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Any Major Laura Nyro Songbook

November 22nd, 2022 3 comments

October 18 marked the 75th birthday of the great singer-songwriter Laura Nyro. Half a year earlier, April 8 marked the 25th anniversary of Nyro’s death, at the age 49.

By the time  the ovarian cancer claimed Nyro in 1997, her music was making a comeback of sorts, with a tribute album of her songs being recorded by the likes of Rosanne Cash, Suzanne Vega, Jill Sobule, Holly Cole, Phoebe Snow and others. It was released a month after Nyro’s death, but I hope she got to hear it before she left us. Since then, Nyro has become something of a cult figure, a songwriter who isn’t very well known but whose name is traded in reverential tones.

Nyro — pronounced Nero — deserves these reverential tones alone for the influence her exercised on others when her star was at the highest, from her groundbreaking debut in 1966 until early ’70s. Elton John, himself a subject of an Any Major Songbook earlier this year, cited her as a pivotal influence, and the mark of Nyro permeates Elton’s first few albums especially. Nyro, he has said, inspired him to abandon the rigid verse-chorus-verse structure, and to experiment with tempo changes. I wonder whether Elton’s lyricist, Bernie Taupin, was also inspired by Nyro; it would not surprise me.

Others who have named Laura Nyro as an influence include songwriting giants like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, who followed in her pioneering slipstream as a woman singer-songwriter. King, a veteran hit songwriter already when Nyro emerged on the scene in 1966 as a 19-year-old, was encouraged by Nyro to take her seat behind the piano and make it as a solo star. (Carole King has inspired two Songbooks — Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, plus a Tapestry Recovered mix — whole a Joni Mitchell Songbook will drop at some point, but in the interim, there’s the Blue Recovered mix.)

Laura’s ex-boyfriend Jackson Browne rode into LA on her coat tails. The Steely Dan guys and Alice Cooper dug her, as did Todd Rundgren, who modelled his songwriting style on Nyro’s. You can hear Nyro in Elvis Costello, Rickie Lee Jones and Cyndi Lauper, and even in artists as diverse as Kate Bush, Patti Smith and Bette Midler. Stevie Wonder based his If You Really Love Me on Nyro’s music.

In her short heyday, Nyro, the daughter of a jazz trumpeter, wrote a number of songs that became hits for others: And When I Die for first Peter, Paul and Mary and then Blood, Sweat and Tears (a group she was invited to join by founder Al Kooper); Eli’s Coming for Three Dog Night; Stoney End for Barbra Streisand; and for The Fifth Dimension Wedding Bell Blues, the deliciously grooving Stone Cold Picnic, Blowing Away, and Sweet Blindness.

Nyro was a gifted songwriter who fused genres so widely as to make it almost impossible to reduce her to any one classification (much like her chief apostles, The Fifth Dimension). It is quite astonishing to think that the lyrics and melody of When I Die were written by a teenager, at a time when the precedents for philosophical lyrical depth were still quite scarce in pop music. Stoney End was also written and released before Laura reached the age of 20, as was the musically complex Wedding Bell Blues, written when she was 18. As a teenage prodigy songwriter, Nyro stands alongside Jimmy Webb (Webb has been the subject of three Songbooks: Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3) and the Bee Gees guys (Barry Gibb yielded two Songbooks: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)

But the expressive, three-octave singer also loved to interpret the music of others. With LaBelle, she recorded a whole album of covers, and with the King/Goffin composition Up On The Roof she had her biggest chart hit — though its peak at #92 suggests that Nyro’s music was not the stuff of 7” singles stardom, or any kind of commercial success. Only one of her LPs entered the Billboard Album Top 40, New York Tendaberry (1969)

Apart from Laura’s distinctive voice, which not everybody loved, her own inability to market herself had something to do with that. Nyro was afflicted with debilitating stage-fright — no doubt exacerbated by being booed off stage at the 1967 Monterrey Festival — which impeded her ability to promote her records. Moreover, her personality was too intense and too idiosyncratic for the banality of the pop industry, even though her music demonstrably had popular appeal.

In 1971, at the age of 24, Nyro quit the industry, resurfacing only periodically. In 1993, she released her final album, Walk The Dog And Light The Light. It was well-received by the critics and widely ignored by the public.

