Posts Tagged ‘Jim Capaldi’

Off To The Lab!

June 29, 2012

I should know better than to promise things ahead of time here at Echoes In The Wind. Some suspicious results in some blood tests run a couple of weeks ago have persuaded Doctor Julie to rerun the tests. So I’m heading off to the lab in a few minutes to donate more of that precious red stuff to the task of keeping myself healthy.

That means my promised look at the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1971 will have to wait until early next week. But that examination will come; there are too many intriguing singles in that chart to let the week waltz past me without a listen. So we’ll just hope we get to that Monday or Tuesday.

In the meantime, here’s an appropriately titled tune for today: The title track from the late Jim Capaldi’s 1975 album Short Cut Draw Blood. See you tomorrow with a Saturday Single.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1981

April 30, 2011

Originally posted July 31, 2007

One of the over-used epigrams of the 1960s was the quotation from Plato: “When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake.” It seemed hip at the time to envision the structure of society crumbling when faced with the works of the Grateful Dead, the Velvet Underground, MC5 and the Rolling Stones (among many, many others). One wonders how the denizens of Woodstock Nation – or Altamont Nation, for those with a darker, more cynical bent – would have fared had the “walls of the city” truly been shaken.

It’s an interesting idea: Had the late 1960s actually been an era of revolution, how would the followers of tie-dyed fashion, the children of the suburbs, have fared in the new society following a true revolution? Probably pretty poorly, I would imagine. The new leaders, those deemed sufficiently pure ideologically, would most likely have found the vast majority of the so-called revolutionaries to be dilettantes at best, bent on changing their personal circumstances rather than the societal structure that gave them generally comfortable lives. I have the mental image of thousands of young people banished to bleak farms in the countryside, undergoing education and orientation to revolutionary ideals as they grow strawberries and potatoes. “This ain’t what I signed up for,” I can hear one or another say. “I just wanted to drop out and find a chick in San Francisco!”

It’s hard to say how close America was to an actual revolution in the late 1960s and early 1970s. One can read the histories and memoirs of the era – Todd Gitlin’s The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage comes to mind – and not get a real sense. Despite the forty-year-old regrets on the far left end of the political spectrum and the still-potent rage that resides on the far right, it seems to me that the political upheaval of the times flared out without having much impact. (The civil rights and women’s movements, on the other hand, changed American life immensely, but those are other topics for perhaps other days.)

The real revolution, when it came along, was cultural, and it was in Plato’s “mode of the music.” I’ve seen a number of reviews, analyses and think-pieces in magazines and newspapers over the past couple of years – sorry, but I don’t have specific citations – that indicate that once more an American music form has become the world’s predominant music. Those pieces note that in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, rock ’n’ roll became the world’s music (though rock was recycled for a time through British sensibilities) and the same thing has happened in the last twenty years with hip-hop.

Now, I’m not anything like an expert on hip-hop and its stylistic cousins. I like some of it, have some in the collection, but it’s not my music. I do note its importance, though. And these thoughts about modes changing and the quaking walls of the city came about today because of the last track that came up while I was compiling my random list of thirteen songs from 1981.

“The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five was one of those tracks that changed the music universe and continue to echo into the world at large. In his 1989 book The Heart of Rock and Soul, Dave Marsh puts the track at No. 179 and calls it “the Birth of the Nation” of hip-hop. He also notes, “play this first masterpiece of hip-hop at the crushing volume at which it was intended to be heard and s**t will start shakin’ you never imagined had any wobble in it.”

Marsh goes on to say that “hardly anybody outside the New York City area has ever even heard the damn thing.” That may have been true in 1989, when copyright difficulties – arising from the multitude of clips taken from other performers’ tracks – got in the way of Grandmaster Flash and his colleagues. But if nothing else has, the advent of the ’Net in the [eighteen] years since Marsh wrote has spread “The Adventures . . .” and other, similar, compiled tracks worldwide. So, if one accepts the idea that hip-hop has in the last [twenty-six] years become the soundtrack to the world, the last track on today’s Baker’s Dozen is what the real revolution sounded like when it began.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1981
“Old Photographs” by Jim Capaldi from Let The Thunder Cry

“I Can’t Stand It” by Eric Clapton, RSO single 1060

“Fire On The Bayou” by the Neville Brothers from Fiyo On The Bayou

“The Innocent Age” by Dan Fogelberg from The Innocent Age

“Carry On” by J. J. Cale from Shades

“Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks from Belladonna

“This Little Girl” by Gary U.S. Bonds, EMI America single 8079

“Waiting On A Friend” by the Rolling Stones from Tattoo You

“Queen of Hearts” by Juice Newton, Capitol single 4997

“Upper Mississippi Shakedown” by the Lamont Cranston Band from Shakedown

“I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)” by Lulu, Alfa single 7006

“Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire, ARC single 02536

“The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Sugar Hill single 577

A few comments on some of the other tracks:

Jim Capaldi’s “Old Photographs” is a beautiful song, tinged with regret the way most memoirs should be. But it’s a long way from the sometimes edgy work Capaldi and his mates in Traffic did once upon a time.

