Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Saturday Single No. 772

February 5, 2022

Well, we’re going to take one more stab this week at The Least of the Best, this time for 1972, a year that kind of just sits there in my memory, highlighted only by a trip with my pals Rick and Gary to check out the highlights of Winnipeg, Manitoba, about five hundred miles north of us. We saw part of a blues festival downtown, went to the zoo, wandered around the Provincial Capitol building, and – during a camping stopover on the way home – met two girls about our ages from Okemos, Michigan.

So, let’s look at the records at the top of the chart for the year and then take a look at the No. 40 record for the year. Our source is Joel Whitburn’s A Century Of Pop Music, a collation of data from Billboard magazine. The top five records of 1972 were:

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack
“Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“American Pie – Parts I and II” by Don McLean
“Without You” by Nilsson
“I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash

If I had bothered to guess before opening the Whitburn book, I would have said McLean’s single or O’Sullivan’s would have been at the top of the list. I recall both of those seemingly playing everywhere all the time, “American Pie” during the first portions of the year and “Alone Again (Naturally)” during the summer.

Flack’s record filled the space between the two, being released in February, a fact which kind of startled me as I looked things up this morning. Why? Because I tend to think of “The First Time . . .” as a 1971 record due to its use in the Clint Eastwood movie Play Misty For Me, which I saw while on a date in late 1971. And I’m not sure I’ve ever liked the record that much.

As to the others, I loved and still love both “American Pie” and “Without You.” I liked the O’Sullivan record when it first came out but then I tired of it during that summer. And the Johnny Nash record is one of those that I know inside and out without ever having paid much conscious attention to it. It’s always just kind of been there.

So, what do I think of those five now? As always, we’ll use the presence or the absence of the tracks in my iPod to determine their value fifty years later. And four of the five are in there, with the only absence being that of “Alone Again (Naturally).” I’ve still got some room, so I’ll likely add the track later today. (That also means that I must have some affection for the Flack single after all.)

So, what record sits at the bottom of 1972’s Top 40? Well, it’s a record by Chicago that kind of made me wince when it came along in early August of 1972 and climbed into the Top Ten in September, a week or two before St. Cloud State’s academic year began. I wasn’t hanging around the snack bar at the student union until sometime in early 1973, so I never heard it on the jukebox there, but I heard it often enough in other places to think it wasn’t nearly as good as the group’s earlier work had been.

I once wrote here that Chicago had seemed to soften up as the 1970s went along, and I guess that’s not surprising. We all softened up as the Seventies went by. (That is, until punk rock and a few other things came along towards the end of the decade, screaming “You’ve all gotten soft! Get your shit together!”)

And the record that wound up at No. 40 for 1972 seemed to me to encapsulate that softening, unaware as I was that softer stuff was yet to come for Chicago, especially after then 1978 death of guitarist Terry Kath. What I heard in the group’s top-ranking single of 1972 – it went to No. 3 in late September – wasn’t what I’d come to expect from the group, and I was disappointed.

So how do I feel about the record now? Well, let’s check the 2,700-some tracks in the iPod. The Chicago tracks there come mostly from the group’s three first albums with a smattering of stuff from later on in the Seventies, but the record in question is not among them, and even though I tend to hum along when it pops up on the radio, I’m not likely to add it. Anyway, here’s “Saturday In The Park,” today’s Saturday Single.

Four At Random

July 15, 2021

Here are four for a Thursday. We’re going to let the computer do the work, drawing from the 2,900-some tracks I keep in iTunes for the iPod.

First up is the Bee Gee’s string-laden “To Love Somebody.” Released in June 1967, it was the second hit for the group to reach the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 17. (“New York Mining Disaster 1941,” released a couple months earlier, had reached No. 14.) What got to me when I first heard it a few years later was the harp in the intro, the feather-light vocals, and the light touch of the horns in a few places, all leading to the forceful “You don’t know what it’s like!”

And when the track plays, I still see the yellow cover of Best of Bee Gees, as that’s pretty much always been the source of the song for me. It actually came out on Bee Gees’ 1st, which was really the group’s third album but the first to be released internationally.

And that first time I heard the record – across the street at Rick’s, where a borrowed copy was residing for a few days – I thought the “No, no, no, no!” and the lush orchestration and the near wailing leading to the end of the record was all a bit overdone. But then I thought back to the previous school year and a certain violinist of my acquaintance and thought, “That’s about right.”

