Posts Tagged ‘Buddy Miles’

What’s At No. 68?

August 20, 2020

I can’t resist today’s date: 8/20/2020. So we’re going to play Games With Numbers and turn those numerals into sixty-eight, and then we’ll check what was at No. 68 in the Billboard Hot 100 on this date during the seven years that make up my sweet spot, the years 1969 through 1975.

So, during the third week of August 1969, when the No. 1 record was “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones, what was parked at No. 68? Well, it’s a record I don’t think I’ve ever heard: “I Do” by the Moments. The R&B trio from Hackensack, New Jersey, was eight months away from breaking through with the sweet “Love On A Two-Way Street,” and “I Do” went only to No. 62 in the Hot 100 (and to No. 10 on the Billboard R&B chart). Listening this morning, it sounds shrill.

A year later, the third week of the eighth month of 1970 found Bread’s “Make It With You” at No. 1. Our target spot down the chart was occupied by a short version of one of my favorite tracks from that summer fifty years ago: A cover of Neil Young’s “Down By The River” by drummer Buddy Miles & The Freedom Express. The link is to the single version, which I don’t recall hearing; Rick and I heard the album track – a much better piece of work – on WJON during late evenings in his screen porch that season. We’ve caught the record at its peak; it would go no higher than No. 68.

Sitting at No. 1 forty-nine years ago this week was the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.” The No. 68 record during that week in 1971 was one of the two hits I recall from my college years to feature a banjo solo: “Sweet City Woman” by the Stampeders, a trio from Calgary, Alberta. (“Dueling Banjos” from the movie Deliverance is the other I recall; there are likely more.) The Stampeders’ record went to No. 8 in the Hot 100 and to No. 5 in the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. And you know, you can do lots worse than love and tenderness and macaroons.

On to 1972, when the No. 1 record as August 20 went past was “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” by the Looking Glass (and its mention brings back radio memories as Rick, Gary and I drove to Winnipeg, Manitoba). As we drove, we likely also heard the A-side of the single at No. 68 that week: “Burning Love/It’s A Matter Of Time” by Elvis Presley. (I don’t know that I’d ever heard the B-side until today.) “Burning Love” was Presley’s last big hit in the Hot 100, as it peaked at No. 2. (He would still have Top Ten hits on the Easy Listening and Country charts.) On the Billboard Easy Listening chart, the record – with “It’s A Matter Of Time” listed as the A-side, according to Joel Whitburn’s top adult songs book – went to No. 9.

“Brother Louie” by the Stories sat atop the Hot 100 as the third week of August 1973 ended and the fourth week began. Down at our target slot that week was the title track from Alice Cooper’s current album, “Billion Dollar Babies.” I admit that I’ve listened to very little of Cooper’s work over the years, and in 1973, I was, I guess, pointedly ignoring it as gauche or something. The record had guest vocals from Donovan, but still disappointed, peaking at No. 57, considerably lower than Cooper’s last few singles.

Perched at No. 1 as the third week of August 1974 passed was “(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka and Odia Coates. Hoping for better, we drop down to our target at No. 68 and find “Finally Got Myself Together (I’m a Changed Man)” by the Impressions, a record I do not recall and honestly doubt that I’ve ever heard until today. It’s a sweet soul/R&B side, underlaid with the social awareness that ran through much of Curtis Mayfield’s work. The record peaked at No. 17 in the Hot 100 and spent two weeks on top of the Billboard R&B chart.

Forty-five years ago this week, as August 1975 spooled out, the No. 1 record was “Fallin’ In Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds. Sixty-seven spots further down the chart, we find, again, the Impressions, this time with “Sooner Or Later,” a tale of romantic consequences told with an irresistible groove. The record went no higher on the Hot 100, but went to No. 3 on the R&B chart.

‘Be On My Side . . .’

October 20, 2017

Sometime in the past week or two – and I cannot recall where or when – I heard a faint snippet, no more than five seconds, of Buddy Miles’ cover of Neil Young’s “Down By The River.” It reminded me of this piece, now more than ten years old.

There was a half-second of empty air after the commercial ended. A softly strummed guitar broke the silence, and then, above that, came the moan of an electric guitar playing one long note and then a short break of melody in a minor mode. A choir came in behind the guitars, a chorus of “oooooh” sounding as lonely as a back road while the guitar continued its forlorn dance above the chorus.

