Posts Tagged ‘Cold Blood’

Two Years Of Echoes

December 16, 2011

Originally posted February 2, 2009

I’ve been wondering for some time how to mark the second anniversary of this humble blog. While I’d shared a few albums and singles beforehand, it was on February 1, 2007, that I invested a small bit of cash and installed a counter. With that done, I began to actively encourage folks to stop by here.

So I’ve designated February 1, which was yesterday, as this blog’s birthday, and – as I said – I’ve been wondering what to do to mark it. The first thing to do, I thought, is a historical inventory, seeing from what decades my mp3 collection comes. This is what I found.

1800s: 27
1900s: 9
1910s: 10
1920s: 381
1930s: 412
1940s: 316
1950s: 1,054
1960s: 7,842
1970s: 12,353
1980s: 2,983
1990s: 4,032
2000s: 4,293

The stuff from pre-1920 isn’t as impressive as it might look. Almost all of those mp3s are classical pieces and college fight songs tagged by their dates of composition, not by recording dates. The oldest recording that I have – at least the oldest to which I can append a date that I believe is accurate – is a performance of “Poor Mourner” recorded by the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet in Philadelphia on November 29, 1902.

The focus on the 1960s and 1970s doesn’t surprise me, nor should it startle anyone who comes by here regularly. I am a little surprised that I have that much music from 2000 and after.

So what should I post today?

What I’ve decided to do is to first ignore the music from pre-1950. I find some of it interesting, but I think it’s less so to the folks who stop by here. After that, I’ll sort through the files by decade and then by running time, and at that point find a single track of roughly average length from each decade from 1950 on. I’ll select the singles based on rarity and on my perceptions of their appeal and aesthetic value.

And since you all by now know that my aesthetic structure has a few slightly warped walls, this might be fun! So here’s what we’ll listen to today:

A Six-Pack Through The Decades
“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” by the Platters, Mercury 71383 [1958]

“Girl From The East” by the Leaves, Mira 222 [1966]

“Come Back into My Life Again” by Cold Blood from Lydia [1974]

“Don’t Walk Away” by Toni Childs from Union [1988]

“Ghost Train” by Counting Crows from August And Everything After [1993]

“Mastermind” by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals from This Is Somewhere [2007]

“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” spent three weeks at the top of the pop chart in early 1959, giving the Platters their fourth No.1 hit. Over all, the Los Angeles group had twenty-three records reach the Top 40 between 1955 and 1967.

“Girl From The East” was the B-Side to the Leaves’ “Hey Joe,” which reached No. 31 in the summer of 1966. More interesting in these precincts is the fact that “Girl From The East” was written by my pal Bobby Jameson for the 1965 album, Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest that Bobby recorded under the name of Chris Lucey.

By 1974, Cold Blood was trying to capitalize on its lead singer, Lydia Pense, using her name as the title of one album and then, in 1976, titling its next album Lydia Pense & Cold Blood. The strategy didn’t get the group that many more listeners, but the music was still good, as “Come Back into My Life Again” makes clear.

Toni Childs’ Union was one of my favorite albums of the late 1980s, an idiosyncratic piece of work that I found fascinating. “Don’t Walk Away,” a funky, powerful track, is the album’s opener and was released as a single. Even more than twenty years later, the album has a grip on me.

Adam Duritz’ distinctive voice was by any measurement one of the iconic sounds of the Nineties. I haven’t always liked Counting Crows’ work, but it’s almost always been interesting.

On the other hand, through three CDs, I absolutely love everything that Grace Potter and her band, the Nocturnals, have recorded. The band – with Potter on keyboards – is tight, and Potter sings like. . . well, I don’t have a superlative strong enough at hand right now. Get the CDs and listen.

A Brief Note
I just wanted to say that I’ve had more fun keeping this blog going for these past two years than I could ever have anticipated. I’ve had a chance to share music I love, and – much more importantly – I’ve had a chance to find similarly inclined friends from around the world. Thanks to all of you for reading and for your comments as well as the occasional correction or clarification. I hope you all come along as we head into Year No. Three.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Isaac Hayes

July 27, 2011

Originally posted August 11, 2008

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

But then, neither had the rest of the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited slightly on archival posting July 27, 2011.

Finding A Cold-Blooded ‘Thriller’

July 13, 2011

Originally posted June 20, 2008

During the late 1990s, when I was playing keys in the recreational band that we called Jake’s, one of my guides to music new to me was one of our drummers, Chazz. As soon as he learned that I was a record collector, Chazz began to bounce suggestions and ideas my way. On the phone, during breaks at rehearsal and during fairly lengthy drives into the exurbs to practice with a smaller group we played with, we talked about all types of music, but especially funk, R&B, rap and hip-hop.

