Posts Tagged ‘Doobie Brothers’

‘I’ll Tell Everything I Know . . .’

August 24, 2011

Originally posted October 14, 2008

In 1993, when MCA released the double-CD package, The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson, writer Mark Humphrey began his lengthy assessment of Williamson’s life this way:

“He was a biographer’s nightmare. If we would know a man by his name, he offered several: Sonny Boy Williamson and Rice Miller were the most prominent, but others crop up (Willie Williams, Willie Miller, Aleck Miller). Then there were his nicknames: Little Boy Blue (he cut a dashing figure in the Delta with his belt of Hohner harmonica ‘horns’), the Goat (if you’ve seen a late photo of him with his goatee and leer, it’s self-explanatory), and Footsie (he reportedly carved slits in his boots to literally cool his heels). Disdainful of interviewers, he gave grudging and usually contradictory accounts of his life. (‘Ah, hell, it ain’t none of their business,’ he told Willie Dixon. ‘They don’t even know me.’)”

Generally called Sonny Boy Williamson II these days, the musician was, most researchers have concluded, born as either Rice Miller or Aleck Miller. (His grave marker in the Mississippi Delta reads “Aleck Miller, better known as Willie ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson.”) His identification as Sonny Boy Williamson was the result of a brazen bit of mid-twentieth century identity theft. The true Sonny Boy Williamson was named John Lee Williamson and was born in Tennessee and spent his brief musical career in Chicago before dying in 1948 after being attacked in a Chicago street. Before his death, however, Williamson was well-enough known among blues fans as Sonny Boy that it was to Miller’s advantage – as he played in Mississippi and Arkansas – to claim to be Sonny Boy. Some sources claim Williamson was incensed at the appropriation of his name; others I’ve read say he was amused.

Either way, over the years since, the counterfeit Sonny Boy has eclipsed the original Sonny Boy with the depth of his talent and his catalog, recorded wherever he happened to wander, though the records that are at the center of his catalog were done in Chicago on the Chess and Checker labels and are widely available. (John Lee Williamson’s music, on the other hand, seems a little harder to find. A collection of twenty-five tracks released on the Bluebird label from 1937 through 1947 was packaged in 2003 as Blue Bird Blues; it was one of the eleven CDs in the series When The Sun Goes Down: The Secret History of Rock & Roll, and it – like the entire series – is worth checking out.)

Although Sonny Boy II occasionally recorded songs written by Chess savant Willie Dixon, the vast majority of his work came from his own pen. And as happens with the catalog of many blues artists, many of Sonny Boy Williamson’s songs have become blues and blues-rock standards: The songs “Bye Bye Bird,” “Checkin’ Up On My Baby,” “Dissatisfied,” “Elevate Me Mama” and “Eyesight to the Blind,” all recorded by a good number of other artists, come up in a scan of just the first few pages of Williamson’s catalog, as listed at All-Music Guide.

The song that tugs on my ears, though, is “Don’t Start Me To Talkin’,” which Williamson recorded as Checker 824 in August of 1955. From the sly vocal through the sassy harp work, it’s a wondrous bluesy performance, backed by superb musicians. (The backing band on the track was made up of Otis Spann on piano, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Willie Dixon on bass and Fred Below on drums.)

It’s also been covered by a number of performers, both as “Don’t Start Me To Talkin’” and “Don’t Start Me To Talking.” Among the performers who’ve recorded the song under either title are Little Joe Blue, Grady Champion, James Cotton, the Dirty Blues Band, Rory Gallagher, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Monty McClinton, Keb’ Mo’, Gary Moore, Kenny Neal, Paul Orta, Ronny Ray, Fenton Robinson, Little Mack Simmons, the Doc Thomas Group, Johnny Turner, Randy Volin. Muddy Waters, Alex “Spiderman” White and Arthur Williams.

About two-thirds of those names are familiar to me, and I’ve heard maybe about one-third of the versions of “Don’t Start Me To Talkin’” represented by that list. But the group whose name I pulled from the list might be the most surprising of them all: The Doobie Brothers.

The Doobies included “Don’t Start Me To Talkin’” on Toulouse Street, the 1972 album that was their breakthrough record, with “Listen to the Music” (No. 11), “Jesus Is Just All Right” (No. 35) and “Rockin’ Down the Highway” (The B Side of “Jesus”). “Don’t Start Me To Talkin’” was one of two covers on the album (Seals & Crofts’ “Cotton Mouth” was the other). The Doobies did a pretty good job on the song, making kind of a blue-rock romp out of it and getting some help in doing so from the horn work by Sherman Marshall Cyr, Joe Lane Davis, Jon Smith and Jerry Jumonville (as listed at All-Music Guide).

