Archive for November, 2012

Any Major Soul 1966

November 29th, 2012 8 comments

Soul music in 1966 “” throughout the 1960s “” was so rich in quality and diversity that one can cheerfully dispense with the year”s great hits of that genre. We need no Reach Out I”ll Be There, Hold On I”m Coming, Knock On Wood, Ain”t Too Proud To Beg, B-A-B-Y or When A Man Loves A Woman to serve a feast of mid-“60s soul.

Of course we have many well-known voices on this compilation: Eddie Floyd, Lou Rawls, The Isley Brothers (with their cover of The Supremes” I Hear A Symphony), Martha Reeves and the Vandellas (with my favourite song of theirs) or Major Lance.

One voice is familiar, but the name is not: Andrea Davis. It was the name under which Minnie Riperton briefly recorded after leaving The Gems (who have featured previously) and joining The Rotary Connection.

The Five Stairsteps appear here with their debut single, a great slice of Curtis Mayfield-penned Chicago soul that served as a double A-side with You Waited Too Long.

The Poets, not to be confused with the Scottish outfit by that name or the forerunners of the Main Ingredient, provide what might well be my favourite track on this mix, She Blew A Good Thing. It was the only hit for the Brooklyn band, reaching #2 R&B and the Top 40 pop charts.

Almost as good is Bobby Sheen“s Dr Love (with that great tempo change halfway through). Sheen never had much success under his own name; he was more famous as Bob B Soxx, the nominal leader of the Phil Spector-produced  Blue Jeans (who were Darlene Love and Fanita James). He also provided one of the voices on The Crystals” He”s A Rebel. Fans of Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You will know Sheen’s voice from the songs The Bells Of St Mary’s and Here Comes Santa Claus. Sheen died in 2000 at the age of 59.

Clarence Reid is better known as the sexually explicit novelty soul singer Blowfly, and as the co-writer of such soul classics as Betty Wright”s Clean Up Woman and Gwen McCrae”s Rockin” Chair. The Blowfly moniker reportedly had its origins with Reid”s granny. Mishearing Reid”s singing of Do the Twist as “Suck My Dick”, she berated him: “You is nastier than a blowfly.”

There are not many soul singers from a Jewish background (and even Sammy Davis Jr was a convert to Judaism); one of the few is featured here: Ruby Johnson, who recorded on Stax with Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

Darrell Banks is featured here with his sole hit single, Open Your Heart, for which he falsely claimed songwriting credit; after litigation, the real writer, Donnie Elbert, got 50% credit. The singer came to a tragic end in 1970 when he was shot dead when he pulled a gun on a policeman who was having an affair with Banks” girlfriend.

Fans of The Specials will know Rex Garvin & the Mighty Cravers” Sock It To “Em J.B., a clever song about one JB performed in the style of another JB “” it”s a tribute to James Bond as James Brown might have rendered it.

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

1. Arthur Conley – Funky Street
2. Eddie Floyd – Things Get Better
3. William Bell – Never Like This Before
4. The Poets – She Blew A Good Thing
5. The Five Stairsteps – Don’t Waste Your Time
6. Bobby Sheen – Dr. Love
7. Fontella Bass – I Surrender
8. The Isley Brothers – I Hear A Symphony
9. Dee Dee Warwick – Lover’s Chant
10. Betty Harris – What’d I Do Wrong
11. Chris Clark – Love’s Gone Bad
12. Martha Reeves & the Vandellas – No More Tearstained Make Up
13. Mable John – Your Good Thing (Is About To End)
14. Jean Wells – If You’ve Ever Loved Someone
15. Lou Rawls – A Whole Lotta Love
16. Don Covay – I Never Get Enough Of Your Love
17. Andrea Davis – You Gave Me Soul
18. Clarence Reid – I Refuse To Give Up
19. Ruby Johnson – I’ll Run Your Hurt Away
20. Baby Washington – Either You’re With Me (Or Either You’re Not)
21. Darrell Banks – Open The Door To Your Heart
22. Major Lance – Investigate
23. Billy Thompson – Black Eyed Girl
24. Roy Hamilton – Crackin’ Up Over You
25. The Sapphires – Slow Fizz
26. The Capitols – Cool Jerk
27. Rex Garvin & the Mighty Cravers – Sock It To ‘Em J.B., Pt. 1
28. Brenda Holloway – Hurt A Little Everyday
29. Devotions – The Devil’s Gotten Into My Baby
30. The Royalettes – Baby Are You Putting Me On


