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In Memoriam – April 2019

May 2nd, 2019 4 comments

April was shaping up to be a gentle month, and then there was a death that shook me, even if I had never heard of the artist before. But more about that later…

If there was an impossible-not-to sing-along-to English pop song in the charts in the 1960s, chances were that Les Reed co-wrote it (often with Geoff Stephens). His classic hits include It’s Not Unusual and Delilah (Tom Jones), The Last Waltz, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize and When There’s No You (Engelbert Humperdinck), There’s A Kind Of Hush (Hermanâ’s Hermits and later Carpenters), Everybody Knows (Dave Clark Five), Here It Comes Again (The Fortunes), I Pretend (Des O’Connor), Leave A Little Love (Lulu) and many others. He also wrote song for Elvis and Bing Crosby.

In the 1980s, Earl Thomas Conley was one of the biggest country stars, notching up 18 Billboard Country #1s, plus a bunch of #2 hits – but he never achieved crossover success. That amazing run of hits came after a time of struggle in the 1970s, kicking off with the 1981 country chart-topper Fire And Smoke and neatly ending in 1989 with Love Out Loud. Another #2 hit followed in 1991, and that was the end of Conley’s chart dominance. He continued to record and write songs, including Blake Shelton’s 2002 hit All Over Me. Conley was the first (and possibly only) country star to appear on Soul Train when he performed his duet with Anita Pointer, Too Many Times, on the show.

Almost exactly a month after Danny and the Juniors member and songwriter David White died, baritone Joe Terry (or Terranova) passed away. While White had washed his hands off the Juniors by the 1960s, Terry led the group right to the end, with the now only surviving original member Frank Maffei and Maffei’s brother Bobby. Terry’s death has probably put an end to the 62-year career of Danny and The Juniors.

The month’s most heartbreaking pop death is that of teenage Brazilian singer and TV personality Yasmim Gabrielle. Well-known in Brazil as a child-singer Read more…

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The Originals – 1960s Vol. 1

April 25th, 2019 8 comments

 

In this instalment of The Originals we look at some of the lesser-known first releases of songs that would become huge 1960s hits for others, starting with (what I will assume is) the innocence of My Boy Lollipop and ending with the national anthem of Orgasmia. There are 30 songs on the mix; I’m telling the story of 17 of them. Of the remaining 13, it may be noted that two were written by Laura Nyro, the one featured here in her first recording and the later Blood, Sweat & Tears hit And When I Die.

So, get a good cup of the hit beverage of your choice, settle in and enjoy the journey through the originals of 1960s classics.

 

My Boy Lollipop

Millie’s My Boy Lollipop, widely regarded as the first crossover ska hit which helped give reggae a mainstream audience. In its original version, My Boy Lollypop (note the original spelling) was a song recorded in 1956 by the white R&B singer Barbie Gaye, at 15 two years younger than Millie Small was when she had a hit with the cover in 1964.

As so often in pop history, the story of the song’s authorship is cloaked in controversy. By most accounts, it was written by Bobby Spencer of the doo wop band The Cadillacs, with the group’s manager, Johnny Roberts, getting co-writer credit. Barbie Gaye’s single became a very minor hit, championed by the legendary rock & roll DJ Alan Freed. It was Spencer’s misfortune to come into contact with the notorious mafia-connected record executive and music publisher Morris Levy, who implausibly claimed that he had in fact written My Boy Lollypop, using the moniker R Spencer as a pseudonym. The real Spencer was later reinstated on the credits which nonetheless still list Levy as a co-writer. Levy’s name is attached to other classics which he had no hand in writing, such as Lee Dorsey’s Ya Ya, Frankie Lymon’s Why Do Fools Fall In Love, and The Rivieras’ California Sun. We’ll encounter him again in the story of the next song in this post.

My Boy Lollipop was revived in 1964 by Chris Blackwell, boss of the nascent Island Records label in England, which had recorded no big hit yet. He chose young Millicent Small to record it. As half of the duo Roy & Millie she had already enjoyed a hit with We’ll Meet in Jamaica. Her version changed Island’s fortunes: the song became a worldwide hit, reaching #2 in both US and UK. Island, of course, went on to become the label of Bob Marley, Roxy Music, Robert Palmer and U2.

