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Any Major Hits from 1971

May 11th, 2021 1 comment

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Any Major Top 75 Acts (1-17)

April 29th, 2021 3 comments

 

We’re hitting the top in Any Major Dude’s Top 75 acts, a list compiled with my assistance at Rolling Stone magazine. The previous three volumes covered positions 18-34 and 35-56 and 56-75. The system was explained in the first instalment of this 4-part series.

Much as the final Top 75 rankings differed from the Rolling Stone list of Top 100 acts, the Top 3 is non-negotiable, though I think my order of those three makes better sense than that arrived at by my assistants.

Several acts that failed to make the Rolling Stone list made it onto my list. The highest-placed entries of those 19 acts are ABBA and Steely Dan, coming in at 11 and 15 respectively. One may explain the absence of ABBA in the Rolling Stone list by the Swedes’ relative lack of success in the US; a European list of any merit, however, would not exclude them. Steely Dan’s presence in my Top 20… well, look at the name of this blog!

A combination of the way in which the assistants overrated U2 and the circumstance that I have several of their albums (for which points were allocated) kept Bono and pals in the Top 20, a place ahead of Michael Jackson. That guy was hurt by being undervalued by RS — #35, Rolling Stone? Really? — and the fact that I own only three MJ solo albums. But that’s the way these lists work: they are by definition subjective. Though, as mentioned, the Top 3 are pretty much science and gospel.

I’ve also explained the method of song-selection on the playlists before — basically a favourite act per act. The Top two get two tracks here, one from those acts’ early and late periods. Number 3’s later period track didn’t fit on the CD-R length mix, so I’m including it as a bonus track. The chosen tracks are supposed to be my favourites of these acts, but for most, how can there be one, or two, or even five? So for #6, I chose the song that first turned me on to him four decades ago. The early period tracks for #1 and #2 have been my nominal favourites of theirs since I was 12.

The comments on the previous three parts don’t suggest that this was the most beloved series on Any Major Dude yet. I’m hoping that everybody waited for the final part to tell me how much they agree or disagree…

As I said, the mix is time to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-hyped covers, and the above text and full Top 75 in an illustrated PDF booklet. And I include an updated back cover for the last mix (the blue cover), which had the incorrect title on the spine. PW in comments.

Here is the countdown from #17 to the first place, with RS rankings in brackets. Featured songs in parenthesis (on the playlist they follow a more logical sequence)

17 (22)  U2 (Bad, 1984)
16 (18)  Marvin Gaye (What’s Going On, 1971)
15 (—)  Steely Dan (Any Major Dude Will Tell You, 1974)
14 (12)  The Beach Boys (Wouldn’t It Be Nice, 1966)
13 (11)   Bob Marley (Trenchtown Rock [live], 1975)
12 (7)    James Brown (Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine, 1970)
11 (—)  ABBA (The Name Of The Game, 1977)
10 (31)  Johnny Cash (Hurt, 2002)
9 (27)    Prince (Baby I’m A Star, 1984)
8 (4)     The Rolling Stones (Wild Horses, 1971)
7 (9)     Aretha Franklin (Rock Steady, 1972)
6 (23)   Bruce Springsteen (The Ties That Bind, 1980)
5 (40)   Simon & Garfunkel (America, 1968)
4 (15)    Stevie Wonder (As, 1976)
3 (2)     Bob Dylan (Positively 4th Street, 1965)
2 (3)     Elvis Presley (I Want To Be Free, 1957 / In The Ghetto, 1969)
1 (1)     The Beatles (You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away / Strawberry Fields Forever, 1967)

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Any Major Shakespeare

April 22nd, 2021 3 comments

 

 

No, please don’t run away — this will be fun! As Stephano said to Caliban in The Tempest: “We’ll not run!” What we have here is a mix of songs that include phrases introduced to the English language by William Shakespeare, the Leonard Cohen of his day.

Shakespeare, whose anniversary of birth and death we officially mark on April 23, coined dozens of phrases and words (or, at least, was the first to use them in surviving writings). As a coiner of popular phrases, Shakespeare is second only to the Bible. So it is to be expected that common phrases find their way into the lyrics of pop songs.

This mix concerns itself with phrases — “Heart of gold”, “Break the ice”, “The wheel is come full circle”, “Give the devil his due”, “In a pickle”, et cetera — rather than with single words. And there’s enough for another mix.

