Posts Tagged ‘Bonnie Raitt’

Quiet Time In ’89

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 29, 2009

The autumn of 1989 – twenty years ago – was a quiet one. I’d landed in Anoka, Minnesota, a town about twenty miles north of Minneapolis, after my two mostly unhappy years on the North Dakota prairie. I wasn’t in Anoka long, just a little more than ten months, but it was a good place to recharge my batteries and decide in which direction to go next.

I did a little bit of teaching at a nearby community college and spent half of my time working for a newspaper chain, reporting for a paper that covered the small towns of Champlin and Dayton. (Champlin has grown into a good-sized suburb in the twenty years since; Dayton is far more rural and has grown, too, but not as rapidly.) After one quarter of teaching, I left the community college and worked full-time for the newspaper chain, reporting and taking care of special projects.

It was a pleasant, undemanding time, which was exactly what I needed. Those months were made more pleasant by weekly visits from a lady friend from St. Cloud, who would stop by on Wednesdays for dinner on her way to teach a course at the same community college. I’m a pretty decent cook, and Wednesdays were my favorite day of the week during that time, what with the regular visits to the butcher shop and the bakery and the chance to cook for someone other than myself. We generally had chicken or fish although I do recall trying my wild rice and turkey curry – a favorite of mine – for the first time. Those weekly dinners were among the highlights of my life in Anoka.

We always had music playing, sometimes the radio but usually records on the stereo, and here are a few tracks from that year, some of which we might actually have heard while eating dinner.

A Mostly Random Six-Pack from 1989
“Texas” by Chris Rea from The Road to Hell
“Where’ve You Been” by Kathy Mattea, Mercury 876262
“Vanessa” by Alex Taylor from Voodoo In Me
“Have A Heart” by Bonnie Raitt from Nick of Time
“No One” by the BoDeans from Home
“Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls from The Indigo Girls

“Texas” is a moody piece from a moodier album. I recall hearing “Texas” when the album was released; it got a lot of play on Cities 97, which was my radio station of choice during my months in Anoka. The Road to Hell and another Rea album from about the same era, 1991’s Auberge, remain among my favorites.

“Where’ve You Been,” a story song about soulmates, was pulled from Mattea’s Willow in the Wind album. I very well could have heard it on Cities 97, but I’m not sure. I wasn’t listening to a lot of country radio at the time, though, so that’s not the answer. I do know I heard it frequently during my months in Anoka, as the story resonated with me. And it’s a beautiful song: The next year, it won Don Henry and Jon Vezner a Grammy for Best Country Song, and Mattea walked away with a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

I know I never heard Alex Taylor during those dinners in the autumn of 1989, because his work was something I didn’t discover until years after it was recorded and years after he died in 1993. “Vanessa” is a fine piece of bluesy rock, as was the entire Voodoo in Me album, which turned out to be Taylor’s fifth and last released album. Taylor, whose siblings were James, Livingston and Kate, also recorded and released With Friends & Neighbors (1971), Dinnertime (1972), Third for Music (1974) and Dancing With the Devil (1989). I’ve heard them all but Third for Music. Anyone out there got a line on it?

The story of Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time is one of the great tales: A failed album in 1986 (Nine Lives), followed by work with producer Don Was, leading to a handful of Grammys, including the award for Album of the Year. As to “Have a Heart,” as a single, it went to No. 3 on the Adult Contemporary chart and to No. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The little note that pops up on the RealPlayer whenever I hear a tune by the BoDeans says, “The very definition of heartland music, the BoDeans’ rootsy pop rock is a cross between the Replacements and Tom Petty.” I suppose that’s not a bad description, but like most capsule characterizations, it skips the subtleties entirely. You actually have to listen to the music for those, and although I didn’t listen much back then, I do now, and like the work of the boys from Waukesha, Wisconsin, pretty well.

