Archive for the ‘1989’ 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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Our Pictures Tell Our Stories

March 25, 2012

Originally posted March 27, 2009

One of the things my sister and her family gave our mother for Christmas in December was a digital picture frame. Now at home on Mom’s dresser, its memory is loaded with pictures of our family, of Mom and Dad and of Mom’s family, going all the way back to the day her parents were married in 1915.

The selection of photos available to my sister was a little limited. Not that we don’t have family photos. We have a lot of them. One of the most pervasive mental images I have of my childhood is Dad aiming his camera during family gatherings, on vacation, or simply to record daily life. Every September, from the day my sister started kindergarten in 1955 until the day I started my last full year of college in 1975, he took pictures of us as we headed off for the first day of school. Early on, he used a Kodak 35mm camera; in the late 1960s, he got a Minolta single-lens reflex 35mm, and year after year, he took pictures.

But the vast majority of our pictures – from the time before my sister and I were born until the last years of Dad’s life – are on slides.

So one of the other gifts my sister and her family gave Mom last Christmas was a scanner that digitizes slides. My sister thought that we could dig into the boxes of slides and find some that Mom would want to display on her digital picture frame. Mom, of course, doesn’t have a computer. I do, and the minor task of learning how to use the scanner has fallen to me. So now that spring is here, Mom and I will head up to the storage unit in Sartell and see what we find.

But beyond finding pictures for Mom to display, my sister and I decided that it would be a good thing to digitize all of the family slides. The task is daunting: Dad put about half of his slides in special storage boxes; the rest remain in the little yellow boxes that came from Dan Marsh Drug, where we took our film for years. I’m guessing that there are thirty special storage boxes each holding at least 120 slides and about as many slides in the yellow boxes as there are in the special boxes. My basic math tells me that’s an estimated total of 7,200 slides. Many haven’t been looked at in years.

That wasn’t always the case. Every once in a while on a Sunday evening, Dad would put up the screen and get out his old Argus projector and we’d look at slides: birthdays and Christmases, family reunions and picnics, backyard silliness and flower gardens. And we’d see portraits and snapshots of my mom’s folks, and all of our aunts and uncles and cousins, many of whom are long gone now. I’ll see all of those and more as I convert those slides to digital files: Our family’s history.

We’ll soon go up to Sartell and get the first boxes of slides, and I will begin saving those pieces of history. But I needed to learn to use the scanner, and I needed as well to convert to digital files the slides I took during my long-ago college year away. So I’ve been practicing both conversion and editing. And here are two thirty-five year old photos: One of a twenty-year-old whiteray, snapped by an obliging Swede in Stockholm, and one of the many I took during my visit to Stonehenge.

A Six-Pack of Pictures
“Every Picture Tells A Story” by Rod Stewart from Every Picture Tells A Story, 1971
“Take Another Picture” by Quarterflash from Take Another Picture, 1983
“Picture Book” by Simply Red from Picture Book, 1985
“This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds)” by Peter Gabriel from So, 1986
“All the Pictures on the Wall” by Paul Weller from Wild Wood, 1993
“Pictures of You” by the Cure from Disintegration, 1989

Bonus Track
“Photograph” by Ringo Starr, Apple 1865, 1973

Three of the albums from which these tracks come would rank fairly high in any all-time list I put together, certainly in the top one hundred, I think. (And that’s pretty high, considering.). Those three are Every Picture Tells A Story, So and Disintegration. (I think Wild Wood may rank that highly in time, but I’m still taking that one in and haven’t made my mind up yet.)

As to Quarterflash and Simply Red, well, the albums are good ones but ultimately less than great. Still, both albums provide good listening. I’m particularly struck by how well the music of Quarterflash has aged, from the radio-friendly 1981 single “Harden My Heart” onward. Of course, the defining sound of the group, for the most part, was Rindy Ross’ saxophone, and I’m a sucker for a good sax break.

