Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

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.)

A Baker’s Dozen From 1970, Vol. 3

June 18, 2011

Originally posted March 19, 2008

As books go, they weren’t very impressive. The first, A Sea of Space, was an anthology of fourteen science fiction stories. The authors whose works were included ranged from Ray Bradbury – whom I knew at the time – to William F. Nolan – about whom I learned a little bit later – to Kris Neville, about whom I still know nothing. I bought it some time during 1970 for sixty cents. That was the cover price.

The other book, 13 Great Stories of Science Fiction, was one I got during my first summer in the work force. I wrote here once about spending a portion of the summer of 1971 as a janitor at St. Cloud State. During that time, I spent about two weeks working in the building called Riverview, where the English department had its offices. One day, one of the literature professors put a box of paperback books in the hallway; professors, as I learned later, get free books from publishers all the time. I dug in. And somewhere in the middle of the box I found 13 Great Stories, which turned out to be a reprint of a book originally published in 1960.

I’d been reading science fiction for a little more than a year. And some of the names on the cover of 13 Great Stories were familiar to me: Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Damon Knight, Poul Anderson and Algis Budrys.

As I said, as books go, they weren’t very impressive: A recent anthology of mostly lesser-known writers and an older anthology of more impressive authors’ possibly lesser works. (I’d read much of Arthur C. Clarke’s work by then, and considered the Clarke story included in 13 Great Stories – “Silence, Please!” – to be one of his minor pieces.

But those may have been the most important books I’ve ever owned.

When I was in school – late elementary and junior high – teachers and my parents despaired at my ever learning to write. Oh, I had the vocabulary and knew the English language. It was the mechanics that got to me. Handwriting baffled and frustrated me. I tried and tried to make my letters come out looking like the examples posted above the bulletin boards, but I could never get the shapes right. Add to that the fact that – for some reason – from fourth grade on, we used fountain pens in school, meaning that any hesitation with the pen touching the paper resulted in a blot. My work often resembled a piece of abstract art titled “Study in Black Ink on White.”

And even when using a ballpoint pen, the demands of forming the letter-shapes defeated me before I could even begin to think about content. How could I think about what I was writing when I was unable to master the mechanics of the craft? (My fifth-grade teacher, Roger Lydeen – about whom I will write more on another day – saw the problem and tried to teach me to type, but I was unable to master that at the age of ten.)

So through maybe my sophomore year of high school, I dreaded any assignment that included writing, simply because I could not write cursive script. When I made notes at home – for any purpose, from telling my folks I was over at Rick’s to writing out a hockey schedule for the winter – I printed. And when I was a junior, I believe, I went to my teachers and asked for permission use printing for my work instead of cursive. All of them – having no doubt struggled with reading my work – agreed.

That summer, I bought A Sea of Space, and reading it, I began for the first time to think about writing as something I might want to do. During the first half of my senior year – 1970-71, I began to seriously explore the world of science fiction, reading for content but also looking at least a little bit at technique: How did Clarke structure his stories? What were the constants in the works of Robert Heinlein? How does a writer like Isaac Asimov plan and structure a multi-volume series like his Foundation works? I don’t know if I truly formulated those questions, but those are the things I began to think about at least a little as I read my way through the major works of science fiction from the 1950s and 1960s.

Also that year, I took a class in mass media, and one of our assignments was to write something for the media. Most students wrote stories for newspapers or magazines. As I thought about the assignment, I realized that for the first time in my life, I wanted to write. And I took one of the stories from A Sea of Space, a romantic tale by Robert F. Young titled “One Love Have I,” and I wrote a screenplay.

It wasn’t very good, as I look back, but for a first try, it was okay. I think I got an A. More importantly, I learned I could write. It took me years afterward to figure out that the barrier had been the mechanics and not my brain, but for the first time, I’d thought about writing something and had done it! Poems and lyrics and a few short stories followed over the next few years, and in college, I began to learn to write for a living.

In that summer before I began college, however, I came across 13 Great Stories and learned something else. As soon as I got home that day, after finding the book in the box, I sat down and dug in, reading the first story, “The War Is Over” by Algis Budrys. It was okay, and I moved on to the second story, “The Light” by Poul Anderson. It’s not long, about twelve pages.

