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Any Major Beatles In French Vol. 1

September 21st, 2021 13 comments

 

The Beatles, to state the obvious, made a big impact throughout Western culture. And in places like France and Spain, they helped give a name to a subculture of 1960s followers of pop culture: Yé-yé. The name derived from the English “Yeah Yeah”, such as in the hit She Loves You.  Building on the already existing rock & roll scene, spearheaded by Johnny Hallyday, yé-yé initially drew from the British “Beat” scene, but expanded to incorporate different genres, from bubblegum pop to baroque pop.

The leading exponents of yé-yé included the likes of Françoise Hardy, Sylvie Vartan (who married Johnny Hallyday in 1965), Claude François and France Gall, with Serge Gainsbourg one of the brains behind the scenes. Hardy actually was the first to sing the words “Yeah yeah yeah yeah” on a French recording, on La fille avec toi in 1962, giving birth to the term yé-yé. The yeahs in She Loves You in 1963 cemented it.

Unlike many other European countries, France had a thriving scene of songs in their own language. This meant that many English-language songs would be recorded in French. As the two collections of The Beatles in French show, that didn’t necessarily extend to only the big hits but also to lesser-known album tracks, such as There’s A Place, It Won’t Be Long, I’m A Loser, The Night Before, You Won’t See Me or Your Mother Should Know.

For the yé-yé period, which lasted till roughly 1967, there was an abundance of Beatles covers. After that, they became less frequent. This first mix covers songs which The Beatles issued between 1962 and 1965, and most of the French covers come from the same timespan.

The majority of the acts here are from France, or, like Petula Clark, recorded in French for the French market. But a few performers represent Québec, which had a thriving beat scene itself. The Canadian acts here are Les Bel Canto, Pierre Lalonde, Les Hou-Lops, Les Baronets, Christian & Getro, Les Monarques, and  Jacques Salvail.

Also not French but a star in France was Nancy Holloway, a US jazz singer who in the late 1950s performed at the Moulin Rouge before opening her own nightclub in Paris. But in the 1960s, already in her early thirties, Holloway had a line of hits with French covers of English-language pop hits, such as Don’t Make Me Over, My Guy, Hit The Road Jack, Sealed With A Kiss, and The Beatles’ She Loves You, which features on this mix. She died in 2019 at 86.

Holloway is not the only black act here. Les Surfs, a group of siblings, were stars in Madagascar when in 1963 they tried their luck in France — and after a TV performance became stars, topping the charts with a French cover of Be My Baby. They also had a string of hits in Spain and Italy before breaking up in 1971.

Two other acts came from afar. Tiny Yong was born in 1944 in present-day Cambodia of Vietnamese ancestry (her proper name is Thiên Hương). After her family moved to Paris in 1958, Yong was a teenage actress on the stage and recorded as a singer of chanson and cabaret. She hit her stride, however, as a yé-yé singer, having a string of hits before quitting the recording studios in 1966 and show business altogether in 1970. She then started a new career as a restaurant owner.

You might think that a group named Les Chaussettes Noires might have black members, but the noir in the name refers to socks. The band helped pioneer rock & roll in France in the early 1960s, with future star Eddy Mitchell as their frontman. Mitchell left in 1962 to pursue his solo career, so by the time the black socks recorded I Wanna Be Your Man in 1964, he was gone. And soon after  recording that, Les Chaussettes Noires split. Eddy Mitchell also features on this mix, with his version of You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.

Les Gam’s was an attempt at a French girl group. The quartet emanated from a popular youth choir called Les Djinns, which even made a couple of appearances of The Ed Sullivan Show. Les Gam’s — their name was an acronym of the members’ first names, plus a gratuitous apostrophe — mostly recorded French of covers of English-language songs, such as All My Loving, which attracted some attention, but by 1964 their time was already up.

In their time, Les Gam’s occasionally collaborated with Les Lionceaux (The Lion Cubs), who were founded in the early 1960s as a mostly instrumental band. They backed Johnny Hallyday, and enjoyed some popularity in the slipstream of The Beatles’ success. By 1965, they split.

Given the war France waged against Algerian independence from 1954-62, the name of the Algerian group here seems, well, interesting: Les Missiles. I haven’t been able to find much information about the group, but they were the sons of colonialism rather than local. The group was active from 1963-68. Their best-known song, Sacré Dollar, is a cover of Hoyt Axton’s Greenback Dollar, but the French lyrics are far more militantly anti-capitalist than those of the original. They feature here with their version of I’m A Loser.

As always, the mix fits on a standard CD-R, includes fait-maison covers, and illustrated PDF of the above text. PW in comments.