Nyro was finally inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010, and two years later into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There were some people who thought her induction was elitist and controversial. Fuck those people. Ask Joni, ask Carole, ask Elton….

Annual expenses for hosting this corner of the web are coming up, so if you might throw a tip in my coffee jar above, I would be grateful.

As always, CD-R length, home-surried covers, the text above in illustrated PDF. PW in Comments.

1. Laura Nyro – Sweet Blindness (1968)
2. Three Dog Night – Eli’s Coming (1969)
3. Sammy Davis Jr. – And When I Die (1970)
4. The 5th Dimension – Black Patch (1972)
5. The Supremes – Time And Love (1971)
6. Bobbie Gentry – Wedding Bell Blues (1970)
7. Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys – Stoney End (1968)
8. Barbra Streisand – I Never Meant To Hurt You (1971)
9. Carmen McRae – Goodbye Joe (1970)
10. Karen Wyman – California Shoeshine Boys (1970)
11. Peggy Lipton – Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man) (1968)
12. Mama Cass – He’s A Runner (1969)
13. Claire Martin – Buy And Sell (1995)
14. Tuck & Patti – Captain For Dark Mornings (1998)
15. Swing Out Sister – Stoned Soul Picnic (1997)
16. Judy Kuhn – Luckie (2007)
17. Ronnie Dyson – Emmie (1970)
18. Melba Moore – Captain St Lucifer (1970)
19. Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – Save The Country (1975)
20. Green Lyte Sunday – Woman’s Blues (1970)
21. Laura Nyro – When I Was A Freeport And You Were The Main Drag (1970)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
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
Holland-Dozier-Holland
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Lamont Dozier
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes
More CD-R Mixes

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

Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 2

October 11th, 2022 4 comments

On October 11 it is 60 years ago that The Beatles’ first single, Love Me Do, entered the UK charts, the week after its release. It debuted in the Top 50 at #49, the fourth-highest new entry that week, after Swiss Maid by Del Shannon, Bobby’s Girl by Susan Maughan, and He Got What He Wanted by Little Richard. Shannon and Maughan went on to hit the Top 3; The Beatles stalled at #11 (and Little Richard flopped at #38).

The #1 hit that week was Telstar by the Tornados, followed in the Top 5 by Little Eva’s The Loco-motion, Tommy Roe’s Sheila, Carole King’s It Might As Well Rain Until September (a good week for King, with two Top 5 hits), and, down from #2, She’s Not You by Elvis (a song I don’t even know).

It’s strange to think that there was a brief time when The Beatles were selling records but Beatlemania didn’t yet exist. Nobody in October 1962 could have predicted what madness would ensue the following year. Nobody would have had a clue that just over three years later, this group would record something as pioneering as Tomorrow Never Knows, or that this group would become the biggest band in the world for six years.

For all the record-buyers of October 1962 knew, Love Me Do might have been the only thing ever worth buying by these lads from Liverpool — in as far as many people thought even this was worth owning, as the chart position of #11 suggests. Soon they’d know better.

After Please Please Me reached #2 in early 1963, The Beatles notched up 21 more UK Top 5 hits until they split in 1970. Only one of them was not in the Top 2 — Something in 1969 — and 17 topped the charts (including 11 consecutive #1s). In the US, The Beatles broke similar records.

Paul McCartney went solo only after The Beatles group broke up. By then Harrison and Lennon had already released solo stuff. Paul issued is debut solo album, McCartney, exactly a week after he announced the Beatles’ break-up on 10 April 1970. Five tracks from that album feature by way of covers on this second Paul McCartney Songbook. This mix follows the Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 1, which covered his compositions for The Beatles.

So here we have McCartney’s solo career — actually solo or with the Wings — in covers. It’s surprising that for some well-known hits there are no decent covers, at least none I can think of. These include Hi Hi Hi, which is a pity, and Mull Of Kintyre, which is just as well.

I’m pleased that another recent Songbook subject features here, in Brian Wilson. As mentioned before, Wilson was born only two days after Paul McCartney, which I find extraordinary. Alas, the Brian Wilson Songbook featured no cover by McCartney. And ex-Wings man Denny Laine turns up to do one of the more underrated McCartney numbers.

Many of the songs here featured on my Beatles Reunited series, which put together solo tracks by the respective Beatles alumni to create notional Beatles albums: Everest (1971), Smile Away (1972), Live (1972), Photographs (1974), Reunited 77 (1977), and Let It See (1980).

