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Any Major Laura Nyro Songbook

November 22nd, 2022 3 comments

October 18 marked the 75th birthday of the great singer-songwriter Laura Nyro. Half a year earlier, April 8 marked the 25th anniversary of Nyro’s death, at the age 49.

By the time  the ovarian cancer claimed Nyro in 1997, her music was making a comeback of sorts, with a tribute album of her songs being recorded by the likes of Rosanne Cash, Suzanne Vega, Jill Sobule, Holly Cole, Phoebe Snow and others. It was released a month after Nyro’s death, but I hope she got to hear it before she left us. Since then, Nyro has become something of a cult figure, a songwriter who isn’t very well known but whose name is traded in reverential tones.

Nyro — pronounced Nero — deserves these reverential tones alone for the influence her exercised on others when her star was at the highest, from her groundbreaking debut in 1966 until early ’70s. Elton John, himself a subject of an Any Major Songbook earlier this year, cited her as a pivotal influence, and the mark of Nyro permeates Elton’s first few albums especially. Nyro, he has said, inspired him to abandon the rigid verse-chorus-verse structure, and to experiment with tempo changes. I wonder whether Elton’s lyricist, Bernie Taupin, was also inspired by Nyro; it would not surprise me.

Others who have named Laura Nyro as an influence include songwriting giants like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, who followed in her pioneering slipstream as a woman singer-songwriter. King, a veteran hit songwriter already when Nyro emerged on the scene in 1966 as a 19-year-old, was encouraged by Nyro to take her seat behind the piano and make it as a solo star. (Carole King has inspired two Songbooks — Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, plus a Tapestry Recovered mix — whole a Joni Mitchell Songbook will drop at some point, but in the interim, there’s the Blue Recovered mix.)

Laura’s ex-boyfriend Jackson Browne rode into LA on her coat tails. The Steely Dan guys and Alice Cooper dug her, as did Todd Rundgren, who modelled his songwriting style on Nyro’s. You can hear Nyro in Elvis Costello, Rickie Lee Jones and Cyndi Lauper, and even in artists as diverse as Kate Bush, Patti Smith and Bette Midler. Stevie Wonder based his If You Really Love Me on Nyro’s music.

In her short heyday, Nyro, the daughter of a jazz trumpeter, wrote a number of songs that became hits for others: And When I Die for first Peter, Paul and Mary and then Blood, Sweat and Tears (a group she was invited to join by founder Al Kooper); Eli’s Coming for Three Dog Night; Stoney End for Barbra Streisand; and for The Fifth Dimension Wedding Bell Blues, the deliciously grooving Stone Cold Picnic, Blowing Away, and Sweet Blindness.

Nyro was a gifted songwriter who fused genres so widely as to make it almost impossible to reduce her to any one classification (much like her chief apostles, The Fifth Dimension). It is quite astonishing to think that the lyrics and melody of When I Die were written by a teenager, at a time when the precedents for philosophical lyrical depth were still quite scarce in pop music. Stoney End was also written and released before Laura reached the age of 20, as was the musically complex Wedding Bell Blues, written when she was 18. As a teenage prodigy songwriter, Nyro stands alongside Jimmy Webb (Webb has been the subject of three Songbooks: Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3) and the Bee Gees guys (Barry Gibb yielded two Songbooks: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)

But the expressive, three-octave singer also loved to interpret the music of others. With LaBelle, she recorded a whole album of covers, and with the King/Goffin composition Up On The Roof she had her biggest chart hit — though its peak at #92 suggests that Nyro’s music was not the stuff of 7” singles stardom, or any kind of commercial success. Only one of her LPs entered the Billboard Album Top 40, New York Tendaberry (1969)

Apart from Laura’s distinctive voice, which not everybody loved, her own inability to market herself had something to do with that. Nyro was afflicted with debilitating stage-fright — no doubt exacerbated by being booed off stage at the 1967 Monterrey Festival — which impeded her ability to promote her records. Moreover, her personality was too intense and too idiosyncratic for the banality of the pop industry, even though her music demonstrably had popular appeal.

In 1971, at the age of 24, Nyro quit the industry, resurfacing only periodically. In 1993, she released her final album, Walk The Dog And Light The Light. It was well-received by the critics and widely ignored by the public.

Nyro was finally inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010, and two years later into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There were some people who thought her induction was elitist and controversial. Fuck those people. Ask Joni, ask Carole, ask Elton….

Annual expenses for hosting this corner of the web are coming up, so if you might throw a tip in my coffee jar above, I would be grateful.

As always, CD-R length, home-surried covers, the text above in illustrated PDF. PW in Comments.

1. Laura Nyro – Sweet Blindness (1968)
2. Three Dog Night – Eli’s Coming (1969)
3. Sammy Davis Jr. – And When I Die (1970)
4. The 5th Dimension – Black Patch (1972)
5. The Supremes – Time And Love (1971)
6. Bobbie Gentry – Wedding Bell Blues (1970)
7. Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys – Stoney End (1968)
8. Barbra Streisand – I Never Meant To Hurt You (1971)
9. Carmen McRae – Goodbye Joe (1970)
10. Karen Wyman – California Shoeshine Boys (1970)
11. Peggy Lipton – Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man) (1968)
12. Mama Cass – He’s A Runner (1969)
13. Claire Martin – Buy And Sell (1995)
14. Tuck & Patti – Captain For Dark Mornings (1998)
15. Swing Out Sister – Stoned Soul Picnic (1997)
16. Judy Kuhn – Luckie (2007)
17. Ronnie Dyson – Emmie (1970)
18. Melba Moore – Captain St Lucifer (1970)
19. Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – Save The Country (1975)
20. Green Lyte Sunday – Woman’s Blues (1970)
21. Laura Nyro – When I Was A Freeport And You Were The Main Drag (1970)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
Holland-Dozier-Holland
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Lamont Dozier
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

More Songbooks
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Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 2

October 11th, 2022 4 comments

On October 11 it is 60 years ago that The Beatles’ first single, Love Me Do, entered the UK charts, the week after its release. It debuted in the Top 50 at #49, the fourth-highest new entry that week, after Swiss Maid by Del Shannon, Bobby’s Girl by Susan Maughan, and He Got What He Wanted by Little Richard. Shannon and Maughan went on to hit the Top 3; The Beatles stalled at #11 (and Little Richard flopped at #38).

The #1 hit that week was Telstar by the Tornados, followed in the Top 5 by Little Eva’s The Loco-motion, Tommy Roe’s Sheila, Carole King’s It Might As Well Rain Until September (a good week for King, with two Top 5 hits), and, down from #2, She’s Not You by Elvis (a song I don’t even know).

It’s strange to think that there was a brief time when The Beatles were selling records but Beatlemania didn’t yet exist. Nobody in October 1962 could have predicted what madness would ensue the following year. Nobody would have had a clue that just over three years later, this group would record something as pioneering as Tomorrow Never Knows, or that this group would become the biggest band in the world for six years.