A quiet organ wash replaced the chorus as the drums entered and set a pace, and then a tortured voice sang, “Be on my side, I’ll be on your side, baby. There is no reason for you to hide . . .”

Rick and I paused whatever we were doing – probably playing a board game – and stared at the small radio and the sounds coming from its somewhat tinny speaker. What the hell was that? And who was singing?

The sounds of a summer night came through the screened windows of the porch that Rick’s dad had recently added to their house: oak leaves whispering in the wind, a car’s honk some blocks away, the faint “breek-breek” of frogs in the low places near the railroad tracks, the laughter of teens out walking in search of something, the distant horn of an approaching train.

But we kept looking at the radio, wondering what in the heck they were playing on WJON, whose studios were no more than two blocks away, just the other side of the railroad tracks.

It was 1970, and like many stations in non-metro America, WJON tried to be all things to all people. Daytime was farm reports, the Party Line show in the morning, news at regular times during the day, and, I seem to remember, lots of traditional pop music during the day: Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Al Martino and maybe, if the deejay were feeling adventurous, Hugo Montenegro’s version of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” with its eerie whistle and twangy guitars.

At night, from seven o’clock on, the station played pop and rock, ranging from mostly Top 40 during the early hours of the segment to deeper cuts and slightly harder sounds as the night aged. And it was about ten p.m., I guess, when Rick and I were transfixed by the sounds coming out of the radio.

Maybe Rick recognized the song as Neil Young’s “Down by the River,” but I don’t think he recognized the vocals as coming from funky drummer Buddy Miles. I didn’t know either the song or the singer. I was still pretty unhip to most pop and rock music, although in the past nine months, I’d started to listen and to buy LPs. My first two purchases had been Chicago II and the Beatles’ Let It Be. It would be a while before I got around to Neil Young. And beyond hearing on radio the spooky sounds of his version of “Down by the River,” it would be a longer time yet before I got around to Buddy Miles and his combination of blues, funk and rock.

“Down by the River,” which Rick and I would hear several more times late at night that summer, was from Miles’ third solo album, Them Changes. His first two, Expressway to Your Skull and Electric Church, had been well received by critics. (Jimi Hendrix, with whom Miles would play in Band of Gypsys, had produced about half of Electric Church.) Earlier, Miles had been part of Electric Flag, a group that was eclectic in both its membership and its music.

He’s not always been received well by critics. I recall reading particularly savage reviews in the various editions of the Rolling Stone Record Guide and Album Guide. But in the years following Them Changes, Miles would team up with Carlos Santana on a well-regarded live album in 1972 and would record consistently through 1976. After that, his recording was sporadic.

For me, though, as intriguing as his other work may be, nothing from Miles has ever grabbed my attention and imagination as tightly as that first hearing of “Down by the River” during that long-ago summer evening.

Miles, of course, is gone now: He passed on in February 2008, less than a year after this piece first showed up here. The album track of “Down By The River” remains one of my favorite tunes; I’m not as fond of the single edit that went to No. 68 in the Billboard Hot 100 that summer. I have a few other interesting covers of “Down By The River” in the digital stacks, and I pondered offering one of them here. But having heard just a snippet of Miles’ version the other day, I’m hungry for more of it.

(I’ve edited the 2008 post slightly.)

Buddy Miles, 1947-2008

June 15, 2011

Originally posted February 29, 2008

I’ve written at least a little bit about Buddy Miles twice in the past year – once detailing my first reaction to hearing his version of “Down By The River” on a summer night in 1970 and then discussing very briefly Miles’ treatment at the hands of critics when I presented his version of “Midnight Rider” here.

Miles died Tuesday at his Texas home at the age of sixty-one. News reports say that he had congestive heart failure. Probably the best obituary/new story I’ve read about Miles in the past few days was the one by the New York Times, which laid out his career pretty clearly.

I’ve been pondering Miles and his music and his legacy since Tuesday. I’ve enjoyed his work over the years, especially his 1970 solo album, Them Changes, and his earlier work with the Electric Flag. I’m not sure I have anything more to say about him, though, so I guess I’ll let the music speak for itself by sharing an album and a couple of single tracks.

The single tracks are a re-up of Miles’ cover of Neil Young’s “Down By The River” from Them Changes (at a better bit rate than my earlier upload) and the live version of “Them Changes” from the Jimi Hendrix album, Band of Gypsys, recorded at the Fillmore East in New York on the night 1969 turned into 1970.