Single words alone would yield a never-ending number of compilations. One site counted 422 words, many of which we still use today; others count as many as 1,700. Such words include: accommodation, amazement, auspicious, baseless, castigate, countless, courtship, critical, dishearten, dwindle, eventful, exposure, generous, gloomy, gnarled, hurry, impartial, laughable, lonely, majestic, misplaced, monumental, obscene, premeditated, radiance, sanctimonious, submerge, suspicious…

This mix works well as just an eclectic sequence of songs, finding themselves bundled together by the random circumstance of linguistics and literature, but it’s very enjoyable nonetheless. And I imagine that English teachers might get a spark of an idea from this mix, getting their pupils to spot the Shakespeare in pop. I counsel caution with the Billy Holiday track, an old blues number from the 1920s which has lyrics one would not sing today…

To quote Caliban in The Tempest: “Wilt thou be pleased to hearken once againe to the mixt’re of CD-R lengthe, with home-rhymeth cov’rages, I made to thee?” Passworde be founde in ye comments.

 

1. The Beach Boys – Fun, Fun, Fun (1964 – “Wild-goose chase” from Romeo and Juliet)

2. Moby Grape – Come In The Morning (1968 – “Come what may” from Macbeth)

3. Colin Blunstone – Lovelight (1980 – “This denoted a foregone conclusion” from Othello)

4. Little River Band – Full Circle (1981 – “The wheel is come full circle” from King Lear)

5. Gallagher And Lyle – Heart On My Sleeve (1976 – “Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve” from Othello)

6. Neil Young – Heart Of Gold (1972 – “A heart of gold” from Henry V)

7. The Waterboys – Love And Death (1993 – “With bated breath” from The Merchant of Venice)

8. INXS – Disappear (1990 – “All our yesterdays” from Macbeth)

9. The Darkness – Love Is Only A Feeling (2003 – “The be-all and the end-all” from Macbeth)

10. James Dean Bradfield – Still A Long Way To Go (2006 – “Cold comfort” from King John)

11. David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes (1980 – “Break the ice” from The Taming of the Shrew)

12. Spandau Ballet – Gold (1983 – “My salad days” from Antony and Cleopatra)

13. Rod Stewart – Ain’t Love A Bitch (1978 – “I’ll not budge an inch, boy” from The Taming of the Shrew)

14. Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia (1979 – “Give the devil his due” from 1 Henry IV)

15. John Prine – Please Don’t Bury Me (1973 – “In maiden meditation, fancy-free” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

16. Tift Merritt – Hopes Too High (2008 – “In my mind’s eye” from Hamlet)

17. Kim Richey – Cowards In A Brave New World (2002 – “O, brave new world” from The Tempest)

18. Carly Simon – The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (1987 – “Such stuff as dreams are made on” from The Tempest)

19. Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days (1968 – “Farewell for ever and a day” from The Taming of the Shrew)

20. Lou Christie – All That Glitters Isn’t Gold (1963 – “All that glitters isn’t gold” from The Merchant of Venice)

21. Billie Holiday – Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do (1949 – “In a pickle” from The Tempest)

22. Chan Romero – Hippy Hippy Shake (1959 – “For goodness sake, consider what you do” from Henry VIII)

23. Kitty Wells – Kill Him With Kindness (1965 – “This is a way to kill a wife with kindness” from The Taming of the Shrew)

24. Glen Campbell – Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) (2008 – “A good riddance” from Troilus and Cressida)

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 11

April 13th, 2021 5 comments

 

In the latest installment of the Not Feeling Guilty series, we are looking at singers whose names sound like those of school teachers; that is, artists who went by their given names, regardless of how ordinary and un-rock & roll they were (the gallery below, which is intended to inject a little gentle humour into the proceedings, might bear out my point. A bigger version of the collage is included in the package). You weren’t going to become a big star with the name Ruhnke (though LaBounty is a pretty cool name).

Many of these singers also looked like they might have been your teacher. And that is not a slur on teachers nor the artists. These singers were recording artists, not creations of image. Their names, bad beards and bald heads assured us that they were here to create music, for the sake of music. Their craft was honest. And, as this mix shows, there was plenty talent behind the ordinary names. If their music’s point is to make you feel good, these people have probably succeeded.