And I got to the end of the story and put the book down. I sat there, on the couch in the basement rec room, stunned. I looked back through the story, looking for clues that Anderson had laid down to support his magnificent surprise ending. They were there. I re-read the story, and still I marveled at the ending, which even years later I think is one of the greatest endings to a short story ever.

I’m not going to relate the ending here. I don’t know if the story is still in print or not. If I learn that it’s not, I may open a separate blog and post the entire story there. I will say that I’ve read a lot of fiction since then – this was almost thirty-seven years ago – and I have yet to read another work of fiction that left me so stunned and amazed, or so eager to try to make my own way through the thickets of writing and lay a strong ending into the hands of another reader. And the slender volume, 13 Great Stories went onto my shelf in my early science fiction collection, next to A Sea of Space.

When I moved from my parents’ home to the cold house on the North Side, my father asked me if I was certain I wanted to move all my books. “Your books are your friends,” he said to me. “You care for them and keep them safe. But not everyone feels that way about books. It’s something you need to think about.”

As it turned out, I took most of my books with me, and no harm came to them. My library – science fiction, history, film studies and more – grew and moved with me for years. Then, in the mid- to late 1990s, things got tough. I had some bad luck and I made some poor decisions, and I spent a few years scuffling to get by. And one Saturday, I took several boxes of books – including all of my science fiction collection – to a shop I knew, and I sold them in order to get enough money to pay rent. I didn’t weep as I sold my old friends, but I came close.

I’ve made no attempt to rebuild the collection in the years since, though I likely could. Most of the works are readily available, and I think occasionally about finding them. But about a year ago, I guess, those two volumes of short stories came to mind, and I began to dig online. It took a while to find them, but now they sit here on my table, A Sea of Space and 13 Great Stories of Science Fiction, friends come home at last.

And here’s some music from the year I met the first of those friends.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1970, Vol. 3
“Power to Love” by Jimi Hendrix from Band of Gypsys

“Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” by the Allman Brothers Band from Idlewild South

“Poor Elijah/Tribute to Robert Johnson” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends from On Tour With Eric Clapton

“25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago, Columbia single 45194

“All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison from All Things Must Pass

“Groupy Girl” by Tony Joe White from Tony Joe

“For Yasgur’s Farm” by Mountain from Climbing!

“I Looked Away” by Derek & the Dominoes from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

“Ship of Fools” by the Doors from Morrison Hotel

“Spindrifter” by Quicksilver Messenger Service from What About Me?

“Sittin’ On Top of the World” by Howlin’ Wolf from The London Sessions

“Go Back Home” by Stephen Stills from Stephen Stills

“Sign on the Window” by Bob Dylan from New Morning

A few notes:

The Band of Gypsys album is one I mentioned the other day when writing about Buddy Miles. It was recorded, as I said then, “at the Fillmore East in New York on the night 1969 turned into 1970.” Jimi Hendrix’ catalog of projects completed during his lifetime is so slender – given that he died young – that all of it might be considered essential. But if I were limited to one record, Band of Gypsys is the one I’d choose.

The Delaney & Bonnie & Friends album from which “Poor Elijah/Tribute to Robert Johnson” comes is a great record. Without actually making a list, I’d guess that it would rank as one of the ten greatest live albums in rock. The “Friends” for that tour, along with Eric Clapton, were Dave Mason, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Price, Bobby Keys, percussionist Tex Johnson and Rita Coolidge.

I never listened to a lot of Mountain back then, through I liked the long version of “Nantucket Sleighride” on the live album. I pulled “For Yasgur’s Farm” from a best-of CD, and it’s a pretty good tune. (Not to insult anyone, but I suppose some readers might not know that Max Yasgur’s farm near Bethel, N.Y., was the site of the Woodstock festival.)

I go back and forth on the Doors. Some of their singles still sound good, but others sound, well, dismal. And the same holds true for their albums, both track-by-track and record-by-record. Of all their albums, I think Morrison Hotel holds up best these days. And if “Ship of Fools” isn’t the best track on the record – I think “Roadhouse Blues” or “Indian Summer” gets that nod – it’s at least a good one.

“Spindrifter” a sweet piece, is basically the work of the late Nicky Hopkins, a highly regarded keyboard player who joined Quicksilver in the studio for a good portion of What About Me? As All-Music Guide notes: “For almost two decades, [Hopkins] was the most in-demand session pianist in rock,” working for, among many others, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks, the Jeff Beck Group, the Jefferson Airplane and the Steve Miller Band.

