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What’s Going On Recovered

May 25th, 2021 4 comments

 

On May 21, it was 50 years since the release of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On LP, an album that broke the mould.

It certainly broke Motown’s rules, which preferred its artists to be apolitical — social commentary was permissible if it brought in cash, as it did with Edwin Starr’s War or The Temptations’ Ball Of Confusion or Gaye’s own cover of Dion’s Abraham, Martin & John. But Marvin Gaye wasn’t proposing an album of politics you can dance or sing along to; quite the contrary. This was a meandering exercise in quiet reflection on social ills, from economic inequality to drug abuse to racism to war to the ecology. Even Gil Scott-Heron provided some light relief on his Pieces Of A Man, recorded the month before What’s Going On came out (like Gaye’s album, it also featured a track titled Save The Children).

Motown also wasn’t in a habit of issuing concept albums. What’s Going On is just that — it is a reflection on various social ills from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran, a proxy for Gaye’s own brother Frankie. Gaye’s Christian faith permeates the exercise, not only in the song God Is Love but in its hopeful tone that the mess we’re in now can be redeemed.

What’s Going On is a song cycle LP, with one song fading into another, almost like a jazz concept album. That wasn’t the clean-cut, vigorous Marvin with his beautiful smile; this was a troubled man in a depressive state, surrounded by toxic people, facing a hostile world. At one point, Gaye had contemplated suicide. He was talked off the proverbial ledge by Berry Gordy Sr — evidently a better father than the one Marvin had.Just as Gaye was becoming sensitised to the politics of social justices, so was Obie Benson of The Four Tops. After witnessing the brutal suppression of an anti-war demo at Berkeley, he and Motown songwriter Al Cleveland wrote what would become What’s Going On, the song. The other Four Tops were not interested in a protest song, but over a game of golf, Benson offered it to Gaye, who took the song and then added his own tweaks to it.

The final version of the song was a series of happy accidents, with its saxophone into and multi-layered voices. Motown wasn’t going to release it — too political, too jazzy — but executives Harry Balk and Barney Ales managed to swing a single release in January 1971. It turned out to become Motown’s fastest-selling single ever. Now Berry Gordy Jr was interested, and gave Gaye until the end of March to record whatever he wanted. That was unprecedented at Motown, and would encourage Stevie Wonder to demand full creative control when time came to renew his Motown contract a year later.

To his credit, Gordy backed the final result of What’s Going On, even if it delivered little obvious potential for hit singles, unlike Stevie Wonder’s album Where I’m Coming From, released in April 1971, on which personal and socially conscious material is leavened with traditional love-song tracks like If You Really Love Me or Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer. Happily for Gordy, What’s Going On yielded two more Top 10 hits, Mercy Mercy Me and Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler).

What’s Going On was a very different album from others on Motown in content, and it was different in its cover art. The cover was designed by Curtis McNair, who was responsible for hundreds of Motown covers, with photographs by Jim Hendin. The latter had presented several photos he had taken of Gaye in the singer’s Detroit backyard (note the kids’ swing on the back cover). It was a wet winter’s day. Sleet settled on Marvin’s hair, water on his coat, and Gaye is looking pensively into the distance, as if trying to make sense of all this madness. But there is a little smile trying to emerge: this man is sad but strangely hopeful. Physically, Gaye is no longer the pretty face of the 1960s, but the beard accentuates those beautiful dark eyes. He looks mature and sensual. See more Hendin photos here.

Recovering What’s Going On is not entirely easy, and it required the inclusion of a song that’s not on the LP, I Want You, since it is part of a two-song medley by Robert Palmer. The only version of Flying High I was happy to use was that by Dizzy Gillespie (or that by Everette Harp, who covered the whole album in 1997, but I need him to feature with God Is Love). But Gillespie’s instrumental comes with Save The Children. That track, however, must feature with its lyrics, so the great Marlena Shaw reprises that song, with lyrics. I think Marvin Gaye would approve.

There are two final contenders for the title track which I found difficult to choose between. But since the album ends with a reprise of What’s Going On, the “losing” contender can go there.

As ever, CD-R length, home-conceptualised covers. Text above in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Donny Hathaway – What’s Goin’ On (live, 1971)
2. Keb’ Mo’ – What’s Happening Brother (2004)
3. Dizzy Gillespie – Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Sky)/Save The Children (1988)
4. Marlena Shaw – Save The Children (1972)
5. Everette Harp – God Is Love (1997)
6. Robert Palmer – Mercy Mercy Me/I Want You (1990)
7. Sons Of Slum – Right On (1971)
8. John Legend & The Roots – Wholy Holy (2010)
9. Gil Scott-Heron – Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler) (1981)
10. The Undisputed Truth – What’s Going On (1971)

GET IT! or HERE!

 

More Recovered albums:
Tapestry
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Every Beatles album

More Cover Mixes:
Bob Dylan Songbooks
John Prine Songbook
Bill Withers Songbook
Bruce Springsteen Songbook
Steely Dan Songbook
Leonard Cohen Songbook
Elvis Presley Songbook
Chuck Berry Songbook
ABBA Songbook

And check out the Covered With Soul series

Categories: Album cover art, Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

Any Major Eurovision

May 23rd, 2021 4 comments

 

After the victory of a tuneless tune by Italy’s Guitar Hero heroes L’Oscurità (12 hours later, I don’t recall their real name), I imagine some people need some relief. So I’m reposting this from three years ago.

For Europeans and other purveyors of musical kitsch, the Eurovision Song Contest is annual appointment TV. The international singing competition has been held since 1956. Up to the fall of the Iron Curtain, competing countries were drawn from Western, Southern, Northern and Central Europe, plus Israel and, a few times, Morocco. Today the contest is hugely popular in Eastern Europe — and lately even that well-known European country Australia has taken part (but if Israel can, then why not Australia?).

Making a list of “favourite” or “best” Eurovision songs is dicey business. The sober music fan will laugh at you for even considering such a thing; the hardcore Eurovision fan will absolutely hate you for not including Estonia’s entry for 1998 which never deserved to finish in 23rd place. Still, here I am and can do no other.

