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The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2

May 29th, 2014 8 comments

Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2

This is the second part of the Hal Blaine collection.

Blaine obviously was a polished and imaginative drummer. He appeared on countless songs we now regard as classics, from The Ronettes” “Be My Baby” to Sonny & Cher”s “I Got You, Babe” to The Mamas and the Papas” “California Dreaming” and The Byrds” “Mr Tambourine Man” to The Association”s “Never My Love” to The Supremes” “The Happening” to Dean Martin”s “Everybody Loves Somebody” and the two Sinatras” “Something Stupid” to the Carpenters” “Close To You” to Neil Diamond”s “Song Sung Blue” to Barbra Streisand”s “The Way We Were” and so on. He drummed for artists as diverse as Count Basie, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Steely Dan and, er, The Partridge Family.


Wrecking the Partridge Crew: (from left) Larry Knechtel, Tracy Partridge, Tommy Tedesco, Hal Blaine, Joe Osborne and Mike Melvoin.

Wrecking the Partridge Crew: (from left) Larry Knechtel, Tracy Partridge, Tommy Tedesco, Hal Blaine, Joe Osborne and Mike Melvoin.


Blaine was also an innovator in percussive sound effects. That big banging sound in Simon & Garfunkel”s “The Boxer”, after the “ley-la-ley”, is Blaine sitting at the bottom of an elevator shaft hitting a snare drum (a better story has it that it”s the sound of a refrigerator landing at the bottom the elevator shaft). To “Bridge Over Troubled Water” “” as much the opus of Wrecking Crew keyboard man Larry Knechtel as it is for Art Garfunkel “” Blaine contributed not only the beautifully judged drums but also the distant percussion sounds by slamming snow chains on to the cement floor of a microphone storage room (coming in at 3:05).

On Dean Martin”s “Houston”, featured on Volume 1, Blaine spontaneously used a glass ashtray, its content of old cigarette butts hurriedly emptied, for a drum to create the sound of a hammer hitting an anvil.

Herb Alpert”s “A Taste Of Honey” was saved by the drummer, at least in Blaine”s version. Apparently the recording just didn”t want to come right until Blaine”s bass drum beats after the slow intro signaled the introduction of the horns.

Incidentally, Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco’s son Denny has produced an excellent documentary on the session collective his father was part of. It was completed, but could not be released because there were not enough funds for the licensing of the music. A kickstarter.com appeal was successful, so it can now be seen on very limited release. More money is needed for a DVD release; US citizens can make tax-deductable contributions. Read more about the film and upcoming screenings, and how to make a donation or buy merchandise HERE.


cover gallery

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

1. Meat Loaf – Whatever Happened To Saturday Night (1974)
2. Mama Cass – It’s Getting Better (1969)
3. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – A Taste Of Honey (1965)
4. Jackie Lomax – Baby You’re A Lover (1969)
5. Harpers Bizarre – Come To The Sunshine (1967)
6. Tommy Roe – Dizzy (1969)
7. The Crystals – He’s Sure The Boy I Love (1962)
8. Sam Cooke – Another Saturday Night (1963)
9. Connie Francis – Where The Boys Are (1960)
10. Lorne Greene – Ringo (1964)
11. Mason Williams – Baroque-A-Nova (1968)
12. The Monkees – A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You (1967)
13. Paul Revere & the Raiders – Hungry (1965)
14. Love – Andmoreagain (1968)
15. Neil Diamond – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (1970)
16. America – Don’t Cross The River (1975)
17. Harry Nilsson – Foolish Clock (1977)
18. Steely Dan – Any World (That I’m Welcome To) (1975)
19. Tanya Tucker – Lizzie & The Rainman (1975)
20. Rosanne Cash – Baby, Better Start Turnin’ Em Down (1979)
21. Leonard Cohen & Ronee Blakley – True Love Leaves No Traces (1977)
22. Albert Hammond – Down By The River (1975)
23. Captain & Tenille – Honey Come Love Me (1975)
24. Ray Charles – A Girl I Used To Know (1966)
25. Gerry Mulligan – The Lonely Night (1965)

OR: https://rapidgator.net/file/a8e726abfc3b4e26caa587af410d1dd6/hbcoll_2.rar.html

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Previous drummer 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

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Any Major Paris

May 22nd, 2014 16 comments

Any Major Paris

Today I shall travel to Paris for a few days, so it seems right to make a mix of songs about the city. To give myself a bit of a challenge, I used only English-language songs, though a couple are recordings of French originals, such as those by Dassin and Legrand (Tony Joe White’s Paris Mood Tonight is a Dassin song as well).

