Posts Tagged ‘Donovan’

Saturday Single No. 169

July 6, 2022

Originally posted January 2, 2010

Holidays tend to disrupt my internal clock. We spent yesterday doing very little: The Texas Gal read and worked on a quilt for a few hours; I read, played a little bit of tabletop baseball, puttered around with some mp3s and watched a fair amount of college football.

It was a Friday, yesterday was, but it felt like a Saturday. So when I got up this morning, I looked forward for an instant to a nice plate of bacon, our Sunday tradition. Then I realized that, damn, it’s Saturday, and I’ll have to wait another twenty-four hours for bacon. And I also realized that I’d put even less thought than usual into what I was going to do for a Saturday Single.

But that’s okay. Improvisation is good for the soul. Let’s take today’s date – 1/2 – and convert it into a 12. And then we’ll sort some 42,000 mp3s by running time, go to the middle of the pack and then go random twelve times from there. (I’ll use my usual framework when we get to No. 12: Nothing from before 1950, nothing after 1999, and nothing that will go into the Ultimate Jukebox. I generally exclude the very odd things I tend to collect, but not today. I’m feeling edgy.)

First up is “Mercury Blues” by the Steve Miller Band, a chugging 1968 track that was included in the soundtrack to a film called Revolution. Two other bands contributed to the soundtrack as well – Quicksilver Messenger Service and Mother Earth – and while dissing the soundtrack slightly, All-Music Guide notes: “[I]t is really difficult to knock an album that includes liner notes beginning with the following advice to the reader: ‘Next time you use the word revolution, you’d better include in your concept a beautiful blonde who went to San Francisco and illegally changed her name from Louise to Today.’”

From there we go to “Love Lament,” a traditional song of the Nez Perce Indians, who made their homes across the Pacific Northwest of the United States before being confined to a reservation in Idaho in the latter years of the Nineteenth Century. The song, performed by Len Weaskus, was included on a CD titled Lewis & Clark: Sounds of Discovery, which recreated the sounds – man-made and natural – that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their companions heard during their travels through the American wilderness during the years 1804-1806.

Next comes “I Don’t Know Where I Stand” by Barbra Streisand, which turns out to be a delicate and somewhat moody ballad from Streisand’s generally enjoyable 1971 album Stoney End. I’ve no doubt heard it before, but I might not have ever really listened to it, and there is a difference.

The Strawbs are one of my favorite Brit-folk groups, a group that began as a bluegrass band but which grew into a band with a broad understanding of folk descended from British traditions. That makes the Strawbs’ music more interesting than that recorded by those groups who hewed closer to the original sounds and instrumentation of British folk. The fourth song on this morning’s trek is “The Battle,” an epic story song from the Strawbs’ 1969 self-titled album.

From there, we dip into my supply of soundtracks for “A King Reborn,” written by Trevor Morris for the second season of The Tudors. And on we go for our sixth stop.

Wikipedia tells us that Old and In The Way “was a bluegrass supergroup in the 1970s.” Its members were Jerry Garcia, Dave Grisman, Peter Rowan, Richard Greene, Vassar Clements and John Kahn, with fiddler John Hartford filling in at times. The track we’ve found is the Rolling Stones’ tune “Wild Horses,” which was included on Old and In The Way’s self-titled album. Wikipedia says the album was released in 1975, while All-Music Guide says 1973. I’ve got the mp3s tagged with 1974, which I must have seen somewhere. I’ll maybe check out the discrepancy this week.

It only takes one or two notes of a song to recognize Bonnie Raitt’s voice. Her “Cool, Clear Water” from 1994’s Longing In Their Hearts is our seventh tune this morning, reminding me that I need to put the CD in the pile of things I plan to listen to in their entirety late at night. Raitt’s self-titled debut album from 1972 and her 1973 album Takin’ My Time are already in that pile.

Number Eight is “Rostemul” by the group Romashka from a 2005 CD entitled Gypsy Muzica for Dancing & Dreaming. I’ve recently found several blogs that focus on Eastern European folk music of all types. The stuff from Romashka is just okay, but I quite like the Latvian folk songs I found at one of the blogs.

