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In Memoriam – June 2015

July 2nd, 2015 7 comments

15061 galleryThe issue of bounty hunters in the US has come under scrutiny lately. One June 8, John Oliver exposed the problems with bounty hunting on his Last Week Tonight show. The following evening, country singer Randy Howard was shot dead by a bounty bunter in his own home in Tennessee. Howard, who was one of the vanguard of the Outlaw country music movement, had failed to appear in court to answer charges on standard country music trespasses such as possession of drug paraphernalia and handling a gun while being drunk. Upon a bounty hunter bursting into his house, he apparently fired shots; these were returned. The bounty hunter was injured; Howard was dead. I am no expert on law enforcement issues in the US, but surely one needs no bounty hunter to track down a man to his home?

Harold Battiste, who has died at 81, was a true Renaissance Man in music. He was an arranger, producer, composer, keyboard player, saxophonist and record company founder. The latter was particularly significant: in 1961, he set up the first African-American musician-owned record label, All For One, or AFO Records, which soon scored a massive hit with Barbara George”s I Know (You Don”t Love Me No More). He arranged and/or produced for acts like Sam Cooke (including You Send Me), Sonny & Cher (I Got You, Babe; The Beat Goes On ; Bang Bang), Lee Dorsey (Ya Ya), Dr John (Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya; Iko Iko) and others. He played keyboards on many of the Phil Spector-produced hits for The Ronettes, The Crystals and so on, as well as on The Righteous Brothers You”ve Lost That Lovin” Feelin”. On many of these he played alongside the Wrecking Crew collective. He also played sax on a track on The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1, Claudia Lennear” Goin” Down. On top of all that, he was a lecturer in music at several colleges, including in the Jazz Studies faculty of the University of New Orleans.

And then there was only one. In January we lost Popsy Dixon of the trio The Holmes Brothers; in June Wendell Holmes left us, leaving only his brother Sherman alive. Wendell died from complications caused by pulmonary hypertension, not of the cancer which he beat to record the 2010 album Feed My Soul. He said his favourite song was We Meet, We Part, We Remember “” so I”ll feature it here.

The female voice of folk pioneers The Weavers is now silent. Ronnie Gilbert passed away at the age of 88, wrapping a quite extraordinary life. The daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, she grew up in New York, but it was in Washington during World War 2 that she hooked up with the giants of folk, Alan Lomax and Woody Guthrie. From there she met Pete Seeger with whom she co-founded The Weavers, which had to break up in 1953 after being blacklisted during the purge of the left in the world”s self-proclaimed bastion of freedom. Gilbert continued her activism, visiting Cuba after the revolution and taking part in the Paris protests of 1968.

In the 1970s she obtained an MA in psychology, but continued with her music, mentoring and influencing many folkies and singer-songwriters along the way. Late in life she still played at folk and Jewish music festivals, and remained politically active, especially in opposing Israel”s occupation of Palestinian territories. In 2004 she married her partner of 20 years, Donna Korones. She missed the Supreme Court decision to legalise same-sex marriage in the US by three weeks.

15062 galleryThe rich life of Ornette Coleman was celebrated with a three-hour funeral which, reports say, was marked with music and lightness of mood. This seems fitting for a man who in his 85 years was one of the most influential musicians in jazz. Yoko Ono, who had been friends with Coleman for 50 years, spoke at the funeral. Several pieces of music were performed, including one featuring Ravi Coltrane, son of John, at whose father”s funeral Coleman played in 1967. And Coleman”s son was part of an ensemble that played the track featured here, Lonely Woman.

His face is an emblem of my childhood. In 1970s Germany, James Last was ubiquitous. And I couldn”t stand his easy listening fare, his side-parted long hair and goatee. To me, he represented music for people who hate music. He was the extent of cool the squares would allow. In time I grew up and acknowledged his accomplishments as one of Europe”s fine bandleaders. I”d never own a James Last record, but I came to like the old chap. A Strange thing: his real name was Hans Last. Before he became James (and why not John, the English version of Hans?), his surname would likely have been pronounced to rhyme with the English word “lust”. But when he took his Anglo moniker, the surname was pronounced in the English way, even by the Germans.

