Originally posted May 23, 2008
I’ve got plenty of things waiting in the pile of music I eventually intend to post here. There’s one last Patti Dahlstrom record, three albums by Redwing, a country-rock group from the Seventies. Bonnie Bramlett, John Stewart. Michael Johnson, Kim Carnes, Gypsy. Malo, Romeo Void, Shawn Phillips and Steve Forbert.
That list could go much longer, as the records line up in the study, patiently waiting to be spun and heard once more. They’ll get their chances, but not today, at least not this morning.
In anticipation of the holiday weekend, the Texas Gal has taken the day off. While she will likely check in with her office via her newly issued laptop sometime during the day, we also plan to spend some time doing nothing together. And to get to that sooner, I won’t be ripping an album this morning or writing anything too deep or detailed.
Instead, here’s a random Walk Through the Junkyard, starting with a group that, surprisingly, has only popped up here three times, once with Bob Dylan.
“Truckin’” by the Grateful Dead from American Beauty, 1970
“Surfer Girl” by the Beach Boys, Capitol single 5009, 1963
“Cattle and Cane” by the Go-Betweens from Hollywood, 1983
“A Thousand Miles” by Joy of Cooking from Closer to the Ground, 1971
“Ball of Twine” by Lightning Hopkins, Ash Grove, Hollywood, August 1961
“North Country Blues” by Bob Dylan from The Times They Are A-Changin’, 1964
“Rise and Fall” by the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band from The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, 1974
“A Sense of Deja Vu” by Al Stewart from Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, 1996
“Feelin’ Single, Seein’ Double” by Emmylou Harris from Elite Hotel, 1975
“I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” by Michael McDonald, Warner Bros. single 29933, 1982
“For Your Love” by the Yarbirds, Epic single 9790, 1964
“Wallflower” by Doug Sahm from Doug Sahm and Band, 1973
“To The River” by John Mellencamp from Human Wheels, 1993
“Crystal” by Buckingham Nicks from Buckingham Nicks, 1973
“I’m Easy” by Keith Carradine, ABC single 12117, from the soundtrack to Nashville, 1976
A few notes:
“Truckin’” was released in two forms – the album version here and a single (Warner Bros. 7464) that ran 3:16, almost two minutes shorter than the album track. Considering the state of radio and the state of the culture at the time, I find it amazing that the single didn’t crack the Top 40, with its loopy and matter-of-fact tale of druggies and narcs, travel and blissful crash-pad paranoia. (When I hear the song, I can’t help flashing to Cheech & Chong a few years later: “Dave’s not here, man.”) All of which proves the truth in the song’s tagline: “What a long strange trip it’s been.”
The Go-Betweens were a highly successful band in their native Australia and in Great Britain but were almost unknown in the U.S. during their early 1980s peak period. (The releases from those early years have since been released on CD in the U.S.) “Cattle and Cane” is a ballad with lush moments and an underlying edge that insinuates itself into one’s memory. For me, at least, it’s created an appetite for more.
Bob Dylan’s “North Country Blues” tells a tale of the iron mining milieu in which he grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota (home, for example, to the world’s largest open pit mine, essentially the world’s largest man-made hole in the ground). The song resonates with me, as I still see the occasional news piece about the hard life of mining in the northern part of the state and the hard times that come more and more regularly as the quantity and quality of the ore remaining in the ground continue to diminish.
The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band – made up of the criminally ignored country rocker J.D. Souther, Chris Hillman of the Byrds and Richie Furay of Buffalo Springfield – released three pretty good country-rock albums from 1973 to 1977. The self-titled first was likely the best, but the group never seemed to catch the attention of the listening public. All-Music Guide tags the ten songs on the album as a “collection of ten pleasant, if overall unremarkable tunes in the singer/songwriter, country-rock vein.” I think the record is a little better than that.
“For Your Love,” the single that drive Eric Clapton out of the Yardbirds because of its commerciality, is actually a pretty good record; it went to No. 6 in the U.S. No, it’s nowhere near the blues, but it’s a catchy tune, sonically (the lyrics are serviceable but nothing remarkable), and its memory can stay in a listener’s ear for a long time. For me, the song puts me in the halls of my junior high school, which is okay. As far as musical memories go, I’ve had better, but I have certainly had worse, too.
The sessions for Doug Sahm and Band, according to All-Music Guide, were something of a superstar jam session, with lots of famous friends of Sahm’s dropping in to hang out and lend a hand. Sahm, who first came to major public attention as the leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet in 1965 (“She’s About A Mover” went to No. 13), was a roots music enthusiast years before roots music (or Americana, if you prefer) was in vogue. Doug Sahm and Band is nothing other than roots music, ca. 1973. And yeah, that’s Bob Dylan on vocals; he wrote the song.
Back in the days when his manager called him Johnny Cougar and the Rolling Stone Record Guide called him “Meat Head” (1983 edition), who’d have thought that John Mellencamp would become an elder statesman of heartland rock? With his Rolling Stones meets Appalachia sound, Mellencamp has turned out a pretty good series of albums in the past twenty years (and some clinkers, too, but that happens in a long career). Human Wheels is a pretty bleak album, but it’s a good one, and “To The River” might be the best song on it.