The TV game show Name That Tune used to have a feature called “Bid A Note,” which had the host reading a clue about a song and the contestants bidding for the opportunity to name the tune in as few notes as possible. Even without a clue, I recognize Bob Dylan’s “If You See Her, Say Hello” at the first sound. The song was the flip side of the “Tangled Up In Blue” single, and during the autumn of 1975, I used to play it at least twice a week on the jukebox in the snack bar at St. Cloud State. Does “Even without a clue” mean I’m clueless? I have been at times.

Tenth is “Cocaine,” Eric Clapton’s 1980 cover of J.J. Cale’s subtle song about the perils of the drug. According to Wikipedia, Clapton once noted: “It’s no good to write a deliberate anti-drug song and hope that it will catch. Because the general thing is that people will be upset by that. It would disturb them to have someone else shoving something down their throat. So the best thing to do is offer something that seems ambiguous – that on study or on reflection actually can be seen to be ‘anti’ – which the song ‘Cocaine’ is actually an anti-cocaine song. If you study it or look at it with a little bit of thought… from a distance… or as it goes by… it just sounds like a song about cocaine. But actually, it is quite cleverly anti-cocaine.”

From there we find Brit singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine and his heartbreaking “Please Don’t Ask Me To Dance” from his 1999 CD Thanksgiving. I’ve not kept up with Hewerdine’s career for a few years, which is an error that I will soon correct.

And that brings us to our twelfth song of the morning:

It comes from Donovan’s 1970 album Open Road. The album was an interesting outing for the sometimes twee singer-songwriter, according to AMG: “Although it was a disappointing seller and signaled the start of Donovan’s commercial decline, Open Road could have been a new beginning for the singer. Stripping down to a Celtic rock format that managed to be hard and direct, yet still folkish, Donovan turned out a series of excellent songs, notably the minor hit ‘Riki Tiki Tavi,’ that seemed to show him moving toward a roots-oriented sound of considerable appeal. Unfortunately, he was derailed by record company hassles and perhaps his own burnout, and Open Road turned out to be a sidestep rather than a step forward.”

It’s not an album I know well, but that can be remedied. And that can start now, with today’s Saturday Single:

“Curry Land” by Donovan from Open Road [1970]

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2016

We celebrated the New Year last night with our customary zeal: We watched television and puttered on Facebook until just near midnight, when we flipped channels until we found a celebration going on in Chicago with the band Chicago playing “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

Well, the band evidently knew, because they closed the song while the year-end countdown had about five seconds to go. The crowd in Chicago went nuts, and here in St. Cloud, we clinked glasses and toasted the New Year with some sparkling grape juice (the Texas Gal does not like champagne) and just a bit of gelato (mine with sea salt, caramel and peanuts; hers a double chocolate). And then, old folks that we are, we headed to bed.

Our tepid celebration masks the fact that we’re hoping very much that the New Year brings better things with it than did the year just past. I don’t think I’ve indicated it here much, if at all, but 2015 was a difficult year in many ways here under the oaks, and it does seem as we start 2016 that most of the difficulties that made it so have been resolved.

So we are hoping for better days, not only for us but for all our family and friends, and that includes anyone who stops by this little corner of the Interwebs these days.

And we’ll ring in the New Year, of course, with music. In the closing track of his 1970 album Open Road, Donovan said it pretty well with “New Year’s Resolution.”

Do what you’ve never done before
See what you’ve never seen
Feel what you’ve never felt before
Go where you’ve never been

Sing what you’ve never sung before
Say what you’ve never said
Bear what you’ve never borne before
Hear what you’ve never heard

All is not as it would seem
Nothing ever remains the same
Change is life’s characteristic
Bend and flow and play the game
Loose your chain . . .

And do what you like
Get on your back and do what you like
Get on your back and do what you like
Get on your back and do what you like

So many times
I was the one who stopped myself from doing things
So many times
I was the one who grounded myself and clipped my wings
So I say:

Do what you’ve never done before
For fear of losing face
You’ve got nothing to defend now
In your state of grace

All is not as it would seem
Nothing ever remains the same
Change is life’s characteristic
Bend and flow and play the game
Loose your chain . . .

