Posts Tagged ‘Joe Brown’

‘Lips That Once Were Mine . . .’

November 14, 2013

A couple of times in this space, I’ve mentioned English singer Joe Brown and his performance of “I’ll See You In My Dreams” at the 2002 memorial concert for George Harrison. I’ve dug around a bit, trying to find the 1997 album for which Brown originally recorded the 1920s tune – Fifty Six & Taller Than You Think – but with used copies going for more than thirty bucks at Amazon and one new copy there priced at $3,769, I think I’ll go without for a while. I did find a video at YouTube that features Brown doing a shorter version of the old song than he recorded for the 1997 album. (The video uses the artwork for the 1997 album but offers, I believe, the version of the song included on the 2008 album The Very Best of Joe Brown.) I included the video a few years ago in a post that looked at my favorite music from the decade 2001-2010, and here it is again:

I’ve come to love that old song, but despite that, I’ve never looked much into the history of the song itself, and that surprises me, as it’s something I generally do when I realize that a current recording is really an old song resurrected. So over the course of the next few days, I’m going to dig into “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” which Second Hand Songs tells me was written by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn and first recorded in 1925 by Jones with the Ray Miller Orchestra.

We’ll likely get to Isham Jones’ version, but that will be next week. For now, as I begin to dig, I’m going to start with a very new version of the song that I found on the recently released second volume of soundtrack tunes from the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. I watched the show regularly during its first season but then lost track of it and of the storyline. Even so, I take a look at it when I chance upon it during a late-night wander up the premium channels, and I remain impressed with the show’s ability to look and feel like the 1920s.

Some of that success no doubt comes from the music, which is generally new recordings of period songs done in the period style. And that recently released Vol. 2 of the soundtrack includes an abbreviated version of “I’ll See You In My Dreams” as performed by Matt Berninger, the frontman of the indie band, the National. I don’t know the National, and I suppose I should give its work a listen. But for the time being, Berninger does a decent job on “I’ll See You In My Dreams.”

Next week, we’ll head back to 1925 and Isham Jones’ original version of the tune, and we’ll move forward from there.

Date of first recording corrected November 20, 2013.

‘I’ll Try Not To Sing Out Of Key . . .’

June 4, 2011

Originally posted January 8, 2008

It’s not unheard of – in fact, it’s actually pretty common – for a cover version of a song to become more famous than the original version (or the composer’s version). Carl Perkins wrote and released “Blue Suede Shoes” in early 1956, reaching No. 2 on one of the major charts of the time, but people remember the song as Elvis Presley’s. (Elvis’ version of the song came out two months later and reached No. 20.) Harpers Bizarre made the charts in 1967 with Paul Simon’s “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” from the previous year. Joni Mitchell wrote “Both Sides Now,” and Judy Collins’s version was a hit in 1968, a year before Mitchell’s version was released.

I could fine many more similar examples, but the record I’m thinking of today is, I think, the only Beatles’ recording with a cover version that is more prominent than the original. I think for those who were kids and adolescents in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Lennon-McCartney tune “With A Little Help From My Friends” belongs to Joe Cocker. And that stems from the six years that the television series The Wonder Years used Cocker’s performance of the song as its theme.

Even before that, Cocker had laid a pretty good claim to the song. It was the title track of his debut album in 1969, and his performance of the tune at Woodstock in August of that year is one of the iconic moments of 1960s music. To be sure, Ringo Starr’s performance of the song on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is another iconic performance of the 1960s, albeit without the compelling visuals. I don’t know whether Ringo toured during those years immediately following the break-up of the Beatles; I certainly don’t recall hearing about it. So at that point, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, call it a draw, what with Cocker having the song as a regular part of his set list.

And then add the six years of The Wonder Years, and I would guess that more people identify the song with Cocker than with Ringo or the Beatles. I’m not saying they don’t know where the song came from. What I am theorizing is that when people think about the song, most – not by a great margin, but still a majority – hear Joe Cocker’s version in their heads rather than the Beatles’.