His was a name I knew better than his work, even though I was familiar with his music. To me, James Horner was a perennial Oscar nominee who won for his score of the 1997 movie Titanic and the entirely regrettable theme song, My Heart Will Go On. Unless one is an aficionado of the genre, we don”t expend much energy thinking about who wrote the music for a film score, even if we admire it. But anybody who has watched American movies over the past three decades will have heard Horner”s music, in films such as Alien, Field of Dreams, Braveheart, Glory, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind (the subject of which, John Nash, died on May 23), 48 Hrs., Cocoon, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Legends of the Fall, House of Cards, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Avatar, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Willow, An American Tail and its sequel, and more. Apparently director Don Bluth was not happy with Horner”s score for An American Tail “” in the end, it turned out to be some of Horner”s best work. The song Never Say Never, which Horner wrote with Cynthia Weill and Barry Mann, ought to be a musical standard. Read more…

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The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2

June 25th, 2015 6 comments

Jim Keltner Collection Vol.2

Here is the second part of the Jim Keltner Collection, featuring more songs on which one of the great session drummers hit the skins, following Volume 1 a few weeks ago.

One of the most surprising of these is the song that opens this compilation, a Crowded House song. The antipodean group, of course, had a fine drummer: the late, lamented Paul Hester. Now We”re Getting Somewhere was the one track on the debut album that didn”t feature Hester “” nor bassist Nick Seymour; the bass on the song was played by Jerry Scheff. The session musicians were brought in by producer Mitchell Froom.

The day after recording Now We”re Getting Somewhere, Hester and Seymour were allowed to play; the track they put down was Don”t Dream It”s Over. Hester might have been unhappy about Keltner taking his place, but apparently he learned a lot from observing the drumming legend. Still, Now We”re Getting Somewhere is the one single that didn”t make it on to Crowded House”s greatest hits album, Recurring Dream.

In a few weeks” time we”ll have reason to remember that Jim Keltner backed John Lennon at his 1972 concert at New York”s Madison Square Gardens and drummed, along with Ringo (from whom he learned by watching), at George Harrison”s Concert for Bangladesh. He also toured in the late 1980s with Ringo Starr”s All-Starr Band. Around the same time he teamed up with old mates Harrison and Dylan to drum for the Travelin” Wilburys, taking the name Buster Sidebury. After Harrison”s death, he played at the Concert For George.

Jim Keltner was the punchline to a dig by George and Ringo on Paul McCartney, the only Beatle who hadn”t used Keltner”s services. On the back cover of his Red Rose Speedway LP in 1973, Paul invited fans to join the “Wings Fun Club” by sending in a stamped addressed envelope. The same year both Harrison”s Living In The Material World and Starr”s Ringo albums had spoof notes asking fans to join the “Jim Keltner Fan Club” by sending a “stamped undressed elephant”.

Check out this video interview with Keltner, and listen to this fantastic podcast interview with Keltner on John and his famous Lost Weekend, and the other Beatles (including the story of Paul breaking Ringo”s drum):

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

1. Crowded House – Now We”re Getting Somewhere (1986)
2. Gary Wright – Dream Weaver (1975)
3. Ry Cooder – Boomer”s Story (1972)
4. The Bee Gees – Saw A New Morning (1973)
5. Johnny Rivers – Rock Me On The Water (1971)
6. Martha Reeves – Power Of Love (1974)
7. Roberta Flack – Making Love (1982)
8. Yvonne Elliman – Savannah (1979)
9. Gabor Szabo – Dear Prudence (1969)
10. Shawn Phillips – Golden Flower (1975)
11. Alison Krauss – Forget About It (1999)
12. Maria McKee – I Forgive You (1993)
13. Melissa Manchester – Don”t Cry Out Loud (1978)
14. Dolly Parton – It”s Too Late To Love Me Now (1978)
15. Buckingham Nicks – Lola (My Love) (1973)
16. Leon Russell – Out In The Woods (1972)
17. Pops Staples – Down In Mississippi (1992)
18. John Mayer – Something Like Olivia (2012)
19. John Hiatt – Thank You Girl (1987)
20. Joe Cocker – Long Drag Off A Cigarette (1984)
21. J.J. Cale – Pack My Jack (1980)

GET IT!

Previous session musicians” collection:
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1

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Any Major Summer Vol. 5

June 18th, 2015 6 comments

Any Major Summer Vol. 5

As the northern hemisphere is enjoying (or perhaps not) the onset of the summer season, here is the fifth and final summer mix.

I have stuck by the rule of using only one song per artist in this series. The exception was The Beach Boys, the official spokespeople for summer. They featured on the four previous mixes; here they are represented by a gorgeous Brian Wilson track from 1998 and a cover version of the equally lovely Warmth Of The Sun, by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs. Plus: Bruce & Terry”s Summer Means Fun is very obviously a Beach Boys knock-off.