Sensitive listeners are advised to skip Country Joe McDonald’s Quiet Days In Clichy due to sexual content and language.

So I shall leave you, Gitane in my mouth (unlit; I quit a few years ago) till next week. As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes covers. PW is the same as usual.

1. The Waterboys – Going To Paris (1982)
2. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Give Paris One More Chance (1983)
3. Tony Joe White – Paris Mood Tonight (1995)
4. Corinne Bailey Rae – Paris Nights, New York Mornings (2010)
5. The Style Council – The Paris Match (1984)
6. Julie London – Lonely Night In Paris (1960)
7. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – I Love Paris (1958)
8. Michel Legrand – Paris Was Made For Lovers (1969)
9. Trini Lopez – Made In Paris (1966)
10. Sandie Shaw – Monsieur Dupont (1969)
11. Lee Hazlewood & Suzi Jane Hokum – Girls In Paris (1967)
12. Joe Dassin – Champs Elysées (1969)
13. Joni Mitchell – Free Man In Paris (1974)
14. Al Stewart – The Palace Of Versailles (1978)
15. Gary Moore & Phil Lynott – Parisienne Walkways (1979)
16. Little River Band – Seine City (1979)
17. The Pogues – Paris St. Germain (1992)
18. The Housemartins – Paris In Flares (1987)
19. Elliott Smith – Place Pigalle (c.1998)
20. Country Joe McDonald – Quiet Days In Clichy (1970)
21. The Moody Blues – Boulevard De La Madelaine (1969)
22. Buffy Sainte-Marie – Guess Who I Saw In Paris (1970)
23. Marianne Faithfull – Paris Bells (1965)
24. Abba – Our Last Summer (1980)


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Song Swarm – Sunny

May 15th, 2014 2 comments


Bobby Hebb, the writer of “Sunny”, had a quite remarkable early life, which after 72 years came to an end in 2010. Born to blind parents, both musicians, Nashville-born Robert Von Hebb progressed from being a child musician to becoming one of the earlier black musicians to play at the Grand Ole Opry, as part of Ray Acuff”s band. In the early 1960s Hebb even had a minor hit with a country standard recorded by Acuff, “Night Train To Memphis”. When “Sunny” became a hit in 1966, Hebb was touring with The Beatles “” he was among the support acts at their last ever concert, in San Francisco”s Candlestick Park.

The genesis for “Sunny” was in a dual tragedy: the assassination of John F Kennedy and the following day the fatal stabbing in a mugging of Hebb”s older brother Harold, with whom he had performed in childhood. The song was a conscious statement of meeting the trauma of these events with a defiantly positive disposition. In 2007, he told the Associated Press about writing Sunny: “I was intoxicated. I came home and started playing the guitar. I looked up and saw what looked like a purple sky. I started writing because I”d never seen that before.”


Still, it would be almost three years before Hebb would release the song himself “” and een then he wasn”t the first. In a quite curious twist, it was first recorded in Japanese by the singer Mieko “Miko” Hirota, who had made her debut in her home country in 1962 with a cover of Connie Francis” “Vacation”. Within three years, the by now 18-year-old singer became the first Japanese artist to appear at the Newport Jazz Festival (the line-up of which included Frank Sinatra), having just recently discovered her talent for the genre thanks to a chance meeting with American jazz promoter George Wein. The same year, in October 1965, she was the first of many to release “Sunny”, scoring a hit with it in Japan with her rather lovely jazzy version.

By the time Hebb got around to releasing it, apparently having recorded it as an after-thought at the end of a session. Hebb”s rightly became the definitive and most successful version. Apparently it is the 18th most performed song in the BMI catalog.

There”d be no Song Swarm of 65 songs of “Sunny” was not so adaptable. Of those, 45 were recorded within the first two years of its release. The genres cover pop (from Georgie Fame over Cher to Manfred Mann), soul (Marvin Gaye, Billy Preston “” especially super “” Stevie Wonder, Wilson Picket etc), country (Eddy Arnold, Floyd Cramer), jazz (Les McCann, Wes Montgomery, Young-Holt Trio), easy listening (Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, Andy Williams), Latin (Willie Bobo, Trini Lopez, Johnny Colón) “” and a few actors got into it as well: Robert Mitchum plays it straight, Leonard Nimoy tries to play it straight, and Bill Cosby plays it”¦well, that whole LP is bizarre, though his “Sunny” is among the least peculiar on it.