What’s most interesting to me about this list of tunes is that five of them come from well beyond the spread of years where I find most of the music I offer. That might mean my horizons are being broadened through the give and take in conversation and sounds that occurs in the blogging community. Or is just might mean that there weren’t very many good songs about pictures in the late 1960s and early 1970s. (And I don’t think that was the case.)

The best thing here? The Cure’s shimmering “Pictures of You,” without a doubt. The most inscrutable? Peter Gabriel’s “This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds).”

I threw the bonus track in at the last moment because it fit the theme, because it’s a marvelous piece of pop-rock, and because it gives me another chance to listen to Bobby Keys (credited this time as “Keyes”) play saxophone.

(I said in yesterday’s post that I’d share some music from 1974 today. I decided to go with the theme instead of the year, but one day very soon, I’ll have a tale from 1974 and will dip into a Billboard Hot 100 from that time.)

Sir Douglas, Johnny, Flirtations & Waldo

March 16, 2012

Originally posted March 5, 2009

I found some interesting stuff at YouTube this morning:

Here’s a video of a live performance of “Mendocino” by the Sir Douglas Quintet. The viewer who posted it simply said it was from 1970. That’s close, but it’s actually from an episode of Playboy After Dark that was taped January 25, 1969. I had an inkling that it was from PAD just from the visual style, but a few glimpses of Barbi Benton throughout the video and the sight of Hugh Hefner dancing with Barbi in the last seconds clinched it.

(The Quintet also performed “She’s About A Mover” on the show. The rest of the show had Dr. George R. Bach, a psychologist who in 1969 published the book Intimate Enemy: How to Fight Fair In Love and Marriage; actor Michael Caine; actress and singer Meredith MacRae, who would perform “Goin’ Out Of My Head;” actor Greg Mullavey, who was in the 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice; comedian Mort Sahl; comedian Sammy Shore; and the Clara Ward Singers, who would perform “Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”)

I couldn’t find any video of Johnny Rivers performing “These Are Not My People,” but here’s Rivers doing a pretty decent version of “Secret Agent Man” on a David Letterman episode that looks to have taken place while Letterman was at NBC years ago. (One note at YouTube says this performance was part of the July 19, 1989 episode on NBC. In the absence of anything else, I’ll accept that.)

Although I can’t post it here, I found an interesting video put together for the Flirtations and their hit, “Nothing But A Heartache.”

And I found a video with a very limited visual but an audio track that has Waldo de los Ríos doing for the Fourth Movement of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World” that he did for Mozart in the single I posted Tuesday. It comes from de los Ríos’ 1970 album, Sinfonias.*

Tomorrow, we’ll either dig into the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1977 or else take a look at another album by Jim Horn. In addition, I’m planning to repost a number of albums, based on some request I’ve gotten. If you have any requests, go ahead and leave them, and I’ll put them on the list. This is something I hope to do periodically. (Due to requests from some performers and/or copyright holders, there are some albums I will not repost.)

*The Waldo de los Ríos video posted here is different from the video originally posted. The visuals are less limited but nevertheless are rather odd. Note added March 16, 2012.

Grab Bag No. 3

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 23, 2009

Getting around at last to digging into Grab Bag No. 3, I find that the Texas Gal and I pulled some fairly interesting records out of the box. And happily, they’re all in pretty good shape. We’ve got some late 1960s country, an early 1960s movie theme and a little bit of late 1980s anger.

First up, the country record: It’s by one of the true giants of country music, Eddy Arnold, who crossed over last May at the age of eighty-nine. In his long career, Arnold had a total of 147 songs on the charts, including twenty-eight No. 1 hits on the Billboard country chart. Today’s record wasn’t one of those No. 1 hits, but it didn’t miss by much.

