. That, too, has not aged well.

Some years later, Elton John had his first solo UK #1 with Sacrifice, a turgid number for the CD generation. Nothing the erstwhile Reg Dwight has produced since has impressed me, other than Hakuna Matata from The Lion King.

In fairness, the man produced some great songs in the 1980s, before he offended with Nikita. I’m Still Standing is a superb piece of songwriting, arrangement and vocal performance (plus, it had a great video). I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues was vintage Elton. And I did like Passengers, in the way of nursery-rhyme-pop. That was intended as an anti-apartheid song, though you had to be told it was to know. Perhaps it was Elton’s way of saying sorry for having helped legitimise apartheid by playing at Sun City in 1983. Which is a lot more than what Queen, The Beach Boys, Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Millie Jackson, Status Quo or Rod Stewart did.

But very little of what Elton John produced in the 1980s comes close to the incredible run of songwriting genius which he and lyricist Bernie Taupin put together from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. And it is this run of genius this collection of covers of John/Taupin songs celebrates, by way of marking Elton John’s 75th birthday on March 25.

So, all of these songs are from the 1970s, except one bonus track: I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, performed by Major Schiffer & Majories Bundeswehr Showband — a band of the German army. It appeared on a 1985 album titled Tanzweltmeisterschaft (Dancing World Championship). It is surprisingly okay, with the vocals soulful and the arrangement competent, with a heartfelt sax solo. One might have expected a Bundeswehr Showband to go the easy listening route, maybe a bit like James Last, but with more oomp than oomph. Well, not so.

There are plenty of easy listening covers of Elton John’s 1970s tunes; none feature here. But some tracks just don’t have many good covers. Candle In The Wind, for example, is a song so Elton that it’s very difficult to re-interpret well. I suspect the present version, by Sandy Denny, is about the only good cover of the song. For Daniel, I had to go to France (alas, I knew of no good Spanish covers).

Bernie Taupin and Elton John in 1971. (Wikipedia/PD-PRE1978)

Some John/Taupin classics are missing altogether, such as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. The former has already featured on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Recovered set (though I do recycle two tracks from that collection here), so I didn’t recycle that version. And I didn’t expect to find a great cover of Crocodile Rock, the first Elton John song I loved, long before I even knew who the guy was. My older sister had the single, and I loved it as a seven-year-old (mainly the falsetto bits).

An unusual number of covers here are live versions: Neil Diamond reworks Rocket Man (superbly), Ben Folds does Tiny Dancer, Brandi Carlile does Sixty Years On with the Seattle philharmonic orchestra, Heart do the gorgeous Seasons, and George Michael eclipses Elton John in his stunning rendition of Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me from Live Aid, guesting on Elton’s set. The latter is also far superior to the hit version from 1995. The Live Aid version invariably gives goosebumps (and how about that drummer?).

In the 1970s, much was made of the rivalry between Elton John and Rod Stewart; they more lately had a bigger feud about some slight by someone over something or other that was said. On his fine Gasoline Alley album, Rod covered Elton’s 1970 song Country Life, with Jack Reynolds (aka Harry) from the rock band Silver Metre on backing vocals. And then Rod borrowed a little bit of 1970’s The Greatest Discovery (covered here by The Lettermen) for his song The Killing Of Georgie.

One song here is not a cover: Snookeroo was written by John & Taupin for Ringo Starr, who in the US titled it No No Song. Elton John provides the count-in and plays the piano on the song.

Quite a few songs here may be unfamiliar to those who have followed Elton John’s career only casually. By my count, only ten of the featured 28 tracks were UK single releases. Elton John fans, I hope, will enjoy the interpretations of the lesser-known songs; and those who don’t may well be turned on to Elton John’s incredible run of great albums between 1970 and 1974 or 1975 (in my view, everything from 1970s eponymous album to at least 1975’s Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy).

As always, CD-R length, home-tinydancered covers, and the above in PDF. PW in comments.