Then pop up the insistent horns announcing Chicago’s “Free,” a 1971 single from Chicago III. I recall it coming out of my radio in the early months of 1971 and not being overly impressed. (“Make Me Smile” was – and still is – my Chicago fave.) And then much later that year – after high school ended and college life began – I heard the track as part of the long “Travel Suite” from the album. And I liked it better in that setting.

But there was still something about the record that never quite felt right to me. It went to No. 20 in the Hot 100 – a disappointment, as three of the group’s four previous charting singles (“Make Me Smile,” “25 or 6 to 4,” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is”) hit the Top Ten.

I wrote long ago about my love for Chicago’s early work at the time it came out and my perception that the group soon ran out of ideas and energy, becoming stale and not much fun to listen to. That happened during the mid-1970s by my reckoning, but as I think of “Free” and Chicago III this morning, I think the signs were beginning to show. Or maybe my admiration for the silver album – whether you call it Chicago or Chicago II – still overpowers anything else the band did.

Don’t get me wrong: I like “Free” and Chicago III, but as I ponder them this morning, they seem to be just on the wrong side of the divide from the group’s earlier work.

And we drop back to 1964 and an early version of a tune the Youngbloods would make famous five years later: “Get Together” as recorded by Hamilton Camp. With an austere guitar backing and a harmonica solo, Camp’s October 1964 performance, included on his Paths Of Victory album, fits into a folky aesthetic that was already being overtaken and would not emerge again until the rise of the singer-songwriter in the early 1970s.

Even as I write that, though, I think to myself that the arrangement would have fit very nicely on Bob Dylan’s 1967 album John  Wesley Harding. But then Dylan always creates a problem when one tries to categorize styles and slide those styles into any kind of chronological pattern.

Camp’s performance is nice enough, pleasant as background, but his thin voice and the subdued arrangement aren’t enough for the song. Maybe if Jesse Colin Young had never found the song, I’d find Camp’s version more compelling. But I wouldn’t want to make that trade.

Last up for the day – having skipped a couple, the first because it’s too new and I haven’t really listened much to it yet and the second because it was “25 or 6 to 4” – is Lefty Frizzell’s “She’s Gone Gone Gone” from 1965. One of Frizzell’s last hits, it went to No. 12 on the Billboard country chart. I don’t know when I first heard it, but it was decades later, and all I really need to say about it is that it’s classic country.

‘As Time Goes On . . .’

February 11, 2020

Every year, as the middle of February comes by, we musicians at our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship put together a Sunday program to celebrate Valentine’s Day, about forty-five minutes filled with love songs, poems and readings.

As we plan, the four of us run through our memories and songbooks, looking for tunes that would fit the day. And when I packed up some of my songbooks in preparation for a planning session the other week, I noticed the book for Chicago’s second album, the silver one called just Chicago when it came out and now called Chicago II. And I thought, “Why not?”

So during the meeting, I offered the idea of including the brief and beautiful “Colour My World” for the program. Two of the three others in the group are about my age, and even though they were (and still are) more attuned to folk music than to pop/rock, they both knew the song and rapidly agreed.

Our fourth member, the owner of an astounding soprano voice, is twenty-seven, and she’d never heard the song. The other three of us gave it a quick run-through, and the other two folks decided that she’d handle the vocals on her own, with me on the piano. The next day, I emailed her a lyric sheet and an mp3 of the original version of the tune.

We got together last evening to practice, and after struggling a bit with the start of the vocals after the long piano introduction – we adjusted the vocal entry place from where the transcription showed it (and I have a suspicion that the transcription might have been wrong, which I may or may not check out) – we worked through it enough to feel comfortable performing it this coming Sunday. Sadly, we know no one who plays the flute, or we’d have the flute solo following the vocal, as the original recording does.

As we took a brief break, I told my young colleague that in 1970, “Colour My World” was pretty much inescapable. “It’s the sound of probably a million weddings during the early Seventies,” I said. And then I told her of my connection to the song from back then.

I got the album – with the song tucked into the middle of the long suite “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon” – in 1970, and a year later, as my piano-playing ambitions grew, I bought the songbook for the album and learned to play most of that long suite pretty well. “Colour My World,” I could nail.

