Archive for the ‘2009/10 October’ Category

Authors On The Cards

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 9, 2009

While waiting for the Texas Gal to get home yesterday afternoon, I was wandering around the Web and found myself at one of my favorite sites, Find A Grave, a site that catalogs the resting places of people both famous and not. I can spend hours there, wandering through lists of folks buried in Massachusetts or in Hungary or anywhere else on the planet. I’ve seen in person a few of the graves of famous folk listed at the site. I hope to see a few more someday, and I have a few regrets that years ago, I was near several famous cemeteries and did not visit them.

Anyway, I somehow wound up looking at the entry for the tomb of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson on the island of Samoa. (You can read the epitaph carved on his tomb – a favorite of mine – here.) I glanced at the picture of Stevenson at Find A Grave (a cropped version is shown here) and I thought to myself, “Yes, that’s about what his picture looked like on the playing cards.”

The card game was Authors, and my sister and I played it frequently when we were kids. The deck was made up of forty-four fifty-two cards, with each card representing a work by one of thirteen famous authors. The game had the players collect complete sets of four cards for each author, and the player who collected the most sets – called “books” – was the winner. Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the eleven thirteen authors in the game, and his portrait on the cards did in fact look a lot like the picture at Find A Grave and other portraits of him that can be found online.

I once had two copies of the Authors card game, the slightly battered copy my sister and I played with for years and another copy that had never been used, but I don’t think I have them anymore. I believe they were included when I took five or six boxes of my childhood toys to an antique dealer about five years ago. (If my childhood toys are antiques, what does that make me?) And if I still have one of those copies of Authors, it’s somewhere in a box on the basement shelves, and I have no idea which box.

But I wondered, as I looked at Stevenson’s picture, if I could remember the thirteen authors whose works were used as cards in the game. I began a list:

William Shakespeare
Charles Dickens
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Sir Walter Scott
Louisa May Alcott
Robert Louis Stevenson
James Fenimore Cooper
Washington Irving
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mark Twain

And there I stopped. Ten down, three to go. As we ate dinner and watched an hour or so of television, I let the question lie, knowing that sometimes information rises when it’s not being tugged at. I went back to my list later in the evening and got no further. Hoping to jog my memory, I went to a list of those buried or commemorated in the Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey in London. And I found one name, an American poet memorialized there.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There my list stops. I cannot recall the names of the last two authors from the card game. And I cannot find a list of the thirteen online. Does anyone out there know? [See Afternote below.]

I have only one song with the word “author” in the title, so I skipped past it and went to the word that describes what authors do:

A Six-Pack of Write
“Nothing to Write Home About” by Colin Hare from March Hare [1972]
“Paper to Write On” by Crabby Appleton from Rotten to the Core [1971]
“Write Me A Few Of Your Lines/Kokomo Blues” by Bonnie Raitt from Takin’ My Time [1973]
“Why Don’t You Write Me” by Punch from Punch [1969]
“Write A Song A Song/Angeline” by Mickey Newbury from Looks Like Rain [1969]
“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter)” by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie from Sinatra-Basie [1962]

I found Colin Hare’s March Hare at Time Has Told Me, which notes that the album “is a UK troubadour classic which still sounds fresh and innovative today.” Hare – little known in the U.S. even at the time – was a member of Honeybus, handling rhythm guitar and vocals. (All-Music Guide says of Honeybus: “[T]hey came very close, in the eyes of the critics, to being Decca Records’ answer to the Rubber Soul-era Beatles,” an astounding statement that tells me that perhaps I should dig into the Honeybus catalog.) Hare’s own discography at AMG lists March Hare and two albums from 2008 that I know nothing about. March Hare is decent listening, and “Nothing to Write Home About” is quirky enough that it stands out when it pops up from time to time.