Few mixes on the Internet are likely to include songs by the Bay City Rollers and Partridge Family (well, the Wrecking Crew, really) on the one hand and Pink Floyd and The Doors on the other. That”s the benefit/penance of riding with a halfhearted dude. There are three songs separating the Partridge Family and Pink Floyd tracks. Does it work out? I think it does, but what do you think?

One track here is brand new: I debated whether to include Matt Nathanson”s joyous Gold In The Summertime, the lead single of his forthcoming new album. In the end, it was too good to exclude, but in fairness to Nathanson, the version here is at a low bitrate. If you like it, buy it. Visit www.mattnathanson.com

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

1. Percy Faith Orchestra – Theme from “˜A Summer Place” (1960)
2. Martha and the Vandellas – Dancing In The Streets (1964)
3. Bruce and Terry – Summer Means Fun (1964)
4. The Happenings – See You In September (1966)
5. Billy Idol – HotIn The City (1982)
6. Aerosmith – Girls In Summer (2002)
7. Brian Wilson – Keep An Eye On Summer (1998)
8. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs – The Warmth Of The Sun (2006)
9. Matt Nathanson – Gold In The Summertime (2015)
10. Corinne Bailey Rae – Put Your Records On (2006)
11. Michael Franks – Summer In New York (2011)
12. The Blackbyrds – Summer Love (1974)
13. Traffic – Paper Sun (1967)
14. Graham Gouldman – Sunburn (1979)
15. Bay City Rollers – Summerlove Sensation (1974)
16. The Partridge Family – Summer Days (1971)
17. The Sunrays – I Live For The Sun (1965)
18. Peter and Gordon – Green Leaves of Summer (1066)
19. Larry Jon Wilson – July The 12th, 1939 (1977)
20. Pink Floyd – Summer “˜68 (1970)
21. The Doors – Summer”s Almost Gone (1968)
22. The Cure – The Last Day Of Summer (2000)

GET IT!

Previously in Any Major Summer
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Any Major Funk Vol. 8

June 11th, 2015 8 comments

Any Major Funk Vol. 8

It is now more than seven years ago since I posted the first Any Major Funk mix (using the word “funk” loosely); here is what I think will be the concluding mix in the series.

Some songs in this series are probably as easily classified as disco “” even on this mix, the tracks by Earth, Wind & Fire or Diana Ross or Donna Summer are not foreign to the disco genre.

All the previous Any Major Funk mixes are up again, with funky covers. Of course, all of them are timed to fit on a standard CD-R. PW in comments.

1. Brothers Johnson – Ain”t We Funkin” Now (1978)
2. Skyy – Show Me The Way (1983)
3. Earth, Wind & Fire with The Emotions – Boogie Wonderland (1979)
4. George Benson – Give Me The Night (1980)
5. Diana Ross – The Boss (1979)
6. Shalamar – The Second Time Around (1979)
7. Jimmy “˜Bo” Horne – You Get Me Hot (1979)
8. Cheryl Lynn – Shake It Up Tonight (1981)
9. Ren̩ & Angela РFree And Easy (1980)
10. Leon Haywood – Strokin” (1976)
11. Linda Clifford – Runaway Love (1979)
12. Gap Band – Outstanding (1982)
13. Slave – Watching You (1980)
14. Side Effect – Take A Chance “˜n” Dance (1980)
15. Gary Toms Empire – Walk On By (1978)
16. Donna Summer – Last Dance (1978)

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In Memoriam – May 2015

June 4th, 2015 6 comments

IM0515aThere isn”t much more to say about B.B. King that the obits haven”t covered. Except this: For years King didn”t receive the respect he merited in some quarters because he was seen as having sold out from the blues genre. These purists regarded King as inauthentic, even if the only delta they”d ever seen was an airline. These were the snobs who resented King and players like Muddy Waters for updating the blues, without having any claim to the blues in the first place, and instead played their obscure blues records from the 1930s and celebrated Dylan”s famous (and probably misunderstood) words, “Just don”t play me any of that B.B. King shit”. Thankfully the “authenticity” debate has been lost by the snobs, and everybody can in good conscience and without qualification celebrate the accomplishments of Blues Boy King.

I paid tribute to Brothers Johnson bass player Louis Johnson last week with a collection of songs he played on. But it is right that I do mark his passing at 60 in this post. Thank you, Louis, for playing the basslines I danced to, grooved to and smooched to, from Stomp and Don”t Stop Till You Get Enough and Wanna Be Starting Something, from I Keep Forgetting to Strawberry Letter 21, from One Hundred Ways to Human Nature.