1966: Mieko Hirota “¢ Bobby Hebb “¢ Les McCann (Part 1) “¢ Georgie Fame “¢ Young-Holt Trio “¢ Cher “¢ Chris Montez “¢ Willie Bobo “¢ Wes Montgomery (alternate take) “¢ Del Shannon “¢ The Walker Brothers “¢ Marvin Gaye “¢ Chuck Jackson “¢ Billy Preston “¢ 1967: Andy Williams “¢ Booker T. & The MG’s “¢ Dusty Springfield “¢ The Ventures “¢ Herbie Mann & Tamiko Jones “¢ Johnny Rivers “¢ Blossom Dearie “¢ Robert Mitchum “¢ Wilson Pickett “¢ Frank Sinatra & Duke Ellington “¢ 1968: The Four Tops “¢ Manfred Mann “¢ Bill Cosby “¢ Eddy Arnold “¢ Floyd Cramer “¢ Mary Wells “¢ Leonard Nimoy “¢ Stevie Wonder  “¢ Frankie Valli “¢ José Feliciano “¢ Maxine Brown “¢ Shirley Bassey “¢ Nancy Wilson “¢ Brother Jack & David Newman “¢ George Benson “¢ Trini Lopez “¢ Johnny Colón and his Orchestra “¢ Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers “¢ 1969: James Brown & Marva Whitney “¢ Electric Flag “¢ Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Bra “¢ 1970: Ella Fitzgerald “¢ Tom Jones & Ella Fitzgerald “¢ Melba Moore “¢ “¢ “¢ Pat Martino (1972) “¢ Yambú (1975) “¢ Bobby Hebb ’76 (1976) “¢ Boney M (1976) “¢ Hampton Hawes (1978) “¢ Stanley Jordan (1986) “¢ Joe McBride (1992) “¢ Nick Cave (1995) “¢ The Head Shop (1996) “¢ Jamiroquai (2000) “¢ John Schroeder Orchestra (2000) “¢ Paul Carrack (2003) “¢ Noon (2005) “¢ Elisabeth Kontomanou (2005) “¢  PillowTalk (2012) “¢ Hippie Sabotage (2013)

Song Swarm – Sunny – Part 1
Song Swarm – Sunny – Part 2
(PW here)


Previous Song Swarms:
These Boots Are Made For Walking
Sunday Mornin” Comin” Down
Like A Rolling Stone
Papa Was A Rolling Stone
Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Over The Rainbow
Georgia On My Mind
Blue Moon
Light My Fire

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Any Major Summer Vol. 2

May 8th, 2014 5 comments

Any Major Summer Vol. 2

In January I posted the first summer mix to chase the northern hemisphere winter blues away. Here is the second summer compilation to prepare the northerners for summer, and for us southerners to say goodbye to the heat. Of course there will be at least one more mix, in the summertime.

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

1. The Temptations – It’s Summer (1972)
2. The Blackbyrds – Hot Day Today (1974)
3. Love – Bummer In The Summer (1967)
4. Bruce Springsteen – 4th Of July Ashbury Park (live) (1986)
5. Bob Seger – Night Moves (1976)
6. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – That Summer Feeling (1983)
7. The Stranglers – Peaches (1977)
8. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Long Hot Summer Night (1968)
9. The Isley Brothers – Summer Breeze (1973)
10. The 5th Dimension – On The Beach (In The Summertime) (1970)
11. The Beach Boys – All Summer Long (1964)
12. Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)
13. Jerry Keller – Here Comes Summer (1959)
14. Brian Hyland – Sealed With A Kiss (1962)
15. The Tempos – See You In September (1959)
16. Betty Everett – June Night (1964)
17. Sam Cooke – Summertime (1959)
18. Carolyn Franklin – Sunshine Holiday (1976)
19. The Dramatics – Hot Pants In The Summertime (1972)
20. Don Henley – The Boys Of Summer (1984)
21. Jay Ferguson – Thunder Island (1977)
22. Chris Rea – On The Beach (1986)


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In Memoriam – April 2014

May 1st, 2014 7 comments

In Memoriam - April 2014Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith nearly received no credit for his most successful composition. Owing to its inclusion in the film Deliverance, “Dueling Banjos” became a pop hit, spending four weeks at #2 on the Billboard charts. But Smith had to sue for the credit that initially was denied him, because “Dueling Banjos” was in fact his 1955 song “Feudin” Banjos”. He had recorded that with Don Reno, who features also on the track included in tribute to bluegrass guitarist George Shuffler, who has died at 88. Smith was hardly an obscurity: as a country guitar player he influenced acts like The Ventures and Glen Campbell. His songs were recorded by acts like Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Boots Randolph and Tom Petty. And at his funeral on April 12, The Avett Brothers were among those performing,

Berry Gordy called Gil Askey “the glue that held Motown together”. Askey, a jazz trumpeter by trade, served as a musical director and arranger for Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Gladys Knight etc, and also worked with Curtis Mayfield and The Staple Singers. He was part of Motown”s grooming department, and was the conductor when The Supremes played at New York”s Copacabana club, which yielded a live album. He received an Oscar nomination for writing the score of the 1973 Diana Ross film The Lady Sings The Blues. In 1980 he married an Australian woman and moved down under.