“Misty Blue,” which went to No. 3, was pulled from Arnold’s 1966 album, The Last Word in Lonesome. It’s a sweet and simple love song by Bob Montgomery that Arnold sings with his customary assurance. The B-Side is Wayne Thompson’s “Calling Mary Names,” one of those songs that take the narrator from childhood to adulthood; as a kid, he calls Mary names that are never specified, but they got him in trouble in school. Along the way, Mary changes, and now he calls her names like “sweetheart.”

Both sides of the single were arranged and conducted by Bill Walker, and Nashville standout Chet Atkins produced both.

“Misty Blue” by Eddy Arnold, RCA Victor 9182 (1967)

“Calling Mary Names” by Eddy Arnold, RCA Victor 9182 (1967)

The Texas Gal actually pulled five 45s from the box of unsorted records the other day, and my plan was to offer here the three that played best. One of the three I’d settled on was an EP titled Ray Anthony Plays For Star Dancing, four sweet performances from 1957 by Ray Anthony and his orchestra. (The EP was one of three in a series; all twelve performances were issued on an LP, too.) Sadly, there was just too much surface noise for me to be happy with the record. Maybe another Ray Anthony record waits in the box.

But that left me a record short, so I reached into the box this morning and pulled out a relative rarity: a record in its original sleeve, or at least in the record label’s standard sleeve. And the 1961 Pat Boone record in that sleeve is a movie theme whose words proclaim thoughts that echo in today’s headlines.

The film was Exodus, a screen adaptation of the Leon Uris novel of the same name. The book and the film were about (choose your viewpoint) either the settling and creation of the land of Israel as a Jewish homeland after the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, or the theft of Palestine from its original inhabitants.

“The Exodus Song” makes it clear which side Uris, the movie-makers and Boone were on, as it proclaims in the opening words: “This land is mine. God gave this land to me.” Why are we sure Boone is on that side and not just singing? Well, actually, we can’t be entirely sure, but Boone wrote the lyric to the song (Ernest Gold wrote the music), and one can only assume. I may be wrong.

I saw the movie with my folks when it came out in 1961, and I recall being moved by – among other things – Gold’s soundtrack, but based on the LP of the soundtrack, it doesn’t appear that Boone’s performance was used in the film. At least it didn’t make it to the record. And Boone’s performance of the song isn’t all that great, anyway. The song – whatever one makes of the viewpoint of its lyrics – is too big for Boone.

Boone does better on the B-Side, at least as far as performance goes. The flip side of the single is a recording of “There’s A Moon Out Tonight,” a cover of the Capri’s No. 3 hit from the early months of 1961. Boone does an okay job with the song – he doesn’t seem utterly lost as he did during some of his covers, most notably “Long Tall Sally” from 1956 – but he’s still far shy of the luminous quality of the Capri’s performance.

“The Exodus Song” by Pat Boone, Dot 16176, 1961

“There’s A Moon Out Tonight” by Pat Boone, Dot 16176, 1961

I’m not sure where I got the above two records. I think the Eddy Arnold was a Leo Rau record, and I’m pretty sure that the Pat Boone was in one of the boxes I got during the early 1990s from my friend Fran at Bridging Inc.

But I have absolutely no idea how I ended up with today’s third record, a single from an Austin, Texas, group called the Pocket FishRmen. Maybe in a box at a garage sale. I tagged the record – which was recorded in 1989 – as punk, because it’s angry and ragged. Maybe it should be called something else. Anyone out there have any ideas?

The group has a MySpace page with some of its stuff available there, and there’s a piece here from the Austin Chronicle about the group’s final gig. Members of the group at the time the single was recorded were Brant Bingamon, Chris Burns, Marcus Trejo and Ron Williams.

The A-Side of the record is “The Leader Is Burning,” written by Bingamon, and the B-Side is “Yr Story,” written by Williams. The single was on Noiseville Records of Yonkers, New York, but there’s no catalog number. Burns produced both songs on the single.

