Archive for the ‘1991’ Category

Defaulting To Random

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 16, 2009

Today’s post was going to be a look at December 1971. Not that I had any great tale to tell, but I’d recalled a brief anecdote onto which to hang a musical hat.

And the chart – from December 18, 1971 – looked good. I was particularly happy with the presence of “You Are Everything” by the Stylistics and “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)” by the Temptations. I pulled the vinyl anthologies for both groups and got to work. Regrettably, both pieces of vinyl have skips. At least, I think so. I’m certain the Stylistics track does. Then there’s an odd rhythm at the beginning of the Temptations piece, and I think it’s a skip. I need to dig a little further.

But messing around with those two rips – the two tracks would have been great to share – has taxed my patience, and the brief tale I’m going to resurrect from the last month of 1971 will have to wait. I’m just going to cue up the third track I’d already selected from that week in December 1971 and go more or less random from there. By “more or less,” I mean that there’ll be nothing pre-1950, nothing post-1999, nothing I recall sharing recently, and nothing that might yet end up in the listing for my Ultimate Jukebox.

An update on that project, since it came up: It was relatively easy to find enough records to consider. It’s become quite difficult to pare them down to two hundred. The list right now numbers two hundred and thirty-five, and I hope to get down to two hundred within a week.

A Mostly Random Six-Pack
“So Many People” by Chase, Epic 10806 [1971]
“Maxwell Street Shuffle” by Barry Goldberg from Two Blues Jews [1969]
“Hobo Jungle” by The Band from Northern Lights/Southern Cross [1975]
“Sisters of Mercy” by Judy Collins from Wildflowers [1967]
“In The Light Of Day” by Steve Winwood from Refugees of the Heart [1990]
“Weather With You” by Crowded House from Woodface [1991]

Listening to it today, I’m startled that “So Many People” was essentially unsuccessful. Chase’s “Get It On” went to No. 24 during the summer of 1971, but “So Many People” peaked at No. 81 during the first week of 1972 and then took a week or so to tumble out of sight. And that’s too bad, because from here and now, it was a great horn-band single. But maybe the era of the horn band was ending. A note: I once was silly enough to write that Chase was a group without a guitar player because the review I was looking at mentioned everyone in the group but the lead guitarist. Of course, the group had a guitar player. On this track, it’s Angel South. Others here are Bill Chase, Ted Piercefield, Alan Ware and Jerry Van Blair on trumpets; Phil Porter on organ, Dennis Johnson on bass, Jay Burrid on drums and G.G. Shinn on vocals.

As All-Music Guide notes, Barry Goldberg “was a regular fixture in the white blues firmament of the mid-’60s that seemed to stretch from Chicago to New York.” His name popped up in album credits everywhere, as he played with Harvey Mandel, Mother Earth, the Electric Flag, Jimmy Witherspoon, B.J. Thomas, Maggie Bell, Stephen Stills, Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and many more. Two Jews Blues was his own album, and it comes off pretty well, given that he got a lot of his friends to show up and help out. I’m not sure who does the guitar solo on “Maxwell Street Shuffle,” but the guitarists credited at AMG are Mandel, Bloomfield, Duane Allman and Eddie Hinton. (It’s not Allman, according to a Duane Allman discography that’s pretty reliable; the site says that Allman played on one track on the album, “Twice A Man.”)

As much as I love The Band, I’ve never quite figured out how I feel about the album Northern Lights/Southern Cross. Two of the songs on the album – “Acadian Driftwood” and “It Makes No Difference” – are among the group’s best and are so good that the rest of the album seems somehow wanting when taken as a unit. But when other tracks pop up individually – as “Hobo Jungle” did today – they seem better than I remember them being. Which might put The Band in a rare category as a group whose own lesser work still shines when placed next to the best work of a lot of other performers.

