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A History of Country Vol. 4: War Years – 1941-46

September 30th, 2010 8 comments

By the early 1940s the crooners had begun to make their mark, with Jimmie Davies “” future Democrat governor of Louisiana “” having led the way. Many of them had toiled and crooned in the 1930s. But with a world war slowly engulfing the globe, the market wanted, and got, romance. More than that, men took their country songs with them to the army and disseminated the music among their fellow soldiers. Country music thus found new fans, and its leading singers “” Roy Acuff, Gene Autry, Red Foley, Tex Ritter, Eddy Arnold “” gained a national audience. In 1945, Arnold even beat the mighty Frank Sinatra in a favourite-singer poll among GIs stationed in Germany. Read more…

Murder Songs Vol. 4

September 23rd, 2010 6 comments

Porter Wagoner ““ The First Mrs Jones (1967).mp3
Once upon a time Mr Jones fell in love with Betty. He married her in September, but by November she had left him. And as Mr Jones tells his story, we can sort of see why. When Betty (he prefers to call her The First Mrs Jones) left, Mr Jones went into überstalker mode. He followed her to Savannah, New Orleans and Atlanta, pestering her to return to him. Then the drinking started (though we have a hunch that Mr Jones was not averse to the occasional tipple before). “It was cold and dark one morning, just before the day was dawning, when I staggered from a tavern to a phone. When she picked up her receiver I said: “˜You”re gonna come back or either they”re gonna be calling you the Late Mrs Jones.” Clearly Betty made clear her intentions to decline the offer, but evidently saw no need to seek safe refuge. So, to cut a long story short, Mr Jones took a taxi, made a lot of noise outside her house. He doesn”t remember what happens next. Consciousness returned when he was burying her bones in the woods, touchingly putting flowers on the fresh grave.

So why is Mr Jones telling us his unlovely story? Well, he isn”t addressing us, which we know because now things are taking a sinister turn: he is talking to his new wife who evidently is entertaining crazy notions of leaving him. “Really now, don”t you wanna come go with me? After all, you are the Second…Mrs Jones.”

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Rosie Thomas ““ Charlotte (2002).mp3
This is a gentle song in which the narrator observes her eponymous neighbour and friend suffering the treatment of an abusive drunkard husband. “Charlotte, you used to be much happier, but it”s not you that”s to blame. Charlotte, you let him push you round, and you”re falling apart at the seams.” But the bad times won”t last forever. “One day he”ll get just what he deserves, and you can be yourself once again.” Soon there”s drama again. There”s yelling and threats and, suddenly, a shot. The narrator runs over, and sees the scumbag dead in his chair. She tells Charlotte: “I”ll tell the cops everything.” But she does not mean the truth. She concocts a cover-up, so that Charlotte can start a new life somewhere else.

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Neil Young ““ Down By The River (1969)
Neil Young is running a theme as old as song itself “” the crime of passion; the wronged husband avenging his honour (Porter Wagoner will feature again with one of the best songs on that theme). But this being 1969, and musicians of Young”s ilk more interested in laying down guitar jams than producing lucid lyrics, we must figure out ourselves the circumstances leading to the murder, which the narrator at least admits to: “Down by the river, I shot my baby. Down by the river…Dead, oh, shot her dead.” The rest is just crazy hippie talk about rainbows. So, obviously, youngologists believe the song is about heroin.

Well, the whiny, occasional Republican clarified the meaning in 1984 at a gig in New Orleans. The narrator met his woman at the titular location. “And he told her she”d been cheatin” on him one too many times. And he reached down in his pocket and he pulled a little revolver out. Said: “˜Honey, I hate to do this, but you pushed me too far”.” Two hours later he gets arrested at his house. Young”s full explanation can be found here. I just want to know why he didn”t say all that in the song?

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More Murder Songs

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Covered With Soul Vol. 3

September 17th, 2010 8 comments

The third Covered In Soul compilation may draw from the most eclectic original material yet. So in the space of four songs we move from Grateful Dead favourite Casey Jones via The Beatles to a Barry Manilow song and a Roy Orbison song reinvented by Al Green. A couple of show tunes get the soul treatment. Sammy Davis Jr”s wonderful I”ve Gotta Be Me is lovely in Vivian Reed”s hands, while I would regard the Supremes and Temptations collaboration on The Impossible Dream more as a curiosity (hence its position as a postscript).