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Song Swarm: Over The Rainbow

November 22nd, 2012 11 comments


Over The Rainbow tends to top respectable lists of greatest-ever songs. And as long as it beats My Way in doing so, I”m all for it. It nearly didn”t become such a huge hit. Written by Harold Arlen with lyrics by EY Harburg, MGM wanted to cut it from The Wizard Of Oz film because the ballad, performed early in the film before the storm hits, was dragging matters out before the colour section, then still a novelty, would begin. Happily, the song was retained, thanks to the lobbying from associate producer Arthur Freed and arranger Roger Edens, Judy Garland”s mentor.

Dorothy, carrying on waywardly to evade the dust in the wind etc.

Garland recorded the version for the film on 7 October 1938, and a single version for Decca on 28 July 1939. Both versions are included here. It was not Garland”s version that provided the biggest hit of the song in 1939, but those by Glenn Miller and Bing”s brother Bob Crosby, both also featured here. The sheet music for the song included a first verse which was dropped from the Garland version. We hear it here in the version by Ella Fitzgerald.

Invariably, a tearful female singer-songwriter will whisper a fragile cover version that is supposed to be “heart-rendering”; Tori Amos and Ingrid Michaelson do delicately doleful duties here. On the other end of the spectrum are the histrionics of Patti LaBelle”s live performances of the song, which are a bit like expressing sensitive emotions with an atomic sledgehammer. You are spared that nonsense, instead getting an interesting interpretation from 1966 by Patti”s old group, The Bluebelles. Far better to have Jerry Lee Lewis or The Marcels giving it an upbeat treatment, or the punkified version of Me First And The Gimme Gimmes.

Thanks to the late Israel Kamakawiwo”ole, there are now also surfer-guitar ways of doing Over The Rainbow; the TV show Glee picked up on that vibe in a version performed by Matthew Morrison with Gwynneth Paltrow. Those who like things a bit darker will enjoy the depressive mumblings of German singer Blixa Bargeld, co-founder of Einstürzende Neubauten and Nick Cave collaborator.

Obviously there are copious jazz versions, some executed straight up with vocal accompaniment, others instrumentals that stretch the tune in the way jazz people do. Erroll Garner, Art Tatum and Maynard Ferguson all offer great examples of the latter. James Moody”s version is the one you want to dig out for that romantic dinner. Byard Lancaster”s version, however, admits only a casual acquaintance with the tune.

There are a couple of non-jazz intrumentals. Chet Atkin and Les Paul playing together is any guitar-lovers” dream. More bizarre is the version credited to Rolf Harris; alas, the great Australian doesn”t sing or even perform here, but produces young stylophonists.

Ultimately Over The Rainbow is a crooner”s number. We have Frank Sinatra doing it his way in one of at least two versions he recorded, and even Harry Nilsson playing it torchsong style. But I particularly like Matt Monro”s slightly blues-inflected rendition and Ella Fitzgerald”s wonderfully comfortable version.

Here are some of the versions that have been recorded. Some, all or none might be on the mix which you can download. Password in the comments section.

