Archive for the ‘1973’ Category

Into A New Year

July 6, 2022

Originally posted January 1, 2010

So it’s the first morning of a new year and of a new decade. (That last is true only in cultural terms; mathematically, the new decade starts a year from now, but I understand the widely felt impulse.) Does that make today a time to reflect? A time to review? A time to quaff a good beer and watch college football? A time to listen to music?

Around here, it’s always a good time for the last two of those choices. And reflection and review seem to be pretty constant in these precincts, too. So any observations I make about life and music or anything else simply because of today’s date would likely be things I’d say on another, less obvious, date as well. Proclamation for the sake of proclamation – though I’ve no doubt been guilty of that at times – is something I’ll avoid today.

But I would like to note that something about this new year resonates here: 2010. It feels like science fiction to me, like a time so far in the future that I’d never get there. Perhaps that’s because Arthur C. Clarke used it for the title of one of his sequels to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nine years ago, the dawn of the year 2001 carried with it that same quality of futuristic resonance, almost certainly because of the 1968 film and story that Clarke wrote with Stanley Kubrick. Another year that had that same sense, though in a far less pleasant context, was 1984. When I read George Orwell’s bleak novel in high school, the titular year of 1984 seemed so far away that it was impossible to comprehend: I was fifteen in 1969, and Orwell’s dystopian universe was set fifteen years in the future, and that was more than a lifetime away for me.

But we went through 1984 and shot past 2001 on our way to this morning and 2010, and it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long of a journey. Oh, if I care to catalog the places where I’ve been as each January 1 has dawned and the people with whom I’ve shared my life as those days passed, it’s clear that in some ways – to borrow from Bob Dylan – time passes slowly. But looking back, it’s also just as clear that it’s been – to borrow again, this time from Jackson Browne – the wink of an eye.

There’s a clear contradiction there, of course. Maybe the resolution is something as simple as noting that time ahead seems long while time back seems short. Other than that, the puzzle is not one I’m willing to try to untangle today.

What I am willing to do is to wish all those who stop by here the best of years in 2010. May the next twelve months bring you peace, comfort, joy and lots of good music. (And for those whose tastes bend that way, plenty of good beer, too!)

A Six-Pack of Years
“Year of Decision” by the Three Degrees from Three Degrees [1973]
“This Year” by the Staple Singers from Soul Folk in Action [1968]
“As the Years Go Passin’ By” by the Lamont Cranston Band from Tiger In My Tank [1999]
 “Hard Hard Year” by Growing Concern from Growing Concern [1969]
“Soft Parade of Years” by Dion from Suite For Late Summer [1972]
“Tender Years” by John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band from the soundtrack to Eddie & The Cruisers [1983]

Just a few notes about the songs:

“Year of Decision” is a sweet piece of Philadelphia soul from the same album that eventually brought the group one of its two biggest hits: “When Will I See You Again,” which went to No. 2 in 1974. (The other of the Three Degrees’ biggest hits was “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” which was No. 1 for two weeks earlier that same year.)

The Staple Singers have shown up here often enough – and this track itself might have, too, for that matter – that what they provide is no surprise: Tunes that are sometimes melodic, sometimes gritty, sometimes both, but always tunes with at least a little bit of something to think about.

It’s hard to know exactly how well-known the Lamont Cranston Band is/was in other parts of the country or beyond. Here in Minnesota, the band was pretty well-known and generally successful with its beefy bluesy mix. “As The Years Go Passin’ By” – a tune that I think originated with bluesman Fenton Robinson in 1959 – is a pretty good example of how the Cranstons approached their work.

I picked up Growing Concern a while back at the wonderful blog hippy djkit. Here’s what the blog’s dj fanis had to say about the record: “Fantastic ringing acid guitar work with male/female vocal duets that swoop and dive over a strong acid folk/rock backing. Essential for the US ’60s fanatic . . . Featured harmony vocals by Bonnie MacDonald and Mary Garstki, which are an intricate part of the band’s distinctive sound. Great organ and guitar interplay feature on most tracks . . .” (I’ve seen other sources that have 1968 as the release year, but I’ll go with dj fanis’ year of 1969.)

Dion’s “Soft Parade of Years” is maybe a little slight, as is the singer/songwriter-ish album it comes from, Suite For Late Summer. But Dion has worked in so many styles over the years – the most recent being that of solo bluesman – that even his lesser experiments are interesting.

I once read a comment to the effect that “Tender Years” and its companion from the soundtrack to Eddie & The Cruisers, “On The Dark Side,” were likely the best non-Springsteen Springsteen records ever made. There’s no doubt that the two records sound like The Boss’ work. But they also sound like the music the movie called for: a mix of the early Eighties and a mythical time in the Sixties. Cafferty and his band were asked for something, and they produced, and “Tender Years” is a track I enjoy every time it pops up.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mustache!

