Archive for April, 2016

Prince is your DJ

April 28th, 2016 10 comments

Prince is your DJ

Dig, if you will, a party — with Prince as the DJ. This playlist was compiled by Prince himself — and seeing as I had most of the songs on it already, I put it together in one mix.

The background to this playlist is the TV sitcom New Girl. According to Steve Welch, an editor on the show, “[w]hen Prince was on New Girl the storyline was that our characters got to attend a party at his house. To that end, he sent us a playlist of songs he would actually play at his parties.”

It would have been a great party; Prince was channeling the 1970s, the period of his formative influences — and in some tracks one can hear the influences on his music. There’s some serious funkin’ going on, but that sequence of slow jams — ooh, babymaking music!

Prince DJ playlist

One must assume that Prince was adept at turning records over at one hell of a speed: the two Spinners songs on his list are from the same album, but are on different sides. Unless Prince was working from MP3s, the side-flipping would have required some dexterity.

The playlist exists also somewhere on Spotify, a service I’ve never used.

Because Prince’s party goes on longer than a standard 80 minutes — he’s giving us 97 minutes of joy — the mix won’t fit on as standard CD-R (and therefore no home-grooved covers). PW in comments.

If you didn’t come to party, don’t bother knockin’ on my door.

1. The Staple Singers – City In The Sky (1974)
2. Allen Toussaint – Country John (1975)
3. Ohio Players – Fire (1974)
4. Shuggie Otis – Happy House (1974)
5. Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground (1973)
6. Chaka Khan – I Was Made To Love Him (1978)
7. The Isley Brothers – Listen To The Music (1973)
8. Eugene McDaniels – The Lord Is Back (1971)
9. Sister Sledge – Lost In Music (1979)
10. Bootsy Collins – The Pinocchio Theory (1977)
11. Bootsy Collins – Rubber Duckie (1977)
12. Parliament – Rumpofsteelskin (1978)
13. Ohio Players – Skin Tight (1974)
14. The Soul Children – We’re Gettin’ Too Close (1974)
15. Curtis Mayfield – Wild And Free (1970)
16. Earth, Wind & Fire – After The Love Has Gone (1979)
17. Allen Toussaint – Back In Baby’s Arms (1975)
18. The Isley Brothers – Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight (1973)
19. The Soul Children – Don’t Take My Sunshine (1972)
20. The Spinners – How Could I Let You Get Away (1973)
21. The Spinners – I’ll Be Around (1973)
22. The Jacksons – Push Me Away (1978)
23. Shirley Brown – Stay With Me Baby (1974)
24. Aretha Franklin – The Thrill Is Gone (From Yesterday’s Kiss) (1970)


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Thriller vs Purple Rain

April 22nd, 2016 19 comments

Tonight I’ve had Thriller square up to Purple Rain, track vs track. The best-selling album of all time versus the most perfect pop album of the decade. It’s an unfair contest.




Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ vs Let’s Go Crazy
Great opener by Michael is blown out of the water by a work of great innovation and energy. There are a couple of songs on Purple Rain which Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ might have beaten, but not Let’s Go Crazy. 0-1


purple rain


Baby Be Mine vs Take Me With U
MJ delivers a decent filler track that is competently produced. Prince wins this already in the intro with those great drums; and then those strings later in the song. No contest. 0-2




The Girl Is Mine vs The Beautiful Ones
Michael sings this like a nursery rhyme and climaxes with the “I’m a lover not a fighter” line while he “argues” with Macca. Prince goes falsetto on our asses and then climaxes with that explosion of emotion. Emphatically Prince’s point. 0-3


purple rain-back


Thriller vs Computer Blue
Jackson’s excellent title track meets Purple Rain‘s least strong track (still, Computer Blue’s guitars!). Point Jacko. 1-3




Beat It vs Darling Nikki
I love Darling Nikki (and how it sent Tipper Gore over the edge), but Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo… With a heavy heart, I give it to Beat It. 2-3


purple rain-label1


Billie Jean vs When Doves Cry
The heavyweight clash, and it’s a no brainer. Billie Jean gives us dancability; When Doves Cry gives us layers and layers of genius. 2-4