Chazz was a professional musician – the other members of his first band were his cousin, Prince, and a neighbor who became André Cymone – and his background in those and many related styles of music far exceeded mine. So I kept his comments and suggestions in mind as I made my thrice-weekly trips to Cheapo’s and rummaged through stacks of records in a few other shops.

Sometimes I could surprise him. One evening, as we waited for a gig to start, he mentioned to me that he’d heard something good that day. “There’s a group called SWV,” he said.

I nodded. “Sisters With Voices,” I said.

He stared at me. “How’d you hear of them?”

I shrugged, said I’d read or heard of them somewhere.

Sometimes I could fake him out. One Saturday evening, he called and asked what I’d found that day. One record I mentioned was a collection of the Ohio Players’ work called Gold. I hadn’t yet played it and knew little about it, but as I mentioned it, I remembered something I’d read about the record somewhere. “It looks okay,” I told him, “but it doesn’t have ‘Funky Worm’ on it.”

He cackled. “Oh, man,” he said, “cat knows ‘Funky Worm’!”

During the three or four years we hung out together, I learned about a lot of music new to me. Probably the best advice he gave me, though, was about the San Francisco-based group Cold Blood. I’d seen the group’s first album in a store’s stacks and it caught my eye, so I grabbed it. I knew nothing about the group at the time and before I played the record, I mentioned it to Chazz. “Soon as we hang up,” he said, “You listen to it, and then you go look for the rest.”

I listened, and I looked. As related earlier, I eventually found all six of Cold Blood’s albums from the late 1960s and early 1970s. I might have gotten around to the rest of the group’s work eventually, but who knows? One of those that Chazz particularly urged me to find was the band’s fourth album, the 1973 release, Thriller!

When I found it in early 1999, I understood why. The second of two the band released on Reprise, it might be Cold Blood’s best album. Six of the seven tracks are covers, with only “Live Your Dream” being an original (written by trumpet player Max Haskett), and the band gets inside most of the covers and finds a way to claim them as their own. The one exception is Stevie Wonder’s “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.” It’s not a bad version of the song; it’s just that there are some songs that are so fiercely identified with their original performers that it’s almost foolhardy to try to take them on. And this seems to be one of those songs.

But that seems to be the only misstep on the record. The best work comes on what was Side Two of the original vinyl: “Sleeping,” the Robbie Robertson/Richard Manuel tune that was on The Band’s Music From Big Pink; “Live Your Dream” from Haskett; “I’ll Be Long Gone,” the Boz Scaggs tune from his first solo album; and “Kissing My Love,” a Bill Withers song that he hid on his third album, Still Bill.

The band is crisp and the vocals from lead singer Lydia Pense are good throughout, but for some reason, the last four tracks – Side Two in the original configuration – work better. I’m not sure why the first side doesn’t grab me as much (aside from my already mentioned concern about the Stevie Wonder cover). For whatever reason, those first three tracks – with Jerry Ragovoy’s “Baby I Love You” and Temple and Johnson’s “Feel So Bad” sandwiched around the Wonder song – just seem somehow a little less shiny.

Overall, the horn work seems better here than on the group’s first three albums: Cold Blood from 1969, Sisyphus from 1970 and 1972’s First Taste of Sin. The band’s members were pretty good on horns, but the credits on Thriller! show that the band got help – who knows how much? – from a full slate of well-known Bay Area horn players: Mel Martin, Bill Atwood, Bob Ferreira, Pat O’Hara, John Mewborn, Benny Maupin, Mike Andreas and Rigby Powell. (If you run most of those names through All-Music Guide and click on “credits,” you’ll find amazing lists of albums.)

Other credits show Holly Tigard and the Pointer Sisters providing background vocals.

Cold Blood’s members were: Pense on vocals, Gaylord Birch on drums, Rod Ellicott on bass, Haskett on trumpet and background vocals, Raul Matute on keyboards, Skip Mesquite on tenor saxophone, flute and background vocals, Michael Sasaki on electric and acoustic guitars, and Peter Welker on trumpet and flugelhorn.

Tracks:
Baby I Love You
You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
Feel So Bad
Sleeping
Live Your Dream
I’ll Be Long Gone
Kissing My Love

Cold Blood – Thriller [1973]

Cold Blood Rolls A Rock Uphill

June 27, 2011

Originally posted May 9, 2008

I worked for a collection agency for about a year in the last bit of the 1990s. I wasn’t a collector; my personality isn’t aggressive enough for that. I was a skip-tracer, one of the individuals assigned to find deadbeats and then turn their names and locations over to the collectors.