Then, in the autumn of 1971, during my freshman year at St. Cloud State, the guys I knew who lived in Stearns Hall – a men’s dorm – would on occasion walk over to nearby Holes Hall and hang out in the first floor lounge, hoping of course to connect with some of the young women who lived there. There was a piano in the lounge, and on those occasions when I was with the guys and the piano bench was open, I’d sit down and play.

And, I said last night to my young friend’s chuckles, of all the pieces I played during that long-ago autumn, “There was no better chick magnet than ‘Colour My World’.”

Saturday Single No. 468

October 24, 2015

Having touched on the autumn of 1972 in yesterday’s post about being awakened at 6:42 each school morning, I thought I should look today at the music of that same autumn.

I know what I was listening to: In the car, Top 40 from KDWB; in the basement, my nearly complete collection of the Beatles along with bits of Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Mountain, the Moody Blues, and Stephen Stills on his own as well as with his partners Crosby, Nash & Young; and in my room as I fell asleep, either the progressive album rock sound of St. Cloud State’s KVSC-FM or the Top 40 of WLS in distant Chicago.

(My late evening radio listening had dwindled in the year since I’d bought a used TV from my janitor friend Mike. I now watched The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson while I ate my bedtime snack of vanilla ice cream topped with Quik and switched to the radio when I became sleepy.)

We’ve covered a lot of that here already (even my bedtime snack choice, which I noted in a post in early 2008), so how can we make a search for a single tune from that season interesting and different? Well, we can take a look at the Billboard charts for that autumn, check out the records that were at No. 72 for the first six weeks of that season, and go from there. As I check out the charts and sort through that long-ago autumn, I’ll no doubt begin to recall more of what life was like for me in late 1972, so these bits are likely to get longer as we go.

A couple days after autumn began, and not long after St. Cloud State’s fall quarter began, the No. 72 spot on the Hot 100 of September 23 was held down by an artist who’s been mentioned just once in this space: Lyn Collins. Her funky “Think (About It)” fit with both her work as a member of the James Brown Revue and her being tagged with the nickname of “The Female Preacher.” “Think (About It)” would peak at No. 66.

A week later, as what seems to have been an uneventful September closed its books, the No. 72 record was “Money Back Guarantee” by the Five Man Electrical Band, a fun and hooky pop-rock record taking on consumerism and hucksterism and then shifting into a love song two-thirds of the way in. The record, which I doubt I ever heard until today, went no higher than No. 72.

As October started, I settled into my sophomore year. (I recall taking speech communications and music theory that quarter – and doing well in both – but I’d have to work to remember my two other courses, in which I was likely not as successful.) During that month’s first week, the No. 72 spot in the Hot 100 was still occupied by the Five Man Electrical Band.

Another week passed, and I was no doubt distressing over the Minnesota Vikings, who were 1-3 en route to a 7-7 season. On October 14, the No. 72 record in the Billboard Hot 100 was “So Long Dixie” by Blood, Sweat & Tears. The record, a mid-tempo paean to a southern nightspot and its lady of the house (if I’m hearing and reading things accurately), just missed the Top 40, peaking a few weeks later at No. 44.

By the time the third Saturday in October rolled around in 1972, I’d probably begun to realize – as I wrote here at least once – that the kids I hung around with during my freshman year had gone various directions, none of which was mine. I began to bounce between groups of folks, and as that bouncing began in earnest, the No. 72 record was one that seems to have left a lemon in my mouth: “Something’s Wrong With Me” by Austin Roberts. Maybe that taste was because I had no one, not even a departed love, about whom to obsess at the time. Anyway, the record went to No. 12.

October’s end in 1972 was probably about the time when I began what would be a slow-motion (and eventually unsuccessful) courtship of a young lady who tended the main entrance to the library portion of St. Cloud State’s Centennial Hall during the same hours I was assigned to the nearby equipment distribution office. Sitting at No. 72 during the last week of that month was “Dialogue (Part I and II)” by Chicago, a five-minute edit of the seven-minute pair of similarly named titles on the group’s Chicago V album. I know the album pieces, but I don’t recall hearing the single on the radio at all, although it went to No. 24.