Celebrating Vinyl At 2,906 And Counting!

May 4, 2011

Originally posted August 10, 2007

As mentioned here earlier, it’s time to celebrate Vinyl Record Day at Echoes In The Wind this weekend with a blogswarm. Organized by the DJ at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, the weekend swarm will feature posts here and at these other fine music blogs:

AM Then FM
Bloggerhythms
Davewillieradio
Flea Market Funk
Fufu Stew
Funky16Corners
Good Rockin’ Tonight
Got the Fever
Ickmusic
Jefitoblog
Lost in the 80s
Py Korry
Retro Remixes
The Hits Just Keep On Comin’
The Stepfather of Soul

The actual day selected as VR Day is Sunday, Aug. 12, which turns out to be the 130th anniversary of the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison.

Now, old Tom didn’t invent the vinyl record. That came quite a bit later. Edison used wax cylinders to record sound, and around 1900 came the invention of the 78 rpm record made out of shellac. Both had obvious drawbacks. The wax cylinders were soft and could melt too easily, and 78s were heavy and more fragile than china. The dual problems of durability and weight were solved in 1948 when engineers at Columbia and at RCA invented the LP and the 45, respectively. But celebrating vinyl on the anniversary of old Tom’s breakthrough in recording sound just feels right.

So how should the vinyl record be celebrated? Well, by talking about record collecting.

But instead of talking in generalities, I thought I’d look at my collection and the milestone records. Which record was the 100th? Which was the 2,500th? And how about the numbers in between? I should note that having many times bought multiple LPs on the same day made it difficult to specify in some cases exactly which record was, say, the 500th I ever bought. I decided that any record bought the day I reached a milestone number was eligible, and I selected the record I thought most interesting.

I should also note that every mp3 shared in this post is a rip from the vinyl being discussed. There are a few pops here and there, as a result.

A third note: This will be a very long post.

No. 1: Honey In The Horn by Al Hirt, Sept. 5, 1964, St. Cloud, Minnesota. This 1963 release was the first record I can recall that was specifically mine. It was a present from my sister for my eleventh birthday. I’d been playing cornet for about three months, and after hearing “Java,” which reached No. 4 on the pop chart that year, I’d begun to look at Big Al as my model. “Java” is no longer my favorite song on the record. More than any other track, I love Al’s incredible work on “I Can’t Get Started,” a song that most horn players have left alone since Bunny Berigan’s definitive version in 1937. But the track I’ve decided to share is “Malibu” because, well, it just sounds like 1963 to me: There’s a couple in a car. It’s night, and they’re heading out of the city on the Pacific Coast Highway, maybe actually heading toward the beaches of Malibu. They’re in a convertible, maybe a Thunderbird, and its headlights slice through the post-midnight darkness. He’s probably something in show biz, maybe beginning a career in the business side of television, and she, well, she might work for the same network or studio. And life is good, with the soft sounds of the horn and the choir providing the soundtrack as they glide north through the night into the future.

No. 100: Mancini’s Angels by Henry Mancini, May 15, 1977, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I was just finishing college at St. Cloud State, and one day, down by the television studio, there was a box of records the radio station didn’t want. I grabbed a bunch, and this was one of them, a 1977 release that had Mancini and his pals performing not only the “Theme from Charlie’s Angels” but such classics as “Evergreen,” “Car Wash” and “Silver Streak.” (Just from this entry alone, it becomes obvious that I rarely throw anything out of the collection.)

No. 200: Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan, June 19, 1987, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I got this 1965 release as a gift from a lady friend with whom I was trying to acquire a complete collection of Dylan’s works. We succeeded at that, at least, and when we split up, I got the records. The track I’ve ripped is “She Belongs To Me.” I first heard the song when Rick Nelson took his version to No. 33 in early 1970. Although I like Nelson’s version, there’s nothing like the original.

No. 300: Cruisin’ 1967 by various artists, June 8, 1988, Minot, North Dakota. This is one of a series of LPs put out in the late 1970s and early 1980s by Increase Records. Each album centers on one year and packages hits from that year in the context of a Top 40 station, featuring a different announcer from a major market in the U.S., complete with jingles and commercials. The 1967 album, released in 1984, features Dr. Don Rose of WQXI in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s an interesting curio, but this one is the only one in the series I ever bought.