The agency I worked for was a national firm, and the client I worked for was the U.S Department of Education. I was tracking down folks who’d defaulted on their student loans. It was kind of fun, and given my analytical abilities and the investigative skills I’d learned as a reporter and editor, I was very good at it. It turned out that spending eight hours a day essentially solving puzzles wasn’t a bad way to earn a living. The pay could have been better, but I got by. And I had enough so I could get over to Cheapo’s a few times a week and pick up some records.

One of the records I found in the last days of 1998 was a self-titled effort by a group new to me: Cold Blood. The jacket caught my eye, and as I examined it, I remembered my friend Chazz, the drummer in the Thursday night band, telling me about the group. His praise had been effusive, and not a lot of groups sparked that kind of enthusiasm from Chazz, who’d begun his musical career in an early band with his cousin, Prince. So I brought Cold Blood home on that December night.

That first album, which I shared here almost a year ago, was on the San Francisco label.  It was a good record, a nice mix of rock, R&B and funk, and I moved Cold Blood to the front of the mental file of groups I’d have to look for. Over the next couple of years, I found the other five albums the group had released between 1969 and 1976, from 1970’s Sisyphus through Lydia Pense & Cold Blood from 1976. The group never quite caught on, releasing two records on San Francisco – which was co-owned by Bill Graham of the Fillmores – then two on Reprise, one on Warner Bros. and finally one on ABC.

The last of the six I found was the band’s second album, Sisyphus, named after the mythological character doomed by the Greek gods to push a boulder up a hill only to have the boulder roll back down when he reached the top. Perhaps that’s how the band was feeling about its attempts to break through nationally from their home in San Francisco. All Music Guide says the band’s chances were compromised by what it calls “Graham’s underhanded distribution deals with Columbia and Atlantic.”

So we’re left with the six original albums (plus two recent releases: a live performance from 1975 and a 2005 studio album). The self-titled release from 1969 is pretty good, and I think Sisyphus is its equal in quality, but it represents a slight change in direction: The songs are longer, with more stretching out by the band. While the songs on Cold Blood weren’t what you could call short, they were concise; there wasn’t a lot of extended playing. On Sisyphus, there is, as three of the album’s six tracks run more than six minutes. That’s not excessive, given the era, and those longer songs do give the band behind lead singer Lydia Pense a chance to show its chops.

The group as a whole is credited with writing five of the album’s tracks. The sixth is a cover of the Stax tune “Your Good Thing,” written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter and released by Mabel John in 1966. I could try to highlight a track or two, but I find that I like the entire album enough that pulling one song aside would be kind of futile (though if pressed, I’d note that the closer, “Too Many People,” is likely my favorite track). It might be more enlightening for me to say that when I listen to Cold Blood – at least to Sisyphus this morning – I hear a singer that drew favorable comparisons with Janis Joplin backed by a band that always reminds me of Tower of Power. If that’s a combination that sounds attractive, you should like Sisyphus and the rest of Cold Blood’s work.

Track list:
Shop Talk
Funky On My Back
Your Good Thing
Understanding
I Can’t Stay
Too Many People

Cold Blood- Sisyphus (1970)

(This rip of Sisyphus is courtesy of Lisa Sinder at Ezhevika Fields, a blog that’s well worth a visit. My vinyl copy of the album is in pretty good shape, but the version Lisa shared is better. My thanks to her.)*

*Lisa seems to no longer be posting regularly, which is a shame. Note added and a few corrections made June 27, 2011.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1974, Vol. 3

June 20, 2011

Originally posted March 24, 2008

I tend to read more than one book at a time. No, I don’t have two books in two hands and flip my head back and forth from volume to volume. I mean that I almost always have more than one book in progress and move back and forth between those books, depending on mood and circumstance. Along with The Shield of Time (mentioned the other day), I’m currently reading biographies of Roberto Clemente and Richie Havens and a book titled The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe and the Invention of Murder, an account of how a New York murder in 1841 became a public sensation from which – evidently – follow all of the public sensations created by the crimes that fascinate us. Daniel Stashower’s thesis seems to be – I’ve not read far into the book – that the furor and frenzy in Manhattan following the murder of Mary Rogers is the civic predecessor of modern-day public reaction to all the so-called “crimes of the century,” over which our culture hovers like some bloated, moralizing and baleful vulture (my words, not Stashower’s).