As to albums, well, it seems that the three albums I view as the essential Miles albums – the Electric Flag’s Long Time Comin’, his own Them Changes and Band of Gypsys – are all available of CD for reasonable prices. Miles’ later work, especially that with Carlos Santana, was good at times, too, but it never grabbed me as much as did the early work. Beyond those three albums mentioned above, not a lot of Miles’ work seems to be available on CD. (My usual source for that information, All-Music Guide, is having its problems this morning. As I clicked on links to get information about Miles’ work, I was connected to pages about Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, Britney Spears, the Kelly Family – whoever they might be – and numerous other musicians before finally getting to the information I was seeking. Very odd.)

One album not available on CD is the 1969 record by the Buddy Miles Express, Electric Church, about half of which was produced by Hendrix. (News reports this week credit Hendrix with the entire album, but the record jacket credits Anne Tansey with three of the seven tracks.) Recorded after the Electric Flag collapsed and before Miles joined Hendrix, the record is pretty much of a piece with Them Changes, although none of its tracks are as memorable as “Them Changes” or “Down By The River.” (I found this copy online, and it’s almost certainly from vinyl, as I’ve found no indication online of a CD release of Electric Church. It’s a pretty clean rip, and if I could recall where I found it, I’d thank the original uploader.)

Members of the Buddy Miles Express were: Buddy Miles on drums and vocals, Jim McCarty on guitar, Bill Rich on bass, Duane Hitchings on organ, James Tatum and Bobby Rock on tenor saxophone and Pete Carter and Tom Hall on trumpet.

Tracks:
Miss Lady*
69 Freedom Special*
Cigarettes & Coffee
Destructive Love*
Texas
My Chant*
Wrap It Up

(*Produced by Jimi Hendrix)

Buddy Miles Express – Electric Church [1969]

Buddy Miles – “Down By The River” [1970]

Band of Gypsys – “Them Changes” [1970]

‘I Got One More Silver Dollar . . .’

April 30, 2011

Originally posted July 31, 2007

Man, you can get positively whipsawed reading about Buddy Miles!

Here – in its entirety – is what John Swenson, one of the co-editors of the first two editions of the Rolling Stone Record Guide, wrote during the late 1970s in those editions about the funk-rock drummer and singer:

“The solo career of this clownish, heavy-handed ex-Electric Flag drummer is a series of incredible gaffes, the likes of which have seldom been witnessed in the annals of popular music. His taste is awful, his playing almost always overbearing and he manages to make more judgmental errors than seem possible. ‘Them Changes’ is his anthem, and a decent funk song, which in this context is miraculous.”

Now, the reviewers in those first two editions of that book were sometimes nasty. (They were also sometimes very funny. I remember almost falling out of my chair when I read Swenson’s review of an album by an aspiring white blues player named Catfish Hodge: “Can blue men sing the whites? Hodge is as tedious as they come.”) But there are degrees of nasty, and the lashing that Swenson gives Miles almost makes me wonder if Miles cut Swenson off in traffic or hit on Swenson’s sister or something. There’s a level of vitriol in that paragraph that seems way out of proportion for a music review.

And yeah, it’s an old review. But much of Miles’ work to this day is based on his early recordings, those made with the Electric Flag, those made as part of Jimi Hendrix’ Band of Gypsies and those made as a solo artist. It strikes me that Miles has over the years done far better than that harsh review augured. And he’s been better received, too.

Consider this review of Miles’ 1971 album, A Message to the People, written for All-Music Guide by Victor W. Valdivia:

“In the league of funk-rock albums, A Message to the People is top-notch. Buddy Miles was easily one the better bandleaders of the early ’70s, and his ability to unite a group of talented players around well-crafted songs definitely makes this one of his best albums. The gorgeous ‘The Way I Feel Tonight,’ the funky, horn-driven ‘Place Over There,’ and the lovely closing ‘That’s the Way Life Is’ all rank among Miles’ best songs and performances. Add to that two superb Gregg Allman covers (especially ‘Midnight Rider,’ which is arguably even more definitive than the original), and the results are impressive. Miles even predates hip-hop by lifting the horn riff from Joe Tex’s ‘You’re Right, Ray Charles’ and crafting it into a new instrumental cut called, fittingly, ‘Joe Tex.’ Only a dud cover of Percy Sledge’s ‘Sudden Stop’ is the album’s lone clinker. In fact, the album is so good, it’s mystifying why it barely clocks in at a meager half-hour. ‘That’s the Way Life Is’ and the clavinet-laden ‘The Segment’ are both over just as they’ve barely begun. Similarly, no sooner does the cover of ‘Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’’ settle into a powerful groove than it stops to segue into the next cut. Why Miles felt the need to edit the material so severely is bizarre, since the album could easily have been twice as long and still hit its mark. It’s a testament to Buddy Miles’ talent that, as first-rate as the album is, it will leave any listener wanting more. Still, A Message to the People is every bit a funk classic.”