“The Leader Is Burning” by the Pocket FishRmen, Noiseville Records, 1989

“Yr Story” by the Pocket FishRmen, Noiseville Records, 1989

My Time In Middle-earth

August 19, 2011

Originally posted October 6, 2008

It’s funny, the things that stay with you from your youthful fascinations.

When I typed in today’s date – October 6 – at the top of the file I use to write the posts for this blog, I looked at it and nodded. “October 6,” I thought. “The date when Frodo was wounded under Weathertop.”

The reference is, of course, to an event in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of the fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Seeking to take the One Ring to perceived safety in Rivendell, Frodo and his companions – three other hobbits and Strider, the Ranger – are attacked by night in a small dell on the side of the hill called Weathertop. I don’t believe there is a mention of the specific date during the narrative at that point, but near the end of the massive adventure, the date is mentioned as an anniversary, and the date is also mentioned in a chronology in one of the many appendices that author J.R.R. Tolkien devised.

When I thought about Frodo and Weathertop, I pulled my battered and tobacco-contaminated copy of the trilogy from the shelf and spent a few moments verifying what I knew: October 6 was the date of that fictional event.

There was a time when I immersed myself deeply enough in Tolkien’s chronicle of Middle-earth that it felt at times like the history of a real world. I sometimes wished – like many, I assume – that it were real. I first read the trilogy when I was a freshman in high school. I’d read its predecessor, The Hobbit, a couple of years before that, but when I tried the trilogy, the shift to a more serious tone and more complex ideas put me off. But when I picked up the first volume of the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, as a ninth-grader, it grabbed me. And for about six years, I guess, until the middle of my college years, one of the three volumes of the trilogy was always on my bedside table.

Oh, I wasn’t always reading it sequentially. I mostly browsed through it a bit at a time, either reviewing favorite scenes or poring over the appendices. I read plenty of other books – science fiction, history, and mainstream fiction – but I still took time to sift through Tolkien’s tales, probably not every day, but maybe once a week. Beyond that, I read the entire trilogy from the start once a year, generally in the autumn.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. I don’t recall knowing anyone else in high school or in college who was fascinated as I was by Tolkien’s world and its inhabitants. But I’m sure they were around, members like me of the second generation to have discovered Middle-earth since the three volumes were first published in the 1950s. And, like those others, I assume, I urged my friends to read it. Some did, but most didn’t. I even managed to find an English copy of the trilogy during my year in Denmark to give as a birthday gift to the American girl I was seeing (oddly enough, I recall her birthday, which also happens to be during this week).

I could quote at length from the trilogy, and I frequently drew upon that ability to offer bits and pieces of advice or explanation or inspiration to friends and lovers. I’m sure that was, after a brief time, annoying. When I was planning my academic year in Denmark, I pored over the atlas, seeking place names from the trilogy; I ended up spending a day in the city of Bree, Belgium, a rather dull place, simply because it shared its name with a city in Tolkien’s world.

Sometime during the mid-1970s, the obsession ended, as such things generally do. The paperbacks stayed on the shelves. My love for the tales didn’t go away, but I no longer immersed myself in their world. When I joined a book club as an adult, I got a hardcover set of the trilogy to replace my tattered paperback copies. Now that I no longer smoke – I quit nine years ago, another anniversary that falls this week – I may get a new, clean set of the trilogy. And, as it’s been about fifteen years since I last read the trilogy, I’ll likely read it once.

Millions of others must have similar tales and memories, especially since the release of Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films earlier in this decade. There are many websites devoted to the trilogy – both the books and the movies – with discussions and arguments and assessments of the value of the works and the meaning of their tiniest details. It may be a good thing that such sites and associations weren’t available thirty-five years ago, or I might never have come back from Middle-earth. Given the opportunity, I fear I might easily have become lost in my obsession, and as much as I love Tolkien’s world, I’m pretty glad to be a part of this one, too.