As fascinating as that is, the book I’m moving through quicker than any other right now is Boom!, the look back at the Sixties written by former NBC newsman Tom Brokaw. Somewhere along the line, I said that the cultural whirlwind that we call the Sixties began with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and ended with the fall of Saigon in 1975. Brokaw considers the Sixties closed with the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, which is a reasonable stopping place. And his thesis, like that of many who have written before him, is that the Sixties are not really finished; they echo in today’s events and attitudes. (Though Brokaw’s thesis is not new, his book shines as a result of his clear and concise prose as well as the access he had to so many of the participants in the events under consideration.)

Indeed, if one wanted a confirmation that the events of the cultural era we call the Sixties have not gone away, all one needed to do was look at the front page of the Minneapolis StarTribune Saturday and today. The first of those stories noted that Sara Jane Olson of St. Paul had been released from a California prison after serving about six years for crimes committed in 1975 – a bank robbery that included a murder, and an attempt to bomb two police cars. The second story – today’s – reported that California authorities discovered that they had calculated Olson’s sentence incorrectly and she still has about a year to serve.

The link back to the Sixties, of course, is that in those days, Sara Jane Olson was known as Kathleen Soliah and was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the radical group that abducted heiress Patty Hearst in February of 1974 and committed other crimes both before and after most of its membership was killed when the house in which they took refuge burned down during a shoot-out with the Los Angeles Police Department in May 1974.

After the shootout/fire, Soliah, like Hearst and other members of the group, went back to the San Francisco area for some time. Soliah eventually moved to Minnesota, changed her name, married a doctor and raised a family under the name Sara Jane Olson.

When her identity was discovered as a result of a television show in 1999, I was working for a collection agency and was three years removed from reporting. Still, I was fascinated as I saw television coverage and read newspaper reports about the one-time radical turned doctor’s wife who’d hidden in St. Paul – right across the Mississippi River from my Minneapolis neighborhood – for more than twenty years. The reaction then to her arrest and now to her evidently mistaken and brief release make it clear that the Sixties – at least the Sixties of the SLA – are still with us, proving Brokaw’s thesis to be true in this case and, I am certain, in many more.

When the Symbionese Liberation Army brought itself into the news with its abduction of Patty Hearst, I was in Denmark. As with almost all things that took place in the U.S. during those nine months, it seemed as if I were seeing the kidnapping and all the rest of the news about the SLA through the wrong end of a telescope. Those of us in Fredericia knew things were happening – from the International Herald Tribune, from shared copies of the slender and expensive European editions of Time and Newsweek, and from conversation with our Danish friends, who translated coverage of events from Danish media. But out information was frequently old and sketchy.

By the time we students left Denmark on May 21, we knew there had been a shootout four days earlier but nothing more than that. I don’t think it was one of my first questions, but sometime during the forty-minute drive from the airport to my sister’s home the day I came home, I asked if Patty Hearst had been killed in the shootout. No, I was told. I nodded and went on to think of other things.

And as we think of other things, every once in a while the Sixties pop out of the box in which we try to store them neatly, and we’re reminded that the past is never really gone.

Here are some songs from the year the SLA burst into the headlines for the first time.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1974, Vol. 3
“It’s Out Of My Hands” by the Soul Children from Friction

“Willie & The Hand Jive” by Eric Clapton from 461 Ocean Boulevard

“Another Park, Another Sunday” by the Doobie Brothers, Warner Bros. single 7795

“When It’s Over” by Cold Blood from Lydia

“I’d Be So Happy” by Three Dog Night from Hard Labor

“Even A Fool Would Let Go” by Gayle McCormick from One More Hour

“Just Like This Train” by Joni Mitchell from Court & Spark

“Everything Good To Ya (Ain’t Always Good For Ya)” by B.T. Express from Do It (’Til You’re Satisfied)

“Lady Marmalade” by Labelle from Nightbirds

“Keep the Faith” by Mel & Tim from Mel & Tim

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

“Faithless Love” by Linda Ronstadt from Heart Like A Wheel

“Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan & The Band from Before the Flood

A few notes:

461 Ocean Boulevard is regarded, I think, as one of Clapton’s great albums, coming after his drug-wracked retreat following 1970’s Layla. It’s a good album, but I hesitate to say it’s a great album, as there are just a few too many hollow spots. I love “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Please Be With Me” and “Let It Grow,” to name three. Unfortunately, the randomizer selected “Willie & The Hand Jive,” which to me is one of the album’s hollow spots.