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 9, 2009

I missed a birthday on Sunday. Didn’t even think about it until it was past. But it’s not like someone’s out there saddened or even annoyed that I forgot about him or her. My mustache doesn’t care.

It was December 6, 1973, when I headed out of Fredericia, Denmark, for a two-week hitchhiking tour through Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. To save room in my toiletries case, I left my razor and my shaving cream behind. I think the plan was to go a few weeks without shaving and then take a look in the mirror and make a decision. If what I saw wasn’t too ridiculous, I’d continue to let my beard and mustache grow.

Through misadventure – and the lack of traffic for hitchhiking, the result of an oil embargo – I ended up back in Denmark after a week instead of two. But I still foreswore shaving, waiting to see how things went. Based on photos taken on Christmas Day – not quite three weeks into the project – things weren’t going well. It almost looked as if I’d not washed my chin and upper lip for a while.

But it was so much easier not to shave, and facial foliage was in style at the time, especially among young folks. And at the very least, it meant ten minutes more of sleep some mornings. Eventually, I began trimming the beard and mustache, but I kept both until December 1975. I was in the middle of an internship at a Twin Cities television station, and I thought that losing the beard might give me a better chance of getting on the air during the last two months of the quarter; shaving off the beard might also, I thought, give me a better chance of being employed by the station after I graduated. I kept the mustache, but hey, it was 1975. Lots of guys had mustaches.

The beard came back during my days in Monticello, but only for two years, I think. I also grew a beard during my first year of graduate school, and shaved it off as I prepared to move back to Minnesota. Finally, around Thanksgiving in 1987, I quit shaving again, and I’ve had a beard ever since.

Through all of that, the mustache has remained. I guess if there were a real moment of choice, it came in December 1975, when I shaved off my first beard. I’m not sure why I kept the mustache then, but I’ve not thought seriously about shaving it off since then.

So my mustache is thirty-six years old this week. It’s a little bit neater these days than it was during my college years or my years of scuffling in the late 1990s. My monthly visits to Tom the Barber keep both the beard and mustache trimmed, if not quite as short as the Texas Gal would like. (To be honest, I think she’d prefer to see both of them gone, but she knows that idea is a non-starter.)

So what were we listening to during the week that I set aside my razor? Here are a few selections.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, December 8, 1973)
“If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” by the Staple Singers (No. 12)
“Mind Games” by John Lennon (No. 24)
“Why Me” by Kris Kristofferson (No. 34)
“Tell Her She’s Lovely” by El Chicano (No. 61)
“Ain’t Got No Home” by The Band (No. 83)
“Love Has No Pride” by Linda Ronstadt (No. 92)

The Staple Singers’ “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” moves along in a sweet, mellow groove, as did most of the Staples’ tunes. It’s clearly derivative of their own “I’ll Take You There,” which went to No. 1 in the spring of 1972. But that didn’t seem to bother listeners a lot: “If You’re Ready” went to No. 9, giving the Staples their second Top Ten hit, and it went to No.1 on the R&B chart, just as “I’ll Take You There” had. The Staples would have two more Top 40 hits in the next two years, with the second of them – “Let’s Do It Again” – reaching No. 1 on both the Top 40 and R&B charts.

If I have my John Lennon history correct, “Mind Games” and the similarly titled album were the first bits of Lennon’s work to surface from the period he spent in California that’s come to be known as the Lost Weekend or something like that. One of the Rolling Stone record guides basically said the album was the product of a musician whose music had no other purpose than to continue his career. I think it’s a little better than that. “Mind Games” went to No. 18.

Not long ago, Rolling Stone published a lengthy feature on Kris Kristofferson, an interesting portrait of the man, flaws and all. I read it, went back and listened to more of his music than I have in some time, and I came to the same judgment I did long ago: A limited actor, a limited singer and a hell of a songwriter. His “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” was one of the first songs that made me wish I could ever write anything that good. Kristofferson’s “Why Me” went to No. 16 and made it to No. 1 on the country chart.

I retain a soft spot for the Latin-tinged pop-rock of El Chicano (as well as for the music of Malo, a similar group of the time), so when the group pops up in a chart I’m examining, it’s likely the record will show up here. “Tell Her She’s Lovely” is particularly engaging to me, what with the dual guitar figure that pops up at the twelve-second mark to lead the way onward. The single barely made the Top 40, spending one week at No. 40.

The Band’s “Ain’t Got No Home” never came close to making the Top 40. Pulled from Moondog Matinee, the group’s album of covers of vintage rock ’n’ roll and R&B tunes, “Ain’t Got No Home” was a version of Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s 1957 hit that even included a vocal imitation of Henry’s frog-like croak at the 1:35 mark. The record had been in the Hot 100 for three weeks as of December 8, 1973, and had only gotten as high as No. 83. Two weeks later, “Ain’t Got No Home” peaked at No. 73 for two weeks; two weeks after that, the record was gone from the Hot 100.