Few people in the 1970s sported a shaven bald head and got away with it. For Telly Savalas is was the gimmick that brought him stardom; Isaac Hayes was to cool for hair anyway, and then there was Hot Chocolate”s Errol Brown, who pulled the bald look off with elegance. Hot Chocolate was an early example of a multi-racial group that enjoyed big mainstream success, at least in Britain and Europe. What is not so well known is that Brown and pals started out on The Beatles” Apple records after adapting Lennon”s Give Peace A Chance in reggae style.

English singer Lynn Ripley, who performed under the moniker Twinkle, caused a big stir briefly in 1964 with her song Terry, in which the eponymous character is killed Read more…

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The Louis Johnson Collection

May 28th, 2015 8 comments

Louis Johnson Collection

We interrupt this series of collections of songs of session drummers to pay tribute to Louis Johnson, the great bassist and half of the Johnson Brothers who died last week at the age of 60.

Louis Johnson, nicknamed “Thunder Thumbs”, gave us basslines to dance to “” Stomp and Don”t Stop Till You Get Enough “” and to groove to “” I Keep Forgettin” and Baby Come To Me “” and to smooch to “” One Hundred Ways and Love All The Hurt Away. And he played on the charity behemoth We Are The World.

He is probably best known as one of the Brothers Johnson, whose repertoire included such classics as Stomp, I”ll Be Good To You, Get The Funk Out Ma Face, and a fine cover of Shuggie Otis” Strawberry Letter 23 (check out the isolated bass of the latter).

Much of the Brothers Johnson material was produced by Quincy Jones, their manager and mentor, who kept returning to Louis for some bass work.

You”ll have heard Louis” basslines on Quincy productions such as Michael Jackson”s Off The Wall album, on which Louis did bass duty on all but one song (Rock With You; that was Bobby Watson).

On Thriller, where several tracks are driven by synth-based basslines, Louis Johnson featured on Billy Jean, Wanna Be Startin” Something, Human Nature and P.Y.T.

He played on Quincy”s solo albums, such as Mellow Madness, I Heard That and Live At Budokan, as well as on two star-studded affairs released under the Quincy Jones banner: The Dude and Back On The Block (on the latter he appeared on the Ray Charles & Chaka Khan cover of the Brothers Johnson”s I”ll Be Good To You”) .

Many hip hop artists have sampled Johnson”s basslines, most famously perhaps that of Michael McDonald”s I Keep Forgettin” for Warren G.”s Regulate.

Apart from those featured on this collection, acts for whom Johnson played include: Gabor Sabo, Grover Washington Jr, Side Effects, Leon Haywood, Sergio Mendes, Harvey Mason, Letta Mbulu, Pointer Sisters, Herb Alpert, Hugh Masekela, Joe Tex, Rufus & Chaka Khan, René & Anngela, Stanley Clarke, Andraé Crouch, Passage, Donna Summer (on State Of Independence), John Cougar Mellencamp, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, The Jacksons, Jeffrey Osborne, Peabo Bryson, Paul McCartney, Charlene, Rodney Franklin, Johnny Gill, Dennis Edwards, Angela Bofill, DeBarge, Irena Cara, Angela Winbush, Barbra Streisand, Brian McKnight and more.

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

1. Brothers Johnson – Stomp (1979)
2. Michael Jackson – Off The Wall (1979)
3. George Benson – Love X Love (1980)
4. Quincy Jones – Ai No Corrida (1980)
5. Patti Austin & James Ingram – Baby Come To Me (1981)
6. Karen Carpenter – Lovelines (1879/80)
7. Lee Ritenour feat Bill Champlin – You Caught Me Smilin” (1981)
8. The Crusaders feat Joe Cocker – This Old World”s Too Funky For Me (1980)
9. Bobby Womack – Everything”s Gonna Be Alright (1975)
10. Bill Withers – Sometimes A Song (1975)
11. Billy Preston – Will It Go Round In Circles (1972)
12. Herbie Hancock – Lite Me Up! (1982)
13. Aretha Franklin – What A Fool Believes (1980)
14. Michael McDonald – I Keep Forgettin” (Every Time You”re Near) (1982)
15. Sweet Comfort Band – Feel Like Singin” (1981)
16. Sister Sledge – Smile (1983)
17. Earl Klugh – Slippin” In The Back Door (1976)
18. Quincy Jones feat. Ray Charles & Chaka Khan – I”ll Be Good To You (1989)

GET IT!