Human Nature vs I Would Die 4 U
I love Human Nature dearly, but I Would Die 4 U is so utterly joyous. Plus, I have the mental image of Prince’s hand actions and that beatific smile when he performs the song in the film. 2-5


purple rain-label1


P.Y.T. vs Baby I’m A Star
Oh so easy. If Baby I’m A Star doesn’t get you moving, you might as well check yourself into a mortuary. 2-6


purple rain-inner sleeve


The Lady In My Life vs Purple Rain
It’s like Brazil against Germany in a World Cup semi-final. Almost fittingly, the final score is 2-7

In fairness, I expect Off The Wall would beat Dirty Mind or Controversy handily. But then, Sign ‘O The Times would utterly destroy Bad

And as we are thinking of Prince, may I direct you to the warmest tribute I’ve read, by the British music journalist Simon Price on The Quietus.

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Any Major Soul 1974 – Vol. 2

April 21st, 2016 5 comments


The second volume of Any Major Soul 1974 is long overdue; Volume 1 ran in September. I still enjoy listening to the first part, and think that the second mix is very much its equal.

This mix has Stevie Wonder“s handprints all over it: he features with a track from his Fulfillingness First Finale album, and he wrote the tracks by Syreeta (by then his ex-wife) and Minnie Riperton.

You might remember The Soul Survivors as a “60s soul band, especially for their excellent 1969 hit Expressway To Your Heart (Gamble & Huff”s first hit), but here we find the Philly outfit in 1974. Their self-titled LP that year was also their swanswong, other than two singles that followed in 1975 and “76, which is a shame because one feels they still had something to offer. The founder members later reformed to perform, but never released another record.

Also holding out from the 1960s in this mix is Lou Courtney, who featured on Any Major Soul 1967. And that is exactly the gap between his first two albums, though Courtney released several singles along the way. Only one more LP would follow, in 1976. From 1978-79 he was a member of The 5th Dimension, but his greater success has been in songwriting, arranging and production “” fields in which he worked before, during and after his recording career “” collaborating with the likes of The Main Ingredient, Ben E King and Bonnie Raitt. His most famous writing credit probably is the hit Do The Freddie for Freddie and the Dreamers, which he co-wrote with the songwriter-producer Dennis Lambert.

The most obscure act here is The Street People about whom I”ve been unable to unearth any useful information. The second-most obscure singer must be Louise Freeman. A couple of singles in 1974, the second of which provided the b-side featured here, another single in 1977, and a couple of sides in the 1980s “” and that”s it.

Sandra Wright also should be more famous. A gifted singer, and cousin of the blues great Memphis Slim, she had the misfortune of recording her opus just as the record company which was going to market it, Stax (through the Truth subsidiary, which had just made a hit of Shirley Brown”s Woman To Woman album), went bust. That 1974 album, Wounded Woman, is one of the finest soul LPs of 1974 “” but nobody heard it. A couple of singles were released before Stax folded, and with that the yet to be released album sunk into obscurity. It was finally released in 1989 by the British Demon label and finally found an appreciative audience. Wright continued to perform, mostly as a blues singer, but never attained the stardom that Wounded Woman should have brought her. She died in 2010 at the young age of 61.

The soul experts might raise their hand at the inclusion of the Sam Dees song, pointing out that his The Show Must Go On LP came out only in 1975. But the song Worn Out Broken Heart came out first as a single in 1974.

As ever, CD-R timed, covers, PW in comments.

1. The Blackbyrds – Walking In Rhythm
2. The Persuaders – Hold On (Just A Little Bit Longer)
3. Moments & Whatnauts – Girls
4. The Street People – Baby You Got It All
5. Syreeta – I’m Goin’ Left
6. New York City – I”ve Had Enough
7. The Hues Corporation – How I Wish We Could Do It Again
8. Willie Hutch – Try It, You”ll Like It
9. Sandra Wright – I’ll See You Through (I”ll Be Your Shelter)
10. Bobby Bland – Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City
11. Laura Lee – We’ve Come Too Far Too Walk Away
12. Millie Jackson – It’s All Over But The Shouting
13. Lou Courtney – I Don’t Need Nobody Else
14. The Soul Survivors – What It Takes
15. The Tymes – Someway, Somehow I’m Keepin’ You
16. The Delfonics – I Don’t Want To Make You Wait
17. Sam Dees – Worn Out Broken Heart
18. Minnie Riperton – Take A Little Trip
19. LaBelle – Nightbird
20. Louise Freeman – How Could You Run Away
21. Stevie Wonder – It Ain’t No Use
22. The Natural Four – Can This Be Real
23. Chairmen Of The Board – Finders Keepers