Makes you wonder if they were listening to the same music, doesn’t it?

Well, there’s no accounting for taste or the lack of it, as all of us at one time or another make very clear. We all have our guilty listening pleasures (mine include French pop and a few tracks by Helen Reddy), and we all have those performers or performances that make us writhe in torment (“Seasons in the Sun,” anyone?). But such dissonance between two views of the same performer struck me as very odd. There’s no way to reconcile them except perhaps to note that a good deal of time passed in between, and time may have altered the way we look at some performers. There has been a general reassessment of earlier performances as earlier works were re-released on CD in the past fifteen years, and that reassessment may have been to Miles’ benefit. (The more recent reviews of his work came after 1997 and the release of the CD, The Best of Buddy Miles, which includes several tracks from A Message to the People.)

Anyway, guilty pleasure or not, I’ve generally enjoyed Miles’ work over the years, especially, as I wrote some time back, his version of Neil Young’s “Down By The River.” And I tend to agree with the AMG review that his version of “Midnight Rider” is extraordinary. It came out in 1971, a year after the Allman Brothers Band’s version was released on Idlewild South but two years before Gregg Allman released his solo version on Laid Back.

Is it the definitive version? That’s a tough call. I tend to lean toward Allman’s solo version from 1973. But to do as well as Miles does here performing a song that’s so strongly linked to its author is a remarkable feat. And we’ll leave it at that.

Buddy Miles – “Midnight Rider” [1971]

A Baker’s Dozen Of Rivers

April 24, 2011

Originally posted July 2, 2007

Well, it happened again. An LP I had selected for the day turned out to have too many pops and scratches for me to want to share the entire thing. And that’s disappointing. The record was Through the Eyes of a Horn, a solo album by Jim Horn from 1972. It’s a fun record, on Leon Russell’s Shelter label with lots of familiar names on the credits.

A few of the tracks are clean enough for me to convert them to mp3s and put them in the player, so they may show up in a future Baker’s Dozen or two. And I’m likely to pull one of the tracks for something special this week.

But abandoning the LP as a full rip left me without a plan again, changing horses in mid-stream, as it were. And I thought about Tower of Power, of course, and “Don’t Change Horses (In The Middle Of A Stream).” So I checked. I only have five songs with the word “stream” in their titles. So I thought about rivers, and my mind wandered as the final tracks of the Jim Horn album played through, and I thought about the Mississippi River, which has been a near-constant presence in my life.

I was born on its banks (in a hospital, not – unfortunately for my credentials as a bluesman – in a little shack). I grew up no more than three blocks from it, crossing it nearly daily through my childhood and college years. And my first job was at a newspaper whose offices were separated from the river by only a park and a street. The vast majority of my life has been lived within a few miles of the Mississippi. And now, since returning to St. Cloud about five years ago, I’m again within a mile of the river that’s called the Father of Waters.

When I was a kid, I never realized that the Mississippi was important or noteworthy. At least not until one day when I was crossing it on my bicycle, most likely heading to the library. As I neared the end of the bridge, a car with New York license plates passed me, and once off of the bridge, the driver took the first right and pulled over and parked. Four people – a mom, a dad and two kids – got out of the car and walked rapidly, almost trotting, back to the bridge and the river, cameras at the ready. I realized that what was an everyday occurrence for me – crossing the Mississippi – could be a major event for others, and I guess I began to give the big river a little more respect.

So I’ve realized in recent years that the river flows through my life just as it does through St. Cloud. And I long to see it in its wide and muddy glory in places much closer to the Gulf of Mexico than here. That will happen. The Texas Gal and I still plan to tour western Tennessee and Mississippi, but it won’t be this year. I can wait, and the river will wait for me.

