Archive for the ‘2007/02 (February)’ Category

On The ‘Lost Horizon’

April 18, 2011

Originally posted February 2, 2007

Lost Horizon, a 1973 film, was a remake as a musical of an earlier version made in the 1930s, I believe. And from what I understand/remember, the new film tanked, badly. I’ve never seen it, and I wasn’t in the U.S. when it came out, so I’ve never had the chance.

Oh, I suppose it’s out on DVD now and I could get it without too much trouble. But from what I understand, it’s not worth even that much effort.

Portions of the soundtrack, however, may be a different story. I’ve seen raves for the soundtrack on various blogs that consider such matters; I’ve also seem some real savage reviews. In any case, the vocal version of the theme song was performed by Shawn Phillips, owner of one of my favorite voices. The theme – like the entire score – was a Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition, which may or may not be to everyone’s taste.

But with Shawn singing it, it at least sounds good.

Shawn Phillips – “Lost Horizon” [1973]

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The Side Dishes Are Pretty Tasty

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 26, 2007

It’s kind of hard to know what to say about Don Nix.

Don who? I hear you say. Well, exactly.

It’s not like he was a nobody during the later 1960s and early 1970s; he recorded a series of albums on Shelter and Elektra and some smaller labels. He played saxophone as a member of the Mar-Keys with, among others, his high school classmates Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn of Booker T and the MG’s. And after his 1970s solo recordings didn’t sell well, he returned to his home town of Memphis and was a successful producer there and at Alabama’s Muscle Shoals.

But Don Nix’s name is not one that pops to mind too often.

And that’s too bad. Although his solo recordings are not, perhaps, at the top of the heap of southern soul and rock from that era, by no means are they at the bottom. They do provide some good listening, with a few caveats. The first – taking today’s share, Nix’s 1971 Living By The Days, as the example – is that Nix is not the most charismatic frontman we’re ever going to hear. His voice is a little thin and his sense of pitch is not always certain. And he seems at times reluctant to take a place at the front of the stage, preferring perhaps to be a part of the team instead of its leader.

That might not be the reason for his seeming self-effacement, but that’s the result. On several of the more energetic cuts on Living By The Days, it seems like everyone is waiting for someone to grab hold of the song and pull it forward, and no one does. The one exception, I thought, was the traditional gospel piece, “I Saw The Light,” which chugs along nicely despite its odd beginning: a spoken-word introduction by legendary blues and R&B artist Furry Lewis.

On the other hand, even with his vocal limitations, the laid-back quality Nix seems to have brought to these 1971 sessions works well on the more measured songs in the same way that J.J. Cale’s slow loping style would be effective just a few years later. That slow groove is best, it seems, on the album’s closer, “My Train’s Done Come And Gone,” but it works well on other cuts, too. The resemblance to Cale’s work is interesting because Nix worked for a few years in California and at Shelter Records with Leon Russell, whose influence on Cale’s long and successful career is well known.

Living By The Days is on the Elektra label and was Nix’s second solo album, following 1970’s In God We Trust, which was on the Shelter label. Hoboes, Heroes and Street Corner Clowns followed on  Enterprise in 1974, and Nix then moved to the Cream label for 1976’s Gone Too Long and 1979’s Skyrider. He returned to the studios 15 years later and released a trio of albums between 1994 and 2006, all of which – like his earlier albums – rely on Southern grooves for the entertainment.

There are worse things to rely on, of course, and a look at the credits for Living By The Days tells why the album is intriguing, despite Nix’s vocal limitations. The bulk of the backing comes from the boys from Muscle Shoals: drummer Roger Hawkins, bassist David Hood, guitarist Jimmy Johnson and keyboard player Barry Beckett. Also lending a hard are Chris Stainton of Joe Cocker’s Grease Band on keyboards, old friend Duck Dunn on bass, and guitarists Wayne Perkins, Tippy Armstrong and Gimmer Nicholson. A few of the background singers’ names are familiar, as well: Claudia Lennear, Kathi McDonald, Don Preston and Joey Cooper.