With the death on Wednesday of Paul Goddard, we have buried three members of the Atlanta Rhythm Section since March 2011. First singer Ronnie Hammond (member from 1972-82; 1988-2001) went , then in May 2012 we lost drummer Robert  Nix (1971-79), and now bass player Goddard, who was with the band from  1971-83 and rejoined in 2011.

I fear my curse has struck again: On Saturday I played Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock”s 1988 hip hop classic “It Takes Two” (I had a retro rap day); the following day DJ EZ Rock died. Read more…

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The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1

April 24th, 2014 24 comments

Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1

In the past few months we”ve encountered great session drummers and the songs they played on: Bernard Purdie, Ricky Lawson and Jim Gordon (see links at the end of the post). The godfather of all session drummers, by force of the number of classic hits he played on, probably is Hal Blaine. Bruce Gary, the late drummer of “70s band The Knack, memorably said that he was disappointed to learn his 10 favourite drummers were all Hal Blaine.

You”ll have heard Blaine on at least 40 number one hits (some of which are featured on this and the upcoming second mix), and he appeared on more than 150 top ten hits (ditto). By his own estimate, he has played on more than 35,000 songs, scores and jingles. Blaine also holds a special record. He appeared on six consecutive Grammy Records of the Year, from 1966-71: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass” “A Taste of Honey”; Frank Sinatra”s “Strangers in the Night”; The 5th Dimension”s “Up, Up and Away”; Simon & Garfunkel”s Mrs. Robinson”; The 5th Dimension”s “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”; and Simon & Garfunkel”s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Blaine, it is said, gave the collective of LA-based session musicians the name The Wrecking Crew, though bass guitarist Carol Kaye disputes this, or that the collective was ever even known by the name. The Wrecking Crew had other great drummers in the already featured Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner (favourite drummer of both Lennon and Dylan) and the very great Earl Palmer, but Blaine”s CV towers above them all.

Born Harold Belsky in 1929 into modest circumstances in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, Blaine learnt his craft from watching great jazz drummers like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich performing live. Surviving a fire in a circus in Hartford at the age of 15, and tending to its victims, propelled young Hal to pursue his great dream: to become a musician. Soon after the fire, the Belsky family moved to California. While the parents stayed in Santa Monica, Hal moved in with his sister in San Bernardino. There, he formed a band with high school buddies, playing his first gigs. As a professional he would musically return to San Bernardino by way of a hit song he played on: Jimmy Webb wrote “Up, Up And Away” about a balloon ride he took in that town.

At the age of 19, Blaine became a professional drummer. That is, he did so as a soldier, serving two years in Korea in an army band. Coming home, he made the most of the G.I. Bill, which subsidised ex-soldiers” further education, and enrolled in the Roy C. Knapp School of Percussion in Chicago, where he learnt the technical skills of drumming as well as to read music “” a most useful skill for a drummer who wanted to play as part of an arranged assemble.

After graduation he played on Chicago”s club circuit before returning to California in 1957, where he joined a respected jazz combo, the Carol Simpson Quartet. This engagement led to a big break: he was asked to join the band of teen idol Tommy Sands, as drummer and road manager. He stayed with Sands for three years, gaining much experience both on the road and in the studio. Hanging around the Capitol studios led to recording gigs with the likes of Connie Francis (he played on her hit “Where The Boys Are”) and Patti Page.

The next big break came in 1961: playing on Elvis Presley”s “Can”t Help Falling in Love”. He”d go on to play on Elvis” records throughout the 1960s. You can see him drumming behind Elvis in the marvellous clip of “I Don”t Wanna Be Tied” from Girls! Girls! Girls!.

Blaine and colleagues during a Spector session.

Blaine and colleagues during a Spector session.

Soon Blaine became a key component in the development of Phil Spector”s Wall of Sound. Few drum beats have been as influential and instantly recognisable as those Blaine played to open The Ronettes” “Be My Baby”. It was one of those happy accidents: Blaine says he actually played the wrong beat at the beginning, and just stuck with it throughout the recording. He also played on Spector classics such as The Crystals” “He”s A Rebel” (with Darlene Love uncredited on vocals), The Ronettes” debut hit, “Walking In The Rain”, and the greatest Christmas pop album of all time, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector.