Given today’s anniversary of the attack under Weathertop, I thought I’d start a Walk Through the Junkyard with the piece “A Knife In The Dark” from Howard Shore’s soundtrack from The Fellowship of the Ring, the first film in the trilogy, which came out in 2001. After that, we’ll pull a random selection from the years 1950-2002.

A Monday Walk Through the Junkyard, Vol. 7
“A Knife in the Dark” by Howard Shore from the soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001

“Poor Immigrant” by Judy Collins from Who Knows Where the Time Goes, 1968

“Pictures Of A City including 42nd at Treadmill” by King Crimson from In The Wake Of Poseidon, 1970

“Jock-O-Mo” by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, Checker 787, 1954

“It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” by the Grateful Dead in Washington, D.C., June 10, 1973

“Havana Moon” by Geoff & Maria Muldaur from Sweet Potatoes, 1971

“Shootout on the Plantation” by Leon Russell from Leon Russell, 1970.

“Long Walk to D.C.” by the Staple Singers from Soul Folk In Action, 1968

“Busy Doin’ Nothing” by the Flowerpot Men from Let’s Go To San Francisco, 1967

“Restless Farewell” by Bob Dylan from The Times They Are A-Changin’, 1964

“She Said Ride” by Tin Tin from Tin Tin, 1970

“See Him On The Street” by the Jayhawks from Tomorrow The Green Grass, 1995

“Borrowed Time” by  J. J. Cale from Closer To You, 1994

“Tried To Be True” by the Indigo Girls from Indigo Girls, 1989

“I Wanna Talk About Me” by Toby Keith from Pull My Chain, 2001

A few notes:

Every other version of the Judy Collins recording, as far as I know, uses the full title: “I Pity the Poor Immigrant.” It’s a Dylan song, of course, from John Wesley Harding, and I don’t think Collins quite gets to the center of the song, as she had [with the tunes] on the previous year’s Wildflowers. I get the sense that she was still a little too reverent toward her source.

The King Crimson track has some fascinating moments, but, as often happened in the genre called progressive rock, what seemed special many years ago now seems to go on a couple minutes too long. (On the other hand, as a writer, I know how easy it is to keep going and how difficult it can be to be concise.)

The Grateful Dead track comes from Postcards From The Hanging, a collection of the Dead’s concert performances of the songs of Bob Dylan issued in 2002. It’s a CD well worth finding for fans of both the Dead and Dylan.

Soul Folk In Action, the Staple Singers’ album from which “Long Walk To D.C.” comes, is an extraordinary piece of work. Backing the Staples are MGs Duck Dunn, Al Jackson and Steve Cropper and the Memphis Horns, with Cropper producing. The song “Long Walk To D.C.” is a moving piece of work, too, written by Homer Banks and E. Thomas (though once source says Marvelle Thomas), commenting generally on the struggle for civil rights and specifically on the March on Washington, which was part of the Poor People’s Campaign in the spring of 1968.

Tin Tin had a hit in 1971 with “Toast and Marmalade For Tea,” a frothy ditty that went to No. 20. Surprisingly, “She Said Ride” from the same self-titled album rocks some. The album was produced by the late Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees.

Toby Keith’s “I Wanna Talk About Me” is one of the funniest songs I’ve ever heard. Written by Bobby Braddock and performed perfectly by Keith, the song was one of the first I got to know when the Texas Gal began to introduce me to country. If you ever get a chance, catch the video. It’s a hoot! (The link above now goes to that video. Note added August 8, 2013.)

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.

The History Of A Wall

June 24, 2011

Originally posted April 21, 2008

As a member of the first generation that grew up with television, it would not be hard at all for me to make a long list of astounding images and events, many of them horrible and sad, that I’ve seen through the medium. For all the violence and sorrow that I’ve seen through television’s window, however, one of the images that stays in my mind the most clearly is the vision of the exultant crowd dancing atop the Berlin Wall in November 1989, on the night when the government of East Germany surrendered and opened the gates.