So the side dishes are good, even if the main course is a little bit thin.

Track list:

The Shape I’m In
Olena
I Saw The Light
She Don’t Want A Lover (She Just Needs A Friend)
Living By The Days
Going Back To Iuka
Three Angels
Mary Louise
My Train’s Done Come And Gone

Don Nix – Living By The Days [1971]

Saturday Single No. 3

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 24, 2007

One of the great themes of popular music – from the pre-recording days when music’s popularity was measured only by sales of sheet music, through the entire Twentieth Century to today – is displacement. From the day in 1853 when Stephen Foster – America’s first popular songwriter – wrote “My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight,” American musicians and listeners have celebrated, longed for and grieved their separations from, places dear to them.

The separation need not be physical: Time pulls us away, too, as places change and we ourselves are altered by the turning of the calendar. Joe South’s 1969 lament, “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home,” mourned the changes brought to his home place – and by extension, the entire south – by the so-called progress of that decade, which replaced orchards with offices and meadows with malls (and the orchards and meadows continue to disappear to this day, of course, not just in the south but all across the country).

The era during which Joe South sang – those volatile years from, say, 1965 to 1975 – was one of displacement for a lot of folks. Many of those who were displaced, of course, had not one bit of use for rock or soul or any of their relatives; they instead found their solace in gospel music or in the country stylings of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard and their contemporaries. But the sense of longing wasn’t limited by genre. It’s not an accident that one of the better singles of the Beatles, the best group of the time – or any time, for that matter – told us all to get back to where we once belonged. We all wanted to go home.

One of those who couldn’t go home was Jesse Winchester, a native of Memphis who’d left the U.S. for Canada in 1967 instead of reporting for military service (and most likely an assignment to the war zone in Vietnam) when he got his draft notice. Living in Montreal in 1969, he met Robbie Robertson of The Band – himself a Canadian, of course, like three of the other four members of The Band. Robertson produced and played guitar on Winchester’s first album, Jesse Winchester, and brought along his band-mate Levon Helm to play drums and mandolin. The record, says All-Music Guide, “was timely: it spoke to a disaffected American generation that sympathized with Winchester’s pacifism. But it was also timeless: the songs revealed a powerful writing talent (recognized by the numerous artists who covered them), and Winchester’s gentle vocals made a wonderful vehicle for delivering them.”

Winchester, of course, was unable to perform in the U.S. to promote either the record or his career, and thus never was able to capture the attention of the listening and buying public as well as he likely deserved. He recorded four more albums in Canada until an amnesty proclaimed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 allowed him to return to the U.S. He’s recorded infrequently since then, but has been an active performer, with his most recent trio of releases being live albums.

When one listens to today’s Saturday Single, “Biloxi” – or indeed, any selection from the Robbie Robertson-produced debut, Jesse Winchester – one can hear the regrets and longing under the gentle vocal as Winchester remembers the joy and solace he once found in a place he might never be able to see again.

“Biloxi” by Jesse Winchester [1970]

Through The Junkyard Again

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 23, 2007

As I didn’t get a new album posted today, and I wanted to do something, even at this late hour – it’s 11:09 p.m. as I write – I thought I’d so another walk through the junkyard, putting up a list of twenty-five songs selected by using RealPlayer’s random function:

“Heaven/Where True Love Goes” by Yusuf from An Other Cup, 2006.

“In The Beginning” by the Moody Blues from On The Threshold Of A Dream, 1969.

“I Must Be In Love” by the Rutles from The Rutles, 1978.

“Till I See You Again” by Derek & The Dominos from unreleased sessions, 1971.

“Our Very Own” by Nanci Griffith & Keith Carradine from Hearts In Mind, 2005.

“Sugar Blues” by Al Hirt from Cotton Candy, 1962.

“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” by Hot Tuna from Splashdown, WQIV-FM, New York
City, 1975.

“Muleskinner Blues” by Tony Rice from Cold On The Shoulder, 1984.

“Big River” by Johnny Cash, Sun single 283, 1957.

“Bound For Glory” by Phil Ochs from All the News That’s Fit To Sing, 1964.

“The Hunter” by Albert King from Born Under A Bad Sign, 1967.

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” by Norah Jones, WFUV broadcast, New York City, 2002.

“Crossroader” by Mountain from Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On, 1972.

“When The Battle Is Over” by Aretha Franklin from Spirit In The Dark, 1970.

“Let Me Do It To You” by J. J. Cale from Troubadour, 1976.

“Miranda” by Fleetwood Mac from Say You Will, 2003.

“San Francisco Bay Blues” by Jesse Fuller, live at Newport Folk Festival, 1964.

“Legend In His Time” by Kate Wolf & the Wildwood Flower from Back Roads, 1976.

“Why” by Fleetwood Mac from Mystery To Me, 1973.

“You Got Some Inspiration” by Boz Scaggs from Middle Man, 1980.

“Allt Jag Behöver” by Lisa Nilsson from Himlen Runt Hörnet (Swedish), 1992.

“Something You Can’t Buy” by Rick Nelson from Intakes, 1977.

“Mary & The Soldier” by Lucy Kaplansky from Flesh and Bone, 1996.

“Travelin’ Blues” by Loggins & Messina from Full Sail, 1973.

“Strong Feeling” by Joe Haywood, Front Page single 1000, about 1969.

Once again, nothing from before 1960, and pretty light on R&B. But it gives another pretty good idea of what about ninety minutes of listening brings me.

Jimmie’s Dragon Still Dances

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 21, 2007

If you own a Jimmie Spheeris CD, you’re in a very exclusive club.

Actually, if you own any recordings by Jimmie Spheeris – vinyl, cassette or CD – you’re in a pretty exclusive club. Spheeris is one of those performers from the late 1960s and early 1970s who didn’t sell a lot of records but whose listeners were certain that his recordings were bound to last forever. I hesitate to say the Jimmie lovers reached a cult-like status, but I think it’s fair to say that although Spheeris might not have reached a lot of people with his music, he connected on a very deep level with those he did reach.

How obscure is he? Well, I’d guess I’m very well acquainted with the world of pop and rock from the years 1966 through 1975, and I’d never heard of him, at least not until I was rummaging through the used records at a south Minneapolis music store in 1999. I came across The Original Tap Dancing Kid, with a photo of Spheeris on the front cover that made the record just scream “California post-hippie singer-songwriter vibe inside!”

That vibe happens to be one of my larger weaknesses, so I grabbed the record for $2.95, went home and found my judgment to be correct: California post-hippie singer-songwriter! But I liked it, so I logged it and put it in the stacks. Over the next few years, I gathered in three other Spheeris LPs: Isle of View, The Dragon Is Dancing and Ports Of The Heart. I liked them all, but I listen to a lot of obscure music, so I didn’t think about Jimmie Spheeris too often.

Lots of people do. One of the things the Internet has done, of course, is make it possible for people to connect with like-minded people all over the world. Sometimes, that’s not a good thing, as we occasionally hear and read about in the news. Most of the time, it’s pretty cool. And for followers of Jimmie Spheeris, I gather it’s way way cool. As have other groups, the Jimmies, as I shall call them – and I’m not making fun of them in any way, just observing; after all, I happen to be a Phillipian, one of the followers of Shawn Phillips – the Jimmies found each other in chat rooms and on websites, most importantly on the very impressive fan website devoted to Jimmie and his works at http://www.jimmiespheeris.com/

Spheeris – born Nov. 5, 1949 – released his first album, Isle of View, on Columbia in 1971. All-Music Guide makes the judgment I was reluctant to make, noting that the record “made him the subject of a rabid cult following.” His 1973 release of The Original Tap Dancing Kid boosted his fan base. He released The Dragon Is Dancing in 1975 and Ports Of The Heart in 1976. And that was it for a long time. Finally, in 1984, Spheeris went back into the studio and recorded an album known simply as Spheeris. Sadly, he was killed by a dunk driver on July 4, 1984, just hours after finishing work on the record.

Fan demand – made more intense, I surmise, by their gathering on the ’Net – persuaded Sony to authorize CD releases of Spheeris’ works, with his four albums of the 1970s joined by Spheeris from 1984 and a live recording of a 1976 concert in Willimantic, Connecticut.  Isle of View was released on the Rain label in 1997, which also released The Dragon Is Dancing in 1998, An Evening With Jimmie Spheeris (the live album) in 1999, and The Original Tap Dancing Kid, Ports Of The Heart and Spheeris in 2000. Just as suddenly, however, Sony withdrew its permission, and the CDs went out of print.

The CDs are prime collectors items, with Isle Of View being listed by more than one merchant at the music clearinghouse, www.gemm.com, for more than $300. The others are listed there at prices that range from just more than $20 to more than $75. The prices quoted at Amazon run in about the same range.

If our culture measures the intrinsic value of things by the prices we put on them, then Spheeris’ music is considered extraordinary stuff. There’s no doubt that it’s good, both musically and lyrically. His four albums from the 1970s are pleasures (I have no way to judge 1984’s Spheeris or the live recording). Would I pay even $30 for one of his CDs? Probably not, but then I might do that – likely will sometime soon – for a Shawn Phillips CD. It all goes back to finding the music that moves you and figuring out what its value is. And the fans of Spheeris have spoken loudly.

Actually, Shawn Phillips is not a bad comparison. As I ripped The Dragon Is Dancing this morning, there were moments when Spheeris’ work seemed of a piece with Phillips’ – odd misty melodies topped with poetic and sometimes cryptic lyrics adding up to a lush romanticism that one almost never hears anymore.

I selected The Dragon Is Dancing almost at random from the four LPs. It’s got a few more pops and cracks than the vinyl I normally post here, but it’s listenable enough to at least give you a taste of Jimmie Spheeris’ music.

A note: At those places where one track led directly into the next with no silence, I combined those tracks. As a result, an album that has twelve songs listed ends up having only seven tracks.

Jimmie Spheeris – The Dragon Is Dancing [1975]

The Search For Mother Earth

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 19, 2007

Mother Earth came to me in a cardboard box.

In the last years of the 1980s, I was just beginning to expand my interest in and awareness of rock music beyond what would now be called classic rock. I had my Bob Dylan set pretty well completed. I had enough Van Morrison, Eric Clapton and Springsteen for the time being, and I had enough Led Zeppelin and other metal to satisfy me. I also had the mainstream archives: The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Chicago and all the rest. And I had a good supply of the quirky, having always loved one-hit wonders.

I was living in Minot, N.D., at the time, and one Saturday in February of 1989, I wandered out to the flea market at the state fairgrounds. A record dealer from Bismarck – from whom I’d bought a few things during my two years in Minot – was at the market and was selling off his inventory, a box for $10. No mixing – you took the boxes as they were. So I laid down my $10 and took a box of about sixty records home with me.

I dug into the box. A few of the things I found were by Boston, McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Billy Joel, the Steve Miller Band, Nilsson, the Strawbs, Thin Lizzy, Todd Rundgren – a lot of mainstream stuff that I hadn’t gotten around to yet. There was a lot of odd stuff, too, only a few of which I still have.  And there was an LP on the Mercury label: Make a Joyful Noise by Mother Earth, a group I’d never heard of before. I cleaned it, dropped it on the turntable, and was entranced. It was one of the best things I’d heard in a long, long time, and I knew nothing about the group at all.

I had so much fun that Saturday evening, and the records turned out to be in such good shape, that I went back to the flea market the next day and bought the guy’s last box.  I got some Argent, some Quicksilver Messenger Service, Robin Trower, Manfredd Mann, Ian Lloyd and a number of other things I have on the stacks to this day. No more Mother Earth, though.

But I was intrigued enough by Mother Earth – and by the records by other groups that I’d heard of but knew little about – to go out and buy my first copy of the Rolling Stone Record Guide in the next week. And I began to change from a casual purchaser of used records to a collector.

From my record guide, I learned only that Mother Earth was a San Francisco area band, formed by its lead singer, Wisconsin native Tracy Nelson in about 1968 and that the group’s two first albums – Make A Joyful Noise and Living With The Animals – were superb but at the time, out of print. So I put Living With The Animals on my list. Eventually, during my time in Minneapolis during the 1990s, I found four more Mother Earth albums and five by Tracy Nelson as a solo act, all of them worth more than casual listening.

In its overview of the group, All-Music Guide describes Mother Earth as being a “blues-rock” group. But the sound is so much more complex than that, bringing in elements of R&B, country and gospel. As I think about it, Mother Earth is one of those groups that is so difficult to describe that at most times and places, I doubt that it would ever have gotten a major label deal. In the San Francisco of the late 1960s, however, record companies were seemingly giving deals to any group that could show up for a meeting with a demo tape.

Mother Earth was far better than that, of course. I’m not sure the group ranks with the royalty of the San Francisco scene of the time – the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver and Janis Joplin, to name a few – but I don’t think Mother Earth was all that far from that level, either. The group wasn’t a San Francisco group for very long, as it turned out. The debut record, Living With The Animals, was recorded while the group was based there, but in 1969, Nelson moved the band to Nashville.

The album shared here is Bring Me Home, a 1971 release that was the next-to-last record released by Mother Earth. AMG says: “Not really deviating from a formula which was modestly successful for Mother Earth, the band takes the adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ to heart with Bring Me Home. Staying in form with the blend of R&B, gospel, folk and soft rock, this-nine song session remains a vehicle predominantly for the group’ s siren, Tracy Nelson. The band delivers constantly solid performances backing Nelson’s impassioned vocals in a very complementary fashion, but really doesn’t set itself apart from the majority of the group’s output.”

I agree that the record is very much of a type with the rest of the group’s work. What makes this album stand out for me is two things: First, Nelson’s rendition of the Boz Scagg’s song, “I’ll Be Long Gone,” which is one of my favorite tunes. Second, the work the group does on Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road,” a tune later popularized by the Eagles on the 1980 live album. I prefer Mother Earth’s version.

(This album is one of the rare records I will share that is still in print. If you like it, go to Amazon.com or your own favorite retail site and purchase it, please. The bulk of Mother Earth’s catalog has been reissued in the past few years. It’s work that deserves an audience!)

Mother Earth – Bring Me Home [1971]

Saturday Single No. 2

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 17, 2007

If there were any justice in this world, Darden Smith would be a household name and his songs would greeted with cheers as they played on the radio.

There is, however, far less justice in this world than one would like, so Darden Smith remains a Texan whose music is cherished by his fans and is utterly unknown by the larger country-listening public that has made acts like Toby Keith, Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley household names. Now, there’s nothing wrong with those three acts – or any of the others who populate country music – becoming big stars (although I weary of Toby Keith’s bombast). And to be honest, Darden Smith these days is not strictly country. That’s where he started some twenty years ago, but he’s evolved to where his music occupies a place somewhere near the intersection of country, folk, pop and rock.

That’s an interesting place to live, musically, but it’s an awful place for the marketing and promotion folks to figure out. So they don’t try. That’s the only reason I can figure out to explain the public’s failure to elevate Smith to the level he deserves. He began his career with a self-titled independent release in 1986. His major label debut, on Epic, came with Native Soil in 1988; that album included reworkings of three of the cuts from Darden Smith and also included backing vocals from Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett.

After a collaboration with Boo Hewerdine of the British act, The Bible, resuled in the exquisite album Evidence in 1989, Smith shifted his solo focus just slightly from his country and folk roots for Trouble No More in 1990 and moved a little further away from those roots for 1993’s Little Victories. And 1996 saw the release of Deep Fantastic Blue, which All-Music Guide called “folk-tinged pop.”

Despite the stylistic distance Smith was placing between him and his country origins, the roots were still there, though perhaps no longer poking as near to the surface. Still, there was no drop-off in the quality of songwriting, nor has there been in the past decade, as Smith has released the delicious, if occasionally quirky, trio of  Sunflower (2002), Circo (2004), and Field of Crows (2005). He also revisited some of his earlier songs and did new – and interestingly different – versions of them for Extra Extra in 2000.

Perhaps Smith’s evolution means he’s no longer strictly country. If so, that’s only symptomatic of the blurring of the lines between genres in American popular music that has accelerated in the past twenty years. Good music is good music, and today’s Saturday Single, “The Levee Song” from Little Victories, remains bluesy, gritty and sexy and is as good an introduction as one could get to the music of Darden Smith.

Key line: “You say you don’t love me, but I think you might.”

Darden Smith – “Levee Song” [1993]

Comfort Music

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 16, 2007

I missed Rick Danko’s solo album when it came out in 1977, although I’m not sure why. I guess I was just too busy, finishing an additional college minor, leaving my hometown for a small town about thirty miles away and diving into the details of writing for a newspaper and the details of living a life in that small town.

One thing that leaving my hometown – the town where I went to college as well – did was separate me from my everyday sources of information. The bull sessions that went on in the student union, in our apartments and in various bars and taverns had provided al of us with a constant stream of information about books, music, drama and current events. Current events, I could still keep up with, but even being only thirty miles away from the friends who helped define the last years of my college life, I was removed enough that I no longer had regular access to their ideas and experiences. And I missed the release of Rick Danko, the first solo album by the bass player and vocalist for The Band.

What I missed, says the Rolling Stone Record Guide, was “a moving and surprisingly fine record that approximates the ambiance of the Band’s best moments without complacency or nostalgia.

“Danko’s vulnerable vocal persona was the perfect expression of the plaintive emotion characteristic of much of Robbie Robertson’s writing, and he makes the transition to fronting his own record without faltering. Despite the fact that Danko contributed little in the way of song-writing to his old group (though he did write the classic ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ with Bob Dylan), his songs for this record are tremendous. Several tunes (‘Brainwash,’ ‘Java Blues,’ ‘Sip The Wine’) could well have been recorded by the Band.”

The record does in fact sound very much like a record by The Band, and not just because of Danko’s distinctive vocals. His old pals came by to help out, with Robertson playing lead guitar on “Java Blues,” Richard Manuel playing electric piano on “Shake It,” Levon Helm adding harmony vocals on “Once Upon A Time,” and Garth Hudson playing accordion on “New Mexicoe.” (And no, I do not know why there is that gratuitous “e” in the title of “New Mexicoe.”)

This would be the last solo work Danko would release until 1997, two years before his death, when he released Rick Danko In Concert. In the interim, he toured with Hudson, Helm and Manuel in the 1980s as The Band until Manuel’s suicide in Florida in 1986. During the 1990s, he recorded two CDs with folk singer Eric Andersen and Norwegian recoring artist Jonas Feld: Danko Feld Andersen in 1991 and Ridin’ On The Blinds in 1997.

Between those two releases, of course, Danko, Helm and Hudson reconstituted The Band, adding Jim Weider, Richard Bell and Randy Ciarlante, and headed back into the studio and out on the road. The new version of The Band, while its releases are perhaps not as broad in their scope as those the group released in the years 1968 to 1976, nevertheless recorded three albums that were well-received by critics and fans alike: Jericho in 1993, High On The Hog in 1996 and Jubilation in 1998. And if the life of playing roadhouses and smaller venues was a comedown after the massive success and adulation The Band received during those earlier years, it was hard to tell that from the group’s demeanor during performances.

I saw Rick Danko perform three times in those later years, first when he and Levon Helm were members of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band in 1989, and the other two times in the mid-1990s when the new version of The Band played the Cabooze bar in Minneapolis. The stage at the Cabooze was maybe two feet tall, and during the second performance I saw there, in 1996, I found my way to the front of the crowd during the show. While I was at the front, The Band performed “It Makes No Difference,” one of my favorite songs. As Danko sang the chorus – “And the sun don’t shine anymore . . .” – the performance turned into an audience sing-along, as I’m certain it always did. As I sang along, too, I happened to catch Danko’s eye. And grinning, he gave me a wink!

I find no great communion in that; all it meant is that he was enjoying himself, doing what he loved. And that in itself is a pretty good thing.

Back when Rick Danko was released, I was doing what I loved – reporting – and I was learning to live my life. I didn’t notice the album’s release and didn’t get to listen to it for more than ten years. I’m very sure that I also failed to notice many other things taking place at the time, and many of them, I am certain, were no doubt far more important than a record.

But it was bad enough, in retrospect, to not know about Danko’s album. I think it would have helped me as I settled into my life in that small town. We hear on occasion about comfort food – dishes that provide some kind of nostalgic balm as we consume them, dishes that provide nourishment not only for the body but also for the soul. Well, there is also comfort music, records that provides the same internal sustenance. Danko’s album is one of those records, and if I’d had its homey sounds in my apartment during those first months of my so-called adult life, that transition might have been a little less lonely.

Rick Danko – Rick Danko (1977)

Track list
What A Town
Brainwash
New Mexicoe
Tired Of Waiting
Sip The Wine
Java Blues
Sweet Romance
Small Town Talk
Shake It
Once Upon A Time

A Random Twenty-Five

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 15, 2007

Just for fun, and for those who might be interested in what ninety minutes of my listening might be like, I thought I’d post a list of twenty-five songs that come up with the RealPlayer set on random:

“Maggie” by Redbone from Potlatch, 1970

“Turn It Over” by the Youngbloods from Elephant Mountain, 1969

“Hamm’s Beer Jingle” from television commercial, ca. 1953

“A Candle In The Window” by Linda Eder from Civil War: The Complete Work, 1999

“Kansas” by Melanie from Gather Me, 1971

“Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You” by the Bee Gees from Bee Gees’ First, 1967

“Hootchie Kootchie Woman” by Tim Hardin, previously unreleased from 1964

“Full Force Gale” by Van Morrison from Into The Music, 1979

“Manic Monday” by the Bangles from Different Light, 1986

“Water Colors” by Janis Ian from Between The Lines, 1975

“Turn Around” by the Everly Brothers from Roots, 1968

“Ophelia” by the Animal Liberation Orchestra from Endless Highway: The Music Of The Band, 2007

“You Know You Can’t Lose” by Shelagh McDonald from The Shelagh McDonald Album, 1970

“You Beat Me To The Punch” by Mary Wells, Motown single 1032, 1962

“Little Maggie” by Bob Dylan from Good As I Been To You, 1992

“Into The Fire” by Bruce Springsteen from The Rising, 2002

“Rock Me” by Muddy Waters and Memphis Slim, Chess recording session, 1961

“Texarkana” by R.E.M. from Out of Time, 1991

“Who’s Gonna Be Your Sweet Man When I’m Gone?” by Muddy Waters from The London Muddy Waters Sessions, 1971

“From The Morning” by Nick Drake from Pink Moon, 1972

“In the Land of Make Believe” by Dusty Springfield from Dusty In Memphis, 1969

“You Don’t Miss Your Water” by William Bell from Coming Back For More, 1977

“You Must Be Laughing Somewhere” by Jimmie Spheeris from You Must Be Laughing Somewhere, 1984

“Pink Elephant” by Cherry Poppin’ Daddies from Rapid City Muscle Car, 1994

“Bierdna” by Hedningarna (Swedish neo-folk group) from Hippjokk, 1997

Well, it’s a little surprising that there’s no music from before 1960. A fair number of the 17,558 mp3s on the RealPlayer come from the 1950s or earlier. It’s also a little light on R&B. I’m not sure what this proves, if anything. But I was interested to see how it came out, and I hope you out there might be, too.

Look for another piece of resurrected vinyl tomorrow!

In The Middle Of The Trail

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 14, 2007

One of the things I like to ask friends is how they came to hear of one musician or another – what led them to, say, Long John Baldry or Bonnie Raitt? Jackson Browne or Heart? Or, to name a few more recent, how did they learn of David Gray or the Wailin’ Jennys? I’ve heard a few interesting tales over the years, many of them from my friend Rob, who was into a wider range of music than I was during our early college years. His record collection is a compendium of classic R&B and other delights over which I routinely break the commandment warning us not to covet things that belong to one’s neighbor.

(Regarding those performers listed above, for what it may be worth, I learned about David Gray and Heart from the radio and about Long John Baldry at a college radio station I worked at long ago. I learned about Jackson Browne from a college buddy, and I saw the Wailin’ Jennys on TV. Bonnie Raitt, I first heard through the walls of the hostel room where I lived during my college year in Denmark, hearing her take on Randy Newman’s “Guilty” time after time until it took on forever an aura of beer-soaked regrets and midnight grief.)

It’s not so easy to remember how I hear about a specific musician or group anymore, given the large number of artists I listen to, and – more to the point – the proliferation of ways to hear about them. About a year ago, some of my long-time buddies and I were hanging around the house, and I put Tift Merritt on the CD player. Dan asked where I’d heard about her, and all I could tell him was “I found some of her music on a website.” Both of her CD’s – Bramble Rose and Tambourine – are fine music, well worth hearing, but I couldn’t come close to remembering which website or blog tipped me off to her.

Another way one’s musical universe enlarges, of course, is from one record – or CD – to the next. If I like the production or the backing musicians on one album, I’ll look for more with the same producer or the same musicians. One artist can thus lead to another artist and onward!

And as I pondered that while I ripped today’s record, I thought that there are likely albums in my collection – most likely in everyone’s – that start trails from one artist to another, albums that are the fount of discoveries leading to more and more albums by more and more musicians. And I began to try to figure out which record in my collection had led to today’s selection, which is To Bonnie From Delaney by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. I decided it was the double album from the spring of 1972 called Clapton At His Best, a Polydor release that brought together selections from Clapton’s time with Blind Faith, his time as leader of Derek & The Dominos and from his first, self-titled, solo album.

It was the work from that solo album that got to me first, that tambourine-shakin’, root-celebratin’ sound provided by Delaney Bramlett’s production and the musicians he brought with him, the down home ’n’ gritty folks who were the Friends who recorded with Delaney & Bonnie. Over the next few years, that sound – and the sounds of Blind Faith and of Derek and the Dominos – led me to Delaney & Bonnie, to the Allman Brothers Band, to Traffic and Steve Winwood, to Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen, to Boz Scaggs (via Duane Allman’s work on “Loan Me A Dime” on his posthumous anthology) and from there to the sounds of Muscle Shoals, where Scaggs recorded his first solo album and where Allman, of course, made a name for himself as part of the great crew there. And from there, the links go on and on, as I began during the late 1980s and early 1990s to buy old records and compile a pretty decent collection. So I suppose one could conclude that Clapton At His Best could be the most influential album I ever bought.

Somewhere in the trail from that Clapton album, we find To Bonnie From Delaney, a 1970 album that featured Duane Allman throughout and the Memphis Horns and Bobby Whitlock on nine of the twelve cuts. Even without the presence of many of those on the early Delaney & Bonnie records – Bobby Keys on sax and Jim Price on trumpet come to mind, as does bassist Carl Radle – the record still has that down-home groove throughout. Helping that groove along are Little Richard on piano on “Miss Ann” and King Curtis playing sax on “They Call It Rock & Roll Music.”

For whatever reason, of all of the releases by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, this one is almost impossible to find on CD. It deserves better.

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends – To Bonnie From Delaney [1970)]