For all the record-buyers of October 1962 knew, Love Me Do might have been the only thing ever worth buying by these lads from Liverpool — in as far as many people thought even this was worth owning, as the chart position of #11 suggests. Soon they’d know better.

After Please Please Me reached #2 in early 1963, The Beatles notched up 21 more UK Top 5 hits until they split in 1970. Only one of them was not in the Top 2 — Something in 1969 — and 17 topped the charts (including 11 consecutive #1s). In the US, The Beatles broke similar records.

Paul McCartney went solo only after The Beatles group broke up. By then Harrison and Lennon had already released solo stuff. Paul issued is debut solo album, McCartney, exactly a week after he announced the Beatles’ break-up on 10 April 1970. Five tracks from that album feature by way of covers on this second Paul McCartney Songbook. This mix follows the Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 1, which covered his compositions for The Beatles.

So here we have McCartney’s solo career — actually solo or with the Wings — in covers. It’s surprising that for some well-known hits there are no decent covers, at least none I can think of. These include Hi Hi Hi, which is a pity, and Mull Of Kintyre, which is just as well.

I’m pleased that another recent Songbook subject features here, in Brian Wilson. As mentioned before, Wilson was born only two days after Paul McCartney, which I find extraordinary. Alas, the Brian Wilson Songbook featured no cover by McCartney. And ex-Wings man Denny Laine turns up to do one of the more underrated McCartney numbers.

Many of the songs here featured on my Beatles Reunited series, which put together solo tracks by the respective Beatles alumni to create notional Beatles albums: Everest (1971), Smile Away (1972), Live (1972), Photographs (1974), Reunited 77 (1977), and Let It See (1980).

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-rolled covers, and the above text in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Maynard Ferguson – Jet (1974)
2. Billy Paul – Let ‘Em In (1976)
3. Sunday’s Child – Maybe I’m Amazed (1970)
4. Richie Havens – Band On The Run (1974)
5. The 5th Dimension – Every Night (1971)
6. Guns N’ Roses – Live And Let Die (1991)
7. Def Leppard – Helen Wheels (2014)
8. Big Sugar – Let Me Roll It (1998)
9. Denny Laine – Listen To What The Man Said (1996)
10. Michael Carpenter – Junior’s Farm (2011)
11. Brian Wilson – Wanderlust (2014)
12. Corinne Bailey Rae – Bluebird (2014)
13. John Pizzarelli feat. Michael McDonald – Coming Up (2015)
14. Ardijah – Silly Love Songs (1999)
15. Nancy Wilson – My Love (1974)
16. Peggy Lee – Let’s Love (1974)
17. John Denver – Junk (1971)
18. Grateful Dead – That Would Be Something (1991)
19. Death Cab For Cutie – Dear Boy (2009)
20. Robert Smith – C Moon (2014)
21. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Monkberry Moon Delight (1979)
Bonus Tracks:
22. Freddie Hubbard – Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (1971)
23. Cass Elliot – My Love (1973)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
Holland-Dozier-Holland
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Lamont Dozier
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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

Holland-Dozier-Holland Songbook

August 16th, 2022 4 comments

The death on August 8 of Lamont Dozier calls for a retrospective of songs he wrote with Brian and Eddie Holland. Dozier is the first of that trio to leave us.

With the brothers Holland, Lamont Dozier formed a veritable hit-machine for Motown — more than that, they were pivotal in creating the Motown sound of the 1960s.

For Martha And The Vandellas, they wrote and produced hits such as Heat Wave (their first hit in 1963), Nowhere To Run, Come And Get These Memories, and Jimmy Mack.

For the Four Tops, they created Reach Out I’ll Be There, Baby I Need Your Loving, It’s the Same Old Song, Standing In The Shadows of Love, I’ll Turn To Stone, Bernadette, 7 Rooms Of Gloom, and You Keep Running Away.

For Marvin Gaye they wrote How Sweet It Is and Can I Get A Witness; for The Miracles it was Mickey’s Monkey, for Jr. Walker & The All Stars (I’m A) Roadrunner, for The Isley Brothers This Old Heart Of Mine, for The Elgins Heaven Must Have Sent You, and for R. Dean Taylor they wrote There’s A Ghost In My House.

And they made The Supremes. Look at this list: Baby Love, Where Did Our Love Go, You Keep Me Hanging On, Stop In The Name Of Love, Reflections, I Hear A Symphony, Come See About Me, The Happening, Forever Came Today, Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone, and more.

Lamont Dozier, left, with the Holland brothers.

After falling out with Berry Gordy, Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown in 1968 and founded their own label, Invictus. There their charges included the Freda Payne, Chairmen Of The Board, 100 Proof Aged In Soul, Flaming Embers, Glass House, and Honey Cone, producing and co-writing hits — for contractual reasons as Edith Wayne — such as Band Of Gold, Give Me Just A Little More Time, Everything’s Tuesday, You’ve Got Me Dangling On A String,  Sunday Morning People, Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup), or Westbound No. 9.

On that label Dozier also released his biggest solo hit, Why Can’t We Be Lovers, a US #9. In 1973 he split from the Holland brothers, with lawsuits following. Dozier said his legal issues with the Hollands, and with Berry Gordy before that, were not personal, just business.

Of the three, Dozier went on to have the greater success, but divided they never reached such heights as they did together in that decade from 1963-72.

With an eye to my CD-R length rule, this collection covers only the Motown phase. If you ask nicely, I might put together a post-Motown mix of Dozier compositions, with and without the Hollands.

The covers here are quite fascinating, none more so than Dozier’s 2004 interpretation of Baby Love. Here the man who co-wrote the song for three teenage girls wrestled with his composition 40 years later, as a man in his early 60s. He reworked the song to great effect.

Motown let different acts on their roster record the same songs, to see which version would provide the hits. That way, we have The Supremes try their hand at the Four Tops’ I Can’t Help Myself, and The Isley Brothers doing The Supremes’ I Hear A Symphony. The Four Tops’ version of Reflections came later, on 1970’s remarkable Still Waters Run Deep album.

Barry White, meanwhile, took The Four Tops’ Standing In The Shadows Of Love, and gave it a thorough reworking. On the bonus track, Margie Joseph does something similar to Stop! In The Name Of Love.

The most unusual interpretation — other than maybe the great cover of Come See About Me by the Afghan Whigs — might be that by Matt Monro, who took The Happening into the realms of jazz vocals. Which raises the question: Why did Frank Sinatra never sing Holland-Dozier-Holland songs?

Companion mixes to this collection may be Covered With Soul: Motown Edition Vol. 1 and Covered With Soul: Motown Edition Vol. 2. I might also commend to you The Originals: Motown Edition, but that features only one Holland-Dozier-Holland track, which shows how they almost always got it right the first time.