Hanky Panky

Among the inhabitants of cubicles with pianos at the Brill Building in New York were Ellie Greenwich (who in her earlier singing had named herself Ellie Gaye in tribute to Barbie Gaye) and her husband Jeff Barry, who together wrote so many of the songs we now associate with Phil Spector’s girl groups. In 1963, Greenwich and Barry recorded a demo of a song called What A Guy. It was intended for a doo-wop group called The Sensations, but the band’s label, Jubilee, was so impressed with demo’s girl-band style (which was in fact Greenwich’s multi-tracked voice, with Barry providing bass voice) that they decided to release it, in the name of the songwriters’ band, The Raindrops.

Trouble was that Greenwich and Barry had no song for the flip-side, so they thrashed out Hanky Panky in the space of 20 minutes. They were not particularly satisfied with the song, and when a group called The Summits released it soon after as the b-side of He’s An Angel (or it might have been released before What A Guy came out; it’s unclear), it didn’t do brisk business either.

And yet, the song had become popular among garage rock live bands, including one called The Spinners (not the soul band), from whom the teenage musician Tommy Jackson heard it. He recorded it with his band, The Shondells, in 1964 at a radio station in Michigan. It was a local hit, but Tommy decided to break up his band and complete his schooling. The following year he was contacted by a Pittsburgh DJ who had discovered the record and now wanted Tommy and his Shondells to perform it on air. He hurriedly put together a new line-up of Shondells, and changed his name to Tommy James. He then sold the 1964 master to Roulette Records, which released it without remixing, never mind re-recording it. The single went to #1 in July 1966. James later explained in a Billboard interview: “I don’t think anybody can record a song that bad and make it sound good. It had to sound amateurish like that.”

There is a great story of how the small New York-based Roulette label got to release Hanky Panky. It seems that a whole gang of labels, some of them majors, wanted to buy the record. Suddenly, one after another, they withdrew their offers, much to Tommy James’ surprised dismay. In the end Jerry Wexler of Atlantic told the singer, still a teenager, what was going on: Roulette’s Morris Levy (on whom The Soprano’s Hesch Rabkin is based) had called all rival labels telling them that Hanky Panky belonged to him. Intimidated, the rivals bought the bluff, and James had to go with Levy.

Needles And Pins
Needles And Pins was written by Sonny Bono and Jack Nietzsche and first recorded by the vastly underrated Jackie DeShannon in 1963, crossing the Atlantic the same year in Petula Clark’s version before the Searchers finally scored a hit with it in 1964 (DeShannon’s version, while not a hit in the US, topped the Canadian charts). The story goes that The Searchers first heard Needles And Pins being performed by Cliff Bennett at the Star Club in Hamburg and immediately decided that the song should be their next single. It became the second of their three UK #1 hits. They did retain DeShannon’s pronunciation of “now-ah”, “begins-ah” and “pins-ah”.

 

I’m Into Something Good
In the late 1950s Ethel “Earl-Jean” McCrea was a member of the R&B girl group The Cookies, which was absorbed into Ray Charles’ backing band, The Raelettes. Only Earl-Jean didn’t join the backing singer gig, instead becoming part of a new incarnation of The Cookies, who recorded the original of The Beatles’ Chains.

The Cookies did much demo work for Carole King and Gerry Goffin at Aldon Music, doing backing vocals on pop songs such as Little Eva’s The Loco-motion (it was through Earl-Jean’s recommendation that King and Goffin employed Little Eva as a babysitter) and Neil Sedaka’s Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. Along the way, they had a top ten hit with Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby.

Earl-Jean left The Cookies in 1964 to try for a solo career, and it was King and Goffin who wrote her first (and only) solo hit: I’m Into Something Good, released on Colpix Records. It did a creditable job, climbing to #38 in the Billboard charts. Alas, her follow-up single, Randy, didn’t do as well, and when in 1966 Colpix folded, her solo career was over.