Only few of the acts here struck it really big, though one is married to a man who is one of the godfathers of this genre. Amy Holland married Michael McDonald, who produced and played keyboards on the featured song, the title track of the album which won her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 1981. Holland and McDonald have been married since 1983.

The biggest hit here is Alan O’Day’s Undercover Angel, which was a US #1 and a global hit. It wasn’t his first chart-topper: three years earlier his composition Angie Baby was a #1 hit for Helen Reddy. He also co-wrote the The Righteous Brothers’ 1974 hit Rock And Roll Heaven (originally by a group called Climax). Later O’Day won an Emmy for his music on the Muppets Babies show. O’Day, whose hairline moved forward as he got older, died at 72 in 2013.

US-born and Australia-raised Steve Kipner had some success as a young man in Australia, sang backing vocals on a number of the Bee Gees’ early recordings (which were produced by his father), and had a couple of hits as part of the band Tin Tin. He released only one solo album, in 1979. But his greater success came as the co-writer of a string of hit records spanning four decades. These include Olivia Newton-John’s Physical, Chicago’s Hard Habit To Break, Christina Aguilera’s Genie In A Bottle, Natasha Bedingfield’s These Words, The Hardest Thing by 98 Degrees, He Loves U Not by Dream, Kelly Rowland’s Stole, The Script’s Breakeven and The Man Who Can’t Be Moved, Cheryl Cole’s Fight for This Love, Camilla Cabello’s Crying In The Club, James Arthur’s Say You Won’t Let Go…

Another prolific songwriter was Bruce Roberts, whose co-writing credits includes the Donna Summer & Barbra Streisand disco classic No More Tears. He also co-wrote Streisand’s The Main Event, Bette Midler’s You’re Moving Out Today, Starmaker for Paul Anka/Judy Collins/The Kids from ‘Fame’, Rita Coolidge’s Fool That I Am, Laura Branigan’s The Lucky One, Dolly Parton’s You’re The Only One, Jeffrey Osborne’s You Should Be Mine (featured on Any Major Soul 1986/87), and more. He also co-wrote Lani Hall’s Where’s Your Angel?, which featured on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 10.

 

If AOR singers were teachers…

 

Yet another singer here with an impressive record of writing hits for others is Randy Goodrum, to whom we owe, as writer or co-writer, the Ann Murray hit You Needed Me, Kenny Rogers & Dottie West’s What Are We Doin’ In Love, Steve Perry’s Oh Sherrie, DeBarge’s Who’s Holding Donna Now, Toto’s I’ll Be Over You, and George Benson’s 20/20, among others. Goodrum also wrote songs for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns.

Goodrum also wrote two other (colour-coordinated) songs here. Pop-gospel-country singer Micki Fuhrman recorded Goodrum’s Blue River Of Tears in 1979; it was a single release only, and made no impact, which is a pity. Fuhrman released three albums and a bunch of singles until 1983.

Goodrum’s Bluer Than Blue was a hit in 1978 for Michael Johnson, an musical all-rounder. As a youth, he studied classical guitar in Barcelona; in the 1960s he was a member alongside John Denver in the folk outfit Chad Mitchell Trio. In the late 1970s he ventured into AOR, and in the 1980s became a country musician. One of Johnson’s hits was This Night Won’t Last Forever, a US #19 in 1979, which features here in Bill LaBounty’s 1978 original version. Johnson died in 2017 at 72.

In the 1960s, the British musician Graham Dee — the only artist in this lot operating with a stagename; his real name is Davidson — worked with future Led Zep members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, filled in for Syd Barrett in Pink Floyd and in Them, and played for Elkie Brooks, The Walker Brothers and Carl Perkins.

Near-namesake Larry Lee must not be confused with the guitarist of the same name who played with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. This Larry Lee was a founder member of the Ozark Mountains Daredevils. As the band’s drummer, Lee wrote and took lead vocals the band’s best-known song Judy Blue, which like the Warnes song mentioned above featured on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 10. Later he joined The Vinyl Kings, with Not Feeling Guilty alumnus Jim Photoglo (introduced on Vol. 7).

Terence Boylan had cool classmates, who helped him record his debut album in 1969: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, yet to become Steely Dan. Boylan released three LPs between 1969 and 1980, and that was it for his recording career. Happily, Boylan had science to fall back on. He is now director of a foundation he founded to facilitate research and international scientist exchange fellowships.