I wrote the other week about the albums my sister owned when she was in college, the albums she took with her when she left home. Judy Collins’ Wildflowers was one of them. Collins’ cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters of Mercy” is one of the most evocative tracks on the record; hearing it puts me back into late 1971, the period of time I was going to write about today. It’s evening, and I’m in the rec room in the basement, maybe playing tabletop hockey with Rick and Rob, maybe reading, maybe talking quietly with my first college girlfriend. Collins’ soprano and Cohen’s lyric – enigmatic as it may be – blended so well that “Sisters of Mercy” became one of the songs that made that rec room my refuge.

“In The Light Of Day” was the closing track to Steve Winwood’s Refugees of the Heart, an album that hasn’t been too well-respected over the years: AMG’s William Ruhlmann says, “The key to Steve Winwood’s solo career is inconsistency; Refugees of the Heart was a letdown. The distinction between a great Winwood album and one that’s only okay is dangerously small – it has more to do with performance than composition . . .” I admit to not being blown away when I got the album in 1990 and then again when I found the CD in a budget bin two years ago. But this morning “In The Light Of Day” – essentially a lengthy, grooved prayer – seemed pretty good. The saxophone solo is by Randall Bramblett.

“Weather With You” is one of my favorite Crowded House tunes, but then, CH was a group that rarely did anything I truly dislike. During their heyday – the late 1980s and early 1990s – I heard and read the term “Beatlesque” applied to the New Zealanders so often that it became a cliché instead of meaningful commentary. But “Weather With You” is bright, concise, melodic and infectious, and those are virtues no matter who you’re being compared to.

Remembering Rick Danko

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 10, 2009

Ten years ago this week, I was poking my way through the Minneapolis paper. I’d lost the habit of reading the obituaries – I wasn’t working in news anymore – but for some reason, my eyes settled on the section of the page that the Star-Tribune sets aside for newsworthy deaths.

And there I saw Rick Danko’s name. A member of The Band – he played bass, guitar and more and added his distinctive voice to the group’s vocal mix – his heart had given out and he’d died December 10, 1999, in his sleep at his home near Woodstock, New York. He was fifty-six.

It had been a long road for The Band. The group had played from the 1950s through The Last Waltz in 1976, when things were called to a halt by guitarist and composer Robbie Robertson. Along the way, the five musicians – Robertson, Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel – had first been the Hawks, backing Ronnie Hawkins. The group backed Bob Dylan on some crucial tours and acclaimed recordings in the 1960s and again during the 1970s. A few years after The Last Waltz, the group reconvened without Robertson and played gigs until Manuel’s suicide in 1986.

In the early 1990s, Danko, Helm and Hudson brought in three new players for a new version of The Band. That version released three CDs and toured frequently. Danko also played during the 1990s with Eric Andersen and Norwegian musician Jonas Fjeld, and that trio released three CDs.

I saw the 1990s version of The Band twice at the Cabooze, a bar not far from the West Bank Campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. For one of the shows, in 1994, I had a seat and stayed put. For the other show two years later, I wandered and found myself for a while in the front row of the crowd standing near the stage. As we in the crowd sang along with Danko on the chorus of “It Makes No Difference” – “And the sun don’t shine anymore; and the rains fall down on my door” – my gaze and Danko’s caught. He returned my smile and gave me a quick wink, a moment I treasure.

And ten years ago this week, with Danko gone, the story of The Band ended. Here are a few of the memories he and his friends left behind.

A Six-Pack of Rick Danko
“New Mexicoe” by Rick Danko from Rick Danko [1977]
“Raining In My Heart” by Rick Danko from Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band [1989]
“Blue River” by Danko/Fjeld/Andersen from Danko/Fjeld/Andersen [1991]
“It Makes No Difference” by The Band from Northern Lights/Southern Cross [1976]
“The Unfaithful Servant” by The Band from The Band [1969]
“Too Soon Gone” by The Band from Jericho [1993]

Note: One of the places that keep Rick Danko’s memory alive is a very good blog operated by his friend Carol Caffin at http://www.sipthewine.blogspot.com/. This week, she collected memories from an incredibly wide swath of folks who knew Danko. Check it out.