In Britain, the record producer Mickey Most – fresh from discovering The Animals – had heard I’m Into Something Good, and decided it was a perfect vehicle for his new protéges, Herman’s Hermits. The single became a UK #1 hit in September 1964, and then went on to reach #13 in the US, ringing in a golden period for Herman’s Hermits, who remarkably became the best-selling act in the United States in 1965, ahead of even The Beatles

Galveston

Jimmy Webb sat on the beach of Galveston on the hurricane-plagued Gulf of Mexico when he wrote this song, which might appear to be about the “Spanish-American War” (which we really should call the Cuban Independence War) but was just as applicable to the Vietnam War, which Read more…

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Any Major Churches

April 18th, 2019 4 comments

I had no plans to post anything special for Easter, since the Saved! series had run its course. But the fire in the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, a place I’ve visited several times, moved me to make a mix of songs about churches. It is not a Saved! mix because the songs here don’t necessarily speak of religious faith. In some songs, such as California Dreaming or For Emily, the churches are just incidental in the narrative.

What has emerged is a remarkably eclectic mix which covers all sorts of things, from French chanson to hip hop, from funk to country, from blues to indie rock. Any Major Dude With Half A Heart is a broad church.

The mix kicks off with a song about Notre-Dame, and the Paris theme returns later with Tift Merrit’s song which references the church of St Sulpice, which also caught fire, though less destructive, this year.

The story of the Johnny Cash song is quite extraordinary: it was written by one of the inmate at Folsom Prison about the jail chapel, “a house of worship in this den of sin”. Apparently the inmate who wrote it, 32-year-old Glen Sherley, sat in the front-row at the Folsom Prison concert, not knowing that Cash would perform his song. Sherley, who was serving time for armed robbery, never caught the curve, despite Cash’s attempts at helping him. In 1978 he died of suicide.

As always, the ix is time to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-hallelujahed covers. PW in comments.

For those who believe, I wish you a Happy Easter. For those who don’t, Happy Feast of the Easter Bunny.

1. Edith Piaf – Notre-Dame de Paris (1952)
2. Ann Cole – In The Chapel (1956)
3. Johnny Rivers – Mountain Of Love (1964)
4. Honey Cone – Sunday Morning People (1971)
5. Box Tops – I Met Her In Church (1967)
6. Lyle Lovett – Church (1992)
7. Drive-By Truckers – Late For Church (1998)
8. Tift Merritt – Tender Branch (2008)
9. Eels – In The Yard, Behind The Church (2005)
10. Ben Harper and The Five Blind Boys of Alabama – Church House Steps (2004)
11. Outkast – Church (2003)
12. James Brown – Bodyheat (1976)
13. Lee Moses – California Dreaming (1971)
14. David Egan – Bourbon In My Cup (2008)
15. Robert Patterson Singers – Crying In The Chapel (1967)
16. Simon & Garfunkel – For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her (1970)
17. Johnny Cash – Greystone Chapel (1969)
18. Porter Wagoner – I’ll Meet You In Church Sunday Morning (1964)
19. Ella Fitzgerald – The Church In The Wildwood (1967)
20. Frank Sinatra – Winchester Cathedral (1966)
21. The Willows – Church Bells Are Ringing (1956)
22. John Lee Hooker – Church Bell Tone (1959)

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Previous SAVED! mixes
Saved! Vol. 1 (Elvis Presley, Carter Family, LaVern Baker, Marvin Gaye…)
Saved! Vol. 2: Soul edition (Curtis Mayfield, The Supremes, The Trammps,  Jerry Butler…)
Saved! Vol. 3 (Prefab Sprout,  Wilco, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds…)
Saved! Vol. 4 (Sam Cooke, Dixie Hummingbirds, Dinah Washington, Jerry Lee Lewis…)
Saved! Vol. 5 (Donny Hathaway, Holmes Brothers,  Steve Earle, The Bar-Kays…)
Saved! Vol. 6: Angels edition (Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, Rilo Kiley, Kris Kristofferson…¦)
Saved! Vol. 7: Soul edition (Earth, Wind & Fire, Billy Preston, Marlena Shaw, Al Green…)
Best of Saved!

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Beatles Reunited 77 (1977)

April 11th, 2019 3 comments

 

In our alternate Beatleverse it’s 1977, and three years after 1974’s classic double album Photographs, the Fabs are finally releasing a follow-up.