From Spector”s studios, Blaine moved on to The Beach Boys, who had always drawn from Wrecking Crew players. One of them, guitarist Glen Campbell, even joined them as a temporary member on tour.. Blaine”s first record with them was “Little Deuce Coupe” in 1963, giving Dennis Wilson more free time for surfing. Blaine played on all but three tracks on Pet Sounds “” the title track, “Here Today,” and “I”m Waiting For The Day” on which young Jim Gordon got his break “” as well as on hits such as “Good Vibrations”. He also drummed for Beach Boys” soundalikes and Brian Wilson pals Jan & Dean, including on their classic hits “Surf City” and the eerily prophetic “Dead Man”s Curve” (Jan Berry was seriously hurt in a car crash, not far from the actual Dead Man’s Curve, in 1966).

In between, Blaine and other members of the Wrecking Crew, served as the house band at the famous T.A.M.I. Show, backing many of the acts appearing on the bill of the 1964 concert that was turned into one of the great concert films (though he didn”t back the Rolling Stones nor James Brown). Blaine and fellow collective members also played for Elvis on his 1968 “comeback” TV special.

Blaine”s incredible run of hits kept coming through the 1960s and early “70s. The last big hits, in 1975/76, were Captain & Tenille”s “Love Will Keep Us Together” (which it did, until recently), John Denver”s “I”m Sorry” and Diana Ross” “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?”.

As gigs dried up for the Wrecking Crew, Blaine kept going doing unglamorous work, such as playing on ad jingles. But he was never a forgotten man. In 2000 he (and Earl Palmer) were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

cover gallery

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

1. Nancy Sinatra – Drummer Man (1969)
2. The Mamas & The Papas – I Saw Her Again Last Night (1966)
3. Simon & Garfunkel – A Hazy Shade of Winter (1968)
4. P.F. Sloan – From A Distance (1966)
5. The 5th Dimension – Stoned Soul Picnic (1968)
6. The Association – Windy (1967)
7. Sonny & Cher – The Beat Goes On (1967)
8. The Grass Roots – Midnight Confessions (1967)
9. Barry McGuire – Eve Of Destruction (1965)
10. Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice (1966)
11. Jan & Dean – Dead Man’s Curve (1964)
12. The Ronettes – Be My Baby (1963)
13. The Supremes – The Happening (1967)
14. Duke Baxter – I Ain’t No School Boy (1969)
15. Ike & Tina Turner – River Deep, Mountain High (1966)
16. Thelma Houston – I Just Gotta Be Me (1969)
17. Dusty Springfield – The Other Side Of Life (1973)
18. Carpenters – Goodbye To Love (1972)
19. Partridge Family – Brown Eyes (1971)
20. Spanky And Our Gang – Like To Get To Know You (1967)
21. Johnny Rivers – By The Time I Get To Phoenix (1966)
22. Bobby Darin – Don’t Make Promises (1966)
23. Dean Martin – Houston (1965)
24. Petula Clark – My Love (1965)
25. Elvis Presley – Bossa Nova Baby (1963)
26. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In) (1968)
27. T Bones – No Matter What Shape (My Stomach Is In) (1966)

OR: https://rapidgator.net/file/665c33e9759b6f416c9f6bcd27bb8102/hbcoll_1.rar.html

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Previous drummer 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

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Saved! Vol. 5

April 17th, 2014 9 comments

Saved Vol 5

It”s Easter, which signals the arrival of another Saved! mix. Last year”s mix covered the 1950s, with both gospel and secular acts doing their praising. This mix has only two gospel acts, The Rance Allen Group and The Relatives, both doing their praising in the easy of soul/funk music.

Rance Allen and his pals convert Archie Bell & the Drells”s song about a dancing contest, the promised showdown will be righteous. The Relatives have featured before, Saved! Vol. 2, which was all soul music. The gospel-funk-soul group recorded in the first half of the 1970s in Texas. Led by the Reverend Gean West, they released just three singles. “Leave Something Worthwhile” remained unreleased until the small Hum Records label put out a collection of The Relatives” released and unreleased material in 2009. Buy it HERE.

Among all the 1950s acts on Saved! Vol. 4 were The Staple Singers, with a track from 1959. Two of them return on this mix with a track from 1994. Pops co-wrote “Hope In A Hopeless World” for his 1994 album Father Father, and duets on it with daughter Mavis. Had Pops left her off, a Mavis Staples might have featured from last year”s very good On True Vine album, another Jeff Tweedy production.

