Archive for the ‘2009/04 (April)’ Category

Time To Rake Some Leaves

June 1, 2012

Originally posted on April 17, 2009

Our home sits on a fairly large lot, probably the equivalent of half a city block, as a guess. The other day, as I wandered across the lawn, I counted thirty-four oak trees. And there are a few others: one ash tree, some evergreens and two elms that have somehow managed to survive the ravages of Dutch elm disease. And there’s still room for a few shrubs. It’s a pretty good-sized patch of ground for one house in the city.

A couple of weeks ago, after winter retreated and the snow disappeared, the Texas Gal and I looked out at the leaves that had been buried under the snow and the branches that had fallen during the winter. It was quite a mess. And she, with the burden of work and school, and I, with my lame leg, looked at each other. “We need to get some rakes,” she said.

I nodded glumly. For some reason, there are few chores of yard work quite as daunting to me as raking. If I could stand to be in the exhaust fumes, I wouldn’t mind mowing the lawn. (As it happens, though, the fumes from almost any engine put me to sleep.) I won’t mind watering the few flowers we’ll have this summer, and a small vegetable plot, if we decide to invest in some peppers and tomatoes. (Of course, having been apartment dwellers, we’ll need to get gardening tools and a hose. We are lamentably unprepared for tending our garden.)

But the thought of trying to rake a lawn as large as ours filled me with something close to despair. It needed to be done, I agreed. I wondered if we should call our landlord and ask what’s been done in other years. We could, the Texas Gal said. Or we could go ahead and start working, little bits by little bits, and if our landlord showed up to clear the leaves, well, he’d know we had some initiative and that we care about the place.

So one of the tasks scheduled for this weekend is a trip to Handyman’s, our nifty East Side hardware store, for a rake. As it turns out, we won’t have to do the entire lawn. Late the other afternoon, as the Texas Gal came home from work, our landlord pulled up into the driveway with his lawn tractor, and he spent a couple of hours clearing the leaves and branches. The lawn looks pretty good, with the grass beginning to green.

We’ll still need a rake. There are still leaves packed into the flower beds, and there are a few piles of leaves close to the house that we’ll have to deal with. And I imagine we’ll soon make some decisions about what we might want to tend in our garden this summer.

A Six-Pack for Yard & Garden
“Sticks & Stones” by Joe Cocker from Mad Dogs & Englishmen [1970]
“Tall Trees” by Crowded House from Woodface [1991]
“Grazing in the Grass” by Hugh Masekela, Uni 55066 [1968]
“Leaves That Are Green” by Simon & Garfunkel from Sounds of Silence [1966]
“Wildflowers” by Tom Petty from Wildflowers [1994]
“Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James & the Shondells, Roulette 7028 [1968]

“Sticks & Stones” is Cocker’s live cover of the Ray Charles tune from 1960, with Leon Russell and the best big rock band ever assembled racing Cocker to see who can get to the end of the song first.

I’ve heard/read the label “Beatlesque” attached so many times to the 1980s and 1990s work of Crowded House that it’s ceased to mean anything. (I acknowledge that I may have attached said label to said work myself and thus contributed to my own confusion.) If the label is shorthand for “concise, melodic songs that insinuate themselves into the listener’s brain and heart,” then the label-users have it right.

I’ve written before about working at the state trapshoot, sitting in the little concrete hut and putting targets on the machine while listening to the radio. I wasn’t entirely familiar with everything I heard during my first trapshoot in 1968, but the cowbell announcing Hugh Masekela’s “Grazing in the Grass” soon became a familiar and welcome sound. And I imagine I had a few chances to hear it over the four days I sat there: The record was No. 1 for two weeks in late July, right about the time of the trapshoot.

I’m actually not that big a fan of either the Simon & Garfunkel or Tom Petty tracks offered here. There’s nothing particularly wrong with either song or either record. In the case of “Leaves That Are Green,” I think I overdosed on the song during my early days of listening to Simon & Garfunkel, and in the case of the Petty tune, it came along at a time when I wasn’t listening to his stuff. In addition, both S&G and Petty had so many offerings that were better than these two. But these two had titles that fit into today’s package.

The occasionally cryptic lyric of “Crimson and Clover” fit in perfectly in the late 1960s and is still kind of goofily fun today. The record was one of several big hits for James and the Shondells (“Hanky Panky,” “ Mony Mony,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and “I Think We’re Alone Now” as well as “Draggin’ the Line” for James on his own), and it spent a couple weeks at No. 1 in February 1969. Beyond the lyric, some of the record’s other vestiges of the time, like the phasing, might not have aged as well. Still, as I said, it’s fun.

Reposts
Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars [1977]
Levon Helm by Levon Helm [1978]
American Son by Levon Helm [1980]
Levon Helm by Levon Helm [1982]
Original post here.

John & George, Big Head Todd & Freddy

June 1, 2012

Originally posted April 16, 2009

Adventures at YouTube:

Looking for a version of George Harrison’s “Taxman,” I clicked a few links and found a fascinating 1971 video of John Lennon and Harrison working on Lennon’s song “Oh My Love,” which wound up on Lennon’s Imagine. The original video-poster noted that the session was at Ascott studio in June 1971, adding that Klaus Voorman was on bass and Nicky Hopkins was on second piano. Viewers will also see a bit of Phil Spector, the little man in sunglasses with dark hair, and, of course, a bit of Yoko Ono. (In the piece, Lennon and Ono evidently take part in an interview with a young woman; does anyone know who that was?)

Note: The original video with the identification of the location and of Klaus Voorman and Nicky Hopkins had been deleted by the time I placed this post in these archives, but I found another posting of the same video. Note added June 1, 2012.

I found a pretty good performance of “Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd and the Monsters. It took place September 10, 2005, at Redhook Brewery, evidently in Seattle, Washington.

Here’s the Freddy Jones Band doing an acoustic version of “In A Daydream” during a promotional appearance at the Star 102.5 radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2006.

Lastly, I found an arresting – and frankly unsettling – video that October Project released in 1994 to accompany the single release of “Bury My Lovely.” I’ve always thought the song was just a little off-kilter; this does nothing more than comfirm that, and in fact makes the song more off-kilter than ever. But it is fascinating. I can’t embed the video, but you can see it here.

Note: At the time of the original post, I was unable to embed October Project’s video for “Bury My Lovely,” but embedding was allowed when I placed the post in these archives. So here it is. Note added June 1, 2012.

The Price Of Procrastination

June 1, 2012

Originally posted April 15, 2009

I’m one of those folks with a tendency to put off unpleasant tasks. That means that, in the years prior to the Texas Gal’s arrival, April 15 would find me scrambling about to file my tax returns.

I’d generally prepare my returns the evening before, having delayed as long as I could. And the day of the 15th would find me spending my breaks and my lunch hour making photocopies of my returns and forms and getting all of those into the appropriate envelopes. And then I’d drop the envelopes off at the nearest post office on my way home from work.

I imagine that with some effort, I could have been a lot more organized and life would have been a lot less stressful during the middle of April. I tried, year after year. But I never seemed to be able to pull it together. I’d get my forms and everything assembled in January and let the papers sit in a pile on my desk at home until I could put the tasks off no longer.

The Texas Gal, thankfully, has a different approach, and that, of course, has changed things for me. We generally pull our tax information together during the first week of January each year, and I would guess that since 2002, we’ve filed our returns no later than January 7. As a result, I no longer dread the approach of April 15. And as I watch the folks on the news reports line up at the post office late this evening, I will know that there, but for the Texas Gal, would wait I.

A Six-Pack for April 15
“Before It’s Too Late” by Joe South from Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home? [1969]
“Let the Dollar Circulate” by Billy Paul from When Love Is New [1975]
“Pay To The Piper” by the Chairmen of the Board, Invictus 9081 [1970]
“Taxed To The Max” by Tower of Power from Souled Out [1995]
“Poor Man’s Plea” by Buddy Guy & Junior Wells from Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play The Blues [1972]
“Taxman” by Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings from Songs From The Material World: A Tribute To George Harrison [2002]

Some of these have no connection with the travails of the day except for their titles. The Joe South tune, for example, is one of those “Let’s get together” anthems that were prevalent in the late 1960s, and it happens to sound pretty good, even if its lyrics are a bit simple. The Buddy Guy/Junior Wells tune is a great piece of honking blues, and the Tower of Power track is – typically – a hot piece of horn-heavy R&B.

I’m not sure how I came across the Billy Paul tune. I must have found a rip of When Love Is New and then deleted most of it, because this the only track I have from the album. And from what I can tell, the track wasn’t released as a single at the time. One source I consulted showed that the Paul track was released on a single with a track by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, but I think that was a later release. (If anyone knows differently, let me know, please.)

“Pay To The Piper” was, however, released as a single, and went to No. 13 around the time 1970 turned into 1971.

I wondered if I should post the original “Taxman” from Revolver, but I decided that it’s so well known – and so available – that there was no point. The Bill Wyman version is pretty good.

Listen To The Train Wreck

June 1, 2012

Originally posted April 14, 2009

There were some requests following Saturday’s post for more information about my database of LPs. It’s a topic I’ve thought about before, but I thought it would be of little interest to others. Since Saturday, though, I’ve given the matter some thought, and I will write about it. But not yet. There is – one assumes – the third annual Vinyl Music Day coming along this summer, and that would be a good time to dig into how my database came to be. (As well as being a grand excuse to pull unique records from the shelf to rip odd mp3s.)