No. 400: Gaucho by Steely Dan, December 10, 1988, Minot, North Dakota. I likely got this 1980 album from the bin at the Minot Public Library, as December is not a month for garage sales, and there’s no price tag on the jacket, as there would be if I bought it retail, even second-hand. Library records are usually in bad condition, and I tend to avoid them. If that’s where I got this, then I did well, as it’s in pretty good shape. It’s an okay album, but it’s not my favorite Steely Dan album; I prefer Pretzel Logic.

No. 500: Chicago VI by Chicago, February 17, 1989, Minot, North Dakota. This 1973 album came from a pawnshop in downtown Minot, where every record was $2.50 or something like that. I didn’t get there a lot during my two years on the North Dakota prairie. These days, I imagine I’d be checking the new arrivals every couple of weeks, at least. I decided to share “What’s This World Comin’ To?” because, to my ears, it’s one of the last times Chicago really rocked.

No. 600: Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, July 11, 1989, Edina, Minnesota. I went on a binge in the Minneapolis suburbs after I moved back from the prairies in mid-1989, buying something more than thirty records my first month back in Minnesota. As to this 1967 album, well, it’s essential for any serious attempt at a good collection. I love “The Wind Cries Mary.”

No. 700: Tap Root Manuscript by Neil Diamond, June 2, 1990, Conway Springs, Kansas. This album came out in 1970, and I always meant to buy it but for some reason never looked for it. I ran across it and finally bought it on a Saturday morning of garage sale stops during a three-month stay in Kansas. I’m sharing “Done Too Soon,” which after thirty-seven years remains one of my favorite songs.

No. 800: Wet by Barbra Streisand, April 3, 1991, Columbia, Missouri. I’ve never been a big Babs fan, so I must have grabbed this 1979 release for something less than a dollar at a garage sale. I was teaching at a women’s college and beginning my final project for a master’s degree at the University of Missouri at the time. College towns are always good used music locales: I got some very nice albums during my two stays in Columbia.

No. 900: Wild Things Run Free by Joni Mitchell, Sept. 5, 1992, Minneapolis. I must have been spending birthday money when I picked this 1982 release up. I think I bought it new, and it fits in with the other Joni releases on the shelf even though it’s not a favorite of mine. I think this is one of Joni’s experiments that wasn’t real accessible.

No. 1000: Great Hits by Eddie Cochran, May 5, 1993, Minneapolis. The pace of buying is accelerating here, and so is the scope of my purchases. This is a collection put together in 1983, and it’s not bad, considering that Cochran had only three singles reach the Top 40 before he died in a car crash in 1960. I’ve ripped “Pink Peg Slacks” a 1956 recording that was released as Liberty single 10204.

No. 1100: My Baby Loves Lovin’ by White Plains, October 15, 1993, Richfield, Minnesota. This 1970 bit of studio Bazooka is pretty hacked up, but I only spent fifty cents for it as I made my way home through the suburbs one day. I got a good Al Stewart and a few other things at the same stop, so it wasn’t a total loss.

No. 1200: Burgers by Hot Tuna, August 4, 1995, Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I’d left the newspaper in Eden Prairie for a job in downtown Minneapolis in July, and one Sunday morning I got a call from the woman who’d coached gymnastics at Eden Prairie High: She and her husband were clearing out their old vinyl. Did I want it? I headed out to the southwest suburb pretty quickly and got this little gem from 1972 and another forty or so records. Best find of the batch? Probably two albums by Bonnie Koloc, a little-known singer/songwriter whose stuff I intend to post here soon.

No. 1300: History of Hi Records, Vol. Two by various artists, October 8, 1996, Minneapolis. I got this 1988 release and its companion first volume on a very odd Saturday morning. Unattached at the time, I went on a blind date, meeting a woman of similar age at a farmer’s market in Richfield, a suburb just south of Minneapolis. After wandering around the small market in a chill wind, we made our way to a record store in Minneapolis, one new to me. We browsed for a while, and when I went to the register to pay for the two Hi LPs and a book, she laid her two records on top of mine at the counter. The clerk rang them up on my tab as I stood there stunned. I paid and didn’t say anything, but I never called her for another date. I’ve ripped “You Made Me What I Am” by Erma Coffee, one of the lesser-known artists for Hi, the home of Al Green and Ann Peebles, among others. It was released in 1973 as Hi single 2253.