That song might have been opener “Holy Ghost”, which is not the same song as the funk work by The Bar Kays featured here. The Bar Kays” song is seriously funky, and features a great drumming outro. And for a fantastic drum break, check out Chi Coltrane“s version of The Clique”s 1969 song. I don”t know who the drummer was. It could have been any of Jim Keltner, Steve Parsons, Barry De Souza, Chris Karen or, indeed, Jim Gordon (who, of course, was the subject of two mixes recently).

We encountered The 8th Day recently on the Any Major Soul 1971 mix. Their contribution to that mix was really 100 Proof (Aged in Soul) by another name. After the pseudonymous group had attracted some notice, label owners Holland-Dozier-Holland formed a proper 8th Day; it is from that incarnation that we hear the very funky “Heaven Is Here To Guide Us”, a track which labelmates The Glass House had recorded a year earlier.


South African singer and songwriter John Kongos is better known for being the original singer of The Happy Mondays” 1990 hit “Step On” (though in his version it is “He”s Gonna Step On You Again”) and “Tokoloshe Man” than he is for doing religion. “Come On Down Jesus” might have been one of those Jesus songs that were fashionable in the days when Jesus Christ Superstar hit “” as was Barry Ryan”s “Sanctus, Sanctus Hallelujah”, featured here, or The Doobie Brothers” “Jesus Is All Right”. But several of Kongos” lyrics can be interpreted as having a Christian subtext.

Finally, Billy Preston“s version of “My Seet Lord” is the original recording of the song. Written in December 1969, it first appeared on Preston”s Encouraging Words album, which also included Harrison”s “All Things Must Pass” (a song which the Beatles had considered of recording), almost a year before that song would provide the title of the triple-LP set.

Preston”s version is much closer to Harrison”s original concept than the composer”s own take. In his defence during the My Sweet Lord/He”s So Fine plagiarism case, Harrison said that he was inspired not by early-“60s girlband pop, but by the Edwin Hawkins Singers” 1969 hit “Oh Happy Day”. That influence is acutely apparent on Preston”s recording, but less so on Harrison”s chart-topper. Indeed, had Preston scored the big hit with it, not Harrison, it might have been Ed Hawkins initiating the plagiarism litigation.

As always the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-praised covers. PW in comments. Happy Easter/Excessive Chocolate Consumption Day!

1. Chi Coltrane – Hallelujah (1974)
2. The Rance Allen Group – There’s Gonna Be A Showdown (1972)
3. The Relatives – Leave Something Worthwhile (1970s)
4. Donny Hathaway – Lord Help Me (1973)
5. Pops Staples – Hope in a Hopeless World (1994)
6. The Persuasions – Dry Bones (2000)
7. Ben Harper & Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Picture Of Jesus (2003)
8. The Holmes Brothers – I Surrender All (1995)
9. Steve Earle – God Is God (2011)
10. Mindy Smith – Out Loud (2006)
11. Amos Lee – Cup Of Sorrow (2011)
12. Patty Griffin – We Shall Be Reunited (2010)
13. Dolly Parton – Shine On (1998)
14. Barry Ryan – Sanctus, Sanctus Hallelujah (1972)
15. John Kongos – Come On Down Jesus (1971)
16. The 8th Day – Heaven Is Here To Guide Us (1973)
17. The Bar-Kays – Holy Ghost (1978)
18. Curtis Mayfield – A Prayer (1974)
19. Billy Preston – My Sweet Lord (1970)
20. Tashan – Thank You Father (1987)


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Covered With Soul Vol. 19 – Motown Edition

April 10th, 2014 4 comments

Covered With Soul 19

This is the second Motown edition in the Covered With Soul series, following that on Volume 17. One song sums up the series: Margie Joseph’s version of The Supremes’ Stop In The Name Of Love. It begins as a straight cover until halfway through Margie goes freewheeling with the song in the manner of Isaac Hayes.

Cloud Nine opened the first Motown edition in the series, in Marvin Gaye’s version, and it closes this mix, in an interpretation by the Mar-Keys which gives the appearance of having been created with the aid of certain mind-altering substances.

As far as I can tell, two of the songs here were released on Motown: The Undisputed Truth”s take on The Temptations’ Just My Imagination and The Dynamic Superiors’ version of Marvin & Tammi’s Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing. One little twist here is that For Once In My Life, the Stevie Wonder hit covered here by the magnificently named Rosetta Hightower, was originally recorded by Jean DuShon, whom we hear doing Marvin Gaye’s Hitch Hike.

And if the voice of James Gilstrap, featured here with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s Ain’t That Peculiar, sounds familiar, it might be because you hear him dueting in the first verse of Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.