By now John is concentrating on his home-life more than he does on The Beatles, and Ringo is enjoying his forays into the movies. Between them, they provide only three songs to the new album, and John.s are hold-overs from the Photographs sessions [real life aside: the featured Lennon tracks are from the Menlove Ave. album of outtakes from the Walls & Bridges sessions]. One might’ve thought that John’s Rock & Roll shtick was something of an anachronism, but by 1977 it was in line with the 1950s revival which a year later would find full expression with the film Grease.

Paul and George have been prolific, however, and their contributions to this LP are quite lovely. Remarkably, The Beatles have not yet succumbed to the influences of disco.

The album title, 77, is a bit lazy. Obviously it refers to the year of its release. One wonders whether it is also an oblique reference to the year being the tenth anniversary of the year in which Sgt Pepper.s was released. The plain red back cover and the font on the front-cover more than hints at that.

This series of alternate history mixes pay tribute Peter Lee’s commendable alternative-history novel The Life And Death of Mal Evans which is available in print or eBook from avonypublishing.com or from Amazon or Kobo.

The set fits on a standard CD-R and includes covers (and if you don’t like them, take it up with The Beatles’ arts department). PW in comments.

Side 1
1. Let ‘Em In (Paul)
2. Cracker Box Palace (George)
3. Silly Love Songs (Paul)
4. Rock And Roll People (John)
5. Beautiful Girl (George)

Side 2
6. This Song (George)
7. Lady Gaye (Ringo)
8. Girls’ School (Paul)
9. Old Dirt Road (John)
10. You (George)
11. Letting Go (Paul)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Beatles Reunited albums:
Everest (1971)
Live ’72 (1972)
Smile Away (1972)
Photographs (1974)

More Beatles stuff
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In Memoriam – March 2019

April 2nd, 2019 6 comments

March saw the fall of at least three stone-cold legends, and tragic death of an up-and-coming band.

The Great Baritone
The voice of an Engel has fallen silent with the death at 76 of the versatile Scott Walker. The obits have covered Walker’s life and career, and it needs no rehashing here. But it’s worth noting that few artists have had a career that spans teen idol pop, interpretative chanson, avant-garde and neo-classical music — and fewer still who could pull it off as Walker did (though, in some cases, I have to rely on critical consensus rather than my own judgment).

The Drummer of a Thousand Hits
He might have lived till he was 90 and not contributed anything to pop music in a long time, but to those who knew his role in music history will have grieved the death of Hal Blaine. The two mixes I put together of songs Blaine played on, as part of the Wrecking Crew, tell only a small part of his story. They are, of course, worth revisiting. Blaine was a total pro, knowing when to hold back, when to let go, and when to innovate (with snowchains on Bridge Over Troubled Water, in an elevator shaft on The Boxer, with a glass ashtray on Dean Martin’s Houston).  And he was a total gentleman; his acts of kindness and generosity are legendary. The world was richer with Hal Blaine in it. And look at his “farewell letter” (click to enlarge), Read more…

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NYC: Any Major Mix Vol. 3

March 28th, 2019 11 comments

 

 

Here is the third New York City mix (or fourth if you include the New York in Black & White, as you should). This one includes a couple of obvious choices, but one of those in a rather good splendid version, plus a few lesser-known numbers.

As ever, CD-R length, home-queensed covers, PW in comments.

1. Conor Oberst – NYC – Gone, Gone (2008)
2. Lou Reed – NYC Man (1996)
3. Steely Dan – Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More (1975)
4. Chicago – Saturday In The Park (1972)
5. Candi Staton – Nights On Broadway (1977)
6. Bob & Earl – Harlem Shuffle (1963)
7. Brecker Brothers – East River (1978)
8. Billy Joel – Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway) (1981)
9. A-ha – Manhattan Skyline (1987)
10. Dar Williams – The Hudson (2005)
11. The Avett Brothers – Famous Flower Of Manhattan (2006)
12. The Statler Brothers – New York City (1970)
13. Steeleye Span feat. Peter Sellers – New York Girls (1975)
14. Belle & Sebastian – Piazza, New York Catcher (2003)
15. The Moldy Peaches – NYC’s Like A Graveyard (1997)
16. Fountains Of Wayne – Red Dragon Tattoo (1999)
17. Thomas Dybdahl – One Day You’ll Dance For Me, New York City (2004)
18. Suzanne Vega – Ludlow Street (2007)
19. Art Garfunkel – A Heart In New York (1981)
20. Horace Silver – Summer In Central Park (1973)
21. Sammy Davis Jr. – New York’s My Home (1956)
22. Bette Davis – Turn Me Loose On Broadway (1952)

GET IT! or HERE!