The best teachers’ name here must be Dick St Nicklaus. I couldn’t find much about him, except that he once worked with Lamont & Dozier, released two albums which were huge hits in Japan, and wrote a number of sings which were recorded by the likes of Laura Branigan, Peter Allen, Vanilla Fudge and Bill Medley.

Craig Ruhnke was introduced in Vol. 9, Peter McCann in Vol. 10. Oh, and I think I’ll opt for religious instruction classes.

As ever, this mix is timed to fit on as standard CD-R and includes home-cruised covers, the whole caboodle above in PDF format, and the yearbook gallery above in larger format. PW in comments.

1. Roby Duke – Seasons Of Change (1982)
2. Alan O’Day – Undercover Angel (1977)
3. Randy Goodrum – Fool’s Paradise (1982)
4. Amy Holland – How Do I Survive (1980)
5. Graham Dee – Too Good To Last (1977)
6. Jim Schmidt – Love Has Taken It All Away (1983)
7. Bill Champlin – Tonight Tonight (1981)
8. Bill LaBounty – This Night Won’t Last Forever (1978)
9. Craig Ruhnke – It’s Been Such A Long Time (1983)
10. Terence Boylan – Tell Me (1980)
11. Larry Lee – Number One Girl (1982)
12. John Valenti – Did She Mention Me (1980)
13. Teri De Sario – The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of (1978)
14. Dwayne Ford – Lovin’ And Losin’ You (1981)
15. Richard Torrance – Anything’s Possible (1978)
16. Dick St. Nicklaus – Can’t Give Up (1979)
17. Michael Johnson – Bluer Than Blue (1978)
18. Micki Fuhrman – Blue River Of Tears (1979)
19. Peter McCann – Do You Wanna Make Love (1977)
20. Bruce Roberts – Cool Fool (1980)
21. Steve Kipner – The Ending (1979)

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix 1
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 2
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 3
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 4
Not Feeling Guilty Mix 5
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 6
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 7
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 8
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 9
Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 10

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Any Major Soul 1981

March 25th, 2021 3 comments

There was still a lot of great soul in the early 1980s. In fact, there was a lot of great soul throughout the decade; it’s just the famous hits that got worse.

Dimples
One of the better hits of the mid-1980s was the rather misogynist Oran ‘Juice’ Jones hit The Rain, in which the singer delivers a spoken diatribe to effect a break-up with his cheating girlfriend (“Don’t touch that coat!”). On this mix, the roles are reversed as Betty Wright cuts down the hapless Richard ‘Dimples’ Fields, on whom she has served divorce papers. And with good reason, for he is seeking to get his jollies elsewhere. Her rap as she cuts the cad down to size is quite spectacular. Fields, who begins the track by framing himself as a victim, merits our applause for setting himself up in this song as a target for a woman’s righteous fury.

Fields went on to have an R&B hit in 1982 with If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another (a re-recording of a track he had originally released in 1975), and a number of low-charting releases, but he enjoyed less success than he deserved. Dimples, his nickname by which he went on his later recordings (given to him for his ready smile), died at only 57 in 2000.

Jones Girls
His She’s Got Papers On Me is one of two tracks here which I might have held back for a mix I’m plotting of songs with spoken words; the other is The Jones Girls I Just Love The Man, in which the girl’s take issue with the quality of a sister’s no-good boyfriend. In some families, I suspect, this song could be the national anthem.

The sisters — Shirley, Brenda and Valerie  — found success with Gamble & Huff, having first been mentored by Curtis Mayfield, through whom they got to work with Aretha Franklin. It was as a support act for Diana Ross that the Jones Girls came to Gamble & Huff’s attention. Besides releasing their own albums, they also provided backing vocals for the PIR roster. Of the three sisters, only lead singer Shirley (who in the featured song is the no-good man’s girlfriend) is still alive. Valorie died in 2001; Brenda in 2017. The Jones Girls previously featured on Any Major Soul 1980/81 and Any Major Soul 1978/79.

Apollo Creed sings!
One singer here is more famous as a movie star, or even as an American football player than as a soul crooner. In 1981, Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed in Rocky). You Ought To Be With Me, on which the actor has a writing credit, was his single foray into recording music. Which is a pity: Weathers is doing a creditable job of it.