Dudes, Buckets & The River

May 17, 2022

Originally posted August 27, 2009

First stop at YouTube this morning finds us revisiting the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness that took place at London’s Wembley Stadium on April 20, 1992. Joining Queen for a superb version of “All the Young Dudes” were Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople; David Bowie, who wrote the song; guitarist Mick Ronson; and Joe Elliott and Phil Collen of Def Leppard.

The Bette Midler/Bob Dylan version of Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain” was one of the more popular mp3s ever posted here. I couldn’t find a video of it – I’d hoped for some television performances – but I did find a decent live performance of the song by Neko Case in Seattle, Washington, on August 30, 2008.

Here’s Talking Heads with a kickass version of “Take Me to the River.” The original poster at YouTube noted this was a “clip from the movie.”  I’d assume that “the movie” was Stop Making Sense, except that the soundtrack for the film lists a running time for “Take Me to the River” at about six minutes and this clip last for more than eight minutes. All-Music Guide lists only one Talking Heads version of “Take Me to the River” that runs eight or more minutes, and that’s on an album entitled The Complete Gig, about which I can find little information. Answers, anyone?

[Note from 2022: The Complete Gig was a live album released unofficially on CD in Italy in 1991. This clip is likely from the concert that was recorded for that album. Note added May 17, 2022.]

Tomorrow, I may dig into some music by one of my favorite bands from the 1990s, or I might go back to the box of unsorted 45s. We’ll see.

The Moody Blues: The Nineties

February 23, 2022

I recall, back in 1992 or 1993, when I got the Moody Blues’ 1991 album, Keys Of The Kingdom, that it sounded slight. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to invest in listening to it; I was working as a reporter again after some years of teaching, and that took time away from listening.

When I was teaching, I could play music in the background in the evenings as I graded papers and planned lessons. As a reporter, at least three – sometimes four – evenings a week were spent at athletic events or else interviewing coaches and other folks on the phone. My listening time decreased a great deal, and Keys Of The Kingdom didn’t spend a lot of time in the cassette deck of my stereo, so I did not know it well.

I know it better now. Not as well as I do the Moody Blues albums of the years 1970-72, when I seemingly had all the time in the world to listen to music. But I know it better.

The other week, I noted that the Moody’s 1988 album, Sur la mer, was, except for one track, “the sad sound of a band running out of ideas.” Well, Keys Of The Kingdom – and the group’s next album, 1999’s Strange Times – were a little better but mostly more of the same: The sweeping, sometimes majestic sound of the band was there on occasion, but it didn’t always work with the topic of the songs.

On Kingdom, the guitar opening of “Just Ask Me Once” puts me in mind of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around The Bend,” but the track – written by Justin Hayward and John Lodge – devolves with an odd transition into a shuffle. The shift is so jarring that the first verse – a not bad bit that sets up the song – is easily missed. And then there’s “Bless The Wings (That Bring You Back).” Now, I’m a romantic, but I groaned just at the title. And then came the opening lines:

Like the rose that blooms in the wintertime
As it reaches up through the snow . . .

Then there’s the closer, and all you need to know is the title: “Don’t Blame The Rainbows For The Rain.”

Keys Of The Kingdom is a better album than I thought it was on first listening, but it’s not nearly as good as I hoped when I first put in the cassette deck in the 1990s, nor as good as I was hoping a few months ago when I began listening to it for the first time in thirty years.

With the group taking advantage of the increased time available on a CD as opposed to an LP, the album runs fifty-three minutes, and it feels too long by about ten minutes. As far as the charts go, it muddled around and peaked at No. 94 on the Billboard 200. It’s not quite as good as the 1986’s The Other Side Of Life, so it’s a solid C.

Here’s the best track on the album, “Say What You Mean (Parts I & II).”

Then there’s Strange Times, which came out in 1999. I’d done one of those “Ten CD’s for a dollar each” deals, and the CDs showed up after I’d become ill and had left the workforce. I had all the time I wanted to listen to music, but after I put Strange Times in the player once, I never played it again until maybe two years ago.

From some listenings over the past couple of years, it’s actually not that bad, which is not a great endorsement. As with Kingdom, the sound of the group is mostly there. But the ideas and the lyrics generally fall short or else bring up the thought – as came through my mind when listening to “Forever Now” – “Yeah, John Lodge, you’ve been singing the same kind of shit since 1968. It sounds pretty and all that, but have you learned anything over those years?”

Strange Times did not do well in the charts, either, peaking at No. 93 in the Billboard 200. As I noted a while back about Octave, the group’s 198 album, Strange Times (and Keys Of The Kingdom, too, for that matter) would be fine background music both in 1999 and today, playing quietly as those of us who grew up and grew old with the group talk about current concerns, most of them related to our health, I’d guess. Strange Times, which also seems over-long at fifty-seven minutes, is a little better than Keys, so I’ll give it a C+ even though that feels too generous.

Here’s “Haunted,” one of the better tracks on Strange Times.

The Moodies would release one more studio album, 2003’s holiday release, December. I’ve heard it and it’s decent. But I won’t dig into it here, as Christmas albums are not my deal.

Having wandered through almost all of the Moody Blues’ catalog in the past few years, I’m facing a question. As I think about the albums I like best, they’re the ones I listened to when I was young and seemed to have all the time in the world: A Question Of Balance from 1970, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour from 1971, and Seventh Sojourn from 1972.

So, the question is: Are those my favorites because I could immerse myself in them at a time when I was figuring myself out, or are they my favorites because they’re really so much better than the stuff that came before and after? Probably the former, but that’s okay.

Saturday Single No. 687

May 2, 2020

I’m trying to organize my thoughts about Long John Baldry’s 1991 CD It Still Ain’t Easy, which arrived here yesterday . . .

(The past six or so weeks of relative isolation have spurred jokes online and on television about folks going on online shopping sprees. There’s some truth to that here, as both the Texas Gal and I have been combing our favorite sites for goodies. Hers have been generally for quilting or cooking. Mine? Well, you can guess. Recent CD arrivals have been: Bob Dylan & The Band: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 – The Basement Tapes Complete, The Essential Bob Dylan, Intersection by Nanci Griffith, the three mid-1990s anthologies by the Beatles [supplementing the vinyl versions I got at the time], and the Baldry album mentioned above. I did buy one book, The Man Who Saved Britain, British author Simon Winder’s irreverent look at post-WWII Britain and the James Bond phenomenon.)

I’m pacing my listening of the Basement Tapes and the Beatles anthologies; those are more archival purchases than anything I’ll put into my regular rotation. The Essential Dylan will similarly get spare listening; it brings together most of his major recordings, almost all of which I’ve had for some time in at least one physical form, sometimes two. The one exception to that is “Things Have Changed” from the 2000 film Wonder Boys. So that was likely a frivolous purchase.

The purchases of the Baldry and Griffith CDs had more usual aims. I now once again have – in one form or another – all of Griffith’s studio albums (as well as one or two live performances), which satisfies an itch. And I’ve heard some of the Baldry album in various places and wanted to hear the rest.

And, pondering writing about It Still Ain’t Easy before I’ve totally absorbed it, I went to AllMusic this morning to see what the folks there had to say about the effort. Here’s Chip Renner’s assessment: “Baldry’s deep, rough-edged vocals have not changed over the years. The band is tight, with Mike Kalanj’s Hammond B-3 and Bill Rogers’ sax standing out. There are no flaws on this one, just great music.”

Well, all that is nice to know. But it terms of giving me a direction or pointing out specific tracks on which to focus, it leaves me wanting more. And I guess that’s okay. So we’ll just listen to the track that tipped me to the album a few years ago: “Midnight In New Orleans.” And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Under Orion’s Heel’

June 5, 2019

Twenty-some years ago, when I was researching a project about life in Columbia, Missouri, during World War II, I came across a piece by an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt; at one point in that piece, he talked about the passage of time as marked by Earth’s turning “under Orion’s heel.” I loved the phrase and tucked it into my memory. Not too much later, I found a place for it:

Under Orion’s Heel

Noise from the freightyard down the block
Nudges at my sleep.
In my dream I see a silver clock
Waiting by a wishing well
In a land whose name I cannot spell.
A slender maid with amber eyes
Shows me how the hoping dies
For wishes thrown too deep.

The morning traffic rumbles past
The coffee shop in town.
I read the paper, front page last,
And learn of famine, plague and war.
I pay the bill, and near the door,
Investment bankers block my way.
Their hair is short; their coats are grey;
Their stocks are falling down.

So the fool turns to the audience,
And the sage turns to a book.
The hoodlums turn to violence;
The neighbors turn to look.
The grass turns brown in the winter field
And the iron turns to rust
As the earth turns under Orion’s heel
And the boulders turn to dust.

The lunchtime crowd at Nellie’s bar
Ignores the jukebox din.
The singer croons about his car.
Sam the waiter reads my face
And says “You know my sister, Grace?
Well, she just won the lottery
With the ticket that you gave to me.”
He serves me with a grin.

The office gossips mill the news
And truth is ground to dust.
The hissing of the hows and whos
Provides the background as I work,
Promoting Tim the TV Turk,
Who’s scheduled a new ad campaign.
His name is really Roger Crane.
In currency we trust.

So the fool turns to the audience,
And the sage turns to a book.
The hoodlums turn to violence;
The neighbors turn to look.
The grass turns brown in the winter field
And the iron turns to rust
As the earth turns under Orion’s heel
And the boulders turn to dust.

At night, the houses huddle ’round
The streetlight’s golden glow.
Out for a walk, I hear the sound
Of mothers hailing children in
To supper; let the feasts begin.
I imagine some homes house the grief
That comes from life without belief.
I hope I never know.

So the fool turns to the audience,
And the sage turns to a book.
The hoodlums turn to violence;
The neighbors turn to look.
The grass turns brown in the winter field
And the iron turns to rust
As the earth turns under Orion’s heel
And the boulders turn to dust.

March 6, 1991
Columbia, Mo.

Some Work

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 23, 2009

Hi. I ran some errands this morning, and my to-do list is approaching an unmanageable length. So here’s an appropriate selection for today. See you tomorrow!

A Six-Pack of Work/Busy
“Working In The Vineyard” by Jesse Winchester from Let The Rough Side Drag [1976]
“The Working Hour” by Tears For Fears from Songs From The Big Chair [1985]
“The Work Song” by Maria Muldaur from Maria Muldaur [1974]
“I’ve Been Working Too Hard” by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes from Better Days [1991]
“Working On A Groovy Thing” by the 5th Dimension from The Age of Aquarius [1969]
“Work To Do” by the Average White Band from Average White Band [1974]

Saturday Single No. 598

June 30, 2018

Time has gotten away from me.

I slept in a little. We ran some errands (which included finding a new – well, hardly used – sewing machine for the Texas Gal). We had lunch and then napped. And now I find myself heading toward late afternoon without having thought much at all today about this little space on the ’Net.

The day has slipped away (as has half of the year). But that’s what time does. It slips away from us, in measures short and long. And all we can do is run with it, embracing moments small and large as they come and go.

So here’s Eric Andersen with his “Time Run Like A Freight Train.” He recorded it twice: first in 1972 or 1973 for his album Stages. The master tapes for the album were lost, so he recorded it and released it on 1975’s Be True To You. In the early 1990’s, the lost master tapes were found, and Stages: The Lost Album was released in 1991.

This is the original version from Stages: The Lost Album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘How’

May 9, 2018

So, today we finish our project titled Journalism 101, combing the digital stacks for tunes that have in their titles the various one-word questions that make up the foundation of reporting: Who, what, where, when, why, and how.

It’s finally time to look at ‘how,” and when we sort the 72,000 or so tracks currently in the RealPlayer for that word, we have 1,164 of those tracks remaining. Many, of course, must be discarded.

That includes more than 160 tracks by Howlin’ Wolf, more than 100 tracks from the Old Crow Medicine Show, the soundtracks by Howard Shore from all three films in The Lord of the Rings series, two full albums – Howlin’ and Howlin’ at the Southern Moon – by a group called Delta Moon, the 2005 album titled How To Save A Life by the Fray (except for the title track), full albums by Howdy Moon, Jan Howard, Howie Day, Catherine Howe and Steve Howe, and the wonderful album Showdown! by bluesmen Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland.

And that’s maybe half of the chaff we have to discard. Still, there’s plenty of grain, and we’re going to let the RealPlayer decide, ordering the tracks by time, setting the cursor in the middle and going random four times.

We start with a track from one of the two acclaimed country rock albums Gram Parson recorded in the early 1970s. (He called his stuff “Cosmic American Music”). “How Much I’ve Lied” come from the 1973 release GP, and it’s a weeper, with Parsons telling the object of his affections that he’s an unworthy and dishonest rascal:

A thief can only steal from you, he cannot break your heart
He’ll never touch the precious things inside
So one like you should surely be miles and miles away from me
Then you’d never care how much I’ve lied

I’ve never liked a lot of Parsons’ stuff. With the Byrds, with the Flying Burrito Brothers and on his own, he got all the notes right, but seemed to miss the feel of the music more often than not. Maybe if I’d heard his work back when it came out, if the music Parsons made with those two groups and on his own had been my introduction to the genre, I’d feel differently. But from where I listen, the music of the short-lived and admittedly tragic Parsons falls short of country glory.

We leap ahead to the 1990s and a far different aesthetic: “How Will You Go” by Crowded House, with the close harmonies and musical production values that meant that nearly every review of the group’s work during the late 1980s and early 1990s included the word “Beatlesque.” The track comes from the group’s 1991 album Woodface, one that I had on cassette about the time it came out. I don’t know it as well as the group’s self-titled 1986 debut album, but I recall liking Woodface on those 1990s evenings on Pleasant Avenue when I turned to the stack of cassettes on my bookshelf instead of the bins of LPs on the floor. I can’t say I noticed “How Will You Go” back then, but it’s pleasant enough listening, though the lyrics seem a bit uncertain in direction. The track includes a surprise tack-on of about a minute of “I’m Still Here,” not noted on early track listings.

And courtesy of the massive Lost Jukebox project we get a nifty, poppy 1970 tune called “Teach Me How” by the Harmony Grass. The record, according to the notes at a site that catalogs all 170 volumes of the LJ (each with, I would guess, more than twenty-five tracks), was a United Kingdom release on RCA Victor. It’s got a nice backing track, it’s got tastefully stacked vocals with some Four Seasons flourishes, and its tale is one of a young man imploring his loved one to teach him how to survive when she leaves him: “You are my shoulder to lean on. What will I do when you’re gone?” Written by Neil Sedaka and Carol Bayer (before she appended the Sager), the record is a gender-flipped cover of a Chiffons B-side from 1968. Today, we’d call the tale one of dysfunction and co-dependence, I suppose, but I would have liked it if I’d heard it come from the speakers of my old RCA radio in 1970.

Our last stop is a familiar one: “You Don’t Know How It Feels” by Tom Petty. Pulled from the 1994 album Wildflowers, a single release went to No. 13 in the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for Rock Male Vocal. I’ve never written much about the late Mr. Petty, though I like a lot of his work, including this one. So let’s just listen:

‘Summer’

August 24, 2016

There are about 500 tracks in the RealPlayer that have “summer” in their titles, and come next week, I’m going to sort through them for my favorites. This week, however, the Texas Gal and I are preparing for our Biennial End Of Summer Picnic, which takes place this coming Sunday. And I have plenty to do.

So this post will have to suffice for this week, and I’ll be back next week with an account of this year’s festivities and with – as promised above – some tunes about summer. In the meantime, here’s Chris Rea with an appropriately titled – and typically moody – track: “Looking For The Summer.” It’s from his 1991 album Auberge.