The previous two mixes featured few covers of soul songs; this compilation includes four (it is a coincidence that they are sequenced in a group). All of them are true reinterpretations of the originals. I particularly love the tangents in Freddy North”s cover of David Ruffin”s My Whole World Ended.

Baby Huey”s funkified instrumental version of California Dreaming might be my favourite here, alongside White”s Manilow cover. Manilow haters are well advised to maintain an open mind when they come to Could It Be Magic: Anthony White”s interpretation is masterful. White is not very famous; the Philly singer released only two LPs.

Trivia fans will be interested to learn that Claudia Linnear, an accomplished backing singer who released only one album, was the inspiration for both the Rolling Stones” Brown Sugar and David Bowie”s Lady Grinning Soul.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and a front and back cover is included.Incidentally, if you’d like to match the covers reproduced on the CD artwork to the featured artist, look in the MP3 files ID3 tag. Several of the songs included here are, to my knowledge, out of print. When they”re not, be sure to buy the albums that include the songs that you like in particular “” if you like the album fillers, you”ll surely like the rest of the album.

TRACKLISTING
1. Grady Tate – Moondance (1974)
2. Lou Rawls – For What It’s Worth (1968)
3. Claudia Lennear – Casey Jones (1973)|
4. Bloodstone – Something (1973)
5. Anthony White – Could It Be Magic (1976)
6. Al Green – Oh, Pretty Woman (1972)
7. Zulema – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (1972)
8. The Temprees – Dedicated To The One I Love (1972)
9. Baby Huey – California Dreamin’ (1971)
10. Ronnie Dyson – Fever (1970)
11. Minnie Riperton – Les Fleur (1970)
12. Mavis Staples – Since I Fell for You (1970)
13. Freddie North – My Whole World Ended (1975)
14. Brothers Unlimited – A Change Is Gonna Come (1970)
15. Tammi Terrell – This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You) (1968)
16. Darrell Banks – When A Man Loves A Woman (1969)
17. Freddie Scott – Let It Be Me (1967)
18. Vivian Reed – I’ve Gotta Be Me (1970)
19. Madeline Bell – Make It With You (1971)
20. Four Tops – Cherish (1967)
21. Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations – The Impossible Dream (1968)

GET IT

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More Mixes

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Murder songs Vol. 3

September 14th, 2010 4 comments

When we read about a vicious crime, our sympathy extends to the victim”s family and we grieve the loss of another fragment of our innocence as humanity”s capacity for cruelty relentlessly chips away at the “heile Welt” of our childhood. But rarely do our thoughts concern those who love the criminal, whose loss of a loved one to the wheels of justice may be compounded by their own incomprehension at the act, the social stigma and indignity of their association with the criminal (the family”s final visit to the condemned man in Dead Man Walking drives that home powerfully), and possibly economic hardship. And with that out of the way, let”s meet some killers.

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Clyde Arnold – Black Smoke And Blue Tears (1961).mp3
In Clyde Arnold”s superb 1961 rockabilly song, the narrator recalls boarding a train to commence his sentence for murdering a man in a gambling dispute (“I didn”t mean to kill him. Why did he have to die?”). On the platform he gives his darling a last kiss goodbye “” “I tried to hide my handcuffs, she tried to hide her tears” “” before he boarded the train of the black smoke which with the blue tears in his yes obscure his last vision of the girl.

It”s been a while since then, and she has evidently moved on. “Seems like a hundred years have passed since that sad, sad day. I guess by now she”s forgotten me, since I’ve been away.” But he has not forgotten. “Lookin” through the bars tonight, dark clouds in the sky,remind me of that coal black smoke and blue tears in my eyes.”

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Johnny Cash – 25 Minutes To Go (live, 1969).mp3
We don”t know the crime of Cash”s narrator, but we know that “they”re building a gallows outside my cell; I’ve got 25 minutes to go”. Other than high treason, you presumably get executed only for murder in the US. The narrator counts down the final 25 minutes before his execution. We learn that his last meal was beans, that his appeals are unsuccessful, that he spits a mocking sheriff in the eye (to the delight of the audience at Folsom Prison), that the trap and rope are being checked, that he does not want to die but eventually he must go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o… I”m not sure whether the song is necessarily an anti-capital punishment statement, but the black humour barely masks the inhumanity of a man counting down the minutes till his carefully appointed death.