So, here is a collection of the songs I chose as those I like the best of the thousand-something songs that were composed in the hope of winning the Grand Prix (97,6% of which have been utterly awful). They may not be the best of the lot; the dominance of 1970s entries suggests that childhood nostalgia influences my choices. So I happily accept that Teach-In‘s 1975 winner Ding-A-Dong fails to represent a highwater mark in popular music, even in that dismal year. But when I hear it, I am transported to the cobblestoned street where I grew up, riding my green chopper bicycle, hatching new adventures with my friends.

I exclude some common favourites. There’s no place for Cliff Richard’s Congratulations, nor for Lulu, Brotherhood of Men, Nicole, Dana (Irish or International), Lordi, Katrina & the Waves, or Bucks Fizz, nor for many of the winners of the last few decades. I also have no love for Germany’s 1979 entry Dschinghis Khan, a song about a genocidal psychopath which the Germans saw fit to perform in, of all places, Jerusalem. And I really cannot stand Israel’s insipid winner that year, Milk & Honey’s Hallelujah.

With all these possibly worthy candidates sifted out, I expect to be asked what the hell Sophie & Magaly‘s Papa Pingouin, Luxembourg’s 1980 entry which finished 9th with a slightly disturbing performance featuring an absurd man-penguin, is doing here (indeed, my incredulous wife just earlier asked me, upon hearing me play it, what the fuck I am listening to). Well, it’s a catchy enough song, written by German serial Eurovision offender Ralph Siegel. Despite receiving little love from the juries, Papa Pingouin became a million-seller. Alas, due to a brutal contract the French twins saw very little of the loot. And then Siegel dropped the singers, trying to sting them out of the little money that was due to them. Magaly died in 1996 of AIDS; Sophie is battling with depression. Siegel is still churns out songs for the Eurovision.

Siegel wrote several entries for Germany, including the afore-mentioned Dschinghis Khan, the runners-up in 1980, ’81, and ’87 — Theater (Katja Epstein), Johnny Blue (Lena Valaitis) and Lass die Sonne in dein Herz (Wind) — and the 1982 winner, Nicole’s Ein bisschen Frieden. None of them feature here.

Germany’s best-ever entry, in my view, was 1970’s third-placed Wunder gibt es immer wieder by Katja Epstein, the arrangement of which is truly a marker of its time. The wonderful Epstein returned the following year, again finishing third with the ecological anthem Diese Welt, featured here in the English version, River Run River Flow.

The second-best German entry also features here in English: the late Joy Fleming‘s superb, soulful Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein (Bridge of Love). Incredibly, it finished 17th in a field of 19, despite being backed by soul singer Madeline Bell, close friend of Dusty Springfield and ex-member of Blue Mink. National juries are idiots.

I also really like Guildo Horn‘s Guildo hat Euch lieb (Guildo loves you all), which was Germany’s entry in 1998. Written by off-the-wall entertainer Stefan Raab under the pseudonym Alf Igl it was a parody of Ralph Siegel (as Raab’s alias suggests). In the national elimination round, the song beat out three Siegel compositions, despite the mass-circulation Bild running a campaign against Horn and his manic and anarchic ways. Raab took part himself in 2000, with an even more subversive number, sung in an invented German dialect.

The greatest Eurovision song of all time is, inevitably, ABBA‘s Waterloo, the winning entry for Sweden in 1974 (amazingly, ABBA failed to qualify in the national qualification contest the previous year. Sweden’s Decca moment). Waterloo had it all: a great tune, international lyrics, bright outfits, Björn’s star-shaped silver guitar, and a conductor dressed like Napoleon. But it wasn’t an easy win, as I explained in the article accompanying the ABBA cover versions mix. The nearest contender, Italian Gigliola Cinquetti‘s more traditional ballad Si, put up a strong fight. That song also features here, unlike Cinquetti’s 1964 winner Non ho l’età.

Running a close second, in my book, is Spain’s entry for 1973, Eres Tu by a singing group Mocedades. It finished in second place in a strong field, beaten by Anne-Marie David‘s also superb Tu Te Reconnaitras, winning it for Luxembourg. Cliff Richard‘s appeal for groovy social harmony, a track that has a better tune than lyrics, came third.

The deserved winner in 1967 was Sandie Shaw with Puppet On A String, the song the barefooted singer hated and performed virtually under duress. Coming only fourth that year, representing Luxembourg, was Greek-born and Germany-based singer Vicky Leandros with L’amour est bleu. That song became famous as the easy listening classic Love Is Blue by Paul Mauriat, who stripped the song of all the emotions, lyricism and style which Leandros had invested in it.

Leandros would eventually win the thing, also for Luxembourg, in 1972 with Aprés toi. This time around, she had an international hit with the song, in its original French version, in West Germany as Dann kamst Du, and in Britain, where it reached #2 as Come What May.

Luxembourg had a way of picking winners: in 1965 it was the appropriately-named French singer France Gall, whose Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son was penned by Serge Gainsbourg, inspired by Beethoven. Her performance was off-key, causing her lover at the time, singer Claude Francois, to scream at her in a discouraging manner. The charm of the catchy song, with its clever lyrics, and of France Gall herself evidently won over the juries.

Perhaps even more famous internationally than Waterloo and Love Is Blue is Italian singer Domenico Modugno‘s 1958 entry: Nel blu dipinto di blu. You’ll know it better as Volare, probably in Dean Martin”s version. Modugno finished only in third place with it. As I said, juries are idiots. The singer tried his luck again the following year, finishing 6th. A third Eurovision attempt in 1966 ended in disaster: Modugno came last, with nil points.

The winner that year was German-Austrian singer Udo Jürgens, winning the contest for Austria with Merci Chérie. It was Jürgens’ third successive participation in the Eurovision.

