Saturday Single No. 61

Originally posted March 8, 2008

This week, for the first time since I started this blog more than a year ago, I got a note asking me to remove a link to an album. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

The note came Thursday, March 6, from John Justen, asking me to remove the link to Leo Kottke’s 12 String Blues, the 1969 album recorded (mostly) live at the Scholar Coffeehouse near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. John said in his note that his father, Mike – who recorded and released the album on his Oblivion label – is preparing 12 String Blues – Live at the Scholar for re-release and thus wanted the album removed.

I was happy to do so. I deleted the zip file from my host – and noted the deletion in the original post and at two bulletin boards I frequent – and wrote John a note, telling him I had complied with his request and asking if I could tell my readers about the impending re-release. Obviously, he said yes.

“Our intended timetable is late ’08,” he wrote back, “but you know how these things can be delayed. We have the master tapes and the vinyl pressing discs, and we are in the process of reviewing them for quality.” He said that the resuscitated Oblivion label also has to go through “the necessary wrangling” with Kotttke’s publishers and management.

“Our intent,” he added, “is to avoid modern mastering as much as we can and make it as close to the original 1969 release as possible.” He said that he and his father hope that the re-release of 12 String Blues will lead to Oblivion releasing performances by Kottke and many other performers from the Scholar as well as “from the University of Minnesota Summer Blues Festivals, and many other live recordings authorized by the performers.”

He said that the “sad story” about the demise of Oblivion that had been posted by a reader in December was accurate, and a day later, left a comment on the original post noting that the chronology I’d reported in December for Kottke’s first three records – 12 String Blues in 1969, Circle ’Round The Sun in 1970 and 6- and 12-String Guitar in 1971 – was correct.

I look forward to hearing 12 String Blues—Live at the Scholar sometime soon.

Some Mournful News
Along with the good news about the Kottke album this week came sad news from Toronto, Canada, and from East Sussex, England.

Blind guitarist Jeff Healey died March 1 in Toronto, and Norman “Hurricane” Smith died March 3 in England.

Healey, who excelled in blues and jazz and played seated with his guitar on his lap, lost his sight to retinal cancer when he was a year old and had battled the disease all his life. His most notable success came in 1988 when his bluesy rock group, the Jeff Healey Band, released See The Light. The album went platinum, and a single, “Angel Eyes,” went to No. 5 in a thirteen-week stay on he Top 40 chart the next year.

Healey had focused more on jazz than on rock in recent years, but was nevertheless planning to release a new CD this year, one reportedly rooted in the blues. According to news reports, the CD will still be released in about eight weeks. Healey was 41.

Smith was much older, 85, when he died this week. He was, from what one reads in the accounts of his life, a whiz in the recording studio. At London’s famed Abbey Road studios, he was the engineer on the Beatles’ early recordings, up through Rubber Soul in 1965, and he was the producer on the first Pink Floyd recordings. I saw a comment this week to the effect that Smith didn’t always understand why rock musicians wanted a particular sound but that he could always get them the sound they wanted.

He was also known, of course, as Hurricane Smith, whose retro-flavored hit “Oh, Babe, What Would You Say,” went to No. 3 during the winter of 1972-73. Another single, “Don’t Let It Die,” did better in England than the U.S., where it did not reach the Top 40.

I considered posting as memorials to the two men their most famous recordings, but as distinctive as both records are and as much as I love both of them, they’re a little too obvious. So I wandered through the collection in a somber state of mind, trying to decide how to say goodbye to two whom I never knew but whose music had brought me much pleasure.

Here’s The Band’s “Too Soon Gone” from the 1993 album, Jericho, today’s Saturday Single.

The Band – “Too Soon Gone” [1993]


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