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Alice Cooper ““ Killer (1971).mp3
Alice Cooper”s narrator is feeling rather sorry for himself. “What did I do to deserve such a fate?” See, somebody handed him a gun. It”s always somebody else”s fault (except in Johnny Cash”s songs. He always takes the rap). The narrator says he “didn’t really want to get involved in this thing”. But he did, and now he is facing the consequences for his crime, no matter his complaining that nothing ever came easy. Poverty and hardship may explain crime, perhaps even justify petty crimes, but not everybody who is poor becomes a violent criminal. We all have a choice. So much for the lyrics. The sound of the song hints at an alternative reality: it sounds to me as though the narrator is descending into madness. Was he mentally ill when he committed the crime? Is he now committing suicide (“Now I need to escape. Someone near me, calling my name.”).

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More Murder Songs

WTF Moments in Pop: Jim Reeves in Afrikaans

September 10th, 2010 12 comments

This might become a new series: moments in pop that you really would not have expected. One of these would be the case of the country legend and everybody”s dad”s favourite singer recording an album of original songs in Afrikaans. So it was with Jim Reeves, who in 1963 recorded an album solely for the small South African market.

The linernotes for the re-release of the Jy Is My Liefling album on CD in 1995, written by the album”s producer Louis Combrinck, recall Gentleman Jim”s huge popularity in South Africa, where he was by far the biggest-selling star. Long before the cultural anti-apartheid boycott took hold, Reeves toured South Africa in the early 1960s, with a line-up that included the great Chet Atkins and legendary piano tinkler Floyd Cramer (the tour was plugged as RCA, punning on the artists” label and the initials of their surnames). In the Orange Free State capital of Bloemfontein, a bastion of Afrikanerdom, Reeves took to the stage shouting “Vrystaat! The best!” By shouting Vrystaat, Reeves expressed the archetypal South African cliché.

While in Johannesburg, Reeves recorded a cover version of a popular song at the time, From A Jack To A King by Ned Miller. The single went on to top the South African charts, and inspired in RCA the idea of Reeves recording an album in Afrikaans. Combrinck was tasked with putting together a bunch of songs with lyrics in easily pronounceable Afrikaans, which Reeves could sing phonetically while back in South Africa to tour and appear in the film Kimberley Jim (about an American singer during the 1880 goldrush in the Northern Cape town). Reeves” American-accented Afrikaans is quite passable; he clearly made an effort. The songs themselves are the sort of sentimental Reeves fare that got your dad hooked (and you probably truly put off).

In 2003, almost 40 years after Reeves” death in a plane crash in 1964, South African singer Patricia Lewis pulled a Natalie Cole by releasing a duet of the album’s title track, Jy Is My Liefling (You Are My Darling).

Here is the full album, which I think is out of print.

GET IT!

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2010 listening

September 7th, 2010 1 comment

Last year I wrote a series of my ten favourite albums in each year of the past decade. When the “10s end, I”ll be stuck to produce a list for 2010. I”ve fallen off Planet Latest Releases, encountering the occasional new release by accident or recommendation. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the new album by the lovely Weepies (out 31 August), and I”m intrigued to hear Ben Folds” collaboration with the writer Nick Hornby, which is scheduled for release later this month. Some albums I looked forward to have disappointed me (Josh Rouse, where are you going?). Here then are a couple of albums from 2010 that made me prick up my ears.

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Willie Nelson ““ Country Music

Willie Nelson lost me before he could have had me when he did that duet with Julio Iglesias, who was as uncool as uncool would ever get (and collaborator of promiscuous character, Willie has duetted indiscriminately with some pretty dodgy characters). I never liked On The Road Again much, nor his version of Always On My Mind.  It was only when I became familiar with his 1960s output that I began to appreciate Willie Nelson “” and how much I missed by writing him off for crooning with greasy grannies” favourites.

