Archive for the ‘1982’ Category

R&B In The Fog

May 16, 2012

Originally posted April 10, 2009

After a few days of relative clarity – with the medication dosages for my ailing leg diminishing – I am once again in a fog this morning.

Yesterday afternoon, when the Texas Gal came home from work, we stood in the driveway and watched a squirrel dig in the ground, seeking some sort of treat. We routinely toss bread crusts out for the little guys, and I laughed as the Texas Gal told me about one she’d seen that morning, carrying a whole slice of bread in his mouth as he leaped from tree to tree.

Then we went to the back door and found all three cats waiting for us and hoping for a chance to slip outside. The Texas Gal blocked Oscar’s path, and I held off Cubbie Cooper. As we were distracted by the other two catboys, Clarence bolted between my ankles and out the door. I reacted instinctively, pushing Cubbie into the kitchen, then pivoting on my right foot and starting to run, pushing off with my right leg.

Not a good idea. My right leg is, of course, the leg that I hurt a week ago.

I managed to corral Clarence, and we got all three cats inside. But my leg was throbbing as it hadn’t for about three days, and twenty minutes later, I had to take a muscle relaxant and a pain-killer. And this morning it’s taking more effort to focus than I can spare for very long.

So I’m going to suggest that you folks do exactly what I did last evening and will do again today: just listen to some good music. Not long ago, a track popped up here from Dreams Come True, the R&B supersession album by singers Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton. (All of those links are to corresponding pages at All-Music Guide.) Last evening, I listened to more of the album, and I liked it even more than I did the first time I heard it. So here’s Dreams Come True.

Track list
A Fool In Love
Good Rockin’ Daddy
It Hurts To Be In Love
Love, Sweet Love
Gonna Make It
You Can If You Think You Can
I Idolize You
Dreams Come True
Bad Thing
Turn The Lock On Love
Something’s Got A Hold On Me
Snake Dance

Dreams Come True by Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli & Lou Ann Barton [1990]

My thanks go to azzul, as I found Dreams Come True at his excellent blog, nongseynyo. Sadly, azzul has quit posting new material; the blog now offers its archives without download links and lists current posts at a few other bluesy blogs. I – along with many others, I’m sure – miss the original nongseynyo. Thanks for everything, azzul!

And I thought that as long as I was sharing Dreams Come True in the middle of my repost festival, I’d make today “Lou Ann Barton Day”!

Reposted:
Old Enough by Lou Ann Barton [1982]
Original post here.

Forbidden Tones by Lou Ann Barton [1986]
Original post here.

Read My Lips by Lou Ann Barton [1989]
[With bonus tracks]
Original post here.

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The Music Behind The Movies

March 21, 2012

Originally posted March 11, 2009

My long-time fascination with film soundtracks began – as I shared here in the first few months of this blog – with Goldfinger, the third of the James Bond films. As I wrote, my parents were reluctant at the time – I was eleven – to let me either see the movie or read Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. But the soundtrack to Goldfinger was available through our record club, and I spent hours listening to it.

By the time I saw the film, maybe a year later, I practically had the score memorized, and I was fascinated with the way the music enhanced the movie, highlighting passages and underlining transitions. I began to pay close attention to the music whenever I went to a movie.

And I have done so ever since. Sometimes I felt like the only one. “Did you notice the music during the scene when they’re taking the car to Syracuse?” I’d ask my friends over a post-film drink.

“What about it?” one might reply.

“It echoed the main theme and also brought in the theme the composer created for the girl from Jersey.”

“Oh. No, I didn’t really notice.”

I kept listening and buying the occasional soundtrack LP (and later on, CD). My library of them isn’t large – I’ve focused far more over the years on rock, pop and soul – but generally, it’s music I still find interesting. Some of the soundtracks haven’t aged well. I bought the soundtrack to Country, the 1984 film that starred Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard and Wilford Brimley, just days after I saw the film. But the New Age music – the musicians on it recorded frequently for the Windham Hill label – hasn’t worn well, I don’t think. Some others have lasted. And I think those include the three soundtracks that I absolutely love.

The first of those is the first soundtrack I owned: Goldfinger. Written by John Barry, the score for the third of the James Bond films provides a lesson in contrasts, from the blare and rumble of the main title to the insistent music that accompanied the film’s dawn raid on Fort Knox, followed by the hushed background to the arrival of a nuclear weapon before the pounding countdown begins. Matching the music, which I knew well, to the action on the screen was like reading a primer in film-scoring.

(I dabbled with the idea of scoring and soundtrack work as a career, but nothing came of it except a deeper love for the craft.)

The second of my three favorite soundtracks is Bill Conti’s work for Rocky, the first in what became a ridiculous series of films. Conti’s use of repeated motifs, often identified with one character, remains astounding, as does the variety of moods and arrangements he finds for each motif. How much of my affection for the score is a result of the film’s ultra-romantic story of the man who was almost destined to be “just another bum from the neighborhood”? I don’t know. I have a suspicion that it might be just as accurate to say that my affection for the movie is the result of the score. Rocky might have the prefect symbiosis between story and score: Each enhances the other.

The last of the three scores that sit atop my list is Randy Newman’s work for the 1984 film, The Natural. It’s true that the film’s story – especially its ending – bears only a passing resemblance to the Bernard Malamud novel from which it was adapted. (In the novel, given a chance at redemption, Malamud’s Roy Hobbs strikes out at the critical moment and his life and career unravel.) But given the producers’ decision to make Malamud’s cautionary tale into the Great American Fable, Newman came up with a score that was tragic, triumphant and Coplandesque.