And do what you like
(What you’ve never done before)
Get on your back and do what you like
(You must see what you have never seen)
Get on your back and do what you like
(Feel what you have never felt before)
Get on your back and do what you like
(You must go where you have never been)

So many times
I was the one who stopped myself from doing things
So many times
I was the one who grounded myself and clipped my wings, clipped my wings,
clipped my wings, clipped my wings

Love is the gift of man which he will not receive
Within is the judge of man yet he cannot perceive
Without is the realm of man he yet cannot perceive
Wealth is the plague of man but he will not believe
There go you go I
There go you go I
There go you go I
There go you go I

‘Fill Me With Song . . .’

July 4, 2014

A little more than four years ago, I wrote, “Donovan’s sometimes wispy ballads occupied one extreme of the sonic landscape of the time, and taken one-by-one, they provided an airy counterpoint to the heavier sounds of the time. Any more than one at a time, and Donovan’s songs were a little too light for me, and they still are.”

Clearly, Donovan is not a favorite here. I’ve got a few of his albums on LP, but it’s instructive that I’ve never bought a CD of the Scottish performer’s work. So why in the world am I stretching a look at one Donovan tune over more than a week? Schedule, mostly. Due to garden duties, a baseball game, the Texas Gal’s travel schedule and some minor stuff, I’ve had less time this week than I would like to spend here in the EITW studios. But here we are on an Independence Day morning, all gathered around the campfire, so to speak, to listen to a few versions of “Wear Your Love Like Heaven.”

First, here’s Donovan’s original. A single release went to No. 23 in the Billboard Hot 100 during a seven-week run that bridged the end of 1967 and the beginning of 1968. The track showed up on two albums that were part of a confusing album release strategy in December 1967. The album Wear Your Love Like Heaven went to No. 60, the album For Little Ones went to No. 185, and A Gift From A Flower To A Garden, a box set combining those two albums, went to No. 19.

I don’t know that I remember the single from its 1967-68 chart days, but it’s not all that different from a lot of Donovan’s work: light and airy with some odd diction provoked by the melody (“Prussian blue” in the first verse is a good example), and a general world view of peaceful bliss. It’s not a song that I would have thought would inspire many covers. Well, except in the realm of easy listening. The song was recorded by the Johnny Arthey Orchestra for the 1969 album The Golden Songs Of Donovan, and David Rose (who hit No. 1 with “The Stripper” in 1962), recorded “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” for his 1970 album Happy Heart.

Another instrumental version I found was from saxophonist Steve Douglas, one of Phil Spector’s go-to players during the years of the Wall of Sound. Douglas recorded the song for his 1969 album Reflections In A Golden Horn. It’s a light and jazzy take on the tune, and if you want to call it easy listening, I won’t cringe. And, along with the Cal Tjader version posted here last Saturday, I know there are other instrumental versions out there. One that interests me but that I have not yet heard is the 1992 version by pianist Richard Dworsky.

All of this started last week with Peggy Lipton’s cover of the tune. Other singers took on the song, too. We shared Richie Havens’ 1969 version here earlier this week, and another cover that caught my ear was the quirky 1970 take on the tune by Eartha Kitt, who included the song on her album Sentimental Eartha.

A more recent version of the song that I have not yet spent the coin to hear is from the group My Morning Jacket, which recorded “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” for the 2002 album Gift From a Garden to a Flower: A Tribute to Donovan. Beyond that, the most recent version that I enjoy is the cover that Sarah McLachlan recorded for her 1991 album Solace. As for versions I don’t enjoy (but others might), an Italian group called Edible Woman, about which I know nothing, has a lumbering, thrumming, heavy version of the tune posted this year on YouTube, which presumably is available somewhere for those who want to hear it again.

Shirts & Skins

June 19, 2014

As I kept an eye on the first games of the World Cup in Brazil this week, I was reminded of the only time I ever played soccer (the game that the rest of the world calls football).