As mentioned, CD-R length, plus home-produced covers. The above text is included in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. The Jam – (Love is Like A) Heat Wave (1979)
2. Soft Cell – Where Did Our Love Go (1981)
3. The Afghan Whigs – Come See About Me (1992)
4. Fleetwood Mac – (I’m A) Road Runner (1973)
5. Wild Cherry – Nowhere To Run (1976)
6. Z. Z. Hill – Can I Get A Witness (1972)
7. O.C. Smith – Baby I Need Your Loving (1974)
8. Wilson Pickett – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1969)
9. Tami Lynn – Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone (1972)
10. Barry White – Standing In the Shadows Of Love (1973)
11. Lamont Dozier – Baby Love (2004)
12. Michael McDonald – Reach Out, I’ll Be There (2004)
13. Nicolette Larson – Back In My Arms, Again (1979)
14. James Taylor – How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (1975)
15. Matt Monro – The Happening (1967)
16. José Feliciano – My World Is Empty Without You (1968)
17. Laura Nyro & Labelle – Jimmy Mack (1971)
18. The Isley Brothers – I Hear A Symphony (1966)
19. Barbara Randolph – I Turn To Stone (1968)
20. Four Tops – Reflections (1970)
21. The Supremes – I Can’t Help Myself (1966)
Bonus Track:
Margie Joseph – Stop! In The Name Of Love (1971)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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Categories: Covers Mixes, Songbooks Tags:

Brian Wilson Songbook

June 21st, 2022 3 comments

 

 

Yesterday, on June 20, Brian Wilson turned 80, just two days after his fellow songwriting genius Paul McCartney, who was the subject of a Songbook last week, turned 80 himself. How were the stars aligned (if you subscribe to that kind of thing) that June 1942 to create two such man within two days of one another?

Wilson and McCartney (and his fellow Beatles) ran a pop music innovations race in the mid-1960s, a serious but friendly competition that spurred each other to greater heights. If a winner must be declared, then it is McCartney, who kept going with some great work while Wilson collapsed under the weight of his own ambitions, and fragile mental health. Crucially, where McCartney had the support, even if often troubled, of his fellow Beatles, who shared in the processes of artistic growth, Wilson had to contend with those, in the band and commercial departments, who still wanted fun fun fun songs about hot cars ‘n’ tanned gals.

 

The Beach Boys and their striped shirts. Brian Wilson is front right.

 

When Wilson heard The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album in 1965, he immediately wrote God Only Knows (with Tony Asher), the first track for what would become the Pet Sounds albums. That album, in turn, motivated The Beatles to up their game — from the already astonishing Revolver album — to create Sgt Pepper’s.

Four months before that album was released in June 1967, The Beatles had released Lennon’s Strawberry Fields Forever. Reportedly, when Wilson heard that song, he broke down and cried, saying: “They got there first!” That was quite a concession from the man who by then had already produced the stroke of eternal genius that is Good Vibrations.

Wilson’s attempt to top Sgt Pepper’s — and let’s cut a sad story short — ended in artistic and personal decline following the stressful production of the aborted Smile project, and the disastrous reception of what turned out to be the compromise album, Smiley Smile. Wilson completed that project in 2005 with the release of his Smile album.

In the studio during that productive mid-‘60s period, Wilson didn’t even have the Beach Boys with him. His “band” comprised various members of the Wrecking Crew, the collective of highly professional session musicians. One of them, guitarist Glenn Campbell, actually became a member of The Beach Boys in their touring formation. Carl and Dennis, Jardine and Love would come in to lay down vocal tracks — and, of course, their harmonies were integral to the Beach Boys sound. Mike Love would co-write some songs, though in many cases, the extent of his contributions is a matter of diverging memories.

Actors like De Niro and Pacino have their ways of getting into character; Wilson was a method musician, once even filling his home studio with sand to recreate a beach (as if a feature of beaches is grand pianos just standing there). By then he had already experimented with LSD — a year before that drug reached The Beatles — and other drugs. The riff for California Girls came to him after his acid trip.

The progress in Wilson’s songwriting was as spectacular as that of The Beatles. Between the plagiarised Surfin’ USA in 1963 (for which Chuck Berry rightly got a co-writing credit) and the intricate but appealing Wouldn’t It Be Nice were only three years.

 

So here we have the Brian Wilson Songbook. Nancy Sinatra’s version of California Girls from a 2003 album, features the backing vocals of Brian Wilson and ex-Beach Boy Jeffrey Foskett. Nancy’s version opens this set, so suitably the first voice we hear is Brian Wilson’s. And Wilson closes this collection with a cover of his own song from 2005’s Smile album, Surf’s Up. The Nancy Sinatra track was co-produced by the legendary Billy Strange, who arranged These Boots Are Made For Walking, as well as Duane Eddy and The Ventures, who in turn had influenced the Beach Boys.

Wilson originally offered Don’t Worry Baby to The Ronettes, and was profoundly inspired by their hit Be My Baby. They didn’t record it because Phil Spector declined it. Instead The Beach Boys recorded in 1964. Wilson once said he thought it was their finest moment. It later was a hit for BJ Thomas. Thirty-odd years after Spector vetoed Don’t Worry Baby, Ronnie Spector finally recorded it, co-produced by Joey Ramone, a fan of both The Ronettes and The Beach Boys. The Ramones themselves feature later in the mix with Surfin’ Safari.

Spector might have rejected Wilson’s composition, but fellow Capitol signing Sharon Marie recorded Wilson and Mike Love’s Thinkin’ ’Bout You Baby, which Wilson also produced and arranged, with another Wilson/Love composition, The Story Of My Life, on the flip-side. It was not a success, nor was the previous year’s Wilson job Run-Around Lover. The Beach Boys rejigged Thinkin’ ’Bout You Baby and recorded it as Darlin’ in 1967.

If we have ever wondered what ABBA might have sounded like if they had been The Beach Boys, Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s Swedish cover of Wouldn’t It Be Nice gives us a hint. She recorded it for her 1975 Swedish language LP Frida Ensam, which was produced by Benny Anderson, another genius of arrangement, with Björn Ulvaeus on guitar. The album also included the original version of ABBA’s Fernando (featured on Any Major Originals: 1970s).

There are some Beach Boys songs that are impossible to cover well, unless you change the whole structure of it. Good Vibrations is a good example of that. The original is one of pop music’s towering achievements; covering it straight is to punch upwards, even if you do it competent, as Todd Rundgren did in 1976. So I’ve opted for the 1975 cover by The Troggs, which deconstructs the original’s entire arrangement, and does to it what William Shatner had done a few years earlier with other hits, though The Troggs do it with greater discipline and restraint than old Cap’n Kirk. I doubt I’ll ever love what The Troggs did with it, but it’s good fun fun fun.