All-Music Guide lists more than four hundred CDs on which one can find a recording of “With A Little Help From My Friends.” About a hundred of those – that’s a quick eyeball estimate – are of Cocker’s version and another fifty or so are the Beatles’ version or later versions recorded by Ringo. There are some interesting names attached to some of the remaining versions.

Some of those names are familiar: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (the first version of the song I ever heard), the Beach Boys, Bon Jovi, guitarist Larry Carlton, Steve Cropper of Booker T & the MG’s, Richie Havens, Arthur Fiedler of Boston Pops fame, Steve Lawrence, Rita Lee, Sergio Mendes, Carlos Santana, Toto and Ike & Tina Turner.

Some are not so familiar: Karol Kidd, the Kool Kats, Don Latarski, Lisa Lauren, Maxwell’s Magical Mustard Band, Sam & Mark, Jackie Trent, Wet Wet Wet and Young Idea, just to grab a few of the other names off the long list. (It turns out, I learned as I was researching this, that Sam & Mark and Wet Wet Wet had versions of the song reach No. 1 in Britain in 1988 and 2004, respectively. I’m nevertheless still unfamiliar with their work.)

And there’s one name on the list that I find intriguing. I first heard of Joe Brown at the time of the 2002 George Harrison tribute that was released on CD and DVD as The Concert For George. Brown was a contemporary of the Beatles and was a moderately successful British rocker in the early 1960s, with eleven Top 40 hits in Britain. He was also a good friend of George Harrison’s, serving as Harrison’s best man at his second wedding in 1978, says Wikipedia.

At the memorial concert, Brown performed three times, singing Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun” and “That’s The Way It Goes” and then closing the concert with a moving version of the long-lived standard, “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” a tune that was recorded by, among many others, Louis Armstrong sometime between 1923 and 1925. (Brown had included the song on his 1997 album, 56 & Taller Than You Think.)

One wonders if, when asked to prepare a closing song for the tribute to George Harrison, Joe Brown considered, even if just for an instant, singing “With A Little Help From My Friends,” the tune written by Harrison’s old band mates that Brown took to No. 32 on the British singles chart in 1967. If he did think of it, I imagine he came to the conclusion that if the song were to be performed that evening, Ringo Starr would have a prior claim. But back in 1967, Brown had done a pretty good job on the tune himself.

Joe Brown – “With A Little Help From My Friends” [Pye 7N17339, UK, 1967]

Some Highlights From 2001-2005

December 30, 2010

Well, Odd and Pop didn’t show up this morning here at Echoes In The Wind. I think they’re outside playing in the rain that will soon freeze and turn St. Cloud into one large skating rink. And as I have errands to run today and don’t want to slide into the side of the drug store while running them, I’ve split what was a one-day idea into a two-day project, which it seems I will have to complete without any help from the two little tuneheads.

My thought was to look at some of my favorite music from the last ten years, the first ten years of the 21st Century, but as I waded through thousands of titles, it got more and more difficult to decide on favorites, so I thought I’d just mention a couple of titles from each year. And I dithered and dithered and then realized I was going to have to do this over two posts, which means a rare Friday post tomorrow, the last day of the decade.

Well, all right. So, what do I like to hear from these years? Well, lots of stuff, as it turns out. But if I had to pull one album and one track from each of the ten years, here’s how the first half of the list would look today:

From 2001, I’d end up with Bob Dylan’s album Love and Theft, a ramble through various styles of American music: folk, blues, rock and some other genres that might not have labels unless one uses a lot of hyphens. Among my favorite tracks are “Mississippi” and the great “High Water (For Charley Patton).”