I’ve told the tale before, in another venue: I was sitting in a restaurant in Edina, Minnesota, during the late summer of 1989 when I heard a pair of young women in the next booth discussing the best new group they’d heard in a long time: The Indigo Girls. I jotted a note to myself, finished my lunch and then drove to a nearby record store and bought The Indigo Girls on LP. For twenty years, ever since the moment I heard the opening strains of “Closer to Fine,” the Indigo Girls have been among my favorite performers and The Indigo Girls has been one of my favorite albums.

Authors On The Cards

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie, José & Sonny & Cher

May 14, 2022

Originally posted August 13, 2009

Let’s go prospecting at YouTube!

Looking for video related to Monday’s post about the Benton County Fair, I found a sweet performance of “Too Long At The Fair” by Bonnie Raitt on the BBC show The Old Grey Whistle Test. The original poster at YouTube said the performance comes from 1976.

Video unavailable

Reader Laserman said the other day that his list of best cover performances would include José Feliciano’s rendition of “Light My Fire.” Wandering a little further into the video valley, I found a 1968 television performance of that Doors’ song by Feliciano.

Video unavailable

The Sonny & Cher album I wrote about yesterday was the home of “I Got You Babe,” the first hit for the duo. Here’s a video of the two of them lip-synching the song – which spent three weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. in 1965 – on Britain’s Top of the Pops.

Tomorrow I’m going to write a little bit about Beatles ’65 and the risks of certainty, as well as talk a little about the mysterious Lori Jacobs. And there might be a few other things in there, too.

At The County Fair

May 14, 2022

Originally posted August 10, 2009

It’s county fair time. All throughout Minnesota – throughout the United States, for that matter – late July and early August is the time for county fairs, those sweet and dusty remnants of a time when agriculture was one of this nation’s main businesses.

So the Texas Gal and I took a couple hours yesterday and wandered through the grounds of the Benton County Fair in Sauk Rapids, the smaller city just north of the East Side of St. Cloud. We walked through the midway, shaking our heads at invitations to throw darts or basketballs, or to play the pinball-style Pig Race. We also decided against any of the rides; none of them looked too stomach-churning, but we passed anyway.

We spent a few moments near the animal barns watching eleven- and twelve-year-old girls on horseback compete in barrel-racing. And we walked through the animal barns themselves, checking out the horses and cattle, the pigs, sheep, goats and llamas, the rabbits, geese, chickens, ducks and pigeons. We also spent some time in a couple of the less-aromatic buildings, looking at the photography, quilting and crochet work.

And we had lunch. At the fair’s main crossroads, there was a cluster of booths offering nearly any kind of food you could want, from plain burgers and ice cream cones to funnel cakes, deep-fried cheese curds, smoked turkey legs, barbecued ribs and more. We looked around and finally settled on a French fry stand. The Texas Gal had hers plain, while I had mine covered with cheese and sloppy joe filling.

We don’t get to the fair every year, even though it’s less than two miles away.  Sometimes we just get distracted and forget about it, and other years, we end up with other events scheduled that week.

When I was a kid, however, I rarely missed the fair. I recall going with my family until I was maybe twelve. From then on, for the next six years or so, I went with Rick. Our main focus was the midway. We didn’t go on many rides, maybe the Tilt-A-Whirl or the Scrambler, but we wandered around, played a few games and looked for other kids we knew. We also found ourselves fascinated by the folks who worked the midway, the traveling carnies who went from fair to fair all summer long.

One year, when we were in our mid-teens (which means it could have been any year from 1967 through 1970; if I had to guess, I’d say 1968, when we were fourteen), we biked over to the fairgrounds on Thursday, the day before the fair opened. It was still a busy place. Farmers brought their animals and crops in for judging, as did kids who belonged to 4H. Crafters brought their projects. Merchants put together the commercial booths and displays. And down on the midway, rough-looking carnies put up tents, got the games running and assembled rides from the Ferris wheel on down.

We weren’t the only kids there that day. There were, I guess, about fifty kids, each one straddling a bicycle and watching as the carnies assembled the midway. It was hard work, and our attentions, I’m sure, didn’t make it any easier. After a while, one kid got too close to the work, and one of the carnies snarled at him, snapping off a line that I can still hear in my head: “Go home, kid, and tell your mother she wants ya!”