1. The Who – Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) (1991)
2. George Michael – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (1985)
3. Ben Folds – Tiny Dancer (2002)
4. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Philadelphia Freedom (1991)
5. Billy Paul – Your Song (1972)
6. Walter Jackson – Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (1977)
7. Latimore – Take Me To The Pilot (1973)
8. Bo Diddley – Bad Side Of The Moon (1971)
9. Al Kooper – Come Down In Time (1971)
10. Rod Stewart – Country Comfort (1970)
11. Marie Laforet – Daniel (1974)
12. Sandy Denny – Candle In The Wind (1977)
13. Square Set – Friends (1972)
14. Colin Blunstone – Planes (1976)
15. Neil Diamond – Rocket Man (1978)
16. Heart – Seasons (1995)
17. Mandy Moore – Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (2003)
18. Brandi Carlile – Sixty Years On (2011)
Bonus:
Lee Ann Womack – Honky Cat (2018)
Ringo Starr – Snookeroo (1974)
Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’77 – Where To Now St Peter (1976)
Kate Taylor – Ballad Of A Well Known Gun (1971)
Three Dog Night – Lady Samantha (1969)
The Letterman – The Greatest Discovery (1971)
Mary McCreary – Levon (1974)
Diana Ross – Harmony (1976)
Major Schiffer & Majories/Bundeswehr Showband – I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (1985)
Solomon Burke – Three Psalms For Elton (1972)

GET IT! or HERE!

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

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

Any Major Carole Bayer Sager Songbook

March 8th, 2022 8 comments

 

Today, on March 8, the lyricist Carole Bayer Sager celebrates her 75th birthday, and so it’s good to mark the occasion with Any Major Songbook of songs she has co-written.

Unlike the Carole whose works we enjoyed last month on Any Major Carole King Songbook Vol. 1, this Carole is easily underestimated. Much of it has to do with the music which scores her often exquisite lyrics. Many of the songs were written for movie soundtracks in the 1980s and ’90s, and are arranged according to those requirements, and few lay down the funk or shred with punk. And yet, those movie songs include such greats as Arthur’s Theme and Nobody Does It Better. For the latter, Bayer Sager had to work in the title of the Bond flick it scored without it sounding embarrassing — a task even Paul McCartney found difficult to execute (he, too, succeeded in it).

Bayer Sager is a superb observer of adult relationships especially. Witness this line from On My Own: “Now we’re up to talking divorce and we were not even married”.

Bayer Sager writes the words; the music has been written by legendary composers such as her ex-husband Burt Bacharach, Marvin Hamlisch, Neil Sedaka, Marvin Hamlisch, Michael Masser, and David Foster (the latter has written some relentlessly bad stuff, but he also committed strokes of genius like Cheryl Lynn’s Got To Be Real).

She has also written frequently with Australian soft-rocker Peter Allen and fellow soft-rock auteur Bruce Roberts, whom we encountered on Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 11. And with Albert Hammond, she co-wrote the later Leo Sayer hit When I Need You, and its b-side, which features here as a bonus track (and on which Hammond shamelessly plagiarised himself).

Pleasingly, there was a convergence of the two great Caroles in 1998, when Carole King co-wrote the song Anyone At All with Bayer Sager, and recorded it for the You’ve Got Mail soundtrack.

Like King, Carole Bayer (as she was then) started out on the Brill Building scene, while still a student at New York City’s High School of Music and Art. There she collaborated with Toni Wine, whose voice we heard this month on Sugar Sugar, in the line “I’m gonna make your life so sweet”, on Any Major Sugar. Carole, still only 18, produced one of the earliest uses of the word “groovy” in song lyrics, in A Groovy Kind Of Love, co-written with Wine and first recorded in 1965 by the rather obscure duo Diane & Annita, and soon a global hit for The Mindbenders (and 23 years later for Phil Collins). See Any Major Originals – The Classics for more on that song.

After the Brill Building era, during which she also wrote for The Monkees, she became Carole Bayer Sager, having married record producer Andrew Sager in 1970. She then worked a lot with up-and-coming singer Melissa Manchester. Then she hooked up, in more ways than one, with Marvin Hamlisch, and then with Burt Bacharach, to whom she was married from 1982-91.