1. Anna King – Come And Get These Memories (1964)
2. Jean DuShon – Hitch Hike (1964)
3. Calvin Scott – Can I Get A Witness (1972)
4. David Porter – The Way You Do The Things You (1970)
5. The Undisputed Truth – Just My Imagination (1973)
6. The Main Ingredient – Superwoman (1973)
7. The Dynamic Superiors – Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing (1975)
8. Aretha Franklin – Tracks Of My Tears (1969)
9. Jackie Wilson – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1968)
10. Linda Jones – Dancing In The Street (1972)
11. James Gilstrap – Ain’t That Peculiar (1975)
12. Mike James Kirkland – Baby I Need Your Loving (1972)
13. Margie Joseph – Stop! In The Name Of Love (1971)
14. Thelma Jones – I Second That Emotion (1978)
15. The Jackson 5 – Standing In The Shadows Of Love (1968)
16. Roberta Flack – You Are Everything (1978)
17. O.C. Smith – My Cherie Amour (1969)
18. Erma Franklin – For Once In My Life (1969)
19. Rosetta Hightower – Stoned Love (1971)
20. Donnie Elbert – Heard It Thru The Grapevine (1974)
21. The Mar-Keys – Cloud Nine (1971)

(PW in comments)

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In Memoriam – March 2014

April 3rd, 2014 4 comments

It was a good month for famous pop stars afflicted by thanatophobia, for their dread did not come to pass. Those who joined the great recording studio in the sky might not have been superstars, but many were no less important.

In Memoriam - March 2014Take Frankie Knuckles, the Chicago house DJ and producer. Those who know a lot about such things say that he not only was the godfather of the house scene “” the genre that has influenced all dance music that came after “” but many other forms of club music. I knew of Knuckles as the guy who did “The Whistle Song” and as a remixer of a great many songs, but I had no idea just how important a name his is in the firmament of dance music. The term “house music” is rooted in the name of a club Knuckles used to have, Knuckles” Warehouse. The city of Chicago apparently named a stretch of street and a day after Knuckles.

Some make music to entertain or get laid; others make music to effect change. Cameroonian musician Lapiro De Mbanga, who has died of cancer at the age of 56, was one of the activist artist, singing for three decades about socio-economic and political problems in his country. Eventually he went to jail for his music. In 2008 he was jailed for a record titled “Constitution Constipée” (Constipated Constitution) which criticised President Paul Biya, a serial vote rigger, and campaigned against a constitutional amendment which allowed Biya to run again in 2011. Sentenced to three years in jail, he almost died in captivity when the authorities didn”t allow treatment for typhoid fever. On completion of his sentence he received political exile in the US, where he died on March 16.

Recently I ran a couple of compilations of songs on which the drummer Jim Gordon performed. Percussionist Joe Lala played on several records with Gordon, including tracks on Read more…

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Any Major ABBA Songbook

March 27th, 2014 10 comments
ABBA are introduced in a pre-performance segment at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. Viewers had no idea what outlandish costumes would greet them when ABBA took the stage.

ABBA are introduced in a pre-performance segment at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. Viewers had no idea what outlandish costumes would greet them when ABBA took the stage.

On 6 April it will be 40 years since ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, England, with “Waterloo”. It was a strange choice of vehicle by which to shoot for international stardom. The Eurovision Song Contest was notorious for its dull offerings of sentimental easy listening ballads, absurd pop fodder and idiosyncratic national folk pop — which, at its rare best, nevertheless produced such timeless classics as “Volare”, placing third in 1958.

Of course, intermittently the contest revealed a gem, such as Sandie Shaw’s “Puppet On A String” (which she despised), Katja Ebstein’s “Wunder gibt es simmer wieder” or, arguably, France Gall’s “Poupée de cire, poupée de son”. And even among the easy listen ballads there’d be rare gold, such as Vicky Leandros’ pair of international hits, “L’amour est bleu” (covered by Paul Mariat as “Love Is Blue”) and “Apres toi”, a UK hit as “Come What May”.

Still, when ABBA appeared in their gaudy outfits to play their glam pop number — conducted by a man, the late Sven-Olof Walldoff, dressed as Napoleon instead of the obligatory tux with bowtie — it was quite unprecedented. That might explain why most national juries didn’t give that year’s best song by far, and I have watched the thing, top marks. This wasn’t in the spirit of the Eurovision. Britain was among the five countries to give ABBA “nil points”. Which was fair enough, since Sweden gave no points to the British entry, one of the favourites, the moderately rousing and religiously-vibed “Long Live Love” by Olivia Newton-John, which ended up in fourth place.