The same applies to I Get Around; the psychedelic version by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra — whose version of the Rolling Stone’s The Last Time (featured on the Copy Borrow Steal mix) gave the Verve’s Bitter-Sweet Symphony its hook — is joyfully mad.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-good-vibrationed covers, and the above text in PDF format. PW in comments.

1. Nancy Sinatra – California Girls (2003)
2. The Carpenters – Fun, Fun, Fun (1973)
3. Anni-Frid Lyngstad – Skulle de’ va’ skönt (Wouldn’t It Be Nice, 1975)
4. Johnny Rivers – Help Me Rhonda (1975)
5. Ronnie Spector – Don’t Worry Baby (1999)
6. Bruce Springsteen – When I Grow Up To Be A Man (live, 1985)
7. Dave Alvin – Surfer Girl (2006)
8. Rumer – The Warmth Of The Sun (2015)
9. Linda Ronstadt – In My Room (1996)
10. Andrew Oldham Orchestra – I Get Around (1965)
11. The Troggs – Good Vibrations (1975)
12. Bobby Vee – Here Today (1966)
13. P.P. Arnold – God Only Knows (1968)
14. Carmen McRae – Don’t Talk (1967)
15. Sharon Marie – Thinkin’ ‘Bout You Baby (1964)
16. Jan & Dean – Surf City (1963)
17. The Surfaris – Be True To Your School (1964)
18. Nick DeCaro – Caroline, No (1969)
19. Nazareth – Wild Honey (1976)
20. David Garland – I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times (1993)
21. Kirsty MacColl – You Still Believe In Me (1981)
22. Wall Of Voodoo – Do It Again (1987)
23. The Rubinoos – Heroes And Villains (2002)
24. The Smithereens – Girl Don’t Tell Me (1995)
25. Ramones – Surfin’ Safari (1993)
26. Frank Black – Hang On To Your Ego (1993)
27. Brian Wilson – Surf’s Up (2005)

GET IT! or HERE!

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

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes

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

Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 1

June 14th, 2022 5 comments

 

It is remarkable that two songwriters who were at the absolute vanguard in changing pop music in the 1960s were born within two days of one another. They were friendly rivals whose mutual admiration spurred one another on to greater heights.

They were born within two days of one another, but they grew up in very different circumstances. Paul McCartney, who turns 80 on June 18, was born into a war whose effects scarred his hometown of Liverpool throughout his youth. He grew up in monochrome Britain, but in a loving family. Brian Wilson, who turns 80 on June 20, grew up in technicolour California, the son of an ambitious and tyrannical father. Paul and Brian came from vastly different backgrounds, but they had in common a knack for writing songs and innovating on them; Brian mostly on his own, Paul with his friend John Lennon.

Both had massive success and exercised great influence with their respective bands, which even shared the first three letters of their names. Both stopped touring in order to innovate in the studio.

As you would expect, a Brian Wilson Songbook will follow next week, a few days after the great man turns 80. Today, however, we have the first of two Paul McCartney Songbooks, a couple of days before he turns 80. This volume covers his Beatles era; the follow-up will cover — as the fiendishly clever reader will have worked out — Macca’s solo output.

There’s little point in discussing McCartney’s compositions in great detail; many people haver done so to much greater effect than I could hope to do. One thing that does strike me, though, is that Paul’s songs tend to be more adaptable to other genres than John’s. That is true, of course, of Paul’s ballads in particular. Some of them have been spoiled by having been covered too many times, and too often by easy listening merchants. Can one listen to Yesterday without having the fear of Mantovani put into them? Well, in this collection, Dr John exorcises all of these cheesy versions of Yesterday, and puts some meat on the song first known as “Scambled Eggs”. A mention must be made of Una Valli’s excellent interpretation of Yesterday on Covered With Soul Vol. 15.

 

 

I might be open to persuasion otherwise, but it seems to me than Paul’s songs lend them themselves better to soul covers than John’s. The two Beatles specials in the Covered With Soul series, Vol. 14 and the aforementioned Vol. 15, bear out this observation. About half of the songs on the present mix are soul or soul-inflected tracks.

I’ve posted many mixes of covers of Beatles songs before, including track-by-track Recovered mixes of every Beatles album (you will find them all here, among other Beatles-related stuff). I’ve tried not to repeat any previously-used cover on this collection. The only recycled track is Got To Get You Into My Life by Thelma Houston, which appeared on the first of two mixes of songs on which Wrecking Crew drummer Jim Gordon played.

One track here is sort of a repeat, but it isn’t. On the Let It Be Recovered mix, the Long And Winding Road duties were done by Ray Charles, in his version from 1971. Featured here is Ray’s 1973 live recording, performed with the Count Basie Orchestra. It was unreleased until 2006 because the recording track of the orchestra was of poor sound quality. Charles’ vocal track was fine, so some very clever people got the new Count Basie Orchestra into the studio to re-record the instrumental track, and mixed these with Ray’s 1973 vocals.

It was only when I looked over the tracklisting that I noticed that all acts here are North American, except one. Joy Unlimited was a band from Mannheim, Germany. They were headed by Joy Fleming, who probably is Germany’s greatest soul singer — though the pool of contenders may not be enormous. Certainly Joy’s soulfulness belied her very unfunky birthname: Erna Raad. Fleming, who died in 2017, has featured here a couple of times before: on Any Major Schlager Covers with her version of Respect, on Any Major Eurovision with her superb Bridge Of Love, and with Joy Unlimited on Yellow Submarine Recovered.

 

Paul McCartney poster in Germany’s Bravo magazine in July 1966.

 

One act here is not really known as a singer but as a recording engineer and producer: Glyn Johns. Among his many charges were The Beatles, whose Get Back sessions he engineered (his mixes were later released as Let It Be Naked. He’d later also co-engineer McCartney’s Red Rose Speedway album). Between 1962 and ’67, Johns tried to carve out a career as a singer, while engineering acts like The Rolling Stones and the Small Faces. One of his seven singles was a cover of The Beatles’ I’ll Follow The Sun, released in 1965, and it features here.

A little twist: Johns also engineered for Humble Pie, but the present track by the band, a 1975 cover of We Can Work It Out, was engineered by Steve Marriott — who was a member of the Small Faces when Johns engineered them…

One act here actually was co-credited with The Beatles, the only artist ever to be thus honoured by the band. Billy Preston played on Let It Be, contributing that searing organ solo. His version of the song here appeared on his 1974 live album, Live European Tour. And it was engineered by Glyn Johns’ younger brother Andy.