Blues ‘n’ Soul
Another act is not really known as a soul singer. Bobby Rush was a veteran blues singer by the time Talk To Your Daughter came out. As a young man, he was friends with blues legends like Elmore James and Pinetop Perkins, and with Ike Turner. The featured track is from the period in his long career when Rush was produced by Philly soul pioneer Kenny Gamble. Rush, who veers into the fields of soul, funk and even hip hop, won his first Grammy in 2017, at the age of 87.

Tutored by B.B.
And a nephew of Rush’s old pal Emore James features here, too. L.V. Johnson was better known as a session guitarist — he was taught to play that instrument by B.B. King — for acts like the Bar-Kays, Johnnie Taylor, and the Soul Children. After strumming and also writing for other acts, and releasing a few singles in the 1970s, he released his debut album in 1981 (it also included a soul version of Danny Boy, featured on Covered With Soul Vol. 22). Several albums followed, none particularly successful. L.V. Johnson died in 1994 at the age of 48.

Feva
Sandra Feva released three LPs and a succession of singles, under her stage name and real name, Sandra Richardson. The breakthrough never came, but in the 1980s Feva was also a session singer, backing he likes of Aretha Franklin (including on Who’s Zooming Who), Prince, George Clinton/Paliament/Funkadelic, and others. Feva died at 73 in 2020.

As always, CD-R length, covers, text above in PDF, PW in comments…

1. The Whispers – Love Is Where You Find It
2. Luther Vandross – Sugar And Spice
3. Ray Parker Jr. – A Woman Needs Love
4. Sandra Feva – Tell ’Em That I Heard It
5. Tyrone Davis – Love (Ain’t Over There)
6. Chaka Khan – Any Old Sunday
7. The Jones Girls – I Just Love The Man
8. Richard ‘Dimples’ Fields feat. Betty Wright – She’s Got Papers On Me
9. Al Jarreau – Breakin’ Away
10. Debra Laws feat. Ronnie Laws – Very Special
11. Bobby Womack – Where Do We Go From Here?
12. Thelma Houston – There’s No Running Away From Love
13. Carl Weathers – You Ought To Be With Me
14. Yvonne Gage – Tonight (I Wanna Love You)
15. Earth, Wind & Fire – Wanna Be With You
16. L.V. Johnson – We Belong Together
17. Bobby Rush – Talk To Your Daughter
Bonus track: Fifth Avenue – Miracles

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Any Major Top 75 Acts (18-34)

March 18th, 2021 3 comments

We’re now breaking into the Top 20 in the series of the Top 75 pop acts, as compiled by me and my trusty assistants at Rolling Stone magazine, compiled according to the system I explained in the first part. To jog your memory, it’s a combination of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 100, my own Top 75, plus bonus points for the level of influence an act has had on pop history or their genre, and more bonus points for how many albums of each at I own (because the list should skew in some way to my taste).

The listed acts are accompanied by a notional “favourite song”. As discussed last time, there usually isn’t such a thing as one “favourite” song. I also made concessions. In this lot, for example, I chose as AC/DC’s song the live version of A Whole Lotta Rosie. If pressed, I’d say Ride On is my favourite track of the group, because it has been that for the past 40 years. But Ride On, a slow blues-rock number, is not really representative of AC/DC. So Rosie it was.

Choosing a track for Chuck Berry also required consideration. It might have been School Days or Too Much Monkey Business or You Never Can Tell, but I opted for the one with the lyrics that frightened the WASP establishment (until people like #32 covered it, and drew that sting).

The Rock & Roll pioneers who ranked highly in the RS list dropped down on mine perhaps a little unfairly, losing crucial points in the category of albums by particular artists I own. I tend to have collections of their works, rather than albums (the same quirk pulled Hendrix and Ray Charles down, and gave Queen a rather unfair boost, thanks to the esteem I used to hold them when I accumulated their earlier LPs).

The rankings are subjective, of course. I acknowledge that most people will regard Cooke, Holly or Little Richard to be greater and certainly more influential acts than, say, Gil Scott-Heron (though impact was considered in the points allocation). But the points fell as they fell…

And they fell favourably towards John Lennon, who is featuring here purely on form of his solo output. Rolling Stone ranked him far too highly at #38 (and McCartney not at all); on my list he even crept up a few places, on strength of the great number of Lennon LPs I own (which reminds me that I once owned a Japanese pressing of the Wedding Album, with all the inserts. It’s worth about $99 now).