Cold Blood, a great late Sixties group from the San Francisco area, was struggling by 1974 – as many acts were – to hold its audience, which to be unhappily honest, had never been that large to begin with. It titled its 1974 album after its lead singer, the attractive Lydia Pense, and then changed its name to Lydia Pense & Cold Blood by 1976. The move didn’t work, and the group faded into obscurity, remembered only by fans and collectors of Bay Area groups until the CD boom in the 1990s. The music’s still good.

Hard Labor was the last Three Dog Night album to reach the Top 20, and is better remembered as the source of two pretty good singles “Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here” and “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)”. Overall, the band – especially the singers who had given Three Dog Night its character and identity – sounded tired.

Gayle McCormick had been the lead singer for Smith, the band that reached No. 5 in 1970 with an incendiary version of Shirelles’ “Baby It’s You.” When Smith didn’t reach the charts again, McCormick recorded two pretty good solo albums right away: her self-titled debut in 1971 and Flesh & Blood in 1972. One More Hour came in 1974, and wasn’t quite to the level of the earlier records. This may be the first version of “Even A Fool Would Let Go,” a tune written by Kerry Chater and Tom Snow. All-Music Guide lists McCormick’s version as being the earliest in its database, but that’s not entirely persuasive. Even if it is first, it’s far from the best – I’d put my vote to Levon Helm’s 1982 version. Still, McCormick had a good voice, and at least battled the song to a draw, I think.

“Lady Marmalade” is an Allen Toussaint song that Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink brought back to life in the film Moulin Rogue and on the charts, reaching No. 1 for five weeks in 2001. The original version by LaBelle – Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash – came out on Nightbirds in 1974, and a single edit went to No. 1 for a week in 1975. It was so much more fun learning French from the jukebox than it had been in a third-floor classroom.

This was pretty much a random selection – I skipped stuff that had been previously posted – until the last song, when I decided to take over the universe’s work. I think I mentioned this version of “Like A Rolling Stone” when I wrote about stellar pop-rock introductions. This opener isn’t the best – I’d likely give that nod to the original “Layla” still – but it’s one of the few beginnings to a rock performance that left my jaw hanging the first time I heard it. Recorded, I believe, in Los Angeles, the performance provides an extraordinary capstone to the document of Bob Dylan and The Band on stage together.

‘Long Gone’ Three Times

May 18, 2011

Originally posted November 9, 2007

I’m battling a flu bug this week, and today it feels as if I’m losing the battle, so I won’t be posting an album or writing anything today.

However, while wandering the wilds of the ’Net last evening, I came across a link to a reference on someone’s Yahoo! 360 page to Cold Blood, the late Sixties/early Seventies bluesy band from the Bay Area. The page owner was looking for Cold Blood’s version of the Boz Scaggs’ song “I’ll Be Long Gone.”

So I thought that instead of leave this place entirely blank today, I’d post the three versions I have of that song, which has always been one of my favorites.

Boz Scaggs – “I’ll Be Long Gone” from Boz Scaggs [1969]

Mother Earth – “I’ll Be Long Gone” from Bring Me Home [1971]

Cold Blood – “I’ll Be Long Gone” from Thriller [1973]

Enjoy, and have a fine weekend!

A Baker’s Dozen from 1974, Vol. 2

May 18, 2011

Originally posted November 7, 2007

Yesterday, as I listened to Matthews’ Southern Comfort’s version of “Woodstock,” a memory floated in, triggered, I would guess, by the second verse:

“Well, I am going down to Yasgur’s farm
“Going to join in a rock and roll band,
“Goin’ to get back to the land to set my soul free.”

It certainly wasn’t Yasgur’s farm, but in a barn on a farm somewhere north of St. Cloud during the autumn of 1974, I might have had my chance to join a rock and roll band. And I would have turned it down.

The band was made up of friends of one of the gals I hung around with at school. I’ve made reference before to the group of people who congregated every day in the lower level of Atwood, the student union at St. Cloud State, about twenty people who came and went during the day, all part of what we called The Table. Annie was one of those people, and sometime during the latter part of October 1974, she mentioned to the group at large that a band made up of her friends was looking for a keyboard player. From the other side of The Table, Amy and Jackie pointed at me, and Annie raised her eyebrows.

“You play?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Yeah,” I said. “Whether it’s enough for a band, I don’t know.”

“You wanna give it a try?”

