Archive for May, 2012

A History of Country Vol. 18: 1990-95

May 31st, 2012 13 comments

Country music enjoyed a commercial boom in the 1900s, in particular that strand spearheaded by George Strait and Ricky Skaggs. Superstars such Alan Jackson and Vince Gill would give them credit for their success, as would the biggest star of them all: Garth Brooks. Clean cut and black cowboy-hatted, the Oklahoma native sold 12 million copies of his first three albums and more than 100 million up to his semi-retirement in 2001. He was the first country star to enter the Billboard album charts at #1, with 1991″s Ropin” The Wind. His extravagant concerts filled stadiums. Country had had superstars before, but Brooks arguably was the genre”s first megastar.

Brooks” crossover appeal helped many other invariably stetsoned honky tonk performers “” Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Vince Gill, Travis Tritt, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, (Kix) Brooks & (Ronnie) Dunn “” expand their commercial appeal. It wasn”t just the behatted dudes who attained superstar status in the 1990s; women like Trisha Yearwood (later Garth Brooks wife), Faith Hill (later McGraw”s wife), Martina McBride and the Dixie Chicks crossed over, while “80s stalwarts Wynonna Judd and Reba McIntyre continued to enjoy success.

Artists such as these might have traced their influence back to country”s traditions, to Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, fiddle and pedal steel, but their commercial lucrativity set mainstream country on a course of selling out. The worst excess of that came early with Billy Ray Cyrus 1991 novelty hit Achy Breaky Heart (a cover of The Marcy Brothers” original), with its choreographed line dance and Miley”s dad chest-hair revealing vest. Country singers rightly feared that Cyrus” hit would undermine country”s integrity and credibility, much as ubiquity and novelty cash-ins had damaged disco.

Few things as bad as Achy Breaky Heart would taint country music”s name (though Toby Keith”s post-9/11 song did so on another level), but the record companies would now push singers who were more pop than country, such as Shania Twain and the teenage LeAnn Rimes. Slowly, country format radio purged all but the commercially successful from their playlists. This reached bizarre proportions when one programme director demanded that Patty Loveless” 1997 song You Don”t Seem To Miss Me be remixed to remove George Jones” harmonies. Loveless refused to allow this, and the single stalled.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R; homespun covers are included

1. George Jones & Randy Travis – A Few Ole Country Boys
2. Garth Brooks – Friends In Low Places
3. Randy Travis – Heroes and Friends
4. Patty Loveless – Chains
5. Alan Jackson – Here In The Real World
6. Travis Tritt – Help Me Hold On
7. Dolly Parton & Ricky Van Shelton – Rockin’ Years
8. Tanya Tucker – If Your Heart Ain’t Busy Tonight
9. Collin Raye – Love, Me
10. John Prine – All The Best
11. Emmylou Harris – If I Could Be There
12. Alison Krauss & Union Station – Every Time You Say Goodbye
13. Wynonna Judd – I Saw The Light In Your Window Tonight
14. Marty Stuart – Now That’s Country
15. John Michael Montgomery – I Love The Way You Love
16. Dwight Yoakam – Ain’t That Lonely Yet
17. Reba McEntire – The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter
18. Mary Chapin Carpenter – I Take My Chances
19. Lyle Lovett – Just The Morning
20. Son Volt – Mystifies Me
21. Johnny Cash – The Beast In Me
22. The Highwaymen – Songs That Made A Difference


(PW in comments)

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Previously in A History of Country
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Intros Quiz: 1977 edition

May 21st, 2012 6 comments

We continue our five-yearly cycle of intros quizzes, arriving at 35 years ago: 1977.

1977 was the year when the apartheid police murdered Steve Biko, New York City went dark for 25 hours and the World Trade Centre was completed; Jimmy Carter became US president and Egypt’s President Anwar al-Sadat recognised Israel; the US returned the Panama Canal to Panama; the first Apple II computer went on sale; two jumbo jets collided above the Canary Islands; members of Lynryd Skynyrd died in a plane crash; the TV mini-series Roots was sceened in the US; Sarah Michelle Gellar and Orlando Bloom were born and Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, Elvis Presley, Marc Bolan, Bing Crosby and Matthew Garber (the kid in Mary Poppins) died.