No. 1400: Beaucoups of Blues by Ringo Starr, July 26, 1997, Minneapolis. This is perhaps the most odd record of Ringo Starr’s career. A straight country, featuring some of the best sessions players in Nashville at the time, this 1970 release was Ringo’s second solo album following the break-up of the Beatles. It’s not something I listen to very often, but I’m glad it’s on the shelves.

No. 1500: Lady Day Blues by Billie Holiday, February 14, 1998, Minneapolis. By this time, I was stopping by Cheapo’s several times a week, checking the new arrivals every few days and keeping a bag full of holds behind the counter. I’d either buy the records or put them back in the bins each Saturday. This 1972 release on the AJ label is a goulash of performances from throughout Holiday’s career. Its only real attraction is the first release of a 1939 recording of “Don’t Be Late” with saxophonist Lester Young.

No. 1600: Gerry Rafferty by Gerry Rafferty, June 6, 1998, Minneapolis. This 1978 release – following Rafferty’s No. 2 hit “Baker Street” and the album City to City, which reached No. 1 – is a compilation of work from earlier in Rafferty’s career. Taken from two albums recorded in the early 1970s when he was part of a duo called the Humblebums, the record gives a look at Rafferty in the days before Stealer’s Wheel. I’ve ripped the track “Steamboat Row,” which appears to be an edit of the version the Humblebums recorded in 1970.

No. 1700: Faragher Brothers by the Faragher Brothers, August 4, 1998, Minneapolis. When I pulled this 1976 release from the stacks, I didn’t remember a thing about it, so I dropped it on the turntable as I was writing. It’s inoffensive pop rock with mellow vocals and a few horn flourishes, kind of a Pablo Cruise meets James Pankow of Chicago. The only name in the credits that rings any bells is that of producer Vini Poncia, who played numerous parts on Ringo Starr’s 1973 album Ringo and co-wrote “Devil Woman” for that album with Ringo. A year from now, I imagine I’ll have forgotten all about the Faragher Brothers again.

No. 1800: Caribou by Elton John, October 24, 1998, Minneapolis. I picked up this 1974 LP to help fill a gap. About this time, I realized I was low on stuff by Elton John and began looking for some. This release from 1974, a time when Elton was nearly king of the musical universe, fit nicely on the shelves.

No. 1900: Sonny Terry by Sonny Terry, December 5, 1998, Minneapolis. This was part of the Great Blues Grab at the local Salvation Army store. As I wrote once before, the manager of the store called me when someone dropped off about twenty boxes of nearly mint condition rock and blues albums. This 1965 release of archival performances on the Everest label is one of the relatively few records released during Terry’s lifetime – he died in 1986 – that did not also include his long-time partner, Brownie McGhee.

No. 2000: Dinner With Raoul by the Bliss Band, January 30, 1999, Minneapolis. I think this came in a box of records I bought at a church rummage sale. I’d often buy entire boxes of records – if most of them appeared to be in good shape – at rummage sales and garage sales, then sort through them, keep the ones that intrigued me and then sell the rest at Cheapo’s and a couple other places. I’d generally do no worse than break even, and I’d still have the records that interested me. I’ve ripped the track “Rio” from this 1978 album, which was produced by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. Like the Faragher Brothers above, the Bliss Band sounds to me a bit like Pablo Cruise or the Little River Band, both of which were hitting the charts about the time Dinner With Raoul was recorded.

No. 2100: The Babys: Anthology by the Babys, March 19, 1999, Minneapolis. A decent greatest hits album from 1981, this was another attempt to fill a (small) gap in the collection. I still do like “Isn’t It Time?”

No. 2200: Copeland Special by Johnny Copeland, May 10, 1999, Minneapolis. I was pretty much grabbing any blues LPs I found in good shape at Cheapo’s around this time, adding to the collection that started in earnest the previous December at the Salvation Army store. Copeland – who died in 1997 – was a pretty decent blues guitarist and singer who hailed from Houston, and this 1981 album was his first. I’ve ripped the title track, “Copeland Special,” which features the wonderfully named Brooklyn Slim on harmonica.