Previous session musicians” collection:
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1

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The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1

May 21st, 2015 12 comments

Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1

One could call session drummer Jim Keltner the fifth ex-Beatles Beatle: he drummed for John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, for all three in the studio and live on stage. He was in Lennon”s circle during the famous “lost weekend”, and partnered Ringo behind drums during Harrison”s Concert for Bangladesh.

Keltner might be best remembered for his association with three Beatles, but the list of artists with whom he has played is staggering. Apart from the artists featured on this mix and the second volume, those he drummed for on record include:

like Joe Cocker, James Taylor, Seals & Croft, Carl Tjader, Bonnie & Delaney, Leon Russell, Freddie King, Boots Randolph, Yoko Ono, Sergio Mendes, Don Everley, Earl Scruggs, Donovan, Andy Williams, Van Dyke Parks, Frankie Valli, Dion, Keith Moon, The Steve Miller Band, Bonnie Raitt, Arlo Guthrie, Rick Springfield, Shankar Family, José Feliciano, Harry Chapin, Chuck Girard, Bette Middler, Mr Big, Ian McLagan, Neil Diamind, Bill Wyman, Maria Muldaur, Geoff Muldaur, Chi Coltrane, Lowell George, Carol Bayer Sager, Leonard Cohen, Eric Clapton, Ron Wood, Jimmy Cliff, Melissa Manchester, Lalo Schifrin, Alice Cooper, Rickie Lee Jones, Manhattan Transfer, Roberta Flack, Leo Kottke, Captain Beefheart, Rod Stewart, Don Henley, Irene Cara, Duane Eddy, Maria McKee, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, T-Bone Burnett, JD Souther, Aaron Neville, Gillian Welch, Richard Thompson, Johnny Winter, Toto, Toni Childs, Marc Cohn, Lionel Richie, Nick Lowe, Aimee Mann, Mick Jagger, The Waterboys, Joni Mitchell, Willie Nelson, Al Stewart, Linda Ronstadt, Sheryl Crow, The Rolling Stones, John Lee Hooker, Chris Isaak, Buddy Guy, Traveling Wilburys, Jack Bruce, Crosby Still, Nash & Young, Rufus Wainwright, Boz Scaggs, Dan Fogelberg, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pink Floyd, Matthew Sweet, Ray Charles, Melissa Etheridge, The Charlatans, Lucinda Williams, The Pretenders, Fiona Apple, Ryan Adams, Robbie Robertson, Dhani Harrison, Sean Lennon, Cassandra Wilson, She & Him, Joseph Arthur, Michael Bublé, Lyle Lovett, Mavis Staples, Alexi Murdoch, John Mayer”¦

And that list isn”t even complete.

He played on classics such as Nilsson”s Without You and Ringo Starr”s Photograph, though he didn”t play on Bill Withers” Ain”t No Sunshine, as some people say. According to the man himself, he observed Al Jackson play drums on that song; Keltner did play on Better Off Dead, a song with just about the most devastating end to an album.

Keltner appeared on many albums which also featured past Collection subject Jim Gordon, and a few which also included work by Hal Blaine or Bernard Purdie (for links take a look at the end of this post).

On several records he played alongside saxophone session man Bobby Keys (another close Lost Weekend Lennon friend), who died last December, and who is the only non-drumming session man so far to have had a mix in this series. Of the tracks featured here, he and Keys play together on two: on BB King”s Ain”t Nobody Home and on Nilsson”s version of Many Rivers To Cross (arranged by John Lennon and with Ringo Starr co-drumming). On the Keys collection, Keltner also appeared on Carly Simon”s Night Owl and Martha Reeves” Storm In My Soul (Keltner also drums on Reeves” version of Dixie Highway on the Any Major Roads mix).

Jim Keltner and John Lennon in 1974

Jim Keltner and John Lennon in 1974

Jim Keltner was born in 1942 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His early interest was in jazz, and although his first outing as a session man was backing a pop group (Gary Lewis and the Playboys on She”s Just My Style), most of his early credited work was for jazz artists like Gabor Szabo and Cal Tjader.

It was his involvement with Delaney & Bonnie and Leon Russell that broke him in the world of rock. First Joe Cocker, always astute in appointing session players, engaged him. Very soon almost everybody else did, from Booker T Jones to Carly Simon to BB King to Barbra Streisand “” the latter for her version of Lennon”s Mother.