More New York songs
More CD-R Mixes

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The Originals: Schlager edition

March 21st, 2019 6 comments

At first glance, this edition of The Originals seems narrowly aimed at Germans, but it should appeal to all fans of European and 1970s pop music.

The German Schlager has a reputation for being banal rubbish, and it’s not entirely unmerited. But the genre generated some legit entertainment and even moments of good quality. Often, those moments were the result of the Schlagermachine finding foreign songs and reproducing them for the German market. Sometimes what emerged was superior to the originals, as it was in the case of Danyel Gérard’s 1971 mammoth-hit Butterfly.

That song doesn’t feature here; only one track on this collection is the first version of a German hit sung by its original artist: Belgian singer Salvatore Adamo’s Petit Bonheur, which in German became Ein kleines Glück. The German version disproves the point I just made about teutonic production superiority. It’s a fairly strange bit of music in any version.

 

Before Giorgio Moroder became a pioneering trailblazer in Euro-disco and electronic music, he was a pop singer and Schlager producer. The Italian-born half-German came to Berlin in 1963. In 1969 he had a million-seller as Giorgio with Looky Looky, which topped the French charts. The following year he released Arizona Man, a Moog-driven, temp-changing pop number. His version went nowhere, but a German cover released shortly after gave Mary Roos her first hit.

Arguably the Schlager singer with the best strike-rate in choosing covers was Israeli-born Daliah Lavi. Four of her biggest hits were cover versions: three feature here; two were written by the same man: John Kongos. The South African singer went on to have two UK Top 10 hits (Tokoloshe Man and He’s Going To Step On You Again; both later covered by the Happy Mondays), but in 1970 his Would You Follow Me was translated into German and became a big hit for Lavi as Willst Du mit mir geh’n. The following year, the song was also covered by Olivia Newton-John.

 

Also in 1970, Kongos’ Won’t You Join Me was covered by the improbably-named Emil Dean Zoghby, who was a bit of a star in South Africa in the 1960s. Zoghby, who died in 2014 at 72, went on to be a stage actor in London and, back in South Africa, a record producer. Lavi’s cover, titled Wann kommst Du, was released in 1971.

The third original of a Lavi song is fairly well-known: Rod McKuen‘s catchy 1971 anti-war anthem Soldiers Who Want To Be Heroes, which enjoyed some success in Europe, especially in the Netherlands. In Laviâ’s hands, the peace song became a love song with the title Meine Art Liebe zu zeigen, which translates as My Way Of Showing Love.

 

Another astute selector of cover versions was Michael Holm. Most of these were quite well-known, so this mix of lesser-known originals picks the 1969 French song Fernando by Sheila, a singer whom the world of pop would get to know better as the lead of Sheila B. and The Devotions. Fernando – which was co-written by Danyel Vangarde, who’d later co-write hits such as the Gibson Brothers’ Cuba and Ottawan’s DISCO – became a Spanish hit as Un rayo de sol by Los Diablos, and for Michael Holm in Germany as Wie der Sonnenschein. Holm featured himself on the Christmas Originals for doing the first version of When A Child Is Born, which was itself based on an original instrumental, Le Rose blu by Ciro Dammicco (the song became later known as Soleado). Holm might feature again for doing the original of Chickory Tip’s Son Of My Father, which he co-wrote with Giorgio Moroder.

Perhaps the greatest Schlager singer-songwriter was Udo Jürgens, whose songs always stood a few steps above the standard Schlager fare. Jürgens had few needs for the songs of others, but one of his biggest hits, the cheeky seduction number Es wird Nacht Senorita of 1968, was a cover. Originally the song was recorded in 1965 as Le Rossignol Anglais by the popular French chansonnier Hugues Aufray, and the year after by Mireille Mathieu.