It was in late May or early June 1971, right around the time of my graduation from St. Cloud Tech High School. Someone had organized a graduation picnic for the Tech seniors, and I suppose about 150 of us showed up, gathering at a park in the nearby burg of Sauk Rapids to munch on – if I recall things correctly – Kentucky Fried Chicken and its fixings.

After the meal, we sat around the park, breaking down into the same clusters that had defined our class pretty much through high school. Thinking back to the group I was hanging out with that afternoon, it was mostly the kids who’d taken college prep courses: some jocks, some musicians, the debate and forensics kids, the theater kids, and so on. After a while, just sitting around talking got a little limited; it was a sunny day, the park was pleasant and we wanted to be doing something.

There were ball diamonds in the park, but it seems that no one had thought to bring balls, bats or gloves. Someone, however, did have a soccer ball. We looked around, found a relatively open space maybe thirty yards wide and fifty yards long, and we improvised goals at each end of the space by setting pairs of picnic tables on their ends about ten feet apart. The goal width was a guess, I’m sure, based on what felt right on our improvised field. Soccer was something we occasionally played in phy ed, but it was not a sport we knew well. There might have been an intramural league, I suppose, but there was no varsity soccer team at the time.

After we placed the tables into position, we boys counted off by twos. Half of us stripped off our shirts, and we got set for a game of shirts vs. skins. I was a skin. As we headed out onto the field – or pitch, as they say in places where soccer is football – one of the girls piped up: “Can we play?”

This startled us for a moment. Girls playing sports? But then, we boys were creatures of our times. This was just a few years before girls began playing varsity sports in Minnesota. According to Wikipedia, the earliest sport for girls in Minnesota post-Title IX was track and field a year later, in 1972. Volleyball, gymnastics and basketball followed during the fall of 1974.

We boys looked around at each other and shrugged. Sure, we said. Why not? And then we realized that shirts and skins would not work for the girls. After an awkward moment of hesitation by girls and boys alike, someone said, “The girls with white shirts can play with the skins.” We all nodded. That would work. And we headed out to play.

It was, of course, ragged and disorganized. But we were young and healthy, and we had fun. I don’t recall what the shirts/colors team did, but we skins/whites rotated our lineup, shifting the folks on defense to offense and vice-versa a couple of times during the hour or so we played. And during one of my shifts on offense, as I stood near the opposing goal, a shot from the near the sideline (yes, the touch line for purists) ricocheted into the air and flew toward me.

I was not athletically gifted. I wasn’t certain that I could corral the ball when it got to me and then kick it into the goal. But I could tell as the ball approached that it would be too far off the ground to be able to do that anyway. So I tried to do what I had seen some players do during the few times I had watched soccer on television. I jumped and directed the ball goalward with my head.

Amazingly, I did not break either my nose or my glasses. The ball glanced off the side of my head. It was not, as they say, well-struck. But it did fly past the goaltender and between the tables for a goal. I accepted my teammates’ congratulations with a grin, trying not to make too big a deal of it. But I saw the goaltender roll his eyes in chagrin and disbelief, and I was pretty damned pleased.

And here are two somewhat related tunes: “I Love My Shirt” by Donovan from his 1969 album, Barabajagal, and “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep” by the Temptations, which went to No. 3 in the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 1, R&B) in 1966.


September 25, 2012

There aren’t a lot of threes out there. When I sort the 65,000 or so mp3s on the RealPlayer for the word “three,” I get 302 tunes. But – as in the recent cases of “One” and “Two” – I have to winnow out some chaff. And in the case of “Three,” there’s a lot of chaff.

For example, I have to ignore numerous albums by Three Dog Night and a few by the Three Degrees. I haven’t yet finished sorting and tagging a multi-disc anthology of R&B saxophone, so the twenty-seven tracks on Disc Three of that collection go by the wayside. The same with a nice 1963 album of Brazilian jazz by the Bossa Three and country singer Pat Green’s 2001 album Three Days.

Still, we’re left with enough tunes to explore this morning; certainly six of them should be worth a listen. We’ll travel in generally chronological order.