While Keltner had played on several covers of Lennon”s Beatles songs, he didn”t drum for Lennon until the Imagine LP in 1971 (on Jealous Guy and I Don”t Wanna Be A Soldier). On Lennon”s next three albums of original material (Mind Games, Some Time In New York and Walls And Bridges), Keltner did all the drumming duties, as he did on several Yoko Ono outings. He also played drums in the 1975 New York concert which was released a few years after Lennon”s death.

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

1. John Lennon – #9 Dream (1975)
2. Art Garfunkel – Break Away (1975)
3. Jackson Browne – Ready Or Not (1973)
4. Rita Coolidge – That Man Is My Weakness (1971)
5. Bobby Womack – Superstar (1975)
6. Bob Dylan – Knockin” On Heaven”s Door (1973)
7. Harry Nilsson – Many Rivers To Cross (1974)
8. Dave Mason – If You”ve Got Love (1973)
9. Jim Price – You Got The Power (1971)
10. Carly Simon – Waited So Long (1972)
11. Randy Newman – Short People (1977)
12. Steely Dan – Josie (1977)
13. Roger Tillison – Old Cracked Lookin Glass (1971)
14. BB King – Ain”t Nobody Home (1971)
15. Bobby Lester – Freedom (1972)
16. Bill Withers – Better Off Dead (1971)
17. Claudia Lennear – Goin” Down (1973)
18. Hoyt Axton – Good Lookin” Child (1974)
19. Ringo Starr – Goodnight Vienna (1974)
20. George Harrison – Try Some Buy Some (1973)
21. Warren Zevon – Things To Do In Denver When You”re Dead (1991)
22. Roy Orbison – She”s A Mystery To Me (1989)

GET IT!

Previous session musicians” collection:
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Bobby Graham Collection

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Any Major Roads Vol. 1

May 14th, 2015 15 comments

Any Major Road Vol.1

Here”s the first of what I think will be two mixes on the subject of driving. Not “driving songs” ““ no Bon Jovi, no Bohemian Rhapsody ““ but songs about people in cars, or who are planning to be in one, or being on the long road. Having said that, I have test-driven this mix in my car, and found it a most agreeable companion on (mostly congested) roads.

The king of car songs is, of course, Bruce Springsteen. I could have chosen so many; just coming to mind as I write are Racing In The Streets, Born To Run, Sherry Darling, Cadillac Ranch, Wreck On A Highway, Stolen Car, Working On The Highway”¦ If you have perused the tracklisting before reading this, as I would, you might either be troubled by the absence of Thunder Road, or delighted by my lack obviousness. The song is, in fact, included by way of prototype.

Before the song was Thunder Road and Bruce planned to take Mary out of this town of losers (the same Mary whom he gets pregnant in The River?), it was called Wings for Wheels, and the girl was Angelina. The recording here is, I think, the only one of Wings for Wheels, put down live in February 1975 at The Main Point in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Just over six months later, Springsteen recorded Thunder Road for the Born To Run album.

Also coming from a bootleg is Simon & Garfunkel“s America, in which the featured motor vehicle is a Greyhound bus. The recording is from the duo”s 1968 concert at the Hollywood Bowl. It is one of the best bootlegs I”ve heard, in terms of sound and performance. Well worth tracking down.

Rocket 88 is regarded by some as “the first rock & roll record”, as if such a thing exists (though Sam Philips, who recorded it, made that pronouncement, and who am I to argue with him?). The recording will usually be attributed to Ike Turner, and the credited performer tends to be forgotten. Jackie Brenston was Ike”s saxophonist, and his Delta Cats were really Turner”s Kings of Rhythm. Branston got the writing credit, though it was written by 19-year-old Ike. On the saxophone is Raymond Hill, who”d later father the future Tina Turner”s first child.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-combusted covers, PW in comments (where you are invited to leave a note).