I nodded, and late one Thursday afternoon, a week before Halloween, Annie and I drove north of St. Cloud to the farm and climbed to the hayloft of the barn, where the band practiced. I don’t recall their names at all, but the band members were a drummer, two guitar players – both of whom sang – and a bass player. There was a small electric piano off to the side. I sat down and turned it on, then let my fingers ripple the keys, checking the sensitivity of its action.

I only recall a few of the songs we played that afternoon and evening. We did a few country rock things that were fairly simple for me to pick up, some blues, too. One of the guitarists asked if we should try “Lucky Man,” a song by Emerson, Lake & Palmer that had reached the lower level of the charts during the spring of 1971. The other guys looked at me.

“I’ve never played it,” I said. “What are the chords?”

They told me, and off we went. At the end of the vocal, at the point when the synthesizer slides in, I filled in with the electric piano, nodding to myself as my hands and my ears worked together, doing a pretty decent job of faking the Keith Emerson solo that takes over the song as it nears its end.

When we finished, the four guys in the band looked at each other and nodded. The drummer asked me, “Anything you want to do?”

“You guys know ‘Layla?’” I asked.

They shook their heads, but the drummer said, “We can fake the second half, if you want.”

I nodded and laid my hands on the keyboard, playing the opening bars to the second half of the famous song, Jim Gordon’s elegiac piano-led coda. The other guys filtered in, and one of the two guitarists did a pretty fair job with the slide part that rides above the piano. We sounded pretty good for our first time playing together.

By the time we finished, the sun had set, and the gloom outside was winning its battle with the few dim electric lamps in the hayloft. The drummer laid down his sticks as the other guys put up their guitars. I turned the piano off as Annie came up to me, grinning.

“When you said you could play a little,” she said, “I thought you meant you knew a few chords. Good lord, you’re good!” I smiled and nodded.

I got the sense that the guys in the band were looking for a keyboard player to go on the road with them. There was never an overt offer, but I wondered how I might react if there were, and I spent a portion of a sweet evening talking the idea over with a lady friend in the back seat of my 1961 Ford Falcon. Had there been such an offer, the idea would have had its attractions, but I was only a year or so away from my degree, and that would have had to come first. A couple of years later, and my answer might have been different.

It didn’t matter anyway: A traffic accident on Halloween night put me in the hospital for a week and kept me homebound for a month. I never heard any more about the band from Annie or anyone else.

That was probably just as well. Looking back, as unlikely as it might have been, the thought of my traveling the rock and roll highway when I was twenty-one is scary. I’m pretty sure that, had I gone on the road, I’d have ended up in thrall to one drug or another, if not marijuana or heroin or cocaine, then to alcohol, which is only significantly different because it’s legal. And I wouldn’t have lasted long.

We didn’t play the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” that evening in the hayloft. We probably should have.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1974, Vol. 2
“Come And Get Your Love” by Redbone from Wovoka

“Down The Road” by Little Feat from Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

“Song from Half Mountain” by Dan Fogelberg from Souvenirs

“Blinded By Love” by Browning Bryant from Browning Bryant

“My World Begins and Ends With You” by Fallenrock from Watch Out For Fallenrock

“Over Jordan” by the Talbot Brothers from The Talbot Brothers

“Louisiana 1927” by Randy Newman from Good Old Boys

“Ballad Of A Thin Man” by Bob Dylan and The Band from Before The Flood

“Good Times” by Phoebe Snow from Phoebe Snow

“Just Like Sunshine” by Cold Blood from Lydia

“Fountain of Sorrow” by Jackson Browne from Late For The Sky

“Summer Breeze” by the Main Ingredient from Euphrates River

“Song for the North Star” by Jorma Kaukonen from Quah

A few notes on some of the songs:

After featuring Redbone’s Beaded Dreams Through Turquoise Eyes Monday, it only seemed right to start the random run with the album version of “Come and Get Your Love.” The single version reached No. 5 during an eighteen-week stay on the Billboard pop chart in early 1974.

Feats Don’t Fail Me Now was the fourth album for Little Feat, the extraordinarily eclectic group headed by Lowell George. The group’s audible influences included rock, country, blues, R&B and more. All-Music Guide calls the record “the pinnacle of Little Feat as a group” – as opposed to George’s personal peak – and I’m inclined to agree.

Browning Bryant is a name that almost no one knows today, and – to be honest – few knew it in 1974. He was a North Carolina lad, sixteen at the time he recorded “Blinded By Love.” The song was part of an album Bryant recorded for Reprise, with New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint (who wrote the song) producing. “Blinded By Love” and a few other tracks were recorded in Atlanta, but a good share of the album was recorded in New Orleans, with some help from some of the Meters. (Thanks to Dan Phillips at Home of the Groove for the tune and the information.)

