Archive for the ‘Album’ Category

A Mixed But Worthwhile Bag

May 25, 2014

Originally posted June 1, 2009

I suppose the first time I became aware of Richie Havens was at St Cloud’s Paramount Theatre sometime in 1970. On what seems in memory a spring evening, my parents gave me permission to sit through Woodstock, the documentary film chronicling the vast music festival that had taken place the summer before in upstate New York.

(The parental permission was required, if I recall correctly, by the theater’s management, as the movie had several scenes showing naked hippies either at play or washing up in lakes and ponds. I’m not sure if my folks knew about those scenes. Being sixteen at the time, I of course didn’t mind glimpses of naked gals – hippies or not – but I honestly went to the film for the music.)

And Havens’ exhausting show-opener was stunning. I knew about most of the other musicians whose performances were shown in the film: Sly & The Family Stone; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Sha Na Na (does anybody else think it odd that in 1969, Sha Na Na was viewed on the same level as the other acts at Woodstock?); Arlo Guthrie; Santana; the Who; and more. But I’d been unaware of Richie Havens.

I came out of the theater that evening fascinated by a lot of the music I saw but most of all by Havens. (I find it fascinating that thirty-seven years later, I saw Havens perform live in the same theater where I’d heard his music for the first time.) I didn’t rush out and buy a lot of it, but I was a lot more aware of those performers when I heard them on the radio, and their names went on a long and informal list of artists whose music I wanted to explore when I had time and resources. It took a long time before I got around to some of them. And Richie Havens was one of those whose work waited a long time for me to find it.

It happened, finally, in the late 1990s, during the years when my record collection grew at an alarming rate. During one of my regular visits to Cheapo’s in late May of 1998, I came across Haven’s 1977 album, Mirage. Listening to it reminded me that I’d once planned – however vaguely – to explore Havens’ catalog. I went back the next day and got another Havens’ LP: 1987’s Simple Things. And as the year moved on, I kept looking for Haven’s stuff in the new arrivals bins and sorting through what was already there in the bin with his name on it. By then end of 1998, I had ten of his LPs, and I’d add four more in the years to come.

Among them was 1974’s Mixed Bag II, in title and style a sequel to his first release, 1967’s Mixed Bag. Even in a time when I was bringing home an average of one new LP a day, both of those stood out. I found Mixed Bag during the summer of 1998 and Mixed Bag II that December, and both of them stayed near the stereo for a month or two, as I played them frequently.

Mixed Bag is still in print on CD, so I will forego posting it, but I’ve had a request for a repost of Mixed Bag II. Here’s what I wrote about it a little more than a year and a half ago:

Highlights of the album are Havens’ take on “Ooh Child,” which had been a Top Ten hit for the Five Stairsteps in 1970; his somewhat meandering version of “Wandering Angus,” a poem by William Butler Yeats set to a folk melody; a sprightly version of McCartney’s “Band On The Run,” and the album’s moving finale, “The Indian Prayer,” written by Roland Vargas Mousaa and Tom Pacheco.

But the album’s center, literally and figuratively, is Haven’s performance of the Bob Dylan epic “Sad Eyed Lady (Of The Lowlands).” Reflecting perfectly the organic feel of the entire album, the track pulls the album together. It may be called a mixed bag, but it holds together pretty well. It’s the kind of album Richie Havens specializes in to this day: Mostly acoustic, melodic, thoughtful and warm.

Mixed Bag II by Richie Havens [1974]:

“Ooh Child”
“Headkeeper”
“Wandering Angus”
“Sad Eyed Lady (Of The Lowlands)”
“Someone Suite”
“Band On The Run”
“The Loner”
“The Makings Of You”
“The Indian Prayer”

Coming Attraction:
A member at a board I frequent asked if anyone had Kate Taylor’s Sister Kate album, which I posted here more than two years ago. When I replied, someone else noted that it would be nice to have her later, self-titled album. To my surprise, I found it in the stacks, and I’ll be ripping it to share sometime this week. At the same time, I’ll repost Sister Kate. (And if anyone has a line on Taylor’s third album recorded in 1979 at – I believe – Muscle Shoals, it would be appreciated.)

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From A Yodel To The Wool Hat

October 3, 2012

Originally posted May 18, 2009

I never was much of a Monkees fan. I knew the hits, and I likely could have named the four guys, but I doubt if I could have ever matched names to pictures. Later on, after the hoopla was over and I actually was listening to Top 40, along came a song that I quite liked: “Joanne,” credited to Mike Nesmith and the First National Band. After that, I kept my ears open for anything else by Nesmith, but nothing else hit the Top 40, and I – being not very adventurous in my record shopping – pretty much forgot about Mike Nesmith (though he continued to produce records in a country-rock vein).

Jump to 2007: A rock journalist and enthusiast named Mitch Lopate discovers Echoes In The Wind and leaves a note and sends an email now and then. A friendship develops, and in emails and the occasional phone call, Mitch notes his favorites from over the long sweep of rock and all its musical relatives. Among them is Mike Nesmith. On his advice, I buy a couple of CDs and listen. Still persuading me, Mitch makes sure I have a copy of Nesmith’s 1977 album From A Radio Engine To The Photon Wing. I listen, but the magic eludes me. So I’ve asked Mitch to explain it. Here’s his response:

A music journalist has to be careful when accepting an offer to write an essay about his or her favored musician of choice. In my case, I was caught by my own trap (the term is “hoisted by one’s own petard,” and I think it was used on an early Star Trek episode with Captain Kirk). What simply happened to me is that whiteray threw the idea back in my lap and asked, “What makes Michael Nesmith more interesting than any of the other country-folk-rock musicians from the same time period in his genre?” It took a few days to let it simmer until I found an answer – or several. For one, he yodels.

No, not the pastry; the way he sings, of course. He yodels – and that clued me in to some of the Nez magic. It’s his way of carrying along the legacy and tradition of those singers who incorporated that method into their work in the country vein of musical bloodlines. Jimmie “The Singing Brakeman” Rodgers, for one – and absolutely, there’s a big hunk of Hank Williams, too. They would surely be included – it’s part of Nesmith’s heritage as a native son of the Republic of Texas; it’s that mix of refined/respectable gentleman and hell-raisin’ rascal. It’s also a mix and blend of Nashville, but it comes through other locations and fellow musicians as well. It goes as far as the Pacific Northwest region where Danny O’Keefe comes from (listen to “I’m Sober Now”) – and then you can count in Boz Scaggs down at the Muscle Shoals studio in 1969, working on “Waiting for a Train.” Nez, however, makes it a staple part of his production – and it just fits naturally, as though he knew he was born to yippee and whoop. And no, I already know how much influence folks like Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Pure Prairie League had – I mean it’s different when Nesmith plays because it’s like he was singing about himself and not some distant ideal or goal like a busted romance and how to fix it.

If you really want to hear how far back he made it clear, turn it back to the Monkees’ first album and slip on “Papa Gene’s Blues.” That James Burton-like Nashville lead guitar is, I think, where Mike’s heart has been right from the start. Follow that with “Sunny Girlfriend” from the Headquarters release, and you’ve got the next clue. Forget all that foolishness that was part of the group’s act: Michael Nesmith was always a serious musician who honored his country roots. And backing that up is the whine of a pedal steel guitar – it’s found on almost all his songs (“Mama Nantucket” is a great example – and not the kind of title I’d associate with the instrument.)

That’s another part of the man’s appeal: He had a businessman’s approach to writing songs and lyrics in an honest but earnest way that lacks any fancy gimmicks. It was his approach to acting as well; for what it matters, there was no other option with the clowning antics that made the other three Monkees seem so cute. Even the Beatles needed George Harrison to be serious at times. Nez, on his part, keeps his production basic and focused – but adds just a tad of mischief. My favorite tune is “Rio,” partially because he deliberately rearranges words and images to create a fantasy of escaping to South America for the adventure of it – and the way he plays on the title itself when a woman’s voice proclaims, “Not Reno, dummy! Rio! Rio de JIN-ero!”

See? It’s not an obvious thing; it’s more simple than all the elaborate parts. He sings and plays like a musical collection of old movie stars: he’s sort of a singing mix of the best characteristics of Cary Grant and Gary Cooper: polite, firm, and funny, and quiet when it counts. That is, quiet until he writes a song – and then he’s out for a good laugh and a good time on the town. Heck, maybe it’s that Mike Nesmith is and always has been a man who knew what he wanted and how to do it – and he lets the music do his walking and talking. Or maybe it’s just that confidence that comes from – can I say – “a home on the range”? Any way I try to pin it down, it just comes down to a man who knew what he could do and how to make it fit his needs and his music as well as his life story. Can’t argue that with a man in a wool hat.

From A Radio Engine To The Photon Wing by Mike Nesmith [1977]

Tracks
Rio
Casablanca Moonlight
More Than We Imagine
Navajo Trail
We Are Awake
Wisdom Has Its Way
Love’s First Kiss
The Other Room

Mitch adds, by way of closing:

“I enjoyed the project a whole lot because I really admired that guy. I mean, he was the only one in the group who made sense – most of the time.  Photon Wing really is a good album – when I first heard ‘Rio,’ I thought, ‘What clever writing; kind of a sensible Warren Zevon.’”

A Sad Springtime Scene

June 20, 2012

Originally posted May 8, 2009

Early this morning, the Texas Gal called me to the dining room window. “Look at the end of the driveway” she said, pointing.

And there, not far from the sidewalk and moving parallel to Lincoln Avenue – a fairly busy street – was a mama duck followed by her ducklings. We couldn’t tell how many there were as they pushed through the grass to keep up with her, but all of them were making pretty good time across the lawn toward Thirteenth Avenue, which is a less busy street.

I wandered outside and down near the edge of the lawn, just to see which way she’d take her brood. My guess was that she’d eventually have to cross Lincoln and, after that, the railroad tracks: About a half-mile up, there’s a large drainage pond in front of the public works building on the far side of the tracks from us.

Mama and her ducklings stepped down from the curb into the street as a car sailed past. I looked both ways and saw no traffic coming, and Mama scooted across the street, her brown and gold fluffballs following. I counted nine of them. Once across the street, Mama hopped up onto the cure and into the taller grass. The ducklings tried to follow. The last one in line jumped up, fell and flipped on his back. He (it could have been a she, I know) lay there thrashing his wings, unable to get up.

I’d not intended to interfere when I went down to watch, but I couldn’t stand to see him like that. I dashed across the street and lifted him up to the grass. As I did, the other eight ducklings headed left, along the gutter, parallel with mama’s path on the grass above. And they were heading straight toward a storm sewer grate. I got five of them before they fell in; three tumbled into the water some feet below. I looked down into the grate and could not see them in the dimness. But I could hear them.

And Mama would not leave. She was confused: She could hear her lost ducklings chirping from below the street, but she could not find them. She waddled back and forth, past the grating in the street, pausing every once in a while to keep her other ducklings in a group in the taller grass. Eventually, the mama duck stopped pacing and stood guard on the curb above the grate, her remaining six ducklings huddled around her. I watched for a few moments, then sadly walked back across the street and up to the house where the Texas Gal was waiting.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have gotten involved,” she said.

“There are storm drains everywhere,” I said. “And other risks.” She nodded.

I came back into the house, wondering if I’d made things worse. And I don’t know. As I watched from the dining room window, the Texas Gal stopped her car next to the storm drain on Lincoln and got out. I couldn’t tell what she was doing. She called after she got to work.

“I saw her standing on the curb,” she told me, “and I thought that if I could get her to move far enough away so she couldn’t hear the ones in the drain, she might move on.” So she’d moved slowly toward the mama duck and her ducklings, gently guiding them on a path toward the public works building down the street and across the tracks. The diminished family did move on, the Texas Gal said.

I called the city’s public works department and told them what I’d seen, and the man I talked to said he’d get word to the folks who handled such events. “I don’t know what their policy is,” he told me, “but I’ll get word to the right people.”

I don’t have much hope for the three that fell, but I sure hope that Mama Duck and her remaining six babies got to the pond at the public works building.

The Band: Jubilation

The first thing one notices about Jubilation, the 1998 CD that turned out to be the last album in The Band’s long history, is the sound of old: fiddles, snare drums, accordion and – perhaps the most important – voices that sound weary or at least long-used. Is this rock ’n’ roll? Americana? Looking back from eleven years after the CD came out and nearly ten years since the death of Rick Danko, the label doesn’t really matter. It comes to mind that this is how music – in a lot of ways – sounded in small American communities before we all listened to the radio and the stereo and our mp3 players.

The Band was always a little out of step with the rest of the musical world, its five original members comprising a band of brothers who all stepped to the rhythm of Thoreau’s distant drummer. On the cover of their second album, The Band, the photo of the five of them – Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson – looks as if it comes from a Civil War history or an account of desperate men on the American frontier of about the same time. And their music – from Music From Big Pink in 1968 through Jubilation – was the same: Out of touch (sometimes less so, sometimes more) with the trends and styles of the day and utterly in touch with something deeper in the American soul.

Yes, I know the original group was made up of four Canadians and one U.S. citizen; but, to take care of the linguistic point first: Canada is a part of North America. Beyond that, for all our differences – and there are some significant ones – the rural portions of English Canada are not that far different from the rural portions of the southern U.S., and the experiences of those communities as they grew were not that dissimilar. I’ve read over the years some accounts of growing up in rural Canada shared by Danko and Richard Manuel that sound very much – in terms of community and music – like tales from Levon Helm’s South. If those experiences had been too much unlike, then Robbie Robertson could never have written the songs for the group’s first incarnation as well as he did, as many of the songs were inspired by Helm’s tales of his native South.

To underline that, consider what All-Music Guide says about the area of Ontario where Danko was born and raised. It is, AMG says, “populated by a large number of families descended from expatriate Southerners from the United States, and the echoes of Southern culture ran through the music and language in the area, with a special emphasis on country music.”

Well, not to belabor the point, but The Band always sounded unlike any other group, and the roots of its music were found in rural Canada as well as in the rural U.S. And Jubilation is not far at all from those roots. As writer Greil Marcus says in the notes to the CD: “[T]he rickety feeling of the faster rhythms, the way voices curl together around lines than can carry no date (‘Ain’t that somethin’/The big doghouse thumpin’’) is at once old and unheard, a sound that only has to be heard for the first time to feel as if it’s being remembered.”

It’s obvious that I like Jubilation. I’ve enjoyed every one of The Band’s albums since I first heard The Band nearly forty years ago. (Well, I don’t listen to Cahoots a lot.)* It’s a relaxed album, easy to listen to and easy to like. The highlights? Well, I particularly like the opener, “Book Faded Brown” and two others: “Last Train To Memphis” and “Kentucky Downpour.” And there’s only one track on the CD that doesn’t work so well for me: “Spirit of the Dance” seems somehow trite.

One of the things notable about Jubilation is that much of the material is written – or at least co-written – by members of The Band. The only tracks that are covers are Paul Jost’s “Book Faded Brown,” John Hiatt’s “Bound by Love” and Allen Toussaint’s “You See Me.” The other eight tracks have at least one and sometimes more members of the group credited as writers (sometimes writing with folks from outside the group).

Two famous friends show up during the proceedings: Eric Clapton adds his guitar to “Last Train to Memphis,” and Hiatt takes a vocal turn on his own “Bound by Love.”

Finally, one notable track is “White Cadillac,” which is subtitled “Ode to Ronnie Hawkins,” the rockabilly singer with whom the original members of The Band got their start so many years ago.

Tracks
Book Faded Brown
Don’t Wait
Last Train to Memphis
High Cotton
Kentucky Downpour
Bound by Love
White Cadillac
If I Should Fail
Spirit of the Dance
You See Me
French Girls

Jubilation by The Band [1998]

*I should also have noted Islands as one of The Band’s albums that gets little playing time here. Note added June 20, 2012.

‘If We Don’t Understand It . . .’

June 20, 2012

Originally posted April 20, 2009

I don’t often comment here on public affairs. Not all folks who love music the way my readers and I do will agree when it comes to politics or current events, and I want to keep this a place where the only conflicts come from differing views on, say, the White Album.

But two comments in separate reports aired on the CBS Evening News Saturday and Sunday caught my ear, and I thought both were worth mentioning:

First came a piece aired Saturday by Jeff Glor, looking at why “Canada is the only industrialized nation in the world without a single bank failure in the current economic downturn.” Glor talked to, among others, Ed Clark, the chief executive officer of the Toronto Dominion bank. Glor and Clark talked about subprime mortgages and the related topic of toxic mortgage-backed securities, which Glor described as “risky loans that were chopped up and resold in countless different ways.”

Many banks, Glor said, “gobbled up the now virtually worthless investments. Ed Clark got out four years ago saying they were just too complex.”

Clark told Glor: “As soon as you see that complexity, you say, ‘How can I possibly think I actually can guess whether this will work or not?’ And as soon as I hear that, I say, ‘Get out of it.’”

Then on Sunday, CBS’ Sheila MacVicar filed a piece on the only financial institution in Iceland that did not lose money for its customers during the near-collapse of that nation’s banking system. The company, Audur Capital, happens to have been founded by two women, which is where MacVicar found her hook for the story. MacVicar asked Audur’s Halla Tomasdattir – one of the two founders, one assumes, though she was not identified as such – and others whether our current economic woes might have been avoided if more women had been involved in finance.

MacVicar reports that the answer is “maybe,” bringing in research involving the impact on trading results of high testosterone levels among male traders as well as research looking at the performances of offices with more women in them than is generally the case. All of that is interesting, but I think MacVicar glossed over a key point that she herself mentioned early in her report.

While showing Tomasdattir in a meeting with two men and another woman – the other woman being, one assumes, the other founder of Audur – MacVicar says in a voice-over that the firm was founded on the principle of “If we don’t understand it, we’re not buying it.”

So, to recap:

Toronto banker Ed Clark says “As soon as you see that complexity, you say, ‘How can I possibly think I actually can guess whether this will work or not?’ And as soon as I hear that, I say, ‘Get out of it.’”

And the founding principle of Iceland’s only financial institution not to lose money for its customers is: “If we don’t understand it, we’re not buying it.”

Sounds like common sense to me. Too bad there wasn’t more of that around.

And Now, To Some Music
Thankfully, I understand music well enough that I can buy it. And I do so frequently.

I celebrated my increasing mobility Saturday by walking into the Electric Fetus with only the barest hint of a limp and heading to the portion of the used CD stand that holds the new arrivals. And there, waiting for me, were two sweet finds: Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind from 1997 and Honky Château, the 1972 album by Elton John. Both fall under the category of albums I already have on vinyl that I wanted to duplicate on CD.

Eventually, I imagine, I’m going to try to collect the entire works – mainstream releases, anyway – of Bob Dylan on CD. I have, I believe, every official LP release of his stuff, and I’m well on the way to gathering in his work on CD. The Time Out Of Mind album was a pleasant surprise. I knew it was out there, but I’d never looked for it, given its relatively recent release date. (I got the album on vinyl when it was released; its availability on vinyl was a relief to me, as had been the vinyl release in 1995 of MTV Unplugged because two earlier releases in the mid-1990s – World Gone Wrong and Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 – had not been released on LP.)

As for Honky Château, it’s one of John’s few full albums that I enjoy, and it seemed a reasonable addition to the stacks, where Madman Across the Water already resided. We also have a couple of John’s hits packages on CD, and – with the possible addition of Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection – that will likely suffice.

There aren’t a lot of groups or acts that compel me to assemble a complete set: That pretty much comes down to Dylan, the Beatles and The Band. The vinyl work was completed on all three of those long ago, and the CD collections are under way. In fact, the first CD I bought for myself was one by The Band.

For Christmas 1998, my sister and her family gave me my first CD player, an Aiwa portable, along with Across The Great Divide, a three-CD box set of highlights from The Band’s career.

And one of the first purchases I made on CD was The Band’s High On The Hog, the second album of new material released by the 1990s version of the group. (I already had Jericho, the first 1990s release, on cassette, so I thought the CD could wait a bit.)

I recall wandering through the aisles of a Best Buy store in the southern Minneapolis suburb of Richfield one Saturday morning in February of 1999.( I’m not sure why I ended up at a Best Buy several miles from my home instead of the nearby Cheapo’s.) But in short order, I found the right spot in the CD aisles. And I found myself put off a great deal by the cover art for High On The Hog. Looking at it now, it’s not all that bad, but at the time, I thought it was a grotesque cover design. Still, it was The Band, so I pulled the CD from the shelf, paid for it and headed home for a listen.

How was it? Overall, it wasn’t as good as Jericho had been. Once again, the group relied almost entirely on covers for material, but in general, those covers worked well with the ensemble-style voices and with the genial Americana-inflected arrangements. The two songs with writing credits that include the group are “The High Price of Love,” credited to Stan Szelest, Jules Shear and The Band, and “Ramble Jungle,” a loose jam that is credited to Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, bassist Rob Leon, Jim Weider, Randy Ciarlante and blues legend Champion Jack Dupree, who does a guest spot.

Neither of those tracks is among the CD’s highlights. Those would be the group’s versions of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” and J.J. Cale’s “Crazy Mama,” as well as “Where I Should Always Be,” a song written by Blondie Chaplin, who adds guitar to another track on the CD, “I Must Love You Too Much.”

As on Jericho, Richard Manuel makes a posthumous appearance, this time in a performance of “She Knows” recorded with the now-deceased Rick Danko and Garth Hudson in 1986 at New York City’s Lone Star Cafe in January 1986. The inclusion of “Country Boy” on Jericho was a nice touch, but to my ears, “She Knows” adds very little to High On The Hog.

Still, it’s a pretty good album. The playing, as was almost always the case with The Band, is stellar, with the three new members – drummer Ciarlante, guitarist Weider and keyboard player Richard Bell – having settled well into an ensemble with original members Helm, Hudson and Danko.

Tracks
Stand Up
Back To Memphis
Where I Should Always Be
Free Your Mind
Forever Young
The High Price Of Love
Crazy Mama
I Must Love You Too Much
She Knows
Ramble Jungle

High On The Hog by The Band [1996]

Reposts
Rick Danko [1977]
Original post here.

Danko/Fjeld/Anderson by Rick Danko, Jonas Fjeld & Eric Andersen [1991]
and
Ridin’ On The Blinds by Rick Danko, Jonas Fjeld & Eric Andersen [1994]
Original post here.

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.

The Return Of A Familiar Sound

May 16, 2012

Originally posted April 6, 2009

After I utterly missed Rick Danko while looking at a 1980s video of The Band Thursday, I thought a little bit about the version of the group that formed in the 1990s, releasing three CDs and touring several times. And I wondered what songs, if any, I should offer here over the next month or two. So I clicked on over to All-Music Guide and then to Amazon.com to refresh my memory on who wrote what on the three 1990s albums.

And I learned that all three of those CDs – Jericho from 1993, High on the Hog from 1996, and Jubilation from 1998 – are out of print. There are copies for sale out there, but the three pages at Amazon noted that “This item has been discontinued by the manufacturer.”

I’m of two minds about that. First, I think it’s a shame. There’s a lot of music from the 1990s still in print that’s not anywhere near as good as The Band’s three albums from that decade. I acknowledge that the albums released by The Band in the late 1960s and early 1970s were far superior to what came later, especially the first three: Music From Big Pink (1968), The Band (1969) and Stage Fright (1970). But the three 1990s albums had their moments, too, and I think they deserve better. On the other hand, their being out of print frees me to share them here. We’ll start with the first of the three, 1993’s Jericho.

The 1990s group was made up of three original members of the group: Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and the now-departed Rick Danko. They were joined by Jim Weider, Randy Ciarlante and Richard Bell, who passed on in 2007.

And Jericho had a guest/ghost vocalist: The group recorded a backing for a vocal performance of “Country Boy” laid down by Richard Manuel in 1985, a year before he killed himself. I saw The Band in the mid-1990s in Minneapolis, and the best of a number of great moments in the performance came when the six musicians played the backing track to “Country Boy” with no vocal in front of it, their tribute to Manuel.

I got the album on cassette for Christmas in 1993, shortly after it came out, and it was difficult at the time to assess how good the album actually was. It was such a treat to hear the three members of the original group again, to hear Danko and Helm switch off vocals, to hear Hudson’s keyboard and woodwind artistry, and to hear the three of them collaborate with the three new players to create the rootsy sound that always defined The Band.

Digging past the sound and into the credits, the first thing one notices about Jericho is that the group wrote very few of the songs. In the original incarnation of The Band, of course, Robbie Robertson had – by The Band in 1969 – become the group’s main songwriter. (There’s some disagreement about that among members of the original group, but I’m just going by the writing credits as listed on the albums.) On Jericho, only three of the twelve tracks – “Remedy,” “The Caves of Jericho” and “Move to Japan” – list members of the group as writers, and always in collaboration with others.

That said, however, The Band’s collegial approach to music – both vocal and instrumental – makes the nine other songs, covers all, work just fine. Highlights to me are Bob Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” along with “Country Boy” and the elegiac “Too Soon Gone.”

What doesn’t work? Well, nothing fails spectacularly. “Move to Japan” is kind of silly, but it clunks along all right. And “Amazon (River of Dreams)” doesn’t always work in its attempt to be atmospheric.

At the time the album came out, though, I don’t think there were a lot of quibbles from listeners and fans. The first track I heard was “Atlantic City,” which came on the radio late one evening as I was driving back to Minneapolis from Rob’s home. The mandolin introduction caught my ears, and I listened carefully as I drove. Then Helm began his vocal, and when I realized who it was – it took no more than ten seconds of surprised thinking – I grinned. I imagine a lot of other folks were grinning, too, at the return of a familiar sound.

Tracks:
Remedy
Blind Willie McTell
The Caves of Jericho
Atlantic City
Too Soon Gone
Country Boy
Move to Japan
Amazon (River of Dreams)
Stuff You Gotta Watch
Same Thing
Shine A Light
Blues Stay Away From Me

Jericho – The Band [1993]

Reposts
The Hawk – Ronnie Hawkins [1971]
Original post here.

Living By The Days – Don Nix ([971]
Original post here.

Here’s Some Heartsfield

March 21, 2012

Originally  posted March 18, 2009

I’ve posted a few things from the 1970s country-rock band Heartsfield, and the reaction was positive both times. Today, I’m offering the band’s second album, The Wonder of It All, a 1974 release. And I’ve added a new, better and complete copy of the group’s first, self-titled album from 1973.

Fans of early 1970s country rock should enjoy the albums. It’s been a mystery to me why Heartsfield didn’t become more well-known.

Heartsfield – The Wonder of It All (1974)

Tracks
The Wonder of It All
House of Living
Pass Me By
Shine On
Eight Hours Time
I’ve Just Fallen
Racin’ the Sun
Lafayette County
Shine On (single edit)

Heartsfield – Heartsfield (1973)

Tracks
I’m Coming Home
Hush-A-Bye
Gypsy Rider
Music Eyes
Understandin’ Woman
Just That Wind
The Only Time I’m Sober Is When You’re Gone
Save Her Life
The Wonder of It All

Note:
I wasn’t up to saying much when I posted earlier today, nor, obviously, was I up to posting correctly. I mixed things up a little on the original post. I’ve now revised the post, uploaded the correct album and added another. Sorry for the confusion.

How ’Bout Some Bobby Keys?

March 21, 2012

Originally posted March 13, 2009

Here comes another list!

I was over at Amazon.com this morning, doing some research and trying to determine if a recent online find is as rare as I think it might be.

And I saw one of those lists/conversation thingies that Amazon places at the bottoms of its web pages. I left a response at one of them once, but that’s all. Some of the list topics on the music pages are interesting, like “The Most Hated Song,” and “They Actually Made A Song About That?” Others are, well, a little more limited, like, “ZAPPA: Wasted Talant?” (sic) and “If you could see a band play all the psychedelic classics accurately what would you want them to play?”

And then I saw:

“You are given your own radio show. You have time to play ten songs each night. What is the first song you play? If you have time, what are the first ten songs you play?”

I’m sure my friends out there in radio consider this question all the time, even if it’s only for themselves in reaction to today’s mandated and limited playlists. But despite all the various music lists I’ve compiled over the years, this is one I’ve never pondered. And it’s an interesting one.

Now, if I were truly going to be on the radio and have to put together a playlist for my first shift, I’d likely take more time than I will here. But this still could be a pretty good show, I hope:

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult
“Don’t the Moon Look Sad and Lonesome” by Joy of Cooking
“You Don’t Have To Cry” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
“Bare Trees” by Fleetwood Mac
“Valdez In The Country” by Cold Blood
“Anyday” by Derek & the Dominos
“A Woman Left Lonely” by Janis Joplin
“Blue River” by Danko/Fjeld/Andersen
“Shooting Star” by Bob Dylan
“The Promised Land” by Bruce Springsteen

I know, lots of big names – but with some unexpected choices, I hope – and not too much found too deep in the files. We’ll just consider this a rough draft. I’m sure there are other tracks I’ll think of as soon as I put this post up. (What would be your ten tracks? Leave a comment and let us all know!)

I imagine the first change I’d make to my list is to find room for a track from my current listening.

Given my affinity for music from the early part of the 1970s, especially from the musicians in the Joe Cocker/Derek & the Dominos/Delaney & Bonnie axis, it’s not often I learn about an album of which I’d been utterly unaware. When I see mention of a record that includes performances by musicians from that group of players, I might think, Gee, I didn’t know they played on that. But it’s very rare to run across a record from that time frame and along that axis of players that’s absolutely new to me.

It happened late last week. In my wanderings from blog to blog to blog, I found myself in unfamiliar precincts. And I saw mention of a post at another blog of a 1972 solo album by saxophone player Bobby Keys. I’d never heard of the album, so I clicked through several more links and found myself at the blog Old and New On Stage For You.* And indeed, the post there offered Bobby Keys, released in 1972 on Warner Brothers.

I wrote a few weeks ago – in my musings on Jim Horn’s Through the Eyes of a Horn – about my regard for Keys. At the time, I wondered vaguely if he’d ever put out a solo album, but in focus of putting together the post and then in the flitter of day-to-day life, I didn’t think to check it out. And, after it came to me by accident, Bobby Keys is rapidly becoming one of my favorite listens.

Part of that is Keys’ work. The man can play. But the Texas-born horn player was also fortunate to have an outstanding group of musicians backing him as he made what appears to be his only solo album. Here are the credits from inside the record jacket.

Saxophone: Bobby Keys
Trumpet: Jim Price
Guitars: John Uruibe, Leslie West, Charlee Freeman, Dave Mason, George Harrison
Bass: Carl Radle, Klaus Voorman, Felix Pappalardi, Jack Bruce
Keyboards: Nicky Hopkins, Mike Utley, Jim Price
Drums: Corky Laing, Jim Gordon, Ringo Starr

Additionally, I learned from some digging at a website that catalogs his uncredited performances that Eric Clapton is said to have played on four tracks on the album. (Those are “Steal From A King,” “Bootleg,” “Command Performance” and “Crispy Duck.”)

As might be expected, the album is a bit like a jam session, and the sound is sometimes dense. In fact, at some points, it reminds me a bit of the “Apple Jam” disk that was part of Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album. And why not? Many of the same players were on that record. But the tracks on Keys’ album are much shorter than the jams on Harrison’s album and things seem under more control. (Credit for that goes to Keys, Gordon and Andy Johns, who co-produced the record.)

It seems to be a very rare record. GEMM doesn’t have it listed (though it does list multiple copies of a Keys’ 45: “Gimmie The Key/Honky Tonk Parts 1 and 2” that evidently dates from 1975). Nor is the LP listed at Ebay (though a couple copies of the same single are offered).

Best tracks? It’s hard to say, as I’m still getting to know the record. That will take a few more listens. At this point, I like three tracks a lot: “Key West,” “Crispy Duck” and “Sand & Foam.” But the entire album is a pleasure. And a wonderful surprise.

Tracks
Steal From A King
Smokefoot
Bootleg
Altar Rock
Key West
Command Performance
Crispy Duck
Sand & Foam

Bobby Keys – Bobby Keys [1972]

(The title of the third track is spelled “Bootleg.” I think the file name and the tags in the zip have it as “Boot-Leg.” Sorry I didn’t catch that sooner. And this is a rip from vinyl, so there are a few clicks here and there.)

*The blog Old and New On Stage For You is, sadly, dormant if not dead. Note added March 21, 2012.

Tapping The Green Couch Memories

January 4, 2012

Originally posted February 18, 2009

I’ve mentioned at odd times here some of the records that my older sister owned during the late 1960s and early 1970s, records that I think I played at least as frequently as she did on the stereo in the basement rec room.

As I’ve noted, her small collection shaped at least a portion of my listening habits: Call it an anteroom to the auditorium, a small place that contained artists and records that weren’t – at the time – among things I would have bought for myself. But as I played those records during the four or so years between the time the rec room was completed and the time my sister got married and moved away, my tastes were stretched, and I began to view the entire spectrum of music as a buffet table from which I could pick and choose.

I’d always been a little idiosyncratic in my tastes, at least as far as my peers were concerned. From my collection of Al Hirt records and soundtracks in the middle of the 1960s to my utter loyalty to the Beatles during the time at the end of that decade when they fell apart as a group, I’d always been marching on the offbeat. And my sister’s records offered me another set of performers and styles to explore.

One of those performers was Leo Kottke. I think my sister saw him in concert sometime in 1971, the year when I finished high school and started college. Within a week or so, she’d bought two Leo Kottke albums, Mudlark and Circle ’Round The Sun. Both of those albums became part of the soundtrack to my first year in college, as I spent numerous evenings lounging on the green couch on one side of the rec room, listening to music unlike anything I was hearing on any radio station. When my sister took her small stash of records with her en route to married life, she left small but significant gaps in my listening. Over the years, I’ve found many of those records on LP and, in the past few years, a few on CD.

My thought here is to post and share over the next few months most of those albums that my sister owned, albums that helped shape my listening habits. Call them Green Couch Memories. (I’ve already shared one of those albums, John Denver’s Whose Garden Was This? I may share that again as this no doubt sporadic series moves along.) Some of the music in these forthcoming posts will be ripped from CDs; others will be from vinyl. Some of the rips will be files I’ve gotten from friends, while others will be my rips.

We’ll start with the first Leo Kottke record I remember hearing: Mudlark, released in 1971. This was the Kottke’s fourth release and his first on a major label, Capitol. (The earlier releases were 12-String Blues in 1969, Circle ’Round the Sun in 1970 and 6 and 12 String Guitar in 1971.) It’s also, I believe, the first to have bass and drums on some of the tracks.

(When I wrote about Kottke and my search for Mudlark and Circle ’Round The Sun last summer, within days, two regular readers of my blog emailed me and offered copies of the two albums. So my thanks to Mitch and Bob. In a world where I planned and scheduled things better, today’s rip of Mudlark would come from the copy Bob sent me, but that’s one of those things I’ve not gotten around to, so I’m sharing a copy of the record that I found at a forum. I may make time in the next few days to rip the LP, which would result in a slightly higher bitrate for the mp3s, but we’ll see.)

Musicians on the record are:

Kottke on guitars and vocals; Wayne Moss, Roy Estrada, Larry Taylor and Pat Smith on bass; Kenneth Buttrey and Paul Lagos on drums, and John Harris and Jeffrey Kaplan on piano. On “Monkey Lust,” the Juke Box Phantom is listed as “guest vocalist extraordinare.” The album was recorded at Cinderella Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, and was produced by Denny Bruce and Michael Sunday.

Tracks:
Cripple Creek
Eight Miles High
June Bug
The Ice Miner
Bumblebee
Stealing
Monkey Lust
Poor Boy
Lullaby
Machine #2
Hear The Wind Howl
Bourée
Room 8
Standing In My Shoes

Leo Kottke – Mudlark [1971]

Mary Hopkin, ‘Temma Harbour’ & Froth

December 21, 2011

Originally posted February 4, 2009

I’ve got a little bit of music by Mary Hopkin in my collection: One LP on the shelves and a rip of another album and some singles in the mp3 files. But I have to admit I don’t know either of the albums all that well. I found the LP, Postcard, in 2001, and I know I’ve listened to it, as it’s in the stacks and not in the bins of records waiting for a hearing. But it doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression on me, beyond two facts: It’s on Apple and was produced by Paul McCartney.

The other album, Earth Song, Ocean Song, is – I think – something I was referred to by member of a board I frequent. Once I got it, I mentally set it aside, noting as I did that on the album, Hopkin covers one of my favorite songs, “Streets of London.” Since then – and that was a few months ago – I’ve not thought about it much.

So when Hopkin’s single, “Temma Harbour” popped up last week as I was sharing a few songs from 1970, all I really knew about her was her two hit singles. I wrote:

“Mary Hopkin – after being discovered by the Beatles and recorded for their Apple label – was prone to light, frothy and nostalgic singles: ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Those Were The Days’ were the hits. ‘Temma Harbour’ is not quite so frothy and has a tropical lilt to it that I like, so it’s not nearly as wearisome as the other stuff. (Temma Harbour is located on the north coast of the Australian island of Tasmania.)”

Later that day, I got a note from David, a fellow Minnesotan who’s been an occasional correspondent. He pointed out that “Temma Harbour” had reached the U.S. Top 40 (it was on the charts for two weeks, reaching No. 39 in the spring of 1970), and chronicled some of Hopkin’s further success in the British charts.

He also wrote, “[T]o be fair to her, when observing that her career was ‘prone to light, frothy and nostalgic singles’ you might want to note that she resisted that and her second Apple album, Earth Song, Ocean Song, was recorded more to her own preferences, and it’s a lovely compilation of songs by Cat Stevens, Ralph McTell (she’s one of the best at covering his songs, listen to her ‘Silver Birch and Weeping Willow,’ and ‘Kew Gardens’ as well as ‘Streets of London’) and the Apple house writers Gallagher & Lyle (her recording of ‘The Sparrow’ is amazing).  She recorded it with Dave Cousins, Ralph McTell, Danny Thompson, and similar name folkies under Tony Visconti’s production. Of course her approach didn’t yield hits.”

So I went and listened to Earth Song, Ocean Song. I still can’t say I know it well, but it is a much better album than I’d anticipated. “Streets of London” and “Silver Birch and Weeping Willow” are highlights, as are “The Wind” – the Cat Stevens tune – and the album’s closer “Ocean Song.”

Two songs that David mentioned aren’t on the Earth Song, Ocean Song album. I’m not sure how “Kew Gardens” was released, but it’s pretty good. So, too, is the Gallagher & Lyle tune – listed as simply “Sparrow” – that was the B-side of “Goodbye.” I did find a YouTube video using “Kew Gardens” and showing scenery from the actual Kew Gardens in London. And there’s a link to a rip of “Sparrow” below. (I’m making the assumption – perhaps a foolhardy thing to do – that the version of “Sparrow” I have is the same as the one from the Apple single.)

I also went back to my copy of Post Card this week and sampled a bit of it. It’s still pretty frothy, which only underlines David’s point: When Hopkin was allowed to do the things she did best, she was pretty good. (A sidelight to my putting Post Card on the turntable: The fourth track on the second side is “Those Were The Days,” which All-Music Guide says was included only on the British version of the LP. That would mean my copy is a U.K, edition, but based on a few quick looks at other copies of Post Card for sale online, I think that AMG got that one wrong; does anyone know?)

Anyway, here’s Earth Song, Ocean Song.

Tracks:
International
There’s Got To Be More
Silver Birch and Weeping Willow
How Come The Sun
Earth Song
Martha
Streets of London
The Wind
Water, Paper & Clay
Ocean Song

Mary Hopkin – Earth Song, Ocean Song [1971]

“Sparrow” by Mary Hopkin, Apple 1806 [1969]