Posts Tagged ‘Fanny’

Using Up One Of His Nine Lives

February 15, 2012

Originally posted March 2, 2009

It was late last evening, and I was doing some final tinkering with a few albums of mp3s I’d found online. Taking a break, I wandered up to the loft, where the Texas Gal was exploring the capabilities of her new laptop.

As I came up the stairs, Cubbie Cooper, our youngest cat – not quite a year old – was playing with something atop one of the bookcases that serve as a banister/wall near the stairway. Without the bookcases and a dresser at right angles to the bookcases, there would simply be a hole in the floor. As I walked past, Cubbie jumped for the dresser, crossing open space. He nearly missed, one leg kicking in mid-air as he righted himself on the dresser.

I picked him up as I walked past. “One of these days, Cubbie,” I said, as I headed to the desk where the Texas Gal sat, “you’re gonna miss and you’re gonna fall onto the stairs.”

I handed him to the Texas Gal as he purred. “He does it all the time,” she said. “Nothing we can do about it but hope that he stays lucky.”

I scratched Cubbie’s ears as we reviewed the schedule for the coming week, then set him on the floor and went back to the study and the mp3s. A few minutes later, I heard a scuffling sound, a thump-rattle and then bump, bump, bump. I turned around in time to see Cubbie walking slowly out of the stairway door, shaking his head.

“What was that?” asked the Texas Gal from the loft.

“Cubbie, I think,” I answered, following the little guy into the dining room. He sat there, looking around as if he weren’t sure where he was. I picked him up and he gave a pitiful “Rowr?” And his nose was bleeding. He had indeed tumbled off the dresser and into the stairwell.

We carried him into the bathroom, cleaned his nose and watched him for a few minutes. He let us touch his face without complaint, which told us he’d not broken any facial bones, and he let us hold open his mouth to check for blood. There was none, though his nose continued to bleed for a few minutes.

We decided that – in the absence of any obvious injury – all we could do was keep an eye on him and check him carefully in the morning. So we settled him in the cat bed, where he hunkered down, still shaking his head a little. By the time we retired for the night, he was dozing, although his cheek was slightly swollen.

This morning, when I headed to the kitchen, Cubbie was right there with Clarence and Oscar, eager for breakfast. His cheek is still a little swollen, but other than that, he seems to be okay. I have no idea how many of his proverbial nine lives he used up in his seven months of life before we got him, but I’m darned sure that one of them was charged to his account last evening.

A Six-Pack of Cats

“This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof” by the Brian Setzer Orchestra from Dirty Boogie  [1998]

“Crosseyed Cat” by Muddy Waters from Hard Again [1977]

“Black Cat” by Magic Carpet from Magic Carpet [1972]

“The Cat Woman” by the Marketts from Batman Theme [1966]

“Cat Fever” by Fanny from Charity Ball [1971]

“Long-Tail Cat” by Gator Creek from Gator Creek [1970]

“This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof” was recorded and released in the middle of the 1990s swing/jump blues revival led in large part by Brian Setzer, one-time member – fittingly enough – of the Stray Cats. Setzer’s swing/jump blues work seems to have aged fairly well, and maybe that’s because Setzer’s work was performed with more of a straight face and with less of a smirk and a wink than that of other swing revival performers (the Cherry Popping Daddies and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy come easily to mind).

Muddy Waters’ Hard Again album was one of the last few albums Waters recorded in his long and stellar career. Produced by Johnny Winter, the album was a return to classic form for Waters. All-Music Guide notes: “Waters is not only at the top of his game, but is having the time of his life while he’s at it. The bits of studio chatter that close ‘Mannish Boy’ and open ‘Bus Driver’ show him to be relaxed and obviously excited about the proceedings. Part of this has to be because the record sounds so good. Winter has gone for an extremely bare production style, clearly aiming to capture Waters in conversation with a band in what sounds like a single studio room. This means that sometimes the songs threaten to explode in chaos as two or three musicians begin soloing simultaneously. Such messiness is actually perfect in keeping with the raw nature of this music; you simply couldn’t have it any other way.”