No. 2300: James Cleveland and introducing the Gospel Girls, by Rev. James Cleveland, June 13, 1999, Minneapolis. This LP, which was released on Savoy around 1960, as far as I could ever find out, is one of several gospel albums by African-American artists that I bought around this time. I’d seen the Twin Cities Community Gospel Chorus perform at a street fair, and as I was digging into the blues roots of rock, I decided to dig into the gospel roots of soul. On the back of the jacket, Savoy offers a copy of the label’s entire catalog for ten cents. I wonder if the offer’s still good.

No. 2400: Enigma by P. J. Proby, October 1, 1999, Minneapolis. Albums at Cheapo’s were priced according to quality and rarity. Most LPs in fine condition would cost you $3.60. Every once in a while, you’d find one that was a bit rare and that would run you $4.20. (The store’s owner siphoned off the truly rare LPs the store received; I wish I could have seen his collection.) This 1966 LP by folkie/rocker/singer-songwriter Proby – who was a star in England but never too prominent here – was priced at $5.30, which meant it was rare. I didn’t know much about it, but I grabbed it. It turned out to be kind of a chunky mix of roots and rock and folk, and I like it. I’ve ripped the track “Niki Hoeky,” which was also recorded by artists as diverse as Redbone, Aretha Franklin and the Ventures.

No. 2500: Still ’Round by Michael Gately, December 7, 1999, Richfield, Minnesota. Like the Faragher Brothers and Bliss Band records above, when I pulled this from the stacks, I looked at it and had no idea what it sounded like. So I dropped the needle on it. First came a somewhat funky introductory track with a saxophone solo. But the first vocal track put me in mind of England Dan & John Ford Coley, and then came a country rock thing, followed by more mellowness. After that, it was early 1970s singer-songwriter stuff. All I could ever find out about this record was that it came out in 1972 on the Janus label. By the price tag – sixty-nine cents – I can tell it came from a thrift store on Penn Avenue where I could occasionally find some treasures. This isn’t one of them.

No. 2600: We Got A Party by various artists, October 13, 2000, Minneapolis. Subtitled “The Best of Ron Records, Volume 1,” this turned out to be a nice little gem. I’m not sure where I got it – no price tag – so I’m guessing a garage sale. A 1988 release on the Rounder label, the LP collects fourteen tracks released as singles on the New Orleans-based Ron label from 1958 through 1962. Some of the familiar names are here – Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Robert Parker – along with some less prominent folks, including a performer named Paul Marvin. According to the notes, Marvin started life as Marvin Geatreaux and also went by the moniker Little Mummy. That was too odd to ignore, so I ripped Marvin’s 1959 single “Hurry Up,” which was released as Ron 322.

No. 2700: Typical American Boys by the Chad Mitchell Trio, June 22, 2002, St. Cloud, Minnesota. Still living in the Twin Cities at the time, the Texas Gal and I drove up to my hometown of St. Cloud on a June Saturday. We saw a parade, visited my folks and went to a few garage sales, one of which provided this 1965 release of super-bland folk. It’s a reminder of what college campuses sounded like in the years before Bob Dylan went electric and rock became something to think about. I’m reminded of the scene in the movie Animal House when John Belushi’s Bluto smashes the folk singer’s guitar.

No. 2800: Let’s Take A Sentimental Journey by various artists, May 20, 2004, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I got almost fifty albums that day. And I wish I didn’t own any of them. They were my dad’s, and I brought them home when Mom was getting ready to move after Dad died. Well, I guess I always knew I would end up with the records, and cataloging them when I brought them home was an afternoon of memories: Among them were Pearl Bailey, the Ray Charles Singers, Guy Lombardo, and about twenty excellent classical records from the Music Heritage Society. (My sister and I used to tease Dad when he was buying the Heritage Society records during the 1960s, and all he said was, “You’ll be glad to have them someday.” He was right.) There was a five-record set by the Mystic Moods Orchestra. And four Reader’s Digest boxed sets, one of which was Let’s Take A Sentimental Journey, which came out in 1970. From that box, I’ve selected a 1961 live performance by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra of “Sugar Foot Stomp.” The song was originally known as “Dippermouth Blues” and was first performed in the 1920s by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band; the high point of the song each night was a two-chorus solo by King Oliver himself on cornet. When the great Louis Armstrong moved from second chair in King Oliver’s band to first chair in Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra in 1924, he brought the song, now known as “Sugar Foot Stomp,” with him, and he brought King Oliver’s solo, too, note for note. In 1934, Henderson broke up his band and became an arranger for Benny Goodman, and he brought “Sugar Foot Stomp” and its cornet/trumpet solo, still played – note for note – as King Oliver first played it. And in this 1961 performance, following the first, brief solo by Goodman on clarinet, the horn player follows with King Oliver’s solo, played just as the King had done about forty years earlier, now about eighty years ago.