Austria would have to wait until 2014, shortly before Jürgens’ death, to win again. But what a winner that was: bearded drag artist Conchita Wurst singing a fantastically dramatic song which in the artist’s hands became a liberation anthem for LBGT+ communities. Before the contest, no Austrian record company was willing to release it, possibly because the vehement opposition by conservative and right-wing politicians to the mold-breaking artist. So national broadcaster ORF had to release it themselves. The song became a hit in many countries…

If I became the dictator of a newly-founded state and was looking for a rousing national anthem, I’d repurpose Séverine‘s 1971 Eurovision winner, Un banc, un arbre, un rue. Take the chorus (which, brazenly, kicks off the song), slow it down a bit and give it the national anthem arrangement. I could win wars with that national anthem. The song was the only winning entry for Monaco. I reckon my army could take on Monaco’s troops, especially with that anthem.

I hope this collection of songs will give lie to the notion that Eurovision has offered only cliché and acts of grievous musical battery. In fact, many of these songs may well stick in your head to give you not unpleasant earworms.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-nilpointed covers (the cover promises 25 tracks; I added one for your delight), as well as a larger version of the above collage of single covers, and the above text in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Abba – Waterloo (1974, Sweden #1)
2. Cliff Richard – Power To All Our Friends (1973, Great Britain #3)
3. Sandie Shaw – Puppet On A String (1967, Great Britain #1)
4. France Gall – Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son (1965, France #1)
5. Vicky Leandros – Aprés toi (1972, Luxembourg #1)
6. Katja Ebstein – Wunder gibt es immer wieder (1970, Germany #3)
7. Anne-Marie David – Tu Te Reconnaitras (1973, Luxembourg, #1)
8. The New Seekers – Beg, Steal Or Borrow (1972, Great Britain #2)
9. Joy Fleming – Bridge Of Love (1975, Germany, #17)
10. Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran – Rock Bottom (1977, Great Britain #2)
11. Teach In – Ding-A-Dong (1975, Netherlands #1)
12. Catherine Ferry – 1, 2, 3 (1976, France #2)
13. Sophie & Magaly – Papa Pingouin (1980, Luxembourg #9)
14. Guildo Horn – Guildo hat euch lieb (1998, Germany #7)
15. Charlotte Nilsson – Take Me To Your Heaven (1999, Sweden #1)
16. Conchita Wurst – Rise Like A Phoenix (2014, Austria #1)
17. Joélle Ursull – White And Black Blues (1990, France #2)
18. Secret Garden – Nocturne (1995, Norway #1)
19. Gigliola Cinquetti – Si (1974, Italy #2)
20. Katja Ebstein – River Run River Flow (Diese Welt) (1971, Germany #3)
21. Séverine – Un Banc, Un Arbre, Un Rue (1971, Monaco, #1)
22. Mocedades – Eres Tu (1973, Spain #2)
23. Vicky Leandros – L’amour Est Bleu (Love Is Blue) (1967, Luxembourg #4)
24. Udo Jürgens – Merci Cherie (1966, Austria #1)
25. Domenico Modugno – Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu) (1958, Italy #3)
26. Grethe & Jörgen Ingmann – Dansevise (1963, Denmark, #1)
Bonus:
Mary Hopkin – Knock, Knock Who’s There (1970, Great Britain #2)
Stefan Raab – Wadde hadde dudde da (2000, Germany #5)

GET IT! or HERE!

 

More CD-R mixes

Categories: Mix CD-Rs Tags:

The Roy Bittan Collection

May 20th, 2021 6 comments

 

 

There are few piano men in rock whose sound stands out — no matter how loud the drums, bass and guitars around it — as much as Roy Bittan’s. As a member of the E Street Band, his piano (and Clarence Clemons’ sax) was a defining ingredient in Bruce Springsteen’s sound — and when Springsteen dropped the E Street Band in 1989, Bittan was the one member he kept on board.

Bittan’s piano was similarly crucial to the sound of the recently late Jim Steinman, on Bat Out Of Hell and Total Eclipse Of The Heart and pretty much anything Steinman produced between 1977 and the mid-1990s.

Nicknamed “The Professor”, because he was the only member of the E Street Band to have a university degree, Bittan has made most profitable use of the Yamaha grand piano, whose clear sound cuts through the din of the other instruments — and drummers like Max Weinberg or Liberty De Vitto, who often sat behind Bittan, made such a noise, it required health and safety regulations.

As a member of the E Street band, Bittan contributed to Ronnie Spector’s version of Billy Joel’s Say Goodbye To Hollywood (so Weinberg took over the drums from De Vitto). It’s perhaps the perfect meeting point of the two New Jersey giants, whose careers for a long time rose and dipped more or less symmetrically: Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. Most of the E Street Band also came together to give Garland Jeffreys that Springsteen sound on the 1981 LP Escape Artist, especially on R.O.C.K. and Jump Jump.

Another act dancing on the Springsteen timeline is Bob Seger; he, to, has benefitted from Bittan’s distinctive piano.

 

The E Street Band in 1980, with Roy Bittan (channeling Martin Scorsese) third from left.

 

Outside the E Street Band and Steinman circuits, Bittan has played with David Bowie, on the Station To Station and Scary Monsters albums (including Ashes To Ashes) and Dire Straits’ Making Movies albums, as well as with acts like Jackson Browne, Peter Gabriel, Ian Hunter, Stevie Nicks, Gary US Bonds, Chicago, Bon Jovi, Warren Zevon, Tracy Chapman, Donna Summer, Jeff Healy Band, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Nelly Furtado, and Lucinda Williams (whom he also produced), among others.

Bittan cut his teeth in the early 1970s with the rock band Tracks; a song from their rather good 1972 album Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day, their only LP, features here.

The Professor, who will turn 72 in July, has also served as a producer and accordion player for various artists. He has released only ever one solo album, a rather lovely, jazzy set of instrumentals titled Out Of The Box, issued in 2015. When the album was released, Bittan told Rolling Stone magazine about how he came to work with some of the acts mentioned above. ()

This mix provides a brief overview of the career of the genius piano player. If you are a CD-R length devotee, tracks 1-17 on this mix will fit on a standard disc. The rest are bonus tracks. The shebang includes home-ivorytinkled covers, and the text above in illustrated PDF format (for later reference). PW in comments.