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Any Major American Road Trip – 2

April 14th, 2016 8 comments

Any Major American Road Trip 2

We are now starting the second leg of our road trip: a musical journey that takes us from the East Coast to the West Coast and back east, beginning in Boston and ending in Miami. The itinerary may be zig-zagging a bit, but the rules are that it must be at least notionally plausible.

The first leg took us from Boston via New York State south to North Carolina, leaving us in Charlotte. We now make our way to Atlanta with a song by the blues great Freddie King.

After visiting Birmingham (a city still famous for all the wrong reasons) we stop over, by way of a detour, in Tuscaloosa. The town is not mentioned by name in the Steely Dan song, but it is home to the University of Alabama, whose American football team is the Crimson Tide, “the name for the winners in the world” that stands in contrast to the name for losers which the Dan are proposing: Deacon Blues. (Tuscaloosa does get a name-check in the Randy Newman song though).

Musically significant cities get more than one song, and here it is New Orleans getting some extra love with songs by two of the Big Eas’s favourite sons: Fats Domino and Dr John. From there we go to Baton Rouge — a city I associate more with Kennedy O’Toole’s great novel The Confederacy of Dunces than with music — in a Tom Petty song.

Any Major American Road Trip - Stage 2 map

After a trip to Lafayette, we leave Louisiana for Texas, where we will stay for the rest of this leg. Texas is pretty big, but still I was surprised to find so many songs there. Most of the titles are self-evident, though not all. Patty Loveless’ The Night’s Too Long is set in Beaumont, but not for long, for the waitress of the song wants to get out. Ben Kweller in his song refers to Dallas, but it seems he got out of there already (I might have gone with Kweller to the hideously named Commerce, Tx, if I wanted to go there. But I did not.).

On the other hand, Lee Hazlewood is going back to Houston, while Waylon Jennings is proposing to go to Luckenbach with himself and Willie and the boys, and George Hamilton IV wishes to return to Abilene, the town with the prettiest name in this mix. And the closing song is called Texas In My Rear View Mirror, a song about getting out of Lubbock, whose only, but not unsubstantial, claim to fame is being Buddy Holly’s home town. But, Lubbock fans, take heart: Mac Davis does not really mean it when he says he wants escape Texas.

There is an obvious bonus track here: All My Ex’s Live In Texas, sung here not by George Strait, who is already representing Fort Worth (the Texan city which became famous due to the frequent references of Clayton visiting it in the TV soap Dallas) but in the original version by Whitey Shafer.

The final song might promise that we’re leaving Texas in our rear view mirror, but the third leg of our road trip will begin still in Texas, and we will return one more time after doing New Mexico before we travel via Arizona to California.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R (without the bonus track) and includes home-pardnered covers. PW in comments.