The other night, catching up with the massive concert celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Texas Gal and I heard Bonnie Raitt perform “Love Has No Pride.” As Raitt sang, the Texas Gal noted that she preferred Linda Ronstadt’s version. I tend to lean toward Raitt’s 1972 version from Give It Up, but I’ll gladly acknowledge that Ronstadt did a hell of a job on the song. The single version – which this may or may not be – peaked at No. 51 in mid-January 1974. (Another version of the song that I should likely post one of these days is the 1977 recording by Libby Titus, who co-wrote the song with Eric Kaz.)

Plenty Of Nothing

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 19, 2009

Casting about for a topic for this post, I thought about famous birthdays. Gordon Lightfoot’s birthday was Tuesday, and I have plenty of Lightfoot tunes in the stacks and in the folders. But another day would be better for that, as there is a tale connected that I’m not yet prepared to tell.

I thought about writing about the books on my reading table, as I do occasionally. But I started a book yesterday that’s fascinating, and I want to finish it before I write about it. So that will have to wait.

We’ve had an odd November: sunny and warmer than one would expect. But I wrote about my fascination with autumn not that many days ago, and a post about the weather itself should wait until we have some truly remarkable meteorological happening.

I glanced at the front page of the Minneapolis paper: Budget cuts, a fatal bus crash, health care advisories and so on. Nothing there I care to write about.

It’s just one of those days. So here’s an appropriate selection of titles.

A Six-Pack of Nothing
“There’s Nothing Between Us Now” by Grady Tate from After the Long Drive Home [1970]
“Ain’t Nothing Gonna Change Me” by Betty LaVette from Child of the Seventies [1973]
“Nothing But A Heartache” by the Flirtations, Deram 85038 [1969]
“Nothing Against You” by the Robert Cray Band from Sweet Potato Pie [1997]
“Nothing But Time” by Jackson Browne from Running On Empty [1977]
“Nothing Will Take Your Place” by Boz Scaggs from Boz Scaggs & Band [1971]

One of the things I love about the world of music blogs is finding great tunes by folks who I’ve never heard about before. It turns out that Grady Tate, according to All-Music Guide, is a well-regarded session drummer who’s done some good vocal work as well. I’d never heard of the man until I somehow found myself exploring the very nice blog, My Jazz World. The brief description of Tate’s album After the Long Drive Home and the accompanying scan of the album cover drew me in, and I’ve spent quite a few quiet moments since then digging into Tate’s reflective and sometimes stoic album.

I’ve tagged Betty LaVette’s gritty piece of southern soul, “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Change Me,” as coming from 1973, as that’s when it was recorded. But the story is more complex than that. LaVette recorded the album, Child of the Seventies, for Atco in Muscle Shoals. But AMG notes that after a single from the sessions, “Your Turn to Cry” didn’t do well, the label shelved the entire project. It took until 2006 and a release on the Rhino Handmade label for the album itself to hit the shelves. The CD comes with bonus tracks that include LaVette’s cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” which was also released as a single. (My thanks to Caesar Tjalbo.)

A listener without the record label to examine would be excused from thinking that the Flirtation’s driving “Nothing But A Heartache” came from Detroit. The bass line, the drums and the punchy horns all proclaim “Motown,” but this nifty piece of R&B came out of England on the Deram label. The Flirtations, however, had their roots elsewhere: Sisters Shirley and Earnestine Pearce came from South Carolina and Viola Billups hailed from Alabama, so the record’s soul sound is legit, and it sounded pretty good coming out of a little radio speaker, too. The record spent two weeks in the Top 40 during the late spring of 1969, peaking at No. 34.

For Sweet Potato Pie, Robert Cray and his band made their way to Memphis and pulled together an album of blues-based soul. The combination of the Memphis Horns, Cray’s always-sharp guitar work and a good set of songs made the album, to my ears, one of Cray’s best. “Nothing Against You” is a good example of the album’s attractions.

“Nothing But Time” comes from Running On Empty,one of the more interesting live albums of the 1970s: All of the songs were new material, with some of them being recorded backstage, in hotel rooms or on the tour bus instead of in concert. As it happened, the album’s hits – “Running On Empty” and “Stay” – were concert recordings. But I’ve thought for a while that the recordings from the more intimate spaces – “Nothing But Time” was recorded on the tour bus as it rolled through New Jersey (you can hear the hum of the engine in the background) – might have aged a little better. That thought could stem from weariness after hearing the two hits over and over on the radio over the years; I do still like some of the other concert recordings from the album.