 

As a song travels the continent, its meaning can change. When Portuguese Brazilian singer Benito di Paula wrote and recorded his 1975 song Charlie Brown, a hit in Portugal, it was about the Peanuts character. Travelling eastwards it became a discofied number by Belgian outfit Two Man Sound (whose dance moves must be seen). Retaining the original lyrics, it was a huge hit in Belgium and Italy. But when it came to Germany, the hit version by Benny was no longer about the depressed protagonist of Charles M Schulz’s cartoon but about a promiscuous guy who beds every woman “between Mexico and Paraguay”, even your girlfriend.

One song here might just as well have featured in a 1970s edition of The Originals. A cover of Living Next Door To Alice was a big 1977 hit for Smokie. But it features here on strength Read more…

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Any Major Babymaking Music Vol. 1

March 14th, 2019 6 comments

The term “baby-making music” describes the sonic complement to the carnal act, and the stages preceding it, which is usually applied to create an ambience which facilitates the arousal of heightened sensuality. The purpose of such music does not necessarily require the objective of procreation, nor indeed the initiation of the carnal act, but its use may not, by definition, preclude these.

The selection of suitable music for that purpose is, by its nature, subjective. However, the following are not universally considered appropriate propositions to qualify inclusion under the genre “baby-making” music: Marilyn Manson’s This Is The New Shit, Aqua’s Barbie Girl, Sgt Barry Sadler’s Ballad of The Green Berets, Billy Ray Cyrus’ Achy Breaky Heart, Lawrence Welk’s Baby Elephant Walk, Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of, The Buoys’ Timothy Michael Jackson’s Ben, Insane Clown Posse’s Miracles, Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters, Toby Keith’s Courtesy Of The Red, White and Blue, the Carpenters’ Sing, Michael F Bolton’s opera album, anything by Creed, the Birdie Song, and others.

Should you find yourself in a situation where a lover cranks up the sounds of any of the above without the display of any discernible irony, then you might be in the company of a serial killer. Don’t wait to find out where the moment might lead you, regardless of what your libido tells you. Run!

If, however, your partner digs out a CD with the home-smooched cover you see above, you have a reasonable expectation of experiencing the best sex ever.

I do not wish to plant uncomfortable mental images in your head (though, since very few of you know what I look like, such mental images may take the form of the tanned and toned Adonis that I am), so I won’t reveal which of these songs I have made figurative babies to. But all of these songs make me want to make figurative babies.

 

Actually, I’m overegging the point. I think these songs are not so much humping-music (though none preclude that notion either) as they are suited to setting the mood for intense romantic moments, when two people share a deep intimacy. Some songs can express such intimacy, as anybody who has ever made out to, say, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face will know. Such songs are sexy because they feed that intimacy, that essence of being-in-love that is fundamental to the act of making love.

This is why this mix includes tracks like Isaac Hayes’ version of The Look Of Love (the live version on which he is dealing with love on a more personal basis) or Bob Marley’s Turn Your Lights Down Low, but none of Barry White’s advertising jingles for his baby-making prowess (great though these songs are). But if you need some Barry to get you into the groove, don’t despair: he’s doing his thing on Quincy Jones’ star-studded The Secret Garden, alongside the likes of James Ingram, El DeBarge and Al B. Sure.

An automatic choice would have been Earth, Wind & Fire’s I Write A Song For You, but that featured recently already. But if the stand-by is the glorious live version of Reasons, then the baby-making agenda remains uncompromised. The obvious song-choice by Billy Paul is deferred to the inevitable Volume 2.

Of course, the mix can be cheerfully played outside the setting of intimate relations. It’s just as great to listen to when driving, with no hopes of having sex in sight.

So, what are your baby-making songs?

As ever, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-smooched covers.

1. Al Green – Let’s Stay Together (1972)
2. Isaac Hayes – The Look Of Love (live) (1973)
3. Earth, Wind & Fire – Reasons (live) (1975)
4. Heatwave – Always and Forever (1977)
5. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Turn Your Lights Down Low (1977)
6. Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey (1971)
7. Joan Armatrading – Turn Out the Light (1980)
8. Roberta Flack – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (1969)
9. Randy Crawford – Tender Falls The Rain (1980)
10. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Help Me Make It Through The Night (1972)
11. Luther Vandross – If Only For One Night (1985)
12. Curtis Mayfield – Do Be Down (1990)
13. Derek and the Dominos – Bell Bottom Blues (1970)
14. Santana – Europa (1976)
15. Quincy Jones – The Secret Garden (1989)
16. Marvin Gaye – After The Dance (1976)

GET IT! or HERE!