1. Doobie Brothers – Rockin” Down The Highway (1972)
2. War – Low Rider (1975)
3. Golden Earring – Radar Love (1973)
4. Tom Robinson Band – 2-4-6-8 Motorway (1977)
5. It”s Immaterial – Driving Away Form Home (Jim”s Tune) (1986)
6. Gabe Dixon Band – Five More Hours (2005)
7. Wilco – Passenger Side (1995)
8. Stephen Duffy & The Lilac Time – Driving Somewhere (2007)
9. John Prine – Automobile (1979)
10. Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band – Wings For Wheels (1975)
11. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Hollywood Nights (1978)
12. Edgar Winter Group – Free Ride (1972)
13. Eagles – Take It Easy (1972)
14. Little Feat – Truck Stop Girl (1970)
15. Martha Reeves – Dixie Highway (1974)
16. Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – Hello Sunday! Hello Road! (1977)
17. Simon & Garfunkel – America (live) (1968)
18. Dionne Warwick РDo You Know The Way To San Jos̩ (1968)
19. Lovin’ Spoonful – On The Road Again (1965)
20. Lee Dorsey – My Old Car (1967)
21. Chuck Berry – No Particular Place To Go (1964)
22. Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats – Rocket 88 (1951)
23. The King Cole Trio – (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 (1946)

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In Memoriam – April 2015

May 7th, 2015 11 comments

gallery1The only soul legend whose hand I”ve ever shaken has died. Percy Sledge enjoyed the privilege of my handshake in London in 1987. Sledge is of course best remembered for his soaring performance of When A Man Loves A Woman, and perhaps for Warm And Tender Love. In South Africa he enjoyed legendary status thanks to several tours there in the 1970s, especially in 1970/71, when he played to segregated audiences. There were of course those who objected, but even a good number of anti-apartheid activists went because, well, it was Percy Sledge. This was a time when the cultural boycott had not got traction yet “” even The Byrds toured South Africa; the reason Gram Parsons gave for leaving the group. Of the featured tracks, two relate to that time: the opening of a 1970 concert for mixed-race audiences at the Luxurama in Cape Town, and the very rare Swazi Lady which appeared only on the soundtrack album of a documentary on his South Africa tour, Percy Sledge In Soul Africa.

Just a fortnight later, Ben E. King left us. Coincidentally, both Sledge and King had UK hits in 1987 with their classic songs on strength of commercials for Levi 501s. King, then still known by his birth name Benjamin Nelson, got his break in the late “˜50s as the frontman of The Drifters. That group”s whole line-up was fired by their manager (who owned the rights to the name) in 1958 and replaced by King”s doo wop group The Five Crowns. Due to a contract dispute King didn”t stay long with the group, recording just 13 songs (11 of them as the lead) before going solo. But what a line-up of songs that was, including There Goes My Baby (which he co-wrote), Save the Last Dance for Me, This Magic Moment and I Count the Tears (on TV King”s vocals were lip synched by Drifters member Charlie Tomas).

As a solo artist King enjoyed several hits, some later covered by others with commercial success, such as Spanish Harlem, Don’t Play That Song (You Lied), So Much Loved and I (Who Have Nothing). But his biggest hit was, of course, Stand By Me, which he wrote with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, based on a gospel song, Lord Stand By Me. King used the royalties for the song for the Stand By Me Foundation, which provides education to disadvantaged youths.

Anybody who has ever played Lynyrd Skynyrd”s Free Bird loudly while driving will have banged out the song”s drum rolls on the steering wheel. The drummer who created these is now gone, at the age of 64. Bob Burns joined Lynyrd Skynyrd”s in 1966 and played on the first two albums, which yielded hits such as Free Bird, Simple Man, Gimme Three Steps, Tuesday”s Gone, Don”t Ask Me No Questions and Sweet Home Alabama. He left the band in 1974 on account of the stress of touring. He died after hitting a tree on the way home from a gig in Bartow County, Georgia.

It is unusual to feature people in this series who never recorded or in some way helped to record music, but in the case of Suzanne Crough I must make an exception. Suzanne played little Tracy on The Partridge Family, a TV show which is still very watchable and the music of which (recorded by members the Wrecking Crew with David Cassidy) is much better than it is given credit for. On the show, Tracy”s job on stage was to play the tambourine, which was rather more believable than Danny playing like Larry Knechtel or either of the Chrises drumming like Hal Blaine. Crough left acting in 1980; she later owned a bookshop and managed an office supply store.

gallery2Jack Ely was responsible for one of the great iconic rock vocals of the 1960s. As a co-founder of The Kingsmen Read more…

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The Originals: Elvis Presley Vol. 2

April 30th, 2015 7 comments

The first part of the Elvis Originals covered (as it were) the Rock & Roll years and early post-GI period. Here we have the originals of songs Elvis covered in the 1960s and ’70s.

