Archive for the ‘2008/06 (June)’ Category

One Of Those Days

July 18, 2011

Originally posted June 30, 2008

I’ve never written in any great detail about my health here (and I don’t plan to; I don’t want this space to turn into a “woe is me” place), but the fact is that there are days – generally Mondays – when my body tells me I’ve done too much in the past few days and it’s time to rest.

Today is one of those, but as I am loathe to leave the space entirely unmelodied, here’s a repost a reader requested, and a link to the original post.

Don Nix – Living by The Days [1971]

And just because, here’s the Fat Man with a song entirely appropriate for the day:

Fats Domino – “Blue Monday” [Imperial 5417, 1957]

Saturday Single No. 78

July 18, 2011

Originally posted June 28, 2008

I imagine my friend Rob and his wife, Barb – like many parents in any year – look at themselves sometimes and say, “How did this happen so quickly?”

Earlier this month, their younger daughter, Diedre, the third of three children, graduated from high school, and when late summer arrives and she heads off to college, Rob and Barb will have an empty nest. I imagine it feels odd now and will feel more so come the late summer.

The Texas Gal and I have no children. Parenthood wasn’t in the plans this time around. But we’ve seen our friends’ and relatives’ children grow, mature and prosper, watching those young folk separately in the years before we met and together for the past eight years. Twice before, we’ve been to Rob and Barb’s home in St. Francis for receptions celebrating graduations. Next summer, no doubt, we’ll head down to New Ulm to celebrate the graduation of Rick and Ellen’s son; we’ve been to their home for one previous reception, somehow missing the graduation of their elder daughter.

And today, we’ll go to Rob and Barb’s for the third time, for the reception celebrating Diedre’s accomplishments. Like the others before her, she is a bright and capable young person, and we wish her all the joys she can find, as she moves into the next stage of her life.

Also moving into the next stages of their lives are her parents, and we wish them well, too, of course. I have no advice for any of them: Diedre is by this time no doubt utterly weary of advice from well-meaning adults. And Rob and Barb – having navigated the rocks and shoals of parenthood – need no counsel from me.

What I have for the parents is a rumination, pulled from an album I’ve frequently brought to Rob and Barb’s home during visits. (“You always bring that record with the picture of the old people on the cover,” Rob would say when he saw Fairport Convention’s Unhalfbricking in the pile of records I’d selected for whatever occasion. But whenever I put the record on the stereo, he always enjoyed it.) As the two of them find moments after today’s busy-ness, I’m sure they’ll contemplate the passage of time.

So, for Rob and Barb – and for all parents everywhere pondering how their small ones grew up so fast – here’s Fairport Convention’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes,” today’s Saturday Single.

Fairport Convention – “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” [1969]

I Swear I Heard It On The Jukebox

July 18, 2011

Originally posted June 27, 2008

The image of a young folks’ hangout, a place of Cokes and laughter and a jukebox, is a central icon of American mythology, a scene generally based in the 1950s. One thinks of Arnold’s in the faux Fifties of television’s Happy Days or of the less bubbly but more realistic teen hangout – if it had a name, I don’t recall it – in John Farris’ disturbing 1959 novel, Harrison High. (Never heard of it? It seems to be forgotten these days. It’s worth a look.)

The only place I ever spent a great deal of time where there was a jukebox was Atwood Center at St. Cloud State. One of the main rooms in the snack bar area downstairs had one of the machines against the wall, and that happened to be the room in which we gathered, those twenty or so of us who made up The Table, to spend those portions of the day not devoted to the classroom. The jukebox wasn’t in constant play, but often enough, someone would wander over and drop in a quarter or two.

Accordingly, there are some songs and voices that are tied to Atwood Center and its jukebox, sounds I either heard for the first time there or else heard so frequently there that they became meshed with my memories of the place. Every once in a while, on the radio or from the computer, a song comes along whose first notes whirl me some thirty-five years back and a little more than a mile west of here, and in my mind, I’m once more in a place of coffee cups and notebooks, the occasional romance, and plenty of laughter for jests both silly and ribald.

What records put me there?

Shawn Phillips’ “We” is one of them, a record on which the Texas singer lets loose his amazing falsetto; I fed the jukebox frequently for that one, and I recall one of my tablemates shaking her head in admiration and murmuring, “He just soars, doesn’t he?” I also spent a few quarters to hear Bob Dylan’s “If You See Her, Say Hello,” the flipside to his single, “Tangled Up In Blue.”