So here is one selection from each of those soundtracks and four more from soundtracks that I enjoy, if not to the degree I love the first three:

A Six-Pack of Soundtrack Selections
“Dawn Raid on Fort Knox” by John Barry from Goldfinger [1964]
“Lara’s Theme” by Maurice Jarre from Dr. Zhivago [1965]
 “No Name Bar” by Isaac Hayes from Shaft [1971]
“Going The Distance” by Bill Conti from Rocky [1976]
“Blade Runner [End Titles]” by Vangelis from Blade Runner [1982]
“The Natural” by Randy Newman from The Natural [1984]
Bonus Track
“Hymn to Red October (Main Title)” by Basil Poledouris from The Hunt For Red October [1990]

The Wail Of The Who Mouse

November 9, 2011

Originally posted December 29, 2008

As I sit in my study this morning, the wind is whipping around the northeast corner of the house, triggering a memory that’s not that old.

Before we moved last summer, we lived in an apartment on the southeast corner of the building. During the cold months, the northwest wind would come around the outside corner with a moaning sound, wailing into the night. One evening a few years ago, I made up a tall tale for the Texas Gal about a little mouse who sits on the roof on cold nights and calls out “Whoooo?” No one ever answers, I said, and he spends his winter nights calling out that one forlorn word.

Every couple has its tales, the small stories and inside jokes, the shared catch phrases and taglines, all of which are the common currency of any pairing. The Who Mouse and his plaint has become one of ours. On some chill mornings in other winters, the Texas Gal – who sleeps more lightly than I do – would tell me, “The Who Mouse was out last night.” She’d shake her head, shivering, and murmur, “I don’t like that sound.”

Neither do I. The wail of the wind makes a chilly evening seem colder, and it heightens the desolation that northern winter nights bring with them. But cold and desolation are relative things. Every once in a while during the winter, I think about the people who settled this land a century and a half ago: How did they survive the brutal cold? I shudder at the thought of a winter with no heat except that from a fireplace, and realize once more how fortunate we are.

The new place has a garage on the northwest corner, and the Who Mouse isn’t noticeable on the main floor. But the Texas Gal says he visits the loft, where she does her quilting and other crafts. “I heard him this morning,” she told me a few moments ago. “He was out there.”

A Six-Pack of Who
“Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)” by the Main Ingredient from Bitter Sweet, 1972

“Know Who You Are” by Supertramp from Famous Last Words, 1982

“Who’s Gonna Stop Me” by the Delilahs from Delilahs, 1994

“Who Can I Be Now” by David Bowie, unreleased from Young Americans sessions, ca. 1974

“Who’s Making Love” by Mongo Santamaria from Stone Soul, 1969

“Who Will Be The Fool Tonight” by the Larsen-Feiten Band, Warner Bros. 49282, 1980

A few notes:

The Main Ingredient’s Bitter Sweet album was the source for “Everybody Plays The Fool,” the great single that went to No. 3 in the autumn of 1972. The rest of the album, including “Who Can I Turn To,” is pretty good, if not quite as good as the hit. (The inverse was true two years later; Euphrates was a good album, much better to my ears than its hit, “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely.”)

The Delilahs came out of Minnesota at about the same time as the Jayhawks did, offering a similar mix of rock, country and folk. The group was named the Best New Band at the 1994 Minnesota Music Awards and released Delilahs shortly after that. Two more albums followed in 1995, and the group evidently called it a day.

The David Bowie track was included in 1991 on a CD reissue of his Young Americans album and evidently came from the same sessions. I think it’s better than almost anything that was included on the album.

Mongo Santamaria was a Cuban percussionist and bandleader who covered pop, rock and soul songs on a series of fairly popular albums in the late 1960s and on into the 1970s. Those albums were fun, but his earlier, less pop-based, work is maybe a little more challenging but not quite as much fun.

The Larsen-Feiten Band – formed by session musicians Neil Larsen and Buzz Feiten – is a true one-hit wonder. “Who Will Be The Fool Tonight” went to No. 29 during the autumn of 1980 and was the group’s only chart entry. I don’t recall it from the time, but as it played out this morning, I heard echoes of Boz Scaggs’ late 1970s and early 1980s work. All-Music Guide has impressive lists of credits for both Larsen and Feiten as studio musicians. (Thanks to the Dude for this one.)

Goodbye To Smudge

July 18, 2011

Originally posted June 25, 2008

When one owns pets, saying goodbye is part of the package. But it never gets easier.

This morning it was Smudge, the cat that the Texas Gal had bottle-raised, the little white lady who had been the Texas Gal’s baby since she was less than a day old.

It was the summer of 1998, and the Texas Gal was still in Texas, working as a buyer for a manufacturing firm in Dallas. One of the warehouse guys came to her office, carrying a small something. He said he’d seen it on the floor as he was driving a forklift. He thought it was a mouse, and he stopped to pick it up intact rather than have to clean it up later. But it was a kitten, no more than three inches long, so he brought it to the Texas Gal’s office, knowing she was a cat person.

The little thing was white with a gray patch on her forehead, so her name was Smudge. The mama cat might have dropped her when she was startled while moving her litter, or maybe Smudge got left behind as a runt. But raised on bottled milk and love, she survived. She never got very big – maybe eight pounds at the most. But she was the Texas Gal’s kitty for just about ten years.

And Smudge was no one else’s cat. She and I shared the same quarters for seven years, and, at best, she tolerated me. I could pet her and she’d put up with it for a moment or two, then squirm away or – if she could not get away – slap my hand five or six times with a tiny lightning-fast front paw. Still, the Texas Gal told me, no one else had ever been able to touch Smudge without her screaming and biting. So I did pretty well.

She was skittish, Smudge was, possibly because of her origins. Loud noises and strangers worried her. And it didn’t help that one of the catboys, Clarence, liked to chase her. She spent a lot of time in dark corners. And she spent a lot of time curled up on the Texas Gal’s lap, the one place in the world she felt safe.