1. Les Bel Canto – J’en suis fou (Love Me Do) (1965)
2. Petula Clark – Tu perds ton temps (Please, Please Me) (1963)
3. Claude François – Des bises de moi pour toi (From Me To You) (1963)
4. Lucky Blondo – J’ai un secret a te dire (Do You Want To Know A Secret?) (1965)
5. Les Surfs – Adieu chagrin (There’s A Place) (1964)
6. Johnny Hallyday – Quand je l’ai vue devant moi (I Saw Her Standing There) (1963)
7. Nancy Holloway – Elle t’aime (She Loves You) (1964)
8. Pierre Lalonde – Oh! Donne moi ta main (I Want To Hold Your Hand) (1964)
9. Les Gam’s – Toi l’ami (All My Loving) (1964)
10. Chaussettes Noires – Je Te Veux Toute A Moi (I Wanna Be Your Man) (1964)
11. Martine – Il Faut Revenir (This Boy) (1964)
12. Les Lionceaux – Le temps est long (It Won’t Be Long) (1964)
13. Thierry Vincent – Je n’peux l’acheter (Can’t Buy Me Love) (1964)
14. Frank Alamo – Je me bats pour gagner (A Hard Day’s Night) (1964)
15. Les Hou-Lops – Ces mots qu’on oublie un jour (Things We Said Today) (1965)
16. Richard Anthony – La Corde au Cou (I Should Have Known Better) (1964)
17. Michèle Torr – Et le l’aime (And I Love Her) (1965)
18. Les Baronets – Si je te donne mon cœur (If I Fell) (1964)
19. Christian & Getro – Je suis revenu (I’ll Be Back) (1969)
20. Les Monarques – Elle est si belle (No Reply) (1965)
21. Les Missiles – Il faut oser (I’m A Loser) (1965)
22. Tiny Yong – Huit Jours Par Semaine (Eight Days A Week) (1965)
23. Akim – Hum! Qu’elle est belle (I Feel Fine) (1965)
24. Olivier Despax – Ne me mets pas du bleu (Yes It Is) (1965)
25. Dick Rivers – Prends un ticket avec moi (Ticket To Ride) (1965)
26. Eddy Mitchell – Tu Ferais Mieux De L’oublier (You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away) (1965)
27. Les ‘Faux’ Frères – Une fille pour deux garçons (I Like Too Much) (1965)
28. Renée Martel – Un certain soir (The Night Before) (1970)
29. Jacques Salvail – Y’a pas d’mal (It’s Only Love) (1975)
30. Michèle Arnaud – Je croyais (Yesterday) (1966)

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Barry Gibb Songbook Vol. 1 (Shaven Edition)

August 26th, 2021 2 comments

On September 1, Barry Gibb will reach the age of 75 — as did Jimmy Webb a couple of weeks ago — which is a good time to post the first of two compilation of songs which Gibb wrote, by himself or in collaboration with his brothers.

This first mix covers the pre-disco, pre-falsetto, pre-beard-and-blowdried-hair, Gibb period, from the Bee Gees’ 1966 UK debut single Spicks And Specks (covered here by Status Quo in their psych-rock incarnation) to 1974’s Charade. The second period in the Barry Gibb songbook will cover the incredible comeback as a disco act, and the work that followed the genre’s decline, mostly for other artists.

Barry Gibb, clean-shaven with a dandy’s shirt, on the cover of Germany’s Bravo magazine of 5 June 1968. (See more Bravo covers and posters at bravoposters.wordpress.com)

I have little knowledge of Barry Gibb’s personal life. I know he has at times fought with his brothers — which is quite natural; brothers can be assholes to each other — and he has mourned the death of his three younger brothers, which is a lot of heartache. He has been married to the same woman for 51 years, which in showbiz is remarkable.

The Gibb brothers were remarkably mature songwriters when they broke big in the latter half of the 1960s. Their lyrics were marked by a great deal of empathy, if sometimes a bit overambitious and occasionally verging on the mawkish. But even when they did so, the tunes usually compensated for such shortcomings. Still, lyrics such as those of, say, How Can You Mend A Broken Hearts (only one choice of versions for this mix!) or To Love Somebody are accompanied by sweet tunes that tell the song’s story.

Bee Gees lyrics could be cryptic. A lot of the masterpiece album Odessa is impenetrable, for example. But that album also included Marley Purt Drive, a storytelling song which is both empathetic and amusing. Odessa, like most Bee Gees material, was produced by the lads themselves. Barry — with and without Maurice and Robin — produced many of his compositions, especially later in their career. But on this mix we can hear P.P. Arnold — a great interpreter of Gibb songs — call out to Barry call out to Barry at the end of her song.

Many songs here are pop standards — Words, I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You, First Of May, New York Mining Disaster 1941, Massachusetts. I like them all, but there’s one Bee Gees hit I really don’t like: the cheesy Don’t Forget To Remember. There are no good covers of it; I include the most bearable of them as a bonus track, alongside three alternative covers of featured songs.

Ah, yes, the beard distinction… I call this first collection the shaven era (guess how I’ll mark Volume 2), but I’m quite aware that Barry started to dabble with facial hair by around 1970. I might not know a lot about the man, but I do know that.