As always, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-tumbs-upped covers, and the above text in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Pat Benatar – Helter Skelter (1981)
2. Aerosmith – I’m Down (1987)
3. Ike & Tina Turner – Get Back (1973)
4. Thelma Houston & Pressure Cooker – Got To Get You Into My Life (1975)
5. El Chicano – Eleanor Rigby (1970)
6. Billy Preston – Let It Be (1974)
7. O.C. Smith – Hey Jude (1969)
8. Bobby Womack – And I Love Her (1972)
9. Humble Pie – We Can Work It Out (1975)
10. Dr. John – Yesterday (1975)
11. Joy Unlimited – Oh Darling (1969)
12. George Benson – Here, There And Everywhere (1989)
13. Rickie Lee Jones – For No One (2000)
14. Dar Williams – You Won’t See Me (2005)
15. Carly Simon – Blackbird (2006)
16. Sheryl Crow – Mother Nature’s Son (2002)
17. Bobbie Gentry – The Fool On The Hill (1968)
18. Glyn Johns – I’ll Follow The Sun (1965)
19. José Feliciano – She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (1970)
20. R.B. Greaves – Paperback Writer (1971)
21. Ray Charles & The Count Basie Orchestra – The Long And Winding Road (1973/2006)
22. Sarah Vaughan – Michelle (1966)
23. Lou Rawls – Golden Slumbers (1972)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
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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More Cover Mixes
More Beatles-related Stuff
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Categories: Beatles, Covers Mixes, Songbooks Tags:

Ziggy Stardust Recovered (1972)

June 9th, 2022 8 comments

Ziggy

Next week, on June 16, it will be 50 years since the release of David Bowie’s landmark album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. I recovered that album some years ago, and posted the story behind the cover to go with it. I’m reposting that story with that first Ziggy Stardust Recovered mix — but I have made a NEW Ziggy Stardust Re-recovered mix. So download them and mix-and-match to your preference.

There is a sweet irony in the cover picture of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: the alien superstar is photographed in a seedy sidestreet in London’s West End, not a glitzy glamour spot. Instead of shining brightly in a metallic science fiction wonderland, the monochrome photo is hand-coloured in the way of postcards from the turn of the last century.

The cover holds not the promise of the story we are coming to hear, but its denouement: Ziggy has come back down to earth as David Bowie. There’s trash, there’s rain, there’s a bin, there’s the sign of the furrier K. West, where the fiction of left-handed Ziggy and the fact of Bowie, holding his guitar right-handed, come together.

Or that’s how I choose to see it. The story of Ziggy Stardust is vague enough to let you project your own ideas upon it. In fact, by writing about the cover, by stripping away a veneer of its mystique, I may be depriving you, if you do not know the story of the cover, of your ability to freely project. Read on at your own peril.

What we will find is that the story of the cover is rather ordinary. The photo was taken on a cold January night in 1972 in Soho’s Heddon Street, then an insalubrious sidestreet, but today a fashionable pedestrian zone. The photographer was Brian Ward, who had studio in the street.

He took 17 photos that night, including the back cover shot of Ziggy/Bowie in the telephone booth. The front cover pic was taken at house number 23, under the big sign for K. West. Apparently Bowie turned up (with a posse of two girls), posed for a few minutes, and quickly disappeared into the rainy night, leaving Ward to develop his black-and-white photos. Did Bowie feel like Ziggy in “Five Years”? “It was cold and it rained and I felt like an actor.”

ziggy-bwThe winning shot was colourised, giving the jumpsuit a blue hue when it was, in fact, green. Have look at all 17 photos of the session at the Five Years site (from which I’ve borrowed one here).

As for the signs on the wall? They were for Paquerette Dresses (4th Floor), Ramar Dresses Ltd (3rd Floor), International Wool Secretariat, Cravats Ltd (main entrance), and T.H. Ferris (2nd Floor)

So, to mark the Ziggy anniversary, here are the two track-by-track mixes of Ziggy covers. Every track of the album is performed in sequence by various artists. On the first Ziggy Stardust Recovered mix, two tracks are by Bowie himself. One is from the famous Hammersmith Odeon concert at which he killed off Ziggy Stardust — obviously the final track, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide — the other a new mix of the largely uncovered Star. In fact, there’s a third Bowie number: The Arnold Corns was a Bowie project on which he test-drove some Ziggy tracks a year before he gave birth to the alien superstar. They feature on both the Ziggy Stardust Recovered and Ziggy Stardust Re-Recovered mixes. One song on the album was a cover itself: It Ain’t Easy was a Ron Davies song. The cover of that on the Recovered mix also precedes the Ziggy LP.

Obviously, each mix will fit on a standard CD-R. I’ve not made home-ziggied covers, but the text above is included in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

ZIGGY STARDUST RE-RECOVERED
1. Old 97’s – Five Years (2010)
2. Cerys Matthews – Soul Love (2006)
3. The Chameleons – Moonage Daydream (2002)
4. Culture Club – Starman (1999)
5. Claudia Lennear – It Ain’t Easy (1973)
6. Midge Ure – Lady Stardust (2008)
7. Cuff The Duke – Star (2013)
8. The Arnold Corns – Hang On To Yourself (1971)
9. Def Leppard – Ziggy Stardust (1995)
10. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Suffragette City (1986)
11. Black Box Recorder – Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide (2000)

ZIGGY STARDUST RECOVERED
1. The Polyphonic Spree – Five Years (2002)
2. Marti Jones – Soul Love (1986)
3. The Arnold Corns – Moonage Daydream (1971)
4. Leningrad Cowboys – Starman (2006)
5. Three Dog Night – It Ain’t Easy (1970)
6. Seu Jorge – Lady Stardust (2005)
7. David Bowie – Star (40th Anniversary Mix) (1972/2012)
8. Contraband – Hang On To Yourself (1991)
9. Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust (1982)
10. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Suffragette City (2012)
11. David Bowie – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (live) (1973)

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Barry Gibb Songbook Vol. 2 (Bearded Edition)

May 20th, 2022 2 comments

 

To coincide with Barry Gibb’s 75th birthday on September 1 last year, I posted Volume 1 of the Barry Gibb Songbook. Here’s Volume 2, covering the years after 1975, when the Brothers Gibb stumbled into disco to become their supposed kings (it’s a discussion for another day why they most certainly were not).

The falsetto disco era brought the Gibbs much fortune, but at the end of it, they — much as Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernie Edwards — were not wanted any longer as headliners. And like the Chic collective, the Bee Gees moved into the background, writing and producing mid-tempo stuff for adult acts like Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick and, later, Diana Ross.

While the early-era Bee Gees were eminently coverable, as we saw on Volume 1, the disco stuff was more difficult to reinterpret. It’s no accident that two of the Bee Gees’ greatest disco-era hits —Night Fever and Tragedy (I wasn’t going to use the Steps cover of Tragedy, thank you) — are missing here. On the other hand, in the hands of the gifted, the disco stuff could be covered to great effect. Exhibit A: Chaka Khan’s slow-burning take on Jive Talking.

I also found no takers for the Streisand ballad Woman In Love, which was rather overplayed when it came out (Babs features here with the infinitely superior Guilty). Even Too Much Heaven has rarely been well covered. In the end, it was a toss-up between the reggae version by Claudette Miller or the cover by serial-coverer Bunny Chanel, the recording moniker used by Filipina actress Helen Gamboa. Chanel’s lush arrangement and warm vocals won out, but Miller’s lovers rock version is included as a bonus track..