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

1. Maynard Ferguson – Jet (1974)
2. Billy Paul – Let ‘Em In (1976)
3. Sunday’s Child – Maybe I’m Amazed (1970)
4. Richie Havens – Band On The Run (1974)
5. The 5th Dimension – Every Night (1971)
6. Guns N’ Roses – Live And Let Die (1991)
7. Def Leppard – Helen Wheels (2014)
8. Big Sugar – Let Me Roll It (1998)
9. Denny Laine – Listen To What The Man Said (1996)
10. Michael Carpenter – Junior’s Farm (2011)
11. Brian Wilson – Wanderlust (2014)
12. Corinne Bailey Rae – Bluebird (2014)
13. John Pizzarelli feat. Michael McDonald – Coming Up (2015)
14. Ardijah – Silly Love Songs (1999)
15. Nancy Wilson – My Love (1974)
16. Peggy Lee – Let’s Love (1974)
17. John Denver – Junk (1971)
18. Grateful Dead – That Would Be Something (1991)
19. Death Cab For Cutie – Dear Boy (2009)
20. Robert Smith – C Moon (2014)
21. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Monkberry Moon Delight (1979)
Bonus Tracks:
22. Freddie Hubbard – Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (1971)
23. Cass Elliot – My Love (1973)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
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
Holland-Dozier-Holland
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Lamont Dozier
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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

Any Major Lamont Dozier Songbook

September 27th, 2022 3 comments

 

A few weeks ago we marked the death on August 8 of Lamont Dozier with a mix of songs he wrote at Motown with the brothers Brian and Eddie Holland. This is a sequel to the Any Major Holland-Dozier-Holland Songbook, covering almost exclusively the post-Motown era, during which Dozier still worked with the Hollands, but also with others and on his own.

Holland-Dozier-Holland split from Motown acrimoniously. Having founded the Invictus label, which created some of the greatest early-‘70s soul music, the trio were precluded by a lawsuit from crediting themselves for the songs they wrote. That’s how the fictional Edith Wayne, a pseudonym for HDH, came to co-write soul classics such as Band Of Gold, Give Me Just A Little More Time, Dangling On A String, Everything’s Tuesday, Westbound No. 9, Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup), and others.

The legal strife with Berry Gordy Jr was nasty business, but according to Dozier it was exactly that: just business. So by the mid-1970s, the Hollands worked with Motown again, in a delightful twist producing The Supremes, the band which in the 1960s they had produced to superstardom (and listen to Freda Payne’s Deeper And Deeper to hear some of that residual Supremes-like magic). On The Supremes’ 1976’s hit album High Energy, only Mary Wilson was left of the classic line-up. Sharing the lead by then was Scherrie Payne, Freda’s younger sister. But on the featured track, the Dozier co-written Don’t Let My Teardrops Bother You, Wilson takes the lead.

Before Scherrie joined The Supremes in 1973, she was in the Invictus band The Glass House, featured here with the gospel-funk track Heaven Is There To Guide Us, for which she received a co-writer’s credit, as she did for Crumbs Off The Table, a Glass House track covered here by Dusty Springfield.

There are two other songs with a faith-based theme here, both glorious grooves. The Sylvers’ Touch Me Jesus and Harrison Kennedy’s Sunday Morning People (which attacks the hypocrisy of people in the pews). In their original versions, by The Glass House (actually recorded by Darlene Love’s The Blossoms) and The Honey Cone respectively, both songs featured on the excellent Saved! The Soul Edition mix.

Perhaps the second-most surprising cover artist here, after Motörhead, is Donny Osmond. He covers the Chairmen of the Board’s glorious Dangling On A String. One might fear the worst, since Donald’s artistic reputation did not hinge on his powress as a traditional soul man. In the event, it is an agreeable interpretation — and not surprisingly, since co-writer Brian Holland produced the 1977 album this comes from.

Motörhead’s contribution from 1977, Leaving Here, is the only song here that belongs firmly in the Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown era. It was one of the trio’s earliest compositions, having been first released as a single in 1963 by Eddie Holland. It made no commercial impression, but in 1977, Lemmy and his pals Phil and Eddie recorded the song as their debut single. It’s not like Motörhead were deep-tracking obscure Motown material; their inspiration was a 1965 recording by the group The Birds, which counted among its members a fresh-faced Ronnie Woods.