So we have five records to consider from this brief jaunt through a six-week slice of 1972. The only one of them I recall hearing on the radio is “Something’s Wrong With Me,” and although it’s not as unpleasant this morning as it seemed forty-three years ago, I’m still not fond of it. Although I’m tempted by the Blood, Sweat & Tears single, the idealist in me (who was actually hopeful as he sat down to watch the election returns that autumn after casting his first presidential vote for George McGovern) insists on “Dialogue (Part I and II),” which is, sadly, still pertinent:

We can make it happen.
We can change the world now.
We can save the children.
We can make it better.
We can make it happen.
We can save the children.
We can make it happen.

So here, from 1972, is Chicago’s “Dialogue (Part I and II),” and it’s today’s Saturday Single:

Long Form No. 1

January 2, 2015

A couple of threads have been coming together in the past week or so, and as a result I’ve been digging into both the library and my memory for what I call long-form pieces of music.

It started, actually, the other week when I wrote about late 1972 and my quiet evenings in the basement rec room with a new batch of records. I wrote that one of the more arresting pieces I listened to during that time was the long, live version of “Nantucket Sleighride” by Mountain.

And then one of my music-loving friends at Facebook posted a call for friends to offer – one a day – their five favorite songs/records/tracks. Now, I’m always game to play along with one of those challenges, but I’ve done my top five singles there at least once and I didn’t see any point in doing that again.* So I agreed to play, but noted that I’d be offering five of my favorite long-form tracks or suites of tracks.

That was something I considered here as a successor project to Ultimate Jukebox series I offered here five years ago. In the last installment of that thirty-eight week project, I wrote:

One constraint I might ignore on a second go-round is length. I set a limit of 7:30 for a record, knowing that a 45 could handle that much, and I hit that limit with Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park.” (I came close, relatively, with Harry Chapin’s “Taxi” and Buddy Miles “Down by the River” and maybe a few others that don’t come to mind right now.) If I were to do the project over, I’d ignore that limit and include longer pieces.

Some of the worthy longer pieces that come immediately to mind are the Side One suite on Shawn Phillips’ Second Contribution, the Allman Brothers Band’s performance of “Whipping Post” from At Fillmore East, Bob Dylan’s “Idiot Wind” from Blood on the Tracks, “Beginnings” by Chicago from Chicago Transit Authority, Don McLean’s “American Pie,” Leon Russell’s take on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” from The Concert for Bangla Desh and Boz Scaggs’ “Loan Me A Dime” from his self-titled album.

But when I posted the first of my five selections earlier this week, I for some reason ignored that long-ago limit of 7:30 as a guide and offered instead a limit of 7:11, noting erroneously that I chose that running time because that was the length of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” (As it happens, the track on the 1970 Hey Jude collection runs 7:06, and the track on the “Mono Master” CD of the Beatles in Mono box set runs 7:19. But never mind, 7:11 it was.)

But where to start? That actually was the easiest decision. In the blog post about late 1972, I’d noted that the live version of “Nantucket Sleighride” was the first long jam I’d gotten into. So I went back from there to the first long-form suite that had grabbed hold of my ears (sifting the difference between the two by defining a jam as an improvised extension of a song while a suite is a planned chain of multiple songs).

And the first long-form suite I dug into deeply came from one of the first two albums I bought when I became deeply interested in pop and rock music in 1970. In February or so of that year, a friend passed on to me an hour of taped music from the Twin Cities’ FM station KQRS, and among the tunes in that hour was most of Chicago’s “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon,” the original setting for “Make Me Smile,” which I soon heard coming out of my AM speakers in a single edit.

I grabbed the album – called simply Chicago at the time and now generally called Chicago II – in May of 1970, and then I bought the piano book for the album and a piano transcription of the long-form introduction. And I spent a good portion of my music time for the next year digging into the album and the long suite, which came from the pen of trombonist James Pankow. (During my freshman year of college, a lot of the guys I hung around with were impressed with my piano version of “Make Me Smile.,” The gals, however, went for “Colour My World.”)

So what was it that grabbed me? The horns, especially when they came in on the off-beat during “Make Me Smile,” the shifts in tempo and style, the romance in the lyrics of “Make Me Smile” and the triumphant return to “Make Me Smile” near the end of the suite. Even back then, the lyrics of “Colour My World” were a bit over-sweet for me, but that was a minor complaint.

And even though I don’t listen to it nearly as often as I once did, any exploration of the long-form music that moves me has to start at the beginning. And for me, that was Chicago’s “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon.”