A word about the beards designation: let it serve as a rough guide. Of course Barry sported beards for some time during the Volume 1 period, and was clean-shaven for some of the disco years. But latter-day Barry certainly was more often than not luxuriously hirsute.

That dealt with, here’s the conclusion of the Barry Gibb Songbook, which in large part is also the Maurice and Robin Songbook. So it makes perfect sense to issue this second volume on the 10th anniversary of Robin’s death, which we mark today, on May 20.

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

1. Barbra Streisand feat. Barry Gibb – Guilty (1980)
2. Candi Staton – Nights On Broadway (1977)
3. Rufus featuring Chaka Khan – Jive Talkin’ (1975)
4. Foo Fighters – You Should Be Dancing (2021)
5. Tavares – More Than A Woman (1977)
6. Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams – Emotion (1978)
7. Bunny Chanel – Too Much Heaven (1979)
8. Andy Gibb & Olivia Newton-John – Rest Your Love On Me (1980)
9. En Vogue – How Deep Is Your Love (2003)
10. Nick Lowe – Heartbreaker (2018)
11. The Twang – Staying Alive (2018)
12. Feist – Inside And Out (2004)
13. Vivian Reed – Shadow Dancing (1979)
14. Melba Moore – You Stepped Into My Life (1978)
15. Donnie Elbert – Love So Right (1977)
16. Dionne Warwick – All The Love In The World (1982)
17. Diana Ross – Chain Reaction (1986)
18. The McAuley Boys – I Just Want To Be Your Everything (1996)
19. Bee Gees – If I Can’t Have You (1977)
Bonus Tracks:
Garth Taylor & Melanie Louw – Islands In The Stream (2003)
The Salsoul Strings – More Than A Woman (1978)
Lionel Hampton – You Should Be Dancing (1978)
Claudette Miller & The Ebonies – Too Much Heaven (1977)
Connie Smith – I Just Want To Be Your Everything (1977)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
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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Categories: Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs, Songbooks Tags:

Any Major Carole King Songbook Vol. 2

April 28th, 2022 3 comments

 

All she ever wanted to be was a suburban housewife, and yet she wrote some of the greatest hits of the early 1960s, and in a second career released one of the great albums of all time. She inspired Lennon-McCartney, having written as bunch of hits by the time her contemporaries started to record theirs. Carole King wrote or co-write so many sings that her career merits a second Songbook, following on from Any Major Carole King Songbook Vol. 1.

Carole King framed her music around the lyrics created by her songwriting partners — chiefly one-time husband Gerry Goffin and later Toni Stern — or, of course, by herself. Sometimes the melody would be at odds with the lyrics. Take Good Care Of My Baby is far too jolly — but what a tune. It features here in King’s demo version. More often, the melody would give the lyrics their character. Think of Natural Woman, whose gorgeous melody complements those beautiful lyrics (written by a man, Gerry Goffin, and performed on this mix by a man, Bobby Womack), or the percussive thrusting melody of I Feel The Earth Move.

I love King as a singer. I love that intimate, slightly imperfect voice and its economic application. That impeccable phrasing. So it’s rather a pity that King did not record all those great hits of the early and mid-1960s herself: Up On The Roof, I’m Into Something Good, One Fine Day, Chains, The Loco-motion and so on. We have an idea of how that might have been when a decade after it was a #1 for The Shirelles (when King was still 18!), she recorded Will You Love Me Tomorrow on Tapestry. Or, of course, listen to her 1962 single It Might As Well Rain Until September.

Before her solo career, King had a shot at vocal stardom as the lead singer of The City — with future husband Charles Larkey and future Tapestry collaborator Danny Kortchmar — but King’s reluctance to play live and distribution troubles prevented their one album from becoming a hit. But what a star King might have been even before Tapestry (for which she also the Tapestry Recovered mix).

But in those the division of labour was still entrenched: songwriters wrote the songs, singers sang them. Funny enough, it was those guys whom King had inspired — Lennon-McCartney, Brian Wilson — and those whose work opened the way for auteur albums like Tapestry — Dylan et al — who were at the spearhead which broke down that old way of doing things.

In any case, King was not interested in being a pop star. During the Brill Building days, her vision of life was to be a mother in the suburbs. And after Tapestry, she was drawn to the rural life in Idaho (not undramatically; her lifestory had its share of commotion). So here we have the reluctant music legend who resides in music history as one of pop’s greatest treasures

As on Volume 1, the bulk of the songs here were written with Gerry Goffin (tracks 1-3,6-7,10-11,14-24). Others were written with Toni Stern (4 and 8), and the rest were all Carole on her own (5,9, 12-13). The track by The Isley Brothers incorporates their own Keep On Walkin’. There are more covers of Carole King songs on the Brill Building Covered mix.

So, here’s the first lot of Carole King compositions. The lot is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-locomotioned covers and the above text in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Little Eva – Some Kind-A Wonderful (1962)
2. The Chiffons – One Fine Day (1963)
3. The Monkees – Pleasant Valley Sunday (1967)
4. The City – Now That Everything’s Been Said (1968)
5. Johnny Rivers – So Far Away (1971)
6. Bobby Womack – Natural Man (1973)
7. Isaac Hayes – Hey Girl (1986)
8. The Isley Brothers – Sweet Season/Keep On Walkin’ (1972)
9. Rita Coolidge – Walk On In (1981)
10. The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Never Born To Follow (1996)
11. Nick Lowe – Halfway To Paradise (1977)
12. Jo Mama – Smack Water Jack (1971)
13. Anne Murray – Beautiful (1972)
14. Roberta Flack – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1971)
15. Turley Richards – Child Of Mine (1971)
16. Paul Davis – When My Little Girl Is Smiling (1971)
17. Sandie Shaw – The Right To Cry (1969)
18. Dusty Springfield – No Easy Way Down (1969)
19. Percy Sledge – So Much Love (1966)
20. The Drifters – At The Club (1965)
21. Betty Everett – I Can’t Hear You (1964)
22. Everly Brothers – Chains (1962)
23. The Righteous Brothers – Just Once In My Life (1965)
24. Carole King – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1961)
BONUS TRACK:
Gene McDaniels – Point Of No Return (1962)
Crusaders – So Far Away (live) (1981)

GET IT! or HERE!

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

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes
More CD-R Mixes

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

Any Major Elton John & Bernie Taupin Songbook

March 24th, 2022 10 comments

 

Just a couple of hours ago as I write this, Elton John’s 1985 hit Nikita came on the car radio. I hadn’t heard that song for a long while, and I was grateful for that, in as far as I paid the wretched song’s absence in my life any attention. I dislike it now as much as I did when I first heard it in November 1985. And it’s not like I was anti-Elton back in 1985. I bought Act Of War, his duet with Millie Jackson, on 12” that summer, unheard. Which was a mistake. I also bought the follow-up to Nikita, a record called Wrap Her Up featuring the late Wham! bassist Deon Estus. That, too, has not aged well.