To my ears, Boz Scaggs’ slow-building and echoey “Nothing Will Take Your Place,” carries hints of the sound that would propel him to the top of the charts in 1976 with Silk Degrees. I guess it just took the mass audience – including me – a while to catch up with him.

Play Ball!

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 13, 2009

It’s a busy day today, but it’s for a good reason.

Tomorrow, my long-time pals Rick, Rob and Dan come into St. Cloud for our fourth annual Strat-O-Matic baseball tournament. From mid-morning to early evening, we’ll laugh, tell stories, listen to a wide variety of tunes and play a little tabletop baseball along the way.

Once again, Rob is the defending champion. In last year’s tournament, his two-time champ, the 1922 St. Louis Browns, were knocked off in the first round. But he took his second team – the 1995 Colorado Rockies – to the title with a remarkable combination of lots of offense, some good bullpen management and lots of luck. (Even he acknowledges that last part.)

So Rick, Dan and I will try to keep Rob from winning a fourth straight title. For those who are interested, here are the teams that are in this year’s tournament. (For those uninterested, you can skip to the next paragraph.)

Rob: The defending champion 1995 Rockies and the 1922 New York Giants
Rick: The 1976 Phillies and the 1990 Athletics
Dan: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1927 New York Yankees
Me: The 1948 Indians and the 1961 Cincinnati Reds

Whatever happens, the day of the annual tournament is one of the best days of the year for me, a chance to share my home and some very good times with my long-time friends. The Texas Gal puts up with the noise and the disruption with an amazing amount of grace. I imagine that our two annual tournaments (baseball in the autumn and hockey in spring) leave her feeling as if she’s the housemother in a fraternity house for graying sophomores.

Each spring and fall, as we plan our menu and the required grocery and liquor store trips, she’ll remind me of something and say, “That’s for the Saturday the boys are here, so make sure we have enough.”

We’ll have plenty of everything we need tomorrow, when the boys are back in town.

A Six-Pack of Boys
“The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy from Jailbreak [1976]
“Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” by Brownsville Station from Yeah! [1973]
“Boys in the Band” by Mountain from Climbing! [1970]
“The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley from Building the Perfect Beast [1984]
“One of the Boys” by Mott the Hoople from All The Young Dudes [1972]
“The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” by Traffic from The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys [1971

The most anthemic of these is the Thin Lizzy track (though Don Henley comes close). With its almost relentless guitar riffs, “The Boys Are Back In Town” dares you not to tap your feet or bob your head or pound out a rhythm on the steering wheel. And if you’re in the car, there’s no way you’re not going to turn the radio up all the way. The single was Thin Lizzy’s only hit, peaking at No. 12 during the summer of 1976. Oh, and that line about “drivin’ all the old men crazy”? It’s a little disquieting to realize that if I were anyone in the song these days, I’d be one of those old men.

I always thought Brownsville Station’s “Smoking in the Boys’ Room” was kind of a silly song, but then, it came along a little bit after I left high school and before there were hardly any anti-smoking regulations came to our college campus: Smoking was definitely allowed in school. But it moves along nicely, boogies a little bit, and it does have a hell of a hook. The single went to No. 3 during the winter of 1973-74.

Mountain’s “Boys in the Band” is a subtle track, almost delicate at moments, that seems to belie the band’s reputation for guitar excess. But the elegiac tone fits perfectly for a song that has its protagonist saying goodbye to his band and life on the road:

We play tunes today
Leaving memory of yesterday.
All the circles widen getting in the sun,
All the seasons spinning all the days one by one

The title of Don Henley’s album, Building the Perfect Beast, fits, because Henley darn near built the perfect pop song in “The Boys of Summer.” Backed on that track by a stellar quartet – Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers, Steve Porcaro of Toto, studio pro Danny Kortchmar and bassist Larry Klein – Henley melds haunting music and literate and thoughtful lyrics into a cohesive whole. And you can tap your feet to it, too. (Or pound on the steering wheel, if you’re driving behind that Cadillac with the Grateful Dead sticker on it.) The single went to No. 5 during its fourteen weeks on in the Top 40 as 1984 turned into 1985.

Hey kids! Hear that odd sound at the beginning of Mott the Hoople’s “One of the Boys”? When we old farts talk about dialing a telephone, that’s what it sounded like. That’s an honest-to-god dial telephone. There are other positives to the song, too, of course: It’s a crunchy piece of rock, with its chords shimmering in the glam persona of Ian Hunter and his band, and it’s another opportunity to bruise your hands on the steering wheel.

On a Saturday sometime around 1975, I was sitting in the basement rec room, reading and listening to Traffic’s The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. I’d borrowed the album from someone – maybe Rick – and was trying to decide if I should shell out some of my own coin for my own copy. I liked what I heard and was thinking about heading downtown later in the day to buy the record. As the languid title track played, I heard the door at the top of the basement stairs open and I recognized my dad’s tread. Steve Winwood sang:

If you had just a minute to breath
And they granted you one final wish . . .