One of the first things I ever posted at Echoes In The Wind was the tale of my grandfather and the 45 rpm record he purchased for my sister’s birthday (her third, I believe). The record had “Little Red Riding Hood” on one side and “Three Little Pigs” on the other, as read by Al “Jazzbo” Collins. As I wrote in early 2007: “What Grandpa had found at the local record store was one of the great novelty records of the early 1950s, a record now fairly obscure. According to the Sept. 14, 1953, edition of Time magazine, Al ‘Jazzbo’ Collins, a Manhattan disk jockey, had found two hip reworkings of Grimm’s fairy tales in Down Beat magazine.” When Collins read and then recorded the tales – written by TV personality Steve Allen – they reached a wider audience than the hipsters who were Allen’s presumed audience, with the Brunswick recording that my grandfather purchased having sold 200,000 copies by mid-September 1953, according to that piece in Time magazine. The record’s no longer so obscure, perhaps, with numerous copies of it popping up on YouTube, but in any case, today seemed like a good day to revisit Jazzbo’s “Three Little Pigs.”

It’s startling to realize – as I did this morning – that in the five-plus years I’ve been blogging about music, I’ve written hardly anything about Donovan. I’ve mentioned him maybe twenty times and a couple of his tunes have showed up, one in an early mix and another as a Saturday Single. But I’ve never devoted a post to him or taken a close look at either his chart success or critical success. I know his work: Several of his LPs are in the stacks and more than eighty Donovan mp3s are in the player, but I guess that his music has never really meant that much to me, so I’ve never spent much time thinking about it. Will I now? I kind of doubt it. But one of his trippy tunes did show up this morning: “Three Kingfishers” from his 1966 album Sunshine Superman.

From trippy to trippier we go: The Incredible String Band, according to All Music Guide, was one “of the most engaging groups to emerge from the esoteric ’60s.” I’m not sure that “engaging” is the word I’d use; from this corner, “impenetrable” would be more accurate. AMG gives The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter – the group’s third album, released in 1968 – five stars, noting that the album stands as the group’s “undisputed classic among critics and musicians alike.” And here’s what AMG had to say about the track that showed up in this morning’s search: “‘Three Is a Green Crown’ is a psychedelic folk song in all its hypnotic droning glory.” Classic? Glory? Well, okay.

And we may as well trip on. In 1968, as the blues boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s faded further into memory, Chess Records had an idea: Take the vocal tracks from some of Muddy Waters’ greatest performances and lay them over psychedelicized instrumental tracks. The result was Electric Mud, which was reviled by blues purists and either sold well or was generally ignored by its target audience of tripped-out hippies, depending on which source you read. In 1969, it was Howlin’ Wolf’s turn, with a record that proclaimed “This is Howlin’ Wolf’s new album. He doesn’t like it. He didn’t like his electric guitar at first either.” Here’s “Three Hundred Pounds of Joy” the way it sounded in 1963. And here’s “Three Hundred Pounds of Joy” as it showed up on that 1969 tripped-out album.

Mention the title “Three Little Birds” to a casual fan of reggae, and you’ll likely get a blank stare. I imagine that many folks would guess that the song by Bob Marley and the Wailers finds its title in its chorus of “Don’t worry ’bout a thing.” Released in 1977 on the album Exodus, the song is one of the sunniest in Marley’s catalog, and it’s a good place to find our stopping point this morning.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1966

April 22, 2011

Originally posted June 6, 2007

As 1966 rolled around, I was in the second half of seventh grade. I’d become adept at working the combination on my hallway locker, I hated P.E. and loved band, and I enjoyed social studies with Mr. Sales. We talked a lot about current events in social studies, and even then, I was a news junkie, looking through the newspapers – the Minneapolis Star and the St. Cloud Daily Times – almost as soon as they were delivered every afternoon. I also saw some news on television, and although I didn’t grasp the meaning of all of that I saw, I understood enough to begin to ask questions. I was, at the age of twelve, a reporter in training.