I’m glad that I have been able to give relief to the absurd ranking Rolling Stone gave Michael Jackson. Much as I think Thriller is overrated, and everything after Thriller substandard, Off The Wall is a near-perfect album, and his work with The Jackson 5/The Jacksons is superb. But, of course, the sum of his music isn’t the total of his career. Jackson’s influence was arguably third only to that of Elvis and The Beatles; that merited more than 35th place — and perhaps more than #18, especially when you see in the final instalment next month who’s at #17.

Here are places 34 to 18 (Rolling Stone Top 100 ranking in brackets), and featured track. The playlist follows a more logical sequence. As always, CD-R length, home-ranked covers, PW in comments. Plus: as before, the text here is included in PDF format for future reference.

34 (—-) Isaac Hayes – I Stand Accused (1970)
33 (16) Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come (1964)
32 (13) Buddy Holly – That’ll Be The Day (1957)
31  (8)  Little Richard – Ooh! My Soul (1958)
30 (38) John Lennon – Instant Karma (1970)
29 (—-) Kris Kristofferson – Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down (1970)
28 (—-) Gil Scott-Heron – The Needle’s Eye (1971)
27 (72) AC/DC – Whole Lotta Rosie (live, 1978)
26 (52) Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)
25 (39) David Bowie – Changes (1971)
24 (21) Otis Redding – I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (1965)
23 (10) Ray Charles – What’d I Say (1959)
22  (6)  Jimi Hendrix – The Wind Cries Mary (1967)
21  (5)  Chuck Berry – Brown Eyed Handsome Man (1956)
20 (42) Van Morrison – And It Stoned Me (1970)
19 (—-) Earth, Wind & Fire – Reasons (live, 1975)
18 (35) Michael Jackson – Rock With You (1979)

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Any Major Coffee Vol. 3

March 11th, 2021 7 comments

 

Lately my Gmail account has been swamped with spam, mostly of the variety that urges me to diet, lift weights or eat sourdough bread. I’m telling you this not because I consider the nature of my spam to be of global interest, but because I fear that in the anthill that is my inbox, I quite likely overlooked some emails from kind people who have bought me cups of coffee (to go with the sourdough bread?) whom I should have liked to thank for their benevolence.

So, if you have bought me “coffee” and I haven’t thanked you personally, I apologise and take this route to thank you very kindly for keeping me duly caffeinated (I’m referring, of course, to the Buy Me A Coffee thingy you find at www.buymeacoffee.com). I truly appreciate it.

And seeing as there are good people have bought me coffee, let me return the favour by offering this third mix of songs about coffee. For the purpose of this mix, I revisited the first two coffee mixes, which I posted in 2016. I hadn’t listened to them for a while; I was surprised by just good they are. Grab Any Major Coffee Vol. 1 and Any Major Coffee Vol. 2.

I hope this third mix matches the quality of the first two. Here I have slightly relaxed my rule that the songs have to be about actual coffee and allowed a couple of tracks that use coffee as a metaphor (still, no You’re So Vain, great song though it is). One of those, the deceptively simply-titled song by David Allen Coe, might best not be played around children, your granny or Mike Pence. Let’s just say that Coe had a lot of fun making coffee sound salacious. I’ve added a bonus track which you could replace the Coe song with, in case gran or Mike Pence come to visit.

And, as I said in the text for the first mix: If you are a coffee-drinker and this mix — or the mere reminder of caffeine — motivates you to go out in search for a fix, please do me a kindness and seek out an independent coffee shop/café. These independents are being squeezed out by the franchise stores, led by the unaccountably popular Starbucks. And Covid has turned the screws on them further. Help keep the independent coffeeshops and cafés going.