The Talbot Brothers were the co-founders of Mason Proffit, the highly regarded country rock band best recalled for the classic 1969 track “Two Hangmen.” After Proffit and its run of five fine albums, the brothers followed their faith and began recording more overtly Christian music: The Talbot Brothers is the first album along the path that found John Michael Talbot becoming, in the 1980s, the best-selling male performer in the field of contemporary Christian music. Not surprisingly, “Over Jordan,” sounds a lot like Mason Proffit.

As I ran the random search, I had expected a song to pop up from Before the Flood, the live album from the tour that Bob Dylan did with The Band in early 1974. The track that showed up, “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” is a good track, with Garth Hudson’s spooky organ snaking its way around Dylan’s biting vocal. I’d hoped, however, for “Like A Rolling Stone.” The opening to that track on Before the Flood is one of the truly great moments in all of rock music.

As long as we’re talking superlatives, considering the opening lyric to “Fountain of Sorrow,” Jackson Browne’s meditation on love and time lost: “Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer, I was taken by a photograph of you.” I shake my head almost every time I hear that line, awed by its simple brilliance.

[Revised significantly since first posting. Note added May 19, 2011.]

Bridging The Gap Between Tribes

April 20, 2011

Originally posted May 21, 2007

The suburban house band I wrote about Saturday wasn’t the first band I was involved with over the years, but my involvement there was the longest and most serious.

In junior high school, my friend John and I sat next to each other in band, in the trumpet section. (I actually played a cornet, a horn designed just a little bit differently, but the fingering was the same and the sound was essentially the same, so I generally say I played trumpet unless I’m trying to confuse someone.) He was first chair and I was second; I think our talent level was about the same, but he worked harder at it and deserved first chair.

We’d been friends for a long time through church, but junior high was the first time we’d gone to school together, and we had fun. We put together a silly James Bond sketch for our seventh grade talent show that gave both of us a chance to play a piece of Bond music on the piano; he played Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme” and I played John Barry’s “Goldfinger.” Jerry, the third member of the cast, played a dead body, but was ill on performance day. His replacement, Tom, was a good understudy. A year or so after that, I think it was, John and I thought about putting some kind of musical group together.

Given that we both played horn (as well as piano), we decided on something like the Tijuana Brass. Our band director had a set of music performed by the TJB arranged for small groups, and he loaned the books to us. We recruited a trombone, a couple of woodwinds (if I recall correctly), a gal who played guitar, and Tom, the erstwhile dead body, played drums. And we got together for two practices. The first was at John’s house, the second at mine.  Both moms excelled in the area of snack production, and I would guess that the ration of snack time to practice time was somewhere around two to one.

But that was okay. We did play a little bit of music. But what was more important, as I look back, was that the group of the six or so of us was equally mixed between boys and girls. Not that we paired up or anything. That would have been way too scary – this was, after all, 1966 or 1967. But it was a chance to spend time with members of that mysterious other tribe – girls! – in activities that we all enjoyed: playing music and snacking. It was, to put a high-concept meaning to it, a good step in our social development. It was also an easier way to begin to get to know members of that other tribe than were the occasional dances at school.

During those dances, the boys stood along one wall of the gym of the cleared-out lunchroom and the girls stood along the other as someone spun 45s. Fast records were okay; everyone met more or less in the middle of the open space and acted like the dancers on Shindig! or Hullabaloo. If we hadn’t watched either of those shows, we watched the kids who had, and if you weren’t really dancing with anyone, well, no one could really tell.

The slow numbers were tougher, scary and wonderful. We guys would hold our partners by their waists oh so tentatively and nearly at arms’ length, swaying slowly as something like “Cherish” or “Walk Away Renee” played through its seemingly interminable three minutes. If there was eye contact, well, it was likely an accident. And when the song was over, we boys grinned goofily and our partners blushed, and we retreated to our safe havens on the separate sides of the gym or lunchroom, shaken and sweaty and wishing we could do it again.

One of the girls I wanted to have one of those scary/wonderful moments with was, well, let’s call her just W, the girl John and I recruited to play guitar in our short-lived band. I never danced with her. But as I said, the second – and final – practice our band had was at my house, and for one late spring Saturday afternoon, W was at my house, playing her guitar, laughing, sitting in my back yard. I imagine she knew how I felt about her – I’ve never been a very good poker player – and I also imagine she didn’t know how to react. That was one of the first times I wanted to really bridge the gap between the tribes, and as I would guess most of my readers know from experience, it takes a long time – on both sides – to learn how to do that.