Magic Carpet was a 1970s band that found its niche by using sitar, Indian percussion and gentle folk-rock instrumentation to back folk songs reminiscent of, if nowhere near as good as, Joni Mitchell’s work. Taken one song at a time, amid other and better work, Magic Carpet’s only album is kind of fun. On its own, it becomes repetitive and, frankly, wearisome.

“The Cat Woman” might or might not have been drawn from a musical theme used on the Batman television show. I honestly don’t know if there’s any connection at all, beyond the title, to the character played on the television show by Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether. I tend to think not (but I easily could be wrong). The track showed up on the Batman Theme album released by the Marketts in the midst of the Batman craze in 1966.

Fanny, of course, was one of the first all-female bands. “Cat Fever” is from Charity Ball, the second of the group’s three albums, and rocks pretty well.

Readers may recall that not long ago, I posted a so-so version of “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll” by Gator Creek, a group whose lead singer was a young Kenny Loggins. “Long-Tail Cat” comes from the same album and is interesting because it’s an early version of a song that would end up a few years later on 1972’s Loggins & Messina. The arrangements are about the same, though the Gator Creek version is more robust and Loggins’ vocal performance is better on the latter version.

Edited slightly on July 8, 2013.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Roads

July 13, 2011

Originally posted June 18, 2008

Although music has always been a part of my life, I’ve not always been very active in finding the music I liked; I let it come to me. I listened to the radio, to the jukeboxes at places that had them, and occasionally went out and bought a record or two. With the exception of the Beatles – whose entire Capitol/Apple catalog I had before I turned nineteen – I made no attempt for many years to focus on any one performer or group. I bought a few records here and there, but not many, as I wandered from my college days into the first years of adulthood.

That changed in 1987, when I spent time with a woman whose love of music equaled mine. We spent many hours of our brief time together in record stores and listening to music new and old in our apartments in St. Cloud. I moved to Minot to teach in the late summer of 1987, hopeful in all ways and renewed in my love of music. As a result, there are a few albums that I bought during my first year in Minot that, for me, carry in their grooves that sense of hope. That hope did not survive into the next summer, but I still love those albums despite that and even though they may not be the best work of the artists or groups involved.

Four of those albums that come most immediately to mind are Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love, Fleetwood Mac’s Tango In The Night, Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Memphis Record by Elvis Presley. The first three of those were new albums, and I enjoy them still; the best of them is likely the Springsteen. The Presley album – a two-record set – collects the studio work he did in Memphis in 1969, much of it released that year on From Elvis in Memphis. Some of it was released on the awkwardly titled From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis and two tracks, I believe, were released as non-album singles.

For someone who paid little attention to Elvis while he was alive, The Memphis Record was a revelation. This was not the bloated Elvis who’d been the butt of too many unfunny jokes during his last years. The photos on the ornate double record jacket – made to look like a newspaper – confirmed that, but all one had to do was listen to the music to hear a lean, hungry and talented performer trying his best – with success – to make himself relevant again. Looking back, I recalled that I’d always liked the singles from those sessions – “Suspicious Minds,” “Kentucky Rain” and “In The Ghetto” – but I’d never thought much about them. So here I was, almost twenty years later, realizing that those singles were the tip of a musical iceberg that was larger and better than I’d thought possible.

I listened to all four sides of the record frequently that first autumn in Minot and came to love the music. One song – new to me – stood out, though. I’m not at all sure why, but Elvis’ version of “True Love Travels On a Gravel Road” is to me one of the best things he ever recorded, and it remains one of my favorite tracks ever. So I’m going to use it as the starting point today.