*While my list of my five favorite singles might vary slightly from time to time, it will always include “Cherish” by the Association, “We” by Shawn Phillips, “Long Long Time” by Linda Ronstadt and “Summer Rain” by Johnny Rivers. The fifth spot is often open for discussion, often with the comment – made here before, I know – that if the Beatles’ “Back In The U.S.S.R.” had been released as a single, there would be no discussion of No. 5.

Saturday Single No. 312

October 20, 2012

It’s a gloomy day here under the oaks: Gray sky and damp air, with the possibility of rain lingering. We had two young fellows working here last week – sons of one of the Texas Gal’s co-workers – and they raked up twenty bags of leaves, but we still have more leaves than one can count lying brown on the lawn. We’ll likely have to call on the young folk again or hope that the landlord comes over with his lawn sweeper.

There are, however, plenty of autumnal tasks the two of us accomplish on our own. As soon as I get done here in the Echoes In The Wind studios, I’ll pull a ladder and two storm windows from the garage and exchange the storm windows for the screen windows that allow us summer breezes in the dining room and the kitchen.

I’ve thought for almost four years now about adding a living room window to those two as a way to increase the evening breezes through the house, but then I look at the out-of-control spirea bush sitting in front of the house on the east side. I’ve tangled with spirea before, over on Kilian Boulevard, and it’s never been pleasant. So this last spring, I left the storm window in place behind the spirea, and we coped – as we have since we moved here – with two windows for fresh air.

It takes no more than twenty minutes to change out the two windows. That’s the benefit of having central air. During the 1960s on Kilian Boulevard, the semi-annual changing of the windows took most of the day. There were, if memory serves me, fourteen windows that needed to be swapped out twice a year: screens down and storms up in autumn and the reverse in spring. And about half of those were for second-story windows, which meant Dad spent a lot of time high on the ladder on those Saturdays, a thought that still scares me.

I don’t go nearly so high on the ladder for my window work. (Cleaning the gutters, which is an every-two-year proposition not scheduled for this autumn, is another story altogether.) There is, nevertheless, a tension in handling the storm windows, knowing that hauling large sheets of glass up a ladder carries some risk no matter how far up one is going.

So even though changing out our two windows is neither a difficult nor time-consuming task, it does carry with it some stress. And I will be pleased when the task is done and I can settle into a normal autumn Saturday of grocery shopping, reading and keeping an eye on a few college football games. May your Saturday be just as pleasant.

And to mark the only major task of the day, here’s “Window Dreamin’” by Chicago. It comes from the album Chicago 13, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

The Turntable In My Head

March 21, 2012

Originally posted March 16, 2009

Something reminded me today of the 1970 rock opera – as it was called – Jesus Christ Superstar. I bought my copy soon after it was released and listened to it frequently. It was one of those albums, in fact, that I listened to enough that I in effect memorized it.

That came in handy a summer later, when I spend a brief part of 1971 mowing lawns at St. Cloud State. We weren’t allowed to bring our transistor radios and earphones to work with us, for safety reasons, I assume. So there we were, those five or six of us on the mowing crew, spending our days on riding mowers or following behind the riding mowers with push mowers to trim around buildings.

The roar of the mowers made conversation impossible. I’m not sure what the other guys did to occupy their minds while riding in the roar, but I “listened” to albums. I’d mentally drop the needle at the start of a record and run through the album in my head, a side at a time.

Among the records I “listened” to as I rode the lawnmower were the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Hey Jude; Blood, Sweat & Tears’ second, self-titled album; Janis Joplin’s Pearl; the second side of Chicago’s second album, the side with the long suite titled “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon” and Jesus Christ Superstar. As long as I kept the mower moving and didn’t run into any trees or buildings, my supervisors didn’t seem to care that I was riding along in my own musical world.

As I’ve never posted anything from Jesus Christ Superstar, I thought I’d start a selection of stuff from 1970 with the title track, performed by Murray Head with the Trinidad Singers.

A Six-Pack From 1970
“Superstar” by Murray Head with the Trinidad Singers, Decca 32603
“(You’ve Got Me) Dangling On A String” by the Chairmen of the Board, Invictus 9078
“Tarkio Road” by Brewer & Shipley from Tarkio
“MacArthur Park” by Maynard Ferguson from M.F. Horn
“The Road” by Chicago from Chicago
“I Can Hear You Calling” by Three Dog Night from Naturally

“Superstar” went to No. 14 in the late spring and summer of 1971. Fourteen years later, Head removed his name from the list of One-Hit Wonders when “One Night In Bangkok,” from the musical Chess went to No. 3.