ABBA 1974

ABBA react to not getting any points from the Greek jury in round five of scoring. Belgium’s not very good entry got five points from Greece. ABBA was one point behind Italy at the time.


1974’s Eurovision had a strange point-scoring system: national juries comprised ten members — five music insiders and five music-loving fans of all age groups — who each would award a point to their favourite performance. The highest aggregate bestowed by a jury that year was five points, awarded four times, and twice to “Waterloo”, by Finland and Switzerland. Until the 14th of 17 rounds, the Italian entry — a ballad sung by Gigliola Cinquetti titled “Si” — narrowly led the Swedish entry. Germany’s two points and the Swiss fiver turned it for ABBA, who ended up winning by a healthy six points.

ABBA, as we know, became phenomenally successful, and then, in fairly short order, reviled. I loved them, but when I was 12 or 13 — the age of “Summer Night City” and the annoying “I Have A Dream” — I didn’t anymore. At that age I would reject acts for being aimed at people of my own age group, people like Leif Garrett. But with ABBA it was their visible progression to middle age that caused my rejection of them. It wasn’t that “Summer Night City” itself offended me, though I was, and remain, indifferent to it. It was, to put it symbolically, that Agnetha, my first pop crush, started to dress like my mother. Now, my mother was a very attractive, young woman in her mid-thirties (only a year older than Anni-Frid), who wore tasteful clothes which complemented her sporty figure, and she generally was pretty hip. But I certainly didn’t want to see Mom in my pop music.

The final score board and pink-clad presenter Katie Boyle

The final score board and pink-clad presenter Katie Boyle


I was not alone in falling off Planet ABBA. The backlash to the most successful group of the 1970s was vicious. For a long time ABBA were regarded as naff, commercial, corporate, even as lacking in artistic credibility. They might have been a “guilty pleasure”, but not meriting of much admiration — at least outside the gay scene. To my shame, I was not reawakened to their genius until the mid-’90s when ABBA”s rehabilitation was in full swing.

Much has been made of their genius since then, by people who are much better qualified than I am to explain it. But one thing I do pretend to know a few of things about is cover versions. And it is remarkable how few cover versions of ABBA songs there are, never mind good ones. The big ABBA hits are very great songs, to be sure. But their lifeblood is not the melody, but Benny and Björn”s arrangements and the place of Agnetha”s and Annifrid”s voices in these arrangements. Without these elements, ABBA songs are difficult to pull off.

This mix illustrates the point. Mostly it is pointless to make a straight copy of ABBA songs, unless you do the early numbers in glam rock style, as Dr & the Medics do here with the help of glam legend Roy Wood, or are able to capture the pop essence, as Kylie Minogue does in her live performance or as Sweet Dreams do in one of the earliest covers of an ABBA song. Failing the glam or pop option, the songs require reinterpretation “” and that isn’t easy when you have to work with those lyrics!

Nils Landgren turns “The Name Of The Game” into an acid jazz jam, and Richard Thompson gives “Money Money Money” an unironic folk treatment, as does Evan Dando with “Knowing Me, Knowing You”. Yngwie Malmsteen denudes “Gimme Gimme Gimme” of its disco camp and renders it hair-rock style. Max Raabe does such strange things to “Super Trouper” that one wonders whether he likes the song or utterly despises it. And Mike Oldfield takes a song that sounded like a Mike Oldfield song in the first place, and turns it into a Mike Oldfield song.

coversAs always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes flat-pack home-assembled covers. PW in comments.

1. Doctor & The Medics with Roy Wood – Waterloo (1992)
2. Sweet Dreams – Honey Honey (1974)
3. Kylie Minogue – Dancing Queen (1998)
4. Nils Landgren – Name Of The Game (2004)
5. Go West – One Of Us (1993)
6. Blancmange – The Day Before You Came (1984)
7. Mike Oldfield – Arrival (1980)
8. Sinéad O’Connor – Chiquitita (2003)
9. Evan Dando – Knowing Me, Knowing You (1999)
10. Richard Thompson – Money (2003)
11. Nashville Train – Hasta Manana (1977)
12. Black Sweden – The Winner Takes It All (2001)
13. Yngwie Malmsteen – Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (1999)
14. Ash – Does Your Mother Know? (1996)
15. Lush – Hey Hey Helen (1990)
16. Culture Club – Voulez Vous (1999)
17. Erasure – Lay All Your Love On Me (1990)
18. Men Without Hats – S.O.S. (1989)
19. Palast Orchester mit seinem Sänger Max Raabe – Super Trouper (2005)
20. Carpenters – Thank You For The Music (1978)


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