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In Memoriam – November/December 2010

January 5th, 2011 8 comments

The Grim Reaper took things easy in November ““ so much so that there was no pressing need for an update “” but he could barely stop himself once he got into the swing of things in the fnal month of 2010 (and, alas, has not wasted time getting going in 2011).

A couple of artists fell victim to violent crime: New Orleans rapper Magnolia $horty died in an apparent drive-by shooting (as for the lyrics of her song…oh my), and jazz rock drummer Billy Maddox was shot dead in a burglary in Austin, Texas.

Also desperately sad was the suicide of Barclay James Harvest’s Woolly Wolstenholme. The prog-rocker apparently had gone through mental suffering for a long time. In 1976 he and his band released a most affecting song titled Suicide (which calls to mind Sailing); my choice of it to mark Wolstenholme’s death is not intended to be ironic.

Australian rock singer James Freud also took his own life, apparently giving up his battle against alcoholism. The anguish of those who commit suicide is unimaginable to those of us who have not been on that edge. It’s not the coward’s way out, as the cliché would have it, for it takes immense courage to go through with suicide. Nor is it selfish, because surely their pain overrides all other considerations.

The Grim Reaper launched an onslaught on the world of R&B in late December, claming on successive days Sweet Inspiration Myrna Smith, Dorothy Jones of the Cookies, Bernard Wilson of Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, and Teena Marie.

On a personal level, I was sad to learn of the not unexpected death of Cape Town jazz maestro Tony Schilder, who provided me with many hours of top notch jazz entertainment. Tony was an immensely talented musician and a true gentleman. I marked his death over at Star Maker Machine. The guitar solo on the featured song, incidentally, is by Jonathan Butler.

Talking of jazz men, James Moody also passed away; fans of Aretha Franklin, George Benson and Amy Whitehouse will be familiar with the vocal takes on his mood.

Eddie Hazell, 76, American jazz musician guitarist, on November 2

Hotep Idris Galeta, 69, South African jazz pianist, on November 3

Jim Clench, 61, bass guitarist with April Wine and Bachman”“Turner Overdrive, on November 4
April Wine – Tonight Is A Good Time To Fall In Love (1975)

James Freud, 51, Australian rock singer and former member of The Models, of suicide on November 4
James Freud – Modern Girl (1980)

Randy Miller, 39, drummer of Seattle rock band The Myriad, on November 5
The Myriad – A Clean Shot (2008)

Tony West, 72, founder bassist of The Searchers, on November 10

Lee Harper, 65, jazz trumpeter, on November 10

Mimi Perrin, 84, singer and pianist with French jazz vocal group Les Double Six, on November 16
Les Double Six – Let The Good Times Roll By (1964)

Little Smokey Smothers, 71, blues guitarist and singer, on November 20
Howlin’ Wolf – Howlin’ For My Darling (1960, as guitarist)

Peter Christopherson, 55, member of British avant garde group Throbbing Gristle, LP cover designer (Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, Animals; Peter Gabriel’s Melt album) and music video director, on November 24
Throbbing Gristle – Hamburger Lady (1978)

Monty Sunshine, 82, English jazz clarinetist, on November 30
Monty Sunshine – Just A Closer Walk With Thee

Donald Lineberger, 71, banjo player with Bill Monroe and Glen Campbell (on his TV show), on December 5

Trev Thoms, 60, guitarist of British punk groups Inner City Unit and Atom Gods, on December 8

James Moody, 85, jazz saxophonist and flautist, on December 9
James Moody – Moody’s Mood For Love (1950)

Tony Schilder, 73, South African jazz pianist, bandleader and composer, on December 9
Tony Schilder – Madeleine (1985)

Remmy Ongala, 63, Tanzanian singer, on December 13
Remmy Ongala – Inchi Vetu (Our Country) (1991)

Enrique Morente, 67, Spanish flamenco singer, on December 13
Enrique Morente – Tangos de la Plaza

Woolly Wolstenholme, 63, singer and keyboardist of Barclay James Harvest, of suicide on December 13
Barclay James Harvest – Suicide? (1976)

Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), 69, experimental rock musician, On December 17
Captain Beefheart – Ink Mathematics (1982)