Just like Harry Chapin – whose song “Sequel” showed up here the other week – Dan Fogelberg is a polarizing musician: One either finds his work compelling or finds it overblown. In general, I like it, though I did think that his double album The Innocent Age flirted with lyrical pomposity. Even so, it was musically gorgeous.

If the Gary U.S. Bonds track sounds like Bruce Springsteen, well, there’s a reason. Springsteen and Miami Steve Van Zandt produced the track and a good portion of the album it came from, Dedication. Springsteen’s admiration for Bonds, and his love of Bonds’ early 1960s recordings of “Quarter to Three” and “New Orleans,” is no secret, of course.

I was glad to see “Upper Mississippi Shakedown” by the Lamont Cranston Band make the random list. St. Cloud has a baseball team in a regional summer college league, the River Bats, and hearing the Cranston track while sipping a cold beverage and taking in the early evening sights of a small baseball park is a fine experience, indeed!

I Missed The News That Day, Oh Boy . . .

April 23, 2011

Originally posted June 29, 2007

Boy, sometimes things just get past you.

While pondering what to say about Jim Capaldi and his first solo album, Oh How We Danced, I dug into a couple of web sites and read about the album and its influences. And I thought I’d see what his later stuff was like, so I clicked on a link for a review of 2004’s Pretty Boy Blue.

And I learned that Capaldi died in January of 2005.

Okay, so Jim Capaldi wasn’t exactly a household name, especially since his days with Traffic ended in 1974 (notwithstanding a one-shot album and tour in 1994). But I like to think that I keep in touch with what’s happening in music, and the fact that the passing of a member of a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame group could slide by without my noticing it surprised me. I must not have been reading Rolling Stone too carefully. Or else I read about his death, thought, “Gee, that’s too bad,” and then went on to other things and utterly forgot about it until this morning.

Whether I saw it or not isn’t important. What is worth considering this morning is the music that Capaldi left behind, both as a member of Traffic and on his own. My first exposure was long ago through KVSC, the student-run radio station at St. Cloud State. When I first started hanging around the station – helping with the hourly newscast and the twice-a-day sports reports – the station was still broadcasting classical music for a good chunk of the day. Sometime during that 1971-72 year, the classical music was dropped and we started playing rock, with an emphasis on album cuts and, late at night, entire albums.

And late one afternoon as I was just hanging around our ramshackle lounge, as many of us we wont to do, one of the DJs cued up Side One of Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die. I jerked my head around as the distinctive two-keyboard instrumental of “Glad” filled the studios. In the control room, I scanned the album jacket, and [made a mental note to get] my own copy of the record.*

It’s not like that was the beginning of a Traffic spree for me. I enjoyed the album, but there was so much stuff coming out back then that I liked, and I was a student, with a limited budget for music (and pretty much everything else). Still, on occasion, I’d drop John Barleycorn or, later on, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys onto the turntable and wonder if I should dig a little deeper into the catalog of Traffic and its members. I never really did. I got some Steve Winwood through the 1980s but that was about it.

Then, sometime during my south Minneapolis record spree in the late 1990s, I was sifting through the new arrivals at my favorite store and came across Oh How We Danced. I vaguely remembered it from when it came out, at about the time that KVSC shifted to all-rock. I looked at the back and noticed with real interest that the album was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, with a lot of the work done by the studios’ famed rhythm section. At the time, I was buying pretty much everything recorded there. So I grabbed it, and when I put it on the turntable that night, I was pleased. It’s not a knockout record. But it’s very nice.

It sounds as if it would fit right in with the music that Traffic was recording at the time, which is not surprising. Especially since Capaldi’s bandmates Steve Winwood and Dave Mason lent a hand on a few tracks, with pals Rebop Kwaku Baah and Chris Wood also stopping by. It’s a pretty mellow album and it makes for a pleasant listen. And even if no single track seems to jump out and say, “Listen to me,” the album as a whole can be captivating. Capaldi sings well, and the support he gets from his bandmates and from the Muscle Shoals crew (with the Muscle Shoals Horns stopping by for a few tracks) is professional and at moments inspired.

Best tracks? Well, “Eve” was released as the first single in early 1972 but barely hit the Top 100, reaching No. 92, and it’s a sweet song. I lean toward the more urgent “Last Day Of Dawn” and the ballady “How Much Can A Man Really Take.” The closer, “Anniversary Song,” is a nice piece, too, and its first line provides the album’s title.

Now, calling an album “pleasant” and its songs “sweet” and “nice” makes it sound as if the album is inconsequential. I wouldn’t say that’s the case. It’s not a landmark record, no, but there are very few of those around. It’s a good record, decent listening from a seasoned pro with excellent musicians backing him. And lord knows, we listeners can do a lot worse than that!