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

1. Bee Gees – World (1968)
2. Status Quo – Spicks And Specks (1968)
3. Tim Rose – I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You (1970)
4. P.P. Arnold – Bury Me Down By The River (1969)
5. Sweet Inspirations – To Love Somebody (1968)
6. Al Green – How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (1972)
7. Bettye Swann – Words (1969)
8. Nina Simone – I Can’t See Nobody (1969)
9. Sarah Vaughan – Run To Me (1972)
10. José Feliciano – And The Sun Will Shine (1968)
11. Vicky Leandros – Massachusetts (1967)
12. The Marbles – Only One Woman (1968)
13. Ashton, Gardner & Dyke – New York Mining Disaster 1941 (1970)
14. Richie Havens – I Started A Joke (1969)
15. Lulu – Melody Fair (1970)
16. Bonnie St. Claire – Marley Purt Drive (1969)
17. Jennifer Warnes – In The Morning (1972)
18. Olivia Newton-John – Come On Over (1976)
19. Sandie Shaw – Sun In My Eyes (1969)
20. Matt Monro – First Of May (1972)
21. Dean Martin – Sweetheart (1971)
22. Astrud Gilberto – Holiday (1970)
23. Samantha Sang – Charade (1978)
24. Moulin Rouge – Lonely Days (1979)
Bonus Tracks:
John & Anne Ryder – Don’t Forget To Remember (1969)
Percy Sledge – I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You (1970)
Flying Burrito Bros feat. Gram Parsons – To Love Somebody (1973)
The Wallflowers – I Started A Joke (2001)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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Any Major Jimmy Webb Collection Vol. 3

August 12th, 2021 3 comments

On August 15, one of the great songwriters, of any generation, turns 75. It’s a good occasion to catch up with a long overdue third collection of Jimmy Webb compositions. The Jimmy Webb Collection Vol. 1 ran in May 2013, Vol. 2 a couple of months later.

Both of those mixes provide proof for just how many great songs — some more famous than others —  Webb wrote. Of course, tracks like Wichita Lineman, Galveston, Up Up And Away, Worst That Could Happen, MacArthur Park, or By The Time I Get To Phoenix (which I song-swarmed some time ago) are entrenched classics, but the list of superb Webb songs is so much longer.

Webb had a way of writing melodies that take residence under your skin, and lyrics that belong right up there with those of the likes of Hal David and Cole Porter. And like those two, Webb could do gentle pathos and humour. More than that, Webb could articulate extraordinary ideas in a pithy line. Take, by way of example, this line of If You Must Leave My Life: “Somewhere in my mouth, there’ll always be the taste of you.” Every time I hear it, it evokes a range of emotions from my own life: happy memories, bittersweet nostalgia, reflective regret…Webb enjoyed an astonishing series of hits before he was 25. In the 1970s, commercial success diminished, to the point that Webb wrote songs that expressed his frustration with the music business. The opening track here, Song Seller, is one of them.

The albums Webb recorded himself didn’t perform well, despite great reviews, which is a pity. One song here is sung by Webb. It’s from his excellent 1972 LP Letters, and features his sister Susan on co-vocals. Joni Mitchell fans might want to seek it out for her backing vocals on the song Simile (she also appeared on 1974’s Land’s End).

Jimmy’s vocals feature on another track on this collection, Once In The Morning (And Once At Night) by The Supremes. It comes from a 1972 album with the thoroughly self-explanatory title The Supremes Produced And Arranged By Jimmy Webb. Which brings us to the other Webbian superpower: the arrangements. As it is with Bacharach, you can recognise a Webb arrangement. There certainly is something as the Jimmy Webb sound. Apparently, Webb is the only artist ever to have received Grammy Awards for music, lyrics, and orchestration. I recommend Thelma Houston’s debut album Sunshower as the best representative example of these three qualities at work.

As always, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-galvestoned covers, and the above linernotes in a PDF. PW in comments.

1. Raiders – Song Seller (1972)
2. Jimmy Webb – When Can Brown Begin (1972)
3. Johnny Rivers – Carpet Man (1967)
4. Dusty Springfield – Magic Garden (1968)
5. Thelma Houston – Someone Is Standing Outside (1969)
6. Eddie Kendricks – I Did It All For You (1971)
7. Billy Paul – This Is Your Life (1972)
8. Joe Cocker – Just Like Always (1982)
9. Swing Out Sister – Forever Blue (1989)
10. Art Garfunkel – Crying In My Sleep (1977)
11. Cher – Just This One Time (1975)
12. Kenny Loggins – If You Be Wise (1977)
13. David Crosby – Too Young To Die (1993)
14. Tanya Tucker – There’s A Tennessee Woman (1990)
15. Waylon Jennings – If You See Me Getting Smaller (1977)
16. Revelation – One Of The Nicer Things (1970)
17. Brooklyn Bridge – Requiem (1968)
18. Richard Harris – Name Of My Sorrow (1968)
19. Arrival – (Let My Life Be) Your Love Song (1971)
20. Little Janice – Mirror Mind (1969)
21. The Supremes – Once In The Morning (And Once At Night) (1972)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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Any Major Neil Diamond Songbook

July 22nd, 2021 8 comments

 

When I was little, Neil Diamond was one of my mother’s favourite singers, alongside Cat Stevens. She’d also get excited when Engelbert Humperdinck appeared on TV, but she had none of his records. I assume that more than us crooning, she liked Engelbert’s luxuriously blow-dried hair. Of which Neil Diamond had a lot, too. Plus the lamé jackets.