Glen Adams, 65, Jamaican reggae musician, producer and co-founder of The Heptones, on December 17.
Glen Adams – I Can’t Help It (1968)

Trudy Pitts, 78, American jazz & R&B keyboard player, on December 19
Trudy Pitts – Take Five (1967)
Magnolia $horty, 28, New Orleans rapper, shot dead on December 20
Magnolia $horty – That’s My Juvie

Myrna Smith, 69, member of the Sweet Inspirations, on December 24
The Sweet Inspirations – Slipped And Tripped (1973)

Dorothy Jones, 76, singer of ’60s girl band The Cookies (also backing singers on Little Eva’s The Locomotion), on December 25
The Cookies – Chains (1962)

Bernard Wilson, 64, singer with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, on December 26
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Everybody’s Talkin’ (1977)
Teena Marie, 54, soul/funk singer, on December 26
Teena Marie – I Need Your Lovin’ (1980)

Billy Maddox, 54, jazz-rock drummer drummer, shot dead on December 27.

Billy Taylor, 89, jazz pianist and composer, on December 28
Billy Taylor – I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (1957)
Nina Simone – I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (1967, as composer)

Gene Kelton, 55, rockabilly singer, on December 28

Agathe von Trapp, 97, member of the von Trapp family, on December 28

Nick Santo, 69, singer with doo-wop band The Capris, on December 30
The Capris – There’s A Moon Out Tonight (1957)

Bobby Farrell, 61, dancer with Boney M., on December 30
Boney M – Ma Baker (1977)

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In Memoriam – July 2010

August 3rd, 2010 1 comment

The grim reaper evidently is a big football fan, stepping up his reaping only after the World Cup concluded (taking, however, the great South African saxophonist Robbie Jansen before its conclusion), but then with a vengeance. The most notable musician this month may be Harvey Fuqua, whose impact on music was mostly behind the scenes. Fittingly, Marvin Gaye on the last track of his last album paid tribute to his mentor. Just a short while after Big Star”s Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel died.

A couple of session musicians who played on rock classics passed on. I usually don”t include technical staff other than influential producers. But as a sound engineer Bill Porter shaped the Nashville sound. We all know songs that he has produced (many have featured on this blog), including classics by the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Skeeter Davis, Hank Locklin, and Jim Reeves. Also passing on is the relatively obscure funk and soul singer Melvin Bliss, whose 1973 b-side Synthetic Substitution became a staple hip hop sample (for a list, see here)

But the most tragic death came towards the end of the month when the jazz drummer Chris Dagley “” who also was a session man (as featured on jazz singer”s Claire Martin”s latest album) “” died in a motorbike accident on the way home from playing a gig at London”s famous Ronnie Scott”s. He leaves behind his wife and three kids.

Tracks listed for each entry are on the compilation linked to at the end of this post.

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Ilene Woods, 81, American singer and actress, on Juy 1
Ilene Woods – Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (from Cinderella, 1950)

Harvey Fuqua, 80, singer with The Moonglows and record producer, on July 6
Harvey & The Moonglows – Ten Commandments Of Love (1959)
Marvin Gaye – My Love Is Waiting (1982)

Bill Porter, 79, hugely influential rock & roll and country sound engineer, on July 7
Bobby Bare ““ 500 Miles Away From Home (1963)
Skeeter Davis – I Can’t Stay Mad At You (1963)
Elvis Presley – (You’re The) Devil In Disguise (1963)

Robbie Jansen, 60, South African jazz saxophonist and singer, on July 7
Robbie Jansen ““ Praise My Soul (1998)
Tony Schilder Trio ““ Give Her Back To Me (1995)

More Robbie Jansen here

Sugar Minott, 54, reggae singer, on July 10
Sugar Minott – Good Thing Going (1981)

Walter Hawkins, 61, gospel singer, on July 11
Walter Hawkins – For My Good (1998)

Tuli Kupferberg, 86, poet, cartoonist and musician with folk-group The Fugs, on July 12
The Fugs – The Garden Is Open (1968)

Paulo Moura, 77, Brazilian saxophonist and clarinetist, on July 12
Paulo Moura & Os Batutas ““ Lamentos (1996)