1. Garland Jeffreys – R.O.C.K. (1981)
2. Jim Steinman – Stark Raving Love (1981)
3. Stevie Nicks – Edge Of Seventeen (1981)
4. Bruce Springsteen – Candy’s Room (live) (1981)
5. Bob Seger – Roll Me Away (1983)
6. Dire Straits – Tunnel Of Love (1980)
7. Warren Zevon – Reconsider Me (1987)
8. Jackson Browne – Your Bright Baby Blues (1976)
9. Tracks – Can I Leave You (1972)
10. Tracy Chapman – Bang Bang Bang 1992)
11. Lucinda Williams – Right In Time (1998)
12. Ian Hunter – Cleveland Rocks (1979)
13. David Bowie – Golden Years (1976)
14. Meat Loaf – Read ‘Em And Weep (1981)
15. Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band – Say Goodbye To Hollywood (1977)
16. Peter Gabriel – Mother Of Violence (1978)
17. Roy Bittan – Q’s Groove (2015)
Bonus Tracks:
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart (1983)
Air Supply – Making Love Out Of Nothing At All (1983)
Barbra Streisand – Left In The Dark (1984)
Pandora’s Box – It’s All Coming Back To Me Now (1989)
Clarence Clemons – Something Always Happens (1987)
Herb Alpert – Cat Man Do (1987)

GET IT or HERE

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

Categories: Mix CD-Rs, Session Players Tags:

Any Major Hits from 1971

May 11th, 2021 1 comment

 

To me the sound of 1971 is fun and sunshine, mostly because when you are 4-5 years old, most memories are fun and sunshine (and snow, when snow is fun). I had elder siblings, so I’m sure I’ll have heard many of the songs featured here back 50 years ago, though of those, my only clear memory is of Danyel Gerard’s Butterfly, Never Ending Song Of Love (but in The New Seekers’ facile cover of the Bonnie & Delaney original), and Sweet’s Co-Co. And still, this mix evokes, to me, the feel of 1971. Which of course is the effect I’m trying to achieve here, rather than compiling a “Best of 1971” compilations — that would turn out as bit differently, though some tracks might feature on such a list, too.

There are many other songs not on this mix which I remember very well from back then: Middle of the Road’s Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, Soulful Dynamics’ Saah-Saah-Kumba-Kumba, Springwater’s mournful instrumental I Will Return (and its vocal version in German by Michael Holm), Dawn’s Knock Three Times, Clodagh Rodgers’ Jack In The Box, Middle of the Road’s Soley Soley, several versions of Mamy Blue, a number of schlager hits… and Peret’s Europe-wide novelty hit Borriquito, which is so impossibly catchy, I’ll add it as a bonus track.

It must be noted that 1971 was a better year for albums than it was for singles — and what a year for LPs it was! But the charts were great fun in their diversity and, certainly in the UK, some incongruity. In schlager-centric West-Germany, crooner Roy Black and hard rockers Black Sabbath peacefully coexisted in the charts. In the UK, American crooners Perry Como and Andy Williams (with his Home Lovin’ Man providing relief from the sexual liberation of the era) had huge hits amid a bit of a reggae craze and the incipient glam phase. The UK charts saw some good stuff at #1  — T. Rex, Slade, Diana Ross, The Tams. But the year began with a terrible rocking-chair novelty hit called Grandad by Clive Dunne at #1, and ended with a preposterous novelty song by Benny Hill at the top. I suppose fans of the TV series Dad’s Army and skirt-chasing comedy loved it. Suffice it to say, Benny Hill is not my bag of humour.

In Germany, Danyel Gerard’s Butterfly (not the English recording on this mix but the superior original arrangement, with German lyrics) spent 14 consecutive weeks at #1. That was knocked off the top by The Sweet with Co-Co, who reigned for six weeks before they got knocked off the charts by a rehatched Butterfly. The Sweet regained #1 for a week, but were then dumped by Peret and his Borriquito song for two weeks. Then Mamy Blue was at the top for ten weeks. When the Germans liked something, they clearly couldn’t let go of it. Butterfly was a huge hit throughout Europe. In the UK it stalled at #11; in the US at #76. I blame the inferior English arrangement. To see Gerard without beard and hat in the 1960s, check out this video with cool Paris street scene footage.

The US charts were much saner, but they became a bit bizarre for a bit when Vice-President Spyro Agnew — that unimpeachable beacon of probity — demonstrated how hip he was to the happening hit parades and condemned one song here for representing the acute dangers of the counterculture. I suppose country rockers Brewer & Shipley were quite happy for the publicity their song One Toke Over The Line received from the other wing of the White House.

 

French singer Danyel Gerard, whose Butterfly spent 14 consecutive weeks at #1 in West-Germany

 

For some the bands here, 1971 was a time of swansongs, or close to it. The Move, here with their UK #11 hit Tonight, would fold in 1972, when Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne (who shared the lead vocals on Tonight) and Bev Bevan went on to found the Electric Lights Orchestra.

For Ashton, Gardner & Dyke the chart action was over after their transatlantic hit (which was covered by, of course, Tom Jones), the only single of theirs to chart. They’d split in 1972.

Badfinger had one more hit in the UK — but none with their most famous song Without You, which would become a huge hit for Harry Nilsson in 1972. The sad story of that song, which led to at least one suicide, is told in brief in The Originals – 1970s Vol. 1.

John Kongos had two UK #4 hits in 1971, and nothing else. 1971 was a good year for him: apart from his own hits, two of his songs, Won’t You Join Me und Will You Follow Me were huge hits in German for Israeli singer Daliah Lavi as Oh, wann kommst du und Willst du mit mir geh’n.

The Five Man Electrical Band followed their US #3 hit Signs with another Top 30 song, but they never reached even that height anymore until they split in 1975. They did have a bunch of hits in their native Canada.

The soul band Free Movement only ever released one album and four singles. One might say that a Us Top 5 hit is not a bad strike rate.