A Baker’s Dozen of Roads
“True Love Travels On a Gravel Road” by Elvis Presley from From Elvis In Memphis, 1969

“The Long and Winding Road” by Richie Havens from Sings Beatles And Dylan, 1987

“Eternity Road” by the Moody Blues from To Our Children’s Children’s Children, 1969

“Seven Roads (Second Version)” by Fanny, from the sessions for Fanny, 1970

“The Road Shines Bright” by John Stewart from The Lonesome Picker Rides Again, 1971

“Rocky Road” by Peter, Paul & Mary from In The Wind, 1963

“Dark Road” by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee from Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry Sing, 1958

“Roadhouse Blues” by the Doors from Morrison Hotel, 1970

“On the Road” by Michael Johnson from There Is A Breeze, 1973

“The Road to Cairo” by David Ackles from David Ackles, 1968

“Tobacco Road” by Bill Wyman & The Rhythm Kings from Struttin’ Our Stuff, 1998

“Six Days On The Road” by Taj Mahal from Giant Step, 1969

“Too Many Roads” by Carolyn Franklin from If You Want Me, 1976

A few notes:

I chuckled when – one day after sharing my negative assessment of the Beatles’ version of “The Long And Winding Road” – Richie Havens’ version of the song popped up. Even from Havens, one of my favorites, it’s only just okay. I’m coming to the conclusion – long overdue, no doubt – that it’s the song I don’t care for, not necessarily the singer. The album that the track comes from – Sings Beatles and Dylan – is nevertheless a good one, well worth finding.

I tend to think that one either loves the Moody Blues or detests them. I like them, even as I acknowledge that their hippie philosophy – which could induce eye rolls even forty years ago – is sometimes a bit much. But I do like their sound, and it’s only when the MB’s get into thoughts truly too heavy to carry – as in “Om” from In Search of the Lost Chord – that I begin to roll my own eyes. To Our Children’s Children’s Children is one of the group’s better albums musically and lyrically.

The version of Fanny’s “Seven Roads” that popped up here is an alternate take, a little bit shorter and a little bit tougher than the version that closed the group’s self-titled first album. Fanny didn’t hang around long – the all-woman group recorded five albums between 1970 and 1974 – but what the group left behind is pretty good. A limited edition box set – First Time in a Long Time: The Reprise Recordings – came out in 2002 and covers everything except the group’s final album, which came out on Casablanca. If you can find it – the box set is available online for prices starting around $70 – it would most likely be all the Fanny you would need.

“Dark Road” is a typical track from a typical album by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. There’s nothing fancy about it, just the two of them, guitar and blues harp (and a little bit of help from drummer Gene Moore). But it’s folk blues about as good – and authentic – as you can get them, recorded before the blues revival of the 1960s.

I don’t know much about David Ackles – I need to do some digging – but I’ve heard a few things and I like them. “The Road to Cairo” is a haunting song and record.

Carolyn Franklin was, of course, Aretha’s sister – she crossed over in 1988 – and If You Want Me was the last of five albums she released on RCA. From what I can tell, only her first album, 1969’s Baby Dynamite, has ever been released on CD. If You Want Me is the only one I have, and it’s pretty good.

(I should note that The Memphis Record is out of print but available if you dig online. The CD release of From Elvis In Memphis has some bonus tracks to go along with the original album. Both have been supplanted by a 1999 release called Suspicious Minds, a two-disc set that has – I believe – everything Elvis released from those 1969 sessions in Memphis as well as a good number of alternate takes and bonus tracks. It’s a good one.)

A Baker’s Dozen of Tomorrows

May 25, 2011

Originally posted December 14, 2007

I remember reading a piece – likely in the newspaper – about a linguistics professor who had taken it upon himself to determine the most beautiful word in the English language. I don’t recall when I read that, nor do I remember which university was involved, but I do recall that the professor concluded that the most beautiful word in the language was “cellar door.”