The mix kicks off with Odyssey’s magnificent version of Going Back To My Roots, a song Dozier wrote on his own and recorded in 1977. Hugh Masekela helped Dozier infuse the song with its Afro-pop sensibility, which the Odyssey cover retained (including the Yoruba chant). It had already been covered by Richie Haven, but Odyssey had a huge hit with it in Europe in 1981. It topped the charts in South Africa, the home which Masekela could not return to… Dozier’s original featured on Any Major Originals: Soul Vol. 1).

Most tracks here were co-written by Dozier with others; the writing credits can be found in the ID3 tags of the song files. On 12 of the 30 tracks here, Ron Dunbar got a co-writing credit, mostly alongside that of Edith Wayne. Dunbar left us in April 2018. Dozier later claimed that Dunbar, an A&R man for Invictus, served as a composing front for Brian Holland, again because of the legal troubles with Motown. Dozier and Dunbar can sort that out in pop heaven.

This mix features 30 tracks. If you want to cut it in a standard CD-R, take tracks 1-22. The mix includes home-produced covers, and the above in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Odyssey – Going Back To My Roots (1981)
2. Angela Clemmons – Give Me Just A Little More Time (1982)
3. Donny Osmond – Dangling On A String (1977)
4. Lamont Dozier – Why Can’t We Be Lovers (1974)
5. Flaming Ember – Westbound No. 9 (1971)
6. The Honey Cone – While You’re Out Looking For Sugar (1969)
7. Ronnie Dyson – Band Of Gold (1970)
8. Chairmen Of The Board – Everything’s Tuesday (1970)
9. 100 Proof Aged In Soul – Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup) (1971)
10. McKinley Jackson & Politicians – Love Machine (1971)
11. Dusty Springfield – Crumbs Off The Table (1972)
12. Harrison Kennedy – Sunday Morning People (1972)
13. Freda Payne – Deeper And Deeper (1970)
14. The Glass House – Heaven Is There To Guide Us (1971)
15. The Sylvers – Touch Me Jesus (1972)
16. The Blossoms – Cherish What Is Dear To You (1972)
17. The Jones Girls – Come Back (1972)
18. James Gilstrap – Put Out The Fire (1975)
19. Millie Jackson – You Created A Monster (1977)
20. Ben E. King – Let Me Live In Your Life (1978)
21. The Supremes – Don’t Let My Teardrops Bother You (1976)
22. Holland-Dozier – New Breed Kinda Woman (1973)
Bonus Tracks:
23. Syreeta – Mind, Body And Soul (c.1969)
24. Dionne Warwick – Don’t Burn The Bridge (That You Took Across) (1973)
25. The Originals – Sweet Rhapsody (1975)
26. Margie Joseph – All Cried Out (1976)
27. Alison Moyet – Invisible (1984)
28. Boy George – To Be Reborn (1987)
29. The Style Council – Hanging On To A Memory (live) (1984)
30. Motörhead – Leaving Here (1978)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
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
Holland-Dozier-Holland
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

Categories: Mix CD-Rs, Songbooks Tags:

Holland-Dozier-Holland Songbook

August 16th, 2022 4 comments

The death on August 8 of Lamont Dozier calls for a retrospective of songs he wrote with Brian and Eddie Holland. Dozier is the first of that trio to leave us.

With the brothers Holland, Lamont Dozier formed a veritable hit-machine for Motown — more than that, they were pivotal in creating the Motown sound of the 1960s.

For Martha And The Vandellas, they wrote and produced hits such as Heat Wave (their first hit in 1963), Nowhere To Run, Come And Get These Memories, and Jimmy Mack.

For the Four Tops, they created Reach Out I’ll Be There, Baby I Need Your Loving, It’s the Same Old Song, Standing In The Shadows of Love, I’ll Turn To Stone, Bernadette, 7 Rooms Of Gloom, and You Keep Running Away.

For Marvin Gaye they wrote How Sweet It Is and Can I Get A Witness; for The Miracles it was Mickey’s Monkey, for Jr. Walker & The All Stars (I’m A) Roadrunner, for The Isley Brothers This Old Heart Of Mine, for The Elgins Heaven Must Have Sent You, and for R. Dean Taylor they wrote There’s A Ghost In My House.