In mid-February, the Twin Cities Top 40 radio stations began playing a song that made news itself: “Ballad of the Green Berets,” a tribute to the men in his unit, written and recorded by Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler. The song moved up the charts and was No. 1 for five weeks in March and April. For a brief time, to a public increasingly wary of bad war news coming from a small country in Southeast Asia, the Green Berets were heroes. Exactly what they did and whom they were fighting when they dropped into the jungle, we didn’t know. But we were glad they were doing it. After all, the government said that the Green Berets – and the rest of our boys who were in Vietnam – were fighting the Communists there so we wouldn’t have to fight them here.

Robin Moore, a writer with connections, trained with the Green Berets and wrote a laudatory book about them that hit the best-seller lists. He also turned out to have helped – to what degree, who knows? – Barry Sadler with the lyrics to his No. 1 song. (Out in Hollywood, John Wayne got hold of the rights to the book and – with his son producing – made the film The Green Berets, which came out in 1968 and had little resemblance to the book beyond the title and a fawning admiration for the soldiers of the special forces.)

It was likely in the spring of 1966 that my social studies class broke up into groups to do reports on issues in current events. Topics included civil rights, Indonesia, the USSR and more, including, of course, Vietnam. When Mr. Sales told us to find a group we were interested in, I gravitated to the cluster of desks labeled “Vietnam.” I wasn’t all that interested in the topic, but a girl whose name began with K had headed for those desks, too, and she was the current object of my unrequited affection.

Mr. Sales had said we should start by asking questions that needed to be answered about our topics. K had her notebook ready. “Any questions?” she asked, looking around the group. No one said anything for a moment.

I said, “How about, ‘Why did we send our military to Vietnam in the first place?’”

She looked at me and nodded, and wrote the question down in her notebook, neither of us realizing that answering that question accurately and completely would likely be enough to earn a doctoral degree someday. A couple other members of the group offered questions, and K wrote them down. Mr. Sales stopped by to see how we were doing, and K showed him the list of questions.

“Who asked that first one?” Four fingers pointed at me. He nodded and chewed his cheek and then told me, “The folks over in Poverty could use some help. You’ve got five people here and there are only three there. Why don’t you go and give them a hand?”

I grabbed my books and, with a last quick look at K (who either didn’t notice or chose not to), went to the other cluster of desks with Mr. Sales. He told them I was there to make the groups more equal, and I pulled a desk up and sat down. I don’t recall who had the notebook in which they would write their questions, but the page was blank. So were the looks on their faces as they turned to me.

“Well,” I said, “do we know what ‘poverty’ really means?” They all shook their heads from side to side. “Okay,” I said. “First question: What is poverty?” The recorder wrote the question down, and someone else asked the next question, which I think was “Where do poor people live?” We had no clue that the answer was “All around us.” And the discussion went on for a few more moments, and then Mr. Sales came along to see how we were doing.

He looked at our list of questions and asked, “Who asked that first question?” Three fingers pointed at me again. Mr. Sales nodded and then said to me, “Why don’t you just wander from group to group and look at their lists of questions and see if you can think of any for them?”

Oh, my god, I thought. Why don’t you just make me wear a shirt that says “Dork” on it?

But I spent the rest of the hour wandering from group to group, looking at questions and maybe even offering a question or two myself. The result of my being made a roving whatever resulted in my being a group of one, assigned the task of enlightening my classmates about Indonesia.

I frittered my time away, and on the day of my presentation, I taped an annotated map of Indonesia to the blackboard and dove in. What looked like hesitation due to stage fright was really me giving myself moments to scan the information in the little boxes on the map before relaying that information to my audience. I got a B on the presentation.

Even after the years for dating came along, I never did have a date with K. But we were friendly. In high school, she was a cheerleader and I was a manager, and, in the dark and quiet of school buses coming back from athletic events late at night, we did have some intense discussions about issues all of us were facing. I remember them vividly; I hope she does, too.