Another B side that got a fair amount of play in Atwood was the live performance of “I Saw Her Standing There” by John Lennon and Elton John, the flipside to Elton’s hit single, “Philadelphia Freedom. There was Barry Manilow’s “Mandy,” a weeper that eased my way through the first major break-up of my life. We all rolled our eyes at the silliness of Reunion’s novelty, “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me),” with its rapid-fire selected history of rock & roll: “B. B. Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers . . .” But we kept playing it.

And as I finished my college days in 1977, it was occasionally to the accompaniment of “Smoke From A Distant Fire,” the single hit from the Sanford/Townsend Band.

Then there was Phoebe Snow. Her 1975 hit “Poetry Man” was a favorite down in the snack bar (and not only with those of us at The Table; that was a record that was frequently in play from other folks’ quarters, too). Her voice propelled “Gone At Last,” a Paul Simon record on which she shared billing later in 1975. And from everything I can find on the ’Net or in my library, I am in error, but I swear I heard Snow’s brilliant 1976 version of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” come from the jukebox. (I know I heard it on the radio as an album track, but my memory of hearing the song on the jukebox must be wrong, as I can find no trace of the song being released on a single. Anyone out there know anything?)

Error or not, Snow’s version of the Lennon-McCartney tune is brilliant, and it was the centerpiece of her sparkling 1976 album, It Looks Like Snow. (A digression here: On the record jacket, the name “Phoebe” is inserted from above, in a hand-written font, between the words “Like” and “Snow.” As a result, I’ve seen the album called It Looks Like Snow, It Looks Like Phoebe Snow or even It Looks Like (Phoebe) Snow. I’ve opted for the first.)

I wasn’t the only one who thought the album was a good one. Here’s part of the review from All-Music Guide:

“David Rubinson’s production of Phoebe Snow on the 1976 release It Looks Like Snow is an overpowering collection of pop-jazz-funk-folk that puts this amazing vocalist’s talents in a beautiful light. Whether it’s the Bowen/Bond/Hazel blues classic ‘Shakey Ground,’ which Elton John, Etta James, and so many others have explored, or her exquisite interpretation of the Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down,’ there is no doubt the material here should have ruled on the airwaves the year after her Top Five smash, ‘Poetry Man.’ How could Columbia Records not have this material saturating radio across America is the question . . . The singer’s solo composition ‘Drink Up the Melody (Bite the Dust, Blues)’ has her dipping into Maria Muldaur territory, and a duet between the two divas here would’ve been sensational. ‘My Faith Is Blind,’ soaked in gospel introspection, takes the album to another level with its soul searching and sense of spiritual discovery. It Looks Like Snow is a major work from a fabulous performer traversing styles and genres with ease and elegance.”

I really can’t add anything to that except to say that It Looks Like Snow is one of those records I’ve always enjoyed, no matter what my mood might be.

Musicians on the record were: Sonny Burke and David Pomeranz on keyboards; James Gadson, Ed Greene and Harvey Mason on drums; Reggie McBride and Chuck Domanico on bass; David Bromberg, Steve Burgh, Ray Parker, Jr., Greg Poree and Snow herself on guitar; Andy Narell on steel drums; Kurt McGettrick, Mel Martin, Hadley Caliman, Bob Yance and the Golden Age Jazz Band on horns; and Snow, Phil Kearns and the Waters Family (Orrin, Maxine and Julia) on background vocals.

Autobiography (Shine, Shine)
Teach Me Tonight
Stand Up On The Rock
In My Girlish Days
Mercy On Those
Don’t Let Me Down
Drink Up The Melody (Bite The Dust, Blues)
Fat Chance
My Faith Is Blind
Shakey Ground

Phoebe Snow – It Looks Like Snow (1976)

The Ronettes, Muddy Waters & Aretha

July 18, 2011

Originally posted June 26, 2008

Did some YouTubing and found a not-so-great video of the Ronettes’ “You Baby,” but I did find a pretty good video from 1965 of the gals on Shindig, peforming what I think is their best song of all (and one of the great singles in rock & roll history), “Be My Baby.”

This intrigues me because the backing obviously isn’t the same as on the record; does that mean it was the Shindogs playing and Ronnie Bennett was singing live? Then why don’t the other two girls have microphones? Anyone know how this all went down?