Some years later, Elton John had his first solo UK #1 with Sacrifice, a turgid number for the CD generation. Nothing the erstwhile Reg Dwight has produced since has impressed me, other than Hakuna Matata from The Lion King.

In fairness, the man produced some great songs in the 1980s, before he offended with Nikita. I’m Still Standing is a superb piece of songwriting, arrangement and vocal performance (plus, it had a great video). I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues was vintage Elton. And I did like Passengers, in the way of nursery-rhyme-pop. That was intended as an anti-apartheid song, though you had to be told it was to know. Perhaps it was Elton’s way of saying sorry for having helped legitimise apartheid by playing at Sun City in 1983. Which is a lot more than what Queen, The Beach Boys, Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Millie Jackson, Status Quo or Rod Stewart did.

But very little of what Elton John produced in the 1980s comes close to the incredible run of songwriting genius which he and lyricist Bernie Taupin put together from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. And it is this run of genius this collection of covers of John/Taupin songs celebrates, by way of marking Elton John’s 75th birthday on March 25.

So, all of these songs are from the 1970s, except one bonus track: I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, performed by Major Schiffer & Majories Bundeswehr Showband — a band of the German army. It appeared on a 1985 album titled Tanzweltmeisterschaft (Dancing World Championship). It is surprisingly okay, with the vocals soulful and the arrangement competent, with a heartfelt sax solo. One might have expected a Bundeswehr Showband to go the easy listening route, maybe a bit like James Last, but with more oomp than oomph. Well, not so.

There are plenty of easy listening covers of Elton John’s 1970s tunes; none feature here. But some tracks just don’t have many good covers. Candle In The Wind, for example, is a song so Elton that it’s very difficult to re-interpret well. I suspect the present version, by Sandy Denny, is about the only good cover of the song. For Daniel, I had to go to France (alas, I knew of no good Spanish covers).

Bernie Taupin and Elton John in 1971. (Wikipedia/PD-PRE1978)

Some John/Taupin classics are missing altogether, such as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. The former has already featured on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Recovered set (though I do recycle two tracks from that collection here), so I didn’t recycle that version. And I didn’t expect to find a great cover of Crocodile Rock, the first Elton John song I loved, long before I even knew who the guy was. My older sister had the single, and I loved it as a seven-year-old (mainly the falsetto bits).

An unusual number of covers here are live versions: Neil Diamond reworks Rocket Man (superbly), Ben Folds does Tiny Dancer, Brandi Carlile does Sixty Years On with the Seattle philharmonic orchestra, Heart do the gorgeous Seasons, and George Michael eclipses Elton John in his stunning rendition of Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me from Live Aid, guesting on Elton’s set. The latter is also far superior to the hit version from 1995. The Live Aid version invariably gives goosebumps (and how about that drummer?).

In the 1970s, much was made of the rivalry between Elton John and Rod Stewart; they more lately had a bigger feud about some slight by someone over something or other that was said. On his fine Gasoline Alley album, Rod covered Elton’s 1970 song Country Life, with Jack Reynolds (aka Harry) from the rock band Silver Metre on backing vocals. And then Rod borrowed a little bit of 1970’s The Greatest Discovery (covered here by The Lettermen) for his song The Killing Of Georgie.

One song here is not a cover: Snookeroo was written by John & Taupin for Ringo Starr, who in the US titled it No No Song. Elton John provides the count-in and plays the piano on the song.

Quite a few songs here may be unfamiliar to those who have followed Elton John’s career only casually. By my count, only ten of the featured 28 tracks were UK single releases. Elton John fans, I hope, will enjoy the interpretations of the lesser-known songs; and those who don’t may well be turned on to Elton John’s incredible run of great albums between 1970 and 1974 or 1975 (in my view, everything from 1970s eponymous album to at least 1975’s Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy).

As always, CD-R length, home-tinydancered covers, and the above in PDF. PW in comments.

1. The Who – Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) (1991)
2. George Michael – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (1985)
3. Ben Folds – Tiny Dancer (2002)
4. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Philadelphia Freedom (1991)
5. Billy Paul – Your Song (1972)
6. Walter Jackson – Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (1977)
7. Latimore – Take Me To The Pilot (1973)
8. Bo Diddley – Bad Side Of The Moon (1971)
9. Al Kooper – Come Down In Time (1971)
10. Rod Stewart – Country Comfort (1970)
11. Marie Laforet – Daniel (1974)
12. Sandy Denny – Candle In The Wind (1977)
13. Square Set – Friends (1972)
14. Colin Blunstone – Planes (1976)
15. Neil Diamond – Rocket Man (1978)
16. Heart – Seasons (1995)
17. Mandy Moore – Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (2003)
18. Brandi Carlile – Sixty Years On (2011)
Bonus:
Lee Ann Womack – Honky Cat (2018)
Ringo Starr – Snookeroo (1974)
Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’77 – Where To Now St Peter (1976)
Kate Taylor – Ballad Of A Well Known Gun (1971)
Three Dog Night – Lady Samantha (1969)
The Letterman – The Greatest Discovery (1971)
Mary McCreary – Levon (1974)
Diana Ross – Harmony (1976)
Major Schiffer & Majories/Bundeswehr Showband – I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (1985)
Solomon Burke – Three Psalms For Elton (1972)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
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

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

Any Major Beatles in Italian

March 15th, 2022 8 comments

 

The two editions of Beatles in French (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) turned out to be more popular than I had expected. So now we turn the music of the Fab Four over to the Italians, though this time in only one volume.

The French Ye-ye movement found some imitators in Italy, but that didn’t find expression in a wave of Beatles covers, as it did in France. Some beat groups, however, seemed very keen on the Liverpool band. I Meteors, who hailed from Bologna and started out in 1961 as a support act for Gene Vincent on his tour of Italy, issued a whole album of Beatles covers (and of songs The Beatles themselves had covered), including even the relatively obscure Misery. Truth be told, it wasn’t very good and has aged even less well. Their version of She Loves You, which features here, is at least inoffensive.

The collection kicks off with a track by Dino e I Kings, who return as few numbers later. Why does Dino and his backing group get two tracks when the rules usually allow for only one song per artist? Because both tracks were arranged by none other than Ennio Morricone, who’d go on to become one of the great composers of the 20th century. As for Verona-born Dino Zambelli, he was one of Italy’s biggest teenage stars between 1964-68, on record, stage and film. He retired from music in 1973 and ended up becoming an oil executive.

The original Italian beat band was I Fuggiaschi (The Fugitives), featured here with a cover of If I Fell, who were led by Don Backy, one of several, artists who shared the scene with the ubiquitous Adrian Celentano (whose own Beatles covers came many years later and aren’t very good). Backy is still active at the age of 82.