I like the Doobies’ cover better than many other covers I’ve heard. But I tend to think that Sonny Boy’s sly reading is still the best. Judge for yourself.

“Don’t Start Me To Talkin’” by Sonny Boy Williamson II [1955]

“Don’t Start Me To Talkin’” by the Doobie Brothers [1972]

A Baker’s Dozen Of Green

June 24, 2011

Originally posted April 23, 2008

JB the DJ from The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ made a couple good points in the comment he left yesterday about my gloomy Earth Day post.

He said, “Actually, it seems to me there’s some cause for optimism on this Earth Day. Despite the best efforts of many to convince us otherwise, more people today seem willing to accept that climate change is real, that fossil fuel is finite, and that we can no longer sit idly by and hope everything will be OK because it things have always worked out before.

“Has it happened in time and will it be enough? Too soon to tell. But it’s definitely happening.”

Those things are true and more even-tempered than were my glum words yesterday. But that was how I felt as I wrote yesterday morning; for whatever reason, I was not in a good state of mind. This morning seems better. And I take some solace in pondering the first sentence JB left here yesterday:

“All we can do is the best we can do.”

So it’s one foot in front of the other, and we end up where we end up. And it’s no doubt true – as I was reminded by some of the news coverage yesterday – that the air and water quality is better here in the U.S. and in many other places than it was on the first Earth Day in 1970. There is much yet to do, so much, in fact, that the prospect of what remains to be done is likely what soured my mood yesterday. But I can see this morning that much has been done.

Here, then, in recognition of the progress that has been made, is a Baker’s Dozen of Green:

“Green Flower Street” by Donald Fagen from The Nightfly, 1982

“Green Hornet” by Al Hirt, RCA single 8925, 1966

“Bitter Green” by Valdy from Landscapes, 1973

“Greenwood Creek” by the Doobie Brothers from The Doobie Brothers, 1971

“In The Land of Green” by Zager & Evans from In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus), 1969

“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf, Liberty single 56813, 1970

“Green, Yellow, and Red” by Rosanne Cash from King’s Record Shop, 1987

“Green Lane” by The Sun Also Rises from The Sun Also Rises, 1970

“Little Green” by Joni Mitchell from Blue, 1971

“Green Rolling Hills” by Emmylou Harris from Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town, 1978

“The Greener Side” by Jackie DeShannon, probably from the Laurel Canyon sessions, 1967

“Green Power” by Little Richard from The King of Rock And Roll, 1971

“Little Green Bag” by the George Baker Selection, Colossus single 112, 1970

A few notes:

Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly is a jazzy piece of work – of a kind with the latter-day work of Steely Dan around the same time – that takes a look back at American life in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The lens Fagen uses to look at those times, however, is of his own unique grinding, resulting in the same skewed and misshapen observations that came in the best of Steely Dan’s work.

Jazz critics of Al Hirt were wont to complain that he played too many notes too fast in his popular recordings. I’ve always thought that the frenetic pace of “The Green Hornet” – which owes a huge debt, of course, to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” – was his response: “Too many notes, you think? I’ll show you too many notes!”

“Bitter Green” is an early Gordon Lightfoot song – one of his better early compositions – and Valdy is one of Lightfoot’s countrymen, a Canadian whose recordings have gotten little attention over the years anywhere else. I first came across Valdy when I bought one of his records at a garage sale in Minneapolis, and I’ve gotten a few more of his records since. They’re pretty good, if a little bit thinly produced at times.

Sugarloaf released “Green-Eyed Lady” in two versions: the six-minute-plus album version, and the single edit, which went to No. 3 in the autumn of 1970. This version is the edit, and, as I wrote some time earlier, I’m still not sure if I prefer the edit or the long version. Both have their strong points.

The self-titled album by The Sun Also Rises was in a style All-Music Guide calls acid-folk: “The record very much reflects the influence of the foremost exponents of the style, the Incredible String Band, with its wavering harmonies and use of glockenspiel, vibes, dulcimer, kazoo, bells, and other miscellaneous instruments to complement the standard folk guitar.” It was the only album released by the duo of Graham and Anne Hemingway, and it’s very much an artifact of its time.

The Little Richard selection comes from The King of Rock & Roll, one of the three albums that the rock pioneer recorded for Reprise in the early 1970s. A 2005 box set, King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Complete Reprise Recordings collected the three albums along with outtakes and songs recorded for a fourth album that was never released. For some reason, the box set was limited to 2,500 copies and has become a collector’s item.

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.