So those who are interested in the history of the database and my methods (the name Rube Goldberg comes to mind; if that name is unfamiliar to you, Google it, and you’ll understand a bit more about my methodology), you’ll have to wait a few months.

But that does not mean that there are not tales to tell now. In fact, Saturday brought me face to face with another extraordinary cover version of a well-known song.

To be honest, it was the comments about my database that got things started. For nearly six years, a box of odd records has been waiting for its contents to be entered into the database. Oh, I tagged the records when I got them, so I knew when they had been purchased. The box of stuff came from a garage sale the Texas Gal and I found somewhere in St. Cloud in May 2003. The folks who were running the sale were about to shut things down, and a box of records was still sitting there.

The price was fifty cents a record or something like that, and the box had some nice stuff in it, some of it in pretty good shape: about half of it was rock and pop mostly from the Seventies and Eighties, but that was stuff I already had (and my copies at home were in just as good a shape or better). The other half of the box was, well, interesting. I mentioned the other week that I have a double album of performances by the Willmar Boys’ Chorus (Willmar being a city about sixty miles southwest of St. Cloud). I found it in this box. The same with Favorite Marches Featuring the Marches of John Philip Sousa by the Norwegian Military Band, and Russian Folk Musical Instruments Anthology (assuming I transliterated and translated correctly) on the Soviet-era Melodiya label.

So why did I buy the box of records if I already had the good half of what was in there, and the half I didn’t have was, well, different? A one-word answer: Commerce.

The folks running the garage sale were, as I said, about to close up, and they asked how much I’d pay for the whole box of records. I took one more quick look at the pop and rock stuff and said ten bucks. They were happy, and I took the box to the car. And the Texas Gal and I ended our Saturday excursion with a trip to the Electric Fetus downtown, where I got about $25 for the rock and pop albums in the box.

That was something I’d done many times during the years I lived in south Minneapolis: Buy a box of records at a garage sale and then make the rounds of the used record stores near my home. I’d generally take the remainder, the records I did not want, to the Salvation Army store about six blocks from my home. I had planned to do that with these St. Cloud garage sale records, but for some reason, I never did, and Saturday found me entering them into the database.

As I did, I had to play a few tracks here and there. I haven’t listened to anything by the Willmar Boys’ Chorus yet, but I have found some, well, interesting tracks. And that’s inspired me to start a new series here at Echoes In The Wind. Today’s mp3 will be the third in the series called Train Wreck Jukebox. (I’m granting ex-post-facto membership to both sides of the Swingers’ “Bay-Hay Bee Doll,” which I shared about a year ago and to Ray Conniff’s rendition of “Photograph,” which I shared two weeks ago.)

In 1968, Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians decided it was time to get with it and clue in the grandpas and grandmas and old fogey uncles who bought their music. The new Lombardo album was titled The New Songs! The New Sounds!

The liner notes by Lee Gillette read, in part:

“More and more of the younger generation are becoming familiar with the sound of the Guy Lombardo orchestra . . . they are attending his concerts across the nation . . . the college set was prominently represented recently during the Royal Canadians, twice-yearly appearances at the Tropicana in Las Vegas . . . and they not only listened, but joined together on the dance floor each evening during the newly-inaugurated dance sessions there.

“The same nostalgic sound of the band is there, but something new has been added. Bobby Christian, one of the nation’s finest percussionists, was flown to the recording session in Las Vegas from Chicago to perform on vibes, Latin-percussion, harpsichord, tambourine, cymbals, drums, to name a few. In Las Vegas, guitarist Bob Morgan was added to the rhythm section with electric guitar and Brazilian type guitars to up-date the over-all sounds of the Royal Canadians. Songs like “Harper Valley P.T.A.” and “Gentle on My Mind” have a new Lombardo rhythmic beat that is now-a-days. Harmonica virtuoso Tommy Morgan was brought in to enhance “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Oh, there’s so much to chew on in that! But I guess I’ll just point to the use of “now-a-days,” which in any usage sounds so very much like 1930, at best. And we’ll ignore the odd diction and punctuation and get to the heart of this post, which is this week’s entry into the Train Wreck Jukebox:

“Folsom Prison Blues” by Guy Lombardo and The Royal Canadians
From The New Songs! The New Sounds! (1968)

Reposts
Cate Brothers by the Cate Brothers, 1975
Original post here.

In One Eye and Out The Other by the Cate Brothers, 1977
Original post here.

Steve Winwood by Steve Winwood, 1977
Original post here.

Sixteen Years Gone

June 1, 2012

Originally posted April 13, 2009

I was puttering with some mp3 tags this morning while the Texas Gal was getting ready for her day, the radio tuned to public radio as it almost always is during those morning preparations. And I heard the radio host mention that it was sixteen years ago today that the Minnesota North Stars of the National Hockey League played their final home game. After the season’s final game in Chicago, and before the start of the next hockey season, the team’s then-owner – may he learn that Hell is playing goalie without pads and a mask! – moved the team to Texas, creating the Dallas Stars.

The North Stars’ first year of existence was the 1967-68 season. And it was in the autumn of 1967 that I became a sports fan. Why then? I don’t know, but I imagine that the birth of the North Stars had something to do with it. And while the Minnesota Vikings have probably always been my favorite of all the professional teams I’ve followed over the years, the North Stars were always a close second.

I went to one or two games a season during high school and my early college years. After I was out in the workforce, I saw maybe one every couple of years, although those outings became more rare when the price of tickets rose at a rate faster than my income grew. But I still watched games on television. I also spent many evenings listening to the radio as Al Shaver – the only play-by-play announcer the North Stars ever had – brought the action into my home. And I hoped for the best for the team through times of good fortune and bad, through seasons of mediocrity and through a good number of playoff seasons, two of which ended with losses in the Stanley Cup finals.

Once the North Stars were gone, I understood at least a little how baseball fans in Brooklyn felt when the Dodgers left for Los Angeles and how football fans in Baltimore felt when the Colts moved to Indianapolis. In addition, I felt as if a portion of my youth had been taken from me. And I think that youthful connection is the key to the grief I felt when the North Stars left town.

Whatever the source, the grief was real. And it wasn’t limited just to fans. I was working for the Eden Prairie newspaper at the time the North Stars left town, and a number of the North Stars lived in that suburb. One afternoon shortly after the hockey season ended, I was at one of the city’s elementary schools for a photo assignment, and I saw one of the North Stars in the school corridor, about to pick up one of his children. He recognized me, as he and I had spent a few hours talking not long before when I was doing research for a feature story about youth hockey. I asked him if he was going to go south with the team, and he smiled and said he’d be announcing his decision soon. (He in fact retired instead.) And then I asked what the players thought of the move. He shook his head sadly and then said, “I really shouldn’t say much.” But his face gave his feelings away.

The sorrow and anger faded at least a little, as it always does. The National Hockey League eventually placed another team in Minnesota, the Wild. I regret that the NHL did not do for Minnesota fans what the National Football League did for fans of the Cleveland Browns when the team left town after the 1995 season. The NFL allowed owner Art Model to move the team, but reserved the Browns’ nickname, colors and records for a new franchise in Cleveland. The NHL should have done the same for Minnesota.

But that didn’t happen, and I follow the Wild, though the team is not nearly as important to me as were the North Stars. (And I happen to think the Wild’s nickname is one of the silliest in professional athletics!) The Dallas Stars went on to win the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1999.

May they never win another.

A Six-Pack From 1993
“Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd and the Monsters from Sister Sweetly
“One World” by the Freddy Jones Band from Waiting for the Night
“Handbags & Gladrags” by Rod Stewart from Unplugged . . . and Seated
“Bury My Lovely” by October Project from October Project
“’74-’75” by the Connells from Ring
“I Don’t Wanna Talk About It” by the Indigo Girls from the soundtrack to Philadelphia

I was startled the first time I heard “Bittersweet,” most likely on Cities 97. I thought at the time – and still do – that the song is an almost perfect melding of music and lyric as it tells its sad tale. It’s a lovely song, but there are most likely times in everyone’s life when it wouldn’t be advisable to listen too acutely to the words of the third and final verse:

I know we don’t talk about it.
We don’t tell each other all the little things that we need.
We work our way around each other as we tremble and we bleed.

I’ve got a couple of CDs by the Freddy Jones Band, but I don’t listen to them too often, and I’m not sure why. I dropped Waiting for the Night into the player the other day and – as has been the case since I first heard the group, also most likely on Cities 97 – liked what I heard. Waiting for the Night was the first of four albums the group did for Capricorn in the 1990s; there was one CD on Polydor, as well. A sixth CD followed in 2001 on Sony Special Products. And a new CD, Time Well Wasted, is currently available through the band’s website; on Out The Box Records, the new CD has ten new live versions of songs from earlier releases and two new studio tracks recorded in 2008. (One page on the website indicates that the CD went on sale in December; another page says that the CD will be available tomorrow, April 14. I don’t know which is correct.)

When Rod Stewart – with the help of long-time pal and bandmate Ron Wood – did the unplugged thing for MTV, I wasn’t particularly blown away by what I heard. As I may have mentioned here earlier, Stewart had lost my attention with “Tonight’s The Night” back in late 1976. Beyond that date, the only thing I’d heard from Stewart that I liked was his version of Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train.” But combing through his Unplugged . . . and Seated release, I liked the CD’s version of “Handbags & Gladrags.”

October Project wasn’t around for long – three years and two CDs in its original configuration – but the group somehow managed to sneak into my awareness. And I love lead singer Mary Fahl’s voice, but the group’s ornate songs seems to work better one song at a time than heard as entire albums. I have a version of “Bury My Lovely” performed live on Cities 97 (and released on one of the station’s annual samplers) that I prefer by just a little to the original version, but it was recorded in 1994. Perhaps another time.

I know very little about the Connells. I came across Ring at a blog I frequent and like it a lot. According to All-Music Guide, “’74-’75” was released as a single to alternative radio stations and did fairly well. (My thanks to Yonnor at Jajaah.)

It’s a little baffling to realize that it’s been sixteen years since the release of the film Philadelphia. It doesn’t seem nearly that long. In any case, the soundtrack for the film has aged gracefully, at least in these precincts, with nine original songs from a wide range of artists. The soundtrack is most likely remembered as the source of Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” and Neil Young’s “Philadelphia” (Springsteen’s song won an Academy Award for Best Song; Young’s song was nominated), But the Indigo Girls’ “I Don’t Wanna Talk About It” (written by the late Danny Whitten of Crazy Horse) is fresh as well, maybe even fresher than the two previously mentioned songs.

Reposts
Glory Road by Maggie’s Farm, 1992
Original post here.

Can’t Stop The Madness by Birtha, 1973
Original post here.

Ronnie Hawkins – Ronnie Hawkins (1970)
Original post here.

Saturday Single No. 123

May 16, 2012

Originally posted April 11, 2009

Frequently, as I cast about for an idea here, I’ve looked at the dates on which songs were recorded to find something to offer. That’s worked moderately well, at least from this side: It’s been fun. In general, I think it’s worked well from your side, that is, from the side of the audience. The songs so selected seem to have been downloaded at about the same rate as have others.

(It’s worth noting that one of the most popular sound files ever offered here is Ray Conniff’s ghastly 1974 version of Ringo Starr’s “Photograph,” posted here a week ago Tuesday. On the other hand, the Bobby Keys’ solo album I offered a while before that was also popular. I can only generalize that those of you who stop by here simply like music – generally well-planned and well-played music, yes, but you’re not above stopping and taking a look at the horrible outcomes of an occasional train wreck.)

Anyway, what I decided to do this week was look at April in a different manner, not as the time during which songs were recorded but as the time during which I purchased music. What have all the Aprils brought into the collection, both vinyl and CD? This will take us more than one Saturday, I think, and we’ll first look at the time from my college years through 1989, with the later portion of that span being the time when vinyl madness had just lodged in my system. So let’s start thirty-seven years ago:

In April of 1972, I bought two albums, both of them still favorites of mine: Joe Cocker! and the Rolling Stones’ ‘Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out’. Were I to choose a song from either of those, we’d listen to Cocker’s “Darling Be Home Soon” or the Stones’ “Love In Vain.” But we’ve been there before.

I was not a committed vinyl-buyer in those days. My budget, the availability of music I liked on the radio, my year spent in Denmark – all of those combined to keep me from buying a lot of records. The next April during which I bought a record was 1977, when I picked up Bill Conti’s soundtrack to Rocky. Entering the workforce that autumn meant that I was no longer on a student budget, but my rate of purchase – at least in April – did not increase. I bought the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Maynard Ferguson’s Conquistador in April 1978.

A classical collection called Rhapsody! came my way in 1981, and 1982 brought Dan Fogelberg’s The Innocent Age. In 1983, with graduate school on the horizon, I found copies at a flea market of the Bee Gees Main Course and the Allmans’ Enlightened Rogues.

In the summer of 1987, I moved to Minot, North Dakota, and slowly began to collect music again. Then came April of 1988, one of the worst months of my life: Carefully constructed plans collapsed like . . . well, I don’t have an apt enough simile. Suffice it to say that the bits and pieces of the life I’d planned littered the floor everywhere I lived for a few years. One of my responses to that crash was to buy music, lots of it. In April 1988, I picked up The Other Side of Life by the Moody Blues, Never Die Young by James Taylor, Songwriter by Justin Hayward, Past, Present and Future by Al Stewart and Gordon Lightfoot’s East of Midnight.

The retail buying and crate digging began. At the beginning of April 1988, I had about two-hundred and fifty LPs. As April 1989 ended, I had more than five-hundred and sixty of them, more than doubling my collection. What did I add to the shelves in April of 1989?

There was Blind Faith, Boston’s self-titled debut, a hits collection by the Everly Brothers, Dead Set by the Grateful Dead, Santana’s Abraxas, the Stones’ Let It Bleed, Traffic’s The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys and Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, all purchased on April 1. And later in the month, I added two LPs by the previously mentioned Dan Fogelberg – High Country Snows and Exiles – as well as another Al Stewart album, Russians & Americans, and Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes.

I suppose I was buying and listening to music so I wouldn’t have to think about what rotten shape my life was in. It could have been far worse: I could have been drinking. As it was, my beverage of choice at the time was coffee; I doubt that I had more than twenty beers during the entire two years I lived in Minot. My intoxicant, it seems, was vinyl. And the April servings, looking at the list this morning, were pretty good.

So here’s a song that’s as good a metaphor as any for the place I was in during April of 1989, today’s Saturday Single:

“Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith from Blind Faith [1969]

R&B In The Fog

May 16, 2012

Originally posted April 10, 2009

After a few days of relative clarity – with the medication dosages for my ailing leg diminishing – I am once again in a fog this morning.

Yesterday afternoon, when the Texas Gal came home from work, we stood in the driveway and watched a squirrel dig in the ground, seeking some sort of treat. We routinely toss bread crusts out for the little guys, and I laughed as the Texas Gal told me about one she’d seen that morning, carrying a whole slice of bread in his mouth as he leaped from tree to tree.

Then we went to the back door and found all three cats waiting for us and hoping for a chance to slip outside. The Texas Gal blocked Oscar’s path, and I held off Cubbie Cooper. As we were distracted by the other two catboys, Clarence bolted between my ankles and out the door. I reacted instinctively, pushing Cubbie into the kitchen, then pivoting on my right foot and starting to run, pushing off with my right leg.

Not a good idea. My right leg is, of course, the leg that I hurt a week ago.

I managed to corral Clarence, and we got all three cats inside. But my leg was throbbing as it hadn’t for about three days, and twenty minutes later, I had to take a muscle relaxant and a pain-killer. And this morning it’s taking more effort to focus than I can spare for very long.

So I’m going to suggest that you folks do exactly what I did last evening and will do again today: just listen to some good music. Not long ago, a track popped up here from Dreams Come True, the R&B supersession album by singers Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton. (All of those links are to corresponding pages at All-Music Guide.) Last evening, I listened to more of the album, and I liked it even more than I did the first time I heard it. So here’s Dreams Come True.

Track list
A Fool In Love
Good Rockin’ Daddy
It Hurts To Be In Love
Love, Sweet Love
Gonna Make It
You Can If You Think You Can
I Idolize You
Dreams Come True
Bad Thing
Turn The Lock On Love
Something’s Got A Hold On Me
Snake Dance

Dreams Come True by Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli & Lou Ann Barton [1990]

My thanks go to azzul, as I found Dreams Come True at his excellent blog, nongseynyo. Sadly, azzul has quit posting new material; the blog now offers its archives without download links and lists current posts at a few other bluesy blogs. I – along with many others, I’m sure – miss the original nongseynyo. Thanks for everything, azzul!

And I thought that as long as I was sharing Dreams Come True in the middle of my repost festival, I’d make today “Lou Ann Barton Day”!

Reposted:
Old Enough by Lou Ann Barton [1982]
Original post here.

Forbidden Tones by Lou Ann Barton [1986]
Original post here.

Read My Lips by Lou Ann Barton [1989]
[With bonus tracks]
Original post here.

Otis, Neil & Gypsy

May 16, 2012

Originally posted April 9, 2009

Off to YouTube!

Here’s a clip of Otis Redding performing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” during the 1966 Stax-Volt European Tour. (The individual who posted the clip asked the question: “Did he cover the song from the Rolling Stones or did they cover it from him?” The correct answer, of course, is that the Stones wrote it and recorded it and Otis didn’t just cover it. He took it right away from them. But then, he did that with a lot of songs.)

Here’s one of the better performances of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” that I passed by on Tuesday: Neil Young at the 1992 concert celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Bob Dylan’s first album.

Video deleted.

I was hoping to find something by Gypsy, whose self-titled debut album I reposted this week. What showed up is a video that uses the album’s opening track, “Gypsy Queen, Part 1,” behind a collection of archival film and photos showing the group during 1970 or so. The quality and coherence of some of the visuals is questionable, but it’s still a pretty cool package.

And here are a few more reposts:

New Routes by Lulu [1970]
Original post here.

Melody Fair by Lulu [1970]
Original post here.

Ambergris by Ambergris [1970]
Original post here.

With Friends and Neighbors by Alex Taylor [1971]
Original post here.

Tales From The Stage

May 16, 2012

Originally posted April 8, 2009

As seventh grade entered its home stretch in early 1966, I tried out for the school play. I’m not sure what prompted me to do so, but I ended up with a role in a comedy titled No More Homework!

I recall almost nothing about the play’s plot. I do recall the names of a few of my fellow cast members. And I remember very clearly that I played the role of Faversham Lightly, Jr., a less-than-dedicated student whose main pleasure was sleep. In the play’s first act, Faversham goes into the supply closet in search of something, and a ruckus in the hallway draws the attention of the faculty, the staff and the audience. Some hilarity and mild suspense ensues.

Near the end of the third act, the suspense leads one of the faculty members to gingerly enter the supply closet. And she runs from the closet back into the office, screaming about a ghost. At which point, young Faversham emerges rubbing his eyes, having slept away the day (and the entire second act, if I am recalling this correctly). Faversham’s sleepy reappearance from the closet got the largest laugh each of the two nights we presented the play.