But what should I do about music this morning, after such fluvial thoughts? Well, I thought I’d shift my normal pattern again and begin this week with a Baker’s Dozen of Rivers:

“Let the River Run” by Carly Simon from the Working Girl soundtrack, 1988

“Okolona River Bottom Band” by Bobbie Gentry, Capitol single 2044, 1967

“Many Rivers To Cross” by Joe Cocker from Sheffield Steel, 1982

“Take Me To The River” by Al Green from Al Green Explores Your Mind, 1974

“River” by Roberta Flack from Killing Me Softly, 1973

“River Theme” by Bob Dylan from the Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid soundtrack, 1973

“If The River Was Whiskey” by Mississippi Fred McDowell, Newport Folk Festival, 1964

“Moonchild River Song” by Eric Andersen from Be True To You, 1975

“Down By The River” by Buddy Miles from Buddy Miles Live, 1971

“Song From Platte River” by Brewer & Shipley from Tarkio, 1970

“Don’t Cross The River” by America from Homecoming, 1973

“Underground River” by Ellen McIlwaine from We The People, 1973

“Going To The River” by Fats Domino, Imperial single 5231, 1953

A few notes about some of the songs:

“Let the River Run,” which has a nice gospelly groove, won Carly Simon an Oscar for Best Song. Hearing it always reminds me that when I wanted to buy the album in early 1989, it took a special order and five weeks. I realized then, if I hadn’t already, that the LP was being swept away by the CD.

“Many Rivers To Cross” is some of the fruit of one of Joe Cocker’s many comebacks, this one coming when he went into a studio in the Bahamas with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare and their pals. He came out with a record with lots of captivating tropical grooves. The record also had some fine vocals, and this is one of the best.

Fred McDowell was actually from Tennessee, not Mississippi, but someone gave him the name when he was discovered in the late 1950s, and he didn’t complain. McDowell was a rarity in the country blues boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s in that he’d never been recorded before, unlike many of his contemporaries who had recorded in the 1920s and 1930s before sliding back into anonymity. As a result, his performances on record and at venues like the Newport Folk Festival came off as fresh rather than as a recreation of long-ago efforts.

Eric Andersen’s Be True To You was posted here in the very early days of the blog. It’s a lovely folky album, and “Moonchild River Song,” the album’s opening track, is one of its best songs.

Ellen McIlwaine is a little-known slide guitarist and blues singer who’s been recording well-regarded albums at sporadic intervals for years. We the People, the 1973 album from which “Underground River” comes, might be her best effort, but all of her work, from 1971’s Honky Tonk Angel to 2007’s Mystic Bridge is worth seeking out.

Our closer is a lesser-known side by one of the earliest of rock ’n’ rollers, Fats Domino. Recorded in January 1953 – eight months before I made my riverside entrance – “Going To The River” still rocks, albeit in Fats’ own style of smiling in the face of all disasters.

Saturday Single No. 6

April 18, 2011

Originally posted March 24, 2007

There was a half-second of empty air after the commercial ended. A softly strummed guitar broke the silence, and then, above that, came the moan of an electric guitar playing one long note and then a short break of melody in a minor mode. A choir came in behind the guitars, a chorus of “oooooh” sounding as lonely as a back road while the guitar continued its forlorn dance above the chorus.

A quiet organ wash replaced the chorus as the drums entered and set a pace, and then a tortured voice sang, “Be on my side, I’ll be on your side, baby. There is no reason for you to hide . . .”

Rick and I paused whatever we were doing – probably playing a board game – and stared at the small radio and the sounds coming from its somewhat tinny speaker. What the hell was that? And who was singing?

The sounds of a summer night came through the screened windows of the porch that Rick’s dad had recently added to their house: oak leaves whispering in the wind, a car’s honk some blocks away, the faint breek-breek of frogs in the low places near the railroad tracks, the laughter of teens out walking in search of something, the distant horn of an approaching train.

But we kept looking at the radio, wondering what in the heck they were playing on WJON, whose studios were no more than two blocks away, just the other side of the railroad tracks.

It was 1970, and like many stations in non-metro America, WJON tried to be all things to all people. Daytime was farm reports, the Party Line show in the morning, news at regular times during the day, and, I seem to remember, lots of traditional pop music during the day: Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Al Martino and maybe, if the deejay were feeling adventurous, Hugo Montenegro’s version of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” with its eerie whistle and twangy guitars.

