Archive for the ‘2004’ Category

More ‘More’ Than You’ve Ever Heard Before

June 28, 2013

Originally posted May 26, 2009

The movie, an Italian flick, was supposed to be dark, depraved and disturbing. It might have been so in 1962. Now, forty-seven years later, it’s mostly slow and dull.

The title? Mondo Cane, which translates from the Italian as something like A Dog’s World.

Supposedly a documentary that detailed the oddities, cruelties and perversities of life, Mondo Cane was intended to be controversial, and some of its contents likely were shocking in 1962. I spent a couple hours looking at it over the holiday weekend, and it’s not very shocking at all from the vantage point of 2009.

The movie spent a lot of time in the Pacific, examining what might best be called non-industrial island cultures. While the film purported to be a true reflection of life in those societies, the winking narration – as when a cluster of bare-breasted island girls chase one young man around the island and into the sea, and in a few other instances – left me wondering about the truth of the visuals as well as the truth of the narration.

The broad-brush contrasts the film points out between so-called primitive cultures and Western culture were so ham-handed that I chuckled. Yeah, I know that in some areas of the world snakes and dogs are dinner; and in 1962, one could go to a restaurant in New York City and spend $20 for plate of fried ants, bug larvae and butterfly eggs. The film shows those young island women chasing men into the sea, and a little later shows a cadre of young Australian women running into the sea and pulling men back onto the sand (during lifeguard practice). After seeing footage of dogs in Asia waiting in cages to become dinner, the film takes us to a pet cemetery in southern California, showing the gravestones of pets owned by celebrities of the time, including Vivan Vance (Lucille Ball’s sidekick), Jack Warner, Jr., of Warner Brothers and Julie London.

I think I knew about Mondo Cane when it came out. I would have been nine, and – as I’ve noted before – was even then aware of current events and news that troubled adults. It’s quite likely, I realized this weekend, that my awareness of the film was helped along by parodies of its approach in MAD magazine, which was one of my favorites at the time. It’s not a significant film in any way, but it is interesting. There are, by current standards, several troubling images involving cruelty to animals, but beyond that, little is truly surprising. As a historical document of what Western culture found depraved in 1962, however, it’s an interesting way to spend a couple of hours.

The movie did, however, provide one long-lasting piece of popular culture: Its theme, better known these days as “More (Theme to Mondo Cane).” The song, written by Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero, was used in the movie as an instrumental under the title “Ti Guarderò Nel Cuore.” Italian lyrics were added by Marcello Ciorciolini, and later, the English lyrics were written by Norman Newell, giving us the song “More (Theme From Mondo Cane)” as we know it.

I would guess that “More” is one of the most covered songs of all time. All-Music Guide lists 1,325 CDs on which there is a recording of a song titled “More.” Some of those would be other compositions, but I’m certain that the vast majority of those recordings are of the song by Ortolani and Oliviero. So let’s take a walk though the garden of “More.”

First, here’s the original:

“Theme from Mondo Cane” by Riz Ortolani & Nino Oliviero [1962]

One version of the song made the Top 40 in the U.S., an instrumental version by a Kai Winding, a composer and bandleader who was born in Denmark but grew up in the U.S. His version of “More” went to No. 8 in the summer of 1963.

“More” by Kai Winding, Verve 10295 [1963]

And then came the flood (though not all covers were titled exactly the same):

“More” by Ferrante & Teicher from Concert for Lovers [1963]

“Theme from Mondo Cane (More)” by Jack Nitschze from The Lonely Surfer [1963]

“More” by John Gary from Catch A Rising Star [1963]

“More” by Vic Dana from More [1963]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by Frank Sinatra & Count Basie from It Might As Well Be Swing [1964]

“More” by Billy Vaughn from Blue Velvet [1964]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by Liberace from Golden Themes From Hollywood [1964]

“More” by Mantovani from The Incomparable Mantovani and his Orchestra [1964]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by Nat King Cole from L-O-V-E [1965]

“More” by Julie London from Our Fair Lady [1965]

“More” by Steve Lawrence, Columbia 42795 [1963]

“More” by Roger Williams from I’ll Remember You [1967]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by the Ray Conniff Singers from Ray Conniff’s World Of Hits [1967]