I dipped into the Muddy Waters stuff and found this performance of “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” It was evidently televised, based on the bug in the upper right corner of the screen, and from the clothing and Waters’ appearance, I’d guess it was sometime in the Seventies. It’s a pretty good look at Waters.

Video deleted

And here’s Aretha Franklin doing “Baby, I Love You” in a clip that appears to have come from a television show about 1967, when the song was on the charts.

Video deleted

Goodbye To Smudge

July 18, 2011

Originally posted June 25, 2008

When one owns pets, saying goodbye is part of the package. But it never gets easier.

This morning it was Smudge, the cat that the Texas Gal had bottle-raised, the little white lady who had been the Texas Gal’s baby since she was less than a day old.

It was the summer of 1998, and the Texas Gal was still in Texas, working as a buyer for a manufacturing firm in Dallas. One of the warehouse guys came to her office, carrying a small something. He said he’d seen it on the floor as he was driving a forklift. He thought it was a mouse, and he stopped to pick it up intact rather than have to clean it up later. But it was a kitten, no more than three inches long, so he brought it to the Texas Gal’s office, knowing she was a cat person.

The little thing was white with a gray patch on her forehead, so her name was Smudge. The mama cat might have dropped her when she was startled while moving her litter, or maybe Smudge got left behind as a runt. But raised on bottled milk and love, she survived. She never got very big – maybe eight pounds at the most. But she was the Texas Gal’s kitty for just about ten years.

And Smudge was no one else’s cat. She and I shared the same quarters for seven years, and, at best, she tolerated me. I could pet her and she’d put up with it for a moment or two, then squirm away or – if she could not get away – slap my hand five or six times with a tiny lightning-fast front paw. Still, the Texas Gal told me, no one else had ever been able to touch Smudge without her screaming and biting. So I did pretty well.

She was skittish, Smudge was, possibly because of her origins. Loud noises and strangers worried her. And it didn’t help that one of the catboys, Clarence, liked to chase her. She spent a lot of time in dark corners. And she spent a lot of time curled up on the Texas Gal’s lap, the one place in the world she felt safe.

About ten days ago, on a Saturday night, the Texas Gal noticed that something was wrong. We took Smudge to the emergency vet, who corrected the immediate problem with a minor procedure but told us that the root cause was unchanged. The problem was likely to be chronic. Last evening, we concluded, reluctantly, that the vet was right, and Mudgie was only going to be less and less comfortable as time went on. So this morning, we took her to see Dr. Tess, and we said goodbye.

So here’s a Baker’s Dozen for the Texas Gal’s baby.

A Baker’s Dozen of Babys
“Baby Don’t Do Me Wrong” by John Lee Hooker from I Feel Good, 1971

“Baby Please Don’t Go” by Muddy Waters from Muddy Waters at Newport, 1960

“Baby Ruth” by Delbert McClinton from The Jealous Kind, 1980

“You, Baby” by the Ronettes from Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes, 1964

“Baby, I Love You” by Aretha Franklin, Atlantic single 2427, 1967

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” by John Hammond from Tangled Up In Blues, 1999

“Rock A Bye Baby Blues” by Ray Thomas from From Mighty Oaks, 1975

“Baby Let’s Wait” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie single 3461, 1969

“Our Baby’s Gone” by Herb Pederson from Southwest, 1976

“Baby It’s You” by the Shirelles, Scepter single 1227, 1962

“My Baby Loves Lovin’” by White Plains, Deram single 85058, 1970

“Ruby Baby” by Donald Fagen from The Nightfly, 1982

“Me and Baby Jane” by Leon Russell from Carney, 1972

A few notes:

This set is a little bluesier than most of them get, what with John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and John Hammond. Delbert McClinton shades that way sometimes too.

It’s funny that the one track with the word “blues” in its title is one of the more odd blues that one can find. Ray Thomas, a member of the Moody Blues, released From Mighty Oaks during the years when the Moodies were inactive. Like most solo outings from the members of the group, the album sounds very much like the Moody Blues. And even though Thomas’ voice slides into blue tones now and then during “Rock A Bye Baby Blues,” when you consider the non-blues chord progression, his voice and the airy production, well, if it’s a blues, it’s a unique one.