Elvis Presley”s artistic decline in the1960s is symbolised by the coincidence of his most derided movie, Clambake, which opened at about the same time as The Beatles released their groundbreaking Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP. A year later, in 1968, Elvis’ live TV special marked the comeback of Elvis the Entertainer. Elvis the Recording Artist, however, had not had a #1 hit in seven years when in January 1969 he entered the famous American Sound Studios in Memphis.

suspicious-mind

At first the old soul music veterans at the studio were dubious about working with the washed-up ex-king of rock & roll. Elvis soon had them convinced otherwise. Eight days into the session, on January 20, he recorded the Mac Davis-penned In The Ghetto; two days later Suspicious Minds, which by the end of 1969 would top the US charts.

Suspicious Minds was written by American Sound Studios in-house writer Mark James (whose real name was Francis Zambon), who also wrote hits such as It’s Only Love and Hooked On A Feeling for his friend, country singer BJ Thomas. And it was BJ Thomas was in line to record Suspicious Minds, which James had already released on record to no commercial success, before the song was given to Presley. Elvis insisted on recording the song even when his manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, threatened that he wouldn’t over the question of publishing rights (always an issue with Parker).

Elvis would record four more songs written or co-written by James: Always On My Mind, Raised On A Rock, Moody Blue (which James released in 1975) and It’s Only Love. Chips Moman produced James” 1968 version of Suspicious Minds, thereby creating a handy template which he returned to when producing Elvis’ version.

 

brenda-lee

Depending on where you live and how old you are, Always On My Mind may be Elvis’ song or Willie Nelson’s, or perhaps the Pet Shop Boys’ (who had a hit with it in late 1987 after earlier performing it on a UK TV special to mark the 10th anniversary of Elvis’ death). Originally it was Brenda Lee’s, released in May 1972. It was not a big hit for her, reaching only #45 in the country charts. Somehow Elvis heard it and found the lyrics expressed his emotions at a time when the marriage to Priscilla was collapsing. He recorded it later in 1972. Released as the b-side to the top 20 hit Separate Ways, Always On My Mind was a #16 hit in the country charts. In the UK, however it was a top 10 hit, and became better know in Europe than in the US.

 

jerry-reed

Another artist whose songs Elvis loved to cover was Jerry Reed, featured here with Guitar Man and US Male, originally released by Reed in 1966 and covered by Elvis two years later. Jerry Reed was a country singer who toiled for a dozen years before scoring a hit in 1967 with Tupelo Mississippi Flash — a song about Elvis. The same year Elvis chose to record Reed’s Guitar Man (the composer is listed as Jerry Hubbard, the singer’s real surname), and Reed played guitar on it. For Elvis, Guitar Man was a redemption of sorts after the degradation of Clambake. His performance of the song at the Elvis ’68 Comeback Special is one of the best moments of the show.

 

bossa-nova-baby

The writers most associated with Elvis are Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller. Their Bossa Nova Baby has been unjustly regarded by some as a novelty number from an Elvis movie (1963’s Fun In Acapulco). Even Elvis is said to have been embarrassed by it. If so, he had no cause: it may not be a bossa nova — it’s too fast for that — but it has an infectious tune and a genius keyboard riff which begs to be sampled widely. Perhaps it was the lyrics which had Elvis allegedly shamefaced, but the lines —”she said, ‘Drink, drink, drink/Oh, fiddle-de-dink/I can dance with a drink in my hand” — are not much worse than some of the doggerel our man was forced to croon in his movie career as singing racing driver/pineapple heir/bus conductor. Or perhaps Elvis was embarrassed by the idea of including a notional bossa nova number in a movie set in Mexico.

Tippie & the Clovers, who were signed to Leiber and Stoller’s Tiger label, recorded it first in 1962 to cash in on the bossa nova craze. Apparently the composer”s preferred the Clovers’ version over Elvis’. These were the same Clovers, incidentally, who had scored a #23 hit with Love Potion No. 9 (also written by Leiber & Stoller and later covered to greater chart effect by the Searchers) on Atlantic in 1959.

 

crying-in-the-chapel

Elvis was greatly influenced by the sounds of Rhythm & Blues on the one hand and country music on the other — Arthur Crudup and Hank Snow. A third profound influence was gospel. Here, too, Elvis drew from across the colour line. Often he was one of the few white faces at black church services (as a youth in Tupelo, he lived in a house designated for white families but located at the edge of a black township), but he also loved the white gospel-country sounds created by the likes of the Louvin Brothers, whom he once regarded as his favourite act.

Indeed, gospel was the genre Elvis loved the most. In recording studios, he would warm up with gospel numbers. When he jammed with Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins in the Sun studio (Johnny Cash left before any of the misnamed Million Dollar Quartet session was recorded), much of the material Read more…

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