As always, twenty intros to hit songs from that year of 5-7 seconds in length. All were single releases and/or hits that year (eight were UK #1 hits, but five of those were by US artist, and only one by a UK-based act). The answers will be posted in the comments section by Thursday. If the pesky number 15 bugs you, go to the Contact Me tab above for the answers, or  better, message me on Facebook. If you”re not my FB friend, click here.


Intros Quiz ““ 1977 Edition


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Covered With Soul Vol. 12

May 16th, 2012 2 comments

This edition in the Covered With Soul series might be one of the best so far. Here we have covers of songs better known by Free, The Rolling Stones, The Young Rascals, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, Bobby Hebb, The Carpenters, Matt Monro, James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, Blood Sweat & Tears, The Bee Gees, The Box Tops, Joe Cocker (covering The Beatles), Gil Scott-Heron, Judy Garland, Frankie Valli, and Nat “King” Cole.

Some of these versions rework the songs so thoroughly, one might imagine they have always been soul songs. Just check out what Bobby Womack does with Fly Me To The Moon. Or how Kimberley Briggs (more on that name in a minute) turns The Box Tops’ under-two-minutes hit The Letter into a six-minute work-out that incorporates soul, a hint of funk and a touch of psychedelia. Hear Maxine Weldon do It Ain’t Me Babe, and you forget it’s a Dylan song, and in Lea Roberts’ hands, the hoary rock anthem All Right Now gets some soul.

Kimberley Briggs is better known as Kim Tolliver, one of those underrated soul singers who have a huge reputation among soul aficionados. Poor Kim toiled away for years, starting in the 1960s, without breaking through. After a while she left the business and became a real estate agent. Sadly, she died in 2007. The album is very rare and was never made into a CD. Soul blogging legend Mr Moo shared it, and so much more, with the Internet.

One song that is not as well known as the others is Gil Scott-Heron’s Lady Day & John Coltrane; soul/jazz singer Penny Goodwin blows Gil’s version out of the water. The Milwaukee singer — her style is reminiscent of Marlena Shaw — never had the big breakthrough her talented merited. At a later stage I will have to feature her quite incredible version of What”s Going On.

Lea Roberts also had a limited career, releasing three albums between 1973 and 1982. Her version of All Right Now is from her sophomore album, produced by Reggie Lucas and Mtume.

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

1. Lea Roberts – All Right Now (1975)
2. Tina Turner – Let’s Spend The Night Together (1975)
3. Marvin Gaye – Groovin’ (1970)
4. Bobby Womack – Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words) (1969)
5. Chairmen Of The Board – Come Together (1970)
6. Maxine Weldon – It Ain’t Me Babe (1970)
7. The Three Degrees – Love The One You’re With (1975)
8. Melba Moore – Sunny (1970)
9. Freda Payne – Rainy Days And Mondays (1973)
10. The Whispers – Speak Softly Love (The Godfather) (1972)
11. Labelle – You’ve Got A Friend (1971)
12. Merry Clayton – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
13. Lou Rawls – You’ve Made Me So Very Happy (1970)
14. Sunday’s Child – To Love Somebody (1970)
15. Kimberley Briggs – The Letter (1972)
16. Penny Goodwin – Lady Day & John Coltrane (1973)
17. The Undisputed Truth – With A Little Help From My Friends (1973)
18. Ohio Players – Over The Rainbow (1968)
19. O.C. Smith – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (1969)
20. Isaac Hayes – When I Fall In Love (1967)

(PW in comments)


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In Memoriam – April 2012

May 2nd, 2012 4 comments

The name Andrew Love will probably mean little to most music fans; but as a leader of the Memphis Horns (with Wayne Jackson), everybody will know at least some tunes the tenor saxophonist played on. The Memphis Horns were part of Stax”s session crew, and they also recorded on Hi Records. You”ll know them from tracks such as Elvis Presley”s Suspicious Minds, Neil Diamond”s Sweet Caroline, Al Green”s Let”s Stay Together and Dusty Springfield”s Son Of A Preacher Man. They are believed to have played on something like fifty #1 singles! This year they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, sadly an award that is now mentioned only as an aside.