Rick and I didn’t get snarled at. We got hired. Sometime during that morning, we wandered by the dart game, and for some reason, we asked the guy if he needed any help. He eyed us skeptically, chewed his cheek and then nodded. “Not today,” he said, “but come back tomorrow, and you can blow balloons up for me.”

I had visions that evening of running out of breath blowing up balloons. But when we go to the fairgrounds the next day, I learned to my relief that we’d be using an air compressor, located in the back of the tent, behind the big dartboard. Our employer – I never knew his name and never thought to ask – showed us two chairs, the air compressor, two big empty boxes and a cartoon of balloons waiting for air.

Our job was to blow up balloons, tie them off and fill the two big empty boxes. For doing that, we’d get five or ten bucks, I don’t recall which. We sat on the chairs and got into a routine: Rick would fill the balloon with the compressor, and I’d carefully take it off the compressor’s nozzle and tie one knot in the neck. Into one of the two boxes it went, and by the time I had tossed the balloon into a box, Rick had another ready for me to grab and tie.

It all went pretty fast. In two, maybe three hours, we’d filled both boxes, and we reported back to the dart man. He gave us our money, and we headed off into the fairgrounds with a little bit of extra cash to spend.

A Six-Pack of Fairs
“Scarborough Fair/Canticle” by Simon & Garfunkel from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme [1966]
“County Fair” by Bruce Springsteen, recorded in California, released in 2003 on The Essential Bruce Springsteen [1983]
“Renaissance Fair” by the Byrds from Younger Than Yesterday [1967]
“Too Long At The Fair” by Bonnie Raitt from Give It Up [1972]
“Roseville Fair” by Nanci Griffith from Once In A Very Blue Moon [1984]
“The Fair Is Moving On” by Elvis Presley from Back In Memphis [1970]

There is a temptation, given the monumental status of Simon & Garfunkel’s ”Scarborough Fair/Canticle,” to find a different song to lead off this selection, perhaps one of the several covers I have of the tune. That’s a temptation that arises frequently with well-known recordings, and my reaction to that internal censor often is – as it is today – “Then let’s remind everyone why the song has that monumental status.” When two alternate versions of the song were used in the soundtrack for the film The Graduate in 1968, Columbia released as a single the original 1966 version from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (at least, I believe it was the original version). As a single, “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” spent nine weeks in the Top 40, peaking at No. 11. As a cultural artifact, it seemed to be omnipresent during that spring of 1968, nearly as omnipresent as the duo’s “Mrs. Robinson.”

Springsteen’s “County Fair” was included on the bonus CD that came with the 2003 anthology The Essential Bruce Springsteen. In the notes to the CD set, Springsteen simply labels the song a “portrait of an end-of-summer fair on the outskirts of town.” He goes on: “It’s from a collection of acoustic songs I cut shortly after the ‘Nebraska’ album in California in ’83.” The lyrics are spare, which fits in with Springsteen’s other work at the time. I love the name of the band that’s playing the fair: James Young and the Immortal Ones.

The Byrds’ “Renaissance Fair” was co-written by Roger McGuinn and David Crosby, and has a good dose of Crosby’s impressionistic approach to songwriting:

I smell cinnamon and spices
I hear music everywhere
All around kaleidoscope of color
I think that maybe I’m dreaming…

In less than two minutes, the song does its work: It pulls the listener – this listener, anyway – out of humdrum twenty-first century America to a moment when neither place nor time are specified (though with the song’s title, one wonders about, say, fifteenth century Florence). It’s an easy song to get lost in.

Give It Up was Bonnie Raitt’s second album, and it held – notes All-Music Guide – to an “engaging blend of folk, blues, R&B, and Californian soft rock.” “Too Long At The Fair” fits snugly into that mix. An oddity: The song’s title was listed on the 1972 record jacket as “Stayed Too Long At The Fair,” with the more familiar title printed on the record label. The website of composer Joell Zoss calls the song “Too Long At The Fair.” I’ve never seen the CD package, so I’ll assume – I would hope, anyway – that the correct song title now appears on the label.