“(You’ve Got Me) Dangling On A String” was a minor hit for the Chairmen of the Board, going to No. 38 in the summer of 1970. The group’s bigger hit was, of course, the chirping and warbling and absolutely wonderful “Give Me Just A Little More Time,” which went to No. 3 in early 1970.

Brewer and Shipley – and I may have said something like this before – are often regarded lightly because of the less-serious nature of their hit, “One Toke Over The Line.” But the duo put together a series of pretty good country rock albums. The best is likely Tarkio, from which the hit single was pulled, and “Tarkio Road” is a great song and was itself released as a single, though it did not reach the Top 40.

The other three songs are album tracks, although the Chicago and Three Dog Night tracks could easily have been singles and, I think, could have done pretty well. There was, to me, a little bit of filler on Chicago (now generally called Chicago II), but that didn’t include “The Road.” And Three Dog Night’s album tracks generally hold up pretty well against the singles; the singles from Naturally were “One Man Band,” “Liar” and “Joy to the World.”

Man, could Maynard Ferguson blow!

Note
Zshare has become increasingly unfriendly as a host, so I’m now hosting all files on Mediafire. That means, unfortunately, that visitors can no longer hear singles before downloading.

Disorder In The Center

August 5, 2011

Originally posted September 8, 2008

On the far wall, the big shelves wait for the LPs, all of which are still in boxes that form Mount Vinyl in the middle of the living room. On the near wall, the electronics are all hooked up: computer, USB turntable, television, telephone, CD player with futuristic speakers and wireless headphones.

But in the center of the room that we call my study: Oh disorder!

Somehow, two of the large fans we used in the apartment – it was on the southwest corner of the building with no shade, and the air conditioner, a wall unit, was horribly unsuited to cool anything but the living room – two of those fans have wandered into this room. We shouldn’t need them any longer except in a Saharan heat wave, as the house has central air and is shaded by about twenty large trees, most of them oak.

Along with the fans, as I scan the pile of miscellaneous stuff that has migrated here in the past six days, I can see a small plastic table, about ten feet of coaxial cable the cable guy didn’t need, a box of board games (Up Words, several versions of Monopoly, two versions of Risk, the Settlers of Catan – our favorite – and more), a book bag, two belts, a blue three-ring binder (with no paper in it), two trays with bottles of prescription medicine from the past six years, two folders of lyrics and verse dating back to 1970, another folder filled with special editions of Sports Illustrated dating back to 1979 and a partially inflated Hutch brand football called The Gripper with a facsimile signature from Roger Staubach.

And that’s just the stuff I can see in a glance before I get to the boxes of books. It looks like a random junkyard to me.

A Monday Walk Through the Junkyard (1950-1999), Vol. 6
“Come Together” by the Beatles from Abbey Road, 1969

“Friar’s Point” by Susan Tedeschi from Just Won’t Burn, 1998

“Two Faced Man” by Gary Wright from Footprint, 1971

“The Madman And The Angel” by Drnwyn from Gypsies In The Mist, 1978

“Blind Willy” by Herbie Mann from Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty, 1970

“I’m A Drifter” by Martin & Neil from Tear Down The Walls, 1964

“Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton, Columbia single 41339, 1959

“Golf Girl” by Caravan from In The Land of Grey and Pink, 1971

“The Road” by Chicago from Chicago, 1970

“Sit and Wonder” by Dave Mason and Cass Elliot from Dave Mason & Cass Elliot, 1971

“I’m Not Living Here” by Sagittarius from Present Tense, 1967

“Four Walls” by Eddie Holman from I Love You, 1970

“Seven Day Fool” by Etta James, Argo single 5402, 1961

A few notes:

Susan Tedeschi is an excellent blues guitarist and singer who has made a string of fine albums, starting with Just Won’t Burn. “Friar’s Point” is a tour through blues country: Friars Point itself is a small Mississippi town right on the Mississippi River in Delta Country. Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues” mentioned the small town: “I got womens in Vicksburg, clean on into Tennessee/But my Friars Point rider, now, hops all over me.” The town is also famous as the home of the park bench where a young Muddy Waters is said to have seen and heard Johnson play guitar. Intimidated, the tale goes, Waters quietly walked away. Tedeschi’s song name-checks Johnson, Irma Thomas, B.B. King, Magic Sam and Waters himself as it takes us from the Mississippi Delta to New Orleans, Memphis and Chicago. The town’s name is “Friars Point,” with no apostrophe; Tedeschi’s song is titled, according to All-Music Guide and other sources, “Friar’s Point.” Why? I have no idea. Nor do I have any information about the surprise ending of the mp3; I got the file from a friend and don’t have access to the original CD this morning.