Other acts would go on to huge things, such as T.Rex, Sweet and Slade. For The Sweet, Co-Co was the breakthrough; after two disappointing chart-placings they’d rack up seven consecutive UK Top 10 singles. Slade also broke through with their second hit. Chart-topper Coz I Luv You was followed by 11 consecutive Top 5 singles (five of them #1s). T.Rex would have nine more consecutive Top 10 hits, to add to the track here and on the 1970 mix.

Finally, if you feel the tracks by US soul bands The Fantastics, Johnny Johnson & The Bandwagon and English pop group The Fortunes have a similar sound, you may be right. All three tracks were written by the songwriting team of Tony Macaulay, Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway (as was Home Lovin’ Man, the Andy Williams hit mentioned earlier).

If you dig the feel of 1971, take a look at the collection of posters from West-Germany’s Bravo magazine in 1971 (other years are available, too). And two previous mixes of hits from as particular year are available: 1970 and 1944.

The mix is timed to be in CD-R (or double LP) length and includes home-stomped covers. The text above is included in an illustrated PDF booklet (including the charts from June 1971). PW in comments.

1. Ashton, Gardner & Dyke – Resurrection Shuffl
2. John Kongos – He’s Gonna Step On You Again
3. Slade – Coz I Luv You
4. Badfinger – No Matter What
5. Five Man Electrical Band – Signs
6. Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose – Treat Her Like A Lady
7. The Jackson 5 – Mama’s Pearl
8. The Fantastics – Something Old Something New
9. Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds – Don’t Pull Your Love
10. Delaney & Bonnie & Friends – Never Ending Song Of Love
11. Lobo – Me And You And A Dog Named Boo
12. Brewer & Shipley – One Toke Over The Line
13. The Move – Tonight
14. Free – My Brother Jake
15. T. Rex – Hot Love
16. The Sweet – Co-Co
17. Mungo Jerry – Lady Rose
18. Johnny Johnson & His Bandwagon – (Blame It) On The Pony Express
19. The Fortunes – Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again
20. The Free Movement – I’ve Found Someone Of My Own
21. Cher – Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves
22. Georgie Fame & Alan Price – Rosetta
23. Tony Christie – I Did What I Did For Maria
24. Danyel Gerard – Butterfly (English Version)
Bonus Tracks:
Danyel Gerard – Butterfly (French Original)
Peret – Borriquito

GET IT! or HERE!

More Mixes
More A Year In Hits

Categories: A Year in Hits, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

In Memoriam – April 2021

May 4th, 2021 6 comments

Sometimes the Grim Reaper has as twisted sense of quirk: on April 28, he claimed the drummer of 1960s Texan garage rock band The Bad Seeds, and on the same day he took Australian singer Anita Lane, who in the 1980s was a member of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds. Those two, of course, were not the month’s headliners. The deaths of Jim Steinman and Bay City Rollers singer Leslie McKeown rightly dominated. Both guys played an important part in my musical journey: as a kid I was a Bay City Rollers fan for a while (then I grew hair in strange places, and that was that), and soon after I became addicted to the Bat Out Of Hell album.

 

The Rock Rossini
If rock music was opera, the broad consensus holds, then Jim Steinman was Richard Wagner: a man whose brilliance found expression in the overblown and preposterous mythology, always straddling the fine line between the sublime and the absurd. To be sure, Steinman was operatic, bombastic and given to Valkyre-helmet shenanigans. But he could also do tender ballads, such as Two Out Of Three on Bat Out Of Hell, or Air Supply’s Making Love Out Of Nothing At All, or the Celine Dion hit All Coming Back To Me Now, a cover of Pandora Box’s gloriously mad 1989 original, with a typical Steinman spoken intro. Slow down Total Eclipse Of The Heart, and you have a pretty melody, albeit less effective than the kitchen-sink production we know. (Steinman certainly exercised as little economy in song titles as he did in song lengths.) And his melodies were always accessible and catchy, which is one thing you cannot accuse Wagner of. Could Wagner have written anything as catchy as You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth? No, we must look for another heavy-metal classical composer. I’ll have Steinman down not as a rock Wagner, but as ”The Rossini of Rock”.

With Bat Out Of Hell, one of the greatest moments in rock music (the VH-1 documentary on the making of the album is superb, incidentally), Steinman peaked early. But he productively wrote for others, except when he recorded his own solo album, Bad For Good, released in 1981. One wonders how great that album might have been in Meat Loaf’s hands (he did the absurd spoken track Love And Death Of An American Guitar as an intro to All Revved Up With No Place To Go on the original Bat Out Of Hell tour, and reprised it on Bat Out Of Hell II tour). As it was, Bad For Good was a bit like its cover: partly audaciously good, and partly embarrassingly bad. The Streisand song featured here is a cover of a track from Bad For Good.

The range of people who benefited from Steinman’s mad genius is pretty broad, ranging from classic rock singers like Meat Loaf and Billy Squier to Australian soft-rockers like Air Supply to Euro-pop singers like Bonnie Tyler to divas like Barbra Streisand to boybands like Boyzone, whose mega-hit No Matter What he co-wrote with Andrew Lloyd-Webber for a musical.

 

The Teen Idol
It seems that almost every year, a former Bay City Roller dies. Now the Reaper caught up with frontman Leslie McKeown. Before Les joined the band, around the same time as Stuart Wood, the Bay City Rollers were a rather scruffy-looking pop band which had enjoyed a couple of hits. With the two new good-looking boys, and the gimmick of the tartan looks, the Bay City Rollers became a teen-dream band, scoring nine consecutive UK Top 6 hits, including two #1s between 1974 and 1976. They were huge even longer in Germany, where You Made Me Believe In Magic (their best song but only a UK #35) and Don’t Stop The Music (featured on Any Major Disco Vol. 2) were hits in 1977.