Olga Guillot, 87, Cuban “Queen of Bolero”, on July 13
Olga Guillot – Sabor a mi

Gene Ludwig, 72, jazz organist, on July 14
Gene Ludwig – Blue Flame (1966)

Hank Cochran, 74, country music singer-songwriter and duo partner of Eddie Cochran, on July 15
Cochran Brothers ““ Slowdown (1956)
Wanda Jackson – I Fall To Pieces (1988)

Yandé Codou Sène, 78, Senegalese singer, on July 15
Yandé Codou Sène & Youssou N’Dour – Sama Guent Guii (1995)

Carlos Torres Vila, 63, Argentinian folk singer, on July 16
Carlos Torres Vila – Que Pasa Entre Los Dos (1976)

Fred Carter Jr., 76, guitarist (e.g. on The Boxer and bass on Dylan”s Lay Lady Lay), songwriter and producer, on July 17
Marty Robbins – El Paso (1959)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Boxer (1970)

Andy Hummel, 59, founder member of Big Star, on July 19
Big Star – My Life Is Right (1972)

Phillip Walker, 73, blues musician, on July 22
Phillip Walker – Hello My Darling

Harry Beckett, 75, British trumpeter, on July 22
Harry Beckett – Ultimate Tribute (2009)

Al Goodman, 63, singer with The Moments and Ray, Goodman & Brown, on July 26
The Moments – Love On A Two-Way Street (1970)
Ray Goodman Brown – Special Lady (1979)

Melvin Bliss, 75, soul singer, on July 26
Melvin Bliss – Synthetic Substitution (1973)

Bice, 37, Japanese singer-songwriter and producer, on July 26
Bice – An Apple A Day (2001)

Ben Keith, 73, country/folk/rock musician and producer, on July 27
Neil Young – Are You Ready For The Country? (1972)

Chris Dagley, 38, English jazz drummer, on July 28
Claire Martin – Everybody Today Is Turning On (2009)

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South Africa – Vol. 4

July 9th, 2010 2 comments

The party is almost over. On Sunday, two hands will receive the World Cup trophy and lift it high as confetti sprays out of machines, reminding me that some poor souls will have to clean up the mess.

For South African residents in the seven host cities, it has been a ride. The vibe has been amazing, and the tournament has been very well organised. The special courts that were set up to deal with crime have been in a somnolent state due to inaction. I am sure those bottomless pits of vomit in the European and British media that predicted roaming bands of criminals robbing and raping foreign fans and shooting with AK-47s at the German team will gladly retract their slanderous and ““ yes, I”ll damn well will say it ““ racist propaganda against South Africa.

These unfounded predictions cost South Africa. Fewer people than expected came. We may account for some of the shortfall with reference to the economic crisis. But the vicious propaganda hurt South Africa. Still, the host has answered its critics. The stadiums were built in time, travelling fans were safe from crime and race wars, and the atmosphere was every bit as genial as it was in Germany four years earlier. Of course, crime was controlled only by an immense show of strength by the police, which now knows that with good application and resources it might get a handle on the country”s crime crisis. And one hopes that the government will show the same political will in solving poverty as it did in building stadiums and tossing FIFA”s salad.

South Africa put on a world class show. It could not have been much better, give or take a few transport snafus (Durban airport screwed things up royally on Wednesday). The world”s biggest event was staged in South Africa ““ in Africa! ““ with every bit as much competence and efficiency as it was in Germany four years ago. The impact of this on South Africa”s and Africa”s psyche cannot be underestimated. Likewise, the memory of South Africa”s successful organisation must alter the perception of the country and continent among those who have held images of cliché. The government has shown the political will to show that it can do something extraordinary. It must now show the will to do more extraordinary things: beating poverty and crime chief among these.

Like everybody else who was in the host cities over the past four weeks, I will retain many great memories (some are represented in the collage avove). The country being awash in flags, the sound of the vuvuzelas, the opening goal that sent South Africa into a huge simultaneous orgasm, several trips to the fan park and four games in the stadium, doing the fan walk (not so great in cold and rainy weather; glorious on balmy evenings), Germany beating England and Argentina, my black Germany scarf, K”naan”s Wave your Flag song and Shakira’s Waka Waka, fans in fancy dress (the Dutch fans especially were great), and ““ the happiest of all memories ““ spending a lot of time with Any Minor Dude.