And here’s a Baker’s Dozen from 1966, the year Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler topped the charts for five weeks:

“Bleak City Woman” by Donovan from Mellow Yellow

“Great Airplane Strike” by Paul Revere & The Raiders from sessions for The Spirit of ‘67

“Journey To Time” by Kenny & The Kasuals, Mark Ltd. single 1006

“I Saw Her Again” by the Mamas & the Papas, Dunhill single 4031

“Muddy Water” by Johnny Rivers, Imperial single 66175

“So Long Babe” by Nancy Sinatra from Boots

“Got To Get You Into My Life” by the Beatles from Revolver

“If Your Monkey Can’t Get It” by David Blue from David Blue

“Tomorrow Is A Long Time” by Elvis Presley from the Spinout soundtrack

“Georgy Girl” by the Seekers, Capitol single 5756

“Looking the World Over” by Big Mama Thornton from Big Mama Thornton with the Muddy Waters Blues Band

“Double Crossing Time” by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers from Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton

“Don’t Bring Me Down” by the Animals, MGM single 13514

Some notes on a few of the songs:

I found Kenny & the Kasuals’ recording on Nuggets, Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, Volume 2, one of the great box sets from Rhino of mid-1960s recordings. The record didn’t make the charts, so Kenny & the Kasuals aren’t even one-hit wonders, but music like theirs was busting out of garages and basements all over the country.

“I Saw Her Again” is one my favorite songs by the Mamas & the Papas, who delivered a string of strong, melodic singles in 1966 and 1967 – and a series of albums that had better non-single material than most albums did at the time. When the song comes out of the instrumental bridge at about the 2:43 mark, Denny Dohety delivers one of the classic moments in pop history with his “I saw her,” an instant before the other vocalists come in. It sounds perfectly arranged, but from what I’ve read, Doherty miscounted and came in too early. The rest of the group liked the way it sounded and kept it in. (Also, listen for the drum rolls far under the rest of the sound; it sure sounds like Hal Blaine to me!)

The cut by David Blue came from his self-titled debut, issued by Elektra in August, less than a month after Bob Dylan had his famous motorcycle accident that left his career – and life, for all anyone not connected with Dylan knew – in doubt. Blue was a friend of Dylan’s and their music sounds similar, notes All-Music Guide. AMG also notes that by the time Blue’s debut came out, he was already behind the tight curve of pop history, as the Beatles’ Revolver had upped the ante.

The Nancy Sinatra cut is pretty lame, a Lee Hazlewood-penned artifact recorded with crack musicians for the album that supported her No. 1 single, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” Not quite as lame, but still gimpy, was Elvis’ take on the Dylan song, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” which the King recorded for one of his mediocre movies. Elvis was still two years away from returning to musical relevance with his return to Memphis in 1968.

Big Mama Thornton was an elemental force of nature, bold, brash, supremely confident and extraordinarily talented. The first to record “Hound Dog,” in 1953, she faded from general view for most of that decade and came back to some extent with Ball ’n’ Chain in 1968, after Janis Joplin recorded and popularized the title cut. The recording here, with the Muddy Waters Blues Band, was recorded in 1966 but not released until 2004, twenty years after Thornton’s death.

Saturday Single No. 178

March 27, 2010

Well, as our Saturday list of things to do is lengthy – and that’s not all bad; one of the items on the list is “Go Out For Dinner” – I’m going to once more ramble through the library on random and see what we find at the end of a thirteen-step journey:

First off is “Where Do The Girls Of Summer Go,” a piece of confectioner’s sugar from Marc Eric’s 1969 album, Midsummer’s Day Dream. It’s light, bubbly and a little breathy, and very clearly influenced by the Beach Boys. It’s a good way to start the day.

Things get a little more determined if not exactly tougher: Tom Petty takes off “Running Down A Dream” from his 1989 album Full Moon Fever. Until recently, I’ve never dug too deeply into Petty’s catalog, which is surprising, considering his links to Bob Dylan and George Harrison through the Traveling Wilburys. I like what I’m hearing as I explore Petty’s work, but I have a ways to go.

Third stop this morning is a Turkish tune called “Buda” by a vocalist named Sertab; I found it on one of the Putumayo collections, this one from 2006 entitled Turkish Groove. Both the Texas Gal and I enjoy – as a change of pace – much of the music of the eastern Mediterranean.