My dad, coming into the room, sang, “Would you wish for fish?”

And from that moment on, every time I’ve heard the song, I remember my dad being silly. I miss him.

Authors On The Cards

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 9, 2009

While waiting for the Texas Gal to get home yesterday afternoon, I was wandering around the Web and found myself at one of my favorite sites, Find A Grave, a site that catalogs the resting places of people both famous and not. I can spend hours there, wandering through lists of folks buried in Massachusetts or in Hungary or anywhere else on the planet. I’ve seen in person a few of the graves of famous folk listed at the site. I hope to see a few more someday, and I have a few regrets that years ago, I was near several famous cemeteries and did not visit them.

Anyway, I somehow wound up looking at the entry for the tomb of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson on the island of Samoa. (You can read the epitaph carved on his tomb – a favorite of mine – here.) I glanced at the picture of Stevenson at Find A Grave (a cropped version is shown here) and I thought to myself, “Yes, that’s about what his picture looked like on the playing cards.”

The card game was Authors, and my sister and I played it frequently when we were kids. The deck was made up of forty-four fifty-two cards, with each card representing a work by one of thirteen famous authors. The game had the players collect complete sets of four cards for each author, and the player who collected the most sets – called “books” – was the winner. Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the eleven thirteen authors in the game, and his portrait on the cards did in fact look a lot like the picture at Find A Grave and other portraits of him that can be found online.

I once had two copies of the Authors card game, the slightly battered copy my sister and I played with for years and another copy that had never been used, but I don’t think I have them anymore. I believe they were included when I took five or six boxes of my childhood toys to an antique dealer about five years ago. (If my childhood toys are antiques, what does that make me?) And if I still have one of those copies of Authors, it’s somewhere in a box on the basement shelves, and I have no idea which box.

But I wondered, as I looked at Stevenson’s picture, if I could remember the thirteen authors whose works were used as cards in the game. I began a list:

William Shakespeare
Charles Dickens
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Sir Walter Scott
Louisa May Alcott
Robert Louis Stevenson
James Fenimore Cooper
Washington Irving
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mark Twain

And there I stopped. Ten down, three to go. As we ate dinner and watched an hour or so of television, I let the question lie, knowing that sometimes information rises when it’s not being tugged at. I went back to my list later in the evening and got no further. Hoping to jog my memory, I went to a list of those buried or commemorated in the Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey in London. And I found one name, an American poet memorialized there.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There my list stops. I cannot recall the names of the last two authors from the card game. And I cannot find a list of the thirteen online. Does anyone out there know? [See Afternote below.]

I have only one song with the word “author” in the title, so I skipped past it and went to the word that describes what authors do:

A Six-Pack of Write
“Nothing to Write Home About” by Colin Hare from March Hare [1972]
“Paper to Write On” by Crabby Appleton from Rotten to the Core [1971]
“Write Me A Few Of Your Lines/Kokomo Blues” by Bonnie Raitt from Takin’ My Time [1973]
“Why Don’t You Write Me” by Punch from Punch [1969]
“Write A Song A Song/Angeline” by Mickey Newbury from Looks Like Rain [1969]
“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter)” by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie from Sinatra-Basie [1962]

I found Colin Hare’s March Hare at Time Has Told Me, which notes that the album “is a UK troubadour classic which still sounds fresh and innovative today.” Hare – little known in the U.S. even at the time – was a member of Honeybus, handling rhythm guitar and vocals. (All-Music Guide says of Honeybus: “[T]hey came very close, in the eyes of the critics, to being Decca Records’ answer to the Rubber Soul-era Beatles,” an astounding statement that tells me that perhaps I should dig into the Honeybus catalog.) Hare’s own discography at AMG lists March Hare and two albums from 2008 that I know nothing about. March Hare is decent listening, and “Nothing to Write Home About” is quirky enough that it stands out when it pops up from time to time.

Most folks recall Crabby Appleton from the group’s very good single, “Go Back,” which slid into the Top 40 and came to rest at No. 36 in the summer of 1971. That was the group’s only hit, and in search of another, says AMG, the group tried on a harder sound for its second album, Rotten to the Core, “veering off into boogie rock and heavier Zeppelin-esque romps, twice removed from the plaintive power pop and conga-driven rock of their debut.” That makes “Paper to Write On,” with its plaintive country sound, an even more odd choice for the Crabbies. I like it, but it reminds me (and AMG agrees) of the Flying Burrito Brothers. That’s not a bad thing, but for a group like Crabby Appleton trying to cement an identity, it seems strange.