“Roseville Fair” shows Nanci Griffith doing what she did best during the early years of her career: Country-based folk and pop. Her version of Bill Staines’ tune is one of the highlights of Once In A Very Blue Moon, her third album.

“The Fair Is Moving On” is one of the tracks that Elvis Presley recorded during his 1969 sessions in Memphis. Though not as gripping as other tracks that came out of those sessions – “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Only The Strong Survive” and more – it’s nevertheless a strong performance in its own right. I pulled the track from a two-CD package titled Suspicious Minds and subtitled The Memphis 1969 Anthology. If I’m tracking things correctly, this was the version of “The Fair Is Moving On” that ended up on a 1970 LP titled Back In Memphis.

Saturday Single No. 714

December 5, 2020

A few months ago, when the counter on this (generally) weekly feature hit 700, I referred to it as a “Ruthian number.” Today’s number is, of course, even more so. (I likely don’t have to explain it, but just in case: During his career, Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs.)

In tribute, I could post something by the 1970s group Babe Ruth, but I’ve never found the group’s music very compelling (even though a very dear friend loved Babe Ruth’s work back in our college days).

A better thought, though, is to post something from the best Ruth I know of in music. After all, the Babe was the best Ruth in baseball. Actually, the Babe was the best player in baseball history and remains so, even eighty-five years after his last game. (The rest of the top five? Willie Mays, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner and Oscar Charleston.)

So, the best Ruth in music? Actually, that’s pretty easy: Ruth Brown.

We could go back to her seminal work for Atlantic in the 1940s and ’50s, but I think we’re going to land on something from one of her last albums, the 1997 release R+B=Ruth Brown. Here, with Bonnie Raitt, Brown takes on “Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town,” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 612

October 13, 2018

The Texas Gal took this week off work, and while we had made no plans for a major trip, we had hoped to spend a couple of days in the car doing some leaf-peeping, perhaps heading from here to Taylor’s Falls at the Wisconsin border or maybe heading northeast toward Duluth.

Alas, it rained Monday through Thursday – nothing torrential, just slow, steady soakings with one minor storm (although Thursday’s storm in Duluth brought ocean-sized waves crashing in along the Lake Superior shoreline; the photos have been amazing). And Friday, yesterday, was cold. So we stayed in. Probably just as well. We did some binge-watching of the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale and of the first few episodes of both New Amsterdam and A Million Little Things, ate out a little, ordered in a little, dealt with problems with an overhead fan/light in our entryway (a tale I may tell in full on another day), and got new phones.

On Wednesday, while we were waiting for the phone techs at a big box store to solve a problem with our new phones, I wandered over to the clearance CD bin and dug around for a while. I came out with five discs to fill gaps in the collection, compilations of work by Billie Holiday, the Drifters, Wilson Pickett, ABBA, and Buddy Guy.

And here’s a track that came along with one of those five, one whose title, at least, tells how the week felt for us. It’s Buddy Guy – with some help from Bonnie Raitt – with “It Feels Like Rain,” the title track from his 1993 album. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Jackson, Linda, Bonnie & Tom

April 12, 2012

Well, thanks to reader and friend Yah Shure, we’re still digging around in Jackson Browne covers this morning. After Tuesday’s post about such covers, Yah Shure commented, “How about the cover of “Rock Me On The Water” by . . . Jackson Browne? He redid it from scratch for the 45. Much better than the cut from the self-titled album, IMO.”

Until then, I’d had no idea that the single version of “Rock Me On The Water” was a different beast. I plead unfamiliarity: “RMOTW” went only to No. 48 as the autumn of 1972 set in, and I evidently didn’t hear it much, if at all, on the radio. And by the time I was catching up to Browne’s music and got around to that first, self-titled album, it was 1978. Thus, the only version I’ve really known has been the one on the album.

So I went hunting. And I think that this (scratchy) video features the single version (although final judgment will be reserved for Yah Shure). And yes, I also think it’s a better version than the one that showed up on the album.