1938 Judy Garland “¢ 1939 Glenn Miller “¢ 1939 Larry Clinton “¢ 1939 Judy Garland (with Victor Young) “¢ 1939 Bob Crosby “¢ 1940s Cleaver “¢ 1946 Jimmy Durante “¢ 1946 Boyd Raeburn’s Orchestra “¢ 1947 Frank Sinatra “¢ 1950 James Moody and his Cool Cats “¢ 1952 Erroll Garner “¢ 1954 Maynard Ferguson “¢ 1954 Dave Brubeck & Paul Desmond “¢ 1955 Sarah Vaughan “¢ 1955 Art Tatum “¢ 1958 Caterina Valente “¢ 1961 Ella Fitzgerald “¢ 1961 The Marcels “¢ 1961 Aretha Franklin “¢ 1962 Chet Baker “¢ 1963 The Beatles “¢ 1966 Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles “¢ 1968 Byard Lancaster “¢ 1970 Rolf Harris “¢ 1975 Rod McKuen “¢ 1975 Matt Monro “¢ 1978 Chet Atkins & Les Paul “¢ Jerry Lee Lewis “¢ Harry Nilsson “¢ 1989 Olivia Newton-John “¢ 1991 Richard Elliot “¢ 1992 The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy “¢ 1993 James McMillan & Tracy Thorn “¢ 1993 Nana Mouskouri “¢ 1995 Blixa Bargeld “¢ Chris Spheeris & Paul Voudouris “¢ 1996 Tori Amos “¢ 1998 Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps “¢ 1992 Eva Cassidy “¢ 1999 Me First And The Gimme Gimmes “¢ 2001 Jane Monheit “¢ 2001 Faith Hill “¢ 2002 Martina McBride “¢ 2002 Eric Clapton “¢ 2002 Ernesto Cortazar “¢ 2004 Ray Charles & Johnny Mathis “¢ 2004 Innocence Mission “¢ 2005 Anne Murray “¢ 2008 Dave Koz “¢ 2008 Ingrid Michaelson “¢ 2009 Jewel “¢ 2009 Clare and the Reasons “¢ 2010 Matthew Morrison & Gwynneth Paltrow

(PW in comments)

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Song Swarms

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History of Country Vol. 22 – 2007-12

November 15th, 2012 14 comments


Alternative country (known in the style of the Internet newsgroups that championed the movement as, or Americana, combined the genre with its close cousin folk, just as its patron Emmylou Harris had done two decades earlier. Some artists who started off in country”s mainstream found themselves confined to the Americana ghetto, such as Steve Earle, Townes van Zandt, John Prine, Nanci Griffiths, Lucinda Williams and Jim Lauderdale. The birth of may be pinpointed to the 1990 release of the album No Depression by Uncle Tupelo (featuring Jeff Tweedy, later of Wilco, and Jay Farrar and Mike Heidorn, later of Son Volt). The album”s title itself is symbolic, borrowing from a song by the Carter Family, the immensely influential group of the 1920s and “30s which mainstream country had long forgotten.

Back then, the genre in which the Carter Family and their contemporaries recorded was known as folk, before the title country began to stick in the late 1940s. Woody Guthrie, the godfather of folk, was part of that tradition. Half a century later, and Americana drew from both the country and folk traditions, as well as the cowpunk sub-culture of the 1980s, with some acts impossible to define.

Other acts, such as Bright Eyes and Tweedy”s Wilco, move across genres. Other acts still move from other genres into country, sometimes temporarily, such as Ben Kweller, the Texan prodigy who in 2009 released a most exquisite country album after a decade in singer-songwriter pop.

The terms alt-country and Americana have fallen out of favour, even as no alternative names have gained currency. Perhaps it is right to call artists such as Tift Merritt, Shelby Lynn or Allison Moorer just Country; it is singers like them, Krauss, Lambert and Wilson ““ surely not the likes Taylor Swift ““  who help keep the traditions of country music alive.

This concludes the History of Country series.

There is a mix, of course. Download link and PW in the comments section.

1. Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles – Stop & Think It Over
2. Gretchen Wilson – One Of The Boys
3. Brad Paisley – I’m Still A Guy
4. Miranda Lambert – Love Letters
5. Patty Griffin – Long Ride Home
6. Lucinda Williams – Fancy Funeral
7. Wilco – Either Way
8. Tift Merritt – I Know What I’m Looking For Now
9. Jordan Trotter – I Want You
10. Rodney Crowell – Sex And Gasoline
11. Drive-By Truckers – George Jones Talkin’ Cell Phone Blues
12. Shelby Lynne – Old #7
13. Justin Townes Earle – Working For The MTA
14. Dylan LeBlanc – 5th Avenue Bar
15. Willie Nelson – I Am A Pilgrim
16. Gillian Welch – Six White Horses
17. Alison Krauss & Union Station – Miles To Go
18. Lori McKenna – The Luxury Of Knowing
19. Ashton Shepherd – Where Country Grows
20. Gretchen Peters – Hello Cruel World
21. Mary Chapin Carpenter – What To Keep And What To Throw Away

(PW in comments)

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Previously in A History of Country
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Intros Quiz: 1987 edition

November 12th, 2012 3 comments

We continue our five-yearly cycle of intros quizzes, arriving at 25  years ago: 1987 “” yes, a quarter of a century ago.

1987 was the year the US stock market crashed (guess what, Republican administration again!);31 people died in a fire at London’s King’s Cross underground station and a weatherman got his storm warnings wrong; Terry Waite, the special envoy of the archbishop of Canterbury in Lebanon, was kidnapped in Beirut (he was released almost five years later); A West German court found Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie guilty of crimes against humanity and Rudolf Hess committed suicide in Spandau Prison Berlin;  A cross-channel ferry capsised off Zeebrugge, Belgium, killing 180; Nineteen year-old West German pilot Mathias Rust landed a private plane on Red Square in Moscow; The First Intifada began in the Gaza Strip and West Bank; The Simpson made their TV debut on the Tracey Ullman Show; Microsoft released Windows 2.0 and the first version of Photoshop was developed; the world’s population reached five billion, but by year’s end that number excluded Liberace, Andy Warhol, Peter Tosh, Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Lee Marvin, Maria von Trapp and Woody Herman.

As always, twenty intros to hit songs from that year of 5-7 seconds in length. All were single releases and/or hits in 1987. The answers will be posted in the comments section by Thursday. If the pesky number 17 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 ““ 1987 Edition


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Right-Wing Pop

November 5th, 2012 19 comments

In case you have not have had enough of politics yet, unlike little-girl-gone-viral, here”s a collection of Right-Wing Pop. There is plenty of left-leaning pop, and some of it is even good. The more right-wing you get, the worse the music gets. This lot proves it.

To be clear, I do not endorse any of these songs, except perhaps the two closing tracks. Since tomorrow is US election day, I”ve limited non-US content to one track, sung by a Mancunian who now lives in sunny California.

This mix may serve as a companion piece to a fantastic Right-Wing Rock mix posted on the Internet a few years ago.

So, here are some songs which might or might not feature on the mix I”m talking about.

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In Memoriam – October 2012

November 1st, 2012 6 comments

Two soul deaths bookend this month”s In Memoriam: that of R.B. Greaves, who had a big hit with Take A Letter Maria in 1972, and that of Terry Collier, who the same year released one of the great underappreciated soul anthems of the “70s, Ordinary Joe.

Big Jim Sullivan is not a name many of us know, and yet we have heard his guitar on countless pop hits  ““on 55 UK #1s alone, including Sandie Shaw”s Puppet On A String, Georgie Fame”s Yeh Yeh, Peter & Gordon”s World Without Love, Dave Dee Dozy etc”s The Legend of Xanadu, Peter & Gordon”s World Without Love, Gilbert O”Sullivan”s Clair and, my favourite of the lot, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg’s Je t”aime… moi non plus. He was guitar teacher to Pete Townsend and Richie Blackmore, and reportedly encouraged Jim Marshall to make his famous amplifiers. Read more…

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