There’s not a lot of information out there about Drnwyn, at least not that I’ve found. A note at the blog Jezus Rocks classifies the group as Christian Folk/Psychedelic/Rock, and I guess that fits as well as anything, although it sounds more like 1969 than 1978 to me. I found the album online in my early days of haunting music blogs, but I do not recall where. The same note at Jezus Rocks tells of a 2006 CD reissue, but copies of that seem scarce, based on a quick look.

The Herbie Mann track is from an LP I ripped and posted here almost a year and a half ago. Amazingly, the link for the album is still good. You can find the original post here.

The Neil of Martin & Neil was the late Fred Neil, reclusive singer and writer of, among others, “Everybody’s Talkin’” and “The Dolphins.” Martin was Vince Martin, and the two men’s talents – augmented by some work on bass by Felix Pappalardi and on harmonica by John Sebastian – made for a good album.

“The Road” is the second track from the album now known as Chicago II, the one with the silver cover that was called simply Chicago when it was released in 1970 and then again years later when it was released on CD.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Columbia Singles

August 3, 2011

Originally posted August 25, 2008

It was about four in the afternoon yesterday when the Texas Gal and I took a break. We’d hauled four carloads of stuff over to the house – following five loads on Saturday – and I’d made another trip to the big-box home center, followed by the assembly of two more sets of utility shelves in the basement.

We’re beginning to envision how the living room will be arranged, and the Texas Gal has a handle on where things will go in the loft, which will be her quilting and sewing space. I can see that my study will have room to have my keyboard out, which means I can make some music again, and we’re negotiating colors for the bedroom. We’ve agreed on a Scandinavian motif for the kitchen.

Those things are much more vision than reality now, and much heavy lifting remains before the gap between those two words is bridged. This will be the first house the Texas Gal has lived in as an adult; she’s been an apartment dweller. And though I shared a house with some fellows during my late college years (I’ve lived in mobile homes and apartments since), this feels like my first house, too. So we’re trying to take in all of the process that gets us home, even the drudgery of piecing together plastic shelf sets and of sorting out boxes of fabric.

As we took our break in what is still a sparely furnished kitchen, she drinking a Dr. Pepper, me sipping a Summit India Pale Ale, we looked at the bare walls and saw the décor that will soon be there; we looked through the archway into the empty dining room and saw the table and chairs that will soon welcome dinner guests. And we smiled at our house-to-be and at each other.

Translating that to music can be sketchy, but I went to my favorite song about smiles, and moved on from there.

A Baker’s Dozen of Columbia Singles

“Make Me Smile” by Chicago, Columbia 45127, 1970

“My World Fell Down” by Sagittarius, Columbia 44163, 1967

“My Back Pages” by the Byrds, Columbia 44054, 1967

“Your Mama Don’t Dance” by Loggins & Messina, Columbia 45719, 1972

“Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire, Columbia 10090, 1975

“Gotta Serve Somebody” by Bob Dylan, Columbia 11072, 1979

“Going Down To Liverpool” by the Bangles, Columbia 04636, 1984

“Can’t Get Used To Losing You” by Andy Williams, Columbia 42674, 1963

“Silver Bird” by Mark Lindsay, Columbia 45180, 1970

“Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers, Columbia 44414, 1967

“Naturally Stoned” by the Avant-Garde, Columbia 44590, 1968

“Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand, Columbia 45236, 1970

“I’d Love To Change The World” by Ten Years After, Columbia 45457, 1971

A few notes:

“Make Me Smile” still grabs me by the collar and says “Wake up, we’re playing music here!” The same is true, of course, for many of Chicago’s early singles. (Take a look at what JB the DJ at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ had to say about “25 or 6 to 4” recently.) Unhappily, the band didn’t keep up this level of quality. When did I give up on Chicago? Maybe with “Wishing You Were Here” in 1974, but certainly by the time of “If You Leave Me Now” in 1976. For a few years, though, Chicago had a good hold of my collar.