About ten days ago, on a Saturday night, the Texas Gal noticed that something was wrong. We took Smudge to the emergency vet, who corrected the immediate problem with a minor procedure but told us that the root cause was unchanged. The problem was likely to be chronic. Last evening, we concluded, reluctantly, that the vet was right, and Mudgie was only going to be less and less comfortable as time went on. So this morning, we took her to see Dr. Tess, and we said goodbye.

So here’s a Baker’s Dozen for the Texas Gal’s baby.

A Baker’s Dozen of Babys
“Baby Don’t Do Me Wrong” by John Lee Hooker from I Feel Good, 1971

“Baby Please Don’t Go” by Muddy Waters from Muddy Waters at Newport, 1960

“Baby Ruth” by Delbert McClinton from The Jealous Kind, 1980

“You, Baby” by the Ronettes from Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes, 1964

“Baby, I Love You” by Aretha Franklin, Atlantic single 2427, 1967

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” by John Hammond from Tangled Up In Blues, 1999

“Rock A Bye Baby Blues” by Ray Thomas from From Mighty Oaks, 1975

“Baby Let’s Wait” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie single 3461, 1969

“Our Baby’s Gone” by Herb Pederson from Southwest, 1976

“Baby It’s You” by the Shirelles, Scepter single 1227, 1962

“My Baby Loves Lovin’” by White Plains, Deram single 85058, 1970

“Ruby Baby” by Donald Fagen from The Nightfly, 1982

“Me and Baby Jane” by Leon Russell from Carney, 1972

A few notes:

This set is a little bluesier than most of them get, what with John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and John Hammond. Delbert McClinton shades that way sometimes too.

It’s funny that the one track with the word “blues” in its title is one of the more odd blues that one can find. Ray Thomas, a member of the Moody Blues, released From Mighty Oaks during the years when the Moodies were inactive. Like most solo outings from the members of the group, the album sounds very much like the Moody Blues. And even though Thomas’ voice slides into blue tones now and then during “Rock A Bye Baby Blues,” when you consider the non-blues chord progression, his voice and the airy production, well, if it’s a blues, it’s a unique one.

“Baby Let’s Wait” is a dirge-like ballad that reached the lower levels of the Top 40 – No. 38 – in 1969. The Royal Guardsmen are better known for reaching No. 2 as 1966 turned into 1967 with “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” and for that record’s follow-up, “The Return of the Red Baron,” which went to No. 15 in the spring of 1967.

I wrote some time back about Smith’s version of “Baby It’s You,” which went to No. 5 in 1969. The original by the Shirelles went to No. 8 in early 1962. Smith might have had the better version, but the Shirelles had the better career: Smith had just the one Top 40 hit, while the Shirelles had twelve of them, including two No. 1 hits: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Soldier Boy.”

Into The Junkyard On Friday Morning

June 29, 2011

Originally posted May 23, 2008

I’ve got plenty of things waiting in the pile of music I eventually intend to post here. There’s one last Patti Dahlstrom record, three albums by Redwing, a country-rock group from the Seventies. Bonnie Bramlett, John Stewart. Michael Johnson, Kim Carnes, Gypsy. Malo, Romeo Void, Shawn Phillips and Steve Forbert.

That list could go much longer, as the records line up in the study, patiently waiting to be spun and heard once more. They’ll get their chances, but not today, at least not this morning.

In anticipation of the holiday weekend, the Texas Gal has taken the day off. While she will likely check in with her office via her newly issued laptop sometime during the day, we also plan to spend some time doing nothing together. And to get to that sooner, I won’t be ripping an album this morning or writing anything too deep or detailed.

Instead, here’s a random Walk Through the Junkyard, starting with a group that, surprisingly, has only popped up here three times, once with Bob Dylan.

“Truckin’” by the Grateful Dead from American Beauty, 1970

“Surfer Girl” by the Beach Boys, Capitol single 5009, 1963

“Cattle and Cane” by the Go-Betweens from Hollywood, 1983

“A Thousand Miles” by Joy of Cooking from Closer to the Ground, 1971

“Ball of Twine” by Lightning Hopkins, Ash Grove, Hollywood, August 1961

“North Country Blues” by Bob Dylan from The Times They Are A-Changin’, 1964

“Rise and Fall” by the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band from The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, 1974

“A Sense of Deja Vu” by Al Stewart from Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, 1996

“Feelin’ Single, Seein’ Double” by Emmylou Harris from Elite Hotel, 1975

“I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” by Michael McDonald, Warner Bros. single 29933, 1982

“For Your Love” by the Yarbirds, Epic single 9790, 1964

“Wallflower” by Doug Sahm from Doug Sahm and Band, 1973

“To The River” by John Mellencamp from Human Wheels, 1993

“Crystal” by Buckingham Nicks from Buckingham Nicks, 1973

“I’m Easy” by Keith Carradine, ABC single 12117, from the soundtrack to Nashville, 1976

A few notes:

“Truckin’” was released in two forms – the album version here and a single (Warner Bros. 7464) that ran 3:16, almost two minutes shorter than the album track. Considering the state of radio and the state of the culture at the time, I find it amazing that the single didn’t crack the Top 40, with its loopy and matter-of-fact tale of druggies and narcs, travel and blissful crash-pad paranoia. (When I hear the song, I can’t help flashing to Cheech & Chong a few years later: “Dave’s not here, man.”) All of which proves the truth in the song’s tagline: “What a long strange trip it’s been.”

The Go-Betweens were a highly successful band in their native Australia and in Great Britain but were almost unknown in the U.S. during their early 1980s peak period. (The releases from those early years have since been released on CD in the U.S.) “Cattle and Cane” is a ballad with lush moments and an underlying edge that insinuates itself into one’s memory. For me, at least, it’s created an appetite for more.

