Archive for April, 2014

The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1

April 24th, 2014 24 comments

Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blaine and colleagues during a Spector session.

Blaine and colleagues during a Spector session.

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

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

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

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

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

cover gallery

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

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


Previous Session Musicians:
The Roy Bittan Collection
The Larry Carlton Collection
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 1
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 3
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Joe Osborne Collection
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ringo Starr Collection

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Saved! Vol. 5

April 17th, 2014 12 comments

Saved Vol 5

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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Covered With Soul Vol. 19 – Motown Edition

April 10th, 2014 4 comments

Covered With Soul 19

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

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

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

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

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

(PW in comments)

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In Memoriam – March 2014

April 3rd, 2014 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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