Country Music, his T-Bone Burnett-produced tribute to the country songs that reside in the juke box of his memory may be my favourite Nelson collection. Cover albums are a precarious beast. Some artists feel they need to re-interpret, re-invent and update the songs they profess to love. Others will give us the very best in karaoke. Nelson just damn well sings the songs, straight and without bullshit. He knows these songs and their context, and preserves them there. The sound is timeless. And some of the song choices are inspired, including that of one of my all-time favourites, Al Dexter”s Pistol-Packing Mama (which we”ll revisit in the history of country series, as well as the Delmore Brothers” Freight Train Boogie). I love Nelson”s version of Merle Travis” Dark As The Dungeons, which is probably better known in  Johnny Cash”s version on the Folsom Prison album. (Buy it here)
Willie Nelson ““ Dark As The Dungeons.mp3
Willie Nelson ““ Pistol-Packing Mama.mp3

Johnny Cash – American VI – Ain’t No Grave

How much is enough? Seven years after Johnny Cash died, we get another collection of his Rick Rubin-produced American series. Did Cash really die, or is he speaking to us from the beyond, the way Tupac Shakur did with such punctual regularity? Apparently this is the final release in the series, and it is a fine way of going out. There”s nothing new here but the special poignancy of knowing that Cash recorded these ten songs in the four months between the death of his beloved June Carter”s in May 2003 and his own in September, with Cash acutely aware of his mortality without descending into morbidity, and to the end insusting on communicating his deep religious faith. Some songs I can live without (Aloha Oe!), and some cannot compete with the previous versions (Kristofferson”s For The Good Times). But the minimalist arrangements and intimacy of Cash”s fragile yet forceful and soulful voice wrap the songs in a warmth and appealing sense of yearning. Like Pistol-Packing Mama, the original of Cool Water will feature in the history of country very soon.
Johnny Cash – Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream.mp3
Johnny Cash ““ Cool Water.mp3

….

Walt Cronin – California I Gotta Run

One of my favourite songs of the last decade was 2005″s A Desperate Cry for Help by the sadly rather obscure and now disbanded alt-country group The Beauty Shop. Walt Cronin”s third album reminds me a lot of the Beauty Shop, right down to his gravelly baritone and lovely Americana arrangements. Already in his 50s “” this post so far seems to specialise in grey follicles “” Cronin”s voice and sound reflect the experience of life, wistfully and defiantly. “I would never count the days of my life, but I”ll always let the dawn greet my eyes,” the former medic in the Vietnam war sings in Shinin” Through, one of several sweet love songs on this most appealing set. (Walt Cronin’s homepage)
Walt Cronin – If My Words.mp3
Walt Cronin – Shining Through.mp3

Berry Jones ““ Tonight

And moving away from silver foxes with guitars, here”s Philadelphia band Berry Jones who wanted to see if “we can try to make Thriller in a basement; like, can we get Quincy Jones-era production techniques on a shoe string budget” (the band”s name pays tribute to Quincy and Berry Gordy). Of course, with modern digital technology it is much easier to produce effects which a Quincy Jones would have to apply his genius to achieve. One need only listen to Sweden”s Loney, Dear to hear what wonderful sounds can be produced by one man in his bedroom (in terms of music, I mean). Indeed, Berry Jones” opening track, Work It Out, starts a bit like a Loney, Dear song. But quickly it becomes a pop number that recalls the 1980s. It”s all an upbeat stew of different “˜80s influences, from Culture Club and Shalamar to two-tone to indie ““ and, yeah, Michael Jackson (especially on Philly Nights) “” and a dash of Gordy’s Motown.  The vocals call to mind The Cure”s Robert Smith. The album might not quite evoke the genius of Quincy Jones, but the first half of it is a fine set of numbers to play while dressing for a party or on the way to the beach, and the soul-infused second half when coming home from the party or from the beach. (Berry Jones’s homepage)
Berry Jones ““ Philly Nights.mp3
Berry Jones ““ Your Old Ways.mp3

Dana Wells ““ The Evergreen EP

Here I”m cheating a bit: The Evergreen EP came out in 2009. But singer-songwriter Dana Wells is so talented, I want to include her in this selection. Dana may be young “” just out of her teens “” but this is no Taylor Swift. The Washington Post“s reviewer might need a better sub-editor, but suggested rightly that “there”s a settled maturity to the lyrics and tempered voice of this strummy smartie that”s usually reserved for older artists”. Let”s not be put off by the language of “strummy smartie” (who writes that kind of rubbish, and what editor passes it?). Wells is an engaging singer; one wants to get to know her. Her voice and delivery are very appealing, reminiscent of the lovely Mindy Smith. And, somehow, I really like Dana”s diction. It”s not easy for singer-songwriters to break through, but with her talent and beauty, Dana Wells might just be one who will make it big. (Dana Wells on MySpace)
Dana Wells -Watching Winter Melt Away.mp3
Dana Wells – Leave Me.mp3