And we might as well listen to another version of “Rock Me On The Water” while we’re at it. Here’s Linda Ronstadt from her self-titled 1972 album. A single release of the track went to No. 85 in March of 1972. (I’ve seen 1971 listed as the issue date for the album, but I’m going with the date on the CD package The Best of Linda Ronstadt: The Capitol Years, which says the record came out in 1972. I’m open to correction, though.)

Moving up in time a bit, here’s Bonnie Raitt with her cover of Browne’s “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate” from her 1979 album The Glow. It’s not bad, maybe a little too forceful.

I was going to close today’s coverfest – and at least for a while, I think, the exploration of Jackson Browne covers – with one of my favorites: Joan Baez’ take on “Fountain of Sorrow,” which was the second track on Baez’ 1975 album Diamonds & Rust. But the video I put up was blocked in 237 countries, including the U.S. So I pulled it down, and we’ll instead close shop today with a tender cover of Browne’s “Jamacia Say You Will” by Tom Rush. Rush included the song on his 1972 album Merrimack County, but this version is a live performance – I don’t know the date – that was released on the 1999 collection The Very Best of Tom Rush: No Regrets.

‘I’d Give Anything To See You Again . . .’

December 6, 2011

A few weeks ago, I dug lightly into the song “Love Has No Pride” and promised a few more covers in a few days. Those days stretched into these few weeks, but now I’ll take a look at some more versions of the song.

In that earlier post, I noted that the song was written by Eric Justin Kaz and Libby Titus, and I added: “The song was first recorded, according to the website Second Hand Songs, by Bonnie Raitt for her 1972 album Give It Up, with numerous cover versions following. The best known of those – and ‘the only version that matters,’ according to the Texas Gal – was Linda Ronstadt’s cover, which went to No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1974.”

Here are links to the original by Bonnie Raitt and the album version of the tune from Linda Ronstadt.

Some of those other covers are versions I can pass by. I generally enjoy Tracy Nelson’s work, but her cover of the Kaz/Titus song – from 1974’s Tracy Nelson – falls flat for some reason. I don’t know Billy Bragg’s version, nor that done by Celtic-British singer Ron Kavana, so I can’t comment on those.  And I have little interest in the covers of the song done by Rita Coolidge and John Paul Young, so those can wait for another day. On the other hand, county singer Michelle Wright did a nice version on her 1996 album, For Me It’s You. And there are, of course, other covers out there.

The one cover I was truly interested in hearing is the cause for the delay in writing this post. As I was rummaging through the catalog of Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary, I noticed that he’d covered “Love Has No Pride” on his 1972 album Love Songs, recorded at Muscle Shoals. Unable to find the album on CD, I went off to Ebay and ordered a copy of the LP. The record, when it arrived, was essentially unplayable, so I got my money back and tried again. The next copy was better, and I’m slowly making my way through the record, ripping songs to mp3s as I listen. Unfortunately, I’m not all that impressed with Yarrow’s version of “Love Has No Pride.” Even the great studio pros at Muscle Shoals don’t seem able to get the track going.

So I went back and looked for versions by the song’s two writers, Libby Titus and Eric Kaz. It turns out I had both. Titus included the tune on her self-titled 1977 album, and she does a pretty good job of it.

As for Kaz, he’s evidently never recorded the song on his own, but in 1976, he was a member of American Flyer, a country rock band with some serious lineage – Kaz was in the Blues Magoos, Craig Fuller had been in Pure Prairie League, Steve Katz was in Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Doug Yule had been a member of the Velvet Underground – and “Love Has No Pride” showed up on the group’s self-titled album.

Of the two from the writers, I prefer Titus’ version. I also still like the Grady Tate version I shared here earlier, but having sifted through the various covers and Raitt’s original in the past few weeks, I have to finally agree with the Texas Gal and with reader Yah Shure – who left a note at the earlier post – in their assessment that the only version that matters is Ronstadt’s.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Isaac Hayes

July 27, 2011

Originally posted August 11, 2008

The over-riding image I have of Isaac Hayes is from the Academy Awards telecast in 1972, his shaved head and gold chains gleaming as he performed the “Theme from Shaft.” I’d never seen anything like it.