No. 2900: Harper Valley P.T.A. by Jeannie C. Riley, April 24, 2007, St. Cloud, Minnesota. There are very few places that sell any vinyl in St. Cloud these days. There are a few thrift stores, but I’ve rarely found anything in them worth bringing home. The only other place is the Electric Fetus downtown, with a small selection of new records and a slightly larger offering of used records. I stop in there about once a month, see what’s new in the used CD bins and take a look at the vinyl. Every once in a while, I find a record I’d forgotten about entirely. That was the case with this one. I don’t know that I ever aspired to have Harper Valley P.T.A, but I do recall when the title track was on the radio. (It was No. 1 for a week in the fall of 1968, and the LP went to No. 12, which has to make it one of the more successful crossovers from the country charts to the pop charts.) Along with the tale of the widowed mother calling out the hypocrites – with that sweet twanging guitar or dobro – the LP was almost a concept album, with its other vignettes of late 1960s life in a small southern town. Since I don’t hear it often on the oldies stations, I’ve ripped the title track, “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” to share here.

No. 2906: Another Day in Paradise by Bertie Higgins, August 1, 2007, St. Cloud, Minnesota. My most recent acquisition. A while back, I wrote about how I was certain I had a copy of this album somewhere and then learned to my surprise that I was wrong. Well, I saw it on my latest trip downtown, and laughing, I couldn’t resist. (The fact that it was priced at seventy-eight cents with thirty percent off helped.) And of course, I have to share “Key Largo,” which went to No. 8 in the summer of 1982. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

A Baker’s Dozen (Plus) From 1977

April 18, 2011

Originally posted April 25, 2007

Today’s Baker’s Dozen actually numbers twenty songs. I decided to add some bonus material because I won’t be posting again for a little more than a week. The Texas Gal and I are heading south tomorrow to visit her family in the Dallas area and do some touring in San Antonio and around Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

So I thought I’d give you some extra tunes today. Don’t listen to them all at once! (I couldn’t help it: My dad used to give me similar warnings about my allowance, back when a quarter really could buy something.)

A note about how I compile the Baker’s Dozens: I generally sort the year’s songs by running time and set the RealPlayer on random. If I don’t have a selected starting song – I did not this week – them I start with the shortest song I have for that year (usually a television theme or something negligible) and then go from there. The only rules I have are not to post something I’ve posted since I began the blog in January, and only one song per artist.

But I screwed up midway through this batch. I have a lot of odd stuff in the collection – fight songs, commercials, television themes and other stuff – and at about No. 10, the RealPlayer landed on a 1977 recording of the national anthem of the Soviet Union. I found it recently at a site that offers hundreds of mp3s of songs from that nation’s 74-year existence. When the anthem popped up, I thought, “That’s just a little too odd for my audience,” and I hit the advance button, got a repeat performer, got another repeat and another repeat and got lost.

So I started over again, somewhere around the entry from Chicago, and when I got to the end of eighteen songs, I thought, well, I should put the Soviet anthem in anyway, so I made it a twenty-song selection, adding the Thelma Houston tune through a random jump.

And I got to thinking about the Soviet anthem. About forty years ago – which is not that many years ago, as these things go – acknowledging some affection for that particular piece of music could have left one open to criticism. Anything that had even a slight whiff of respect or affection for the USSR was suspicious. I recall a presentation to one of the local civic organizations – Elks, Moose, Lions, Eagles, Rotary, I don’t remember which one – sometime in 1969, I think, when the speaker pointed out that the Beatles, by opening their 1968 self-titled album (the “White Album”) with “Back In The USSR,” were proclaiming their intent to indoctrinate their listeners with their Communist views. While the kids in the audience snorted and rolled their eyes, our parents nodded and made mental notes to see what we were listening to.