And whoever wins on Sunday, I will have seen the 2010 World Cup winner on their way to becoming champions (Spain against Portugal and Holland against Cameroon).

With all that out of the way, here”s the final batch of South African songs:

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Tony Schilder Trio – Gimme Loving (1995).mp3
Robbie Jansen (with Allou April) – Love Song For Forgotten People (1991).mp3
Spirits Rejoice – Shine On (1978).mp3

The great Cape Town saxophonist and singer Robbie Jansen died on July 7 at the age of 61. Some 20-odd years ago I heard Robbie sing the best version of What”s Going On I have ever heard (he recorded it in 2005; I”ve never heard that though). With his gravelly voice, hoarse from smoking cigarettes (containing brown and green stuff), he was a great interpreter of songs. A collection of covers sung by Robbie Jansen could have been a brilliant album. He recorded a couple of Cape jazz albums and contributed to albums by others, usually by playing the sax. He appeared on Dollar Brand”s classic Mannenberg album (the title is a sloppy misrendering of the ghetto”s name; on the LP he and the larte Basil Coezee harmonised on alto sax), and guested on both albums by the great keyboardist Tony Schilder, who himself is in poor health (as, sadly, is his musician son Hilton; the struggling Schilder family can be assisted via this site), as well as with acts such as Tananas, Juluka and the Sons of Table Mountain, with whom he visited Cuba a few years ago. Jansen was the saxophonist of Pacific Express alongside a young Jonathan Butler and then of Spirits Rejoice (the hit Shine On features Paul Peterson, now a producer, on vocals). Janssen may not have been known outside South Africa, perhaps not even much outside Cape Town. But the man was a legend, a cultural icon in a jazz city. A local trade union has called for a street to be named after Jansen. It is a marvellous idea. Indeed, the city should name a whole district after departed local jazz greats.

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Hugh Masekela ““ Mama (1996).mp3
Hugh Masekela – Don’t Go Lose It Baby (1984).mp3
Hugh Masekela ““ Grazing In The Grass (1968).mp3

The jazz legend appeared in the opening ceremony of the World Cup (which also featured R Kelly ““ an ill-considered choice for an event in a country with high levels of sexual violence against minors). I was surprised by that; Masekela had taken a very negative stance towards the event, arguing that the money should have been spent on poverty relief. Still, it was good to see the doyen of SA jazz still active and looking good at 71. Featured here are three songs from the man”s long career. On Mama, Masekela sings in his deliciously growling voice. It probably is my favourite Masekela track. Don’t Go Lose It Baby is a blazing jazz-funk track, with some retro-rapping for the “80s nostalgists. Masekela”s joyful Grazing In The Grass, composed by Philemon Hou, topped the US charts in 1968, and is internationally Masekela”s signature song. Dig the cowbells!

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Blk Sonshine ““ Building (2000).mp3
Blk Sonshine ““ Born In A Taxi (2000).mp3

It”s difficult to categorise Blk Sonshine. Though an acoustic outfit, Neo Muyanga and Masauko Chipembere have eclectic influences, drawing from kwela, kwaito and reggae as well as from folk, rock and hip hop, with socially conscious lyrics. The rousing Building is a folk-hued, as was their hit song, the gentle and lovely Born In A Taxi. Blk Sonshine are still recording and appearing live. I”ve heard a few songs from their latest album, Good Life. It sounds great (Check the tunes out). Gil Scott-Heron fans will be interested to note that the great man”s flautist Brian Jackson has lately been collaborating with Chipembere, who was born in the US of Malawian parents. And listen to Building: the vocals aren’t a million miles from Scott-Heron’s at his more agitated.  Visit Blk Sonshine at blksonshine.com/

Blk Sonshine must not be confused with the highly-rated township heavy metal band Blk Jks (for a taste of them, check out the excellent Liberator Magazine blog.