“Baby Let’s Wait” is a dirge-like ballad that reached the lower levels of the Top 40 – No. 38 – in 1969. The Royal Guardsmen are better known for reaching No. 2 as 1966 turned into 1967 with “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” and for that record’s follow-up, “The Return of the Red Baron,” which went to No. 15 in the spring of 1967.

I wrote some time back about Smith’s version of “Baby It’s You,” which went to No. 5 in 1969. The original by the Shirelles went to No. 8 in early 1962. Smith might have had the better version, but the Shirelles had the better career: Smith had just the one Top 40 hit, while the Shirelles had twelve of them, including two No. 1 hits: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Soldier Boy.”

‘We’ll Talk In Present Tenses . . .’

July 13, 2011

Originally posted June 24, 2008

I made an off-hand comment the other week while writing about the music that helped keep me sane during my invalid summer of 1974: “I tend to think that ‘Help Me’ is the best thing Joni Mitchell has ever recorded over the course of her long career.”

Since then, I’ve been pondering that thought. I know I’m not nearly as familiar with Mitchell’s (admittedly sparse) work in the past fifteen years as I am with the music that came before. Given critical reaction, I should get hold of last year’s album, Shine, and then see what I think. But beyond that album, based on what I’ve read and heard and remember hearing on the stereo, I don’t think I need to dig too deeply into the 1990s or even the 1980s work by Mitchell to review my comment.

I’ll grant Mitchell one huge thing: She’s never been afraid to experiment. It sometimes seems, looking at her catalog, that since 1974’s Court and Spark, her career has been one long experiment, starting with this quartet of 1970s albums: The Hissing of Summer Lawns. Hejira. Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. Mingus. They pulled influences and ideas from all over the musical map, delighting some listeners, dismaying others and confusing many. I hadn’t followed Mitchell as closely in the first half of the Seventies as I’d followed other musicians, so it didn’t upset me when she embarked on her explorations, but I found her work not only less accessible but less likable, as well. It was challenging, certainly, and that’s not a bad thing. But it wasn’t fun anymore. And I quit listening.

I picked up a few later-era Mitchell albums during the 1990s – Wild Things Run Fast, Dog Eat Dog, Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm and Taming The Tiger come to mind – and found myself listening to them once and then shelving them. I recognized the effort, the reach, but again, I got little pleasure. During that time, I made a lot of mix tapes for friends as my music collection grew, drawing music from a wider range of artists and styles month by month. But I recall that I rarely pulled any of the later Mitchell albums from the stacks, declining to even listen to single tracks as I made tapes. I wondered: Was my disinterest in Mitchell’s more challenging work a deficiency? Well, I finally answered myself, if it is, then so what? Life is too short to listen repeatedly to music one doesn’t like.

My hope is to someday soon dig into Mitchell’s later work again to see if my reactions to it have changed as time has passed. But for now – and pending a listen to Shine, which has had nice things said about it – I’ll hold to my comment about “Help Me.” Trailing behind it in my list of favorite Mitchell tunes would be “Chelsea Morning,” “The Last Time I Saw Richard,” Free Man In Paris” and “Songs to Aging Children Come.” (“Both Sides Now” and “Woodstock” are great songs but have gotten a little tired.)

The obvious thing to do here would be to offer a cover version of “Help Me.” A check at All-Music Guide shows more than 300 listings for “Help Me,” but many of those are for other songs with the same title. (A good share of them belong to the blues tune of that title by Sonny Boy Williamson II, a nice piece but not at all what’s being sought today.) At a rough guess, maybe a fifth of the entries listed, maybe about sixty, are recordings of Mitchell’s tune. And it turns out I have none of them in my collection (a gap that will be filled).

The crop is a little leaner for “Chelsea Morning,” but oddly enough, I have two of the twenty or so cover versions listed. As to other versions, I’m sure I’ve heard Neil Diamond’s 1971 version, from his Stones album, and I know I’ve heard Judy Collins’ version, which was on Living, also from 1971. I have the version that Fairport Convention recorded for its 1968 self-titled album. But I decided to go a slightly different direction and offer the version that Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 recorded for the group’s 1971 album, Stillness.

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – “Chelsea Morning” [1971]

Spending Time On Glory Road

July 13, 2011

Originally posted June 23, 2008

After eight years of ripping CDs to mp3s, after two years of wandering around music blogs and harvesting their offerings, and after a year and a half of ripping vinyl to mp3s and sharing music back and forth with the world (or at least that portion of it that comes by here), it’s sometimes difficult to recall with any certainty where I found some of the music I listen to.