First of all, that’s two words. (It could be that the professor was considering sets of words.) Second, although the two words together do have a nice sound, words are more than sounds. Maybe as a linguist, one can separate the sound of the word from the meaning of the word, but as a writer, I can’t. And “cellar door” isn’t going to make the cut.

So what are the most beautiful words in the language? After all, if I’m going to quibble about someone else’s judgment, I’d better have some idea of my own, right? Well, I don’t have a Top Ten list, but I do have a couple of words. I think “home” and “tomorrow” top the ranks of English words.

Home, as poet Robert Frost noted, is our last refuge: the place where, when you go there, they have to let you in. We all need such a place. In fact, I don’t think it’s at all far-fetched to say that, whatever else we do with our lives, our main business here is seeking and creating a better refuge, a better place, a better home. In terms of pure sound, it’s a rather plain word, but its meaning makes “home” the sound of belonging somewhere. When we don’t have that, we ache, and when we find it, we are healed. How much better can one word be?

“Tomorrow” comes close. For someone as attuned to the past and as intrigued by memoir and memory as I am, it’s odd in a way that I didn’t select “yesterday” as one of my top two words. But as much as any of us might ponder yesterday and its lessons, we know all about it. And “tomorrow” brings the promise that things can change, that we can use yesterday’s lessons to make things better as they come to us. (Writing that sentence made me realize that there are two other very nice words to consider: “promise” and “change.” Well, another day, I guess.) Thinking about tomorrow is an act of optimism, it seems, maybe even an act of courage, even if all one is doing is putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

I had planned to rip and post an album today, but the Texas Gal is taking a day off from work and we have holiday preparations to make, so I will invest my time there. In the meantime, I got a note from a reader who asked for a specific song with the word “tomorrow” in its title, and that got me thinking. I’ll get back to “home” and “hope” and “promise” down the road, but for now, we’ll start with the requested song and go randomly from there.

A Baker’s Dozen of Tomorrows

“Tomorrow Is A Long Time” by Glenn Yarbrough from For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, 1967

“Tomorrow” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, Uni single 55046, 1967

“Tomorrow and Me” by Mike Nesmith from And the Hits Just Keep on Comin’, 1972

“Till Tomorrow” by Don McLean from American Pie, 1971

“Tomorrow” by Fanny from the Fanny Hill sessions, 1972

“You’re My Tomorrow” by Richie Havens from Now, 1991

“All Our Tomorrows” by Joe Cocker from Unchain My Heart, 1987

“Love Me Tomorrow” by Boz Scaggs from Silk Degrees, 1976

“Goin’ Home Tomorrow” by Dr. John from Goin’ Back to New Orleans, 1992

“Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles from Revolver, 1966

“Waiting For Tomorrow” by Bettye LaVette from the Child Of The Seventies sessions, 1973

“Beginning Tomorrow” by Joy of Cooking from Castles, 1972

“This Time Tomorrow” by Sisters Love, Manchild single 5001, 1968

A few notes on some of the songs and performers:

The Glenn Yarbrough track is a Bob Dylan song, one that Dylan wrote in 1962 or so but left unreleased until his second greatest hits album came out in 1971. Yarbrough’s was the first version I heard, and I like it pretty well, but over the years, I’ve come to value the version Dylan released in 1971, which came from a 1963 concert in New York.

The Strawberry Alarm Clock track has its place in history. It reached No. 23 in early 1968 and thus kept the West Coast group from being a One-Hit Wonder. The group’s only other chart entry was, of course, “Incense & Peppermints,” which reached No 1 for one week in 1967.

Once his time in the Monkees ended, Michael Nesmith put together a string of generally very good and sometimes great country rock albums, starting in the late 1960s and continuing through much of the 1970s. His 1972 release, And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, is likely the best of those.

Not long ago, I shared Fanny’s version of the Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog.” The track “Tomorrow” comes from the same sessions.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” was one of John Lennon’s first excursions into tape-loop and odd sound psychedelic experimentation, a track that startled first-time listeners to Revolver when it came on after the Motown-influenced horns of “Got To Get You Into My Life.”