At night, from 7 o’clock on, the station played pop and rock, ranging from mostly Top 40 during the early hours of the segment to deeper cuts and slightly harder sounds as the night aged. And it was about 10 p.m., I guess, when Rick and I were transfixed by the sounds coming out of the radio.

Maybe Rick recognized the song as Neil Young’s “Down by the River,” but I don’t think he recognized the vocals as coming from funky drummer Buddy Miles.  I didn’t know either the song or the singer. I was still pretty unhip to most pop and rock music, although in the past nine months, I’d started to listen and to buy LPs. My first two purchases had been Chicago II and the Beatles’ Let It Be. It would be a while before I got around to Neil Young. And beyond hearing on radio the spooky sounds of his version of “Down by the River,” it would be a longer time yet before I got around to Buddy Miles and his combination of blues, funk and rock.

“Down by the River,” which Rick and I would hear several more times late at night that summer, was from Miles’ third solo album, Them Changes. His first two, Expressway to Your Skull and Electric Church, had been well received by critics. (Jimi Hendrix, with whom Miles would play in Band of Gypsys, had produced about half of Electric Church.) Earlier, Miles had been part of Electric Flag, a group that was eclectic in both its membership and its music.

He’s not always been received well by critics. I recall reading particularly savage reviews in the various editions of the Rolling Stone Record Guide and Album Guide. But in the years following Them Changes, Miles would team up with Carlos Santana on a well-regarded live album in 1972 and would record consistently through 1976. Since then, he’s been more sporadic, although reviews of his 2002 release, Blues Berries, sound promising.

For me, though, as intriguing as his other work may be, nothing will ever grab my attention and imagination as tightly as that first hearing of “Down by the River,” today’s Saturday Single, during that long-ago summer evening.

Buddy Miles – “Down by the River” [Mercury 73086, 1970]

Saturday Single No. 204

October 2, 2010

Autumn  is the season when the ending becomes clear. Like the plot point in the movie that foreshadows the climax and the untangling of plot strands, autumn shows the way to the end – the end of the warm times, the end of the year and – metaphorically – the end of our time here.

Autumn has also always been a season of beginnings, and that’s clearly tied with the first weeks of school, bridging the time between late summer and early autumn. Having been a student or teacher for twenty-six of my fifty-seven autumns and a reporter – small-town newspapers are tied closely to the schools everywhere I know in this country – for another ten of those autumns, the days of September and October seem like a time of new starts as well as a time of preparation for endings.

When one is not involved in the doings of schools, though, it’s easier in autumn to see endings than it is to see beginnings. When I walk past our flower beds on the way to the mailbox these days, the returns are mixed. The marigolds and petunias are still blooming, as are the coral impatiens and the begonias; I wonder how many more days that will be true, as the temperature dropped to 36F sometime early this morning, only a few degrees away from freezing. Around the front of the house, at the northeastern corner where there is little sunshine, the lilies of the valley are already brown and bedraggled, leading the other flowers in the dance of decay that comes every year at this time. Very soon, the rest will follow.

Some will be back next year. We planted some bronze bugleweed along the walk this year, and being a perennial, it will return next spring, as will the red nancy a little further down the walk. And the lilies will crowd their sunless corner again, as well. As fragile as those lilies look, they retreat and get through the winter to come back every spring.

Metaphors abound, of course. And I wonder about my long-time romance with the fall. All my life, I’ve waited through the other seasons for the first signs of autumn: the slight chill in the air of a late summer morning, the first hint of leaves turning orange or yellow, the first photo in the newspaper of anyone – from peewees to pros – in football gear. And every year, it’s been in October that my infatuation with autumn fully blooms each year.

Yesterday, October 1, marked the first time this year that I had to kick leaves lightly out of my way as I made my walk down the sidewalk to the mailbox. As I did, I glanced at the oak trees lining the way; they have plenty of leaves still on their branches, so we are some days away from raking and from climbing the ladder and cleaning the gutters. So, free for a while yet from those mundane chores, I kicked leaves with the joy of the seven-year-old I once was, delighting for an instant in the rustle of leaf on leaf on leaf.