Last year I wrote a series of my ten favourite albums in each year of the past decade. When the “10s end, I”ll be stuck to produce a list for 2010. I”ve fallen off Planet Latest Releases, encountering the occasional new release by accident or recommendation. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the new album by the lovely Weepies (out 31 August), and I”m intrigued to hear Ben Folds” collaboration with the writer Nick Hornby, which is scheduled for release later this month. Some albums disappointed me (Josh Rouse, where are you going?). Here then are a couple of albums from 2010 that made me prick up my ears, and a couple of songs by a singer-songwriter of whom I will want to hear more.

Willie Nelson ““ Country Music
Willie Nelson lost me before he could have had me when he did that duet with Julio Iglesias, who was as uncool as uncool would ever get (and collaborator of promiscuous character, he has duetted with some pretty dodgy character). I never liked On The Road Again or his version of Always On My Mind.  It was only when I became familiar with his 1960s output that I began to appreciate Willie Nelson “” and how much I missed by writing him off for crooning with greasy grannies” favourite Iglesias.

Country Music, his T-Bone Burnett-produced tribute to the country songs that reside in the juke box of his memory may be my favourite Nelson collection. Cover albums are a precarious beast. Some artists feel they need to re-interpret, re-invent and update the songs they profess to love. Others will give us the very best in karaoke. Nelson just damn well sings the songs, straight and without bullshit. He knows these songs and their context, and preserves them there. The sound is timeless. And some of the song choices are inspired, including that of one of my all-time favourites, Al Dexter”s Pistol-Packing Mama (which we”ll revisit in the history of country series, as well as the Delmore Brothers” Freight Train Boogie). I love Nelson”s version of Merle Travis” Dark As The Dungeons, which is probably better known in  Johnny Cash”s version on the Folsom Prison album. (Buy it here)
Willie Nelson ““ Pistol-Packing Mama.mp3
Willie Nelson ““ Dark As The Dungeons.mp3

Johnny Cash – American VI – Ain’t No Grave
How much is enough? Seven years after Johnny Cash died, we get another collection of his Rick Rubin-produced American series. Did Cash really die, or is he ending us messages from the beyond, the way Tupac Shakur did? Apparently this is the final release in the series, and it is a fine way of going out. There”s nothing new here except the special poignancy of knowing that Cash recorded these ten songs in the four months between the death of his beloved June Carter”s and his own, with Cash acutely aware of his mortality without descending into morbidity, and to the end insusting on communicating his deep religious faith. Some songs I can live without (Aloha Oe!), and some cannot compete with the previous versions (Kristofferson”s For The Good Times). But the minimalist arrangements and intimacy of Cash”s fragile yet forceful and soulful voice wrap the songs in a warmth and appealing sense of yearning.
Johnny Cash – Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream.mp3
Johnny Cash ““ Cool Water.mp3

….

Walt Cronin – California I Gotta Run
One of my favourite songs of the last decade was 2005″s A Desperate Cry for Help by the sadly rather obscure and now disbanded alt-country group The Beauty Shop. Walter Cronin”s third album reminds me a lot of the Beauty Shop, right down to his gravelly baritone and lovely Americana arrangements. Already in his 50s “” this post so far seems to specialise in grey follicles “” Cronin”s voice and sound reflect the experience of life, wistfully and defiantly. “I would never count the days of my life, but I”ll always let the dawn greet my eyes,” the former medic in the Vietnam war sings in Shinin” Through, one of several sweet love songs on this most appealing set. (Walt Cronin’s homepage)
Walt Cronin – If My Words.mp3
Walt Cronin – Shining Through.mp3