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Sipho “˜Hotstix” Mabuse ““ Burn Out (1985).mp3
Burn Out was the big South African hit of 1985. A true dance track from the townships that easily crossed the race divide, as Brenda Fassie”s Weekend Special had done the previous year, at a time when that was still remarkable. It sold half a million copies, an extraordinary figure in South Africa”s small market. Before that, Mabuse had been a member of the influential Afro-funk band Harari, the first black pop group to appear on white TV, in 1979. Mabuse never capitalised on the success of Burn Out to become a big recording star (it took him ten years to release a follow-up album), becoming a successful producer of nascent talent instead.

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Miriam Makeba – Ring Bell, Ring Bell (1967).mp3
This series has to feature at least one Makeba song. I suppose most readers will have stocked up on Makeba music after her death in late 2008, but might have missed this lovely song from Mama Afrika”s 1967 Pata Pata LP, released on Frank Sinatra”s Reprise label. Makeba”s life would make for a great TV mini-series; born to a sangoma (similar to a shaman) mother, the beautiful Miriam had success in South Africa and on the London stage (with Todd Matshikiza”s musical King Kong) before going into exile in the US, where she was also unwanted after marrying civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael in 1968. In the interim, she addressed the United Nations on the subject of apartheid, upon which the Pretoria regime revoked her citizenship. Even her last moments were filled with an activist”s spirit: she died after appearing at a concert against organised crime in Italy.

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Letta Mbulu ““ Hareje (1973).mp3
Another one of the great South African exiles with King Kong connections, Mbulu made her breakthrough when the jazz great David Axelrod signed her to Capitol Records in 1968, to be produced by him alongside such luminaries as Cannonball Adderley and Lou Rawls. Though the critics loved Mbulu”s albums, the label had no idea how to market her unique Afro-soul sound. After Capitol, she recorded the 1973 Naturally album on Adderley”s Fantasy Records label, from which this track comes. Backing musicians on the album, and on Hareje, included the Crusaders luminaries Wilton Felder, Joe Sample, Stix Hooper and Wayne Henderson. This opened the door for a deal with Herb Alpert”s A&M label, but commercial success continued to elude Mbulu. Still, Quincy Jones liked her, having her sing on the soundtracks to the mini-series Roots and the film The Color Purple. She also sang on Michael Jackson”s Liberian Girl. She returned to South Africa with her husband Caiphus Semenya, an acclaimed musician and producer himself, in 1991.

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Four Jacks & A Jill – Master Jack (1968).mp3
This group was at the centre of a beer-fuelled spat I got embroiled in many years ago. I had compiled a pub trivia quiz, and one of the questions concerned South African acts that had ever entered the UK charts. One team of worthies, perennial winners whose dedication to the beer life was amply reflected in their protruding guts, included Four Jacks & A Jill in their answer Their disputation of the fact that Four Jacks & A Jill never bothered the UK charts became rather heated. Alas, I had thought it unnecessary to lug with me all my reference books “” in this case the 8th edition of the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles. Ultimately, to keep the peace, the utterly wrong bastards got their point. In return, I marked all their subsequent answers with spiteful strictness. Where my pals went wrong was in confusing the charts: Master Jack failed to chart in Britain but was a Top 20 hit in the US (and a chart-topper in Canada). Although the band comprised four men and a female member, none were called Jack or Jill (the “Jill” was in fact named Glenys Lynne.). The folk-pop group was named after a 1942 movie.

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Prime Circle – Lose Tomorrow (2003).mp3
Occasionally I enjoy a bit of alt.rock; I like a bit of Foo Fighters from time to time. So I can see an upside to Germany being reduced to a third-place play-off against Uruguay today: Prime Circle are scheduled to play at Cape Town”s fan park before the game. Having missed out on Freshlyground last week and Blk Sonshine in June (but having caught the excellent electronica outfit Goldfish there), I am looking forward to that. Their Wikipedia entry seems to have been vandalised with insights like “In 1999 the band hadn”t yet formed” and Wildean wit such as “73% of Prime Circle circle [sic] fans are masochists. The other 27% don’t actually listen to the music.” I am delighted to report that my sides have not split.