And yet, autumn always ends. It will end this year almost certainly as it has other years, in a four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind. My romance with the season begins every year with joy and sunlight, bright colors and smiles and ends every time with grim and grey days and colder and colder nights. No matter how many years we’ve counted, the last weeks of autumn are a hard ending. If our lives followed that pattern of the season, living would be a grim business indeed. But most of our lives, I like to think, reject that pattern. I know that not all of us are so favored, but I’d hope that most of us have sources of joy and colors and smiles in our lives all year ’round, thus magnifying the beauty of autumn’s beginning and providing a counterbalance to the bleakness of its ending.

That is the case with me, of course. I can pull out of my autumn reverie and know that my Texas Gal is here, along with all the other things that ease my life. I am reasonably certain at the age of fifty-seven that I have more autumns behind me than I do ahead of me, but that’s a good thing to know, as I think it helps me to appreciate more the passing of all our seasons, not just autumn.

But as much as I may appreciate all the seasons, autumn will remain my favorite, and it will always bring with it that slight sense of melancholy, a sense of endings approaching, of business left undone and dreams left behind. I don’t immerse myself in those feelings as I kick the leaves, but at fifty-seven, I know they’re there.

So where do we go musically for that? I renewed my acquaintance this morning with a Buddy Miles performance, a cover of an Allman Brothers Band tune that showed up on Miles’ Them Changes album. Forty years ago this week, the record was heading into the Billboard Hot 100. It got to No. 86 and no further. Whether it fits today’s thoughts perfectly, I’m not sure, but here’s “Dreams” by Buddy Miles, and it’s today’s Saturday Single:

Buddy Miles – “Dreams” from Them Changes [1970]

Good News From London

March 15, 2010

Sometimes, really good things happen. Today’s tale is proof.

It was two years ago this week that I first shared the music of Patti Dahlstrom, writing about her first album, a self-titled 1972 release. Hers was a name that I did not remember from that era, when there was so much new music to hear, but once I heard her music – years after her four albums came out – I loved it: the bluesy and sometimes countryish shadings in her vocals, backed by some of the best players on the West Coast.

I first heard two of her tunes at the fine blog Ill Folks and then immediately clicked my way to Ebay and found all four of Patti’s albums, released between 1972 and 1976. As they arrived in the mail, I began turning the vinyl into digital files and sharing the results. And then came a surprise: I got a note from Patti Dahlstrom, now living in London. Not only was she pleased that I was sharing her music, she passed on to me CD copies of her four albums that had been burned, she said, from the best sources available outside of the master tapes.

We exchanged notes about her music and about life in general. Along the way, after I’d shared three of her four albums, she asked one day if I could post the final album – Livin’ It Thru from 1976 – as some folks from a record label were thinking about releasing a retrospective CD of her music and she thought that the easiest way to get them the album was through Echoes In The Wind. (You can imagine the grin on my face.) As it happened, I’d already been preparing to write about Livin’ It Thru, and I was more than happy to accelerate my timetable.

The music folks must have liked what they heard, as the wheels of the business began to turn toward the release of a compilation of Patti’s best recordings. And come next Tuesday – March 22 – the CD Emotion – The Music of Patti Dahlstrom­ will be released. The twenty tracks cover half of the songs that were released on Patti’s four albums.

Patti says she’s thrilled, adding that there’s always been some interest in her music: “Over the years, so many have contacted sites about my music on CD.” She said that folks who’ve listened to the tunes on the CD “have said they are amazed at how well a number of the tracks/songs have held up, but then I did have the most remarkable players in pop history working with me. Good talent never fades.”

Good talent, indeed. A page at Patti’s new website – you can buy the CD there – lists the musicians who worked on her four albums, and many of the names are very familiar. It’s almost unfair to list some of the musicians here and not others, but among the  names listed in the credits are those of Larry Knechtel, Jim Horn, Michael Omartian, David Lindley, Jim Gordon, Leland Sklar, Tom Scott, Jay Graydon, Craig Doerge, Steve Cropper, Klaus Voormann, Chuck Findley, Don Dunn, Jimmie Haskell and Jeff Porcaro. (That’s just a sample: Look at the credits for all four albums at Patti’s website.)

As Patti and the folks at Rev-Ola put the CD together, I had a chance to play a small part in the process. Patti sent an email one day asking me – and several others who got the same email – if I would go over her catalog and list the seventeen tracks that I thought should be on the CD along with three tracks that had been released as singles in the 1970s. I was delighted, and I spent a weekend reviewing her four albums and putting together my list. As it turned out, about half of the tracks on the CD were among those I recommended.