Berry Jones ““ Tonight
And moving away from silver fixes with guitars, here”s Philadelphia”s Berry Jones who wanted to see if “we can try to make Thriller in a basement; like, can we get Quincy Jones-era production techniques on a shoe string budget” (the band”s name pays tribute to Quincy and Berry Gordy). Of course, with modern digital technology it is much easier to produce effects which a Quincy Jones would have to apply his genius to achieve. One need only listen to Sweden”s Loney, Dear to hear what wonderful sounds can be produced by one man in his bedroom (in terms of music, I mean). Indeed, Berry Jones” opening track, Work It Out, starts a bit like a Loney, Dear song. But quickly it becomes a pop number that recalls the 1980s. It”s all an upbeat stew of different “˜80s influences, from Culture Club and Shalamar to two-tone to indie ““ and, yeah, Michael Jackson (especially on Philly Nights).  The vocals call to mind The Cure”s Robert Smith. The album might not quite evoke the genius of Quincy Jones, but the first half of it is a fine set of numbers to play while dressing for a party or on the way to the beach, and the soul-infused second half when coming home from the party or from the beach. (Berry Jones’s homepage)
Berry Jones ““ Philly Nights.mp3
Berry Jones ““ Your Old Ways.mp3

Dana Wells ““ The Evergreen EP
Here I”m cheating a bit: The Evergreen EP came out in 2009. But singer-songwriter Dana Wells is so talented, I want to include her in this selection. Dana may be young “” just out of her teens “” but this is no Taylor Swift. The Washington Post”s reviewer might need a better sub-editor, but suggested rightly that “there”s a settled maturity to the lyrics and tempered voice of this strummy smartie that”s usually reserved for older artists”. Let”s not be put off by the language of “strummy smartie” (who writes that kind of rubbish?). Wells is an engaging singer; one wants to get to know her. Her voice and delivery are very appealing, reminiscent of the lovely Mindy Smith. And, somehow, I really like Dana”s diction. It”s not easy for singer-songwriters to break through, but with her talent and beauty, Dana Wells might just be one who will make it big. (Dana Wells on MySpace)
Dana Wells -Watching Winter Melt Away.mp3
Dana Wells – Leave Me.mp3

In Memoriam – August 2010

September 3rd, 2010 3 comments

The Grim Reaper maintained his unwelcome prolific endeavours, adding something of a twist to this month”s proceedings. On August 19, Michael Been, former bassist and singer of 1980s group The Call, died at Belgium”s Pukkelpop festival, where he had acted as the sound engineer for his son”s group, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The following day, synth popster Charles Haddon, 22, committed suicide after performing at the same festival with his band Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, whose debut album was due for release in October.

The old adage instructs us not to speak ill of the dead. I don”t subscribe to that point of view. I will gladly speak ill of, say, Sid Vicious, and I will not hold my counsel when Dick Cheney finally takes the highway to hell. So while most entries here, as always, are listed in affectionate tribute to doubtless lovable artists, I”m not sure what to make of George Richey, the last husband of Tammy Wynette (who was previously married to George Jones, for whom Richey wrote). Richey allegedly injected Wynette with drugs to keep her performing and supposedly had her brutally assaulted. Or so Tammy”s daughters said when they sued him, unsuccessfully, for the wrongful death of their mother. Richey denied the charges. Wynette stayed with him for two decades until her untimely death in 1998 at 55. Is there no smoke without a fire, or do we take a wife”s loyalty as evidence?

Fact fans might enjoy Bill Phillips” song and title track of his 1966 album, which was written by a young and already prodigiously talented Dolly Parton.

And so to last month”s departed, with the listed songs all wrapped up in one file for your tributing pleasure.

Richard ‘Scar’ Lopez, 64, member of Cannibal and the Headhunters, on July 30.
Cannibal and the Headhunters – Land Of 1000 Dances (1965) Read more…

Categories: In Memoriam Tags:

Any Major Soul 1988-89

August 27th, 2010 10 comments

The cycle of soul compilations covering the 1970s and “80s is coming to an end with this mix, some 13 months after I posted the first (which drew a comment from Jerry Plunk, singer of the Flaming Ember). I have had feedback from a number of people who said they have collected the whole series. One reader told me that he burnt the compilations on CD, printed the covers and gave the set as a present to a soul-loving relative. It”s feedback like this that makes me not ditch this lonely blogging thing.

Of the lot here, I really like Keni Stevens, a British soulster of distinctive style and voice who never made it big. I previously posted my favourite song of his, 24-7-365 (download it here).  Somehow he was not marketable because he was not sufficiently upbeat. Soul lost a fine artist, who released only three albums.

A cursory listen to Charlie Singleton“s track will doubtless cause the savvy listener to call to mind Cameo”s 1985 hit Single Life. Singleton was the guitarist of Cameo until the Single Life album. So all he”s doing is to rip off himself. I hear that lately he”s been performing with Cameo again.

