Archive for the ‘1997’ Category

Plenty Of Nothing

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six At Random

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 7, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Single No. 714

December 5, 2020

A few months ago, when the counter on this (generally) weekly feature hit 700, I referred to it as a “Ruthian number.” Today’s number is, of course, even more so. (I likely don’t have to explain it, but just in case: During his career, Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs.)

In tribute, I could post something by the 1970s group Babe Ruth, but I’ve never found the group’s music very compelling (even though a very dear friend loved Babe Ruth’s work back in our college days).

A better thought, though, is to post something from the best Ruth I know of in music. After all, the Babe was the best Ruth in baseball. Actually, the Babe was the best player in baseball history and remains so, even eighty-five years after his last game. (The rest of the top five? Willie Mays, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner and Oscar Charleston.)

So, the best Ruth in music? Actually, that’s pretty easy: Ruth Brown.

We could go back to her seminal work for Atlantic in the 1940s and ’50s, but I think we’re going to land on something from one of her last albums, the 1997 release R+B=Ruth Brown. Here, with Bonnie Raitt, Brown takes on “Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town,” today’s Saturday Single.

‘When I Was Small . . .’

May 1, 2020

Well, it’s the First Of May, which makes it a Bee Gees day here.

The maudlin track showed up first in early 1969 on the group’s Odessa album, which entered the Billboard 200 on February 22 of that year, on its way to No. 20. It’s a somewhat baffling collection of lovely tracks covering almost every genre conceivable in 1969 (excluding hard rock). As I wrote almost thirteen years ago:

Perhaps the most sensible comment I’ve ever heard or read about Odessa came from the Rolling Stone Album Guide, which called it “the Sgt. Pepper’s copy all ’60s headliners felt driven to attempt,” noting that it “wasn’t bad; faulting it for pretentiousness makes absolutely no sense.”

I didn’t hear the album until a few years after it had been released, and I certainly don’t recall hearing “First Of May” on the radio after it was released as a single in early 1969. I wasn’t yet in full Top 40 mode, but the sounds were around me a fair amount of the time, and I think I’d remember the record. I’m not sure it charted on the Twin Cities’ KDWB or WDGY, based on the (incomplete) information offered at Oldiesloon.

The record did get into the Top 40 in Billboard, reaching No. 37, not major hit territory.

But right from the start, the song attracted cover versions. Second Hand Songs lists fifty covers. The earliest is from a group called Top Of The Pops in March 1969. I suspect a connection to the British television show; a glance at the album’s jacket kind of tells me that the recordings on the album are performed by studio musicians.

The first cover of “First Of May” by a known musician came from José Feliciano on his Feliciano/10 to 23 album released in June 1969. Covers followed into 1974 from names I know like Cilla Black, Matt Monro, Mel Carter, and Roger Whittaker, and from names I’m not familiar with like Jill Kirkland and Cornelia.

Instrumental covers by groups including the Mystic Moods Orchestra also came along in those five years after the Bee Gees’ release, as did covers in Danish, Italian, Portuguese and Swedish.

And even after that flurry, covers would come along every once in a while, with a spate of ten or so of them in the Oughts by performers whose names I do not recognize. (Except, that is, for Robin Gibb, who collaborated on a cover of “First Of May” with G4 in 2005.)

I’ve not heard a lot of those covers (the only covers of the song on the digital shelves are those from Feliciano and the Mystic Moods Orchestra), so I’m going to select one pretty much at random to mark the day.

Here’s Tony Hadley’s atmospheric and, frankly, odd cover from 1997. (Knowing that Hadley was the lead singer for Spandau Ballet makes the cover’s quirks a little more understandable.)

Friday Update

July 19, 2019

A couple of medical notes: It’s been six months since my back surgery, and I saw the surgeon yesterday. The new hardware in my back is perfectly in place, and I’m moving with only a little bit of residual pain. I’m still a little limited – I cannot walk very far without having to sit for a bit – but the surgeon and his assistant both said that was normal. They added that full recovery from spinal fusion generally takes about a year.

And they both said that I will nevertheless have back pain simply because I’m on the high side of sixty. The years do their work.

And then, there’s my annual summer sinus infection. I’m on meds, but I’m moving slowly. So I’m going to go sit and read for most of the rest of the day.

Here’s a Friday song: It’s “Friday Street” from Paul Weller’s 1997 album Heavy Soul. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Saturday Single No. 523

January 14, 2017

Well, the great LP purge is finished. Last Saturday, we took another 800 or so LPs down to Cheapo in Minneapolis, and we should get a decent check in the mail today.

When Tony at Cheapo told me the amount over the phone Sunday, I was a bit surprised. It was more than I expected for this particular batch of records.

“Well, you had some interesting stuff in there,” he said.

“What worried me,” I told him, “was all the K-Tel and Ronco stuff.”

“Yeah,” he said with a chuckle. “You didn’t get much for those.”

Altogether, I estimate that we dropped off about 2,200 LPs in our three trips to Minneapolis. How many of those Cheapo sent to the wastebasket, I don’t know. But we averaged about fifty-six cents per LP, which was nice for our savings account.

I still have about 1,000 LPs, mostly the stuff I love (some of which, like the Beatles and the Dylan collections, would sell well), and about twenty of them are in a basket near my desk where they wait to be ripped on the turntable. And I have a list of stuff I sold that I want to replicate via mp3. I’ve scavenged a few of those out in the wilds of the ’Net in the past weeks, and I’ve got a long list of CDs reserved at the local library.

This week, I was ripping some of the yearly Billboard hits CDs and some of the massive – eight CDs’ worth – history of Atlantic rhythm & blues. That’s meant a few hours each day at the computer, winnowing out old mp3s of lower bitrate or researching catalog numbers and release dates for tunes new to the digital shelves.

With the total of sorted and tagged mp3s loaded into the RealPlayer approaching 90,000, it’s difficult – as I’ve noted here before – to keep track of everything I have. So as I sort things, I’m sometimes surprised. That was the case yesterday as I wandered through my collection of work by the late Ben E. King.

I don’t have a lot of his work – thirteen tracks – but I have the obvious ones – “Stand By Me,” “Spanish Harlem” and the other hits. And I have a track that I tend to forget about that I found on the 1997 anthology One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen.

So here’s Ben E. King’s sweet cover of “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate

October 19, 2016

So, last week Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. And when the Swedish Academy made its announcement from Stockholm, Sweden, there was a wide range of reaction.

Lots of folks liked the idea. A bunch of folks didn’t, some saying that giving the Minnesota-born Dylan the honor stretched the definition of literature to something evidently unrecognizable and others saying that the award cheapened the integrity of rock as an art form. Or something like that.

And in probably the most Dylanesque act in nearly sixty years of being Bob Dylan, the singer-songwriter (or song-and-dance man, teller of wild tales or lots of others things as well) has so far – not quite a week after the honor was announced – made no public mention of the Nobel. In fact, according to a piece on the CNN website, the Academy said Dylan has not returned their calls.

Odd Zschiedrich, the administrative director of the Swedish Academy, talked to the news network on Tuesday, and said, “We have stopped trying – we said everything we needed to his manager and friend, he knows about us being eager having confirmation from him, but we haven’t heard anything back.”

Zschiedrich also told CNN: “We will have the ceremony as usual, he will have the prize even if he is not there. Now we are just waiting for information.”

My reaction? I was surprised by the award (but not by Dylan’s non-response). I’d read over the past several years that Dylan had been considered – or at least nominated – for the Nobel, but I’d also read that he was, in effect, a fringe candidate whose odds were not great. I was also delighted, as Dylan’s work – from the epics like “Desolation Row” and “Highlands” to even trifles like “Wiggle Wiggle” – has been a major portion of the soundtrack of my life and a sizeable influence on my writing and music.

I imagine there’s more I could say, but a look at the nearly 2,000 posts I’ve offered at this blog over the years probably says enough. I’ve written more frequently about Bob Dylan than about any other artist (with Bruce Springsteen, unsurprisingly, being a close second). And I’ll no doubt do so again as memories and music merge here.

The next-to-last thing I want to offer here today is a picture I scavenged from Facebook showing the utterly perfect message presented this week outside Hibbing High School on Minnesota’s Iron Range:

congrats-bob

The last thing here today, of course, is music. For the last few days, I’ve been playing Dylan in the car as I make my way around town. Here’s one I heard yesterday: “Not Dark Yet” from the 1997 album Time Out of Mind.

‘Quick Stop, Good Day . . .’

April 27, 2016

So as we resume our somewhat dormant project of finding covers for the ten tracks on Joe Cocker’s 1969 album Joe Cocker!, we find ourselves considering the final track on what was Side One of the album, “Hitchcock Railway,” which also happens to be my favorite track on the record (and almost certainly my favorite Joe Cocker track of all time, a status cemented, no doubt, by the rollicking version I recall from seeing Cocker perform in 1972).

The song came from the duo of Don Dunn and Tony McCashen, who released a couple of albums as the Sixties became the Seventies and had a minor hit with “Alright In The City,” which went to No. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1970. They’d put out a single of “Hitchcock Railway” in 1969, but it did not chart.

They weren’t the first to record the song, though. In 1968, José Feliciano had released a single version of the tune that had gone to No. 77. That’s the only time a recording of the tune has charted.

And there aren’t a lot of versions of the song out there. Second Hand Songs lists six. Along with three already mentioned, the website mentions versions by an Irish group called Anno Domini, Latin bandleader Mongo Santamaria and bluegrass singer Claire Lynch. There are at least a few more: I have a 1972 studio version by a band from Ohio called Clockwork and a live cut from Cleveland’s Agora arena, also from 1972 with the same arrangement, credited, however, to a band called Change. (I’m assuming that the band took a new name.)

And at Amazon, there are a few versions I have not heard by groups I’m unfamiliar with: The Hegg Brothers, Sweet Wine, and Chris & Mike.

I like all the versions I have, to various degree, but to be honest, only the Joe Cocker version grabs hold of me by the ear and shakes me around the room. So to find a cover that works with our slowly moving project, we’re heading to bluegrass territory. CLaire Lynch has been performing and recording since the 1970s, first as a member of the Front Porch String Band, and then on her own. She formed the Claire Lynch Band in 2005. Her take on “Hitchcock Railway” was on her 1997 album Silver and Gold.

‘Better Tomorrow’

December 16, 2014

I am, as the cliché goes, a creature of habit. I suppose I get some comfort – and some relief from the difficulties of Attention Deficit Disorder – by having the days of each week neatly sorted by activities and tasks. Monday is for laundry, mainly. Tuesday is blogging and other writing, and so on through the week.

I had a lengthy appointment yesterday, which meant the laundry was left unfinished, and my unease at trying to fit both Monday’s and Tuesday’s tasks and activities into a Tuesday is, at least from the inside, kind of interesting, but it is also disconcerting. When my schedule gets out of alignment, so do I.

So I’m going to drop a tune in here and hope that by tomorrow, my week will be less out of whack. And I find a little resonance this morning in the closing words of “Better Tomorrow” by the Freddy Jones Band:

All we live for has been cluttered
By distractions today
And I look to make it whole again

The track is from the band’s 1997 album Lucid.

‘Lips That Once Were Mine . . .’

November 14, 2013

A couple of times in this space, I’ve mentioned English singer Joe Brown and his performance of “I’ll See You In My Dreams” at the 2002 memorial concert for George Harrison. I’ve dug around a bit, trying to find the 1997 album for which Brown originally recorded the 1920s tune – Fifty Six & Taller Than You Think – but with used copies going for more than thirty bucks at Amazon and one new copy there priced at $3,769, I think I’ll go without for a while. I did find a video at YouTube that features Brown doing a shorter version of the old song than he recorded for the 1997 album. (The video uses the artwork for the 1997 album but offers, I believe, the version of the song included on the 2008 album The Very Best of Joe Brown.) I included the video a few years ago in a post that looked at my favorite music from the decade 2001-2010, and here it is again:

I’ve come to love that old song, but despite that, I’ve never looked much into the history of the song itself, and that surprises me, as it’s something I generally do when I realize that a current recording is really an old song resurrected. So over the course of the next few days, I’m going to dig into “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” which Second Hand Songs tells me was written by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn and first recorded in 1925 by Jones with the Ray Miller Orchestra.

We’ll likely get to Isham Jones’ version, but that will be next week. For now, as I begin to dig, I’m going to start with a very new version of the song that I found on the recently released second volume of soundtrack tunes from the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. I watched the show regularly during its first season but then lost track of it and of the storyline. Even so, I take a look at it when I chance upon it during a late-night wander up the premium channels, and I remain impressed with the show’s ability to look and feel like the 1920s.

Some of that success no doubt comes from the music, which is generally new recordings of period songs done in the period style. And that recently released Vol. 2 of the soundtrack includes an abbreviated version of “I’ll See You In My Dreams” as performed by Matt Berninger, the frontman of the indie band, the National. I don’t know the National, and I suppose I should give its work a listen. But for the time being, Berninger does a decent job on “I’ll See You In My Dreams.”

Next week, we’ll head back to 1925 and Isham Jones’ original version of the tune, and we’ll move forward from there.

Date of first recording corrected November 20, 2013.