The first song I put on that list for Patti is my favorite track of hers. “Wait Like A Lady” was on her debut album in 1972 and was released as a single on the Uni label. I don’t recall hearing it in 1972, but when I first put Patti Dahlstrom on my turntable a couple of years ago, I loved it. So when I began putting together the Ultimate Jukebox last autumn, I made sure it was on the list. And when I got an early look at Patti’s website the other week, I was pleased to see that “Wait Like A Lady” was one of the twenty tracks on her new CD.

Patti was kind enough to allow me to share “Wait Like A Lady” this week, and before we head to the music, I’ll let her have the last word about her CD:

“I just feel so blessed that this is happening,” she said, “another in a long line of wonderful events in my life.”

Video placed May 9, 2011.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 8
“Down By The River” by Buddy Miles from Them Changes [1970]
“Long Long Time” by Linda Ronstadt, Capitol 2846 [1970]
“Mother Freedom” by Bread from Baby I’m-A Want You [1971]
“Wait Like A Lady” by Patti Dahlstrom from Patti Dahlstrom [1972]
“The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy from Jailbreak [1976]
“South Side” by Moby with Gwen Stefani from Play [1999]

About a month after I started this blog, I wrote:

“There was a half-second of empty air after the commercial ended. A softly strummed guitar broke the silence, and then, above that, came the moan of an electric guitar playing one long note and then a short break of melody in a minor mode. A choir came in behind the guitars, a chorus of ‘oooooh’ sounding as lonely as a back road while the guitar continued its forlorn dance above the chorus. A quiet organ wash replaced the chorus as the drums entered and set a pace, and then a tortured voice sang, ‘Be on my side, I’ll be on your side, baby. There is no reason for you to hide . . .’  Rick and I paused whatever we were doing – probably playing a board game – and stared at the small radio and the sounds coming from its somewhat tinny speaker. What the hell was that? And who was singing?”

That’s how I remembered my introduction to Buddy Miles’ cover of Neil Young’s “Down By The River.” It seemed like we heard the song on WJON at least twice a week that summer, until it became one of the recurring sounds of that season along with, as I wrote then, “oak leaves whispering in the wind, a car’s honk some blocks away, the faint breek-breek of frogs in the low places near the railroad tracks, the laughter of teens out walking in search of something, the distant horn of an approaching train.”

I don’t know that I ever associated one specific young lady with Linda Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time,” but I do know that from the first time I heard the tune sometime during the autumn of 1970, it became one of those songs that will always make my heart ache for a few moments. The yearning tone of Ronstadt’s voice and the weeping strings tilt the record – which went to No. 25 – in that direction anyway. Add some adolescent dreams, and there you go.

“Mother Freedom” is pretty crunchy and not at all what most people think of when they remember Bread. The group had its catalog of soft and often sad songs, yes, but there was a tougher side that you can find by revisiting the group’s original albums. Of those harder songs, “Mother Freedom” is my favorite. Most listeners liked the softer stuff, though: “Mother Freedom” went only to No. 37, the poorest peak among Bread’s twelve Top 40 hits.

I don’t know that I have much more to say about the Thin Lizzy record than I said last autumn:

“With its almost relentless guitar riffs, ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ dares you not to tap your feet or bob your head or pound out a rhythm on the steering wheel. And if you’re in the car, there’s no way you’re not going to turn the radio up all the way. The single was Thin Lizzy’s only hit, peaking at No. 12 during the summer of 1976. Oh, and that line about ‘drivin’ all the old men crazy’? It’s a little disquieting to realize that if I were anyone in the song these days, I’d be one of those old men.”

“South Side” brings back a particularly pleasant memory for me. It’s sometime in the early months of 2000, and I’m sitting at my computer, having a long chat with a woman from Texas. There’s something there, I think, and it turns out she thinks the same. And as we chat, my radio plays a catchy tune that seems like it’s part rap, part techno and part something else. It took me several listens over the course of a few months to figure out what the song was. By that time, the Texas Gal and I had figured out a few things, too. Moby’s tune, according to All-Music Guide, went to No. 14 in 2000, but the album from which it was pulled, Play, came out in 1999, so it belongs here. And finding out what and who belongs where is kind of what life is all about.