But then, neither had the rest of the world.

Hayes, who crossed over Sunday at his home in Memphis at the age of sixty-five, was one of those artists who pushes past boundaries. The most obvious boundary at the time was his winning an Oscar for Best Song for the “Theme from Shaft,” as Hayes was the first black composer to win the award.

But those who knew about Hayes before Shaft already knew that he pushed limits. His 1969 album, Hot Buttered Soul, had only four tracks on it. One of those tracks, a version of Jimmy Webb’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” ran 18:42, with much of the track consisting of Hayes’ ruminations about the song’s meaning in a way that some critics have said anticipated rap. I don’t know if the comparison is valid, but I’ve seen it in more than one place over the years. I do think, however, that it’s valid to say that his work on Hot Buttered Soul, Shaft and his 1971 album, Black Moses, pointed the way to the funk of the later 1970s.

Hayes’ work as a recording artist was impressive on its own; a look at the discography available at All-Music Guide is testament to that. The list runs from 1967’s Presenting Isaac Hayes to Instrumental, a 2003 anthology of work from the early 1970s. His last album of all-new material was Branded, released in 1995 along with Raw & Refined, a collection of unreleased tracks from over the years.

But the more impressive list at All-Music Guide is the one headed “Songs Composed By.” From “(Holy Matrimony) Letter to the Firm,” recorded by Foxy Brown in 1996, through “Zeke the Freak,” which Hayes recorded during a stint at Polydor in the late 1970s, the list of tracks currently available on CD runs twenty-four pages.

Add Hayes’ albums to his extraordinary writing credits, and then throw in the work he did as studio musician and producer, and you have one remarkable career. Then consider that Hayes was born in 1942 in a tin shack forty miles north of Memphis, and you have a remarkable life as well.

Here’s a selection of tracks as a salute to that career and that life.

A Baker’s Dozen of Isaac Hayes
“Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes, Enterprise single 9038, 1971

“B-A-B-Y” by Carla Thomas, Stax single 195, 1966

“You Got Me Hummin’” by Cold Blood, San Francisco single 60, 1969

“Soulsville” by Isaac Hayes from the soundtrack to Shaft, 1971

“I’m A Big Girl Now” by Mable John, Stax single 225, 1967

“Hold On! I’m Comin’!” by B.B. King & Eric Clapton from Riding With the King, 2000

“You Don’t Know Like I Know” by Sam & Dave, Stax single 180, 1966

“Never Can Say Goodbye” by Isaac Hayes, Enterprise single 9031, 1971

“I Thank You” by Bonnie Raitt from The Glow, 1979

“My Baby Specializes” by Delaney & Bonnie from Home, 1968

“Little Bluebird” by Little Milton from Waiting For Little Milton, 1973

“Do Your Thing” by Isaac Hayes, Enterprise single 9042, 1971

“Lay Lady Lay” by Isaac Hayes from Tangled Up In Blues, 1999

A few notes:
Most of these don’t need commentary, I would guess. All but two of them came from Hayes’ pen, with most of those being co-written with Dave Porter of Sam & Dave, his long-time writing partner at Stax.

The three selections from Shaft – the main theme, “Soulsville” and “Do Your Thing” – were Hayes’ solo compositions. The versions of the theme and “Do Your Thing” presented here are single edits; on the official soundtrack, the theme ran 4:39 and “Do Your Thing” ran an extraordinary 19:30.

The two songs here that didn’t come from Hayes’ pen are “Never Can Say Goodbye” and, of course, “Lay Lady Lay.” The former is a single edit of a track from Hayes’ 1971 album Black Moses. “Lay Lady Lay” comes from a Bob Dylan tribute album issued by House of Blues in 1999 that’s had its title changed several times. When I bought it, it was called Tangled Up In Blues.

Edited slightly on archival posting July 27, 2011.

It’s Time For A New Barbershop

June 11, 2011

Originally posted February 11, 2009

I need a haircut this morning. Generally, the Texas Gal takes care of that over the weekends, but for some reason – simple inattention comes to mind – we didn’t get it done. So this morning, after I finish posting I’ll head out to the barbershop.