Bob Dylan’s “North Country Blues” tells a tale of the iron mining milieu in which he grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota (home, for example, to the world’s largest open pit mine, essentially the world’s largest man-made hole in the ground). The song resonates with me, as I still see the occasional news piece about the hard life of mining in the northern part of the state and the hard times that come more and more regularly as the quantity and quality of the ore remaining in the ground continue to diminish.

The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band – made up of the criminally ignored country rocker J.D. Souther, Chris Hillman of the Byrds and Richie Furay of Buffalo Springfield – released three pretty good country-rock albums from 1973 to 1977. The self-titled first was likely the best, but the group never seemed to catch the attention of the listening public. All-Music Guide tags the ten songs on the album as a “collection of ten pleasant, if overall unremarkable tunes in the singer/songwriter, country-rock vein.” I think the record is a little better than that.

“For Your Love,” the single that drive Eric Clapton out of the Yardbirds because of its commerciality, is actually a pretty good record; it went to No. 6 in the U.S. No, it’s nowhere near the blues, but it’s a catchy tune, sonically (the lyrics are serviceable but nothing remarkable), and its memory can stay in a listener’s ear for a long time. For me, the song puts me in the halls of my junior high school, which is okay. As far as musical memories go, I’ve had better, but I have certainly had worse, too.

The sessions for Doug Sahm and Band, according to All-Music Guide, were something of a superstar jam session, with lots of famous friends of Sahm’s dropping in to hang out and lend a hand. Sahm, who first came to major public attention as the leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet in 1965 (“She’s About A Mover” went to No. 13), was a roots music enthusiast years before roots music (or Americana, if you prefer) was in vogue. Doug Sahm and Band is nothing other than roots music, ca. 1973. And yeah, that’s Bob Dylan on vocals; he wrote the song.

Back in the days when his manager called him Johnny Cougar and the Rolling Stone Record Guide called him “Meat Head” (1983 edition), who’d have thought that John Mellencamp would become an elder statesman of heartland rock? With his Rolling Stones meets Appalachia sound, Mellencamp has turned out a pretty good series of albums in the past twenty years (and some clinkers, too, but that happens in a long career). Human Wheels is a pretty bleak album, but it’s a good one, and “To The River” might be the best song on it.

Of Heartsfield & Sneezes

June 27, 2011

Originally posted May 12, 2008

Last November, I posted a Saturday Single from The Wonder Of It All, a 1974 album by a Midwest band called Heartsfield, a group I’d run across more or less by accident. (I have a sneaking suspicion that we find most of the musicians and groups we listen in that way: pure happenstance.) And I received a few notes from fans of the group, some of them offering assistance in helping me find the rest of Heartsfield’s oeuvre.

I took one of those readers up on that offer this weekend. Mark of St. Louis posted links for me of Heartsfield from 1973, Foolish Pleasures from 1975 and Rescue the Dog, a 2005 album by a band newly organized by one of Heartsfield’s co-founders. (Thanks much, Mark!) That brings me close to a complete Heartsfield collection. A 1977 album, Heartsfield Collectors Item, appears to be an album of new material rather than the compilation the title might imply.

Normally, on Monday, I’d post an album or some kind of themed collection as a Baker’s Dozen. But the pollen has attacked – I read in the Twin Cities newspaper last week that this is the worst year for spring allergies in some time. Well, I already knew that. And I spent much of the weekend wheezing and sniffling and not putting much time at all into thinking about what I would offer this morning. I have some interesting albums in the stack of things to rip, and I will get to one or two of them this week, as well as offer the rest of the week’s regular features.

For now, however, I’m going to let the universe do my work for me this morning. We’ll start with a song from one of the Heartsfield albums Mark provided for me, and from there, we’ll take a fifteen-song walk through the 1950-1999 junkyard.

A Walk Through The Junkyard
“I’m Coming Home” by Heartsfield from Heartsfield, 1973

“Kaval Sviri (The Flute Plays)” by Ensemble Trakia from Mystère Des Voix Bulgares, Vol. 2, recorded at Plodiv, Bulgaria, 1982

“Naturally” by Fat Mattress from Fat Mattress 2, 1970

“By Today” by Batdorf & Rodney from Batdorf & Rodney, 1972

“Redneck Rhythm and Blues” by Brooks & Dunn from Borderline, 1996

“Abraham, Martin & John” by Boo Hewerdine & Darden Smith from Interchords radio show, live, 1991.

“Pacific Coast Highway” by the Mamas & the Papas from People Like Us, 1971

“I’m A Woman” by Maria Muldaur from Waitress In A Donut Shop, 1974

“Ain’t It Hell Up In Harlem” by Edwin Starr from Hell Up In Harlem soundtrack, 1974

“Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears from Blood, Sweat & Tears, 1969

“Changes” by Gordon Lightfoot from Lightfoot!, 1966

“I Still Miss Someone (Blue Eyes)” by Stevie Nicks from The Other Side of the Mirror, 1989

“Back Stabbers” by the O’Jays, Philadelphia International single 3517, 1972

“The Moon Struck One” by The Band from Cahoots, 1971

“Lullaby” by Wishbone Ash from Pilgrimage, 1971

A few notes:

Visitors sometimes snort when I tell them I listen at times to Bulgarian choral music. But should one of the tracks pop up from one of the several such albums I have ripped to mp3s, well, my visitors’ eyes widen and their mouths open as they hear the odd intervals and impossibly close harmonies. The sound is alien to Western ears, and I don’t listen to a lot of it at one time, but it never hurts to know what other places sound like, and the musicianship on all of the Mystère Des Voix Bulgares albums – and on the Nonesuch label albums that preceded them – is impeccable.