In between, Bayer Sager released three albums, which were quite good. One of them featured the song It’s The Falling In Love, which Michael Jackson would later record for Off The Wall. Bayer Sager’s version will feature on the next Not Feeling Guilty mix. In return, Jackson did backing vocals on Carole’s 1981 song Just Friends (see the Michael Jackson Backing Vocals Collection)

Like that song, a few songs here are better known in their cover versions than in the featured originals: Rod Stewart’s bearable version of That’s What Friends Are For from the 1982 Nightshift soundtrack (I do not like the 1985 all-star hit version at all); and Starmaker by Carole’s frequent collaborator Bruce Roberts, which later became famous in The Kids from Fame. I’ve decided to go with the Family Brown soul version of When I Need You, rather than Hammond’s original or Leo Sayer’s hit. (Get Hammond’s original on Any Major Originals – 1970s Vol. 1).

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R (that is, by excluding the “bonus tracks), and includes how-scribbled covers, and the text above in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. The Monkees – The Girl I Left Behind Me (1969, with Neil Sedaka)
2. The Mindbenders – Groovy Kind Of Love (1965, with Toni Wine)
3. Terry Rice-Milton – Your Heart’s Not In Your Love (1970, with Neil Sedaka)
4. Melissa Manchester – If It Feels Good (Let It Ride) (1973, with Melissa Manchester)
5. Pointer Sisters – The Love Too Good To Last (1980, with Peter Allen & Burt Bacharach)
6. Cheryl Lynn – Come In From The Rain (1978, with Melissa Manchester)
7. Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson – Maybe (1983, with Burt Bacharach & Marvin Hamlisch)
8. Christopher Cross – Arthur’s Theme (1981, with Peter Allen & Burt Bacharach)
9. Carly Simon – Nobody Does It Better (1977, with Marvin Hamlisch)
10. Diana Ross – It’s My Turn (1980, with Michael Masser)
11. Dolly Parton – You’re The Only One (1979, with Bruce Roberts)
12. Elkie Brooks – Don’t Cry Out Loud (1978, with Peter Allen)
13. Carole King – Anyone At All (1998, with Carole King)
14. Aretha Franklin & Michael McDonald – Ever Changing Times (1991, with Burt Bacharach & Bill Conti)
15. Reba McEntire – On My Own (1995, with Burt Bacharach)
16. Family Brown – When I Need You (1978, with Albert Hammond)
17. Thelma Jones – I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love (1978, with Peter Allen)
18. Michael Jackson – It’s The Falling In Love (1979, with David Foster)
19. Peter Allen – Fly Away (1980, with Peter Allen)
20. Chris Hillman – Heartbreaker (1977, with David Wolfert)
21. Bruce Roberts – Starmaker (1977, with Bruce Roberts)
22. Rod Stewart – That’s What Friends Are For (1982, with Burt Bacharach)
Bonus Tracks:
Randy Crawford – One Hello (1982, with Marvin Hamlisch)
Chaka Khan – Stronger Than Before (1984, with Burt Bacharach & Bruce Roberts)
The Moments – I Don’t Wanna Go (1976, with Bruce Roberts)
Albert Hammond – Moonlight Lady (1976, with Albert Hammond)

GET IT! or HERE!

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

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

Any Major Carole King Songbook Vol. 1

February 8th, 2022 5 comments

 

I have a hunch that this will be the year of Any Major Songbooks — and if previous reaction to these is an indicator, Many Major Readers will be pleased with that. I still owe you Vol. 2 of the Barry Gibb Songbook (Volume 1 ran for Barry’s 75th in September), and next month we’ll have Brian Wilson. But today it’s the turn of — and the streetsmart reader will have deduced this already from the header — Carole King, to mark her 80th birthday on February 9.

What an incredible career Carole King has had. Blessed with perfect pitch and prodigious intelligence, Carole Klein (as she was born) first dreamt of being a singer, recording a demo as a 16-yerar-old with her friend Paul Simon. At 17, she married the budding songwriter Gerry Goffin (and had a child with him). At 18, she had written her first hit with Goffin, the classic Will You Love Me Tomorrow for The Shirelles. By 25, she was a stone-cold songwriting legend, even among the illustrious residents of the Brill Building scene. By 30, she had recorded one of the biggest, greatest and commercially successful albums in pop history, with Tapestry.

King has written or co-written 118 Billboard Hot 100 hits, and 61 UK chart hits. Not many people have achieved more chart success.