The barbershop won’t – it appears – be the one I used to go to when I was a kid. Last time I went past the old bank building across the street from the Lutheran church, the sign was still hanging there: “Laumeyer’s Barber Shop.” That was maybe a month ago, so I assume the shop was still operating. But when I called the number I found online this morning, the phone was disconnected. I checked the phone book and got the same number, and then called directory assistance. There’s no current listing.

It’s been a little more than thirty years since I last got my hair cut at Laumeyer’s, just before I left St. Cloud for Monticello. And Laumeyer’s was the location for my first professional haircut, when I was thirteen, just before entering ninth grade.

Up to then, my dad had cut my hair. I’d sit on a metal stool in the back porch/sewing room, and he’d use the black electric clippers that he’d had since before my memories began. He’d try gamely not to dig the clippers’ corners into my scalp, but it would happen. As years went on and boys’ hair became longer, he tried to adapt. I no longer wore my hair trimmed down to a basic-training-worthy quarter-inch. It was a bit longer, especially in the front, where my natural widow’s peak resulted in a three-inch long wave of hair poking its way forward, like the prow of a ship sailing through my forehead, or else, when my hair got longer, like a brown wave breaking over the prow of that very same ship.

That wasn’t very stylish, a fact that even Dad realized as the summer of 1967, the one between eighth and ninth grades, approached its end. One Saturday he pulled me aside shortly after I got up and told me I had an appointment for a haircut at Laumeyer’s that afternoon. He gave me, oh, maybe $1 or $1.50 to cover the cost. That afternoon, I rode my 1965 Schwinn Typhoon – the very same one that still resides in my garage – down Wilson Avenue and across East St. Germain to a small building not far from the railroad tracks. With my bike locked to a sign in front of the building, I walked into a barbershop for the first time.

I walked out an hour later with my hair trimmed almost all around, except in front where Duane had managed to fashion the summer’s growth into what looked like Beatle bangs across my forehead. Never mind that the Beatles by this time had moved on to far more hirsute appearances; it was better than my hair being a living sculpture of “The Voyage of the S.S. Dork.”

My hair’s style continued to evolve over the next ten years, as I made Laumeyer’s a regular stop. My hair got longer, and as it did, Jim and Duane and Ron – I didn’t see the need to cleave to just one barber – trimmed it and advised me on where to part it and how to take care of it.

As I sat in the barber’s chair for brief times through high school and into college, I heard conversations with other customers that implied years of acquaintance, an awareness that all of the three barbers had about their clients that included not just preferred hairstyle but also a small town knowledge of other preferences and of their lives:

“How’s your boy like the Army?”

“You still drivin’ that Chevy, then?”

“That first year of college, that first year away, yeah, that can be tough for them.”

“My wife’s aunt had that last year, but the docs say they got all of it.”

“He had Budweiser and Old Style on ice, an’ I walk up to him and says, ‘Where’s the Cold Spring?’ An’ he laughed and laughed.”

“I heard from one of the guys over there that they may cut back to two shifts. That’s gonna be tough for a lotta fellas.”

The guys cutting my hair asked about school, and what my college plans were, but no matter how important those things were to me, they didn’t seem to fit into the adult universe of conversation. I was sitting in the big barber chair, but it still felt as if I were dining at the kids’ table.

I was gone the one year during college and came back with hair longer than ever and with a beard and mustache as well, and they laughed at my stories as I laughed at theirs. As myth tells us and as most men learn, there is more to a barbershop than haircuts. They are home to, among other things, tales of other places, whether those other places be offices, factory floors, far-off jungles of war, or similarly distant taverns and museums. I’d had a glimpse of that before I left, and now that I had tales to tell of life elsewhere, I felt more a part of the brotherhood of the barbershop than I ever had before.

I remained in that brotherhood for the remaining few years I had left in St. Cloud. While I was gone, from 1977 into 2002, I had numerous barbers care for my hair, shaved and regrew the beard several times (not the mustache; that’s been a permanent part of my look since December 1973). At times my hair was fairly short, and other times, it wasn’t: For about four years, I had a ponytail that reached to the middle of my back. And I was never really in one place long enough to find that barbershop camaraderie again.