But by then BCR were falling apart, with McKeown in conflict with the other Rollers. Then he got fired/jumped ship (depending on whose version you believe). At one point in around 1978, McKeown invaded a BCR concert on stage, leading to physical altercations between him and his old tartan compadres. Leslie’s solo career never took off, and he was afflicted with alcoholism for many years. Eventually he returned to performing with his own version of the Bay City Rollers, wearing the old tartans, and being an amiable uncle on UK quiz shows.

 

The Bass Warrior
The soul-funk group War broke barriers as one of the first multiracial outfits in pop music. Initially led by Eric Burdon, War veered between genres. In the mix of all that was bassist B.B. Dickerson, who played with the band from 1970-79, and had already been a member of its precursor, The Creators. Apart from playing bass, Dickerson also added percussion, and vocals, as lead (for example, on the great The World Is A Ghetto) or as backing singer, in a band in which backing vocals were an important part of the sound. In War, all members received co-writing credits, in unalphabetical sequence; mostly Dickerson’s name is listed first.

 

The Disco Legend
It was only a few week before he died that I had learnt that Euro-disco legend Patrick Juvet had represented Switzerland in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973, just four years before he became a disco star, first recording with Jean-Michel Jarre, having a hit with Où sont les femmes in 1977. The following year he hooked up with French disco producers Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo — who also produced the Village People and Richie Family — to record hits like I Love America and Got A Feeling. After the disco boom, Juvet’s career declined. He did a bit of composing, but the big hits stayed away.

 

The Super Engineer
There aren’t many stars among recording engineers, but Al Schmitt surely was one of them. In his career, he won a record 20 Grammys for engineering, including for Steely Dan’s Aja, George Benson’s Breezin’, Toto’s IV, and Ray Charles Genius Loves Company. He got his break in the 1950s when the engineer for a Duke Ellington session couldn’t be reached, so Schmitt, hitherto an assistant, had to fill in. Evidently, he did well. He then worked with Henry Mancini, including on Moon River, and various jazz and folk acts, while also engineering Sam Cooke hits like Bring It On Home To Me, Cupid, and Another Saturday Night.

In the 1970s and 80s he engineered for acts like Steely Dan, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jackson Browne (For Everyman; Late For The Sky), Dave Mason, Linda Ronstadt (Don’t Cry Now), Barbra Streisand (The Way We Were, Wet), Michael Franks (The Art Of Tea, Sleeping Gypsy, The Lady Wants To Know, Burchfield Nines, Blue Pacific), Glenn Campbell (Southern Nights), Samantha Sang (Emotions), George Benson (In Flight, Weekend In LA, Living Inside Your Love, 20/20, Tenderly), Dr John (City Light, In A Sentimental Mood), Randy Crawford (Secret Combination, Nightline), Joe Sample (Spellbound), and the beautifully recorded Casino Lights album of Randy Crawford, Al Jarreau, The Yellow Jackets and others in Montreaux.

Schmitt’s 1990s and 2000s engineering included both Duets albums by Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable sets, as well as work for acts like Everything But The Girl, Madonna, Michael Bolton, Teddy Pendergrass, Diane Schuur, Anita Baker, Willie Nelson, Diane Krall, Quincy Jones, Dolly Parton, Luther Vandross, Toni Braxton, Robbie Williams, Rod Stewart, Michael Bublé, Paul Anka (the great Rock Swings album), Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, Trisha Yearwood, Gregory Porter, Paul McCartney, and loads others.

On top of that, in the late 1960s and ‘70s Schmitt also produced a number of albums for acts like Jefferson Starship, Jackson Browne, Hot Tuna, Neil Young, Spirit, and Al Jarreau.

 

The Hitmaker
In 2019, we lost English songwriter Les Reed, who created an impressive number of hits. Exactly two years and a day later, his frequent songwriting partner Barry Mason joined the great hit parades in the sky. With Reed, Mason wrote such hits as Tom Jones’ Delilah and I’m Coming Home, The Fortunes’ Here It Comes Again, Dave Clark Five’s Everybody Knows, Des O’Connor’s I Pretend, Petula Clark’s Kiss Me Goodbye, and Engelbert Humperdinck’s The Last Waltz, Les Bicyclettes De Belsize (also a hit for Mireille Mathieu) and Winter World Of Love. Mason also co-wrote the 1970 #1 Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) by Edison Lighthouse, and other UK hits like Tom Jones’ Love Me Tonight, Des O’Connor’s One, Two, Three O’Leary, When Forever Has Gone by Demis Roussos, and You Might Just See Me Cry by Our Kid. More recently, he wrote the 2002 UK hit Tell Me Why for English child singer Declan Galbraith.

While he was writing for others, he recorded also a bunch of singles between 1966 and 1981 (none troubled the charts), and a later couple of albums of his own songs, released in the 1970s and 1990s.

 

The Red Panther
Born into poor circumstances in Italy in 1939, Maria Ilva Biolcati became an internationally famous singer under the name Milva. She became so famous as a singer of chansons and as a film actress that she became widely known by nicknames: La Rossa, on account of her red hair (and, perhaps, also her political views), and La Pantera. She had much success outside Italy as well, especially in Germany.

On stage she was acclaimed as a premier interpreter of Berthold Brecht. She was equally at home in opera and appeared in some of the great houses, including the Royal Abert Hall in London and La Scala in Milan, the city in which she died at 81 on April 23.

 

The Country-Rock Pioneer
In the five decades of the pioneering folk-rock band Poco, multi-instrumentalist Rusty Young was the one constant, from its founding in 1968 to the last album, released in 2013. Created from the debris of Buffalo Springfield, Poco were pioneers in the country-rock sound that became hugely popular in the 1970s, especially in the work by the Eagles (who would include two Poco alumni). Young’s innovative use of the pedal steel-guitar was one of the essential elements in the development of that sound.

Eventually Young became the frontman of Poco — he wrote their hits Rose of Cimarron and Crazy Love — but he also played on many records by other people, including former Poco pals Jim Messina, Richie Furay and Paul Cotton, as well as the likes of Three Dog Night, Rita Coolidge, Scott McKenzie, Rusty Wier (including on one of my favourites, Texas Morning, featured on Any Major Morning), Gladys Knight & The Pips, and Earl Scruggs. He recorded two solo albums, released in 2017 and 2019.

 

Taking the Rap
It took me until the rapper’s death to realise — or to become curious about — what the letters DMX stand for. Turns out, it’s after a drum machine as well as serving as an acronym for Dark Man X, the moniker Earl Simmons adopted when he began his career in hip hop as a teenager. And a rich career it was, with grammatically loose hits like Where The Hood At?, We Right Here, Party Up (Up In Here),  Who We Be, and X Gon’ Give It To Ya.

Earl’s childhood was rough. Abandoned by his father, he was brutalised by his mother and temporary stepfathers, and in turn became violent himself, culminating in the teenager living on the streets, and spending several stints in jail for petty crimes (such as stealing a dog!) and later for carjacking, interrupting what was already promising to be a career in music. It was during a stint in jail for robbery that he turned his direction to music, with success.

But even during his music career, he found himself in frequent trouble with the law, with several stints in jail over issues like drug possession, animal cruelty, failing to pay child support, or tax fraud. And yet, DMX was also trying to live the Christian life, recording songs about religious faith (and struggles to live up to the ethics of religion), and even planning to become a pastor.

 

The One Season
Big success let Joe Long wait: the bass player joined the Four Seasons in 1965, just as the group’s hits were drying up. He was involved in the influential 1969 prog-rock album The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette, but that was not a commercial success. But Long was still with the band when they made a comeback in 1975 with the hit December 1963 (Oh What A Night). He also played on Frankie Valli’s great solo hit My Eyes Adored You. He might also have played on Valli’s 1967 hit Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, but I couldn’t find any personnel listings to confirm that.

 

The Label Owner
Having cut his musical teeth in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, before it became a soul capital, Quinton Claunch moved to Memphis in 1948, where a few years later he would co-found Hi Records, another great name in soul music.

Claunch, who has died at 99, started out in country, and as such met up with an old pal from the Muscle Shoals days, Sam Philips, who gave him session and production work at Sun Records. In 1957 he co-founded Hi Records, but sold his share in 1959 (some say he was muscled out). A decade later Hi would become an iconic soul label under Willie Mitchell’s guidance.

By then, Claunch had co-founded the soul/gospel label Goldwax, also in Memphis, on which he produced the likes of by James Carr, The Ovations and Spencer Wiggins, including Carr’s classic On The Dark End Of The Street. Goldwax folded in 1969, but when it was relaunched in the 1980s, Claunch served as its president for a few years.

 

The Keyboard Man
You might not know the name Ralph Schuckett, but you’ll have heard him playing keyboards on many songs. He played on Carole King’s It’s Too Late and Where You Lead (electric piano), on Hall & Oates’ She’s Gone and Every Time You Go Away (on the organ), on albums by the likes of The Monkees, James Taylor, Kate Taylor, Todd Rundgren, Bette Midler, Nona Hendryx, Four Tops, Phoebe Snow, The Manhattans, Evelyn King, Rodney Crowell, Cher and Whitney Houston. He also produced acts like Clarence Clemons, Belinda Carlisle and Sophie B. Hawkings, including her 1992 hit Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover.

As always, this post is reproduced in PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

 

Eddie ‘Wally’ Rothe, 66, English drummer, on March 26
Liquid Gold – Any Way You Do It (1980, on drums and backing vocals)

Patrick Juvet, 70, Swiss disco singer-songwriter, on April 1
Patrick Juvet – Je vais me marier, Marie (1973)
Patrick Juvet – Où sont les femmes? (1977)
Patrick Juvet – I Love America (1978)

Oscar Kraal, 50, Dutch pop drummer, on April 1

Morris B.B. Dickerson, 71, bassist, percussionist and singer with War, on April 2
Eric Burdon and War – Spill The Wine (1970, also as co-writer)
War – The World Is A Ghetto (1972, on lead vocals and as co-writer)
War – Low Rider (1975, also as co-writer)

Quindon Tarver, 38, R&B singer, in a car crash on April 2
Quindon Tarver – Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good) (1996)

Tony Pola, Australian rock drummer, on April 2
Beasts Of Bourbon – Just Right (1992, as member)

Agnaldo Timóteo, 84, Brazilian singer and politician, on April 3

Ralph Schuckett, 73, keyboardist, arranger and composer, on April 4
Carole King – Where You Lead (1971, on electric piano)
Hall & Oates – She’s Gone (1974, on organ)
Todd Rundgren – The Death of Rock ‘N’ Roll (1975, on clavinet)
The Manhattans – Forever By Your Side (1983, on piano, arrangement)

Paul Humphrey, 61, member of Canadian new wave band Blue Peter, on April 4

Henry Stephen, 79, Venezuelan rock & roll singer, on April 5

Krzysztof Krawczyk, 74, Polish pop singer, guitarist and composer, on April 5

Sonny ‘Huey’ Simmons, 87, jazz saxophonist, on April 6
Prince Lasha Quintet feat. Sonny Simmons – Congo Call (1963)

Bill Owens, 85, country songwriter, Dolly Parton’s uncle, on April 7
Dolly Parton – Put It Off Until Tomorrow (1967, as writer)

Isla Eckinger, 81, Swiss jazz bassist, on April 9

DMX, 50, rapper, on April 9
DMX – I Can Feel It (1998)
DMX feat. Faith Evans – I Miss You With (2001)

Bob Petric, guitarist of rock band Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, ann. April 10
Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments – My Mysterious Death (Turn It Up) (1995)

Quinton Claunch, 99, guitarist, songwriter, producer and label owner, on April 10
Carl Perkins – Let The Jukebox Keep On Playing (1955, on guitar)
Wanda Jackson – Day Dreaming (1962, as co-writer)
James Carr – Dark End Of The Street (1967, as co-producer)

Bob Porter, 80, blues and jazz producer, arranger and discographer, on April 10
Houston Person – Son Of Man (1970, as producer)

Bosse Skoglund, 85, Swedish drummer, on April 10

Shay Healy, 78, Irish songwriter and chat show host, on April 10
Johnny Logan – What’s Another Year (1980, as writer)

Michel Louvain, 83, Canadian singer, on April 14
Michel Louvain – C’est Un Secret (1965)

Artur Garcia, 83, Portuguese singer, on April 14
Artur Garcia – Meu lament (1962)

Rusty Young, 75, (steel)-guitarist of Poco and songwriter, on April 14
Three Dog Night – Never Been To Spain (1971, on pedal steel guitar)
Poco – You Better Think Twice (1970)
Poco – Rose Of Cimarron (1976, also as writer)
Rusty Young – Waitin’ For The Sun (2017)

Barby Kelly, 45, singer with Irish family pop group Kelly Family, on April 15
The Kelly Family – I Can’t Help Myself (I Love You I Want You) (1996)

Gabriel Raymon, 77, Colombian singer and songwriter, on April 15

Barry Mason, 85, English songwriter and singer, on April 16
Dave Clark Five – Everybody Knows (1964, as co-writer)
Barry Mason – Over The Hills And Far Away (1966, also as co-writer)
Mireille Mathieu  -Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (1968, as co-writer)
Barry Mason – The Last Waltz (2011, also as co-writer)

Mike Mitchell, 77, singer-guitarist of rock band The Kingsmen, on April 17
The Kingsmen – Louie Louie (1963)
The Kingsmen – You Better Do Right (1973)

Black Rob, 51, rapper, on April 17
Black Rob – Whoah! (2000)

Lars Ratz (Ranzenberger), 53, bassist of German metal band Metalium, on April 18

Lew Lewis, English harmonica player, announced April 18
The Stranglers – Old Codger (1978, on harmonica)

Paul Oscher, 71, blues harp & guitar player and singer, on April 18
Muddy Waters – Screamin’ And Cryin’ (1969, on harmonica)
Paul Oscher – I’m Goin’ Away Baby (2005)

Jim Steinman, 73, composer-lyricist, producer, musician, on April 19
Jim Steinman – Bad For Good (1981)
Meat Loaf – I’m Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us (1981, as writer and co-producer)
Barbra Streisand – Left In The Dark (1985, as writer and co-producer)
Pandora’s Box – It’s All Coming Back To Me Now (1989, as writer/producer, spoken intro)

Joaquín Cúneo, 34, Peruvian rock vocalist, on April 19

Bob Lanois, 73, Canadian producer and engineer (Daniel’s brother), on April 19
Willie P. Bennett – Lace And Pretty Flowers (1977, as engineer)

Les McKeown, 65, lead singer of The Bay City Rollers, on April 20
Bay City Rollers – Give A Little Love (1975)
Bay City Rollers – You Made Me Believe In Magic (1977)
Leslie McKeown – Shall I Do It (1979) (1979)

Diamantina Rodríguez, 100, Spanish folk singer, on April 21

Joe Long, 88, bassist of The Four Seasons (1965-75), on April 21
Four Seasons – Something’s On Her Mind (1969)
Frankie Valli – My Eyes Adored You (1975, on bass)
Four Seasons – December ‘63 (Oh What A Night) (1975)

Thomas Fritsch, 77, German actor and singer, on April 21
Thomas Fritsch – Geschichten eines Twen (1964)

Lea Dali Lion, 47, Estonian singer, on April 21

Shock G, 57, rapper with Digital Underground, on April 22
Digital Underground – The Humpty Dance (1990)

Charlie Black, 71, country songwriter, on April 23
George Strait – Write This Down (1999, as co-writer)

Victor Wood, 75, Filipino singer and actor, on April 23

Milva, 81, Italian singer and actress, on April 23
Milva – Bella Ciao (1965)
Milva & Ennio Morricone – D’amore Si Muore (1972)
Milva – Liberta (Freiheit In Meiner Sprache)

Sergio Esquivel, 74, Mexican singer-songwriter, on April 24

Denny Freeman, 76, blues guitarist and keyboardist, on April 25
Denny Freeman – Soul Street (1988)

Jan Verhoeven, 80, Dutch singer with Holland Duo, on April 26

Al Schmitt, 91, engineer and producer, on April 27
Sam Cooke – Cupid (1962, as engineer)
George Benson – Breezin’ (1976, as engineer)
Anita Baker – Body And Soul (1993, as engineer)
Paul Anka – Eye Of The Tiger (2005, as engineer)

Paul Couter, 72, founding guitarist of Belgian rock band TC Matic, on April 27
Tjens-Couter – Walking The Dog (1978)

Sammy Kasule, 69, Ugandan musician and singer with Afrigo Band, on April 27
Afrigo Band – Kasongo (2006)

Mara Abrantes, 86, Brazilian-Portuguese singer and actress, on April 28

Bobby Donaho, 73, drummer of garage rock band Bad Seeds, on April 28
The Bad Seeds – Taste Of The Same (1965)

Anita Lane, 61, Australian singer-songwriter, announced April 28
Anita Lane – The Next Man That I See (2001)

Nick Weaver, 37, guitarist of Australian rock band Deep Sea Arcade, on April 29
Deep Sea Arcade – Close To Me (2018)

Will Mecum, guitarist with rock band Karma to Burn, on April 29
Karma To Burn – Ma Petite Mort (1997)

John Hinch, 73, British drummer (Judas Priest, 1973-75), on April 29
Judas Priest – Rocka Rolla (1974)

Ali McKenzie, singer of British rock band The Birds, announced April 30
The Birds – You’re On My Mind (1964)

Toni Dalli, 88, Italian singer, announced April 30
Toni Dalli – More Than Ever (1958)

Ray Reyes, 51, Puerto Rican singer with teen band Menudo, on April 30
Menudo – Si Tu No Estas (1983, on lead vocals)

John Dee Holeman, 92, guitarist, singer and songwriter, April 30
John Dee Holeman – I Don’t Care Where You Go (1992)

Tony Markellis, rock bassist (Trey Anastasio Band) on April 30
Trey Anastasio – Ether Sunday (2002, on bass)

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