There’s nothing quite like drawing laughter and applause when one is being purposefully funny. It’s intoxicating and addictive. So through ninth grade, I was a regular on stage at South Junior High. I had a bit role in the next year’s production, a musical entitled Plenty of Money, and as a ninth-grader, I had the comedy lead in On With The Show, a musical that takes place in a circus. I made the local daily, as the St. Cloud Times ran a picture of me being terrified at the sight of Tina the Snake Charmer’s pet.

The production being a musical, I even had a song to perform solo. I still remember most of the words to “Let Me Live the Life of a Clown.” (There are those, I imagine, who would claim that I’ve met that goal, albeit not in the sense the song had in mind, with floppy shoes and a big red nose.)

And then, it was over. During high school, I moved my extracurricular efforts to the locker room as an athletic manager. About half-way through my senior year, encouraged by friends who were auditioning, I did try out for a role in a Woody Allen play, Don’t Drink the Water, and I was cast as the comedy lead. The director and the wrestling coach were both cooperative, each allowing me an occasional absence so I could take part in both activities at the same time. And I enjoyed the rehearsals and the two or three performances. But the rush wasn’t there.

And even though the roles I had as a senior and in ninth grade were larger and more challenging, I don’t think I’ve ever drawn a louder round of laughter and applause than I did when Faversham Lightly, Jr., stumbled sleepily back on stage in the spring of 1966.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, April 9, 1966)

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by Otis Redding, Volt 132 (No. 34)

“I Hear Trumpets Blow” by the Tokens, B.T. Puppy 518 (No. 36)

“The Rains Came” by the Sir Douglas Quintet, Tribe 8314 (No. 52)

“Rhapsody in the Rain” by Lou Christie, MGM 13473 (No. 55)

“Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)” by Edwin Starr, Ric-Tic 109 (No. 62)

“Dirty Water” by the Standells, Tower 185 (No. 120)

By using horns in place of Keith Richards’ thick guitar lick, Otis Redding turns “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” into an R&B anthem and almost steals the song away from the Rolling Stones. Redding’s version had peaked at No. 31 – his second Top 40 hit – and was heading back down the chart by the second week of April; he’d have eight more Top 40 hits, four of them coming after his death in a December 1967 plane crash.

“I Hear Trumpets Blow” is an odd single, one that I’d not been familiar with until recently. The Tokens had reached No. 1 in 1961 with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” but the best they could do five years later with “Trumpets” was No. 30. It turned out to be the only hit the Tokens had on their own record label, B.T. Puppy. They returned to the Top 40 in the spring of 1967 with “Portrait of My Love,” which went to No. 36, and three of the four Tokens formed Cross Country and took a cover of “In The Midnight Hour” to No. 30 in 1973. (As long as I’m sort of on the topic, my blogging colleague Any Major Dude recently posted a fascinating account of the long and sometimes unsavory history of the “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Check it out.)

“The Rains Came” is another record that I’d not known until recently. The name of the Sir Douglas Quintet might have fooled a few listeners into thinking the group was part of the British Invasion, but – to a discriminating listener – the music is nothing but Tex-Mex, with that organ part chirping all the way through. Leader Doug Sahm and his pals took “The Rains Came” as high as No. 31, the group’s second of three hits. “She’s About A Mover” went to No. 13 a year earlier, and “Mendocino would reach No. 27 in the spring of 1969.

The version of “Rhapsody in the Rain” offered here is the original version, the one that got parents and radio stations all heated up in the spring of 1966. Harry Young, who wrote the liner notes of Lou Christie’s greatest hits album, Enlightningment, says: “‘Rhapsody in the Rain’ . . . had the honor of being banned. Why? Because, as WLS Program Director Gene Taylor put it in Time magazine, ‘There was no question about what the lyrics and the beat implied – sexual intercourse in a car, making love to the rhythm of the windshield wipers.’” Young adds, “The lyrics only said ‘We were making out in the rain’ and ‘Our love went much too far.’ Nevertheless, the ‘dirty’ lyrics were changed to ‘We fell in love in the rain’ and ‘Our love came like a falling star.’” Young also noted that the bowdlerized version of the single was slower and lower-pitched. The record, which would become Christie’s fourth Top 40 hit, was heading up the chart in the second week of April and would eventually peak at No. 16.

“Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)” didn’t quite get Edwin Starr into the Top 40; the record had peaked at No. 48 a couple of weeks earlier. Writer Dave Marsh called “Stop Her On Sight” “one of the best non-Motown Motown discs ever cut.” Marsh also says that even though Starr’s first hits came on Ric-Tic – a “minor league” Detroit label – “every inflection established that Motown was embedded in the grooves of [Starr’s] destiny.” In just a few years, Starr’s Motown work would hit the Top Ten, with “Twenty-Five Miles” reaching No. 6 in 1969 and “War” topping the chart for three weeks in 1970.

There are only a few things to note about the Standells’ “Dirty Water.” First, it had a long climb ahead of it, as it eventually reached No. 11. And then, it’s got one of the great – and sometimes overlooked – opening riffs in rock history, and it’s a great record beyond that riff. Finally, a record this good has to be in the running for the title of greatest one-hit wonder of all time. Maybe not the top spot – I’d have to think about it – but in the running.

‘If You See Saint Annie . . .’

May 16, 2012

Originally posted April 7, 2009

The RealPlayer was chugging along on random last evening as I caught up on several editions of Rolling Stone, laughing ruefully at Matt Taibbi’s tales of greed on Wall Street and wondering if I should take Taylor Swift seriously, when a very soft version of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” began to play. I put the magazine down and checked out the music.

(A little later, when I got back to my reading, I was still laughing at Taibbi’s work but decided to pass on Taylor Swift, a decision helped by her rather lame performance the evening before during a country music awards show. But that’s just me, and I’m neither the correct age nor the correct gender to be part of Ms. Swift’s target audience. From what I’ve read, it sounds as if Ms. Swift has her head on pretty straight, and I admire that, even if I don’t invest myself in her music.)

Anyway, when I got to the RealPlayer, the music turned out to be an album track from a very obscure group called West, a late 1960s group that – from what I read at All-Music Guide – had a hard time deciding on a musical identity. Shimmering folk-rock, sweet sunshine pop and a few other hard-to-describe styles crowded together in the grooves of West’s records, the website indicated. I listened to a few more tracks by the group and decided it wasn’t interesting enough to dig into actively. But it was inoffensive enough to be good background music, so I didn’t delete it. (And I have no idea where I found it. I’m guessing it came to me sometime in late 2006, during the first weeks after I discovered music blogs, a time when I was trying to be the Download King of the Universe.)

Hearing the song did remind me, though, of the late winter and early spring of 1972. As I mentioned once before, I think, I’d bought my first Bob Dylan album during that late winter, shelling out a little bit of cash for the newly released Greatest Hits, Volume II. Among the Dylan personas that I discovered there was the surrealist wordsmith who crafted “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again.” The emerging writer inside me fell in love with that stuff, and I spent hours listening to those two songs – I loved the entire album, but those two tracks especially – over and over.

As I went about my days, I’d ponder their lyrical construction and find myself murmuring lines under my breath. It’s quite likely that some of my fellow students at St. Cloud State thought me a little odd as I walked along, muttering, “I cannot move; my fingers are all in a knot,” with my head bobbing as if I were hearing voices. (And I was, of course, hearing a voice: Dylan’s.) My own lyrics changed, becoming more surreal and sprinkled with obscure references.

It would be nice to say that I continued to explore Dylan’s work at the time. But I didn’t. I was still catching up on all the pop and rock music I’d missed during earlier years, and the Joe Cocker/Leon Russell/Delaney Bramlett/Bobby Whitlock/Eric Clapton axis of sounds was beginning to fascinate me. I still listened to Top 40, and in all those places, I found so much to explore that – with a few exceptions like Blood on the Tracks – Dylan didn’t come close to the center of my musical universe again for years. (When he did, in 1987, it was in a flood, as – with the help of a lady friend – I put together a complete collection of Dylan on the Columbia, Asylum and Island labels by the summer of 1990.)

But through those years, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” has remained a favorite of mine, one that often pops into my head with its jangly piano intro. There are more than a hundred CDs in the market with a version of the song, according to AMG, and there are others that list the song under a variation of the title. (As an example, Judy Collins called it simply “Tom Thumb’s Blues” on her In My Life album in 1966). Some of the performers listed as having recorded the song are: Jaime Brockett, Dave’s True Story, Bryan Ferry, the Grateful Dead, Robyn Hitchcock, Jimmy LaFave, Gordon Lightfoot, Barry McGuire, Medicine Head, Linda Ronstadt, Nina Simone, the Sir Douglas Quintet, the Sting Cheese Incident, the Walking Wounded, Jennifer Warnes and Neil Young.

Here’s the version by West that started this post, a recent version by Dylan contemporary Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and a live version by Dylan and The Band recorded in Liverpool in 1966. (I’ve posted that last version once before; that post is here.)

“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” by West from West [1968]

“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott from the soundtrack to I’m Not There [2007]
(Thanks to Jeff at AM then FM for this one.)

“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” by Bob Dylan & The Band, Liverpool, England, May 14, 1966

Reposts
Gypsy, Part One, by Gypsy (1970)
Gypsy, Part Two by Gypsy (1970)
In The Garden by Gypsy (1971)
Original post here.

Edited slightly on archival posting.