These days, I have my hair trimmed to the scalp, but I still have a beard and mustache that need trimming. After I finish here, I guess I’ll drive by Laumeyer’s just to make sure it’s closed, and then drive around the corner to Tom’s, a barbershop on Wilson that’s been there since I was a little stomper. Tom doesn’t take appointments; He said I’d get in pretty quick “as long as there isn’t six guys waitin’.”

Going to a new barbershop at the age of fifty-four feels oddly like going to a new school at the age of fourteen. So we’ll start with an appropriate tune and take a walk through the junkyard from there.

A Monday Walk Through The Junkyard
“Hair” by the Cowsills, MGM single 14026, 1969

“Let Me In” by Bonnie Raitt from Takin’ My Time, 1973

“Wait A Million Years” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill single 4198, 1969

“Someday Baby” by Muddy Waters with the Rolling Stones, Checkerboard, Chicago, November 1981

“Trains Don’t Run From Nashville” by Kate Campbell from Songs from the Levee, 1995

“Miracle” by the Moody Blues from Sur La Mer, 1988

“Country Pie” by Bob Dylan from Nashville Skyline, 1969

“Polk Salad Annie” by Tony Joe White, Monument single 1104, 1969

“The Assassination” by the Dixie Nightingales, Chalice single 102, 1965

“Monument” by Gene Parsons from Kindling, 1973

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Jeff Healey from Hell To Pay, 1990

“Candy Man Blues” by Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan from Construction No. 1, 1969

“Not Another Night” by the Sapphire Thinkers from From Within, 1969

“Fragile” by Nanci Griffith from Flyer, 1994

“Cloud 9” by George Harrison from Cloud Nine, 1988

A few notes:

“Hair” is of course the title song from the musical that so scandalized folks starting with its premiere in 1967 and then its move to Broadway a year later. Drugs, sex, profanity, irreverence and naked people on stage! Nevertheless, the composers and writers – James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot – came up with numerous songs that became anthems for the age (as well as hits for various performers). “Hair” is the most humorous and even perhaps vaudevillian; other songs that became hits, all in 1969, were “Easy To Be Hard” (Three Dog Night), “Good Morning, Starshine” (Oliver), and most notably, I guess, “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” (5th Dimension).

The Bonnie Raitt track comes from the album of hers that is likely my favorite. With notables like Lowell George of Litte Feat, Taj Mahal, Milt Holland, Earl Palmer and others taking part, the record continues to be a great listen and was likely the high point of Raitt’s career until Nick of Time in 1989.

I’m not sure where I got the soundboard recording of Muddy Waters with the Stones. The sound is a little thick at times, but it’s a pretty good performance, especially considering that Muddy was ailing at the time; he would be dead in less than two years.

“Polk Salad Annie” was no doubt among the first deep southern numbers I ever heard coming out of my radio speaker in 1969. I loved it then and I love it today: “Chomp, chomp-chomp!”

“The Assassination” is a harrowing and pretty take on the killing of President John Kennedy in Dallas in November 1963. As it played, I wondered – as I did the first time I heard it – who had the guts to create it and who would listen to it more than once, anyway? The Dixie Nightingales were a long-time Southern Gospel group that in the early 1960s signed with Memphis’ Stax Records. Chalice was evidently a Stax subsidiary label.

Sapphire Thinkers was a California band that recorded the one album, From Within. Chocoreve, where I evidently found the rip, is a blog that’s a great source for late 1960s obscurities, among other things. The writer there noted that the album is “likable and strong enough to hold your attention for repeat plays. Elements from disparate sources are brought in – Curt Boettcher sunshine pop, Bay Area teen [T]op 40 psych like Neighb’rhood Childr’n, Sunset Strip organ/fuzz/flute a la Strawberry Alarm Clock – yet the end result is consistent and convincing, with plenty of strength in the songwriting and arrangements, and no major weaknesses.” Thanks, Chocoreve.