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R.I.P. Hal Blaine 1929-2019

March 12th, 2019 4 comments

 

 

Yesterday we lost a giant in music history, one of the greatest drummers in pop, a hitmaker, a true legend – and most people don’t even know his name. Hal Blaine was the fulcrum of The Wrecking Crew, that great collective of LA-based session musicians that played on an incredible number of pop classics, backing anything from Pet Sounds to The Partridge Family.

Blaine’s death comes just four months after that of bassist Joe Osborne, which means that the trio of musical masterminds who helped Simon & Garfunkel create masterpieces like Bridge Over Troubled Water or The Boxer are now gone (keyboardist Larry Knechtel die in 2009).

I posted two mixes of songs on which Hal Blaine played, with some background on him, in 2014. It might be worth revisiting them:

 

The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1 

 

The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2

 

Other session musicians’ collection:
The Joe Osborn Collection
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 1
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 3
The Larry Carlton Collection
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Ringo Starr Collection

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In Memoriam – February 2019

March 5th, 2019 3 comments

In February The Reaper spared us superstar deaths, though the deaths of a Monkee and the incredible André Previn are notweworthy, as is that of the man who produced Roy Orbison and Kris Kristofferson in their early prime. What this list lacks in famous names it make up with some fascinating background stories.

The Musician Monkee

With the death of Peter Tork, there are now only two Monkees. In the TV series, Tork (who got the gig on recommendation of Stephen Stills, who had unsuccessfully auditioned for the role), played the simple-minded one, quite in contrast to his real personality which valued intellectual pursuit. It is often said that the four Monkees were inferior musicians, which is why the Wecking Crew played on their early records. But Tork was the one member who did play on those recordings. A guitarist, bassist and keyboardist, he was a serious musician with a Greenwich Village folk background. The instantly recognisable keyboard bars that kick off I’m A Believer are Tork’s work. Strangely, for a serious musician, his post-Monkees career was patchy, in terms of output and in success.

Producer to Dolly, Kris and Roy

As a young man in the mid-1950s, Fred Foster worked for Mercury Records, being a nuisance to the suits with his promotion of that newfangled rockabilly music. So when he recommended that Mercury sign this young singer Elvis Presley from Sun Records, Mercury made a half-assed bid. When RCA bid more, Mercury (like Atlantic) dropped out of the bidding. Foster proceeded to found Monument Records, for which he produced that great string of Roy Orbison hits such as Pretty Woman, Only The Lonely, In Dreams, Crying and so on. He signed the young Dolly Parton to Monument and helped her to fame, and he produced country greats such as Willie Nelson, Grandpa Jones; Ray Stevens, Larry Gatlin; Larry Jon Wilson, Kris Kristofferson (that incredible string of records from 1970-72, and the duet albums with Rita Coolidge); swamp rock acts like the recently late Tony Joe White; novelty acts (sort of, for he was deadly serious) like Robert Mitchum; instrumental acts like Boots Randolph; and soul acts like Joe Simon and Arthur Alexander. Kris Kristofferson gave Foster a co-writing credit for Me and Bobby McGee for suggesting the title.

The All-round Genius

Born into a Jewish family in Germany, André Previn‘s family was lucky to get out in 1938. Having emigrated to the US, André was a precocious talent, already composing and conducting scores for MGM at the age of 18 – by which time he had already released a bunch of jazz records. He was not yet 30 when he had won successive Oscars for his scores of the musicals Gigi and Porgy & Bess in 1959 and 1960, repeating the feat in 1964-65 with his scores for Irma la Douce and My Fair Lady. He left MGM in the mid-1960s and became an acclaimed classical composer and conductor, also continuing his career in jazz as a performer and sideman, in which he also earned much acclaim, and continuing to write film scores.

No More Talk Talk

In the 1980s, Talk Talk were seen as the more sophisticated alternative to Duran Duran. T Read more…

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