I’d visited some friends for dinner, and afterward, we’d listened to some music I’d brought along. About nine o’clock, as I prepared to head home, my host turned on the television and we saw the crowds celebrating the fall of the Wall. We stood in my friends’ living room, mouths agape. Even though the news in recent weeks had told of greater and greater pressure for change being placed on the East German government – one of the more repressive among the communist states in Central and Eastern Europe – the sight of Germans from East Berlin mingling freely with their brothers and sisters from the west was unexpected. And being so, it was an image that stays with me.

I recall driving home that evening – about thirty miles – shaking my head in amazement as I listened to the news. When I got home, even though I had to work early the next morning, I stayed up quite late, watching and absorbing more as Berliners celebrated into the dawn.

That evening and those images come to mind these days as I read The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989 by Frederick Taylor. I’m about two-thirds of the way through the book, and even though I know the wall will eventually fall, I’m angered as I read of the suffering endured for those twenty-eight years by the citizens of East Germany and East Berlin. The casual cruelty of the men who led that nation – a nation formed by default out of the tragedy of World War II – can still astound, even though so much has been revealed of their character and their conduct in the nearly twenty years since the Wall fell.

Taylor begins his book with a brief history of Berlin itself, examining how the city became the capital of first, Prussia, and then the united Germany before it was divided into occupation zones in the aftermath of World War II. He also examines the lives of those who would create the wall, chiefly Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honecker, who were essentially the creators, respectively, of East Germany and the Berlin Wall.

And then Taylor examines in great detail how the wall, once in place, evolved over the years from simple concrete, brick and barbed wire to a complex barrier as wide as a river, intended to do nothing other than make East Germany and its capital, East Berlin, into a prison camp. My reading has gotten me to the autumn of 1961, just after the first barbed wire barrier was put into place, during the time when that first barrier was becoming the Wall. In the pages I read last evening, the East German guards for the first time shot and killed those who attempted to cross into West Berlin. Even though I know the Berlin Wall will eventually come down, Taylor’s book can be difficult reading.

But it’s a good read, too. Taylor puts the construction of the Berlin Wall in context, noting how relations between WWII’s Western Allies and the Soviet Union were not always mirrored accurately in the relations between West Germany and East Germany, chiefly because the goals and wishes of Germans on either side were quite different than the goals and wishes of the U.S., Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Taylor makes clear that the Wall was the creation of the East German leadership, acceded to reluctantly and after the fact by the leaders of the USSR. And he makes clear as well that when the Wall went up, the U.S. and its allies had no intention of ever challenging its existence; to simplify a little: as long as West Berlin – still nominally occupied by the Western Allies – was safe, all was as well for the west as it could be at the time. Short of war, there was no way the west could alter the sad fate of East Germany and East Berlin.

It’s a good enough book that after I finish it, I’ll be seeking Taylor’s earlier book about the fate of another tragic German city: Dresden.

For this morning, I thought about putting together a Baker’s Dozen from either 1961, the year the Berlin Wall went up, or from 1989, the year it came down, but decided that instead of a random selection of songs, an album that always provides me with solace might be a better choice.

Daniel Lanois first came to my attention when he produced Robbie Robertson’s self-titled solo album and U2’s The Joshua Tree in 1987 and then Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy in 1989. Lanois released Acadie, his first album, in 1989 as well. I picked it up about a year later and immediately wished I’d done so much earlier. It’s a stunning album, musically and lyrically, one of those I like so much that I tend to lapse into blathering fandom when I talk or write about it.