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

1. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – Black Caffeine (2013)
2. Nazareth – Java Blues (1981)
3. Ike & Tina Turner – Black Coffee (1972)
4. Hank Ballard – The Coffee Grind (1960)
5. Mississippi John Hurt – Coffee Blues (1966)
6. Brook Benton – Another Cup Of Coffee (1964)
7. Curtis Gordon – Caffeine And Nicotine (1954)
8. Glen Glenn – One Cup Of Coffee (And A Cigarette) (1958)
9. Mike Pedicin – Burnt Toast And Black Coffee (1961)
10. Eddie Marshall – Coffee, Cigarettes And Tears (1951)
11. Bobby Darin – Black Coffee (1959)
12. Abbey Lincoln – A Lonesome Cup Of Coffee (1957)
13. Frank Sinatra – The Coffee Song (1967)
14. The Andrews Sisters – Proper Cup Of Coffee (1958)
15. Michael O’Brien – Low Fat Latte (2007)
16. Ron Sexsmith & Don Kerr – Raindrops In My Coffee (2005)
17. Mark Heard – Nod Over Coffee (1991)
18. Amos Lee – Night Train (2006)
19. Squeeze – Black Coffee In Bed (1981)
20. Ben Folds – Free Coffee (2008)
21. Mischief Brew – Coffee, God, And Cigarettes (2006)
22. David Allen Coe – Coffee (1990)
23. Bill Anderson – Sugar In Your Coffee (1972)
24. Tom T. Hall – Don’t Forget The Coffee, Billie Joe (1973)
25. Conway Twitty – I’ll Have Another Cup Of Coffee (Then I’ll Go) (1966)

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Any Major Top 75 Acts (35-56)

February 18th, 2021 1 comment

 

Here’s the second instalment of our countdown of pop’s Top 75 acts. The first lot brought us down to #57; here we tumble up the charts to #35.

I described the method of rankings in the first part. To jog your memory, it’s a combination of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 100, my own Top 75, plus bonus points for the level of influence an act has had on pop history or their genre, and more bonus points for how many albums of each at I own (because the list should skew in some way to my taste).

Each act on the list is represented by my nominal favourite song of their output. Choosing songs is sometimes very easy, and other times a question of changing and substituting original choices. So there is no question that of all the Al Green songs, I love none as much as the obvious one: Let’s Stay Together. Other acts I agonised over: for Warren Zevon, John Prine and Bill Withers I must have selected and then replaced about five songs each. It reveals the futile nature of the concept of a “favourite song”, even as my Al Green example confirms the possibility of having absolute favourites.

By an act of serendipity, Muddy Waters and Led Zeppelin ended up in the same group. It so happens that the Muddy Waters track I like best is the one which Led Zep plagiarised for A Whole Lotta Love.As I made the home-hyped cover, I noticed that I had previously written about the artwork of a number of albums featured on this mix: Carole King’s Tapestry, the Clash’s London Calling, the Mama’s and The Papa’s bathroom extravaganza. The first of these I reposted last week.

The mix, timed to fit on a standard CD-R, runs in a more logical sequence than the rankings below. So, let’s count down from #56 to #35. Figures in brackets indicate the particular act’s standing in the Rolling Stone’s Top 100.

56 (28) The Clash (London Calling)
55 (25) Fats Domino (I’m Walking)
54 (24) Jerry Lee Lewis (Geat Balls Of Fire)
53 (—) Warren Zevon (Lawyers, Guns And Money)
52 (—) Bill Withers (Grandma’s Hands)
51 (20) Bo Diddley (Who Do You Love?)
50 (19) Velvet Underground (Sunday Morning)
49 (17) Muddy Waters (You Need Love)
48 (14) Led Zeppelin (Immigrant Song)
47 (26) Ramones (Rockaway Beach)
46 (—) The Mama’s and The Papa’s (Monday, Monday)
45 (84) James Taylor (Sweet Baby James)
44 (66) Al Green (Let’s Stay Together)
43 (—) Luther Vandross (A House Is Not A Home)
42 (51) Pink Floyd (Wish You Were Here)
41 (32) Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (Ooo Baby Baby)
40 (—) Crowded House (When You Come)
39 (—) Carole King (So Far Away)
38 (—) John Prine (All The Best)
37 (—) Carpenters (Goodbye To Love)
36 (75) Eagles (Take It Easy)
35 (68) The Temptations (I Wish It Would Rain)

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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)

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Any Major Top 75 Acts (57-75)

January 26th, 2021 2 comments

 

 

Notions about the greatest pop acts in history can be fun diversions, prompting the consumer of such lists to compare how these match up with their own. So what we have here is the first of four instalments of the Top 75 pop artists of the Rock & Roll era, as chosen by my good self and my trusty assistants at Rolling Stone magazine.