“More” by Jerry Vale from The Impossible Dream [1967]

“More” by Andy Williams from The Academy Award Winning “Call Me Irresponsible” [1970]

“More” by Jackie Gleason from Today’s Romantic Hits – For Lovers Only [1963]

“More” by Harry Connick, Jr., from Only You [2004]

(I’ve pulled these from various sources; some are mine, some I found elsewhere. Of those I found elsewhere, I’m reasonably sure that the performers are identified correctly. And after spending several hours digging, I’m also reasonably sure that the original release album titles and dates are correct. I have a suspicion that the version by the Ray Conniff singers might have been released on an earlier album, but I can’t verify that.)

Edited slightly and Jackie Gleason release and date verified June 28, 2013. Steve Lawrence release and date verified March 5, 2014.

Jeff, EW&F, Boz, Bubble Puppy & The Doors

June 20, 2012

Originally posted April 30, 2009

One of the things that made Jeff Healey such a powerful guitar player was his lap-style playing, which – if not unique – was at least a rare technique. Here’s a clip of Healey and his band performing Deadric Malone’s “As The Years Go Passing By” during a March 26, 1995, performance at the Sudbahnhof in Frankfurt, Germany.

Video deleted.

There are few things that go together better than funky music and excessive 1980’s style costumes. Here’s the video – the height of style and technique then and wonderfully cheesy today – that was released in 1981 for Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Let’s Groove.”

I can’t post it here, but here’s a link to a very nice performance by Boz Scaggs of “We’re All Alone.” It’s from 2004 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francsicso. (The recording cuts off too soon, but it’s still a great performance.) (Video deleted as of June 20, 2012.)

Here’s a video posted to the Bubble Puppy’s “Hot Smoke and Sasafrass.” There’s nothing new there musically, but you can see some record covers, posters and photos of the band.

Then, here’s a live soundstage performance by the Doors of “Wishful Sinful.” Based on the Doors’ appearances, this dates from sometime in 1970, probably around the time the band was working on L.A. Woman.

Tomorrow, I’ll probably do something to mark May Day again. Exactly what that’s going to be I don’t know right now, but this time, it will at least be on the right day.

Heartsfield, Bruce & Murray

March 21, 2012

Originally posted March 19, 2009

Hi, all. It’s Video Thursday!

First of all, here are two performances by Heartsfield from the band’s reunion concert in 2004. The first has the band performing “Shine On,” and the second has the band closing the concert with “I’m Coming Home.” (The DVD then has the studio version of “The Wonder of It All” play over the closing credits. The person who posted the video at YouTube notes that the credits include some footage of the band from 1975.)

And the second:

Here’s Bruce Springsteen performing “You’re Missing” in Barcelona, Spain in 2002.

Last, I found a live performance of “Superstar” from Jesus Christ Superstar with Murray Head backed by a full orchestra and choir. The performance took place in France in 2007 during something called the Night of the Proms, a series of concerts that Wikipedia indicates is the largest annually organized indoor event in Europe.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to offer a Six-Pack of single tracks from six albums – yet to be chosen – that have been in my stacks for years without ever being played. That means we could have some great music, we could have some odd music, and we could have some music that’s both.

Bob Kuban, Knickerbockers & Blues

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 26, 2009

Well, what do we find in videoworld this morning?

First, here’s a longish piece by Anne-Marie Berger of St. Louis television station KETC, a look at the life and times of Bob Kuban – of Bob Kuban and the In-Men and “The Cheater” – for the station’s Living St. Louis feature. The piece originally aired April 10, 2006, and it’s pretty well done:

Here’s a grainy video of the Knickerbockers surrounding by dancing teens as they lip-synch their way through “Lies.” The YouTube information dates this one in November 1965, just before “Lies” entered the Billboard Hot 100 in the first week of December. One of the guys even fake-plays a saxophone, though I don’t think I’ve ever heard sax in the mix. Maybe that was the group’s way of pointing out to viewers that they weren’t really playing their instruments?

Then, here’s a live performance of Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” by the late Robert Lockwood, Jr. The 2004 performance took place at the Palace Theatre in Grapevine, Texas. Others on the bill that evening included Pinetop Perkins, Henry James Townsend and David “Honeyboy” Edwards. A CD of the night’s performances, Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas, went on to win a 2007 Grammy Award for best traditional blues album.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll find one reason or another to take a look at what we were listening to as February turned into March in 1976 and I walked across a stage to receive my college diploma.

A Day Unlike Any Other

November 30, 2011

Originally posted January 20, 2009

Just one song today. With that song comes a heartfelt hope that its title soon come true for us here in the United States and for everyone around this small world.

Now I’m going to go watch the world change.

“Hard Times Come Again No More” by Mavis Staples
From Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster (2004)

Saturday Singles Nos. 83 & 84

July 25, 2011

Originally posted August 2, 2008

This will be brief, as other obligations sing for my attention this morning.

The Texas Gal and I have only four weeks to get everything ready for the move, and although we have done a great deal of packing, much remains to be done. So I will spend a good portion of the day wrestling LPs into boxes. A sore back is one of the risks there, but the greater risk is that I stop every five minutes to examine a record jacket, murmuring, “I forgot I had this one. I need to see what shape it’s in before I pack it.” I will have to be strong, tell myself that the record – Hoppkorv by Hot Tuna, maybe, or perhaps Alvin Lee’s In Flight – will emerge from the box at the other end of the move and that will be soon enough.

I also will be brief today as our newest catboy, Henri Matisse, has an appointment with Dr. Tess this morning for his second round of shots. We got Henri from one of the Texas Gal’s co-workers, who said he just showed up at her mother’s house one day, and the little guy does have some of the traits that strays pick up. But he’s a cute and affectionate kitten, and in only a few weeks has become part of the family (despite some grumbling from Clarence, eldest of the cats).

So, to music: Having spent Thursday evening at St. Cloud’s Paramount Theatre listening to the Wailin’ Jennys for the second time in a little more than a year, it was pretty easy to decide what to share this morning. The Jennys – soprano Ruth Moody, mezzo Nicky Mehta and alto Heather Masse – gave a jaw-dropping performance again. Much of the set-list was the same as last year’s show, with a few new songs dropped in. Even the familiar material was thrilling, though, given the vocal and instrumental musicianship of the three women (and of Jeremy Penner, their male violinist, whom they affectionately call Wailin’ Jeremy).

So for a summer Saturday morning, here are the Wailin’ Jennys with their version of Neil Young’s “Old Man,” from their 2004 CD, 40 Days, and with Mehta’s “Avila,” from the 2006 CD Firecracker.

Wailin’ Jennys – “Old Man” [2004]

Wailin’ Jennys – “Avila” [2006]

Saturday Single No. 75

July 7, 2011

Originally posted June 7, 2008

Sports have been an important part of my life since I can remember. My earliest memories of any sport date from the late 1950s, when I was no older than six, sitting with my parents in a Depression-era stadium, watching St. Cloud State’s football team. I didn’t necessarily understand everything I saw, but I loved it. And as I grew and understood more of what I saw, I watched more. By the time I was fifteen, I was an avid fan of most sports – some more than others.

I’ve seen a large number of remarkable sporting events over the years, a few in person, most on television. But the most remarkable event I’ve ever seen might be the horse race I watched on the second Saturday in June 1973. I was so intent on seeing the race that I left band practice for an hour; the informal group – in which I played piano – was trying to nail down several songs we were scheduled to perform the next day as part of a youth celebration at church. But late in the afternoon, I stood up from my bench, said, “See you guys in an hour,” and drove eight blocks home.

This is what I saw:

Up to that spring, I’d followed horse racing only tentatively. I generally watched the Kentucky Derby and followed the winner into the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. But I’d never been emotionally connected to any of the horses I watched. Secretariat was the first. And I know I wasn’t alone in that attachment: That spring of Secretariat, those five weeks from Derby Day on May 5 through the running of the Belmont on June 9, saw that big red horse treated like a rock star. And when he came around the final turn and bolted down the home stretch, winning the Belmont – and the Triple Crown – by an official margin of thirty-one lengths, all I could do was stare at the screen, mouth open. I’d never seen anything like it.

Neither had anyone else. Years later, after Secretariat was dead, William Nack – a writer who covered Big Red’s stellar spring – wrote “Pure Heart,” a piece about the horse and that season. It ran in Sports Illustrated on June 4, 1990, and was selected for an annual collection of the best American sports writing the following year. The piece makes it clear that even in the sometimes jaded worlds of racing and sports writing, Secretariat was special, a phenomenon.

As Seth Hancock of Kentucky’s Claiborne Farm said in Nack’s piece: “You want to know who Secretariat is in human terms? Just imagine the greatest athlete in the world. The greatest. Now make him six foot three, the perfect height. Make him real intelligent and kind. And on top of that, make him the best-lookin’ guy ever to come down the pike. He was all those things as a horse. He isn’t even a horse anymore. He’s a legend.”

Two years ago, I thought Barbaro might become a legend as well. I’d watched all the Triple Crown races over the years, and Barbaro in the 2006 Kentucky Derby was the first horse since Secretariat that had tugged at my imagination and my heart. Of course, Barbaro became a different kind of legend: The Texas Gal and I watched in a Milwaukee hotel room during a vacation as Barbaro broke down at the start of the Preakness, ending his career and beginning the long and sad saga of the unsuccessful attempt to save his life.

And this spring, there’s Big Brown, who today will run in the Belmont Stakes, trying to become the first Triple Crown winner in thirty years. He’s a beautiful horse, and I’ll watch him race today. I’ll be glad if he wins and sad if he doesn’t. But so far, he and his story haven’t grabbed hold of me. And that’s fine. I have a feeling that no matter what marvels I may see on a track for the rest of my life, Secretariat will always be my horse.

So what music can one possibly find to mark the renewal of one of the oldest events in one of America’s oldest sports? After all, thoroughbreds have been racing in American since around 1750, according to one source I saw, and the Belmont Stakes has been an annual event since 1876. Well, a song written by a man considered the first popular American songwriter seems appropriate.

Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster was released in 2004 by American Roots Publishing and featured eighteen of Foster’s most famous songs performed by current-day artists. As is the case with most of what Foster wrote during his brief life – he died in 1864 at the age of thirty-seven (with thirty-eight cents in his pocket) – the songs on the CD echo in all forms of today’s music, from country, bluegrass and gospel to rock & roll, jazz and American standards. Classical baritone Thomas Hampson is quoted in the CD’s notes as having said that Foster is the trunk of the tree of American music.

The songs on Beautiful Dreamer touch on all aspects of American life, whether in the 1850s or today: joy, sorrow, reunion, separation, reverie, celebration and play. That last – represented by horse racing – is the topic of one of Foster’s most famous songs.

Here, as performed by the rootsy Canadian band, the Duhks, is Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races,” today’s Saturday Single.

The Duhks – “Camptown Races” [2004]

‘Down By The Highway Side’

June 29, 2011

Originally posted May 27, 2008

When one thinks of cover songs, I’m not sure that recordings of blues songs written long ago are what come to mind. One generally thinks of cover songs in the context of being able to compare the cover versions to a relatively recent original. And in the case of many of the classic blues songs, the original can be hard to determine, if not lost to history.

There are, of course, some blues songs that we can trace back to a writer: There are the twenty-nine songs written by Robert Johnson. Charlie Patton, who was born about twenty years earlier than Johnson, no doubt wrote many more blues songs than that during his lifetime. (The box set titled Complete Recordings, 1929-1934, available in numerous places, gathers in more than ninety recordings, many of which, if not all, are credited to Patton. That’s a set that’s high on my wish list.) In between the two – born eleven years after Patton and nine years before Johnson – came Son House, creator during his recording days of many songs as well.

I’m being imprecise about the work of Patton and House, I know. Their work came a few years earlier and their catalogs are larger than Johnson’s. The very slenderness of Johnson’s recorded catalog – twenty-nine songs, forty-two recordings – makes it easy to deal with. (My music collection includes Johnson’s complete recordings, but neither Patton’s nor House’s.)

In addition, there is a difficulty in crediting writers of blues songs – especially those songs created in, say, the first half of the twentieth century. Improvising singers would borrow a line from here, a figure of speech from there and a snippet of dialogue from another place: Did that make a new song? In the folk, early country and early blues tradition, it did. A new legal copyright? These days, likely not. (It’s interesting to realize that what those early blues singers were doing was similar to what today’s studio masters do when they sample other recordings for their own uses.) Johnson, no doubt, did the same; I’m not a blues historian, but I know that themes and ideas and language similar to those in Johnson’s works have been found in earlier works, as was common in the blues tradition. So how can the copyrights be Johnson’s and now belong to his heirs? I dunno. That’s a question for lawyers. On an artistic level, Johnson’s blues are clearly distinct from those that came before in their dark vision and their lyrical complexity (not to mention musical virtuosity).

(Again, I’m not a blues scholar; I know the history of the music fairly well for an amateur, I think, and I’m more or less just wandering through this thicket without notes. If I overstate or understate or ignore something, let me know.)

Anyway, acknowledging that to some degree or another, Patton, House and Johnson built their own songs on those that had come before, I think they’d still have to be considered three of the six most important blues writers ever. (The other three? Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Willie McTell – the first pretty much a contemporary of Patton, House and Johnson, with McTell coming along a little later – and Willie Dixon, who wrote an astounding number of blues songs for Chess Records during the 1950s and 1960s. Where’s W.C. Handy? Seventh, eighth, ninth – I don’t know.)

So it’s not hard at all to find covers of the songs written by Patton, House and Johnson, as many of those songs have become central to how we hear the blues today. That’s been true even when the original writer got no credit; for years, early blues songs were credited as “traditional” at best. Performers and producers often took writing credit for the songs, too. That practice has generally ended, mostly as a result of the two separate eras of increased awareness of the blues, in the 1960s and since 1991, although one can still find the occasional record or CD label that fails to credit Johnson, House, Patton or another early blues artist for the writing of a song that’s historically known to belong to one of them.

One performer who’s never been anything but accurate in crediting his influences and sources has been Eric Clapton. Throughout his career, he’s cited Johnson’s work as one of the touchstones of his own work. And in 2004, Clapton released an album he said he’d wanted to release for some time: Me and Mr. Johnson, a fourteen-song collection of Johnson’s blues. Later that year came another treat for those of us who are fans of both Clapton and Johnson: Sessions for Robert J, an eleven-song CD accompanied by a DVD that chronicled the four sessions that created the CD.

One of those sessions took place during June 2004 in a dark room of a decaying building at 508 Park Avenue in downtown Dallas, Texas. According to records long thought lost but that had come to light in recent years, that room was almost certainly the same one in which Robert Johnson had recorded in June 1937. Clapton and Doyle Bramhall II ran through five of Johnson’s songs as the light faded.

The Texas Gal and I spent Christmas 2004 with her family near Dallas. That morning, one of her gifts to me was Sessions for Robert J. After dinner that day, she and I drove into downtown Dallas and picked our way through the streets to Park Avenue. I walked up to the front door of 508 Park Avenue, now gated and locked. Without success, I tried to imagine how Park Avenue would have looked when Robert Johnson went through that doorway, a doorway that Eric Clapton would pass through in 2004, sixty-seven years later.*

Here’s the original “Me and the Devil Blues” by Robert Johnson, recorded June 20, 1937 at 508 Park Avenue in Dallas and released as Vocalion 4108, and a cover, “Me and the Devil Blues” by Eric Clapton with Doyle Bramhall II, recorded June 3, 2004, at 508 Park Avenue in Dallas and released on Sessions for Robert J.

Robert Johnson – “Me and the Devil Blues” [1937]

Eric Clapton – “Me and the Devil Blues” [2004]

*In the interest of full disclosure, the photo of 508 Park Avenue was taken on our second visit to the site in the spring of 2007. When this post was first published, a reader noted that Google’s street view of that address showed a different building. It did, indeed, but Google’s location was wrong and has since been corrected. Note added June 29, 2011.

Saturday Singles Nos. 52 & 53

June 6, 2011

Originally posted January 26, 2008

I’ve never been one to holler out song suggestions at a concert. When others do so, it annoys me and I assume it annoys the performer. And I don’t think it does any good, anyway.

The first time I saw Don McLean, in St. Cloud State’s Stewart Hall back in 1987, the show was no more than five songs old before some goof in the balcony called out, “American Pie!” McLean shook his head and said, “There’s always one,” earning a sympathetic chuckle from the audience. “American Pie” came later, about two-thirds of the way through the two-hour performance. (And I’ve always wondered, did Balcony Man really think he had to urge McLean to perform “American Pie”? If you’re gonna request something from the seats, why not make it something otherwise unlikely to be heard?)

In the case of Richie Havens’ performance last night at St. Cloud’s Paramount Theatre, the unlikely song I would have loved to hear – as I wrote yesterday – was “Follow,” the sweet anthem from Havens’ 1967 album, Mixed Bag. He didn’t perform it, and I didn’t holler for it. (Only one person called out from the audience, for “Just Like A Woman,” and Havens didn’t play it.)

But it didn’t matter, because last night’s performance was one of the more remarkable performances I’ve ever seen. For an hour and forty-five minutes, clad in his familiar long shirt, Havens ran through a forty-year catalog of music, his trademark open tuning and powerful strumming propelling himself and his audience into his music.

He opened the show with an anecdote from his mid-Sixties day in New York’s Greenwich Village, telling how he got the chords and lyrics to a song he admired from its creator and how, in the spirit of the Village, he similarly passed them on to a guitarist who’d asked for them. “And he went and recorded it!” Havens said of Jimi Hendrix just before launching into Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.”

Accompanying Havens throughout the show was Walter Parks, whose electric guitar lines danced under, over and around Havens’ vocals and his madly strummed acoustic guitar. Midway through the show, the two were joined by Stephanie Winter, whose cello provided a foundation of flowing melody or percussive chording. The sound of the three together was the sound of musicians in accord with themselves and with each other.

And they took a good tour through Havens’ catalog. One of the certainties of a Havens’ concert, no doubt, is his take on George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun,” which went to No. 16 in the spring of 1971. Other stops along the way came from more recent albums, with “Paradise” and “Handouts in the Rain” coming from 2002’s Wishing Well and several songs coming from an album that Winter said after the concert will be released this spring.

One of those songs from the new album is a fiery version of Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm,” a song Havens recorded for Something Else Again in 1968. This version, however, has a sly bridge installed that pulls a verse and chorus from the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Maybe the most remarkable thing about the concert was the energy Havens puts into his performance. His entire being is focused on the guitar and his music, and sometimes he seems oblivious to the fact that his audience is present as the music envelops him. “Don’t you wonder where he goes?” the Texas Gal murmured to me during one such stretch. I nodded, eyes on the stage. The physical effort is as great as Havens’ emotional commitment: He broke at least two guitar strings during the show and who knows how many guitar picks. “They don’t make them like they used to,” he said of the picks. “They used to last weeks, but now they’re good for two songs.”

About ninety minutes into the show, Haven’s moved into a slow, almost contemplative version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” weaving his way through the metaphors detailing the 1969 festival that he, of course, opened. As he finished amid applause, it seemed as if we in the audience held our collective breath. And we exhaled as the mad strumming began and Havens moved into “Freedom/Motherless Child,” the song he improvised near the end of his three-hour Woodstock performance. Havens’ beard is longer now, and gray, and many of those in the audience were graying as well. But the years fell away as Havens’ right hand propelled all of us back for at least a few moments.

Two encores followed: Gary Wright’s “My Love Is Alive” from Wishing Well and Jackson Browne’s “Lives in the Balance” from 1994’s Cuts to the Chase. And he and his companions left amid cheers from the three hundred or so who were there.

A little later, as he autographed our ticket stubs, I told Havens I’d been tempted to call out for “Follow.” He nodded and smiled and said, “That would have been a good song to sing.” Still smiling, he added, “There are so many to choose from, you know. So many.”

So from among many, I’ve selected Richie Haven’s version of “Woodstock” from 2004’s Grace of the Sun and “Freedom,” recorded at Woodstock for today’s Saturday Singles.

Richie Havens – “Woodstock” [2004]

Richie Havens – “Freedom” [1969]