Another pioneer of Italian rock was Ricky Gianco (aka Ricky Sanna), featured here with his version of All My Loving, who got his start backing Celentano and was known as one of urlatori, or “screamers”.

Also in that pioneer group were I Ribelli, who started out in 1959 as Celentano’s backing band. They soon struck out on their own and were regulars on Italian TV in the 1960s. But by the time they covered Oh Darling, competently so, their commercial appeal had declined. They split soon after, reforming a couple times, most recently amid a beat revival boom.

I Ribelli backing the ubiquitous Adriano Celentano in 1961. (Photo from Wikimedia)

 

Among all the Italians, there’s one Englishman: Mike Liddell. Born in India and raised in northern England, the singer and drummer came to Italy in the 1960s. With his band Gli Atomi (The Atoms) he had some success on the beat scene. Their version of We Can Work It Out was the flip side of the debut single, an Italian take on The Sound Of Silence. The single reached #3 on the Italian charts in 1966. By 1968, the band split, and Liddell went on to dabble in psychedelic rock.

Patrick Samson is also not your average Italian name; nor is the guy’s real name, Sulaimi Khoury. The Lebanese-born singer, featured here with Let It Be, has had a long and productive career. Having started his career in France, where his family had emigrated to from Lebanon, Samson moved to Italy at the age of 19 in 1965. He soon had success, first as leader of the R&B-infused Patrick Samson Set and then as a solo artist. His career came to a halt in 1973 when he took time out to care for his ill brother. His return to music was not accompanied by success.

Also not engaging in Italian nomenclature were The Rogers, who nevertheless were all Italians. At around the same time they released Tam-Tam, their delightfully onomatopoeic rendering of Come Together, the group enjoyed a million-seller with Guarda. The Rogers split in 1980.

 

Patty Pravo

One of Italy’s biggest singing stars is Patty Pravo, featured here with her take from 1970 on And I Love Her. Pravo, whose career has spanned more than 50 years, has the distinction of being the first pop act to be played on Vatican Radio, with her Italian version Sonny & Cher’s But You’re Mine. She is still recording and performing today. Likewise, Gianni Morandi has had a hugely successful and lasting career as a singer, actor and TV presenter. On this mix, he croons Here, There And Everywhere.

When Don Miko committed his version Michelle on record, the former duet partner of Timi Yuro wasn’t a big star yet. That would change in the 1970s and again in the 1980s, when he became an Italo-Disco star as Miko Mission. He’s still recording.

The best-known artist here might be Pino Donaggio, a classically-trained music prodigy who put down his violin to become a rock & roller in the 1950s. He has featured here before as the singer and co-writer of the 1965 hit Io che non-vivo on Any Major Originals 1960s Vol. 1, which later became a hit for Dusty Springfield and Elvis Presley as You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me. By that time Donaggio had found his calling as a composer of film scores, becoming a favourite of Brian De Palma, scoring films like Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Body Double, and Raising Cain.

Another singer-turned-film-composer was Fred Bongusto, an easy listening vocalist featured here with his take on The Fool On The Hill. Bongusto, who died at 84 in 2019, incorporated Latin rhythms in his music, and was popular in South America, especially in Brazil. When he wasn’t crooning or writing film music, Bongusto was involved in local politics, standing for Italy’s Socialist Party.

Also well-known, but rather for her movies, is French-Italian actress Catherine Spaak, featured here with her version of Help. As a singer, she styled herself on Françoise Hardy, with whom she shared a producer, Ezio Leoni, one of the fathers of Italian pop.

 

Two acts here created full versions of bits of songs on Abbey Road’s Side 2. Chriss and The Stroke (another act featuring twice) of whom I know nothing, do a nice version of Golden Slumbers, and I Nuovi Angeli of Carry That Weight. Both incorporate snatches of You Never Give Me Your Money. I Nuovi Angeli, who were founded in 1966, went on to have international success — in Europe with their 1971 hit Uakadi Uakadù, and also in the US, where they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

I’ve found almost nothing on The Bushmen, who do a rather good version of Rain here. They might have been a quintet from Kenya, in which case they’d be this set’s most interesting story… Does any reader know more about them?

The remarkable thing, especially for your local In Memoriam merchant, is that of all the solo artists I’ve written about above, all are still alive except for Fred Bongusto (and I don’t know about Mike Liddell)!Come sempre, il mix si adatta a un CD-R standard. Il testo sopra è anche in un PDF illustrato. Password nei commenti.

1. Dino e I Kings – Torna con me sulla luna (I Saw Her Standing There) (1965)
2. I Meteors – She Loves You (1965)
3. Giovani Giovani di Pino Donaggio – Ma voglio solo te (I Want To Hold Your Hand) (1964)
4. Ricky Gianco – Non cercarmi (All My Loving) (1965)
5. I Fuggiaschi – Se mi pensi un po’ (If I Fell) (c.1965)
6. Patty Pravo – La tua voce (And I Love Her) (1970)
7. Dino e I Kings – Cerca Di Capire (I Should Have Known Better) (1964)
8. The Ingoes – Se Non Mi Aiuti Tu (Help) (1965)
9. Meri Marabini – Mi manchi (I Need You) (1966)
10. Catherine Spaak – Ieri (Yesterday) (1966)
11. I Camaleonti – Se ritornerai (Norwegian Wood) (1966)
12. Gianni Morandi – Una che dice di sì (Here, There And Everywhere) (1970)
13. Augusto Righetti – Il paese che non c’è (Nowhere Man) (1966)
14. Don Miko – Michelle (1966)
15. Mike Liddell & Gli Atomi – Nelle Mani Tue (We Can Work It Out) (1966)
16. The Bushmen – Pioggia (Rain) (1966)
17. I Castellani – Penny Lane (1967)
18. Mark e Martha & The Splash – Un Piccolo Aiuto Dagli Amici (With A Little Help From My Friends) (1970)
19. I Soliti Ignoti – Cerchi Solo Amore (All You Need Is Love) (1967)
20. Fred Bongusto – Tranquillità (The Fool On The Hill) (1971)
21. I Bit-Nik – Hello Goodbye (1968)
22. I Gleemen – Lady Madonna (1968)
23. Uh! – Non Sono Solo (I Am The Walrus) (1970)
24. Chriss and The Stroke – Torno in Russia (Back In The USSR) (1969)
25. The Rogers – Tam tam (Come Together) (1969)
26. I Ribelli – Oh Darling (1970)
27. Chriss and The Stroke – Per Niente Al Mondo (Golden Slumbers) (1969)
28. I Nuovi Angeli – Il dubbio (Carry That Weight) (1969)
29. The Juniors – Chi è (Get Back) (1969)
30. Patrick Samson – Dille di si (Let It Be) (1970)

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