The marquee death of the month probably was that of US TV icon Dick Clark, a man who in the music industry seems to have engendered respect more than affection. No doubt his American Bandstand show helped make rock & roll mainstream, and probably a bit more square. Clark acknowledged that, but defended it in 1985: “But I knew at the time that if we didn’t make the presentation to the older generation palatable, it could kill it.”

Finally, the collector of Bruce Springsteen curiosities might enjoy The Dictator”s Faster & Louder: he provides the count-in.

Jimmy Little, 75, Australian singer, on April 1

Barney McKenna, 72,  member of Irish folk group The Dubliners, on April 5
The Dubliners  & The Pogues – Rare Old Mountain Dew (1987)

Jim Marshall, 88, founder of Marshall amplifiers, on April 5

Cynthia Dall, 41, singer songwriter, on April 5
Cynthia Dall – Aaron Matthew (1996)

Jim Niven, keyboard player of Australian groups The Sports and The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band, on April 9
The Sports – Who Listens To The Radio (1979)

José Guardiola, 81, Spanish crooner, on April 9

Richie Teeter, 61, drummer of The Dictators, on April 10
The Dictators – Faster & Louder (1978)

Hal McKusick, 87, American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist and flautist, on April 11
Dinah Washington ““ Someone”s Rocking My Dreamboat (1958, on alto saxophone)

Andrew Love, 70, half of the Memphis Horns, on April 12
Otis Redding – Try A Little Tenderness (1966)
Dusty Springfield – Son Of A Preacher Man (1969)
The Memphis Horns – What The Funk (1977)

Rodgers Grant, 76. jazz pianist, on April 12
Mongo Santamaria – Yeh-Yeh (1963, as co-writer and pianist)

Teddy Charles, 84, jazz vibraphonist, keyboardist and drummer, on April 16

Chris Gambles (aka Slip), 49, singer of English band Audio Rush, on April 16
Audio Rush – She’s Got Them Looks (2004)

Dick Clark, 82, legendary TV producer, on April 18
Chuck Berry – Sweet Little Sixteen (1958, American Bandstand reference)

Levon Helm, 71, singer, drummer and composer, member of The Band, on April 19
The Band ““ The Weight (1978)
Levon Helm – No Depression In Heaven (2011, recorded 2008, vocals by Sheryl Crow)

Greg Ham, 58, flautist and saxophonist of Men at Work, body found on April 19
Men At Work – Who Can It Be Now? (1981)

Bert Weedon, 91, English guitar pioneer and composer, on April 20
Bert Weedon – Guitar Boogie Shuffle (1959)

Duke Dawson, 83, blues drummer, on April 20

Joe Muranyi, 84, jazz clarinettist and producer, on April 20
The Village Stompers – Washington Square (1963)

Iküzöne, 46, bassist of Japanese rap group Dragon Ash, on April 21

Tom “˜Pops” Carter, 92, blues musician, on April 22

Chris Ethridge, 65, bassist of The Flying Burrito Brothers, on April 23
The Flying Burrito Brothers – Lazy Day (1970)

Tommy Marth, 33, backing saxophonist with The Killers, suicide on April 23

Billy Bryans, 62, Canadian producer and drummer of the Parachute Club, on April 23
Parachute Club – Rise Up (1983)

Éric Charden, 69, French singer and songwriter, on April 29
Éric Charden –
Le monde est gris le monde est bleu (1967)

Kenny Roberts, 84, country singer, on April 29
Kenny Roberts – She Taught Me To Yodel (1965)





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“But I knew at the time that if we didn’t make the presentation to the older generation palatable, it could kill it.”