I got into Texas singer Pat Green when he hit with “Wave on Wave” in 2003. (I’ve listened to and learned more about country music and Texas music in the past decade than ever before; the Texas Gal obviously gets grateful credit for that.) Anyway, liking “Wave on Wave” as much as I did, I got the CD and then began to dig into Green’s earlier stuff. And I discovered “Southbound 35” from his 2001 effort, Three Days. Another version is on the same year’s Dancehall Dreamer. I’m unable to find a video of either of the studio versions, so we’ll have to go back to the last century and a version of the song on Green’s 1999 release Live At Billy Bob’s Texas.

It took me a couple of years to catch up to it, but this morning, my favorite album from 2002 is Jorma Kaukonen’s Blue Country Heart. The former guitarist for the Jefferson Airplane (and cofounder of Hot Tuna) put together what All-Music Guide called “his most summertime-afternoon, front-porch-pickin’ album.” My favorite track? Probably Kaukonen’s take on Jimmie Rodgers’ classic “Waiting For A Train.”

One of the other musical highlights of 2002 was the massive memorial Concert for George in London on November 29. Recorded for release in 2003, the concert featured a gathering of friends who’d played and recorded over the years with the quiet Beatle, including his old bandmates Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney along with Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and more. The least well-known performer on this side of the Atlantic, I’d guess, was Joe Brown, who closed the concert with a heart-tugging cover of a very old tune, “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” I couldn’t find a video of the live version from the concert, but here’s a studio version on which I’ve been unable to put a date.

Another album I caught up with a couple years late was by another alumnus from Jefferson Airplane and the other co-founder of Hot Tuna: bassist Jack Casady. His 2003 effort, Dream Factor, was an intriguing tour through blues, folk and Southern rock, featuring a strong list of guest vocalists and Casady’s always supple work on bass. My favorite tracks are likely “Paradise” and the closer, “Sweden.”

Country music pulled me in more during 2003. The Texas Gal and I spent a fair amount of time on quiet evenings watching country videos on cable and keeping track of CDs we wanted to hear. One of those videos was a Brooks & Dunn piece, and it led me to a CD that still shows up in the CD player around here. Here’s the official video for Brooks & Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road.”

The 2004 CD Original Soul was credited simply to Grace Potter, but the album was actually the first ever heard of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, a band out of Vermont that has since released three more well-received CDs, all of which have places on my shelf. If I had to choose one track from Original Soul, I’d probably go with the slow groove of “Go Down Low,” but that’s a default choice; the album is too good to pull just one track as a favorite.

Continuing in a rootsy vein (no surprise there, I imagine), one of the other highlights of 2004, at least looking back, was the release of 40 Days, the first full-length CD by the Wailin’ Jennys, a trio of women formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Texas Gal and I have seen the Jennys twice, and both times, one of the highlights was “Arlington” from 40 Days.

Choosing an album from 2005 was easy, and the choice might be seen as an odd one. Through my blog-created connection with Patti Dahlstrom, I was also linked to long-time musician Don Dunn, who – among his many accomplishments – was the cowriter of one of my favorite tunes ever, “Hitchcock Railway.” And through that connection, I got hold of Don’s Voices From Another Room, an album recorded unexpectedly in Odessa, Ukraine. It’s a CD I often pop into the player late in the evening. My favorite track? Probably “Two Tanyas.”

What else from 2005 has kept my attention? Well, I still listen to all four CDs by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, and my featured track from 2005 comes from the album Naturally, which finds Jones and her amazingly tight band offering an inventive – and somewhat doleful – revision of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

Finally, for today, one of the most memorable records of the the first five years of the decade is one that I cannot place accurately. Gary Jules’ cover of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World” first showed up, I think, on the soundtrack to the 2001 film Donnie Darko. Jules later released it on his own Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets in 2004. So I don’t know where it fits temporally. But it doesn’t matter, really, as the recording is one of the best things I recall hearing from those first five years of this century.

I’ll be back tomorrow – perhaps with Odd and Pop – to look at music from the years 2006-2010.

(Title error corrected since first posting.)