Fat Mattress is where Noel Redding went in the late 1960s after his time as bassist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience was over. The group’s music was different from that of the Experience: far more based on the British folk-rock tradition and the psychedelic and progressive rock sounds that stemmed from that tradition. The two albums the group did are well worth hearing, if those sounds intrigue you. The group’s second album – from which “Naturally” comes – was slightly inferior to the first album, says All-Music Guide, but from a distance of more than thirty-five years, the differences don’t seem that significant.

John Batdorf and Mark Rodney made three albums in the early 1970s in a singer-songwriter/soft rock vein. The albums are pleasant but not very consequential. One of the joys of having a 500-gig external hard drive is that there is room to keep bits and pieces of pleasant marginalia if one so desires. The duo is similar to, but not quite as good as, Seals & Crofts.

The Boo Hewerdine/Darden Smith performance of Dick Holler’s wondrous “Abraham, Martin & John” is, to me, a highlight of both singers’ careers. The Interchords appearance had Hewerdine interviewing Smith along with performances by both. I’d love to hear the entire show. And I’d love to know who Stephen (Steven?) was. Listen to the song, and you’ll know what I mean.

The Mamas & the Papas, who had broken up in 1968, reunited in 1971 to record the album, People Like Us, simply to fulfill a contractual obligation. The album is better than one might expect of such an effort, but the group’s time had passed and the product sounded out of date and went nowhere.

Wishbone Ash is one of those bands I knew about in my youth but never listened to (given the vast number of groups at the time and since then, there are many such, I am certain). I ran across a track by Wishbone Ash at The College Crowd Digs Me about seven months ago and since then have slowly been taking in the group’s body of work. “Lullaby,” along with the album it comes from, is far more mellow than the sounds I’d expected when I began digging into the group’s work.

Edited slightly during reposting June 27, 2011.

A Baker’s Dozen Of A&M Singles

June 27, 2011

Originally posted May 7, 2008

I remember being aware of three record labels when I was a young listener, between the ages of ten and thirteen. Not record labels as in business concerns but as in the designs on the paper at the center of the record, be it an LP or a 45.

There was the yellow and orange yin/yang swirl at the center of the one 45 I claimed ownership of (half ownership, actually, with my sister): the Beatles “I Want To Hold Your Hand/I Saw Her Standing There.” Other records to come would have that swirl, but that 45 in February 1964 was the first. (That swirl popped up the other day when I was wandering through the CD’s: Rhino copied it lovingly for its 1990 issue of The Rutles.)

Then there was the very old logo that RCA Victor used: the dog Nipper leaning over the Victrola, listening to “His Master’s Voice.” (There truly was a Nipper who listened to the gramophone; some of his story is told here.) The label RCA used was a little cluttered: Nipper and his Victrola and the LP’s title were above the spindle hole with data to either side of the hole and track listings and more data below. That was the label on my copy of Al Hirt’s Honey In The Horn, which came to me for my eleventh birthday.

And finally, the third of the labels I was aware of early on was on A&M records, the company started by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. Looking today at the design on the first A&M record I owned – Whipped Cream & Other Delights by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass – I’m impressed by its clean look: the tan background, the very simple A&M logo. (The example shown here is from another album, obviously. As I don’t have a scanner, I find graphics where I can on the ’Net; this one came from BSN Publications, a treasure trove of LP discographies and history, including the histories of many label designs.)*

I don’t know that I had a favorite at the time, but it was during this period – the years from eleven to thirteen – that I began to play around with designing logos for imaginary sports teams, and in doing so, I began to look at typography and design. (Somewhere in a box in the closet is a folder full of logos that came from my pen.) And I recall looking at the A&M label one day and pondering its design as the sounds of Herb and the boys came from the stereo. I’m sure I came to no conclusions, except perhaps the one that might matter most of all: A nice label design is good, but it’s even better when it comes with good music.

And over the years A&M did pretty well with that, as today’s Baker’s Dozen shows.

A Baker’s Dozen of A&M Singles
“This Guy’s In Love With You” by Herb Alpert, A&M 929, 1968

“I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonite” by Boyce & Hart, A&M 893, 1968

“You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker, A&M 1641, 1974

“Is She Really Going Out With Him” by Joe Jackson, A&M 2132, 1979

“Superstar” by the Carpenters, A&M 1289, 1971

“Take The Long Way Home” by Supertramp, A&M 2193, 1979

“Come Saturday Morning” by the Sandpipers, A&M 1134, 1967

“The Captain Of Her Heart” by Double, A&M 2838, 1986

“Homburg,” by Procol Harum, A&M 885, 1968

“Hold On Loosely” by 38 Special, A&M 2316, 1981

“Memphis In The Meantime” by John Hiatt, A&M 2989, 1987

“Don’t You Want Me Baby” by Human League, A&M 2397, 1982

“Strawberry Letter 23” by the Brothers Johnson, A&M 1949, 1977

A few notes:

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were better known as a song-writing team than as performers, although “I Wonder . . .” went to No. 8 in early 1968 and was the second of three Top 40 hits for the duo. The LP, titled after the single, seems to be a collector’s item, at least in some circles. I had a copy of it under my arm at Cheapo’s one day in the 1990s, and an eccentric collector followed me around the store for a few moments, asking to look at the record and gushing, when I did, “Do you know how rare this is? What a prize this is?” He handed it back, and I said, “I do now.”

“You Are So Beautiful” is not my favorite among Joe Cocker’s singles on A&M. I would probably opt for “Cry Me A River,” taken from the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour. But “You Are So Beautiful” is what popped up in a random run of A&M singles. And it did pretty well, reaching No. 5 in the early months of 1975. It was Cocker’s eighth Top 40 single in a little more than five years; it would be his last until he hit No. 1 seven years later with his duet with Jennifer Warnes: “Up Where We Belong.”