Every once in a while, a track pops up on the RealPlayer and I wonder, “Where in the hell did I get that?” Sometimes I can recall, and sometimes a note somewhere in my files tells me. Sometimes I have no clue: I’m still not sure where I picked up “Every Beat of My Heart,” an mp3 of a 1971 single by Josie & The Pussycats, which popped up during a recent random run. I may never know. The same holds true, I’m sure, for many of the 28,000 mp3s in the player. (Yes, I’ve been busy since I got the external disc drive last winter.)

If the mp3 that pops up came from my collection – either vinyl or CD – it’s easy enough to track down: My logs for both forms of media tell me date and place of purchase. (When I created the database for the vinyl about seven years ago, I learned that during the early years – 1964 through, oh, 1972 – I’d recorded only month and year, so actual dates for those year, except for birthday gifts and so on, are estimated but are pretty accurate, I think.)

And then there are those songs I never have to look up. I can recall within a few days either way when I got most of the Allman Brothers Band’s albums as well as a lot of the Beatles’ work, and Bob Dylan’s. That goes for a few others, too.

I’m on my second vinyl copy of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, but I recall clearly when I got my first copy in May 1975. My folks were heading to the Twin Cities for the day, and Mom asked if there were any records I wanted. I jotted down two titles and headed off to the college. When I got home that evening, there was a bag from Musicland with Pink Floyd’s masterpiece and Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey inside. I thanked her, and she pointed at the Pink Floyd with an odd look on her face.

“Is there something bad about that record, something shady?” she asked. “What kind of music is it?”

I shrugged, remembering her reaction a few years earlier to the Beatles’ “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” and I said, “I suppose it’s called progressive rock. It’s different, but nothing awful. Why?”

“When I took it to the counter,” said my mom, at the time a matron in her mid-fifties, “the man there looked at it, and then at me, and he said, ‘Ma’am, are you sure you want this record?’”

I laughed, then said, “There’s nothing wrong. It’s just that not a lot of folks your age would listen to it.”

She nodded. “Okay,” she said.

As the music plays week by week here at Echoes In The Wind, other songs pop up that occasionally remind me where I got them. One did so this weekend, a tune called “Glory Road,” and it took me back not all that many years. I’ve written before about haunting the clearance racks at a Half-Price Books in St. Paul during the waning days of 1999 and the early days of 2000. The database shows about forty CDs from St. Paul during that time, the vast majority of them purchased for a dollar or maybe two. Most of those CDs were just okay, pleasant in the background for an afternoon of reading or other puttering. But every once in a while, one of them seemed a whole lot better than one would expect for a dollar CD.

One of those was the CD from which came “Glory Road.” The song was the title tune to a 1992 album by a group called Maggie’s Farm. It’s the only album the group ever released, although singers Allison MacLeod and Claudia Russell have released albums since as solo artists. Glory Road is a good enough album to underline once more how difficult it must be to make it in the music business. After “Glory Road” popped up on the player the other day, I listened to the entire CD again. And just as I have every other time I’ve played the entire CD, I nodded at the well-written and evocative lyrics and at the music that shone behind the words. I’ve seen the album classified as Americana, and that fits, I guess, but whatever you call it, it’s just a darned good album.

It’s not often that I break out of the era that I generally focus on here, the years from about 1964 through 1985. When I do so, it’s for something I consider special. Something about Glory Road just grabs hold of me, every time I listen to it. I hope it does the same for you.

Members of Maggie’s Farm were Allison MacLeod on vocals and guitar; Claudia Russell on vocals, guitar and percussion; Roy Scoutz on guitar; Brian Kerns on keyboards; Jason Keene on bass; and Steve Bankuti on drums and percussion.

Other musicians on the album were David Lindley on Hawaiian guitar and electric lap steel guitar; Michael Landau on electric guitar; Dean Parks on acoustic guitar; Cliff Magness on guitar, keyboards and background vocals; Randy Kerber on keyboards, including Hammond B-3 organ; Michael Fisher on percussion and chimes; and Mark Lee, Maxine Waters, Julia Waters, Roy Galloway, Mark Vieha, Suzy Benson, Rosemary Butler and Arnold McCuller on background vocals.

Glory Road
Sweet Angel
Not Until The Wind Changes
That’s Not Love
I’ll Take Care Of You
Home Is Where My Heart Is
River Of Sleep
I’m Not Guilty
If It Feels Like Love
Get Out Of Town

Maggie’s Farm – Glory Road [1992]

(Number of copies of Dark Side of the Moon and date of original acquisition corrected May 1, 2015.)

Saturday Single No. 77

July 13, 2011

Originally posted June 21, 2008

The arrival of the solstice yesterday makes it almost a requirement that one write about summer. And as the sun lingered in the western sky last evening, I sorted through songs, looking for something on which I could hang a tale or at least an emotion.

I’ve written about a few summers (or parts of summers) of my youth: working at the annual trapshoot for three years, mowing lawns and scrubbing floors at the college in 1971, the 1972 trip to Winnipeg with my pals, moving a house with my friend Murl in 1975, and most recently, recovering from the 1974 ailment that assailed my lungs.*

As I looked through lists of songs last evening, I remembered something else about 1972’s summer, the one that ended with Rick and Gary and me going to Winnipeg. I recalled the way I spent most Saturday evenings: on long bike rides.

Rick, heading into his senior year of high school, was spending more time on weekends with his classmates. And the friends I’d made during my first year of college had gone back home, most to the Twin Cities. I was working twenty or so hours a week as a janitor, which kept me mostly busy Monday through Friday, but Saturday evenings, as that summer began, found me flying solo and without a flight plan.

So I got in the habit of getting on my Schwinn Typhoon about, oh, seven o’clock each Saturday evening and heading south along Riverside Drive, down the steep hill that led to the old narrow bridge across the Mississippi. Across the river and then up a steep hill. From there, I’d wander the south side, eventually riding past the building where I spent my junior high school years and past the homes where lived two girls I’d known in high school, a couple years younger than I. (Did I want them to see me? I think so. Did they? I’ve never known.)

I’d make my way to downtown, cross the river via the De Soto Bridge and head home, concluding about a five-mile ride. Along the way, I’d stop at the municipal swimming pool. I’d lock my bike to the rack, stop at the concession stand and buy a Frozen Milkshake – a candy bar very much like a Milky Way frozen onto a stick – and sit in the bleachers by the pool for a few moments, watching without seeing as the kids splashed and swam, and listening to the music that came over the PA system.

What did I hear? I recall Malo’s “Suavecito” and the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There.” I heard “Too Late To Turn Back Now” by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose and “How Do You Do” by Mouth & McNeal. I also remember Procol Harum’s “Conquistador” and a Carly Simon tune from the previous summer, the depressing “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.”

I also recall another song from one of those Saturday evenings as I ate my frozen treat, vaguely watching the swimmers and pondering how odd my life seemed that summer. It’s a record that peaked at No. 29 during the third week of June 1972, a record that meshed perfectly with my Saturday evening thoughts.

That’s why “Isn’t Life Strange,” pulled from the Moody Blues’ album, Seventh Sojourn, is this week’s Saturday Single.**

Moody Blues – “Isn’t Life Strange” [1972]

Note: I’m not sure if there was a single edit, but if there was, I don’t have it. This is the album track.

*As noted on the post about moving the house, that almost certainly took place in 1976 rather than 1975. But that, as I noted when I published that post on this archival site, changes nothing about the friendship Murl and I shared nor does it diminish the quality of the music I offered from 1975.

**Reader and pal Yah Shure left a comment soon after this post went up, noting that the single release of “Isn’t Life Strange” preceded by a fair amount of time the release of the album Seventh Sojourn. Saying that the track was “pulled from the album,” he said, is a bit of an overstatement.  Notes added July 13, 2011.

Finding A Cold-Blooded ‘Thriller’

July 13, 2011

Originally posted June 20, 2008

During the late 1990s, when I was playing keys in the recreational band that we called Jake’s, one of my guides to music new to me was one of our drummers, Chazz. As soon as he learned that I was a record collector, Chazz began to bounce suggestions and ideas my way. On the phone, during breaks at rehearsal and during fairly lengthy drives into the exurbs to practice with a smaller group we played with, we talked about all types of music, but especially funk, R&B, rap and hip-hop.

Chazz was a professional musician – the other members of his first band were his cousin, Prince, and a neighbor who became André Cymone – and his background in those and many related styles of music far exceeded mine. So I kept his comments and suggestions in mind as I made my thrice-weekly trips to Cheapo’s and rummaged through stacks of records in a few other shops.

Sometimes I could surprise him. One evening, as we waited for a gig to start, he mentioned to me that he’d heard something good that day. “There’s a group called SWV,” he said.

I nodded. “Sisters With Voices,” I said.

He stared at me. “How’d you hear of them?”

I shrugged, said I’d read or heard of them somewhere.

Sometimes I could fake him out. One Saturday evening, he called and asked what I’d found that day. One record I mentioned was a collection of the Ohio Players’ work called Gold. I hadn’t yet played it and knew little about it, but as I mentioned it, I remembered something I’d read about the record somewhere. “It looks okay,” I told him, “but it doesn’t have ‘Funky Worm’ on it.”

He cackled. “Oh, man,” he said, “cat knows ‘Funky Worm’!”

During the three or four years we hung out together, I learned about a lot of music new to me. Probably the best advice he gave me, though, was about the San Francisco-based group Cold Blood. I’d seen the group’s first album in a store’s stacks and it caught my eye, so I grabbed it. I knew nothing about the group at the time and before I played the record, I mentioned it to Chazz. “Soon as we hang up,” he said, “You listen to it, and then you go look for the rest.”

I listened, and I looked. As related earlier, I eventually found all six of Cold Blood’s albums from the late 1960s and early 1970s. I might have gotten around to the rest of the group’s work eventually, but who knows? One of those that Chazz particularly urged me to find was the band’s fourth album, the 1973 release, Thriller!

When I found it in early 1999, I understood why. The second of two the band released on Reprise, it might be Cold Blood’s best album. Six of the seven tracks are covers, with only “Live Your Dream” being an original (written by trumpet player Max Haskett), and the band gets inside most of the covers and finds a way to claim them as their own. The one exception is Stevie Wonder’s “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.” It’s not a bad version of the song; it’s just that there are some songs that are so fiercely identified with their original performers that it’s almost foolhardy to try to take them on. And this seems to be one of those songs.

But that seems to be the only misstep on the record. The best work comes on what was Side Two of the original vinyl: “Sleeping,” the Robbie Robertson/Richard Manuel tune that was on The Band’s Music From Big Pink; “Live Your Dream” from Haskett; “I’ll Be Long Gone,” the Boz Scaggs tune from his first solo album; and “Kissing My Love,” a Bill Withers song that he hid on his third album, Still Bill.

The band is crisp and the vocals from lead singer Lydia Pense are good throughout, but for some reason, the last four tracks – Side Two in the original configuration – work better. I’m not sure why the first side doesn’t grab me as much (aside from my already mentioned concern about the Stevie Wonder cover). For whatever reason, those first three tracks – with Jerry Ragovoy’s “Baby I Love You” and Temple and Johnson’s “Feel So Bad” sandwiched around the Wonder song – just seem somehow a little less shiny.

Overall, the horn work seems better here than on the group’s first three albums: Cold Blood from 1969, Sisyphus from 1970 and 1972’s First Taste of Sin. The band’s members were pretty good on horns, but the credits on Thriller! show that the band got help – who knows how much? – from a full slate of well-known Bay Area horn players: Mel Martin, Bill Atwood, Bob Ferreira, Pat O’Hara, John Mewborn, Benny Maupin, Mike Andreas and Rigby Powell. (If you run most of those names through All-Music Guide and click on “credits,” you’ll find amazing lists of albums.)

Other credits show Holly Tigard and the Pointer Sisters providing background vocals.

Cold Blood’s members were: Pense on vocals, Gaylord Birch on drums, Rod Ellicott on bass, Haskett on trumpet and background vocals, Raul Matute on keyboards, Skip Mesquite on tenor saxophone, flute and background vocals, Michael Sasaki on electric and acoustic guitars, and Peter Welker on trumpet and flugelhorn.

Baby I Love You
You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
Feel So Bad
Live Your Dream
I’ll Be Long Gone
Kissing My Love

Cold Blood – Thriller [1973]

Another ‘Road To Cairo’

July 13, 2011

Originally posted June 19, 2008

Back in the corners of YouTube this morning, I found a nugget: Here’s video of Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll and the Trinity during a presentation of David Ackles’ “Road to Cairo” in 1968. It’s most likely a television production, but I know no more than that (though a visitor to YouTube says he/she recalls seeing the video on the German television show Beat Club some forty years ago).