The Doobie Brothers on ‘Midnight Special’

June 18, 2011

Originally posted March 13, 2008

There was a little bit of a video void today. I generally try to find video of artists and acts I’ve recently discussed. But in wandering around the video sites out there, the first thing I noticed was that I could find no Alex Taylor. That was no surprise, but it kind of set the stage.

Then I pretty much struck out on the acts on Monday’s Baker’s Dozen. Oh, I admit I didn’t look for Dan Fogelberg simple because I wasn’t interested in a video of him. Nor did I spend any time seeking videos of Blue Rose, Laura Lee or Robin Williamson. I might have found something for Laura Lee – likely not a live performance – but the other two seemed unlikely to have anything.

But of the other groups from Monday’s post, I found no video I really wanted to share here. So I looked at Tuesday’s post about Three Dog Night and the Doobie Brothers. There were a few live TDN videos out there, but many had poor sound, many others had poor lighting, and quite a few had both. So I looked for the Doobies.

And I found this video from television’s The Midnight Special, probably from 1973: The Doobie Brothers performing “Listen to the Music.”*

*Video replaced June 18, 2011.

A Double Baker’s Dozen From 1971

April 17, 2011

Originally posted March 6, 2007

There’s a new fellow in Texas Gal’s office, and as kind of a “Welcome to the Funny Patch” gift, she asked me to put together a CD of songs that originated during the 1971-72 academic year, which was his senior year of high school. So I did, and I was pretty amazed at the quality of the music available from the period. Of course, since that time frame was my first year of college, and I seem to have focused a lot of my collecting – many people do likewise, I am sure – on the years of my youth, the sheer volume of stuff available should not have surprised me.

(A quick check on RealPlayer shows that there are 856 songs from 1971 and 720 songs from 1972 in the collection here.)

And Steve’s CD ended up with a pretty good list of songs from those months:

1. “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart
2. “One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse
3. “Imagine” by John Lennon
4. “Life Is A Carnival” by The Band
5. “Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes
6. “Two Divided By Love” by the Grass Roots
7. “Clean-Up Woman” by Betty Wright
8. “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
9. “Levon” by Elton John
10. “Precious and Few” by Climax
11. “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young
12. “Doctor My Eyes” by Jackson Browne
13. “Taxi” by Harry Chapin
14. “Suavecito” by Malo
15. “Diary” by Bread
16. “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers
17. “Conquistador” by Procol Harum
18. “Too Late To Turn Back Now” by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
19. “Tumbling Dice” by the Rolling Stones

Texas Gal said he liked it a lot and that he was amused and pleased by the ringer I hid at the end: “Geek in the Pink,” by Jason Mraz, hidden there because he said he’d liked the song when he heard a contestant perform it on American Idol last week.

And I thought, as I am fighting a cold and don’t have the energy to rip an LP today, I’d present a random double baker’s dozen from 1971. (The only rule was to have no more than one cut from any one album, and I did skip one cut from the Mimi Farina-Tom Jans album I posted Monday.) It was a fun year musically for me, and I hope you’ll enjoy the tunes!

“Volcano” by The Band from Cahoots.

“Lullaby” by Leo Kottke from Mudlark.

“Down My Dream” by Joy of Cooking from Joy of Cooking.

“Ecology Song” by Stephen Stills from Stephen Stills 2.

“It Ain’t Easy” by Long John Baldry from It Ain’t Easy.

“A Case Of You” by Joni Mitchell from Blue.

“Don’t Cry My Lady Love” by Quicksilver Messenger Service from Quicksilver.

“Nobody” by the Doobie Brothers from The Doobie Brothers.

“Rock Me On The Water” by Brewer & Shipley from Shake Off The Demon.

“Sweet Emily” by Leon Russell from Leon Russell & The Shelter People

“Vigilante Man” by Ry Cooder from Into The Purple Valley

“I Saw Her Standing There” by Little Richard fromThe Rill Thing.

“The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King from Live In Cook County Jail.

“January Song” by Lindisfarne from Fog On The Tyne.

“Hats Off (To The Stranger)” by Lighthouse from One Fine Morning.

“Levon” by Elton John from Madman Across The Water.

“Let Me Be The One” by Paul Williams from Just An Old Fashioned Love Song.

“Down In The Flood” by Bob Dylan from Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.

“Soul of Sadness” by Mother Earth from Bring Me Home.

“Pick Up A Gun” by Ralph McTell from You Well Meaning Brought Me Here.

“A Song For You” by Donny Hathaway from Donny Hathaway.

“That’s All Right” by Lightnin’ Slim from High & Low Down.

“Let Your Love Go” by Bread from Manna.

“Freedom Is Beyond The Door” by Candi Staton from Stand By Your Man.

“Younger Men Grow Older” by Richie Havens from Alarm Clock.