As I became a teenager, I regarded Diamond as lamé and lame. His easy listening music was aimed at my mom, not at me. Forever In Blue Jeans was a boomer hymn, not aimed at my generation. And I assumed the name was a presumptuous moniker (turns out, it’s the guy’s real name).

For a long time, I didn’t dare to go near Diamond. Then I became the age of the people at whom Diamond had aimed his music. I still don’t go for the Forever In Blue Jeans stuff or the Streisand duet, but his 1960s and earlier ’70s stuff… well, that works for me. I also have a lot of time for his 2000s albums, especially the wonderful 12 Songs from 2005.

What a pity, then, that for many people, Neil Diamond means the hackneyed DA-DA-DA inserted by sports crowds into Sweet Caroline.

Diamond (who was born in 1941 and grew up in Brooklyn with future duet partner Barbra Streisand in his orbit) started out as part of a singing duo, Neil & Jack, and as a Brill Building songwriter. The duo flopped, but he made a name as a songwriter for acts like The Monkees, whose mega-hit I’m A Believer he wrote. His first Top 20 composition was in 1965, with Sunday And Me for Jay and the Americans. By 1966 he had a recording contract, recording his first hit, Solitary Man. It was the beginning of a fruitful career.

This mix features covers of songs from that long career. Strangely, some great songs have not been covered (such as the magnificent Brooklyn Roads) or not covered by many acts other than your James Lasts and Hugo Montenegros.

When UB40 had a hit with Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine in 1983, they apparently had no idea that it was a song by the lame-suited balladeer. The group thought they were covering (and, we may assume, improving) an original by reggae singer Tony Tribe, whose own cover of the song was released in 1969, two years after Diamond’s (Tribe’s version is added here as a bonus track. It might have been inspired by the 1968 soul version of Jamaica’s Jimmy James & The Vagabonds).  Several reggae artists covered Diamond: Holly Holy, for example, was covered to good effect by both Byron Lee & The Dragonaires and Willie Lindo; Bunny Scott did I Am…I Said; Marcia Griffiths did Play Me. As recently as 2013, Third World got their hands on Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon.

This collection includes a handful of songs written by Diamond but first recorded by others:  I’m A Believer and A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You were first hits for The Monkees, but feature here as covers — the latter in Diamond’s version. The Monkees themselves feature with their original of Diamond’s composition Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow), The Box Tops with Ain’t No Way, the Jay & The Americans track, and Glen Campbell with Sunflower.

As ever, CD-R length, home-song-sung-blued covers, linernotes in illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Neil Diamond – I’m A Believer (1970)
2. Bobby Womack – Sweet Caroline (1972)
3. Jr. Walker & The All Stars – Holly Holy (1970)
4. Deep Purple – Kentucky Woman (1968)
5. David Garrick – I Got The Feelin’ (1967)
6. Elvis Presley – And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind (1970)
7. Glen Campbell – Sunflower (1977)
8. Johnny Cash feat. Tom Petty – Solitary Man (2000)
9. Shane MacGowan & The Popes – Cracklin’ Rosie (1994)
10. The Specials – A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You (1996)
11. Marcia Griffiths – Play Me (1974)
12. Jimmy James & The Vagabonds – Red Red Wine (1968)
13. Millie Jackson – Love On The Rocks (1981)
14. Bunny Walters – Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon (1972)
15. Caterina Caselli – La casa degli angeli (I Am…I Said) (1971)
16. The Box Tops – Ain’t No Way (1969)
17. Wishful Thinking – Cherry, Cherry (1967)
18. The Monkees – Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) (1967)
19. Lafayette – Porcupine Pie (1973)
20. Frank Sinatra – Song Sung Blue (1980)
21. Peggy Lee – Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show (1969)
22. Malcolm & The Les Humphries Singers – Soolaimon (1970)
23. Jay & The Americans – Sunday And Me (1966)
Bonus Tracks:
Elvis Presley – Sweet Caroline (1970)
Willie Lindo – Holly Holy (1974)
Tony Tribe – Red, Red Wine (1969)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Leonard Cohen
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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Categories: Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs, Songwriters Tags:

Joni Mitchell’s Blue Recovered

June 30th, 2021 1 comment

 

 

I have a terrible confession to make: I find it difficult to listen to Joni Mitchell when she hits those high notes. I know the loss of mine: Mitchell obviously is a great interpreter of her lyrics, and because her lyrics are so personal, the obviously most authentic one. Moreover, few singers convey irony in the way Mitchell does. And yet, I struggle with her singing — whereas I tolerate the far less accomplished warblings of other singers; Dylan being an obvious example.

To me, Joni Mitchell (in her folk period, at least) is like broccoli: a lot of people love it, and it’s really good for you. But I’d rather eat string beans. I do like the look of broccoli though. And to swing the vegetable metaphor back to the artist, I love many of Mitchell’s songs. And I own several Mitchell albums.

It’s a tribulation that manifests itself this year in particular, as the world marks the 50th anniversary of Joni Mitchell’s Blue album. In previous months I marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark albums Tapestry and What’s Going On by recovering them. Blue is in their landmark league, and like the albums released by Carole King in February 1971 and Marvin Gaye in May that year, was so upon its release on 22 June 1971. It broke a mold: here was a high-profile album by an independent woman singing lyrics that were highly personal and at times brutally honest. And her experiences and that candidness with which she expressed the freedom she asserted in song — in her life and in her travels — gave a voice to women who could identify with or at least aspire to them.

 

 

Given all that, recovering Blue seems a task of necessity. Having done so has allowed me to appreciate the genius of the album without the distraction of my voice hang-up. The past 20 years have seen a great number of covers. Strangely, between the late 1970s and mid-’90s, there seemed to be a widespread reluctance to cover songs from Blue, even the much-covered River and A Case Of You. So on this mix, there is a gap between early/mid-1970s and the late-1990s.

The most surprising cover here is by Nazareth, whose version of This Flight Tonight is a proper reworking. Apparently its riff inspired the more famous one of Heart’s Barracuda. Conversely, the most faithful cover here is that by Goldie Hawn’s of Carey (the song which I’d pick as my favourite on Blue). Turns out, Goldie could sing.

The “best” cover here might be Prince doing A Case Of You (strange that I love a good falsetto, but not soprano). Or maybe Brandi Carlile, that dedicated and superb interpreter of Mitchell’s songs, singing Blue’s rawest song, Little Green, live on a webcast in July 2020. Her high notes I do like, just to prove the randomness of my Joni problem (Listen to Carlile’s amusing Joni story). And Dianne Reeves’ version of River is quite outstanding. I add Rosie Thomas’ lovely version as a bonus.

The Supremes version of Blue’s opener, All I Want, was arranged and produced by Jimmy Webb, who will feature prominently here in a couple of week’s time. That mix will include a song from the same album that featured the song here.

The star of Joni Mitchell is always the lyrics. So here are ten songs of those wonderful words recovered, with home-dulcimered covers. PW in comments.

1. The Supremes – All I Want (1972)
2. Mandy Lagan – My Old Man (2018) BUY
3. Brandi Carlile – Little Green (2020)
4. Goldie Hawn – Carey (1972)
5. Cat Power – Blue (2008)
6. Wilson Phillips – California (2004)
7. Nazareth – This Flight Tonight (1973)
8. Dianne Reeves – River (1999)
9. Prince – A Case Of You (2007)
10. Legião Urbana – The Last Time I Saw Richard (1999)

GET IT! or HERE!

More Recovered albums:
Tapestry
What’s Going On
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: Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

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:

Tapestry Recovered

February 9th, 2021 11 comments

February 10 marks the 50th anniversary of the great Tapestry album by Carole King, prompting the repost of this piece from 2012. It is one of the defining LPs of the early 1970s, and for me one of the go-to albums, perhaps the go-to album, if I do not know what else to play.

By the time Carole King released Tapestry she already was a veteran in the music business, having been a teenage songwriter for Aldon Music at 1650 Broadway (and the subject of Neil Sedaka’s hit Oh Carol; she responded with an answer record titled Oh Neil). She was 18 when she had her first #1 as a songwriter, with The Shirelles’ version of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow in 1961. In the ten years between that and the release of Tapestry she had a prolific songwriting career, but as a recording artist she had only a minor hit with It Might As Well Rain Till September. Her uneven 1970 debut album, Writer, was a commercial disappointment; it has many bright spots, but cannot nearly compare with the sublime perfection of Tapestry.

So when Tapestry became a critical triumph and a mammoth hit after its release in February 1971, topping the US album charts for 15 weeks, it was something of a surprise.

 

Jim McCrary in 1978

The cover photo was taken by Jim McCrary (who died in 2012) in the living room of her house at 8815 Appian Way in Laurel Canyon (McCrary’s website says it was at Wonderland Avenue; he also took the photo of the cover for Music, the location of which he identified as being on Appian Way). At first sight it is an unremarkable shot. A woman in her late 20s sits on a windowsill. The photo is in soft focus. And yet, the image is compelling. Viewing it feels like an intrusion into an intimate moment, a woman feeling at peace in her domain. Her bare feet suggest that we are not really invited into this domestic scene; if we came knocking at her door, she might put on footwear and her serene body language might change. And the cat would scram and hide.

The feline, who went by the name of Telemachus, was not there by accident, as it would appear. It may spoil the enjoyment of the cover a little to know that the tabby was a spontaneously employed prop. McCrary later recalled seeing Telemachus sleeping on his pillow across the room. Recalling a Kodak survey which revealed that after children, cats were the most popular photo subject, he asked King whether he could use the cat in a photo. “I saw a cat, and I wanted to get something good,” he remembered. Having ascertained that the cat was tame, he carried Telemachus on his pillow to the window ledge. He managed to take three photos before the cat, no doubt annoyed at having been awoken, had enough and made tracks. But McCrary had the perfect shot: the barefoot Carole with sunlight filtering upon her, holding a tapestry that she was busy creating, and her cat sitting in front of her, as if guarding the singer.

A remastered version of Tapestry was re-released in 2008 with a bonus CD featuring all but one of the tracks of the album in live versions, recorded between 1973 and 1976. It is highly recommended. The back-cover of it (pictured above) features another photo from the McCrary session.Here’s a mix of cover versions of the songs of Tapestry, with an appearance by Carole King from that bonus CD, in their original tracklisting order. Given my bias for soul covers, many of them are of that genre. Most were recorded soon after the release of Tapestry. One of the exceptions is the cover of Way Over Yonder by David Roe, a New Orleans street musician. Fans of The Originals will be interested in Kate Taylor’s version of Home Again, which was released shortly before Tapestry came out. Finally, the vocals on the Quincy Jones version of Smackwater Jack are by, unusually, Quincy himself.

TRACKLISTING
1. Carole King – I Feel The Earth Move (live) (1973)
2. Marlena Shaw – So Far Away (1972)
3. Mike James Kirkland – It’s Too Late (1972)
4. Kate Taylor – Home Again (1971)
5. Barbra Streisand – Beautiful (1971)
6. David Roe – Way Over Yonder (2004)
7. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You’ve Got A Friend (1972)
8. Faith Hill – Where You Lead (1995)
9. Zulema – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (1972)
10. Quincy Jones – Smackwater Jack (1971)
11. Jackie & Roy – Tapestry (1972)
12. Laura Nyro & Labelle – (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Live) (1971)
BONUS: The Isley Brothers – It’s Too Late (1972)

GET IT! or HERE!

 

More Cover Mixes
Previous great covers
More CD-R Mixes

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

With The Beatles Recovered

December 8th, 2020 6 comments

 

Forty years ago tonight I decided to give the “Blue Album” of The Beatles, the 1967-70 compilation, a spin. Strawberry Fields Forever still skipped, and I still skipped Old Brown Shoe, a song I have never liked. I don’t recall what made me revisit The Beatles that night, but the LP was still on my turntable next morning.

That morning I had just awoken to the news on the radio alarm clock. I was in the motion of sitting up when the news reader announced that John Lennon had been murdered overnight. I sank back. How on earth do Beatles get assassinated? And John Lennon, my favourite who had just released his long-awaited comeback single? Unthinkable.

But I had to rouse myself to go to school. At the age of 14, you don’t have the option of exercising discretion in making grief over the murder of a celebrity the reason for your absence from the reception of an education. True to form, the assholes I went to school with “congratulated” me and the other Beatles fan in our class on the death of Lennon.

That other fan, let’s call him Tommy (it’s close enough), and I had never been friends. Now we bonded over the death of Lennon, and became very good friends, a friendship that lasted until I moved away two years later and we lost touch. Tommy, whom I have encountered again of Facebook, is still a dedicated Beatles fanatic, unconditionally loyal to the cherished memory of St Lennon. I never lost my love for The Beatles, though I’d be hardpressed to join Tommy in canonising John Lennon.

Lennon’s canonisation was inevitable, given his charisma, his musical genius, and the nature of his death. He was one of music’s martyrs, and hagiography allowed for no taint on his tale. I won’t go into the complexities of Lennon’s character, but I’ll say as much as that there was much to admire, and some things that were not. Like JFK, John Lennon had feet of clay.

Two months ago, on Lennon’ 80th birthday in October, I posted the Please, Please Me Recovered mix. Now, on the 40th anniversary of his murder, I offer the final Beatles Recovered collection, of With The Beatles, the group’s second album which was released in the UK on November 22, 1963. This brings to a close a six-year-long series of all Beatles albums in cover versions, in the song sequence of the original LPs (and posted on the 50th anniversary of their release).

It all started in 2014 with Beatles For Sale, which many regard as The Beatles’ weakest album. But it features so many superb tracks that it can’t be dismissed as easily as that. To my mind, With The Beatles is the group’s poorest album, but the one with the best cover (I wrote about the making of the cover some years ago).

Six of the 14 tracks were covers (those featured in this mix all came out after the Beatles versions). Of the own compositions, two of the first three tracks stand out — All My Loving and It Won’t Long — thereafter it’s hard to spot any classics, other, perhaps, than I Wanna Be Your Man, which The Beatles lent to the Rolling Stones for their first Top 20 hit. But, with one exception, those uncelebrated tracks aren’t bad. They just are not the level of genius as some of the songs that followed, and a coupler are improved in the cover versions here. The exception is Harrison’s Don’t Bother Me is a contender for worst Beatles song of all, in lyrics, musically, in production, and in George’s off-key singing. One night argue that Hold Me Tight is not very good either, but on this mix Count Basie turns it into great jazz tune.

I Wanna Be Your Man is represented in this collection by Suzi Quatro, in her 1973 glam rock pomp. Suzi didn’t bother to adapt the gender, though she sings the word “man” with a knowing wink. Well, Ringo sang The Shirelles’ Boys without changing gender, so why shouldn’t Quatro?

Two Beatles classics of songs didn’t find their way on to the album: I Want To Hold Your Hand, with the flip side being the gorgeous This Boy (in the UK and Europe). The former is represented on this mix by the Sparks, but I include another version as a bonus. It’s by Enoch Light and His Orchestra, who I like to think inspired for the name Electric Light Orchestra (who also feature here). This Boy closes the mix, and in Joe Bataan’s version, it is perhaps the highlight of this collection.

And with that, all Beatles albums have been recovered. Homebeatled covers and this whole text in illustrated PDF included. PW in comments.

1. Billy Cross – It Won’t Be Long (1986)
2. Louise Goffin – All I’ve Got To Do (1979)
3. Matt Monro – All My Loving (1965)
4. Gregory Phillips – Don’t Bother Me (1965)
5. Sonny Curtis – Little Child (1965)
6. Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston – Till There Was You (1965)
7. Carpenters – Please Mr Postman (1975)
8. Electric Light Orchestra – Roll Over Beethoven (1972)
9. Count Basie and His Orchestra – Hold Me Tight (1966)
10. William Bell – You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me (1977)
11. Suzi Quatro – I Wanna Be Your Man (1973)
12. Los Reno – Con el diablo en mi corazón (Devil In Her Heart) (1965)
13. Pretenders – Not A Second Time (1990)
14. Flying Lizards – Money (1979)
15. Sparks – I Want To Hold Your Hand (1976)
16. Joe Bataan – This Boy (1972)
Bonus Track:
Enoch Light and His Orchestra – I Want To Hold Your Hand (1964)

GET IT! or HERE!

On earlier versions, the Matt Munro track was corrupted. If your version has a long silence, try this one.

More Beatles Recovered:
Beatles Recovered: Please, Please Me
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles Recovered: White Album
Beatles Recovered: Yellow Submarine
Beatles Recovered: Abbey Road
Beatles Revcovered: Let It Be

MORE BEATLES STUFF!

Categories: Beatles, Covers Mixes Tags:

Beatles Recovered: Please Please Me

October 8th, 2020 8 comments

On 9 October, John Lennon would have turned 80. It’s a troubling math: the original rock & rollers are all octogenarians, or are inexorably heading that way (some, of course, already are nonagenarians). But then, almost all original punks are in their sixties now. And the punks would have been children when The Beatles first hit the scene in 1962/63.

After the initially stuttering success of first single, Love Me Do, the four lads from Liverpool suddenly exploded to become a phenomenon. Nobody had an idea about what incredible history would be launched when The Beatles — aged between 22 and 19 — entered the EMI studios in London’s Abbey Road in 1962 to record their first couple of sides, nor even when they returned on 11 February to record the rest of their debut album.

For the accomplished George Martin, it apparently was an act of penance to be assigned the job of producing these raw amateurs. It didn’t matter much that they didn’t have much material of their own; it was standard to record cover versions as fillers, and that first album was full of them: Anna, Chains, Boys, Baby It’s You, A Taste Of Honey, Twist And Shout (hear the originals of these at …..).

But they also had self-written songs which suggested that these boys McCartney and Lennon had something special. Love Me Do, Please Please Me, I Saw Her Standing There, Do You Want to Know A Secret, or PS I Love You are all excellent to very good songs. Even Ask Me Why, There’s A Place and Misery are not bad, though quite forgettable.

Most of the album was recorded, almost as a live set, on that single day on 11 February 1963. By then, Love Me Do had peaked at #17, and Please Please Me was climbing up the charts, were it would peak at #2. The album cover still suggested Love Me Do was the drawcard, but more or less coinciding with the LP’s release, From Me To You broke big, the first of 11 consecutive #1s.

So here we have Please Please Me recovered, with Carole King singing her composition Chains — which The Beatles covered from The Cookies — and Sonny Curtis giving Do You Want To Know A Secret a flamenco treatment. Towards the end it all becomes a bit novelty, with Mae West drawling her way through From Me To You in the Christmas spirit — you want to hear it, but not for the appreciation of excellence of vocal.

I’m adding the non-album single tracks of the Please Please Me era, particularly She Loves You. Here it is performed by 1980s English comedian Ted Chippington, whose stand-up relied on his delivery of jokes so bad that some idiots would heckle him — and these trapped dupes would be the subject of his jokes. Seeing Chippington in action was a delight. As is his She Loves You, which fuses the Peter Sellers of the past with the Richard Cheese of the future. (The teutonic Sellers version is included as a bonus track.)