As regular readers might know, Joy of Cooking is one of my favorite relatively obscure bands of the 1970s. “Maybe Tomorrow” is one of the best tracks from Castles, the Berkeley-based band’s third and final release.

I’ve written about Sisters Love before, when I posted their cover of “Blackbird.” “This Time Tomorrow” is a sweet piece of pop soul.

‘If You’re Lonely, You Can Talk To Me . . .’

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 20, 2007

One day in June of 1972, I walked out of my local music store with a new record. And I wasn’t very excited about it.

I was in the final months of my effort to collect all eighteen albums by the Beatles that had been released by Capitol, Apple or United Artists, and the LPs that remained on my list were – for the most part – the slightest efforts the group released. And on that June day, the LP I had in my bag was Yellow Submarine.

It really wasn’t much of an album. It had four new songs by the Beatles, songs that listeners would judge for the most part as throwaways, seemingly recorded without much care and then used for the soundtrack of the Yellow Submarine animated film. Those songs – “All Together Now,” “Only A Northern Song,” “It’s All Too Much” and “Hey Bulldog” – had some minimal charm, and “Hey Bulldog” rocked a little, but they were slight efforts compared to the standard that the group had set for itself.

The album was filled out with the Beatles’ tracks “Yellow Submarine” and “All You Need Is Love” on Side One and with orchestral soundtrack music from the pen of long-time Beatles producer George Martin on Side Two. I listened to the entire record the day I brought it home, and played Side One occasionally after that. I doubt that I ever played Side Two again.


(According to All-Music Guide, the Beatles considered releasing the four new songs from Yellow Submarine on an EP, a 45 rpm record, instead of releasing a full LP. The EP, AMG says, might also have included “Across the Universe,” a John Lennon-penned track that ended up on Let It Be. That might have been preferable, as it would have avoided the orchestral filler, but EPs were never as large a part of the record landscape here in the U.S. as they were in Britain, so I’m not sure it would have worked for the American fans.)

In any case, I bought the album, as I was trying to complete my collection. (I had three LPs to go after Yellow Submarine: The Beatles’ Second Album, Beatles VI and A Hard Day’s Night, which in its U.S. configuration had four orchestral tracks slotted in amongst recordings by the group.) Had I not been trying to get a complete collection, I doubt whether I would have bought it. And I tend not to think of the Yellow Submarine album or the four songs exclusive to it when I ponder the Beatles’ music.

I was reminded of all of this last evening when I came across a cover of “Hey Bulldog” in the mp3 files. Recorded by Fanny, the early 1970s all-woman group, the track was included on Fanny Hill, the third of five albums the group released between 1970 and 1974. Always in search of interesting covers – and increasingly unable to know exactly what lies in the nooks and crannies of nearly 20,000 mp3s – I listened to Fanny’s version of “Hey Bulldog.” The group nailed it, rocking harder than the boys, and investing the song with more urgency than one hears in the Beatles’ version.

Fanny was an anomaly of its time. Reprise billed the group as the first all-female rock group, which it wasn’t. But, as AMG notes, “as one of the first self-contained distaff groups to land on a major label, they were an important harbinger of things to come.” I don’t know about the group’s last two albums – Mother’s Pride on Reprise and Rock ’n’ Roll Survivors on Casablanca – but one could do a lot worse than seeking out Fanny, Charity Ball and Fanny Hill, the first three albums the group released.

(The four Reprise albums have been gathered with unreleased material into a box set titled First Time in a Long Time: The Reprise Recordings, a four-CD package that’s currently running at about $80 or more at your standard on-line merchants. The other option is heading into the vinyl jungle. Copies of all five LPs are available for reasonable prices on Ebay.)

Fanny – “Hey Bulldog” [1972]