In all that, King was responsible mainly for the music, though she wrote many lyrics, too, especially after splitting from Goffin. Remarkably, Gerry Goffin was the one who wrote the words from a women’s perspective in songs like (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and Will You Love Me Tomorrow. King captured her husband’s empathetic sentiments with perfect melodies.

Goffin also wrote the lyrics for a song that won’t feature: He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss). The Crystals hit was inspired by the violence their babysitter Little Eva (of Loco-motion game) was suffering at the hand of her boyfriend. Eva justified it by saying that the goon’s abuse was motivated by his love for her. The song is accusatory rather than condoning of domestic violence — though the Crystals version takes on another twist by having been produced by the abuser and convicted killer Phil Spector…

The bulk of the songs here were written with Gerry Goffin (tracks 1-4, 8-9, 14-17, 22-24). Others were written with Toni Stern (12, 18, 19, 21), and the rest were all Carole on her own (5-7, 10-11, 20).

Apart from being one of the great songwriters, Carole King has also been a fine singer. On Tapestry we can hear that at its best on the often underrated Way Over Yonder, covered here to great effect by jazz singer Cami Thompson. On this collection, we have King singing one of her Brill Building-era songs, in live duet with James Taylor from 2010, her vocal powers undiminished.

Another artist covering himself here is Micky Dolenz, singing The Monkees’ gorgeous Sometime In The Morning in 2012. You can grab the Monkees version — possibly my favourite by that group — on the Any Major Morning Vol.2 mix (which with its Volume 1 is still among my all-time favourite mixes). In line with my “no-act-twice” doctrine, The Monkees will feature with another song, on Volume 2.

In the two mixes of Carole King songs, I’ve tried to avoid replicating anything featured on the Tapestry Recovered mix or on the Brill Building Covered mix. I’ve also mixed things up chronologically. Whereas I’ve divided the two Barry Gibb Songbooks into distinct phases, I decided that this wouldn’t work with King. In fact, she decided that herself when she recorded some of her old songs which she had written with Goffin (whom she had divorced by then) on Tapestry.

So, here’s the first lot of Carole King compositions. The lot is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-smackwatered covers and the above text in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Lady Lee – I’m Into Something Good (1964)
2. Skeeter Davis – I Can’t Stay Mad At You (1963)
3. Ike & Tina Turner – The Locomotion (rel. 1988)
4. Aretha Franklin – Oh No Not My Baby (1970)
5. Martha Reeves – Dixie Highway (1974)
6. Michael Jackson – You’ve Got A Friend (1972)
7. B.J. Thomas – Early Morning Hush (1973)
8. Micky Dolenz – Sometime In The Morning (2012)
9. Carole King & James Taylor – Up On The Roof (Live) (2010)
10. Cami Thompson – Way Over Yonder (1993)
11. Ruth Brown – I Feel The Earth Move (1972)
12. Billy Paul – It’s Too Late (1972)
13. Marlena Shaw – Go Away, Little Boy (1969)
14. The Sweet Inspirations – Crying In The Rain (1969)
15. Blood Sweat & Tears – Hi-De-Ho (1970)
16. The Byrds – Goin’ Back (1968)
17. Cher – Yours Until Tomorrow (1969)
18. Carpenters – It’s Going To Take Some Time (1972)
19. Barbra Streisand – Where You Lead (1971)
20. B.W. Stevenson – Home Again (1972)
21. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – What Am I Gonna Do (1971)
22. Alan Price Set – On This Side Of Goodbye (1967)
23. Peggy Lipton – It Might As Well Rain Until September (1968)
24. The Shirelles – Make The Night A Little Longer (1962)
Bonus track:
The Beatles – Keep Your Hands Off My Baby (1963)

GET IT! or HERE!

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

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes
More CD-R Mixes

Categories: Covers Mixes, Songwriters Tags:

Barry Gibb Songbook Vol. 1 (Shaven Edition)

August 26th, 2021 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GET IT! or HERE!

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

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes
More CD-R Mixes

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

Any Major Jimmy Webb Collection Vol. 3

August 12th, 2021 3 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GET IT! or HERE!

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

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes
More CD-R Mixes

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

Any Major Neil Diamond Songbook

July 22nd, 2021 8 comments

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GET IT! or HERE!

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

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes
More CD-R Mixes

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