Three songs featured here have a tangential link: Mica Paris and Paul Johnson (the latter featured also on Any Major Soul 1986-87) perform a song from Mica”s 1988 debut album. Another singer who duetted with Paris on the album was the greatly gifted Will Downing, featured here with a track from his eponymously titled debut album. And the gorgeous song here by Al Jarrreau from 1989 originally appeared on Mica Paris” debut.

This mix features a slate of new artists, but also a few singers in the twilight of their careers. Shortly after releasing his Take It To The Streets album, on which the lovely Doo Be Down appeared, Curtis Mayfield suffered the accident that paralysed him. Johnnie Taylor had been a Stax headliner in the early 1970s and made the transition to disco. By the 1980s, he was on the fringes of soul music, though he made a brief comeback in 1996, four years before his death at 62.

New York-born Nicole McCloud never made it big, despite creating a minor soul classic with New York Eyes, her duet with Timmy Thomas (which featured on the New York City Mix Vol. 2). Her  1989 album Rock The House, a mostly poorly produced effort, was Nicole”s second. She released two more, in 1996 and 2002.

TRACKLISTING
1. Womack & Womack – Teardrops
2. Johnnie Taylor – You Knocked My Heart Out Of Line
3. Al Jarreau – So Good
4. Curtis Mayfield – Do Be Down
5. Teddy Pendergrass – 2 A.M.
6. Chuckii Booker – Turned Away
7. BeBe & CeCe Winans – Lost Without You
8. Mica Paris & Paul Johnson – Words Into Action
9. Keni Stevens – Hurt This Way
10. Maze featuring Frankie Beverley – Can’t Get Over You
11. Charlie Singleton – Good Bad Ugly
12. Will Downing – That Good Morning Love
13. Anita Baker – Lead Me Into Love
14. Regina Belle – It Doesn’t Hurt Anymore
15. Brenda Russell – Piano In The Dark
16. Narada Michael Walden – I Belong
17. Nicole – So Lost Without Your Love

GET IT

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Any Major Soul 1970-71
Any Major Soul 1972-73
Any Major Soul 1974-75
Any Major Soul 1976-77
Any Major Soul 1978-79
Any Major Soul 1980-81
Any Major Soul 1982-83
Any Major Soul 1984-85
Any Major Soul 1986-87

Categories: 80s soul, Any Major Soul Tags:

A History of Country Vol. 3: Pre-war years – 1937-41

August 19th, 2010 4 comments

The second article in the history of country music covered the trends and artists of the depression and pre-war years, 1930-41. Here we”ll look at some of the songs of the era. The photo on the cover comes from a superb series of colour photos from the US in the 1930s and ’40s.

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Rock “˜n” roll grew out of R&B and various shades of country, especially rockabilly, a sub-genre that peaked in the 1950s. But what is widely regarded as the first rockabilly number dates back to 1939, Buddy Jones” Rockin” Rollin’ Mama. It”s a futile exercise to identify “the first-ever rock “˜n” roll record”, but any list of contenders must include Rockin” Rollin’ Mama. Read more…

Answer Records Vol. 7

August 16th, 2010 2 comments

Thank my new friend Charlie for this instalment in the Answer Records series; covering the reply to Universal Soldier was his suggestion. Besides the conflict of ideology, we have Billie Jean creating a bit of a scene and Sam Cooke begging his woman to return to him. But will she, and is the kid Jacko”s son?

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Who does Wacko think he is?

Act 1: Michael Jackson ““ Billie Jean (Demo) (1982).mp3
Renowned laydees man Michael Jackson”s denial of paternity in relation to Billie Jean”s kid is well known. Our man is not impressed when his disco dancing is disrupted by the appearance of the woman who claims that he fathered her son. He pretends not to know her, but he does admit that he followed Billie Jean into a room (because of her perfume, apparently), and then did not have sex with that woman. Perhaps the excessive consumption of Jesus-juice made Jacko forget the act that spawned a kid with his eyes, as his girl (presumably the one he won in the contest with Paul McCartney) confirms. The kid might have his eyes, but still Michael denies paternity. Not only that, he accuses Billie Jean if all manner of dishonest schemes and duplicity “” and of being just some random girl.