I always thought of Joe Jackson as a weird guy who could never figure out what kind of songs he wanted to sing. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that his constant changes were indicative of an inventive mind rather than a lost musician. The new wave textures of “Is She Really Going Out With Him” didn’t grab me much at the time, but then, I was beginning to lose interest in most pop music in 1979. It’s pretty clear to me now that all of Jackson’s oeuvre has had a longer shelf life than much of the stuff that surrounded him at the time.

It was incredibly unhip to like the Carpenters when they came on the scene in the early 1970s. With their squeaky clean image and their music sitting on the softest part possible of the pop-rock sofa, they seemed like what our parents would want us to listen to. But Richard Carpenter was a pretty decent arranger: Some of his work is a bit busy and some a little too gooey today, but most of it now sounds quite good. And Karen Carpenter – poor girl – had a marvel of a voice. I don’t think that “Superstar” is her best performance – I’d probably go with “Goodbye To Love” instead – but she does find the lonely heart of the Leon Russell/Bonnie Bramlett song here.

On those nights when cares and worries keep you up past midnight with the radio playing softly underneath your dismay, the last thing you need to hear filtering from the speakers is Double’s great record, “The Captain Of Her Heart.” The only hit ever for the Swiss duo of Felix Haug and Kurt Maloo (No. 16), the song is guaranteed to increase the intensity of those cares and worries, especially if they’re of the romantic kind. (During the years when I had those kinds of nighttime cares and worries, I generally endured them in silence, just to avoid this sort of song.)

“Hold On Loosely” was 38 Special’s first Top 40 hit, coming before the group dropped the decimal point from its name. It’s a song I wasn’t all that familiar with until the Twin Cities oldies station I listen to shifted its format about a year and a half ago, adding hits and album tracks from the Eighties and trimming the Fifties and Sixties playlists. Angry calls and emails, along with declining ratings, spurred the station to revert to its earlier format not long ago. But “Hold On Loosely” stays in my RealPlayer because the Texas Gal likes it.

It’s entirely possible that some of these mp3s are album versions rather than single edits. If so, I apologize. As always, bit rates will vary.

*At this time, while assembling the archive of posts, I do have a scanner, but several attempts to scan labels on LPs have failed, so I pulled a scan I found online although not, this time, at Both Sides NowNote added June 27, 2011.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Green

June 24, 2011

Originally posted April 23, 2008

JB the DJ from The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ made a couple good points in the comment he left yesterday about my gloomy Earth Day post.

He said, “Actually, it seems to me there’s some cause for optimism on this Earth Day. Despite the best efforts of many to convince us otherwise, more people today seem willing to accept that climate change is real, that fossil fuel is finite, and that we can no longer sit idly by and hope everything will be OK because it things have always worked out before.

“Has it happened in time and will it be enough? Too soon to tell. But it’s definitely happening.”

Those things are true and more even-tempered than were my glum words yesterday. But that was how I felt as I wrote yesterday morning; for whatever reason, I was not in a good state of mind. This morning seems better. And I take some solace in pondering the first sentence JB left here yesterday:

“All we can do is the best we can do.”

So it’s one foot in front of the other, and we end up where we end up. And it’s no doubt true – as I was reminded by some of the news coverage yesterday – that the air and water quality is better here in the U.S. and in many other places than it was on the first Earth Day in 1970. There is much yet to do, so much, in fact, that the prospect of what remains to be done is likely what soured my mood yesterday. But I can see this morning that much has been done.

Here, then, in recognition of the progress that has been made, is a Baker’s Dozen of Green:

“Green Flower Street” by Donald Fagen from The Nightfly, 1982

“Green Hornet” by Al Hirt, RCA single 8925, 1966

“Bitter Green” by Valdy from Landscapes, 1973

“Greenwood Creek” by the Doobie Brothers from The Doobie Brothers, 1971

“In The Land of Green” by Zager & Evans from In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus), 1969

“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf, Liberty single 56813, 1970

“Green, Yellow, and Red” by Rosanne Cash from King’s Record Shop, 1987

“Green Lane” by The Sun Also Rises from The Sun Also Rises, 1970

“Little Green” by Joni Mitchell from Blue, 1971

“Green Rolling Hills” by Emmylou Harris from Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town, 1978

“The Greener Side” by Jackie DeShannon, probably from the Laurel Canyon sessions, 1967

“Green Power” by Little Richard from The King of Rock And Roll, 1971

“Little Green Bag” by the George Baker Selection, Colossus single 112, 1970

A few notes:

Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly is a jazzy piece of work – of a kind with the latter-day work of Steely Dan around the same time – that takes a look back at American life in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The lens Fagen uses to look at those times, however, is of his own unique grinding, resulting in the same skewed and misshapen observations that came in the best of Steely Dan’s work.

Jazz critics of Al Hirt were wont to complain that he played too many notes too fast in his popular recordings. I’ve always thought that the frenetic pace of “The Green Hornet” – which owes a huge debt, of course, to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” – was his response: “Too many notes, you think? I’ll show you too many notes!”

“Bitter Green” is an early Gordon Lightfoot song – one of his better early compositions – and Valdy is one of Lightfoot’s countrymen, a Canadian whose recordings have gotten little attention over the years anywhere else. I first came across Valdy when I bought one of his records at a garage sale in Minneapolis, and I’ve gotten a few more of his records since. They’re pretty good, if a little bit thinly produced at times.

Sugarloaf released “Green-Eyed Lady” in two versions: the six-minute-plus album version, and the single edit, which went to No. 3 in the autumn of 1970. This version is the edit, and, as I wrote some time earlier, I’m still not sure if I prefer the edit or the long version. Both have their strong points.