Track listing:
Big Thirst
Love Is All You Can Try
Last Day Of Dawn
Don’t Be A Hero
Open Your Heart
How Much Can A Man Really Take
Anniversary Song

Jim Capaldi – Oh How We Danced [1972]

*I admit to some confusion while writing this. I opriginally wrote that I went and purchased  John Barleycorn Must Die during the next few days, but a look at my LP database tells me that I got it from a friend during the summer of 1973. I do recall  , however, purchasing several records during the spring of 1972 that I’d first heard at the station. [Note added April 23, 2011.]

Chart digging: September 10, 1983

September 10, 2010

By the time the first third of September 1983 had passed, I had settled into a routine as a graduate student at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. I was living in a mobile home on the south edge of the city of Columbia, and early each weekday morning, I’d make my way to the north end of the nearby university campus, where I’d spend half the day in class and studying and half the day working as the arts and entertainment editor of the Columbia Missourian, a daily newspaper published by the School of Journalism and staffed by its faculty members and students.

Arriving early on campus on weekdays provided two benefits: I was able to find a parking place not far from the J-School, and I had time to start my day with a plate of biscuits and gravy at the Old Heidelberg, one of the long-time fixtures of the area around the J-School. Along with the biscuits and gravy, I also devoured the Missourian and the morning papers from Kansas City and St. Louis.

I was generally one of the few people in the Old Heidelberg early in the morning – the place would be jammed by noon – and as I read, I had no trouble hearing the current Top 40 coming from the speakers built into the ceiling. I didn’t necessarily care for everything I heard, but being back in a campus environment for the first time in six years and socializing with other students – most of whom were several years younger than I was – had made me more aware of Top 40 tunes than I had been in a while. And I did like a lot of what I heard.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from September 10, 1983:

“Maniac” by Michael Sembello
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” by the Eurythmics
“The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats
“Puttin’ On The Ritz” by Taco
“Tell Her About It” by Billy Joel
“Every Breath You Take” by the Police
“She Works Hard For The Money” by Donna Summer
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler
“Human Nature” by Michael Jackson
“I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” by Culture Club

That’s not a bad Top Ten at all. At least, it looks pretty good from a distance of twenty-seven years. I can do without “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” but otherwise, it’s a decent set of music that’s pretty representative of its era. And, as usual, there were some interesting things a bit lower down in the pop chart.

One of my favorite songs that during that first semester of graduate school was the Motels’ “Suddenly Last Summer.” It sat at No. 44 the second week of September and would eventually peak at No. 9 during the third week of November. (The record would spend two weeks at No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock chart.) The video’s a little cheesy, but the record is still fine, and I still do love Martha Davis’ voice.

And as long as we’re talking about cheesy videos featuring women singers with good voices, here is what I think is the official video for “I Can’t Shake Loose” by Agnetha Fältskog, who had been one of the A’s in ABBA. The record, which was at No. 56 on September 10, 1983, would peak at No. 29 in early November. It’s notable that the record was Fältskog’s only solo hit, and it was the sixteenth and final appearance in the Top 40 – through 2003, anyway – for ABBA and its two women singers. (The group had fourteen hits from 1974 through 1982, and Frida had one earlier in 1983.)

Sitting at No. 68 for the second week after peaking at No. 62 during the last week of August, we find “Words” by F. R. David, a Tunisian-born and Paris-based singer/songwriter. “Words,” according to All-Music Guide, was a “1982 monster hit . . . that topped the charts in a dozen European countries and even peaked at number two in Great Britain.”

Sometime during that first semester of graduate school, I was invited to a party at the home of some other Minnesotans who were grad students in photojournalism at the J-School. It was a pleasant evening, made memorable because the TV in the corner was on and I got my first look at MTV. The first video I saw was for Billy Joel’s “Uptown Man,” and later in the evening, I checked out “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top. The single had peaked at No. 56 during the last week of August (and at No. 8 on the Mainstream Rock chart), and was at No. 74 when the September 10 chart came out. I still like the video.

Not far below ZZ Top in the Billboard Hot 100 for that September week, at No. 80, we find Jim Capaldi, formerly the drummer for Traffic. His single “Living On The Edge” would peak at No. 75 for the next two weeks and then fall off the chart entirely. Earlier in the year, Capaldi’s single “That’s Love” had gone to No. 28, giving him his only Top 40 hit. Both singles came from his Fierce Heart album. Here’s the official video for “Living On The Edge.”

Just under the Hot 100 for that September week twenty-seven years ago sat “Party Train” by the Gap Band, lodged at No. 102. The record sat there for three weeks and then fell off the chart entirely. But “Party Train” did far better on a couple of other Billboard charts, getting to No. 4 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks chart and peaking at No. 3 on the R&B chart. The same is true for the rest of the band’s catalog: The Gap Band had two Top 40 hits, “Early In The Morning” and “You Dropped A Bomb On Me,” both in 1982. But the group had nearly thirty singles hit various other charts – most often the R&B and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks charts – from 1979 through 1995. Here’s the wonderfully cheesy video for “Party Train.”

And that does it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with a Saturday Single.