(For the record, my parents were far more upset by “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” than they were by “Back In The USSR,” which was a Chuck Berry/Beach Boys pastiche/tribute, anyway!)

But I do acknowledge a fondness for the Soviet anthem, partly because it is a stirring piece of music, to my ears, and partly because hearing it reminds me of watching the Olympics during my younger years and seeing red-clad athlete after athlete standing atop the awards platform with a gold medal as the anthem echoed through the arena. (I especially recall the Soviet gymnasts and my admiration for the dark elegance of Ludmilla Tourischeva.)

Anyway, here’s today’s augmented Baker’s Dozen, from the year of 1977.

“Native New Yorker” by Odyssey, RCA single 11129

“Wings” by Rick Nelson from Intakes

“The Trumpet Vine” by Kate Wolf from Lines On The Paper

“Velvet Green” by Jethro Tull from Songs From The Wood

“Jammin’” by Bob Marley & the Wailers from Exodus

“Kitty Come Home” by Kate & Anna McGarrigle from Dancer With Bruised Knees

“Swayin’ To The Music (Slow Dancing)” by Johnny Rivers, Big Tree single 16094

“I Got The News” by Steely Dan from Aja

“Moolah Moo Mazuma (Sin City Wahh-oo)” by the Sanford-Townsend Band from Smoke From A Distant
Fire

“Morning Man” by Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite from The Joy

“I Can’t Be Satisfied” by Muddy Waters from Hard Again

“Mississippi Delta City Blues” by Chicago from Chicago XI

“Sunshine Day” by Osibisa from Welcome Home

“Hog Of The Forsaken” by Michael Hurley from Long Journey

“Running On Empty” by Jackson Browne from Running On Empty

“Fantasy” by Earth, Wind & Fire from All ‘N All

“Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees from Saturday Night Fever soundtrack

“Something So Right” by Phoebe Snow from Never Letting Go

“Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston, Tamla single 54278

National Anthem of the Soviet Union by the Red Army Choir.*

A few notes:

“Wings” is pretty indicative of the country-rock direction Rick Nelson was taking during the 1970s. He didn’t have a lot of chart success, but he was still recording music well worth hearing, and did so until his untimely death in 1985.

Speaking of musicians and untimely deaths, Kate Wolf is not nearly as well known as most of the musicians here, and that’s a shame. “The Trumpet Vine” is from her second album, Lines On The Paper, and – like much of her work – is a quiet celebration of domestic harmony and simplicity. Her folk-influenced work – which ended with her death from leukemia in 1986 – is well worth seeking out.

“Moolah Moo Mazuma (Sin City Wahh-oo)” is, I think, the Sanford-Townsend Band’s attempt at cataloguing and criticizing the excesses of L.A. It’s not a bad recording, but the guys seem to have their tongues thrust pretty firmly in their cheeks, which doesn’t work. You either preach against the decadence or you celebrate it, I think. And the S-T Band doesn’t pull it off nearly as well as the Eagles did a few years earlier with “Life In The Fast Lane” or as well as David & David did in 1986 with “Welcome To The Boomtown.” Still, it’s a fun cut.

I’ve posted some work by Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite here before and talked about their work with Joy of Cooking. “Morning Man,” from what I think was their final piece of work together, has some of the ambience of their Joy of Cooking recordings.

Muddy Waters’ performance on this version of “I Can’t Be Satisfied” is a delight. Produced by Johnny Winter – who also plays guitar – the album Hard Again marked a late-in-life comeback for Waters, one of the five or six largest figures in Twentieth Century American music.

I did not know about Michael Hurley until a few years ago, when the producers of HBO’s Deadwood used “The Hog Of The Forsaken” in one of the show’s first-season episodes. It’s odd, all right, and I plan to explore Hurley’s music further.

I wondered, as I let the RealPlayer run, which – if any – of the hits from Saturday Night Fever would pop up. That it was “Stayin’ Alive” seems appropriate. Although many of the songs from the movie’s soundtrack are fun to hear, “Stayin’ Alive” has an iconic power that sums up the movie – and the era the movie celebrated and created – in a way that nothing else from the soundtrack could (with the possible exception, I guess, of the Trammps’’).

*After a few years of digging and listening, I’m almost certain that the performance of the Soviet National Anthem is by the Red Army Choir, so I’ve changed the listing and the tag  from  “unknown choir.” Note added June 12, 2011.