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More South African stuff

Dust, Crackle and Pop: Vinyl cuts

August 12th, 2009 5 comments

Today, August 12, is International Vinyl Record Day. To mark the event, here are a few songs I”ve ripped from my LPs lately. I have old LPs stashed all over the house. Most of them ““ almost all of them ““ have not been played in more than a decade, some in more than two decades. None was played after my son, then three or four years old, broke the stylus on my Technics turntable. It has been great playing some of these old records again, and in some cases painful as I realise that the music wasn”t as great as my memory had deceived me to think. These songs here did not disappoint. Happy Vinyl Record Day.

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Tony Schilder ““ Madeleine.mp3
tony_schilder Tony Schilder is now retired, but in his day he was a keyboard maestro in the field of South African jazz-fusion. His trio regularly featured guest artists, of whom the internationally best known is Jonathan Butler. Schilder”s trio was the houseband of the Montreal nightclub in Cape Town”s Manenberg (which lent its name, inaccurately spelt, to Dollar Brand”s jazz opus), an impoverished, gang-riddled township established by the apartheid regime for South Africans classified as “Coloured” (that is, people of mixed race). In that community”s vibrant nightclub scene, Montreal was the place to be in the 1980s. It had style and Cape Town”s great artists would regularly appear there, such as frequent Schilder collaborator Robbie Jansen (a gifted saxophonist and vocalists, whose unrecorded version of Marvin Gaye”s What”s Going On is the best I”ve heard) or Dougie Schrikker, “the Frank Sinatra of the Cape Flats”.

The cheerful Madeleine (such a beautiful name) was the highlight in Schilder”s sets; it”s opening keyboard bar alerting the serious jazz dancers (and by this I mean Cape Town jazz-dancing, which is a sexier version of ballroom styles) to take to the dancefloor. Strangely Madeleine didn”t appear on his CD of re-recorded classics released in 1995. The 1985 LP it came from, Introducing the Music of Tony Schilder, has never been released on CD, to my knowledge. The song features Danny Butler on vocals, and his brother Jonathan on guitar (and check out his great solo).

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The Four Tops & The Supremes – Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand).mp3
four_tops_supremes The famous version, of course, is that by Diana Ross, her first solo single after splitting from the Supremes. Shortly after La Ross recorded the Ashford & Simpson composition in 1970, the Supremes (now fronted by Jean Terrell) recorded it with the Four Tops, creating a more joyous version than Diana”s, which was lovely but not particularly soulful in arrangement or vocal delivery. I will be honest and admit that I had forgotten I even had this until last weekend, when I ripped most of the tracks featured here. It”s on a collection of soul tracks released in 1974 which I picked up cheaply some 20 years ago in a second-hand shop. Whatever I paid for it, this song alone made it a bargain.

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The Mystics – Hushabye.mp3
MYSTICS American readers of a certain age may well remember this: Hushabye was the song with which the legendary DJ Alan Freed closed his televised Big Beat Show. Written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, it was released in 1959 by the New York doo wop group The Mystics, Italian-Americans from Bensonhurst. A year after Hushabye was released, a young Paul Simon (then calling himself Jerry Landis) joined as lead singer, albeit only very briefly.

The Mystics were supposed to be given Pomus/Shuman”s A Teenager In Love, which in the event was recorded to great commercial success by Dion & the Belmonts. The record label, Laurie Records, were not too pleased, it seems, and ordered the songwriters to come up with a new tune for The Mystics. The next day, Hushabye was ready. It became a #20 hit in summer 1959. Five years later, the Beach Boys recorded a cover for their All Summer Long album.

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The Crusaders ““ So Far Away (live).mp3
crusaders Jazz legends The Crusaders covered Carole King”s So Far Away twice. The studio version is nice; the live take, from 1974″s Scratch: Live At The Roxy, is brilliant. It”s warm and cool, exciting and relaxing. And it sounds barely like the original tune. At 1:54 trombonist Wayne Henderson begins a note which he holds continuously for a minute, driving the crowd mad with concern for his safety (one member shouts “stop!”) before Sample, Hooper, Felder, Carlton and Popwell resume to finish the song off in a rhapsodic orgasm.