Most folks recall Crabby Appleton from the group’s very good single, “Go Back,” which slid into the Top 40 and came to rest at No. 36 in the summer of 1971. That was the group’s only hit, and in search of another, says AMG, the group tried on a harder sound for its second album, Rotten to the Core, “veering off into boogie rock and heavier Zeppelin-esque romps, twice removed from the plaintive power pop and conga-driven rock of their debut.” That makes “Paper to Write On,” with its plaintive country sound, an even more odd choice for the Crabbies. I like it, but it reminds me (and AMG agrees) of the Flying Burrito Brothers. That’s not a bad thing, but for a group like Crabby Appleton trying to cement an identity, it seems strange.

I don’t have to say a lot about Bonnie Raitt except that she’s one of my favorites. Takin’ My Time was her third album (and the track “Guilty” was the first Bonnie Raitt tune I ever heard). Both “Write Me A Few Of Your Lines” and “Kokomo Blues” were credited to Mississippi Fred McDowell, although “Kokomo Blues” has also been credited in other places to Kokomo Arnold and Scrapper Blackwell.

I found Punch’s delightful cover of Paul Simon’s “Why Don’t You Write Me” at Redtelephone66, where I’ve found gem after gem in the past few years. (Thanks, Leonard!) I find it interesting that Punch released the song on its self-titled album in 1969 while the Simon & Garfunkel version didn’t come out until 1970 with the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water. Technically, that means that Simon & Garfunkel’s version is a cover.

The haunting “Write A Song A Song/Angeline” is the opening track to Mickey Newbury’s equally haunting album Looks Like Rain, which is one of those records that you wonder how the world missed when it came out. But then, I’m tempted to say the same thing about a lot of Newbury’s work. He wasn’t exactly unknown, but . . .

The awkwardly titled “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter)” comes from one of several projects that Frank Sinatra did with Count Basie and his orchestra. As time moves on, I find myself more and more appreciating the Sinatra catalog, listening more and more to the work he did in the 1950s and early 1960s. I imagine that any list ever compiled of the essential entertainers in American music history would have Frank Sinatra’s name at or very close to the top. (I’m not even going to try – writing as I am on the fly – to figure out who else would be in the Top Ten.)

Based on a post with two accompanying pictures that I found at another blog, I have to assume that our game only had eleven authors in it, as opposed to the thirteen authors I’ve seen mentioned other places. The game we played came in the blue box with Shakespeare’s picture on it, just as pictured at Bachelor at Wellington. In other words, I remembered ten of the eleven on my own, and needed a reminder only for Longfellow.

Note from 2022: The photo and website referenced above are no longer available. Below is a similar photo of the author cards and a photo of the blue box.

Six At Random

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 7, 2009

Well, it’s time to open up the RealPlayer, flip the switch on the randomizer and see what we get for a Wednesday morning Six-Pack pulled from the years 1950-1999. (As is my usual practice, I’ll ignore songs that have been shared here recently. And for today, I’ll also ignore utter obscurities.)

A Mostly Random Six-Pack from 1950-1999
“Sway” by Alvin Youngblood Hart from Paint It, Blue: Songs of the Rolling Stones [1997]
“Wrapped Around” by the Cates Gang from Come Back Home [1973]
“Where Have You Been” by Astrud Gilberto from Now [1972]
“Take It Or Leave It” by Foghat from Fool for the City [1974]
“Hospitals” by Pollution from Pollution II [1972]
“Lady Samantha” by Three Dog Night from Suitable For Framing [1969]

In the late 1990s, the House of Blues restaurant and entertainment chain issued at least three CDs with a simple concept: Have blues artists interpret the songs of major rock performers and songwriters. Paint It, Blue seems to have been the first of them; the two other House of Blues recordings that I have cover the songs of Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, and both date from 1999. I know there are other CDs with the same idea; I’ve seen one for the Beatles’ White Album, but I don’t know if that’s from the House of Blues or from another organization/label. And it seems as if determining the label for these can be somewhat confusing; the fine print on the Paint It, Blue CD case mentions Platinum Entertainment and Polygram Group Distribution, but at All-Music Guide, the labels mentioned are A&M and Ruf.

