Six At Random

Originally posted October 7, 2009

Well, it’s time to open up the RealPlayer, flip the switch on the randomizer and see what we get for a Wednesday morning Six-Pack pulled from the years 1950-1999. (As is my usual practice, I’ll ignore songs that have been shared here recently. And for today, I’ll also ignore utter obscurities.)

A Mostly Random Six-Pack from 1950-1999
“Sway” by Alvin Youngblood Hart from Paint It, Blue: Songs of the Rolling Stones [1997]
“Wrapped Around” by the Cates Gang from Come Back Home [1973]
“Where Have You Been” by Astrud Gilberto from Now [1972]
“Take It Or Leave It” by Foghat from Fool for the City [1974]
“Hospitals” by Pollution from Pollution II [1972]
“Lady Samantha” by Three Dog Night from Suitable For Framing [1969]

In the late 1990s, the House of Blues restaurant and entertainment chain issued at least three CDs with a simple concept: Have blues artists interpret the songs of major rock performers and songwriters. Paint It, Blue seems to have been the first of them; the two other House of Blues recordings that I have cover the songs of Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, and both date from 1999. I know there are other CDs with the same idea; I’ve seen one for the Beatles’ White Album, but I don’t know if that’s from the House of Blues or from another organization/label. And it seems as if determining the label for these can be somewhat confusing; the fine print on the Paint It, Blue CD case mentions Platinum Entertainment and Polygram Group Distribution, but at All-Music Guide, the labels mentioned are A&M and Ruf.

Lineage and ownership confusion aside, the three CDs I have are very good, and Paint It, Blue is likely the best of the three: Alvin Youngblood Hart and his versions of “Sway” and “Moonlight Mile” sit side-by-side with work from Luther Allison, Johnny Copeland, Junior Wells, Otis Clay, Taj Mahal, Gatemouth Brown and more. In the liner notes, Hart says, “I was a Stones fan during the Mick Taylor era (1969-76). Not to say I’m stuck on Mick Taylor, but the band as a whole was really cooking from Let It Bleed on. And, I used to do ‘Sway’ in a garage band. That’s how we approached it.”

I’ve written about my enjoyment of the Cate Brothers and I’ve shared a couple albums before; the Cates Gang recording here comes from work the brothers did before dropping the “s” and calling themselves simply brothers. This track is from the second of two albums released as the Cates Gang, and like the music that came later, it owes a lot to southern soul and R&B, with a touch of southern rock and – I think – the Everly Brothers stirred into the recipe. I found both Come Back Home and an earlier Cates Gang recording, Wanted, at the excellent blog Skydog’s Elysium.

Part of the attraction of the original version of “The Girl From Ipanema” was the unaffected vocal by Astrud Gilberto, who was either singing professionally for the first time or singing in English for the first time. (I’ve read the story both ways, but I lean toward the first.) The slight tone and the occasional uncertain shadings of pitch enticed one into the Stan Getz/João Gilberto performance. After that debut, Astrud Gilberto made good career out of the breathy vocals and slight tone, but nothing I’ve heard – and I’ve listened to a good portion of her catalog though not all of it – replicates the charm of her first performance. That’s not to say that Astrud Gilberto’s work – the most recent of her eighteen albums listed at AMG was released in 2002 – isn’t enjoyable. It’s just that I find her work – like that of many artists – more suited to hearing in random single doses than in a sustained presence. Of the albums of hers that I have heard, Now ranks pretty well, and “Where Have You Been” was one of four songs on the album that Gilberto penned herself.

Fool for the City was Foghat’s breakthrough album, with the band’s hard-rocking (for the times) boogie bringing home the group’s first Top 40 hit. (“Slow Ride” went to No. 20 in 1976.) Which makes “Take It Or Leave It,” the album’s closer, an enigma. I know it got some radio play (a hunch of mine confirmed by AMG), but until the closing vocal yelps, the song sounds more like something from Pablo Cruise or the Little River Band – both of which were still two or three years away – than something from Foghat. That’s not a slam at “Take It Or Leave It,” which I quite like, or at Pablo Cruise or the Little River Band, both of which I enjoy in measured amounts. It’s just a comment on cognitive dissonance caused by Foghat’s odd stylistic choice.

Beyond the fact that I enjoy the music, anything I know about the group Pollution comes from another great blog Play It Again, Max. One thing I did note, after reading Max’s comments about the band and digging a little further, is that among the players credited on both Pollution and Pollution II was Terry Furlong on guitar. Furlong is better known perhaps for his work with the Grass Roots, but he’s recognized in these precincts as a member of Blue Rose, a group for which I have some affection, based on my all-too-brief acquaintance with bass and guitar player Dave Thomson.

“Lady Samantha” is an album track from Three Dog Night’s second album, Suitable For Framing, a record that went to No. 16 on the album chart and threw off three Top 40 singles: “Easy To Be Hard,” “Eli’s Coming” and “Celebrate.” The intriguing thing about the song “Lady Samantha” is that it was an early piece of work by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, with John’s version released as a single in the U.K., says Wikipedia, six months before the release of John’s first album, Empty Sky. (John’s version of the song was also released twice as a single in the U.S., but failed to chart both times, Wikipedia adds, noting that the recording surfaced as a bonus track on a 1995 CD release of Empty Sky.) AMG says – if I read an amazingly awkward sentence correctly – that “Lady Samantha” was a hit for Three Dog Night, but the record is not listed in the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, so I suspect an error. It might have been a good single although the three hits that came from Suitable For Framing were pretty darn good themselves.

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