Act 2: Lydia Murdock – Superstar (1983).mp3
Billie Jean, it”s safe to say, is rather disappointed by Michael”s denial. In her rather more convincing version, the two had an affair which Michael asked to be handled with discretion. “You became my lover, you said: “˜Let”s keep it secret, let”s not spread it around”.” The trade-off for being a secret lover? Expensive gifts and smooth-talk: “You send me flowers and diamonds, and said that you were in love. You said you never met a girl that you thought so much of.” The cad! And when he had had enough of Billie Jean, he just stopped calling. In an instance of bad timing, Billie Jean soon discovered that she was pregnant. “And when the baby was born I sent you a telegram, but it came back saying you don”t know who I am.” So when Billie Jean goes out dancing (her son presumably in good care) and spots Michael, she goes ballistic: “I did not intend to start a fight, but when you said who am I, you don”t know my face, I went off. I made a scene, I really wrecked the place. And I know you might be a big superstar and the whole wide world knows who you are, but the next time we meet, if you don”t want a scene, tip your hat with respect, “cause I am Billie Jean.” And some child support would be nice too, she might add.

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Running from an elf

Act 1: Buffy Sainte-Marie ““ Universal Soldier (1964).mp3
If we want peace, all soldiers must just refuse to fight. It”s an easy equation, but, well, it”s not entirely lacking in naivety. Donovan (or Donovan or, in the original recording, The Highwaymen ) asks how without the universal soldier “would Hitler have condemned him at Dachau?” Which is a bit of a strange question: more likely, the refusenik would have been executed at Dachau for the act of refusing to fight, no? Still, the soldier is “the one who gives his body as a weapon of the war. And without him all this killing can”t go on.” So, until all soldiers turn into conscientious objectors, the argument goes, they are personally to blame for war.

Act 2: Jan Berry ““ Universal Coward (1965).mp3
The hippy sentiment is not universally shared, least of all among the clean cut youth represented by surfer duo Jan & Dean (Dean Torrence wanted no part of the song, so it was released as a solo record by Jan Berry, who here sports the broken leg that kept him from being drafted. It did turn up on Jan & Dean Rock “˜n Folk album though). Jan is mightily pissed off that the responsibility for war is being shifted on to the runts in the trenches. With soldiers in Vietnam serving what Berry evidently thought was a just cause, the peacenik “just can’t get it through his thick skull why the mighty USA has got to be a watchdog of the world” “” an opinion perpetuated by any Dick, Don and Dubya three and a half decades later. Berry defines the peacenik: “He’s a pacifist, an extremist, a communist or just a Yank; a demonstrator, an agitator, or just a knave.  A conscientious objector, a fanatic, a defector “” and he doesn”t know he”s digging his own grave.” And then, by way of lazy rhyme, he gets his digs in before arriving at a nonsensical conclusion: “He”s the universal coward, and he runs from anything: from a giant, from a human, from an elf. He runs from Uncle Sam, and he runs from Vietnam. But most of all he’s running from himself.” Give that man some tea!

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Can a cad get forgiveness?

Act 1: Sam Cooke ““ Bring It On Home To Me (1962).mp3
Sam is heartbroken because he has been left by the woman he loves. At first he laughed it off, literally: “You know I laughed when you left, but now I know I”ve only hurt myself.” So now he is begging her to come back: “If you ever change your mind about leaving me behind, bring it to me. Bring your sweet lovin”, bring it on home to me.” He is making extravagant promises: “I”ll give you jewellery, money too.” And, in case she is not so much of a material girl, “You know I”ll always be your slave till I”m dead and buried in my grave”  “” which we know, alas, will be all to soon.

Act 2: Carla Thomas – I’ll Bring It On Home To You (1962).mp3
Sam”s sweet-talk worked. Carla is packing her bags as we speak: “Darling, you”ve made me change my mind. I can”t leave you leave you behind. I”m gonna bring it to you, bring my sweet loving, bring it on home to you.” Carla is satisfied that he has learnt his lesson: “I heard you laughing when I left. So now you know, you only hurt yourself.” Sam gets forgiveness, even though it was he “who stayed out late at night”. She is not a material girl: “Don”t want your jewellery or money too and nothing else you said you would do. I”m just gonna bring it to you.” And then the poignant verse: “You said you”d always be my slave till you were buried in your grave, but you got a little time yet…”

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More answer records

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