Lineage and ownership confusion aside, the three CDs I have are very good, and Paint It, Blue is likely the best of the three: Alvin Youngblood Hart and his versions of “Sway” and “Moonlight Mile” sit side-by-side with work from Luther Allison, Johnny Copeland, Junior Wells, Otis Clay, Taj Mahal, Gatemouth Brown and more. In the liner notes, Hart says, “I was a Stones fan during the Mick Taylor era (1969-76). Not to say I’m stuck on Mick Taylor, but the band as a whole was really cooking from Let It Bleed on. And, I used to do ‘Sway’ in a garage band. That’s how we approached it.”

I’ve written about my enjoyment of the Cate Brothers and I’ve shared a couple albums before; the Cates Gang recording here comes from work the brothers did before dropping the “s” and calling themselves simply brothers. This track is from the second of two albums released as the Cates Gang, and like the music that came later, it owes a lot to southern soul and R&B, with a touch of southern rock and – I think – the Everly Brothers stirred into the recipe. I found both Come Back Home and an earlier Cates Gang recording, Wanted, at the excellent blog Skydog’s Elysium.

Part of the attraction of the original version of “The Girl From Ipanema” was the unaffected vocal by Astrud Gilberto, who was either singing professionally for the first time or singing in English for the first time. (I’ve read the story both ways, but I lean toward the first.) The slight tone and the occasional uncertain shadings of pitch enticed one into the Stan Getz/João Gilberto performance. After that debut, Astrud Gilberto made good career out of the breathy vocals and slight tone, but nothing I’ve heard – and I’ve listened to a good portion of her catalog though not all of it – replicates the charm of her first performance. That’s not to say that Astrud Gilberto’s work – the most recent of her eighteen albums listed at AMG was released in 2002 – isn’t enjoyable. It’s just that I find her work – like that of many artists – more suited to hearing in random single doses than in a sustained presence. Of the albums of hers that I have heard, Now ranks pretty well, and “Where Have You Been” was one of four songs on the album that Gilberto penned herself.

Fool for the City was Foghat’s breakthrough album, with the band’s hard-rocking (for the times) boogie bringing home the group’s first Top 40 hit. (“Slow Ride” went to No. 20 in 1976.) Which makes “Take It Or Leave It,” the album’s closer, an enigma. I know it got some radio play (a hunch of mine confirmed by AMG), but until the closing vocal yelps, the song sounds more like something from Pablo Cruise or the Little River Band – both of which were still two or three years away – than something from Foghat. That’s not a slam at “Take It Or Leave It,” which I quite like, or at Pablo Cruise or the Little River Band, both of which I enjoy in measured amounts. It’s just a comment on cognitive dissonance caused by Foghat’s odd stylistic choice.

Beyond the fact that I enjoy the music, anything I know about the group Pollution comes from another great blog Play It Again, Max. One thing I did note, after reading Max’s comments about the band and digging a little further, is that among the players credited on both Pollution and Pollution II was Terry Furlong on guitar. Furlong is better known perhaps for his work with the Grass Roots, but he’s recognized in these precincts as a member of Blue Rose, a group for which I have some affection, based on my all-too-brief acquaintance with bass and guitar player Dave Thomson.

“Lady Samantha” is an album track from Three Dog Night’s second album, Suitable For Framing, a record that went to No. 16 on the album chart and threw off three Top 40 singles: “Easy To Be Hard,” “Eli’s Coming” and “Celebrate.” The intriguing thing about the song “Lady Samantha” is that it was an early piece of work by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, with John’s version released as a single in the U.K., says Wikipedia, six months before the release of John’s first album, Empty Sky. (John’s version of the song was also released twice as a single in the U.S., but failed to chart both times, Wikipedia adds, noting that the recording surfaced as a bonus track on a 1995 CD release of Empty Sky.) AMG says – if I read an amazingly awkward sentence correctly – that “Lady Samantha” was a hit for Three Dog Night, but the record is not listed in the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, so I suspect an error. It might have been a good single although the three hits that came from Suitable For Framing were pretty darn good themselves.

‘Your Loving Arms . . .’

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 5, 2009

When I was in my early teens and was even more bewildered by girls and women than I am now – as much as I cherish the Texas Gal and think I understand her, there still are times when I prove myself close to being utterly clueless – all I knew about having a girlfriend was that you had to have a song.

(After looking over my shoulder for a moment, the Texas Gal just walked away, muttering “All boys are clueless. We like being a mystery.”)

I had no idea what a boyfriend and girlfriend talked about when they spent time together, no idea how it felt to have another person be that interested in you. I had a little bit of an idea about – but absolutely no experience with – what went on when the record player was on and the lights were a little bit low. But I did know, from comments and whispers around me and from the ebb and flow of pop culture, that you had to have a song to share.

Oh, as time wandered on, there were plenty of songs – even in the years before I really listened to pop music – that spoke to the state of my romantic life. I’ve mentioned some over the past few years: “Turn Around, Look At Me” by the Vogues and “Cherish” by the Association are the two with the strongest associations from those years. But those were songs for me, not songs for the “us” that I might make with some sweet hypothetical girl. And I figured that if and when I ever got to the point of selecting “our song” with that sweet hypothetical girl, life would be pretty damned good.

Oddly enough, there were no special songs with any of my early college girlfriends, all of whom were in my life for brief times anyway. But I found myself sharing “our song” with some of those who came later. Those pairings didn’t last, but the songs – when they pop up – remain sweet reminders of good times before.

Of course, those reminders likely wouldn’t be so sweet were if things were not so sweet for me these days. And my Texas Gal, being nearly as interested in music as I am (if not quite so obsessive), made sure from the start that we had songs to celebrate with. One of the best came from our mutual exploration of Darden Smith. I’d come across his Little Victories CD about three weeks before I met the Texas Gal in early 2000, and I’d absorbed enough of it to know I loved it, so I suggested she find a copy of it in suburban Dallas. A few days later, she did, and when she listened, one of the songs spoke loudly to her.

When we talked on the phone one of the next few evenings, she suggested I listen to it. I did:

Half of this morning and most of last night
I’ve been taking tally on the last years of my life
I’ve been pretty righteous but God only knows
A couple of calls were not even close
At least my indiscretions were sweeter than most

Oh, those loving arms
Those sweet, sweet loving arms

Count the bad, count the good
And all I wouldn’t change even if I could
I used to stumble back when I was young
And I’m still stumbling, but now it’s a lot more fun
And I’m falling, I’m falling, I flew too close to the sun
To get to your . . .

Loving arms, your loving arms, your loving arms
Your sweet, sweet loving arms
To get to your loving arms, your loving arms, your loving arms
Your sweet, sweet loving arms
To get to your . . .

Loving arms, your loving arms, your loving arms
Your sweet, sweet loving arms
To get to your loving arms, your loving arms, your loving arms
Your sweet, sweet loving arms

And the world could be perfect
Even if we are not
If everything is forgiven
Even if not forgot

And when the morning comes a-breaking
And I call out your name
My heart will be running, oh running to get to your
Loving arms, your loving arms, your loving arms
Your sweet, sweet loving arms
To get to your loving arms, your loving arms, your loving arms
Your sweet, sweet loving arms . . .

(© 1993 Crooked Fingers Music/AGF Music Ltd.)

We don’t hear it often, given the massive amounts of music both of us listen to and given the busyness that life often brings. But when its strains come from my study, I’m likely to hear a voice come from the next room: “I know that song.” And when I hear “Loving Arms” coming from the loft, I tell her the same.

“Loving Arms” is one reason, then, why Little Victories is my favorite Darden Smith CD. Other reasons? I think it’s his best collection of songs, with “Place in the Sun,” “Love Left Town,” “Hole in the River” and “Precious Time” joining “Loving Arms” as gems of songcraft. (The Texas Gal loves “Levee Song,” which has its own rootsy charms.)

One of the attractions of Little Victories is the presence of Boo Hewerdine, with whom Smith recorded Evidence in 1989. Hewerdine co-wrote “Place in the Sun,” “Love Left Town” and “Precious Time” and contributes vocals on “Loving Arms,” “Little Victories,” “Love Left Town” and “Levee Song.” A couple of other names of note show up in the credits: Rosanne Cash adds vocals to “Precious Time” and Richard Gotttehrer – a member of the 1960s group the Strangeloves (“I Want Candy” and “Night-Time”) – produced the CD and joins in with percussion on “Loving Arms” and “Precious Time” and on vocals on “Little Victories.”

Here’s the tracklist:

Place in the Sun
Loving Arms
Little Victories
Love Left Town
Hole in the River
Dream Intro/Dream’s a Dream
Precious Time
Days on End
Levee Song
Only One Dream

Little Victories by Darden Smith [1993]

Saturday Single No. 151

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 3, 2009

While wandering around Facebook the other evening, I ran across one of those quizzes that pop up now and then on the site. My cousin Mark had tried his hand at a music trivia quiz that asked who sang what song in the year 1970. I forget how many of the ten songs in the quiz he’d paired with the right performer, but he’d done pretty well, he said in the attached note, for someone who was born in the mid-1960s.

I clicked the link and headed into the quiz to see how I could do. The year 1970 holds a prime place in my days of listening to Top 40. I began that exploration – as I’ve noted before – in the late summer and autumn of 1969. I started shifting away from Top 40 and into album rock during my college years, which began in the fall of 1971. That leaves 1970 as the one year during which I was really listening to Top 40 radio all year long. Given that, I would have been disappointed in myself if I’d missed a question in the quiz. I didn’t. And as I headed out of the quiz page back to Facebook, I thought that some kind of look at 1970 would be a good idea for a Saturday post.

So this morning, I pulled out the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending October 3, 1970, the chart from thirty-nine years ago today, and I thought I’d sort through the Top 40 to see which record showed the most movement from the chart of a week earlier.

Before starting, it might be good to look at the Top Ten from that date:

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross“
Lookin’ Out My Back Door/Long As I Can See The Light” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Candida” by Dawn
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“(I Know I’m) Losing You” by Rare Earth
“Snowbird” by Anne Murray
“War” by Edwin Starr
“All Right Now” by Free

That’s a pretty decent Top Ten, though over the years – for me at least – neither the Diana Ross nor the Anne Murray single has aged well. We’ll get back to a few of those as we look at how the Top 40 shifted.

Four records shifted up four places from the week before. Candi Staton’s cover of “Stand By Your Man” made it into the chart, moving from No. 44 to No. 40. “El Condor Pasa” by Simon & Garfunkel went from No. 38 to No. 34. Grand Funk Railroad’s first hit, “Closer to Home,” went from No. 31 to No. 27. And the afore-mentioned “Candida” moved from No. 7 to No. 3.

Two records shifted five spots. Glenn Campbell’s “It’s Only Make Believe” rose from No. 37 to No. 32, and Tom Jones’ “I (Who Have Nothing)” dropped from No. 14 to No. 19. And two records moved up six spaces: “Somebody’s Been Sleeping” by 100 Proof Aged In Soul went from No. 43 to No. 36 while “Out In The Country” by Three Dog Night moved from No. 30 to No. 24.

Three records fell seven spots: Edwin Starr’s “War” dropped from No. 2 to No. 9, Clarence Carter’s “Patches” went from No. 4 to No. 11, and “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago fell from No. 10 to No. 17.

When I do one of these chart-movement posts (and I’ve only done a few, admittedly), this is about the spot where things start to narrow down. It seems – without doing any research at all – that not that many songs move more than seven spots during the same week. Well, the week ending October 3, 1970, was the week that would wreck that theory. A total of thirteen records – almost one-third of the Top 40 – shifted more than seven spots thirty-nine years ago this week.

One record moved eight spots. That was “Look What They’ve Done To My Song Ma” by the New Seekers, which rose from No. 33 to No. 25. Shifting nine places was “It’s A Shame” by the Spinners, rising from No. 24 to No. 15. And moving up ten places was James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” which rose from No. 40 to No. 30.

Two records rose eleven places: “Express Yourself” by Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band went from No. 25 to No. 14, and “Do What You Wanna Do” by Five Flights Up (the only record in this Top 40 I’ve never heard, as far as I know) entered the Top 40 with a leap, jumping from No. 50 to No. 39.