These four parts of the countdown are then accompanied by mixes featuring my notional “favourite” song of each of the listed acts. For the most part, there are no favourites. The chosen tracks will mostly be the favourite of the day I picked them, or songs I’ve always listed as my “favourites” of that particular artist. Take The Temptations: I picked the song I’ve always considered my “favourite” of theirs, but it might just as well have been My Girl, or Since I Lost My Baby, or Ball Of Confusion. Most chosen tracks will be unsurprising and probably quite obvious, not because I’m unfamiliar with the catalogue of most acts (though some are a bit of a foreign country to me), but because most acts’ best tracks tend to be famous. No pretentiousness here in picking tunes.

So, the method of listing the Top 75 acts… First I took the Rolling Stone list of the Top 100 greatest artists in popular music. Acts placed in the Top 10 got five points, Top 20 acts four, Top 40 three, Top 60 two, Top 100 one.

Then I compiled my own Top 100, allocating points by the same method. Obviously, acts not listed in the Rolling Stone list got zero points, as did acts on the RS list not on my list. Of this Top 75, there are 19 that did not make the RS Top 100.

Next I awarded points on as scale from four to one to reflect how influential an act was. So Nirvana or Chuck Berry would get the maximum four, because they shaped their respective genres. Billy Joel (not included in the RS list) shaped rather little, and received one point for his troubles.

Finally, I awarded points for how many albums of each act I own. A complete collection earned contenders three points; five albums or more two points, 3-4 albums one point.

The rankings were determined by total points. Only the winner scored the maximum 17 points (Spoiler alert: it’s Michael Bolton). The lowest points accumulation to merit inclusion on the list was six (four on the list, plus six bubbling under). I left the rankings by Rolling Stone in their original sequence, but inserted my nominated newcomers where I think they belong.

The final results produced surprising fluctuations. In my list, U2 actually rank higher than on the Rolling Stone list. I was quite startled by that. Half of my Top 10 resided outside the RS Top 20, but the Everly Brothers, whom I like well enough, dropped 41 places. If only I owed more of their albums…

Needless to say, several acts here would not come anywhere near my own Top 100. Their presence owes to their level of influence and the judgment of the editors of the Rolling Stone.

Finally, I did a little weeding on the RS list: I disqualified jazz acts, firstly because this is a pop list, and secondly, Rolling Stone included a few token jazz artists rather than giving the entire genre a fair shake. And I excluded the recently late Phil Spector, who rather stood out as the only producer in the lot. But if producers should qualify, where’s Quincy Jones (who’d merit consideration as a jazz artist as well)? Or Holland-Dozier-Holland?

For some inexplicable reason, Rolling Stone also excluded jazz singers and crooners — no Ella Fitzgerald or Dinah Washington or Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole or Sarah Vaughn or Tony Bennett — so I couldn’t consider them myself. Maybe those are worth a list of their own.

Lastly, the RS list is fairly old. I suppose an updated list might include the likes of Beyoncé (her husband features, but not on mine) or Lady Gaga or Pharrell Williams or John Legend or Kings of Leon. Much as I like some of the more recent icons of pop, none of them would make my Top 75 anyway.

So, here are places 57 to 75 (Rolling Stone Top 100 ranking in brackets), with featured track:

75 (43) Sly & Family Stone (Family Affair)
74 (33) The Everly Brothers (All I Have To Do Is Dream)
73 (—) The Bee Gees (Marley Purt Drive)
72 (—) Neil Diamond (Brooklyn Roads)
71 (—) Little Feat (Willin’)
70 (—) Ben Folds (Trusted)
69 (98) Curtis Mayfield (No Thing On Me)
68 (90) Santana (Jin-Go-Lo-Ba)
67 (74) Hank Williams (Your Cheatin’ Heart)
66 (70) The Police (So Lonely)
65 (62) Joni Mitchell (Carey)
64 (60) The Sex Pistols (Pretty Vacant)
63 (57) Grateful Dead (Ripple)
62 (49) Elton John (Tiny Dancer)
61 (45) The Byrds (Eight Miles High)
60 (34) Neil Young (Harvest Moon)
59 (30) Nirvana (Smells Like Teen Spirit)
58 (—) Billy Joel (Summer, Highland Falls)
57 (29) The Who (Won’t Get Fooled Again)

The playlist follows a different sequence. The mix is timed to fit on as standard CD-R.  Home-hyped covers included. PW in comments

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