I don’t have to say a lot about Bonnie Raitt except that she’s one of my favorites. Takin’ My Time was her third album (and the track “Guilty” was the first Bonnie Raitt tune I ever heard). Both “Write Me A Few Of Your Lines” and “Kokomo Blues” were credited to Mississippi Fred McDowell, although “Kokomo Blues” has also been credited in other places to Kokomo Arnold and Scrapper Blackwell.

I found Punch’s delightful cover of Paul Simon’s “Why Don’t You Write Me” at Redtelephone66, where I’ve found gem after gem in the past few years. (Thanks, Leonard!) I find it interesting that Punch released the song on its self-titled album in 1969 while the Simon & Garfunkel version didn’t come out until 1970 with the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water. Technically, that means that Simon & Garfunkel’s version is a cover.

The haunting “Write A Song A Song/Angeline” is the opening track to Mickey Newbury’s equally haunting album Looks Like Rain, which is one of those records that you wonder how the world missed when it came out. But then, I’m tempted to say the same thing about a lot of Newbury’s work. He wasn’t exactly unknown, but . . .

The awkwardly titled “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter)” comes from one of several projects that Frank Sinatra did with Count Basie and his orchestra. As time moves on, I find myself more and more appreciating the Sinatra catalog, listening more and more to the work he did in the 1950s and early 1960s. I imagine that any list ever compiled of the essential entertainers in American music history would have Frank Sinatra’s name at or very close to the top. (I’m not even going to try – writing as I am on the fly – to figure out who else would be in the Top Ten.)

Afternote
Based on a post with two accompanying pictures that I found at another blog, I have to assume that our game only had eleven authors in it, as opposed to the thirteen authors I’ve seen mentioned other places. The game we played came in the blue box with Shakespeare’s picture on it, just as pictured at Bachelor at Wellington. In other words, I remembered ten of the eleven on my own, and needed a reminder only for Longfellow.

Note from 2022: The photo and website referenced above are no longer available. Below is a similar photo of the author cards and a photo of the blue box.

Six At Random

June 1, 2022

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.

A Little Bit Dark

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 2, 2009

It’s cool today, as it seems to have been for most of the past few months. We seldom used the air conditioner this summer, our first in the house. Part of that was, no doubt, a quality of the house itself, shielded as is it by numerous trees. But it was also the weather. It just didn’t get that hot this summer.

And it’s chilly – and rainy – again today, as it was yesterday. I look out my study window, and the two oak trees I can see still hold mostly green leaves: There are only a few scattered spots of brown, though I expect that to change in a few days. Autumn, as I have written here before, is my favorite of the seasons. And my favorite autumn days are those when the sun lights up the red, gold and brown leaves and the temperature hovers around fifty degrees Fahrenheit (about ten degrees Celsius). Those days should be ahead of us, but given the odd weather we’ve had this year, I’m not sure how plentiful they will be. Perhaps I just have a case of the Friday glums, but I fear this morning that those days will be few this autumn.

On the other hand, perhaps the clouds will clear and the sun will light up the trees and lighten my mood. That might not happen for a bit: Weatherbug says the best we’ll likely get in the next week is partly cloudy skies on Sunday. Still, as October advances, we’ll most likely have at least a few of those bright days. And my mood – changeable as it can be – will most likely shift upward even before those sunny and cool days light up the oaks outside my window.

I am honestly not in as bleak a place as the titles of the following songs might lead one to believe. It was just easier (and more productive) to search for “dark” than for “kind of glum.” I think, though, that I’ll just let the songs speak for themselves this morning except to say that they’re all worth a listen.

A Six-Pack of Dark
“Darkness Brings” by the Panama Limited Jug Band from Indian Summer [1970]
“Darkest Hour” by Arlo Guthrie from Amigo [1976]
“Darker Days” by the Connells from Darker Days [1985]
“Alone In The Dark” by the Devlins from Drift [1993]
“The Darker Side” by the Lamont Cranston Band from El Cee Notes [1978]
“Right On For The Darkness” by Curtis Mayfield from Back to the World [1973]

(Some of these may have been shared here before. With the loss of my blog’s archives, it’s become difficult to know if that’s the case: It would require searching thirty separate Word documents, and that’s more trouble than it’s worth. So accept my apologies for any repeats.)

Deleted & Starting Over

May 18, 2022

This is not an Echoes In The Wind Post. Instead, it’s a post I put together for the blog The Vinyl District after Blogger deleted the first iteration of EITW and I moved on to WordPress. It was written September 8, 2009.

It was kind of like turning on the television news and seeing a three-headed alien behind the desk saying “Good evening! I’m Gnirt Tkalch, and here’s the news tonight on Planet Zamzam.”

I’d clicked the link for my blog, Echoes In The Wind, and I got a page with the familiar orange Blogger logo and a message that said something like: No such blog exists. Of course it exists, I thought to myself; I just put a post up this morning! I clicked the link again and got the same thing.

After a moment of thought – during which I wondered if I’d actually ended up on Planet Zamzam – I went to my dashboard and found a notice from Blogger that said, “We’ve received another complaint on your blog(s), (Echoes In The Wind). Given that we’ve provided you with several warnings of these violations and advised you of our policy towards repeat infringers, we’ve been forced to remove your blog.”

I reviewed in my head: Let’s see, there were three notices last autumn, all in the same week. Then there was one in August. So, four warnings – I guess four is “several” – and now one more complaint that tipped the balance. There were also some posts during the past year – four or five – that disappeared from the blog without any explanation or notification. So call it nine complaints. Over a period of two years and eight months and a total of almost eight hundred posts.

I understand, in a way, the positions of Blogger and its parent company, Google. A complaint requires a response. What I don’t get is the unwillingness of much of the music industry to deal with individual bloggers (as well as the seeming point of view that it’s somehow bad to draw attention to performers and their music). I’d put a notice on the blog asking copyright holders to contact me if they objected; a couple did, and I happily removed those links and deleted the uploads within hours. Others, however, evidently complained. I say “evidently” because of the four emails I received specifying an offending post, three gave no information about the source of the complaint; I’m not sure in those cases whether the complaint came from someone with a genuine stake in the matter or from someone having malicious fun. (There are times I lean strongly toward the latter.) The source of the fourth complaint – the one I got in August – was identified: It was a singer-songwriter who had one Top 40 hit, in 1982, and has released one album since 1988. One would think any attention would be beneficial, but I guess not.

On top of all that, my blog was an odd target, as there are a thousand, maybe ten thousand blogs out there whose operators are sharing music that was released last week, last month, maybe yesterday. A good portion of what I shared is out of print, much of it was obscure, and the vast majority of it was at least thirty years old. As I wrote above, one would think any attention would be beneficial . . .

Well, I’ve moved on, and I’ve moved. You can find my new location in the links here at TVD.

Someone asked me how it felt. As usual, the best way to answer that is with music, and these titles tell the tale:

“Angry Eyes” by Loggins & Messina from Best of Friends [1976]
“Lost” by the Church from Starfish [1988]
“Sad Eyes” by Maria Muldaur from Sweet Harmony [1976]
“Feelin’ Alright” by Lulu from New Routes [1970]
“Starting All Over Again” by Johnny Taylor from Taylored in Silk [1973]

Just Some Stuff

May 15, 2022

Originally posted August 21, 2009

Some this and that for a Friday morning:

After I wrote about Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut album and its song “Wooden Ships” the other day, frequent commenter Robert noted that I hadn’t answered my own question of how well the album held together as a unit these days.

Well, I did say that the album “still ranks pretty high on my all-time list,” but maybe I should have said more than that. It holds together well, with a laid-back vibe that was echoed, I think, by a lot of the work being done by the musicians who were part of the Lauren Canyon scene in the last years of the 1960s. (That vibe, in my view, laid down a framework for at least one generation of California rock that may have found its most clear expression, if not its peak, with the mid-1970s work of Fleetwood Mac.)

But beyond providing a template for future work, how does Crosby, Stills & Nash work today? I still think it’s one of the great albums, setting out a view of how life felt – at least for a portion of American youth – as the end of the 1960s was coming into view. Beyond the allegories of “Wooden Ships” and “Guinnevere” and the grief/hope duality of “Long Time Gone” (all three of which, interestingly enough, were written or co-written by David Crosby), the songs on Crosby, Stills & Nash are mostly concerned with the personal, not the political. The fences that need mending in “49 Bye-Byes” are on the singer’s own back porch. And, with one exception, the songs – including the three Crosby-penned songs mentioned above – work with each other and fit well against each other. My only quibble, forty years down the road, is the travelogue of “Marrakesh Express,” which doesn’t seem to match the quality or the themes of the other songs.

When one tries to listen with fresh ears, there’s always the chance that something that seemed excellent thirty or forty years ago will seem much less than that now. I’ve had that happen with other albums. But not with this one.

The Texas Gal pointed me to a fascinating website this week that has nothing to do with music. The operator of Forgotten Bookmarks explains:

“I work at a used and rare bookstore, and I buy books from people everyday. These are the personal, funny, heartbreaking and weird things I find in those books.”

The bookmarks he or she finds – I can’t find a name on the blog and so have no idea of the gender of the blogger – are pieces of paper with notes on them, old photographs, tickets to events, postcards, actual bookmarks, even – in one case I saw – a letter ending a romance, and on and on. The blogger posts pictures of each bookmark and the book in which it was found, and transcribes any notes or writing from the bookmark. In some cases, the blogger provides some context, as in identifying more completely a politician whose campaign advertisement ended up in a book.

I found it a fascinating site, but then, I like to look at old photos in antique shops, wondering “Who are these people and what were their stories?” I get the same sense at Forgotten Bookmarks, a sense of random bits of life coming to the surface, the mundane becoming mysterious.

[Note from 2022: The website, though still on line, seems to have quit posting new material in September 2020. Note added May 15, 2022.]

I got a note from Blogger yesterday. There was a complaint about one of the songs I shared in my Vinyl Record Day post about my LP log, and the post was removed. I imagine anyone who wanted to read it has already done so, but just to get the post into the blog archives, I’m going to repost it Sunday, without linking to the twelve songs.

I thought about looking at the Billboard Hot 100 for this week in 1970 for today’s music, but I wanted to get the three items above into the blog, so I decided on something else instead. As happens to many folks, I’m certain, every so often I’ll realize that a song is running through my head for no apparent reason. I haven’t heard it on the radio, haven’t looked at the record jacket or the CD case, and haven’t read its title somewhere; it just popped up. When one of those stealth earworms – as I call them – popped up the other week, I jotted the title down, and I continue to do so as they show up. I haven’t caught them all over the past two weeks, but here’s a little bit of what I’ve been hearing in my head lately. (And no, there have been no voices telling me to do things.)

A Six-Pack Running Through My Head
“Smile” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists 431 [1962]
“All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople from All the Young Dudes [1972]
“Hallelujah” by the Clique from The Clique [1969]
“It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” by Jim Croce from Life and Times [1973]
“Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” by Robin McNamara from Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me [1970]
“Buckets of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan from Songs For the New Depression [1976]

The version of “Smile” I heard in my head wasn’t necessarily Ferrante & Teicher’s version, but that’s the best one I happen to have available. The song was written by Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 film, Modern Times. Ferrante and Teicher recorded it in December 1961; in early 1962, the single went to No. 18 on the Easy Listening chart and to No. 91 on the pop chart.

“All the Young Dudes,” written and produced by David Bowie, gave the British glitter-rocking Mott the Hoople its only Top 40 hit. The single – which may have been different than the album version offered here – went to No. 37 in late 1972. In the U.K., the single went to No. 3.

The Clique had recorded and released a number of singles (“Sugar on Sunday” went to No. 22 in the autumn of 1969) before the time came to put an album together, but All-Music Guide notes that the only member of the group to actually be on the album was singer Randy Shaw; producer Gary Zekley brought in studio musicians for everything else. The most interesting track on the album to me is “Hallelujah,” which AMG reviewer Stewart Mason dismisses as a “blatant Blood, Sweat & Tears rip-off.” That’s an apt comparison, I guess, especially as concerns the lead vocal, but the song gets my attention as the source for Sweathog’s 1971 cover, which went to No. 33. (Another cover of the song, which I’ve also posted here in the past, came from Chi Coltrane in 1973.)

Life and Times was Jim Croce’s second major label album, coming out on ABC in January 1973. “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” is the album’s closer, a December-themed song about wanting to give things another try. I’m not sure why the song popped into my head the other day; the earworm was more understandable in December 1974, shortly after I got the album, when I was headed to have a cup of coffee and conversation with a young woman I’d once known well. As it turned out, it did have to be that way, but I still like the song anyway.

The Robin McNamara track is the title track of what seems to be his only album. “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” was released as a single on Steed, the label owned by legendary songwriter and producer Jeff Barry, who co-wrote the song with McNamara and Jim Cretecos. The single went to No. 11 during the summer of 1970 and was the only hit for McNamara, who was a member of the original cast of the musical Hair. (His fellow cast members helped out, says AMG, evidently providing backing vocals.)

I imagine that the version of “Buckets of Rain” that ran through my head was based on the original, from Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. But I recently came across Midler’s version of the song, after looking for it sporadically for a few years – my thanks to Willard at Never Get Out Of The Boat – and its rarity seemed to make it a good choice for this slot. As is most often the case when Mr. Dylan shows up to sing along, it’s very apparent he’s in the room.

Not Today

May 15, 2022

Originally posted August 17, 2009

Sorry, but whatever it is I’m going to do this week, you’ll have to wait for it. I hope to be here tomorrow with some cover versions to add to our discussion of last week.

A Six-Pack of Waiting
“Wait and See” by Fats Domino, Imperial 5467 [1957]
“Waiting” by Santana from Santana [1969]
“Waitin’ For Me At The River” by Potliquor from Louisiana Rock and Roll [1973]
“There’s Always Someone Waiting” by the Average White Band from Average White Band [1974]
“Wait” by Steve Forbert from Jackrabbit Slim [1979]
“Waiting for the Miracle” by Leonard Cohen from The Future [1992]