“My World Fell Down” comes from the confectionary talents of Gary Usher and Curt Boettcher, the producers behind Sagittarius. A little too cloying, maybe, but the single is worth noting because the 1997 CD release restored an avant-garde bridge of noise that had been brutally edited when the LP was released in the Sixties.

The Dylan track was the single from Slow Train Coming, the first of Dylan’s three Christian albums of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, with production from Barry Beckett and guitar provided by Mark Knopfler, Slow Train Coming is far better – and far more enjoyable – than the two albums that followed. (Dylan earned a Grammy for “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance” for “Gotta Serve Somebody.”)

“Silver Bird” was one of two great radio singles Mark Lindsay released in 1970 after leaving Paul Revere & the Raiders. “Arizona” was the other, and it went to No. 10 in the early months of 1970. “Silver Bird,” which entered the Top 40 in July, reached only No. 25. They were Lindsay’s only Top 40 hits. I don’t recall the last time I actually heard either one of them on the radio, but they still sound plenty good popping up on the player.

The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits notes that the Avant-Garde was the duo of Elkin “Bubba” Fowler and Chuck Woolery. “Naturally Stoned” was one of those rare hits that almost wasn’t: The record reached No. 40 in its only week on the chart. The book doesn’t say what happened to Elkin after that, but Woolery, the book notes, went on to host TV games shows like Wheel of Fortune, Love Connection and Greed. Even with all that, it’s not a bad record although it’s certainly a period piece.

I’ve never been much of a Streisand fan, but she and producer Richard Perry got it right with “Stoney End.” The record did well, too, going to No. 6 after entering the Top 40 in December 1970. (The similarly titled album came out in February 1971, which explains the seemingly contradictory tags on the mp3.)

An Abbreviated Chart Dig: Late June 1971

June 23, 2011

Take a sinus infection and then add a strained muscle along the right rib cage. Add six ribs broken long ago that tend to ache in damp weather. Add three days of rain. Ache.

Add one muscle relaxant, diminishing both pain and mental acuity. Grope fuzzily through the early portion of the next morning. Trim the planned blog post from a full examination of the Billboard Hot 100 of the fourth week of June 1971 to highlighting three records selected pretty much blindly. Serve:

At No. 40, we find Paul Humphrey and His Cool Aid Chemists. Their funky instrumental “Cool Aid” peaked at No. 29 and is now making its way back down the chart. Paul Humphrey, says Joel Whitburn in his Top Pop Singles, was a jazz sessions drummer and was also a member of Afrique, the group whose “Soul Makossa” would go to No. 47 in the summer of 1973. Humphrey and his Chemists would have one more record come near the Hot 100. In August 1971, “Funky L.A.” would bubble under at No. 109.

A little further down the chart we find a jaunty bit of pop by Davey Jones that owes a sonic debt, as I hear it, to “Daydream Believer.” As it happens, Jones’ “Rainy Jane” will be the best-performing single by a member of the Monkees who wasn’t named Mike Nesmith. The single sits at No. 69 during the fourth week of June 1971, heading toward its eventual peak at No. 52. (In 1970, Nesmith had two singles that went higher: “Joanne” went to No. 21 and “Silver Moon” went to No. 42. His 1971 release, “Nevada Fighter,” went to No. 71. The third member of the Monkees to have a Hot 100 hit was Mickey Dolenz, whose “Don’t Do It” went to No. 75 in early 1967. Peter Tork never had a Hot 100 single.) “Rainy Jane” turns out to be the last Hot 100 hit for any of the group’s members; later in 1971, Jones’ “I Really Love You” bubbles under at No. 107, and that’s the last chart action for any of the four.

Closer to the bottom of the chart, we find what I think is a treat: The single edit of “Beginnings,” the nearly eight-minute track from Chicago’s first album, Chicago Transit Authority. It’s a treat because the single version was for years unavailable on LP or CD, finally being released (if I read the history correctly) on a 2007 anthology. Forty years ago this week, back when the single was on the chart and in the stores, the record – actually the A side of a double-sided single with “Colour My World” on the B side – was at No. 83 in its first week on the chart. It would eventually peak at No. 7.