Archive for the ‘2007/01 (January)’ Category

‘If You Could Read My Mind’

April 20, 2011

Originally posted January 22, 2007

This LP, Lightfoot’s sixth, was originally released during the summer of 1970 as Sit Down Young Stranger, taking its title from the somewhat cryptic tune that opened the second side. Some listeners heard the tune dissecting a father-son conflict; others heard an older man questioning a young man from the U.S. as he alighted in Canada after fleeing the Vietnam-era draft. I lean toward the second interpretation, though I’m not certain – although I’ve never looked very hard – whether Lightfoot has ever said what he had in mind.

The LP’s title was changed, probably during the early days of 1971, after “If You Could Read My Mind,” became Lightfoot’s first Top 40 hit, entering the charts in the first week of 1971 and reaching No. 5.

Here’s what All-Music Guide has to say about the album:

“It seemed as though [the single] ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ was everywhere in the early months of 1971. Its appeal crossed genres and age groups, and its simplicity and acoustic arrangement fit in nicely with the burgeoning singer/songwriter scene then storming the airwaves and record stores. ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ was not the first track released as a single from this album; Lightfoot’s recording of Kris Kristofferson’s soon-to-be-classic ‘Me and Bobby McGee,’ the only non-original in this collection, preceded it but barely dented the charts. The entire album is rich in the simple beauty of its folky melodies and personal lyrics. Lightfoot is accompanied here by his regular band of the time, Red Shea on guitar and Rick Haynes on bass. This trio is expanded on several cuts with Warner/Reprise labelmates Ry Cooder on bottleneck guitar and mandolin, John Sebastian on autoharp, harmonica, and electric guitar, and Van Dyke Parks on harmonium. In addition, there are subtle string arrangements by Randy Newman on two tracks, Nick DeCaro on three. There are no drums to be found anywhere on this disc. This album fits in very well with the acoustic-based music being made at the turn of the ’70s. Even so, the music here is timeless, still feeling and sounding great many years after its release.”

I’ve always kind of thought that the Kristofferson tune never fit very well with the rest of the album, and I’ve wondered what led Lightfoot to record it.

On the other side of the discussion, as lovely as “If You Could Read My Mind” is, my favorite cut is the haunting “Cobwebs & Dust,” with its cryptic lyrics and its slow instrumental build, rising from a solo guitar to a full group backing.

Even though I have an LP copy of If You Could Read My Mind (and a copy as well of the LP under the title Sit Down Young Stranger), the rip here is from CD, a few of the cuts from a Lightfoot box set, the others from the If You Could Read My Mind CD.

Track list
Minstrel of the Dawn
Me & Bobby McGee
Approaching Lavender
Saturday Clothes
Cobwebs & Dust
Poor Little Allison
Sit Down Young Stranger
If You Could Read My Mind
Baby It’s Allright
Your Love’s Return (Song for Stephen Foster)
The Pony Man

Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind [1970]

Randy Newman’s Americana

April 20, 2011

Originally posted January 21, 2007

Randy Newman’s score for The Natural (1984) is a classic in its genre, by turns heroic, whimsical and Coplandesque.

It was nominated for an Oscar, but the award went to Maurice Jarre for his score for A Passage To India, which I recall as a sound helping of Jarre’s usual glistening romanticism: good work but nowhere near as singular, to my mind, as Newman’s work for The Natural.

On the other hand, as Jarre implied in his acceptance speech, had Mozart been eligible for the score for Amadeus, none of the modern boys would have had a chance to hold that year’s statue!

Still, the score for The Natural remains a delight.

I found it on a blog somewhere (via a sequence of links I cannot replicate) and have rezipped it and uploaded it. It’s 47.6 MB ripped at 192.

Randy Newman – S0undtrack to The Natural [1984]

Lulu Goes To The Shoals

April 20, 2011

Originally posted January 19, 2007

The main thing that makes this LP interesting is that Lulu recorded it at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound studios in Alabama, with the renowned rhythm section behind her: Roger Hawkins on drums, David Hood on bass, Barry Beckett on keyboards. In addition, Duane Allman was one of four guitarists who pitched in; Eddie Hinton, Jimmy Johnson and Cornell Dupree were the others.

Still, this is not quite the kick-ass southern soul fest it might have been. Here’s [the] All-Music Guide take on it:

“Lulu in Muscle Shoals, with Duane Allman on guitar? It’s just too bad somebody went a little wild with big-band and orchestra arrangements, for with these songs and a small combo, this could have been really fine material. Blame can go to the producing triumvirate [Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd & Arif Mardin], but also to her husband. During this stage of Lulu’s career she was married to Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, who seems to have had a habit of luring artists into recording near-muzak, with the ‘near’ added out of a sense of politeness. For this to be happening in the musically gritty atmosphere of Muscle Shoals, with not only Allman but three other hot guitarists on board, is practically cause for criminal proceedings. Lulu still has that thick, soulful voice, but at times the way it sits on the arrangements may make the listener think of an Anne Murray record. On the positive side, the cover of the Bee Gees’ ‘Marley Purt Drive’ is a rollicking version of one of the Gibbs brothers’ best, and largely forgotten, songs. Miracles are done with the warhorse ‘Mr. Bojangles,’ between the bluesy guitar licks and the intoxicating surprise that Lulu is actually pulling it off. Then again there is ‘Feelin’ Allright,’ which should have been great but instead sounds like a high school stage band warming up.”

I tend to agree, with a couple of reservations: Both “Dirty Old Man” and “Sweep Around Your Own Back Door,” cook, with Allman providing sweet work on the former for certain (it was included on one of his posthumous anthologies in the 1970s) and likely on the latter (based simply on the sound).

The rest is sometimes a little too sweet, but it does contain one of my favorite recordings of all time: “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby),” which I’ve loved since the first time I heard it coming out of my radio speakers in 1970.

Track list
Marley Purt Drive
In The Morning
People In Love
After All (I Live My Life)
Feelin’ Alright
Dirty Old Man
Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)
Is That You Love
Mr. Bojangles
Where’s Eddie
Sweep Around Your Own Back Door

Lulu – New Routes [1970]

Once again, this is vinyl, 37 years old this time, so some pops and snaps are to be expected, though I thought the sound was pretty good. Enjoy!

Early Posts Without Much Comment

April 20, 2011

In the first month that Echoes In The Wind was online, I shared albums and a few singles from several performers without much commentary of my own, relying heavily on quotes from other sources. Here is a list of those performers and albums:

Mystics – “Pain” [1969]
Posted January 3, 2007

Bobby Whitlock – Bobby Whitlock [1972]
Posted January 3, 2007

Toni Childs – Union [1988]
Probably posted January 5, 2007

Levon Helm – American Son [1980]
Posted January 5, 2007

Levon Helm – Levon Helm [1978]
Posted January 11, 2007

Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars – Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars [1977]
Posted January 13, 2007

Levon Helm – Levon Helm [1982]
Posted January 16, 2007

Dion – “Daddy Rollin’ (In Your Arms)” [1968]
Posted January 16, 2007

Cate Brothers – Cate Bros [1975]
Posted January 19, 2007

Inspired By The Surrounding Crowd

April 18, 2011

Originally posted January 30, 2007

Ronnie Hawkins, it seems, is more famous for the musicians who backed him over the years – especially the five who went on to become The Band – than he is for the music he recorded and performed. That’s not to say anything negative about the Hawk’s music. It’s good ripping rockabilly and solid country love songs and ballads. And he did have some records that sold pretty well, including a Top 40 hit with “Mary Lou” in 1959.

 Still, there’s no denying that on this record – as on so many he recorded – it’s the identity and quality of some of the sidemen that lift the record from a good southern stew to a dish of undeniable taste. Duane Allman – in one of his last session gigs before his death in October 1971 – and the Dixie Flyers make Hawkins’ The Hawk more than just another Ronnie Hawkins record.

Certainly, Hawkins has always given good value, on record and on stage. But my sense is that he’s always performed best when challenged by the people around him rather than just accompanied by a band behind him. Witness the work he did in the studio with his most famous set of Hawks, and his possibly best-of-career performance with those same musicians when they closed out (at least the first stage of) their career as The Band in The Last Waltz. (Hawkins’ “Who Do You Love” remains one of the joys of the film and recording of the grand concert.) The same holds true here, as it did in his 1970 record Ronnie Hawkins, posted here a day ago: the presence of superlative musicians around him spurs Hawkins to performances that are by turns rousing and revealing.

Allman plays on ten of the record’s twelve cuts, missing only “Sick and Tired” and “Lonely Weekends.”  The other musicians are Duck Dunn of Booker T and the MG’s on bass, and the Dixie Flyers: Jim Dickinson on piano and acoustic guitar, Mike Utley on organ, Charlie Freeman on electric and acoustic guitar and Sammy Creason on drums. The Memphis Horns drop in on “Sick and Tired” and “Red Rooster.”

The record, released – like 1970’s Ronnie Hawkins – on Atlantic’s Cotillion label, was produced by Tom Dowd.

Track listing:
Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles
Sick and Tired
Lonely Weekends
Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee
Red Rooster
Ooby Dooby
The Lady Came From Baltimore
Leaves That Are Green
Treasure Of Love
Black Sheep Boy

Ronnie Hawkins – The Hawk [1971]

Ronnie Hawkins At The Shoals

April 18, 2011

Originally posted January 29, 2007

By 1970, the five musicians who’d been the best-known version of Ronnie Hawkins’ Hawks were long-gone, astounding the music world as The Band. So when Cotillion Records – a subsidiary of Atlantic – called, Hawkins headed down to Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Along with him came Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd of Atlantic, who produced the eleven cuts on Hawkins’ 1970 release.

Backing the Hawk was the Muscle Shoals rhythm section: David Hood on bass, Roger Hawkins on drums and Barry Beckett and Scotty Kushnie on keyboards, along with guitarists Duane Allman, Eddie Hinton and Jimmy Johnson. Rounding out the sessions was King Biscuit Boy on harp.

The album is not all grit, showing a softer side of Hawkins than one might have expected on two Dylan covers, “One More Night,” and “One Too Many Morning,” on two Gordon Lightfoot tunes, “Bitter Green” and “Home From The Forest,” and on the country selections, “I May Never Get To Heaven,” “Little Bird,” and “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” They’re quiet, but still, not at all poor listens.

There is grit enough, however, in the remainder of the record. “Matchbox” and “Forty Days” kick some butt, and “Down In The Alley” slides in on southern grease. And if “Who Do You Love” sounds a little tame for the first few seconds, by the time Duane Allman’s slide guitar shoots in (it can’t be anyone else’s!), the song takes off.

In balance, the album might be a little more subdued than Hawkins’ reputation might promise, but it’s still a good listen.

Track list:
One More Night
Bitter Green
I May Never Get To Heaven
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Little Bird
One Too Many Mornings
Forty Days
Down In The Alley
Who Do You Love
Home From The Forest

Ronnie Hawkins – Ronnie Hawkins [1970]

Haunting In Any Language

April 18, 2011

Originally posted January 22, 2007

One of the things I brought back with me from a year studying Denmark long ago (besides a taste for dark beer) was an appreciation for the music of a Danish performer by the name of Sebastian. He’d released two albums or so at the time I was there, and I brought one home with me. As luck would have it, the second side had a skip in it, and by the time I played it, it was far too late to do anything about it. Still, I enjoyed that record over the years.

About fifteen years later, the fellow with whose parents I had stayed for a few months sent me a cassette with the treat of one of Sebastian’s newer albums on one side (the other side had music by his own rock group, which was pretty good in itself). The Sebastian album had as its centerpiece perhaps the most haunting piece of music I’ve ever heard: “Stille Før Storm,” which translates as “Silence Before The Storm.”

And that cassette and the defective LP were all I knew of Sebastian’s music until seven years ago, when I joined the world on line and began to scour boards and websites and other places on the ’Net for as much of his music as I could find. I’ve also bought three of his CDs online from stores in Denmark (including that album I bought so long ago; I finally know how it’s supposed to sound!).

Over the years, according to my Danish brother, Sebastian has gone from being a hippie folk-rocker to one of Denmark’s most cherished musicians, with a large number of albums and musicals to his credit.

I love all of his music that I’ve heard. But nothing else compares to “Stille Før Storm.” I still don’t know for certain what she’s singing. I have the lyrics, but my Danish is nowhere near good enough to translate without spending an hour or so paging through my Danish-English dictionary. But I don’t think one has to understand the words to sense the yearning in the song. I hope other people find it as lovely as I do.

After The Tapes Were Lost

April 18, 2011

Originally posted January 26, 2007

In 1972, Eric Andersen, the most romantic of all the young singer-songwriters tabbed as “the new Dylan,” released his classic album Blue River and set to work on its follow-up, Stages, which both he and his record label – Columbia – expected would put him in the forefront of the early 1970s singer-songwriter movement. Somehow, however, the master tapes to Stages were lost.

It took three years from the release of Blue River for Andersen to complete his next record, Be True To You, and the new record’s release found him on the Arista label. He’d reworked six of the songs that had been slated to be on Stages and added more. But the momentum of his career, it seems had stalled.

Still, Be True To You is a very good album, even if it paled in the view of Andersen and the record executives who were promoting him as the next big thing. Highlights include “Moonchild River Song,” a cover of Tom Waits’ “Ol ’55,” and the lush epic “Time Run Like A Freight Train.”

(The master tapes for Stages were discovered in storage at Columbia’s New York offices in 1989, and Stages: The Lost Album was released in 1991, with the nine original songs supplemented with one tune recorded at the time of the Blue River sessions and three new songs; the new cuts featured work by Rick Danko and Garth Hudson of The Band as well as contributions from Jonas Fjeld, a Norwegian musician who joined Danko and Andersen to record the CDs Danko Fjeld Andersen and Ridin’ On The Blinds during the early 1990s.)

The vinyl for this rip is not in as good a condition as the vinyl for earlier rips have been. There will be some pops. Still, as someone pointed out to me recently, any rip is better than none.

Moonchild River Song
Be True To You
Wild Crow Blues
Ol’ 55
Time Run Like A Freight Train
Liza, Light The Candle
Woman, She Was Gentle
Can’t Get You Out Of My Life
The Blues Keep Fallin’ Like The Rain
Love Is Just A Game

Eric Andersen – Be True To You [1975]