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Mungo Jerry ““ Have A Whiff On Me.mp3
mungo_jerry A typically exuberant Mungo Jerry number with its boogie woogie piano, improvised instrument, percussive oral noises and Ray Dorset”s obligatory scat and exclamation of “all right, all right, all right”. Most of Mungo Jerry”s tracks sounded like they were remakes of old songs, but few actually were. Have A Whiff On Me is an exception; it was an old blues song which the folk/blues historians John and Alan Lomax picked up from James “Ironhead” Baker (he of Black Betty original obscurity) and Lead Belly, then titled Take A Whiff On Me. It was recorded subsequently by folk singers such as Woody Gutrie, Cisco Houston and, in 1970, by the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. A “whiff” is slang for cocaine, and the song is alternatively known as Cocaine Habit Blues.

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Misty In Roots ““ Own Them Control Them.mp3
misty_in_roots The regular reader will have noticed that this blog features very little by way of reggae (one Peter Tosh track, and one by Freddie McGregor in 321 posts). For a brief time in the mid-“˜80s I was into reggae, absorbed a lot of it, and then got bored with it. During that fleeting flirtation, I bought the 12″ of Own Them Control Them by the London band Misty In Roots. It was not a hit ““ none of the group”s single bothered the UK Top 75 ““ and I hadn”t heard it for a very long time. When I did, it did remind me why I bought the record in first place: it”s very good indeed.

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Christopher Plummer & Phillip Glasser ““ Never Say Never.mp3
american_tail Before Disney had their massive resurgence following 1989″s A Little Mermaid, the studio had lost its mojo It took Universal with the Steven Spielberg produced An American Tail in 1986 to show Disney the way to make great animated films again (even if some of them were too saccharine for my taste). The adventures of the immigrant mouse Fievel were charming, certainly in the first film. Children in film can be very endearing or very annoying. Phillip Glasser, barely eight-years-old at the time, voiced Fievel beautifully. His reprimand to Plummer”s French Statue-of-Liberty-building pidgeon for using the word “never” is very cute without being too sugary.

The song, an old-style production number by James Horner which classic Disney would have been proud of, was set early in the movie. Fievel has arrived in America but had lost his family, with whom he was immigrating from Russia (on the false premise that there are no cats there). Henri the pidgeon encourages Fievel not to give up. And, “” ***SPOILER ALERT*** “” you”d never guess it, but Fievel actually does find his family. Phew!

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George Fenton ““ The Funeral (Nkosi Sikelel” iAfrika).mp3
cry_freedom We started with a bit of South African music, and here we wrap up with the greatest ever South African song which in a truncated form and combined in a medley with the old apartheid-era anthem Die Stem is part of South Africa”s current national anthem. To this day, I refuse to sing the apartheid-anthem portion, an act of recalcitrance which many South Africans with much greater grievances than I can lay claim to evidently do not share, for they sing it with gusto.

This recording is from the 1987 film Cry Freedom, in which Denzil Washington played the murdered anti-apartheid leader Steve Biko. Biko represented the radical Black Consciousness Movement, which held that liberation must come from black people and not through the mediation of whites. This placed him closer to the Pan African Congress, a breakaway from the African National Congress of Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela. That”s why this version of Nkosi Sikelel” iAfrika includes parts of the anthem which the ANC (and, in the “˜80s, its internal federation, the United Democratic Front) excluded. Written by a Methodist school teacher named Enoch Sontonga in 1897, it was originally a Christian hymn ““ the title means God Save Africa ““ before in 1927 one Samuel Mqhayi added further verses to it.

The version here, scoring Biko”s funeral on 25 September 1977, is dramatically orchestrated by George Fenton, starting off with a solo by Thuli Dumakude, with the choir directed by the great Jonas Gwangwa. It is real goosepimple stuff.

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On International Vinyl Record Day, don”t forget to visit those blogs which heroically keep the memory of crackling, dusty vinyl alive. These include AM Then FM, The Hits Just Keep On Coming, The Vinyl District, Great Vinyl Meltdown, Dusty Sevens, Funky16Corners, Dust And Grooves, and Dr Forrest”s Cheese Factory for the truly weird stuff (apologies to the fine vinyl blogs that I have neglected to mention).