Given that, I’ll just share what Paul Evans wrote about the album in the 1993 edition of the Rolling Stone Album Guide:

“Having lent his supple production skills to such heavyweights as Bob Dylan and U2, it’s fitting that Lanois would craft his own record, Acadie, with the care that makes it sonically gorgeous—warm, immediate, bell-like. [Brian] Eno is Lanois’ collaborator and secret weapon, the avant-garde experimentalist adding subtle effective oddities—cello sounds, whistling synthesizers—that transform the folk-based melodies into textured mood-music that’s more self-consciously distinct. New Orleans provides the spiritual home for the project: ‘O Marie’ is sung in French, ‘Jolie Louise’ has a soft, Cajun lilt. Fascinating in its mix of high technology and rootsy integrity, Acadie is artful without being precious, studied but still passionate.”

Along with the tracks that Evans mentions, I’d tag “Still Water” and “Where the Hawkwind Kills” as standout tracks. It’s a remarkable piece of work.

Tracks:
Still Water
The Maker
O Marie
Jolie Louise
Fisherman’s Daughter
White Mustang II
Under A Stormy Sky
Where The Hawkwind Kills
Silium’s Hill
Ice
St. Ann’s Gold
Amazing Grace

Daniel Lanois – Acadie [1989]

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]

It’s Time To Get A Little More Healthy

June 22, 2011

Originally posted April 14, 2008

Our joining a gym last week was a last-gasp maneuver in the Battle of the Waist Line.

Neither of us – The Texas Gal or me – has ever been very active. I played some recreational softball, tennis and racquetball in my twenties and rode my bicycle on occasion during my late thirties and forties. But some chronic health problems – now under control – and the expected changes in lifestyle since I quit smoking about eight years ago have resulted in my gaining about fifty to sixty pounds.

I’m not pleased. And sitting on the couch, pondering how to lose weight while American Idol played out on the TV screen, didn’t seem to be solving the problem. So last week, the Texas Gal and I made our way to a new fitness center about six blocks away. It’s a pretty low-key place, and it has the things we need: treadmills for her, stationary bikes for me, and a reasonable collection of circuit training equipment. Our plan to is get to the center three times a week and see how it goes. While one of my goals is to lose some weight, my overall goal is simply to become more active and feel better doing it.

And so far, I’ve enjoyed our two visits. I like the stationary bicycle, and I’m learning about the circuit training. The fatigue I feel when we leave the center is a good feeling. But there are some things: The cardio machines – treadmills, bikes, and other training machines – face a wall on which there are four television monitors. Folks with mp3 players that have FM radios in them can listen to the televisions on specific frequencies. As I didn’t have one of those during last week’s two visits, I watched the monitors that showed closed-captioning, ESPN’s Sports Center on the first visit and That ’70s Show the second visit. The ESPN was okay, as it usually is, but it was a slow day. I was never impressed with That ’70s Show when I could hear it, and watching it with captions was no better. The Texas Gal – who was closer to the wall and had a good view only of one monitor playing some game show, agreed. We needed something to battle boredom.

So yesterday, we made another small step into the current world: I wandered out to one of our major electronics dealers and bought two portable mp3 players. They’re by Creative, a firm I’d never heard of before, and the model is called Zen V Plus; they seem perfectly adequate to our needs. Each has two gig of storage (actually, 1.89), and it was simple enough to install the software and have mine pull 384 songs at random from my computer. After figuring out the random function, the only way to celebrate this one small piece of my commitment to better health was to take a fifteen-song walk through the junkyard:

“Sweet Cocaine” (live) by Fred Neil from Other Side of This Life, 1971

“Love Song” by Elton John from Tumbleweed Connection, 1970

“Will The Circle Be Unbroken” by the Neville Brothers from Yellow Moon, 1989

“Oh Well” by Fleetwood Mac from Then Play On, 1969

“My Home Is A Prison” by Lonesome Sundown, Excello single 2012, 1960

“TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” by MFSB with the Three Degrees from TSOP, 1974

“White Dove” by the Flowerpot Men from Let’s Go To San Francisco, 1967

“Sweet Sixteen” by B.B. King from Live in the Cook County Jail, 1971

“Comin’ Back To Me” by Richie Havens from Cuts to the Chase, 1994

“Sign on the Window” by Melanie from Good Book, 1971

“Old Brown Dog” by Ralph McTell from You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here, 1971