All of that has very little to do with today’s album, the self-titled debut release of the Bay Area group Cold Blood. Well, except that, like thousands of other songs in the world, a good portion of the songs performed here by lead singer Lydia Pense and her boys are about successes and failures in bridging that gap between the tribes.

Some notes on the album:

Six of the seven cuts in this share are from the CD The Best of Cold Blood, which I found some time ago on another blog. The seventh cut – the final song on the album – I ripped this morning from vinyl.

Cold Blood’s first two albums – the self-titled debut and Sisyphus – were released on Bill Graham’s San Francisco* label after the group performed at his Fillmore West. The group’s sound – blues-rock and some funkiness with horns – brought comparisons to Chicago and to its fellow Bay Area group Tower of Power. And Lydia Pense’s vocals brought comparisons to that other blues belter, Janis Joplin.

According to All-Music Guide, Cold Blood was hampered more by Bill Graham’s business practices than by listeners’ comparisons to other groups. After two albums on Graham’s label, the group moved to Reprise for two more, and then did single albums on Warner Bros. and ABC. A live performance from 1973 was released on Dig Records in 2001, and the re-formed group released Transfusion in 2005, also on Dig.

Highlights of the debut remain “I’m A Good Woman,” which on the album is edited so tightly to “Let Me Down Easy” that the two could have been presented as one cut, and “You Got Me Hummin,” a single edit of which reached No. 52 back in 1969.

All of Cold Blood’s work is worth seeking out. Cold Blood and Sisyphus are available online as a combined release. The rest of the group’s albums are available, some new and most used or as cutouts. Check your favorite online marketplace.

Cold Blood – Cold Blood [1969]

*Not the San Francisco Sound label, as I originally wrote. [Note added April 21, 2011.]

A Baker’s Dozen From 1972

April 18, 2011

Originally posted March 28, 2007

Well, I went back to the twelve remaining songs on my list of love songs and rolled the dice this morning. And we start today’s Baker’s Dozen with “We,” Shawn Phillips’ gorgeous anthem from his 1972 album, Faces. (The song was released as a single in 1974*  but didn’t make a dent in the charts; it’s possible that the only place the single got much play at all was in the jukebox of the student union at St. Cloud State, where my friends and I played it nearly every day.)

From there, we’ve got a pretty representative slice of the year with a few rarities. Nick Drake wasn’t nearly as well known then as he is now, some thirty years after his death. And I don’t think Cold Blood – a San Francisco band with a powerhouse singer, Lydia Pense – was very well known at the time, although all their work is worth seeking out. Manassas, as you likely know, is Stephen Stills and his friends.

The version of “Stage Fright” by The Band is from the live Rock of Ages album, different from, but no better or worse than, the 1971 studio version from the Stage Fright album.

Don’t be put off by the fact that “Hvor Går Du Hen?” is a Danish tune. Sebastian has for years been one of the pre-eminent homegrown musicians in Denmark, evolving from a Dylanesque folk-rocker in the early 1970s to a position of high regard for his frequent musicals now. And “Hvor Går Du Hen?” is mostly music, with only three lines of lyrics. Those lines translate roughly into: “Where do you go when you go home? Where do you go when you leave here? Where do you go when you go away?” It’s a lovely piece of work.

(Instead of posting thirteen individual links for the songs, I’ve decided to put all the mp3’s into a zip folder and post just one link.)

“We” by Shawn Phillips from Faces

“I’ll Be Around” by the Spinners, Atlantic single 2904

“Anyway” by Manassas from Manassas

“Who Is He And What Is He To You?” by Bill Withers from Still Bill

“Jazzman” by Pure Prairie League from Bustin’ Out

“Parasite” by Nick Drake from Pink Moon

“I Won’t Be Hangin’ ’Round” by Linda Ronstadt from Linda Ronstadt

“Hvor Går Du Hen?” by Sebastian from Den Store Flugt (Danish)

“Thinking Of You” by Tracy Nelson & Mother Earth from Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth

“I Just Want To See His Face” by the Rolling Stones from Exile On Main Street

“Lo & Behold” by Cold Blood from First Taste of Sin

“Stage Fright” by The Band from Rock of Ages

“Baby, I’m-A Want You” by Bread from Baby, I’m-A Want You

* As it turns out, the single was actually released in 1972, like the album, but for some reason, it did not show up in the student union jukebox until the autumn of 1974.