The self-titled album by The Sun Also Rises was in a style All-Music Guide calls acid-folk: “The record very much reflects the influence of the foremost exponents of the style, the Incredible String Band, with its wavering harmonies and use of glockenspiel, vibes, dulcimer, kazoo, bells, and other miscellaneous instruments to complement the standard folk guitar.” It was the only album released by the duo of Graham and Anne Hemingway, and it’s very much an artifact of its time.

The Little Richard selection comes from The King of Rock & Roll, one of the three albums that the rock pioneer recorded for Reprise in the early 1970s. A 2005 box set, King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Complete Reprise Recordings collected the three albums along with outtakes and songs recorded for a fourth album that was never released. For some reason, the box set was limited to 2,500 copies and has become a collector’s item.

Lou Ann Barton Turns It Around

June 24, 2011

Originally posted April 18, 2008

The last time we saw Lou Ann Barton, it was for a listen to Forbidden Tones, her 1986 album that placed her gem of a bluesy Texas voice in a new wave setting. The result was pretty bad. How bad?

Well, I’m a pretty tolerant guy. I have a lot of music in the RealPlayer that I’m not wild about but that I don’t mind hearing occasionally because it brings with it a sense of its time, and it’s fun in small doses. With more than 26,000 mp3s in the player, the songs that I don’t particularly care for pop up only rarely. There is, however, stuff I’ve ripped but really have no interest in hearing at all, and that goes into a separate folder that never gets pulled into the RealPlayer. That’s where I put Forbidden Tones. (What else is in there? Well, there’s some of the early work of Duane and Gregg Allman with the Hourglass and the 31st of February, stuff that’s interesting historically but not a lot of fun; there’s some Jerry Riopelle, some Valerie Carter, some Lulu and what appears to be the complete works of Claudine Longet [the Texas Gal is a fan].)

Luckily for Lou Ann Barton fans, three years after trying to sound like “Elvis Costello & the Attractions fronted by a roadhouse belter,” as one admiring reviewer wrote, she went back to Texas blues and R&B for her third album, Read My Lips. Released on the Antone’s label out of San Antonio, the album is a fifteen-song return to form. (The LP release had twelve tracks; the CD release, which I’m sharing, has three extra tracks.)

The rhythm section had Jon Blondell on bass and George Rains on drums, and Barton and co-producer Paul Ray brought in a wealth of talent to add to that solid base. Guitarists on the LP (I don’t have the credits for the three extra tracks) were Jimmie Vaughan, Derek O’Brien, Denny Freeman and David Grissom; David “Fathead” Newman and Joe Sublett and Mark Kazanoff played sax; Mel Brown, Reese Wynans and Mike Kindred played various keyboards; Kim Wilson played harmonica, and Wilson, Fran Christina, Diana Ray and Paul Ray provided background vocals.

Highlights? I like the torchy “You’ll Lose A Good Thing,” and the remake of Faye Adams’ 1953 hit, “Shake A Hand” as well as Barton’s take on Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” and her saucy version of “You Can Have My Husband.” And she remakes “It’s Raining,” which she recorded for her first album, Old Enough, doing a better job this time around. Those are the best tracks, but it’s not like the other tracks aren’t good – it’s a consistently fine album.

Tracks:
Sugar Coated Love
You’ll Lose A Good Thing
Sexy Ways
Shake A Hand
Good Lover
Mean Mean Man
Shake Your Hips
Te Ni Nee Ni Nu
Can’t Believe You Want To Leave
You Can Have My Husband
It’s Raining
Rocket In My Pocket
I Wonder Why
Let’s Have A Party
High Time We Went

Lou Ann Barton – Read My Lips [1989]

I thought as long as I was sharing Read My Lips, I’d go ahead and re-up Old Enough, Barton’s 1982 debut album, which a few people have requested. The track listing for Old Enough is:

I’m Old Enough
Brand New Lover
It’s Raining
It Ain’t Right
Finger-Poppin’ Time
Stop These Teardrops
The Sudden Stop
The Doodle Song
Maybe
Every Night Of The Week

Lou Ann Barton – Old Enough [1982]

New Years Gone & Remembered

June 1, 2011

Originally posted December 31, 2007

It seems a little bit like a slice of science fiction, that date that will show up on our calendars tomorrow: 2008. But then, on the last day of any year, it seems, we’ve always shaken our heads and muttered to one another or to the walls, “I can’t believe it’s going to be 1967,” or “It’s really going to be 1982?” or something like that. For many of us wandering this globe, our distaste for the passing of time shows itself in mock disbelief as each December wanes.

But the next day, the first of whatever New Year it may be, we lever ourselves out of our beds and move on into the future that waits, having no reasonable choice but to – as I put it the other day – put one foot in front of the other. Tonight will be the fifty-fifth time that a New Year has started with me as part of it, and I admit to some surprise these days that the years have spun by as rapidly as they have. But I’d rather be here than not, so there’s no point in whining about the advance of years or how large the number on the calendar is or, for that matter, how large the number on my waistband is. (Having grown up reading and watching 1950s and 1960s science fiction, however, I do admit to wondering what the heck happened to my flying car!)

I don’t recall all of the fifty-four New Years that have passed in my lifetime, of course, but a few stand out, and those that do tend to be those that had a soundtrack.

In the mid-1960s, I spent my New Year’s Eves across the street at Rick’s, as did many of his siblings’ friends, and the result was often cacophony backed by popular music. Rick’s elder sister and her friends generally selected the tunes that became the soundtracks for those December evenings. One year – it had to be the night 1964 turned into 1965 – Petula Clark encouraged us to go “Downtown” at least ten times between nine o’clock and midnight. A few years later, the theme for New Year’s Eve was the faux-1920s sound of the New Vaudeville Band’s “Winchester Cathedral,” which echoed in my ears for a few days.