1. Freddie King – I’m On My Way To Atlanta (1962 — Atlanta, GA)
2. Randy Newman – Birmingham (1973, Birmingham —AL)
3. Steely Dan – Deacon Blues (1977 — Tuscaloosa, AL)
4. John Prine – Angel From Montgomery (1971 — Montgomery, AL)
5. Mickey Newbury – Mobile Blue (1973 — Mobile, AL)
6. Jesse Winchester – Biloxi (1970 — Biloxi, MS)
7. Fats Domino – I’m Walking To New Orleans (1960 — New Orleans, LA)
8. Dr. John & Chris Barber – Big Bass Drum (On A Mardi Gras Day) (1990 — New Orleans, LA)
9. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Louisiana Rain (1979 — Baton Rouge, LA)
10. Lucinda Williams – Lafayette (1980 — Lafayette, LA)
11. Patty Loveless – The Night’s Too Long (1990 — Beaumont, TX)
12. Lee Hazlewood – Houston (1967 —Houston, TX)
13. Glen Campbell – Galveston (1969 — Galveston, TX)
14. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys – New San Antonio Rose (1940 — San Antonio, TX)
15. Waylon Jennings – Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love) (1977 — Luckenbach, TX)
16. Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood (1983 — Austin, TX)
17. Ben Kweller – Falling (2002 — Dallas, TX)
18. George Strait – Does Forth Worth Ever Cross Your Mind (1984 — Dallas/Fort Worth, TX)
19. George Hamilton IV – Abilene (1963 — Abilene, TX)
20. Mac Davis – Texas In My Rear View Mirror (1980 — Lubbock, TX)
Bonus: Whitey Shafer – All My Ex’s Live In Texas (1987 — Abilene, Galveston, Texarkana, TX)


Previously on American Road Trip

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Any Major Flute Vol. 1

April 6th, 2016 37 comments


Any Major Flute-1

I may have mentioned once or twice that if a song features a bit of flute, I’ll like it. So it seems to me that mix celebrating the flute in pop is necessary and desirable. I know that some people hate the idea of flute in rock — perhaps this mix will disabuse them of such odd notions. Should one or the song feature a piccolo or recorder instead of the flute, please enjoy the respite and don’t shout at me. And, look Ma, no Jethro Tull!
1. Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – Winter in America (1974)
Flute Moment: 3:57  Gil goes “stick”, and Brian lets rip with his flute.

2. Baby Huey – California Dreamin’ (1971)
Flute Moment: 2:10 ” After the flute does it alone for the long intro, the instrumental party kicks off.

3. Josh Rouse – James (2003)
Flute Moment: 2:47  Rouse captures the sound of 1972, as the album title promises, when the flute goes into a conversation with the guitar.

4. Bobby Bland – Ain’t No Love In the Heart Of The City (1974)
Flute Moment: 2:06 & 3:22  Listen closely or you’ll miss it.

5. Eddie Rabbitt – Suspicions (1979)
Flute Moment: 2:14  Hail the flute solo

6. Carpenters – Road One (1972)
Flute Moment: 2:14  Spookily, the flute solo here commences at the same time as that in Suspicion.

7. Michael Jackson – I Wanna Be Where You Are (1972)
Flute Moment: 1:47  The flute backs young Michael funkily, and then gets its solo spot.

8. Blackbyrds – Walking In Rhythm (1974)
Flute Moment: 1:55  Flute solo in rhythm.

9. The Mamas & the Papas – Creeque Alley (1967)
Flute Moment: 2:23  Like the Carpenters, The Mamas & The Papas liked a bit of flute.

10. Frank Sinatra with Count Basie – Fly Me To The Moon (1966)
Flute Moment:0:35  You don”t really expect to hear the flute in Sinatra’s music. In this live recording, Count Basie gives this standard a flute signature.

11. David Bowie – Moonage Daydream (1972)
Flute Moment: 1:54  Bowie goes all Jethro Tull on us for a minute.

12. Cardigans – Sick & Tired (1994)
Flute Moment: 0:02  The background flute never leaves us.

13. Van M. – Everyone (1970)
Flute Moment: 1:48 After being with us throughout, the flute gets a 30-second solo.

14. Traffic – John Barleycorn (1970)
Flute Moment: 1:07  The prog rock flute classic that’s not by Jethro Tull.

15. Carole King – So Far Away (1971)
Flute Moment: 3:16   Carole gamely resisted the urge to include the flute for much of the song.

16. Simon & Garfunkel – So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright (1970)
Flute Moment: 1:18 ”  The flute takes the lead, accompanied by acoustic guitar, strings and percussion.

17. The Beatles – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (1965)
Flute Moment:1:47   The flute sees out my favourite Beatles song.

18. The Beach Boys – Feel Flows (1971)
Flute Moment: 1:44  Aah, there’s the flute.

19. Beastie Boys – Sure Shot (1994)
Flute Moment: 0:01 The cool flute hook, sampled from Jeremy Steig’s Howling For Judy, stays with us through almost all of the song.