“Dancin’ with you, baby, really turns the soul shake on,” sing Delaney and Bonnie. “Groovin’ with you, baby, really turns the soul shake on.” What a great record! Pulled from 1970’s To Bonnie From Delaney, “Soul Shake” is one of those records that never fails to bring a grin to my face. And it’s kind of a shame we have to move on. After all, “there ain’t nothin’ ’bout you, baby, that I don’t approve.”

From there, we get more horn-accented R&B, as Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes launch themselves into “Talk To Me” from 1978’s Hearts of Stone. The track was one of two written for the album by Bruce Springsteen, but nevertheless, most listeners thought that Hearts of Stone was when John Lyon and his band stepped out of the significant shadow of their fellow Jerseyite.

Staying with the blue-eyed R&B groove for at least one more song, the player takes its sixth random jump of the morning and lands on Rod Stewart’s 1972 take on “I’d Rather Go Blind.” From Never A Dull Moment, the track is pretty good, which is – I acknowledge – faint praise, but for me, Etta James’ take on the song remains the standard.

And we head to the Walkabouts and their moody, dark and compelling visit to New West Motel in 1990. The track is “Break It Down Gently,” with its swirling effects and bleak vocals. “Black rain will come to break it down gently,” the Walkabouts sing, “to wash it down slow, goin’ straight to the bottom.” That’s a little bleak, but boy, does it sound good.

Things lighten up a lot after that. In fact, I’m not sure I can think of anything that contrasts more than switching from the Walkabouts to a John Denver song as delivered by Olivia Newton-John. Her take on “Follow Me” comes from her 1975 album Have You Never Been Mellow, and after a breathy intro, the banjo and the drums come in for the chorus, which helps. But it’s still pretty airy and well, insubstantial. It didn’t hit the Top 40 back in 1975, but it’s not a lot different from those singles by Newton-John that did.

Magic Carpet’s only album, a 1972 self-titled release, says All-Music Guide, “fused Indian ragas and singer-songwriter folk in a manner suggestive of Joni Mitchell playing with the Incredible String Band.” Well, maybe. Listening to the track “Father Time,” I’m not sure that Mitchell has ever sung lines like “There’s only one you, and there’s only one me. We’re all just a part of the fish in the sea.” The sitar and other Indian instruments sound cool, though.

Our tenth stop is “Oh, Pretty Woman” from blues giant Albert King’s 1967 classic Born Under A Bad Sign. This is not the Roy Orbison song but a much tougher song by A.C. Williams. (According to Second-Hand Songs, a database of cover versions, King might have been the first to record the song, but I’m not sure.) Backing King on the track – on the entire album, in fact – were Booker T and the MG’s along with the Memphis Horns.

I wrote once that Rick Danko’s 1977 self-titled solo album was one I’d wish I’d had when it came out, as it would have been one of those records I listened to for some consolation during my first months out in the working world, living in a different city than did almost all of my friends. And when “Once Upon A Time” pops ups this morning, that thought holds true: This is music that comforts.

Number Twelve this morning pulls us back to San Francisco in 1968: “Pride of Man” from Quicksilver Messenger Service’s first, self-titled album. So much of the music from that time and place has become so familiar – stuff by the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, especially – that the music has become divorced from its origins. This Quicksilver track still has an unmistakable vibe to it, summoning images of Haight-Ashbury and Golden Gate Park, self-conscious hippies and the impending doom that always seems to threaten the gentle and gullible.

And our last stop this morning keeps us in that era of hippies and flowers. Donovan’s sometimes wispy ballads occupied one extreme of the sonic landscape of the time, and taken one-by-one, they provided an airy counterpoint to the heavier sounds of the time. Any more than one at a time, and Donovan’s songs were a little too light for me, and they still are. But having taken a circle from the starting point of Marc Eric’s confectionary tune, perhaps Donovan’s “Isle of Islay,” from his 1967 album, A Gift from a Flower to a Garden, is a good place to wind things up. So that’s today’s Saturday Single: