Archive for the ‘Single’ Category

See You Tomorrow

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 27, 2009

I had planned to resurrect the “Tuesday Cover” for today, but that’s going to have to wait. I had a minor medical test done today, and along the way, the technician injected me with something that’s made me very woozy and wobbly.

Unhappily, I have no song with “woozy” in its title, and while “wobbly” brings up “Little Bear/Wobbly Cat Upton Stick Dance” by Eliza Carthy & The Kings of Calicutt, I think I’ll pass.

So we’ll give Bettye LaVette another chance to shine and see you tomorrow.

“Waiting For Tomorrow” by Bettye LaVette
From the Child Of The Seventies sessions, ca. 1973

A Day Unlike Any Other

November 30, 2011

Originally posted January 20, 2009

Just one song today. With that song comes a heartfelt hope that its title soon come true for us here in the United States and for everyone around this small world.

Now I’m going to go watch the world change.

“Hard Times Come Again No More” by Mavis Staples
From Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster (2004)

‘It Ain’t A Matter Of Pork ’N’ Beans . . .’

November 16, 2011

Originally posted January 9, 2009

I debated all morning, while I was running some errands, what I should post when I finally got home. And as I rummaged through the mp3s early this afternoon, I thought of a track that I’ve been meaning to post here for some time, one of my favorite album tracks of the early 1970s.

Just to tease things along a little, I’ll list the backing musicians first:

Guitar: Ron Wood and Sam Mitchell.
Piano: Ian Armitt.
Tenor sax: Alan Skidmore.
Bass: Rikki Brown.
Drums: Mickie Waller.

Chorus: Lesley Duncan, Madelene [should no doubt be “Madeline”] Bell, Doris Troy, Kay Garner, Liza Strike, Tony Burrows, Tony Hazzard and Roger Cook.

Producer: Rod Stewart.

There are some pretty interesting names there. The obvious ones are Wood and Stewart. Among the vocalists, the name of Doris Troy (“Just One Look,” No. 10, 1963) jumps out, as does that of Lesley Duncan, who did a lot of session work in England and released some singles in the 1960s and several well-regarded albums during the 1970s. Another name that pops out at me is that of Tony Burrows. Why? Here’s part of what All-Music Guide has to say about Burrows:

“By rights, Tony Burrows should be a one-man oldies package tour – though he never charted a record under his own name, he holds the unusual honor (you can look it up in the Guinness Book of World Records) of having four records in the British Top Ten at once, all under different names. The British session vocalist sang Edison Lighthouse’s ‘Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),’ White Plains’ ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’,’ the Pipkins’ ridiculous ‘Gimme Dat Ding,’ and the Brotherhood of Man’s ‘United We Stand,’ all of which were big hits in both the U.S. and U.K. in 1970.”

But Burrows – as fascinating as his story is – remains a backing singer here. Whose record was this?

Well, I wondered that, too, the first time I heard the track I’m sharing today. That likely happened in early 1972 in the tiny room we used as a lounge at KVSC, St. Cloud State’s student-run station. And I know I heard the track – which was released in 1971 – on several other stations. It was fairly popular on a good number of FM stations in the months after its release. It was, to be sure, an odd track, even by the standards of a relatively free-form station: It starts with a soliloquy backed by a piano tracing a slightly bluesy, slightly jazzy figure, and it takes a little more than three minutes before the speaker gets to the end of his tale and the music kicks in.

But thirty-seven years after I first heard it, I still get an adrenaline rush as Long John Baldry finishes his tale and Ian Armitt’s piano leads the band into three-and-a-half minutes of kick-ass British blues-rock.

“Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll”

Long John Baldry (From It Ain’t Easy, 1971)

(Baldry’s tale and the song are presented as one track on the original LP version of It Ain’t Easy. On the CD, for some reason, the track is listed as two tracks: “Conditional Discharge” and “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll.” Even though the mp3 was ripped from the CD, I’ve held to the original track title.)

A December Monday

October 12, 2011

Originally posted December 15, 2008

This is one of those mornings when nothing seems to come to mind and other things need my attention: I’ll have to head out sometime today and clear the sidewalk, as we got about four to five inches of snow yesterday. (I went out yesterday afternoon as it was still snowing and cleared the walks once; it seems easier to me to shovel two inches twice than four inches at one time. I might even be right.) I’ll wait to shovel, though, until it gets a bit warmer than –10 F (-23 C), which is what the thermometer reads at the moment.

I also have some household stuff to attend to, and there are several CDs that need to be logged into the files and some other similar tasks. In addition, a couple of writing projects beckon me.

So I think I’ll just call it a draw with my imagination this morning and leave Monday’s readers with a lovely and aptly titled song by the late – and very great – songwriter and singer Fred Neil:

Fred Neil – “December’s Dream”
[Unreleased alternate, likely between 1965 and 1968]

On Maintenance & A Forgotten Date

October 12, 2011

Originally posted December 9, 2008

It’s a little surprising – though maybe it shouldn’t be – how much more strenuous taking care of a house is than it was to take care of an apartment.

We’ve had two light snowfalls in two days, and although we’re not responsible for clearing the long driveway – our landlord either does it himself or hires someone to plow it – it is our responsibility to clear the sidewalk that snakes its way from the backdoor around to the front and from there to the street. And so far, we’ve been woefully ill-equipped to do so.

We’ve never needed real snow shovels before. For years we’ve carried in our cars those collapsible shovels designed to help you dig out of a snowdrift. They’ve served well the few times we’ve had to shovel any snow here in St. Cloud, as all we’ve ever needed to do was to shovel drifts from around our second car in the parking lot after a heavy snow.

But they don’t do too well clearing a sidewalk. And neither, once the snowfall hits an inch, will a wide broom. With less than an inch, the broom can work, but it takes a lot more effort with the broom than it would with a standard snow shovel. The aches in my legs, shoulders and forearms are providing testimony to that even as I write. So pretty much as soon as I get this post up this morning, I’m going to head over to Handyman’s, where the Seversons have supplied my family’s hardware needs since I was in junior high, and pick up two snow shovels.

I will say this about the differences between a house and an apartment: I’m in better shape now than I have been for some years. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to oil myself up and win any contests. But frequent activity – from hauling boxes around in the heat of August to taking care of any number of minor outdoor chores and walking up and down stairs several times a day for any number of reasons – has given me plenty of exercise. I’ve actually lost more weight in the four months since we began the move than I did in the four months or so before that when the Texas Gal and I were regularly going to the gym. (As our time available for the gym dwindled while we prepared for the move in summer, the frequency of our visits decreased and we ended our membership; we may renew it.)

(One of my readers the other week left a comment asking how things went on my recent visit to my doctor. As I expected, Doctor Julie told me I was in good shape for a middle-aged man, except for the cholesterol, which was still high [though not quite as high as it has been]. That was the only real concern, and she said she was pleased that I’d lost some weight. Since the visit, I have found ways to remember to take my cholesterol medication, the generic equivalent of Lopid, regularly.)

I Just Forgot
For some reason, I’ve been a little distracted lately, not noticing some things I should notice and forgetting stuff I should remember. Readers will recall that I forgot to post December’s First Friday piece last week until Saturday.

And yesterday, I didn’t think at all about its being December 8 until I stopped by The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, the superlative blog offered by my pal jb in Madison, Wisconsin. When I did, I realized with a start that yesterday was the twenty-eighth anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. I hadn’t remembered it, hadn’t thought about it, hadn’t written about it.

But jb remembered. And he invited regular commenter Yah Shure – a regular visitor here, as well – to look back to that evening in 1980, when Yah Shure was the deejay at WJON here in St. Cloud. It’s a great post by both Yah Shure and jb, and the only thing I can say beyond “congratulations” to both of them is that I wish I’d thought of it first! If you haven’t read it already, do so.

(And while you’re at it, take a look at the pensive take on the anniversary posted at The Great Vinyl Meltdown by another friend of mine, caithiseach.)

As to the anniversary of Lennon’s death, even had I thought about it, I’m not sure I’d have more to say. I’ve written twice about it, I think, once when pondering the year 1980 and then again on the anniversary of Lennon’s death last year. In any case, I forgot about it yesterday. But it was only for a day, and we’ll let Bob Seger take it from there.

Bob Seger – “Rock And Roll Never Forgets” [1976]

Checking Out For A Long Weekend

October 7, 2011

Originally posted November 28, 2008

The Texas Gal has today and Monday off from work, so we’re going to spend some time doing lots of nothing for the next few days. I’ll be back early next week – maybe Monday while the Texas Gal sleeps in, for sure on Tuesday. In the meantime, have a good weekend!

Bobby Charles – “See You Later, Alligator” [Chess 1609, 1955]

Being Thrown Back In Time

October 7, 2011

Originally posted November 25, 2008

As many times as it happens, I continue to be amazed at the power of some songs from one season of my youth to yank me out of my cozy midlife home and plop me back in my bedroom on Kilian Boulevard, with a history textbook open on the table and a host of teenage dilemmas bubbling underneath the surface of the high school junior I was.

I’ve written a little bit before about that first year when I discovered Top 40, the 1969-70 school year. Many of the songs I heard on the radio during those nine months are old friends, records that I nod and smile at when I hear them on the oldies station in the car or when they pop up on the RealPlayer here in the house. But there are a few from those months that don’t just trigger the pleasure of recognizing an old friend; those few records throw me back nearly forty years and remind me not only of what I heard in those days but how it felt to hear it and how it felt to be in my skin at the time. That’s powerful stuff, and it can be a little disorienting.

Regular readers know that I have a fascination with memory and memoir, and I frequently – I realize after the fact – wrestle with the question of how our memories color our present and how sometimes the memories that tint our current lives are events that we’d have judged to be insignificant and totally unmemorable at the time they happened. And when there’s an external trigger – and music is, I am certain, one of our most powerful triggers – we’re back where all those things happened that helped to make us who we are now.

Sometimes, of course, it’s not events that come back. Rather, one encounters a wave of pure emotion. I have no idea what I was doing the first time I heard Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia.” It was no doubt during the early weeks of 1970; the record entered the Top 40 in late January and peaked at No. 4 in mid-March. All I know is that the times must have been difficult for me. Because whenever I heard that record’s opening guitar riff over a gentle organ wash, the jolt of recognition is accompanied by a horribly sad sense of “Damn, I wish things were different.”

And I do remember that for a chunk of that season, that was how I felt. The events behind the feelings aren’t really important here, although I do have a good idea of what they were. The fascinating thing in 2008 is that those few seconds of that record – like several others from that season – still has the ability to replicate how I felt when I heard it so long ago.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned “Rainy Night in Georgia” when I made a brief comment about its creator, Tony Joe White. And when Benton’s version of the song popped up on the RealPlayer this week, I realized that I’ve never posted White’s original version, which he released on his 1969 album Tony Joe White . . . Continued. So here it is:

Tony Joe White – “Rainy Night in Georgia” [1969]

Great Voices: Some Readers’ Suggestions

October 7, 2011

Originally posted November 24, 2008

Well, Wednesday’s look at the top ten voices listed by Rolling Stone magazine in its “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” generated a good discussion and some interesting names, some of them coming from the post-1970 era I had suggested be looked at, some of them coming from earlier years in the rock ’n’ roll timeline.

So I thought I would list all the names that were listed in the comments and comb through the Rolling Stone list to see if those performers were listed, and where. Here goes:

David Bowie was listed at No. 23.
Christina Aguilera was listed at No. 58.
Paul Rodgers was listed at No. 55.
Ann Wilson was not listed.
Chris Cornell was not listed.
Michael Stipe was not listed.
Bono was listed at No. 32.
Bruce Springsteen was listed at No. 36.
Ranking Roger was not listed.
Brad Delp was not listed.
38 Special (Donnie Van Zant, Don Barnes) was not listed.
Elvis Costello was not listed.
Joe Strummer was not listed.
Annie Lennox was listed at No. 93.
Etta James was listed at No. 22.
Mavis Staples was listed at No. 56.
Dusty Springfield was listed at No. 35.
Sandy Denny was not listed.
Kate Bush was not listed.
Emmylou Harris was not listed.
Kirsty MacColl was not listed.
Maria McKee was not listed.
Grant McLennan was not listed.
Elton John was listed at No. 38.
Tracey Thorn was not listed.
Shirley Manson was not listed.
Linda Thompson was not listed.
Harriet Wheeler was not listed.
Jon Anderson was not listed.
Morrissey was listed at No. 92.
Bruce Cockburn was not listed.
Boz Scaggs was not listed.
Graham Nash was not listed.
Robbie Robertson was not listed.
Al Green was listed at No. 14.
Michael McDonald was not listed.
Shannon McNally was not listed.
Ruthie Foster was not listed.
Lucinda Williams was not listed.
James Hunter was not listed.
Erykah Badu was not listed.
Meshell Ndegeocello was not listed.
Chrissy Hynde was not listed.

Of those suggested from the post-1970 era who didn’t make the list at all, I’d probably give the nod to Michael Stipe. I don’t particularly care for R.E.M., but I think he has a great voice. (I do love Ruthie Foster’s voice and work, but I think a larger body of work is required before assessing her.) Two names from that era that readers did not mention that I would have liked to see on the Rolling Stone list were Natalie Merchant and Darius Rucker.

Of the names pre-dating 1970 that were suggested by readers, the one that absolutely should have been on the magazine’s list was that of Sandy Denny. And a voice that reader’s didn’t mention from that era that should have been there was Rick Danko’s. (Levon Helm was the only member of The Band on the list, being listed at No. 91.)

R.E.M. (with KRS-1) – “Radio Song” [1991]
(From Out Of Time)

Sandy Denny – “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” [1968]
(From All Our Own Work [with the Strawbs])

Transition and ‘Work To Do’

September 26, 2011

Originally posted November 14, 2008

I was thinking about the word “transition,” and the process of transition, having seen and heard the word used a thousand times in news accounts since Election Day.

It might be glib to say that we’re always in a state of transition, both in the macro sense of the world around us and in the micro sense of each individual. But glib or not, I think it’s true: There are changes every day, most of them so minuscule that we don’t notice them. Then eventually, we look out the window and notice that the kids next door are now in high school when it seems like they were only days ago in kindergarten, or we look in the mirror. That’s the strange one; I’m still not sure when that guy with the grey beard sneaked into my mirror to look back at me.

As I thought about transition, I dropped into my files of the weekly Billboard Hot 100 and thought back as well to the autumn of 1972, my second year of college. I remember finding myself at loose ends that season. During the year before, I’d had a group of folks around – fellow first-year students I’d met through a college orientation. We’d hung out together, done some short road trips and managed a few drunken weekends. We seemed pretty tight.

Then, as my sophomore year began, I took up with those same folks again, guys and gals both. And it no longer worked. We’d all changed since we’d first gotten together a year earlier, and we’d each moved in different directions. I recall spending part of a Friday evening with a couple of the guys who’d been central to my freshman year: Dave and Dave. We were in one Dave’s dorm room, yapping and listening to music. As Loggins and Messina told some gal that her mama didn’t dance, I listened to the Daves talk, and I realized I no longer felt like I belonged there. After a brief wait, I said something suitable and took off. I don’t think I ever saw either of the Daves socially again.

A few months later, as 1973 began, I met the first of the people from the group that became The Table, and the social life that defined the rest of my years on campus began to take shape. But for a while, I was adrift, and I likely turned to the radio in my own room for comfort. Here’s the top fifteen from the Billboard Hot 100 of November 11, 1972.

“I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash
“Nights In White Satin” by the Moody Blues
“I’d Love You To Want Me” by Lobo
“Freddie’s Dead (Theme from Superfly)” by Curtis Mayfield
‘I’ll Be Around/How Could I Let You Get Away” by the Spinners
“Garden Party” by Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band
“My Ding-A-Ling” by Chuck Berry
“I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy
“Convention ’72” by the Delegates
“Witchy Woman” by the Eagles
“Listen To The Music” by the Doobie Brothers
“If I Could Reach You” by the 5th Dimension
“Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations
‘Burning Love/It’s A Matter Of Time” by Elvis Presley
“Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues” by Danny O’Keefe

There’s some good listening there for the most part. But the list contains, to my mind, one of the worst singles ever to reach No. 1: Chucky Berry’s horrific “My Ding-A-Ling” (which had been No. 1 for two weeks in September).

The best of the bunch would be either the Temptations’ track or the Curtis Mayfield. Gritty and realistic, both records hit hard and were good listening, too. (Regarding the Mayfield track, I have to chuckle every time the Texas Gal and I stop at the local co-op. Some of the baked goods available at the co-op, as proclaimed by a sign on the front door, come from an establishment named Freddie’s Bread. Whenever we go in, I can’t help singing under my breath, “Freddie’s Bread . . . that’s what I said.”)

“Convention ’72” was a Dickie Goodman-ish “break-in” record spoofing politics. It was put together, according to the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, by a trio of guys in Florida, one of whom was a deejay; the other two owned a record label.

Some of the Top Fifteen is a little soft. I can do without the Lobo, and I know that the Helen Reddy anthem drives some folks mad. The 5th Dimension track is not one of the group’s best, and “Burning Love” has never meant much to me. (I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the B-side, “It’s A Matter Of Time.”

The rest of the records there are pretty good, especially “Garden Party” and “Listen To The Music.”

But none of the fifteen – not counting the two B-sides – are all that hard to hear these days. So I looked a little deeper into the Billboard Hot 100 of November 11, 1972, and at No. 61, I found a little gem, in its third week on the chart.

It never went too much higher. Four weeks later, it would peak at No. 51 and then spend another two weeks in the Hot 100 before falling off the chart entirely. But it likely deserved better.

Isley Brothers – “Work To Do” [T-Neck 936, 1972]

A Transformational Moment

September 21, 2011

Originally posted November 5, 2008

I don’t inject politics here too often. Thoughtful readers can no doubt figure out the portion of the political arc where I find myself most comfortable. I’m a fairly liberal Democrat. (In Minnesota, that means being a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party, an historic label that I like immensely.) As such, I’m pleased by the results from yesterday’s election – well, not entirely: a U.S. Senate race and a Congressional race here in Minnesota aren’t heading the directions I’d hoped.

But the election of Barack Obama as our next president was more important than politics. It was, I think, a transformational moment, a truly historic event. I’m not finding it easy to write about, as everything I think about saying this morning sounds trite or too much like a repetition of what I heard last evening. I think I’m better off summing election night by noting two images that will stay with me longer than the words of any of the reporters, anchorpersons or analysts:

First, the tears of joy on the face of Rev. Jesse Jackson as he waited in a crowd in Chicago’s Grant Park and saw a man with the same skin tones as his elected president of the United States.

Second, the celebration inside Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church as its parishioners and guests saw another portion of the dream of its one-time pastor – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – come to reality.

And maybe it’s a lack of imagination on my part, but – having wandered through the music collection this morning – I can’t think of any two songs more fitting for today than the two below:

“A Change Is Gonna Come” by San Cooke, RCA 8486 [1965]

“People Get Ready” by the Impressions, ABC-Paramount 10622 [1965]