The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There” moved up thirteen places, from No. 19 to No. 6; also moving thirteen spots was “Rubber Duckie” by Ernie, which dropped from No. 16 to No. 29. The Carpenter’s “(They Long To Be) Close To You” dropped fourteen places, from No. 17 to No. 31, “Spill the Wine” by Eric Burdon and War fell fifteen spots from No. 21 to No. 36, and Bread’s “Make It With You” dropped eighteen places from No. 20 to No. 38.

That leaves three records still to mention, records that shifted more than eighteen places in one week, and looking ahead, I see trouble. The week’s champion, with an amazing leap of twenty-four spots from No. 42 to No. 18, is the Carpenter’s “We’ve Only Just Begun.” But that song’s story – it began as a bank commercial – was told superbly just more than a week ago by the Half-Hearted Dude, and I see no reason to post the record, as lovely as it is, here. The second-largest shift of the week ending October 3, 1970, was a tumble of twenty places, from No. 15 to No. 35, for Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime,” a tune that’s long ago worn out its welcome in my ears.

So there must be compromise, which leads us to the week’s third-place mover, a record by the Four Tops that moved nineteen spots, from No. 39 to No. 20. It’s not one of the records that come immediately to mind when one thinks of the Four Tops, but it did all right, spending ten weeks in the Top 40 and peaking at No. 11. Nor does it sound like the Four Tops of the mid-1960s, the years of “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” and “Bernadette.” Instead, it’s got a lilting, almost Latin sound, one that reminded me at least a little bit of Malo (“Suavecito”) and El Chicano (“Viva Tirado, Part I” and “Tell Her She’s Lovely”).

So with all that in mind, here’s “Still Water (Love)” by the Four Tops, today’s Saturday Single.

A Little Bit Dark

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 2, 2009

It’s cool today, as it seems to have been for most of the past few months. We seldom used the air conditioner this summer, our first in the house. Part of that was, no doubt, a quality of the house itself, shielded as is it by numerous trees. But it was also the weather. It just didn’t get that hot this summer.

And it’s chilly – and rainy – again today, as it was yesterday. I look out my study window, and the two oak trees I can see still hold mostly green leaves: There are only a few scattered spots of brown, though I expect that to change in a few days. Autumn, as I have written here before, is my favorite of the seasons. And my favorite autumn days are those when the sun lights up the red, gold and brown leaves and the temperature hovers around fifty degrees Fahrenheit (about ten degrees Celsius). Those days should be ahead of us, but given the odd weather we’ve had this year, I’m not sure how plentiful they will be. Perhaps I just have a case of the Friday glums, but I fear this morning that those days will be few this autumn.

On the other hand, perhaps the clouds will clear and the sun will light up the trees and lighten my mood. That might not happen for a bit: Weatherbug says the best we’ll likely get in the next week is partly cloudy skies on Sunday. Still, as October advances, we’ll most likely have at least a few of those bright days. And my mood – changeable as it can be – will most likely shift upward even before those sunny and cool days light up the oaks outside my window.

I am honestly not in as bleak a place as the titles of the following songs might lead one to believe. It was just easier (and more productive) to search for “dark” than for “kind of glum.” I think, though, that I’ll just let the songs speak for themselves this morning except to say that they’re all worth a listen.

A Six-Pack of Dark
“Darkness Brings” by the Panama Limited Jug Band from Indian Summer [1970]
“Darkest Hour” by Arlo Guthrie from Amigo [1976]
“Darker Days” by the Connells from Darker Days [1985]
“Alone In The Dark” by the Devlins from Drift [1993]
“The Darker Side” by the Lamont Cranston Band from El Cee Notes [1978]
“Right On For The Darkness” by Curtis Mayfield from Back to the World [1973]

(Some of these may have been shared here before. With the loss of my blog’s archives, it’s become difficult to know if that’s the case: It would require searching thirty separate Word documents, and that’s more trouble than it’s worth. So accept my apologies for any repeats.)