In 1973, when I greeted the New Year in Denmark, I was visiting my Danish brother in a little town just outside the university town of Århus. At midnight, he and I and his roommates and their friends all looked down on the harbor town as fireworks arced through the sky all over town. As we stood outside, the radio inside continued to play, making “Rør Ved Mig” by Lecia & Lucienne – the Danish language version of Mocedades’ “Eres Tu” – the music that plays in my head as I recall red and white fireworks over the city.

A year later, a lady friend of mine and I were doing little or nothing to mark the evening, watching television at my home, when we got a call from a friend of ours from out of town. He’d driven into St. Cloud and was downtown at one of the bars, looking in vain for anyone from The Table, the irreverent group of students we hung out with at school. My lady friend and I shrugged, turned off the television and headed out into the cold, joining Larry at one of the popular bars downtown. We sat there until closing time. None of the three of us were then involved with anyone, and all three of us were recuperating from relationships recently gone wrong. So we laughed, long after midnight, as the cover band at the Red Carpet closed the night with its version of a Grand Funk tune. “I must have picked a bad time to be in love,” sang the vocalist, “a bad time to be in love . . .”

Two years later, on a farm in north central Minnesota, my girlfriend and I sat in her parents’ kitchen and listened as a radio station in – I think – the little burg of Wadena, Minnesota, played a syndicated program counting down the year’s hits. The No. 1 song of 1976, at least according to that program, was “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee, which was a tolerable result, we thought.

More than thirty New Year’s Eves have come and gone since then, and music has marked more than a few, although the music hasn’t always been current. One year, in the late 1990s, I played keyboard for a small band hired to bring in the New Year at an American Legion club in a Twin Cities suburb. We were a pretty good band, playing a mix of oldies and a few recent things. We did some Motown, some Doors, some Rolling Stones tunes, some Santana, a few things by Dylan and lots of other stuff. The club had evidently featured country bands other years, so we weren’t all that well received at first by the crowd. But we hung in there, and eventually we had ’em dancing.

We probably won’t be dancing tonight, the Texas Gal and I. We’ll watch some television, probably the festivities in New York, and we’ll most likely put a CD in the player as midnight approaches. And I would guess we’ll greet 2008 to the sounds of a thirty-eight year old recording: Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.”

I hope your New Year’s moments will mean as much to all of you.

On the Line – Gary U.S. Bonds
I’ve been planning to rip and share today’s album for some time, but I figured it would have to wait a little longer. With the Texas Gal on vacation for another two days, I’m reluctant to spend any more time on the blog than is utterly necessary, so I figured I’d cobble something together for today from music already ripped. But as I wandered around yesterday, I came across a rip of On the Line, the 1982 album by Gary U.S. Bond at La Columna Flácida, a blog that offers an interesting mix of music.

I shared “Rendezvous,” one of the album’s singles, in a Baker’s Dozen not long ago, and I noted then that if the track sounded at all like Bruce Springsteen, there was a reason. Springsteen and Miami Steve VanZandt co-produced the album for Bonds, whose song “Quarter to Three” had long been a concert staple for Springsteen. And when one listens to On the Line, it does sound very much like a Springsteen work with a guest vocalist. Whether that’s a plus or minus depends very much on how much the listener likes Springsteen’s early 1980s sound.

For me, it’s a plus. Bonds, being a singles artist from the early 1960s – “New Orleans,” his first Top 40 hit, came out in 1960, and “Seven Day Weekend,” his seventh and last 1960s hit, came in 1962 – didn’t have a large body of work on which a listener can hang any hats. The hits all sounded pretty much the same, and the two 1960s albums listed at All-Music Guide were typical albums of the time: hits surrounded by filler tracks recorded in the same style as the hits. There wasn’t a lot to listen to if someone wanted to get an idea of what kind of range Bonds might have.

Bonds get a chance to show that range a bit on 1982’s On the Line (as he had a year earlier on Dedication, an album also produced by Springsteen and VanZandt). The tracks are mostly mid-tempo, but some of them rock along nicely in an early 1960s groove, while others give Bonds a chance to stretch his style.

“On the Line” gives Bonds one of those chances, as does “Club Soul City,” and he does pretty well. “Out of Work” is a track that sounds remarkably like Springsteen’s “Hungy Heart,” though its lyrics are far less cryptic than those of “Hungry Heart,” which, of course, wound up on Springsteen’s 1981 album, The River. It’s a nice track anyway.

Springsteen wrote seven of the eleven songs on the album, and VanZandt wrote one. In addition, the credits are stocked with members of the E Street Band: Danny Federici on accordion and keyboard, Roy Bittan on keyboard, Gary Tallent on bass, Max Weinberg on drums and Clarence Clemons on saxophone. Other musicians are listed on all those instruments, too – well, not on accordion – but the overall sense and sound of the album is that of a Springsteen project, as I wrote earlier.

It’s still fun, though, and Bonds comes off pretty well. He handles the Springsteen/VanZandt material well. But Bonds does just as well with the other three tracks: “Turn The Music Down” and “Bring Her Back,” which he evidently wrote with his wife, Laurie Anderson, and “Soul Deep,” the mid-1960s hit for the Box Tops.

Tracks:
Hold On (To What You Got)
Out Of Work
Club Soul City
Soul Deep
Love’s On The Line
Turn The Music Down
Rendezvous
Angelyne
All I Need
Bring Her Back
Last Time

Gary U.S. Bonds – On The Line [1982]

Thank you
A huge and humble “thank you” to Any Major Dude With Half A Heart. In the inaugural Major Dude Awards, Echoes In The Wind was honored as the Best Singles Blog. And once you’ve checked out the awards, bookmark Any Major Dude . . . It’s a great blog itself!