And they made The Supremes. Look at this list: Baby Love, Where Did Our Love Go, You Keep Me Hanging On, Stop In The Name Of Love, Reflections, I Hear A Symphony, Come See About Me, The Happening, Forever Came Today, Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone, and more.

Lamont Dozier, left, with the Holland brothers.

After falling out with Berry Gordy, Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown in 1968 and founded their own label, Invictus. There their charges included the Freda Payne, Chairmen Of The Board, 100 Proof Aged In Soul, Flaming Embers, Glass House, and Honey Cone, producing and co-writing hits — for contractual reasons as Edith Wayne — such as Band Of Gold, Give Me Just A Little More Time, Everything’s Tuesday, You’ve Got Me Dangling On A String,  Sunday Morning People, Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup), or Westbound No. 9.

On that label Dozier also released his biggest solo hit, Why Can’t We Be Lovers, a US #9. In 1973 he split from the Holland brothers, with lawsuits following. Dozier said his legal issues with the Hollands, and with Berry Gordy before that, were not personal, just business.

Of the three, Dozier went on to have the greater success, but divided they never reached such heights as they did together in that decade from 1963-72.

With an eye to my CD-R length rule, this collection covers only the Motown phase. If you ask nicely, I might put together a post-Motown mix of Dozier compositions, with and without the Hollands.

The covers here are quite fascinating, none more so than Dozier’s 2004 interpretation of Baby Love. Here the man who co-wrote the song for three teenage girls wrestled with his composition 40 years later, as a man in his early 60s. He reworked the song to great effect.

Motown let different acts on their roster record the same songs, to see which version would provide the hits. That way, we have The Supremes try their hand at the Four Tops’ I Can’t Help Myself, and The Isley Brothers doing The Supremes’ I Hear A Symphony. The Four Tops’ version of Reflections came later, on 1970’s remarkable Still Waters Run Deep album.

Barry White, meanwhile, took The Four Tops’ Standing In The Shadows Of Love, and gave it a thorough reworking. On the bonus track, Margie Joseph does something similar to Stop! In The Name Of Love.

The most unusual interpretation — other than maybe the great cover of Come See About Me by the Afghan Whigs — might be that by Matt Monro, who took The Happening into the realms of jazz vocals. Which raises the question: Why did Frank Sinatra never sing Holland-Dozier-Holland songs?

Companion mixes to this collection may be Covered With Soul: Motown Edition Vol. 1 and Covered With Soul: Motown Edition Vol. 2. I might also commend to you The Originals: Motown Edition, but that features only one Holland-Dozier-Holland track, which shows how they almost always got it right the first time.

As mentioned, CD-R length, plus home-produced covers. The above text is included in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. The Jam – (Love is Like A) Heat Wave (1979)
2. Soft Cell – Where Did Our Love Go (1981)
3. The Afghan Whigs – Come See About Me (1992)
4. Fleetwood Mac – (I’m A) Road Runner (1973)
5. Wild Cherry – Nowhere To Run (1976)
6. Z. Z. Hill – Can I Get A Witness (1972)
7. O.C. Smith – Baby I Need Your Loving (1974)
8. Wilson Pickett – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1969)
9. Tami Lynn – Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone (1972)
10. Barry White – Standing In the Shadows Of Love (1973)
11. Lamont Dozier – Baby Love (2004)
12. Michael McDonald – Reach Out, I’ll Be There (2004)
13. Nicolette Larson – Back In My Arms, Again (1979)
14. James Taylor – How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (1975)
15. Matt Monro – The Happening (1967)
16. José Feliciano – My World Is Empty Without You (1968)
17. Laura Nyro & Labelle – Jimmy Mack (1971)
18. The Isley Brothers – I Hear A Symphony (1966)
19. Barbara Randolph – I Turn To Stone (1968)
20. Four Tops – Reflections (1970)
21. The Supremes – I Can’t Help Myself (1966)
Bonus Track:
Margie Joseph – Stop! In The Name Of Love (1971)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
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

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes

Categories: Covers Mixes, Songbooks Tags:

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

More Songbooks
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Categories: Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs, Songbooks Tags:

Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 1

June 14th, 2022 5 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, Songbooks 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, Songbooks Tags:

Any Major Carole King Songbook Vol. 2

April 28th, 2022 3 comments

 

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, Songbooks 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, Songbooks 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, Songbooks Tags: