Archive for the ‘2007/08 (August)’ Category

Saturday Single No. 26

May 6, 2011

Originally posted August 18, 2007

We probably watch too much television, the Texas Gal and I. It’s the path of least resistance, I guess, to plop down on the couch in the evenings – her with a craft project in hand, me with a book or a magazine – and keep an eye on the tube.

We are fans of reality TV. We like Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, American Idol, and So You Think You Can Dance. She also watches The Bachelor, a show I at best keep devote half an eye to. There are, of course, some dramatic shows that we also watch: Numbers, Friday Night Lights and Cold Case chief among them.

Now, that may not seem like a lot of television, but the hours do add up. Add to that the time spent on my part following the fortunes of the Minnesota Twins, Vikings and Wild as well as a couple of University of Minnesota athletic teams, and sometimes I wonder about the amount of time devoted to watching. As I said, however, I’m frequently reading something during many of those shows, and the Texas Gal is almost always working on one craft project or another, so it’s not entirely lost time.

In some cases, I’m not sure it would be entirely lost time anyway. For one, Friday Night Lights is an extraordinarily well-written drama, with strong characters, a good cast and well developed secondary story lines. The primary story line, that of the high school football team seeking a state title, was pretty pro forma during the show’s first season; I will be interested to see what wrinkles the show’s writers and producers can find for the second season. To say it might be the best dramatic show on television is to damn it with faint praise; it’s more fair to the show to say that it’s got a chance to rank among the best television dramas ever.

The other show that crosses my mind as one that has some value might be a surprise. It’s So You Think You Can Dance. Along with the entertainment value inherent in the drama of seeing thousands of dancers winnowed down to one champion, I see some positives in the show. The judges – including producer Nigel Lithgow – truly seem interested in providing at least some education about dance to the audience. We’ve watched the show all three seasons, and every once in a while, we realize we’ve learned something. We might be watching a quickstep, for instance, and one of us will say to the other, “His frame isn’t very good” and the other will nod.

Three years ago, I couldn’t have told you what a quickstep was, much less know the importance of a dancer’s upper body frame while performing one.

Okay, so what I’ve learned is likely less than a textbook’s worth, and it’s not nuclear physics. But I truly get the sense that – along with making a buck, which I realize is the primary purpose of the show – Lithgow and the other producers and judges are interested in leading viewers to know more about dance. From the frequent focus on the various choreographers to the sometimes very specific critiques of the performances, viewers come away, I think, with a better appreciation of dance as an art form. And I can see viewers using the show as a starting point, either as dancers or as fans of serious dance, and that would not be a bad thing.

So what does all this have to do with a Saturday Single? Well, during Wednesday evening’s final competition, one of the dancers took the stage dancing to what was billed as “I Gotcha” from the soundtrack to Fosse, the musical. The Texas Gal said, “That may be where they found that song, but it’s not where it came from. I remember the original.”

I did, too, but only vaguely at best. During a commercial, I ran “I Gotcha” through All-Music Guide. No composer credit was given for the musical’s song by that title. The fact that the credits for Fosse didn’t list a composer didn’t mean anything. Incomplete information abounds on the ’Net, of course. There were a few others songs titled “I Gotcha,” but the one that kept nagging at me was the one by Joe Tex, the funky single (Dial 1010) that went to No. 2 in 1972. I was pretty sure that wasn’t the same song, at least at first.

I pondered the song at odd moments for a couple of days. Maybe it was the Joe Tex song. So I dug around and found a copy of Tex’s version. Same song. I guess it had been so long since I’d heard Tex’s version that I’d forgotten about it. And if I hadn’t heard it in a while, then not many people have. So Joe Tex’s “I Gotcha” is today’s Saturday Single.

Joe Tex – “I Gotcha” [1972]

Wait A Second – What Was That?

May 6, 2011

Originally posted August 17, 2007

Back in the late 1990s, during those years when I haunted Cheapo’s vinyl room three or four times a week, there was always plenty of newly arrived material to look at. At a guess, I’d say that between 200 and 300 LPs made their way each day into the bins at the front of the room.

That’s not an immense amount of vinyl to flip through, even if you’re doing two or three days’ worth of bins during a visit. But it is enough records to keep the time-conscious flipper from taking a close look at each record. Of course, the vast majority of the records that were coming into a popular place like Cheapo’s were familiar, either things I already had at home or things that I was aware of and, for one reason or another, had already decided against acquiring. So closer looks weren’t necessary, most of the time.

Every once in a while, though – and I’m sure this has happened to every record digger at one time or another – you flip past an LP and go on for three or more records and then stop, thinking, “What was that?” So you go back and pull out the record that caught your attention. Sometimes, it’s not something you recognize at all. And after a few years of digging through albums, you know there’s a reason it caught your eye. So you set it aside and go on.

Today’s album was one of those. It was a late April Sunday in 1999, and I imagine that having nothing any better to do, I biked over to Cheapo’s to look at what was being saved for me behind the counter and see what had come in during the last day or two. And as I flipped through the new stuff, I paused and – as described above – went back a couple of records.

The record that caught my attention was pretty non-descript. It had a white cover with a black and white portrait of a young woman in the middle. She had shoulder-length hair – it looked like it might have been light brown – and her bangs were in her eyes. There was a dusting of freckles across her nose, and she was wearing a funky hat and an odd necklace. It said late 1970s post-hippie stuff to me. Across the top of the jacket, I read her name, Valerie Carter, and the album title, Just A Stone’s Throw Away. And I processed that in just a second or two, certainly far less time than it took to write about it.

What had caught my eye, besides the funky hat and the freckles? I didn’t know. I didn’t recall ever hearing about Valerie Carter. So I looked at the back and began to nod as I read the list of participating musicians: Linda Ronstadt, Deniece Williams, Maurice White and Lowell George among the background singers; and Lowell George, Jeff Porcaro, Bob Glaub, Tom Jans, John Sebastian, Jackson Browne and a few other recognizable names listed as musicians.

Well. Los Angeles-style singer-songwriter pop rock from – I looked at the bottom of the back – 1977. I had LPs by Ian Thomas and Tower of Power set aside to buy already. I shrugged and put Valerie Carter in the pile.

And it turned out to be not too bad a record, one that got good reviews in most places and now seems to be out of print and only available as an import CD. Don’t get me wrong – this is not a lost classic. But it’s pretty good.

It turns out, according to All-Music Guide, that Valerie Carter got to know Lowell George of Little Feat when she was a member of the country folk band Howdy Moon and George produced the group’s one album. George became her mentor and introduced her to the folks who would play on Just A Stone’s Throw Away, which was her debut. She released another album in 1979 and then released nothing more until the late 1990s, when she put out two more solo albums. According to AMG, she’d stayed in the industry in the intervening years doing session work, and her list of credits at her AMG page is, in fact, impressive.

So what to make of Just A Stone’s Throw Away? Well, like a lot of the records that were coming out of L.A. at the time, it can be a little too slick at moments. But it has other moments that are very nice, too. The album’s best track is the first one, Carter’s sweet take on “Ooh Child,” the song that was a 1970 hit for the Five Stairsteps. “Face of Appalachia” haunts with its banjo and its odd dissonant tones.

Further into the record, “So, So Happy” and “City Lights” sound like tracks from an Earth, Wind & Fire sessions, which – if you read the credits – is no surprise: both tracks were produced by Maurice White, EW&F’s drummer and leader. And the title track, “A Stone’s Throw Away,” has a nice gospelly feel, while “Cowboy Angel” flirts with country rock.

The rest is pretty standard late-1970s Southern California pop rock, except for the last track on the record. That track, “Back To Blue Some More,” doesn’t work. Carter does a fine job on the vocal – as she does throughout the entire album – but it’s not enough to save the track, which wanders around in a jazzy haze, kind of like a grocery shopper trying to find the beef jerky at three in the morning.

As I said, the album isn’t a lost classic, but it’s a pretty good listen, and Carter acquits herself well as she moves from genre to genre. I would guess that her other work is worth seeking out.

(The record had a few pops here and there. It seemed worth sharing here anyway.)

Track listing:
Ooh Child
Ringing Doorbell In The Rain
Heartache
Face Of Appalachia
So, So Happy
A Stone’s Throw Away
Cowboy Angel
City Lights
Back To Blue Some More

Valerie Carter – Just A Stone’s Throw Away [1977]

The King Says ‘That’s All Right’

May 6, 2011

Originally posted August 16, 2007

So what else can I do today but share a video of Elvis Presley?

After all, it had been thirty years today since his death, and when one adds up the influence he had on music and popular culture, one comes to a conclusion not far from that penned in the first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide: “Elvis Presley is by far the most important single figure in the history of rock & roll, and possibly the most important in American popular music, a giant of the modern era.”

It’s true: More than fifty years after Elvis first stepped into the studios at the Memphis Recording Service, it is impossible to assess the state of pop and rock music without taking his large shadow into account. So instead of assessing things today, instead of taking the machine apart to see how it works, I thought we’d just sit back and enjoy.

I looked for a video of Elvis’ early television performances, but those that I could post here seemed either to have studio recordings dubbed over the visuals or were interrupted one way or another. What I came up with is a performance of “That’s All Right,” Elvis’ first hit, taken from the 1968 television special that sparked his late 1960s comeback.

And watching this, There’s a bit of byplay with the band and then the introduction of the band members, but when Elvis finally takes up his guitar, one gets a sense – more so than one can from any of the jump-suited performances of the 1970s – of what the fuss was all about in the mid-1950s.

Revised to accommodate new video, May 6, 2011.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1971, Vol. 2

May 5, 2011

Originally posted August 15, 2007

In the later months of 1971, during my freshman year at St. Cloud State, I began spending a lot of my time hanging around the studios of KVSC, the campus radio station, then only about four years old. I did odd jobs at the station and put together a five-minute sportscast three or four days a week.

At the time, the station’s programming was still classical music for much of the day, with only the evenings given up to a very loose rock format. That changed sometime in the spring of 1972, when we staff members voted overwhelmingly to rock full-time. The only impact that had on me was that I no longer had to spend three hours a week thumbing through the classical records to find pieces of the right length to fit into an afternoon’s format. (The first format I put together was one that I built around Antonín Dvorák’s “New World” symphony, one of my favorite classical pieces. The program director said okay, but pointed out to me a schedule of symphonies set to be the centerpieces of each day’s afternoon programming. I think my insertion of Antonín’s work into the schedule bumped something by Mozart off the list, but I figured Wolfgang didn’t need the exposure anyway.)

So after the revolution – our vote to move to full-time rock saddened our faculty adviser, who then left that position – I spent less time down in the programming office and more time in the studios, cataloging new records and shelving stuff that came out of the studio after being played. I still did my sportscasts. As the academic year went on, I also did some late-night newscasts and some remote broadcasts, adding my analysis to play-by-play broadcasts of Huskies’ basketball and hockey games.

But as much as I learned about news and sports operation, I learned more about music. I spent most of my free time in the studio, even when I had no tasks there, sitting with other staffers on the tattered couches in the room that passed as our lounge, listening on the monitor to the magic happening in the control room. We spent hours dissecting and passing judgment on music new and old, drawing a somewhat flexible line between what was popular and what was serious rock. There were things, we decided with our accumulated wisdom, that could be both. And even before we went to rock fulltime, we listened to rock fulltime, playing it on the turntable in Studio B and ignoring the classical music we were putting on the air from Studio A.

One afternoon, probably sometime early in 1972, I was working on my sportscast for the five o’clock news program. As Long John Baldry’s voice came from the speaker in the lounge, telling us all not to lay no boogie-woogie on the king of rock and roll, the station manager came in, visibly anxious.

“Does anybody know anything about this concert tonight in the auditorium?” she asked.

I’d seen the posters. “I think it’s a group from South Africa that uses its music to protest the apartheid system in their home country,” I said. At the time, “apartheid” was not nearly as well known – as a word or a system – as it would become. Given that, the others in the station offices stared at me, as did the manager. She asked me, “Have you ever heard their music?”

I shook my head. No, I hadn’t.

She said, “Well, don’t worry about that. After you get done with your sports at 5:30, would you hang around and interview them on the air?”

Interview? Live? My stomach clenched. “I don’t know that much about them,” I said.

“You know more than the rest of us,” she replied.

So at 5:30, when I normally would have made my way out of Stewart Hall toward my ride home, I sat nervously at a table with four members of the African musical group (I have long since forgotten the group’s name) and talked with them about their music and its origins and what they hoped to accomplish with it through their performances. If I remember accurately, the fifteen minutes ended with a brief live performance of one of their songs.

Whoever had the next shift took over after that, and the musicians left, smiling, heading for their nearby dressing room. I sat in the chair and trembled for a few minutes. The station manager told me I’d done a good job and offered a few pointers for next time. The idea that there would be a next time was reassuring.

That evening, Rick and Rob came over to play some table-top hockey, and I had the radio tuned to KVSC, as I almost always did that winter. We were between games when the program director – manning the booth that evening – ended one long set of music and prepared to begin another.

“This next one,” he said, “is for one of our staffers who did a good job in a tight spot this afternoon.” He mentioned my name and then said, “Here’s Leon Russell from The Concert for Bangladesh, ’cause I know he digs it!”

Rick and Rob stared at me, and I grinned as Leon began to pound the piano.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1971, Vol. 2

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” by Leon Russell from The Concert for Bangladesh

“Stealin’” by Taj Mahal from Happy Just To Be Like I Am

“Future Games” by Fleetwood Mac from Future Games

“Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones from Sticky Fingers

“Rock Me On The Water” by Johnny Rivers from Home Grown

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by Undisputed Truth, Gordy single 7108

“Behind Blue Eyes” by the Who, Decca single 32888

“Out In The Cold” by Carole King from the Tapestry sessions

“Love Has Fallen On Me” by Rotary Connection from Hey Love

“Ha Ha Ha” by Sisters Love, A&M single 1325

“Gone Dead Train” by Crazy Horse from Crazy Horse

“Sing Me A Song” by Rick Nelson from Rudy the Fifth

“Watching The River Flow” by Bob Dylan, Columbia single 45409

Some notes on a few of the songs:

Leon Russell not only starts this selection – which was random after the opening tune – but he ends it as well, as he produced, and played piano on, Bob Dylan’s single “Watching The River Flow.” At the time, Leon was about as big as one could get in rock, having pretty much run Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” tour the year before and than getting a star turn at George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in August of 1971. One of the best moments for me of the “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” medley is the wordless call and response duet Leon gets into with, I believe, Claudia Lennear (misspelled Linnear in the album notes).

“Wild Horses” might be the prettiest song the Rolling Stones ever recorded. Being the contrarians that they are, however, it’s also one of the saddest and most desolate songs they ever put on an album.

Speaking of pretty, sad and desolate, all three adjectives apply as well to the Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes.” Was there something in the water in 1971? More likely, there was something in the air. (With apologies to Thunderclap Newman and its 1969 hit.)

Happy Just To Be Like I Am, the album from which Taj Mahal’s “Stealin’” comes from, was one of his better explorations in roots music, as it included some forays into Caribbean rhythms as well as some of Taj’s idiosyncratic takes on the blues.

Elvis: Thirty Years On

May 5, 2011

Originally posted August 14, 2007

Elvis Presley came to mind the other day. I noticed a mention on one blog or another over the weekend that, come Thursday, Aug. 16, it will have been thirty years since his death.

I never quite got Elvis, at least as far as any real emotional connection went. By the time I was listening to rock and pop, the years when he set the standard for rock ’n’ roll – either with what he recorded in the 1950s or during his comeback in the 1960s after his military service – were long gone. I liked what I heard from him as the 1960s turned into the 1970s – “Kentucky Rain,” “In The Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds” were three great singles – but beyond being a good listen when he came up in the radio rotation, he didn’t mean that much. And his last Top Ten hit, 1972’s “Burning Love,” did absolutely nothing for me.

So when I heard on a hot August afternoon that he’d died in Memphis, it didn’t have much impact. Oh, I didn’t quite shrug it off. I knew Elvis’ death mattered in the wider scheme of things. It just didn’t matter much to me. That might have been because I hadn’t yet done enough digging into the history of rock ’n’ roll to appreciate Elvis’ place in its popularization. I was aware that he’d caused a pretty big ruckus in the years just after I was born, what with the sneer, the gyrating hips and, at the center of it all, the music.

Listening to the music today, it sounds pretty tame, from the Sun records releases – “That’s All Right,” “Mystery Train” and the rest – to the sounds of his debut LP on RCA, 1956’s Elvis. What was radical and, to some, offensive, is now so mild – especially in its beat – as to be a curio. Still, the Elvis album, with “Hound Dog,” “Heartbreak Hotel, “Blue Suede Shoes” and so many more extraordinary tracks, is one of the most important albums in rock history because Elvis’ popularity among working class and middle class youth in the U.S. is one of the foundations on which all of modern pop and rock was built.

Not that there weren’t other building blocks along the way; there were many. But as Sun Records’ Sam Phillips knew, someone like Elvis – with his synthesis of musical styles and his charisma – was the key. The list of musicians essential to the development of rock and pop music is a fairly brief one, and Elvis is one the big blocks in the foundation that was laid during the 1950s. (Off the top of my head, the others from the 1950s on whom the history of the music rests are Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly. Did I miss someone? If you think so, let me know.)

Anyway, my point is that now I understand Elvis’ historical impact, which I know I didn’t grasp entirely on that hot August afternoon when I heard he’d died. Nevertheless, except for his three hit singles of 1969 and 1970, his music still does not touch me. I don’t get the same visceral kick when I hear “Don’t Be Cruel” or “All Shook Up” or “Hound Dog” as I do when I hear “I Saw Her Standing There” or “Gimme Shelter” or even “American Pie.” I appreciate the music, but I don’t necessarily love it.

Even so, when one explores Elvis’ incredibly huge catalog, there are jewels hidden among the glass. One of the more interesting places to look for those jewels is among the many movie soundtracks of the early 1960s. The movies were mostly dreadful – was any modern performer’s manager as utterly shortsighted as was Col. Tom Parker? – but the soundtracks were on occasion worth a listen. One of those was the soundtrack to the 1966 movie Spinout, which includes some bluesy numbers as well as a nicely done cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.”

So, to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Elvis’ passing this week, I’ve chosen for a Tuesday Cover his version of “Down In The Alley” from that Spinout soundtrack. Originally recorded by the Clovers for a 1956 Atlantic single, the song has been covered by a few other folks along the way, including the Chambers Brothers and Ronnie Hawkins. Elvis does a pretty good job with it.

Elvis Presley – “Down In The Alley” [1966]

3.88 MB mp3 at 192 kbps

A Treat From Candi Staton

May 4, 2011

Originally posted August 13, 2007

I’m not going to be writing much today. I’m a bit under the weather and I’ve also ignored my chores list for way too long. But I do have an album to post today:

In September of 1968, Candi Staton made her way to Rick Hall’s Fame Studios in Florence, Alabama, and began the recording sessions at that legendary studio that would result in her first album, I’m Just A Prisoner, released the next year.

Considered one of the landmark albums in the history of southern soul, I’m Just A Prisoner helped put Fame Records more on the map than the company already was and made Staton an R&B/soul star.

While the album itself is still out of print, one can cobble it together from various CD reissues of Staton’s work, and that’s what I’ve done here. I wonder what’s keeping it from being released on its own?

Track listing
Someone You Use
I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool)
You Don’t Love Me No More
Evidence
Sweet Feeling
Do Your Duty
That’s How Strong My Love Is
I’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’)
Another Man’s Woman, Another Woman’s Man
Get It When I Want It

Candi Staton – I’m Just A Prisoner [1969]

(Thanks to Red Kelly’s The B-Side for confirming some details.)

Saturday Single No. 25

May 4, 2011

Originally posted August 11, 2007

In the spirit of Vinyl Record day, slated for tomorrow, August 12, I’ve dipped into my small collection of singles and ripped today’s offering from a 45.

During the early 1970s, when I was trying to gather everything the Beatles had recorded – at least those recordings that had been released on Capitol or Apple – a couple of things struck me as odd. First of all, there was the LP titled Hey Jude or, in some cases, The Beatles Again. It was released in February 1970, to fill the gap between the previous autumn’s Abbey Road and Let It Be, slated for release in May. When I picked it up in August of 1970, I realized that it was made up of songs from throughout the years the Beatles recorded together, starting off with “Can’t Buy Me Love,” a 1964 single, and ending with “The Ballad of John & Yoko,” a 1969 single. In between came things like “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” from 1966, “Hey Jude” from 1968 and some other things.

It was a great LP to listen to, but in terms of sliding it in the stacks, it was hard to say where it fit in the Beatles’ recording career. And of course, it didn’t really fit, except that it brought out on LP things that had only ever been released on 45s up to that point. In Britain, it was quite common for groups to release singles – or four-song EPs – and then not include those songs on LPs. In the U.S., that wasn’t often done; singles were routinely pulled from albums to spur sales of those albums. It had, however, been done by Capitol with the Beatles: The recordings on Hey Jude were among those that had been released as singles or B-sides in the U.S. without appearing on LP.

The other oddity: With a little bit of digging, as “Hey Jude” and the rest of the songs played on my stereo in the late summer of 1970, I learned that there were some 45s I was going to have to find, containing four officially released Beatles recordings that had not been released on LPs. They were the single version of “Let It Be” and its odd B-side “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number),” the George Harrison-penned “The Inner Light,” which was the B-side to the “Lady Madonna” single, and “I’m Down,” released as the B-side to “Help!”

I eventually got all four, and over the years, when I’ve found a copy of those in better condition, I’ve upgraded. And I’ve collected later LP releases that included those four: The single version of “Let It Be” showed up on the 1973 anthology titled 1967-70. “I’m Down” was included on Rock & Roll Music in 1976. “The Inner Light” and “You Know My Name” eventually showed up on Rarities, released in 1980.

Of those four – and I still have the 45s for all of them – “I’m Down” and “Let It Be” are far better than the others. “You Know My Name” was a bad joke, and “The Inner Light” was Harrison’s first attempt at sharing his developing interest in Eastern philosophy and religion and was fairly stiff. To choose the better recording between the “Let It Be” single and “I’m Down,” however, is difficult. They’re both remarkable recordings. The “Let It Be” single is far better than the version eventually released on the album of the same name, and “I’m Down” has one of the best rock vocals that Paul McCartney ever put on tape; that and the instrumental support he gets from his band-mates makes it one of the rockingest things the Beatles ever did.

And they buried it on a B-side!

So, ripped from vinyl, “I’m Down” is today’s Saturday Single.

The Beatles – “I’m Down” [1965]

Celebrating Vinyl At 2,906 And Counting!

May 4, 2011

Originally posted August 10, 2007

As mentioned here earlier, it’s time to celebrate Vinyl Record Day at Echoes In The Wind this weekend with a blogswarm. Organized by the DJ at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, the weekend swarm will feature posts here and at these other fine music blogs:

AM Then FM
Bloggerhythms
Davewillieradio
Flea Market Funk
Fufu Stew
Funky16Corners
Good Rockin’ Tonight
Got the Fever
Ickmusic
Jefitoblog
Lost in the 80s
Py Korry
Retro Remixes
The Hits Just Keep On Comin’
The Stepfather of Soul

The actual day selected as VR Day is Sunday, Aug. 12, which turns out to be the 130th anniversary of the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison.

Now, old Tom didn’t invent the vinyl record. That came quite a bit later. Edison used wax cylinders to record sound, and around 1900 came the invention of the 78 rpm record made out of shellac. Both had obvious drawbacks. The wax cylinders were soft and could melt too easily, and 78s were heavy and more fragile than china. The dual problems of durability and weight were solved in 1948 when engineers at Columbia and at RCA invented the LP and the 45, respectively. But celebrating vinyl on the anniversary of old Tom’s breakthrough in recording sound just feels right.

So how should the vinyl record be celebrated? Well, by talking about record collecting.

But instead of talking in generalities, I thought I’d look at my collection and the milestone records. Which record was the 100th? Which was the 2,500th? And how about the numbers in between? I should note that having many times bought multiple LPs on the same day made it difficult to specify in some cases exactly which record was, say, the 500th I ever bought. I decided that any record bought the day I reached a milestone number was eligible, and I selected the record I thought most interesting.

I should also note that every mp3 shared in this post is a rip from the vinyl being discussed. There are a few pops here and there, as a result.

A third note: This will be a very long post.

No. 1: Honey In The Horn by Al Hirt, Sept. 5, 1964, St. Cloud, Minnesota. This 1963 release was the first record I can recall that was specifically mine. It was a present from my sister for my eleventh birthday. I’d been playing cornet for about three months, and after hearing “Java,” which reached No. 4 on the pop chart that year, I’d begun to look at Big Al as my model. “Java” is no longer my favorite song on the record. More than any other track, I love Al’s incredible work on “I Can’t Get Started,” a song that most horn players have left alone since Bunny Berigan’s definitive version in 1937. But the track I’ve decided to share is “Malibu” because, well, it just sounds like 1963 to me: There’s a couple in a car. It’s night, and they’re heading out of the city on the Pacific Coast Highway, maybe actually heading toward the beaches of Malibu. They’re in a convertible, maybe a Thunderbird, and its headlights slice through the post-midnight darkness. He’s probably something in show biz, maybe beginning a career in the business side of television, and she, well, she might work for the same network or studio. And life is good, with the soft sounds of the horn and the choir providing the soundtrack as they glide north through the night into the future.

No. 100: Mancini’s Angels by Henry Mancini, May 15, 1977, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I was just finishing college at St. Cloud State, and one day, down by the television studio, there was a box of records the radio station didn’t want. I grabbed a bunch, and this was one of them, a 1977 release that had Mancini and his pals performing not only the “Theme from Charlie’s Angels” but such classics as “Evergreen,” “Car Wash” and “Silver Streak.” (Just from this entry alone, it becomes obvious that I rarely throw anything out of the collection.)

No. 200: Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan, June 19, 1987, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I got this 1965 release as a gift from a lady friend with whom I was trying to acquire a complete collection of Dylan’s works. We succeeded at that, at least, and when we split up, I got the records. The track I’ve ripped is “She Belongs To Me.” I first heard the song when Rick Nelson took his version to No. 33 in early 1970. Although I like Nelson’s version, there’s nothing like the original.

No. 300: Cruisin’ 1967 by various artists, June 8, 1988, Minot, North Dakota. This is one of a series of LPs put out in the late 1970s and early 1980s by Increase Records. Each album centers on one year and packages hits from that year in the context of a Top 40 station, featuring a different announcer from a major market in the U.S., complete with jingles and commercials. The 1967 album, released in 1984, features Dr. Don Rose of WQXI in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s an interesting curio, but this one is the only one in the series I ever bought.

No. 400: Gaucho by Steely Dan, December 10, 1988, Minot, North Dakota. I likely got this 1980 album from the bin at the Minot Public Library, as December is not a month for garage sales, and there’s no price tag on the jacket, as there would be if I bought it retail, even second-hand. Library records are usually in bad condition, and I tend to avoid them. If that’s where I got this, then I did well, as it’s in pretty good shape. It’s an okay album, but it’s not my favorite Steely Dan album; I prefer Pretzel Logic.

No. 500: Chicago VI by Chicago, February 17, 1989, Minot, North Dakota. This 1973 album came from a pawnshop in downtown Minot, where every record was $2.50 or something like that. I didn’t get there a lot during my two years on the North Dakota prairie. These days, I imagine I’d be checking the new arrivals every couple of weeks, at least. I decided to share “What’s This World Comin’ To?” because, to my ears, it’s one of the last times Chicago really rocked.

No. 600: Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, July 11, 1989, Edina, Minnesota. I went on a binge in the Minneapolis suburbs after I moved back from the prairies in mid-1989, buying something more than thirty records my first month back in Minnesota. As to this 1967 album, well, it’s essential for any serious attempt at a good collection. I love “The Wind Cries Mary.”

No. 700: Tap Root Manuscript by Neil Diamond, June 2, 1990, Conway Springs, Kansas. This album came out in 1970, and I always meant to buy it but for some reason never looked for it. I ran across it and finally bought it on a Saturday morning of garage sale stops during a three-month stay in Kansas. I’m sharing “Done Too Soon,” which after thirty-seven years remains one of my favorite songs.

No. 800: Wet by Barbra Streisand, April 3, 1991, Columbia, Missouri. I’ve never been a big Babs fan, so I must have grabbed this 1979 release for something less than a dollar at a garage sale. I was teaching at a women’s college and beginning my final project for a master’s degree at the University of Missouri at the time. College towns are always good used music locales: I got some very nice albums during my two stays in Columbia.

No. 900: Wild Things Run Free by Joni Mitchell, Sept. 5, 1992, Minneapolis. I must have been spending birthday money when I picked this 1982 release up. I think I bought it new, and it fits in with the other Joni releases on the shelf even though it’s not a favorite of mine. I think this is one of Joni’s experiments that wasn’t real accessible.

No. 1000: Great Hits by Eddie Cochran, May 5, 1993, Minneapolis. The pace of buying is accelerating here, and so is the scope of my purchases. This is a collection put together in 1983, and it’s not bad, considering that Cochran had only three singles reach the Top 40 before he died in a car crash in 1960. I’ve ripped “Pink Peg Slacks” a 1956 recording that was released as Liberty single 10204.

No. 1100: My Baby Loves Lovin’ by White Plains, October 15, 1993, Richfield, Minnesota. This 1970 bit of studio Bazooka is pretty hacked up, but I only spent fifty cents for it as I made my way home through the suburbs one day. I got a good Al Stewart and a few other things at the same stop, so it wasn’t a total loss.

No. 1200: Burgers by Hot Tuna, August 4, 1995, Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I’d left the newspaper in Eden Prairie for a job in downtown Minneapolis in July, and one Sunday morning I got a call from the woman who’d coached gymnastics at Eden Prairie High: She and her husband were clearing out their old vinyl. Did I want it? I headed out to the southwest suburb pretty quickly and got this little gem from 1972 and another forty or so records. Best find of the batch? Probably two albums by Bonnie Koloc, a little-known singer/songwriter whose stuff I intend to post here soon.

No. 1300: History of Hi Records, Vol. Two by various artists, October 8, 1996, Minneapolis. I got this 1988 release and its companion first volume on a very odd Saturday morning. Unattached at the time, I went on a blind date, meeting a woman of similar age at a farmer’s market in Richfield, a suburb just south of Minneapolis. After wandering around the small market in a chill wind, we made our way to a record store in Minneapolis, one new to me. We browsed for a while, and when I went to the register to pay for the two Hi LPs and a book, she laid her two records on top of mine at the counter. The clerk rang them up on my tab as I stood there stunned. I paid and didn’t say anything, but I never called her for another date. I’ve ripped “You Made Me What I Am” by Erma Coffee, one of the lesser-known artists for Hi, the home of Al Green and Ann Peebles, among others. It was released in 1973 as Hi single 2253.

No. 1400: Beaucoups of Blues by Ringo Starr, July 26, 1997, Minneapolis. This is perhaps the most odd record of Ringo Starr’s career. A straight country, featuring some of the best sessions players in Nashville at the time, this 1970 release was Ringo’s second solo album following the break-up of the Beatles. It’s not something I listen to very often, but I’m glad it’s on the shelves.

No. 1500: Lady Day Blues by Billie Holiday, February 14, 1998, Minneapolis. By this time, I was stopping by Cheapo’s several times a week, checking the new arrivals every few days and keeping a bag full of holds behind the counter. I’d either buy the records or put them back in the bins each Saturday. This 1972 release on the AJ label is a goulash of performances from throughout Holiday’s career. Its only real attraction is the first release of a 1939 recording of “Don’t Be Late” with saxophonist Lester Young.

No. 1600: Gerry Rafferty by Gerry Rafferty, June 6, 1998, Minneapolis. This 1978 release – following Rafferty’s No. 2 hit “Baker Street” and the album City to City, which reached No. 1 – is a compilation of work from earlier in Rafferty’s career. Taken from two albums recorded in the early 1970s when he was part of a duo called the Humblebums, the record gives a look at Rafferty in the days before Stealer’s Wheel. I’ve ripped the track “Steamboat Row,” which appears to be an edit of the version the Humblebums recorded in 1970.

No. 1700: Faragher Brothers by the Faragher Brothers, August 4, 1998, Minneapolis. When I pulled this 1976 release from the stacks, I didn’t remember a thing about it, so I dropped it on the turntable as I was writing. It’s inoffensive pop rock with mellow vocals and a few horn flourishes, kind of a Pablo Cruise meets James Pankow of Chicago. The only name in the credits that rings any bells is that of producer Vini Poncia, who played numerous parts on Ringo Starr’s 1973 album Ringo and co-wrote “Devil Woman” for that album with Ringo. A year from now, I imagine I’ll have forgotten all about the Faragher Brothers again.

No. 1800: Caribou by Elton John, October 24, 1998, Minneapolis. I picked up this 1974 LP to help fill a gap. About this time, I realized I was low on stuff by Elton John and began looking for some. This release from 1974, a time when Elton was nearly king of the musical universe, fit nicely on the shelves.

No. 1900: Sonny Terry by Sonny Terry, December 5, 1998, Minneapolis. This was part of the Great Blues Grab at the local Salvation Army store. As I wrote once before, the manager of the store called me when someone dropped off about twenty boxes of nearly mint condition rock and blues albums. This 1965 release of archival performances on the Everest label is one of the relatively few records released during Terry’s lifetime – he died in 1986 – that did not also include his long-time partner, Brownie McGhee.

No. 2000: Dinner With Raoul by the Bliss Band, January 30, 1999, Minneapolis. I think this came in a box of records I bought at a church rummage sale. I’d often buy entire boxes of records – if most of them appeared to be in good shape – at rummage sales and garage sales, then sort through them, keep the ones that intrigued me and then sell the rest at Cheapo’s and a couple other places. I’d generally do no worse than break even, and I’d still have the records that interested me. I’ve ripped the track “Rio” from this 1978 album, which was produced by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. Like the Faragher Brothers above, the Bliss Band sounds to me a bit like Pablo Cruise or the Little River Band, both of which were hitting the charts about the time Dinner With Raoul was recorded.

No. 2100: The Babys: Anthology by the Babys, March 19, 1999, Minneapolis. A decent greatest hits album from 1981, this was another attempt to fill a (small) gap in the collection. I still do like “Isn’t It Time?”

No. 2200: Copeland Special by Johnny Copeland, May 10, 1999, Minneapolis. I was pretty much grabbing any blues LPs I found in good shape at Cheapo’s around this time, adding to the collection that started in earnest the previous December at the Salvation Army store. Copeland – who died in 1997 – was a pretty decent blues guitarist and singer who hailed from Houston, and this 1981 album was his first. I’ve ripped the title track, “Copeland Special,” which features the wonderfully named Brooklyn Slim on harmonica.

No. 2300: James Cleveland and introducing the Gospel Girls, by Rev. James Cleveland, June 13, 1999, Minneapolis. This LP, which was released on Savoy around 1960, as far as I could ever find out, is one of several gospel albums by African-American artists that I bought around this time. I’d seen the Twin Cities Community Gospel Chorus perform at a street fair, and as I was digging into the blues roots of rock, I decided to dig into the gospel roots of soul. On the back of the jacket, Savoy offers a copy of the label’s entire catalog for ten cents. I wonder if the offer’s still good.

No. 2400: Enigma by P. J. Proby, October 1, 1999, Minneapolis. Albums at Cheapo’s were priced according to quality and rarity. Most LPs in fine condition would cost you $3.60. Every once in a while, you’d find one that was a bit rare and that would run you $4.20. (The store’s owner siphoned off the truly rare LPs the store received; I wish I could have seen his collection.) This 1966 LP by folkie/rocker/singer-songwriter Proby – who was a star in England but never too prominent here – was priced at $5.30, which meant it was rare. I didn’t know much about it, but I grabbed it. It turned out to be kind of a chunky mix of roots and rock and folk, and I like it. I’ve ripped the track “Niki Hoeky,” which was also recorded by artists as diverse as Redbone, Aretha Franklin and the Ventures.

No. 2500: Still ’Round by Michael Gately, December 7, 1999, Richfield, Minnesota. Like the Faragher Brothers and Bliss Band records above, when I pulled this from the stacks, I looked at it and had no idea what it sounded like. So I dropped the needle on it. First came a somewhat funky introductory track with a saxophone solo. But the first vocal track put me in mind of England Dan & John Ford Coley, and then came a country rock thing, followed by more mellowness. After that, it was early 1970s singer-songwriter stuff. All I could ever find out about this record was that it came out in 1972 on the Janus label. By the price tag – sixty-nine cents – I can tell it came from a thrift store on Penn Avenue where I could occasionally find some treasures. This isn’t one of them.

No. 2600: We Got A Party by various artists, October 13, 2000, Minneapolis. Subtitled “The Best of Ron Records, Volume 1,” this turned out to be a nice little gem. I’m not sure where I got it – no price tag – so I’m guessing a garage sale. A 1988 release on the Rounder label, the LP collects fourteen tracks released as singles on the New Orleans-based Ron label from 1958 through 1962. Some of the familiar names are here – Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Robert Parker – along with some less prominent folks, including a performer named Paul Marvin. According to the notes, Marvin started life as Marvin Geatreaux and also went by the moniker Little Mummy. That was too odd to ignore, so I ripped Marvin’s 1959 single “Hurry Up,” which was released as Ron 322.

No. 2700: Typical American Boys by the Chad Mitchell Trio, June 22, 2002, St. Cloud, Minnesota. Still living in the Twin Cities at the time, the Texas Gal and I drove up to my hometown of St. Cloud on a June Saturday. We saw a parade, visited my folks and went to a few garage sales, one of which provided this 1965 release of super-bland folk. It’s a reminder of what college campuses sounded like in the years before Bob Dylan went electric and rock became something to think about. I’m reminded of the scene in the movie Animal House when John Belushi’s Bluto smashes the folk singer’s guitar.

No. 2800: Let’s Take A Sentimental Journey by various artists, May 20, 2004, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I got almost fifty albums that day. And I wish I didn’t own any of them. They were my dad’s, and I brought them home when Mom was getting ready to move after Dad died. Well, I guess I always knew I would end up with the records, and cataloging them when I brought them home was an afternoon of memories: Among them were Pearl Bailey, the Ray Charles Singers, Guy Lombardo, and about twenty excellent classical records from the Music Heritage Society. (My sister and I used to tease Dad when he was buying the Heritage Society records during the 1960s, and all he said was, “You’ll be glad to have them someday.” He was right.) There was a five-record set by the Mystic Moods Orchestra. And four Reader’s Digest boxed sets, one of which was Let’s Take A Sentimental Journey, which came out in 1970. From that box, I’ve selected a 1961 live performance by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra of “Sugar Foot Stomp.” The song was originally known as “Dippermouth Blues” and was first performed in the 1920s by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band; the high point of the song each night was a two-chorus solo by King Oliver himself on cornet. When the great Louis Armstrong moved from second chair in King Oliver’s band to first chair in Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra in 1924, he brought the song, now known as “Sugar Foot Stomp,” with him, and he brought King Oliver’s solo, too, note for note. In 1934, Henderson broke up his band and became an arranger for Benny Goodman, and he brought “Sugar Foot Stomp” and its cornet/trumpet solo, still played – note for note – as King Oliver first played it. And in this 1961 performance, following the first, brief solo by Goodman on clarinet, the horn player follows with King Oliver’s solo, played just as the King had done about forty years earlier, now about eighty years ago.

No. 2900: Harper Valley P.T.A. by Jeannie C. Riley, April 24, 2007, St. Cloud, Minnesota. There are very few places that sell any vinyl in St. Cloud these days. There are a few thrift stores, but I’ve rarely found anything in them worth bringing home. The only other place is the Electric Fetus downtown, with a small selection of new records and a slightly larger offering of used records. I stop in there about once a month, see what’s new in the used CD bins and take a look at the vinyl. Every once in a while, I find a record I’d forgotten about entirely. That was the case with this one. I don’t know that I ever aspired to have Harper Valley P.T.A, but I do recall when the title track was on the radio. (It was No. 1 for a week in the fall of 1968, and the LP went to No. 12, which has to make it one of the more successful crossovers from the country charts to the pop charts.) Along with the tale of the widowed mother calling out the hypocrites – with that sweet twanging guitar or dobro – the LP was almost a concept album, with its other vignettes of late 1960s life in a small southern town. Since I don’t hear it often on the oldies stations, I’ve ripped the title track, “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” to share here.

No. 2906: Another Day in Paradise by Bertie Higgins, August 1, 2007, St. Cloud, Minnesota. My most recent acquisition. A while back, I wrote about how I was certain I had a copy of this album somewhere and then learned to my surprise that I was wrong. Well, I saw it on my latest trip downtown, and laughing, I couldn’t resist. (The fact that it was priced at seventy-eight cents with thirty percent off helped.) And of course, I have to share “Key Largo,” which went to No. 8 in the summer of 1982. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

Muddy Waters At Newport, 1960

May 4, 2011

Originally posted August 9, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, a Baker’s Dozen from 1960 included the reprise of “I Got My Mojo Workin’” as performed by Muddy Waters and his band at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival.

A little bit of digging on YouTube provided the entire performance although the beginning of the reprise seems to have been edited out and an announcer talks over it, too.

Still, it’s a good clip and it gives a chance to see one of the giants of blues – indeed of American music – at his peak. Enjoy it!

A Baker’s Dozen From 1968, Vol. 2

May 4, 2011

Originally posted August 8, 2007

We didn’t take a lot of vacation trips when I was a kid.

Oh, Dad had vacations from his work at St. Cloud State, but we rarely traveled. We might spend a few days at a rental cabin on a lake somewhere north of St. Cloud. Frequently, August found my mother, my sister and I spending two weeks – with Dad coming down for the second week – at Grandpa’s farm in southwestern Minnesota, picking and freezing corn and green beans, canning tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables and butchering chickens.

We did make one major trip, however, in the late summer of 1968. My sister had spent eight weeks studying in France that summer and was scheduled to fly into Philadelphia on her return. My mom’s sister and her family lived in Reading, Pennsylvania, not far at all from Philly, so about a week before my sister’s return, Mom and Dad and I hopped into that same Ford Custom and headed southeast through Wisconsin.

We drove through Wisconsin Dells, with its souvenir shops and snack stands and its gaudy signs advertising boat tours and duck rides and treats, my head turning this way and that as we drove the city’s main street. (The city remains much the same, based on a 2006 visit; the only difference is that water parks abound on the city’s outskirts, along the I-94 route that I’m not sure existed in 1968.)

We made our way along turnpikes through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In a hotel room in Morton’s Grove, we watched on television as the Democratic Party selected its vice-presidential candidate in downtown Chicago – just a few miles distant – while outside the convention hall, police clubbed and savaged protesters in what was later categorized as a “police riot.”

Among the stops as we made our way to Reading were Notre Dame University and its Golden Dome in Indiana; Blue Hole and Mystery Hill in Ohio (the first a pond said to be too deep to measure and the second one of those places where gravity is said to be skewed and water and other things run uphill); the birthplaces of Thomas Edison in Ohio and President James Buchanan in western Pennsylvania.

We toured for a few hours the Civil War battlefield at Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and spent half a day at the battlefield at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. The ebb and flow of the 1862 battle at Antietam was too complex for me to grasp it as we drove from site to site there, but the next day, at Gettysburg, I stood on Cemetery Ridge and looked west to where, in 1863, the Confederate lines had been and from where Gen. George Pickett’s men had marched in the charge that has since been named for him.

The air had that odd stillness that seems to descend on every battlefield. It’s a quiet that seems to touch every place where too many men have fallen in defense of one ideal or another. And it weighed heavily at Gettysburg, especially at that point where Pickett’s Charge broke on the Union line, the Confederate soldiers having come nearly a mile through a storm of cannon shells and rifle balls.

That stillness, that weight of history, had gathered at some of the other places we saw on that trip, whether en route, in Pennsylvania, or on our way back to Minnesota. Few places were as somber or as haunting as Gettysburg, though. With my cousins, we visited Valley Forge near Philadelphia and then toured the historic sites in the city: Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross house, Benjamin Franklin’s grave. A couple of days later, with my sister safely returned, the four of us left Reading and went to Washington, D.C., for a day.

We toured the White House and wandered freely through the Capitol building (something that is sadly unthinkable today, I would guess), saw our nation’s founding documents at the National Archives and some of the Smithsonian Institution’s museums. But the most sobering moments had been late in the afternoon the day before at Arlington National Cemetery, another place where that silence descends, most notably at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy, assassinated less than five years earlier.

From Washington, we drove west, heading across the midsections of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. We visited friends and saw sites related to Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, and then toured several places related to author Mark Twain in the touristy but congenial small town of Hannibal, Missouri. From there, we headed north toward home.

It was a lot to absorb for a teenage boy, even one as tuned to history as I was. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a copy of Bruce Catton’s short history of the Civil War and dug into that when we got home. (Catton’s longer works are still on my list of things to read, as is Shelby Foote’s history of the conflict.) And as I read, I sorted through the places we’d seen, things I’d learned on that long trip. I guess, almost forty years later, I’m still sorting.

And when Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” popped up while I was compiling a random selection of songs from 1968, I was at first amused. Then it seemed appropriate to hear “We’ve all gone to look for America.” That’s what we were doing in the late summer of 1968, I guess – looking for America – and I think that’s what many of us are still doing today.

As always, bit rates will vary. Enjoy!

A Baker’s Dozen From 1968

“My Days Are Numbered” by Blood, Sweat & Tears from Child is Father to the Man

“I Am A Pilgrim” by the Byrds from Sweetheart of the Rodeo

“Roll With It” by the Steve Miller Band from Children of the Future

“Handbags & Gladrags” by Love Affair from Everlasting Love Affair

“Rocky Raccoon” by the Beatles from The Beatles

“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” by Jerry Butler from The Soul Goes On

“I Just Want To Make Love To You” by Muddy Waters from Electric Mud

“Good Feelin’” by the Peanut Butter Conspiracy from For Children of All Ages

“America” by Simon & Garfunkel from Bookends

“Through An Old Storybook by Sweetwater from Sweetwater

“I Got You Babe” by Etta James from the Tell Mama sessions

“Do You Know The Way To San Jose?” by Dionne Warwick, Scepter single 12216

“The Weight” by the Staple Singers from Soul Folk In Action

A few notes on some of the songs:

In Friday’s post on horn bands, I mentioned Blood, Sweat & Tears’ debut album, Child is Father to the Man. “My Days Are Numbered” is one of the better tracks on the album and, to my mind, gives a good example of Al Kooper’s hopes for the band before some of the other band members jettisoned him.

The Love Affair’s version of “Handbags & Gladrags” is not the best version out there of that great song; I like Chris Farlowe’s take on the song, and Rod Stewart’s version might be definitive. But the little-remembered Love Affair at least battled the song to a draw.

Electric Mud was Chess Records’ attempt to make Muddy Waters more current, putting the venerable bluesman together with what All-Music Guide calls “Hendrix-inspired psychedelic blues arrangements.” The record sold fairly well, but Waters didn’t like it, and the results are more of a curio than anything substantial today. (Chess did the same thing in 1968 with Howlin’ Wolf, and the results were, if anything, less good.)

Sweetwater was an odd band that featured flute, congas and cello as well as the traditional trappings of a rock band, and its music reflects that, with results ranging from remarkable to “What in the hell were they thinking?” Sweetwater was the group’s debut album, but in 1969 – during which the band was the first group to take the stage at Woodstock – lead singer Nansi Nevins was injured in a car crash and required years of physical therapy. The group recorded two albums without her and then faded away until 1997, when Nevins and some of the other original members reunited.