“Overall Junction” by Albert King from King of the Blues Guitar, 1969

“Devil Got My Woman” by Bob Brozman from Golden Slide, 1997

“Adam’s Toon” by Trees from On The Shore, 1970

“Just Like A Woman” by Bob Dylan from Before The Flood, 1974

A few notes:

Fred Neil’s Other Side of This Life was the last record released by the reclusive singer/songwriter during his lifetime. Cobbled together from a live performance and from bits and pieces that seemed to be studio outtakes, it didn’t draw much attention. But some of the live performances were among the best versions Neil had ever done of some of his songs. “Sweet Cocaine” falls into that category, as does Neil’s performance of his most famous song, “Everybody’s Talkin’” Considering the slenderness of Neil’s discography, Other Side of This Life is a pretty good record.

The Neville Brothers’ Yellow Moon was the first album the New Orleans-based group released on A&M, and it was a pretty good effort, with some updated sounds being blended into the Neville’s traditional R&B/funk mix. The Nevilles even try something that sounds like hip-hop dragged through the swamp on “Sister Rosa.” The version of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” does pretty well, too, in a far more traditional vein.

The Fleetwood Mac of Then Play On is made up of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and guitarists Jeremy Spencer, Peter Green and Danny Kirwin. The group was no longer a blues band, per se, although blues still informed a lot of the material. But longer pieces like the nine-minute “Oh Well” showed that the group was clearly listening to other music being recorded around them in England circa 1969. It’s a fascinating piece off a pretty good album.

I know nothing more about Lonesome Sundown than what All-Music Guide can tell me: Born Cornelius Green in 1928, the singer recorded numerous swampy blues like “My Home Is A Prison” between 1956 and 1965, when he retired from blues to devote his energies to the church (coming out of that retirement for one album in 1977). Green died in his home state of Louisiana in 1995 at age sixty-six.

“TSOP” was in fact the sound of Philadelphia and – in a very short time – the sound of all America. The brainchild of Philly producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the song – originally produced as the theme for the television show Soul Train­­ – went to No. 1 in March 1974 and helped set the stage for the disco explosion to come. The version here is the album track, which was 2:15 longer than the single edit. Still makes you wanna dance, doesn’t it?

The Richie Havens track is an excellent version of one of the better songs Jefferson Airplane ever recorded. “Comin’ Back To Me,” a Marty Balin composition, was one of the best things on 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow, the Airplane’s second album and first with Grace Slick. I remember, during high school, reading the words to “Comin’ Back To Me” in a book of rock lyrics assessed as poetry and being blown away by them. More than thirty years later, their effect is the same. And Havens pretty much steals the song with his performance.

The three blues performances here – by B.B. King, Albert King and Bob Brozman – are pretty good. Brozman is certainly the least known, and I’m not going to say he rises to the level of the two Kings, who need no words from me about their brilliance. But Brozman’s pretty good. I’m not sure where I stumbled across his album, Golden Slide, but Brozman’s name went pretty quickly onto my list of performers I want to hear a lot more often.

Two Downtown Trains: Rod Stewart & Tom Waits

June 22, 2011

Originally posted April 10, 2008

Not a lot from Monday’s Baker’s Dozen was available at YouTube this morning. I passed on a portion of The Band’s performance of “Mystery Train” from the farewell film, The Last Waltz. (If I could have found the full performance, featuring Paul Butterfield on harp, I likely would have settled for that.)

A little further down Monday’s list came Rod Stewart’s “Downtown Train.” I found the 1989 video for it, which I’m not sure I’d ever seen. It’s actually very good, as videos go.

A little farther down the page at YouTube, I found a “Downtown Train” video from 1985 by Tom Waits, who wrote the song. Waits is one of rock’s true idiosyncratics, and the video does not disappoint.