Any Major Flute Vol. 2
Any Major Flute Vol. 3
Any Major Flute Vol. 4
Any Major Flute Vol. 5

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In Memoriam – March 2016

April 4th, 2016 5 comments

After a little respite in February, the Grim Reaper was very busy in March. Sadly, a full third of the 42 listed deaths were of people under the age of 60.

IM0316-gallery1Everything important has been said of George Martin, who has died at 90. It might merit emphasising that Martin was to The Beatles as a good professor is to the student whom he (or, indeed, she) guides from freshman  to doctorate. At first he was instructive, exercising his authority to have Pete Best dismissed; though The Beatles rightly baulked at his insistence that they should release How Do You Do It, a song they didn”t write, as a single. They did record it (halfheartedly, as we can hear on the featured track), but it instead became a UK #1 for Gerry and the Pacemakers””and was knocked off the top spot by the much bigger Beatles hit, From Me To You. From being the teacher figure Martin grew to be the facilitator and guide in the group”s rapid development from very good pop combo to genius innovators. Without Martin, the story of The Beatles, and that of pop music, might have been quite different.

George Martin will always be associated with The Beatles, of course, but he had his hand in many other pop classics. He produced a string of 1960s hits for the other Liverpudlian legends, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Cilla Black, as well as for Matt Munro and Billy J. Kramer. Later he produced such hits as Wings” Live And Let Die, America”s Sister Golden Hair, Tin Man and Lonely People, Little River Band”s The Night Owls, Kenny Rogers” Morning Desire, as well as many 1980s McCartney tracks (Say Say Say, Ebony and Ivory, No More Lonely Nights, Pipes Of Peace, We All Stand Together etc). Others whom he produced included Jeff Beck, Shirley Bassey, Stan Getz, Cleo Laine, Neil Sedaka, Jimmy Webb, Cheap Trick, Billy Preston, Mahavishnu Orchestra, José Carreras, Celine Dion, and Kate Bush. Alas, he was also co-responsible for that mawkish abomination that was Elton John”s Candle In The Wind 1997.

In the early 1990s, before hip hop became dominated by blinging, car-bouncing, Hennessy-quaffing, cap-in-yo-ass-bustin” gangsta misogyny (at least at its platinum-selling levels), rappers had success talking about actual social issues, carrying the mantle of Gil Scott-Heron. One such group was A Tribe Called Quest, whose “Five Foot Assassin”, Phyfe Dawg, has died at 45 from complications relating to diabetes, which had previously required two kidney transplants.  With acts like De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest exercised a profound influence on hip hop artists like Common, The Roots and, when he does have something to say that isn”t mad or self-aggrandising, Kanye West.

You”ll probably know Thunderclap Newman”s 1969 hit Something In The Air, a call for revolution when that ship had already sailed. But do you remember that glorious piano break that kicks in at 2:00 minutes and goes on for close to a minute. That was played by Andy Newman, who has died at 73. It was his nickname and surname that gave the band its name after it was founded as a side project by The Who”s Pete Townshend (who under a pseudonym played bass on that mega hit). Townshend”s game was kindness: he wanted to give Newman and singer-guitarist Speedy Keen a showcase for their talents. Also in the band was Jimmy McCulloch, who went on to join Paul McCartney”s Wings before his death in 1979. Keen died in 2002. Besides the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Thunderclap Newman is the only classic “˜60s rock act I can think of whose official line-up is now all dead.  Thunderclap Newman recorded one album; Newman released a solo album in 1971.

Children of famous people have it easier to get through a door than random hopefuls, but few manage to emulate the success of their famous parent. So it was with Frank Sinatra Jr, who has died suddenly at 72. There is no doubt that Frank Jr had talent, but if you are going to have as Sinatra, you”ll go for Senior, or older sister Nancy, who followed her own musical path. Frank Jr acquired some fame by being a victim of a kidnapping in December 1963 (Frank Sr paid up to have his son released).

IM0316-gallery2Another pioneer of the Outlaw movement in country music Read more…

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