As always, CD-R length, home-yeah-yeahed covers. PW in comments.

1. Jerry Garcia – I Saw Her Standing There (1982)
2. Flamin’ Groovies – Misery (1976)
3. The Tams – Anna (Go To Him) (1964)
4. Carole King – Chains (1980)
5. Lee Curtis & The All Stars – Boys (1965)
6. Les Lionceaux – Je suis fou (Ask Me Why) (1964)
7. Mary Wells – Please Please Me (1965)
8. Sandie Shaw – Love Me Do (1969)
9. Keely Smith – P.S. I Love You (1965)
10. Smith – Baby, It’s You (1969)
11. Sonny Curtis – Do You Want To Know A Secret (1964)
12. Sarah Vaughan – A Taste Of Honey (1965)
13. The Smithereens – There’s A Place (2008)
14. The Miracles – Twist And Shout (1963)
15. Mae West – With Love From Me To You (1966)
16. Ted Chippington – She Loves You (1986)
17. The Merseyboys – I’ll Get You (1964)

GET IT! or HERE!

More Beatles Recovered:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles Recovered: White Album
Beatles Recovered: Yellow Submarine
Beatles Recovered: Abbey Road
Beatles Revcovered: Let It Be

Categories: Beatles, Covers Mixes Tags:

Any Major John Prine Songbook

April 16th, 2020 10 comments

 

Just days after we learned of the passing of Bill Withers, John Prine left us, a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic. I made a Bill Withers Songbook mix , and here’s one for Prine.

Within their respective genres, Withers and Prine shared similarities. Where Withers never was quite the insider in soul music, so was Prine very much not an insider in country music. Both infused their songs with folk influences. Both had an acute sense of and empathy for the human condition, born of kind hearts, and this found expression in their often poetic lyrics.

Prine knew how to write a good tune and deliver it convincingly, but his genius resided in his lyrics. Like a good country singer, he knew how to tell a story. Sometimes he named his protagonists, and you got to know them in the space of three minutes. From just a few lines, you can picture the drug-addicted Vietnam vet Sam Stone, or the lonely outsiders Lydia and Donald.

He wrote Angel From Montgomery from the perspective of a prematurely aged middle-aged woman, and persuasively so. Extraordinarily, Prine was 24 and from Chicago when he wrote the song. Prine never was a jailbird, but he could imagine himself in prison at Christmas (in a song which really should have been covered by The Pogues).

Hello In There, is another great example of Pine’s empathy, perhaps his best. And that empathy is not just in the lyrics but also in their delivery and the song’s arrangement. Take those matter-of-fact clipped lines about the dispersal of the kids and losing Davy in the Korean War, juxtaposed with the drawn out lines of longing, about old trees growing stronger and old rivers growing wilder every day.

Of course, the song about lonely older people has particular relevance during the health crisis that killed Prine. Fittingly, Brandi Carlile sung that song as a tribute on Stephen Colbert’s show. Prefacing Hello In There, Carlile puts it eloquently: “It reminds us that old people aren’t expendable, that they made us who were are and they’ve given us every single thing that we have. Even though John never got to get old, and we all would’ve liked for him to…at the age of 24, when he wrote this song, he understood this.” Colbert’s heartfelt tribute, preceding Carlile’s performance, is also worth listening to.

Prine had an extraordinary warmth, and a wonderfully wry sense of humour. Happily, he was given a lifetime achievement award by the Grammys just a few weeks before his death. It was overdue, for his exquisite body of work and for the great love and respect he inspired from his fans and his fellow musicians.

Here is a mix of covers of Prine songs. Fans will know the originals, but I hope that people who are not familiar with John Prine’s songbook will give this collection a listen, enjoy it, and then seek out the original recordings.

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

1. Manfred Mann’s Earthband – Pretty Good (1973)
2. Al Kooper – Sam Stone (1972)
3. Bonnie Raitt – Angel From Montgomery (1974)
4. Loretta Lynn – Somewhere Someone’s Falling In Love (2000)
5. 10,000 Maniacs – Hello In There (1989)
6. The Avett Brothers – Spanish Pipedream (2010)
7. Johnny Cash – The Hobo Song (1982)
8. Kris Kristofferson – Late John Garfield Blues (1972)
9. Steve Goodman – Donald And Lydia (1971)
10. Reilly & Maloney – That’s The Way That The World Goes ‘Round (1980)
11. Nanci Griffith – Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness (1993)
12. Justin Townes Earle – Far From Me (2010)
13. The Flying Burrito Brothers – Quiet Man (1976)
14. After The First Gallon – Illegal Smile (1978)
15. The Everly Brothers – Paradise (1972)
16. Priscilla Coolidge-Jones – If You Don’t Want My Love (1979)
17. George Strait – I Just Want To Dance With You (2011)
18. Josh Ritter – Mexican Home (2010)
19. Weeping Willows – Christmas In Prison (2005)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Leonard Cohen
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

Categories: Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs, Songwriters Tags: