Posts Tagged ‘Long John Baldry’

Long John, The Mamas & The Papas & Bruce

November 30, 2011

Originally posted January 22, 2009

It’s Video Thursday!

Here’s an appearance by Long John Baldry on Britain’s Top of the Pops on November 23, 1967, with “Let The Heartaches Begin.” References say that other performers that evening were the Dave Clark Five and Traffic, with something called “repeat” performances – video from earlier shows, perhaps? – coming from Des O’Connor, Gene Pitney and the Who. The show also included promo videos from the Beatles of “Hello Goodbye” and from Donovan of “There Is A Mountain.”

After not having listened much to it before – and I’ve only had forty-some years to do so, you know – I’ve run through the Mamas & the Papas’ “Dancing Bear” a few times since yesterday and I’m finding it more and more charming – though no less quirky – with every listen. Here’s a September 17, 1966, clip from the The Hollywood Palace, a variety show that ran on ABC television from 1964 into 1970. The Mamas & the Papas lip-synch to “Dancing Bear” and then about halfway through “Dancing In The Streets” before being cut off by applause. As the clip ends, look at the audience: The politely applauding folks in those chairs look pretty well set in middle age or more, which explains why the host was Bing Crosby (or vice-versa). The Mamas & the Papas were a pretty safe choice for an establishment crowd, visually and musically: The guys’ hair wasn’t all that long, and the gals wore hip – but not at all daring – clothes. And the music fell somewhere in a safe part of the continuum between rock, pop rock and folk rock.

And then, here’s a gorgeous performance of “We Shall Overcome” by Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band. It took place in May 2006 at – if I translated and Googled correctly – at LSO St. Luke’s in London. (LSO St. Luke’s – a restored eighteenth-century church previously called St. Luke Old Street – is the home of the London Symphony Orchestra’s community and educational programs as well as a rehearsal and performance venue.)

As I wrote here about a week ago, before events both minor and major rearranged my plans, I’m hoping to present Grab Bag No. 3 – three records pulled randomly from my stash of old and often odd 45s – for tomorrow’s post.

Sitting Out The Dance On The Stairway

November 30, 2011

Originally posted January 21, 2009

I heard a snippet of “Judy In Disguise” on the radio the other day, and just that little bit – no more than ten seconds’ worth – of that hit from John Fred & His Playboy Band triggered one of those memories that slide past us now and then:

It’s lunchtime at South Junior High School. We’re allowed, after we’ve eaten, to head down to the gym, where we can play records and dance. Of course, I don’t dance. None of the guys do. But we hang around the edges of the gym, listening to the tunes and watching groups of girls dance. It’s not a bad way to spend the second half of a very short lunch period, better than sitting in the cafeteria.

And one day, for certain, one of the records that someone brought for lunchtime listening and dancing was “Judy In Disguise.” Because whenever I hear it, I’m in that gymnasium, hanging back on the edge with the other guys.

Based on the charts, that would have been late 1967 or early 1968. It was January 20, 1968, when “Judy In Disguise” reached No. 1, where it would stay for two weeks. And that memory of watching the girls dance in the gym also triggered another recollection, this one coming from a little bit later in the school year.

This time, it was an after-school dance in the cafeteria. All the long tables had been folded up and moved to a side room, giving us plenty of room to dance or to mill around on the edges. Some of the guys danced; most of us didn’t. But we gabbed as we stood along the walls and watched.

Then, I heard the teacher who was operating the record player announce a “snowball,” one of those dances that starts with one couple. After a short time, the music would pause, and each of those two dancers would select a new partner from the watching crowd. That would continue for some time, maybe two or even three records. On this day, when the teacher announced the dance, she also – only God knows why – announced my name and that of a young lady whom I didn’t know well, calling us to come start the dance.

I was in the back of the lunchroom, and there was a door. I bailed. And I sat on a nearby flight of stairs until the snowball was over.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (January 20, 1968)
“Next Plane To London” by the Rose Garden, Atco 6510 (No. 35)

“Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat & His Orchestra, Philips 40495 (No. 47)

“Back Up Train” by Al Green & the Soul Mates, Hot Line 1188 (No. 58)

“Carmen” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, A&M 890 (No. 69)

“Dancing Bear” by the Mamas & the Papas, Dunhill 4113 (No. 72)

“Let the Heartaches Begin” by Long John Baldry, Warner Bros. 7098 (No. 88)

There is an earnest clunkiness – or perhaps clunky earnestness – to “Next Plane To London” that makes the record endearing. I don’t know if I ever heard it when it was out. This was before I really listened to Top 40, and the record was on the charts for only seven weeks and peaked at No. 17. But I like it a great deal when it pops up on the player these days. The Rose Garden was from Parkersburg, West Virginia, and this was the group’s only hit.

“Love Is Blue” was on its way up the chart, having jumped to No. 47 from No. 84 in one week. In three weeks more, the record would reach No. 1 and stay there for five weeks. At the time, according to my aging edition of the Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits (1988), Mauriat’s single was the only U.S. No. 1 hit to have been recorded in France. I don’t know if that’s still true. I do know that the record was Mauriat’s only Top 40 hit, and it was the first instrumental to reach No. 1 since the Tornadoes’ “Telstar” in 1963. (Thanks go, I believe, to JB at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’.)

“Back Up Train” was the title track to Al Green’s debut album. The single – like the album overall – carries hints of what was to come in a few years when he’d team up with Willie Mitchell. The record just barely missed the Top 40, spending three weeks at No. 41 before falling back.

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass had a remarkable run in the mid-1960s. From “The Lonely Bull” in 1962 through “A Banda” in 1967, the group had thirteen Top 40 hits. “Carmen” was the second single – I believe – from A Banda, but failed to reach the Top 40, peaking at No. 51 in February 1968.

“Dancing Bear” is an odd record, with its woodwind introduction. (It puts me in mind a little bit of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”) By the time “Dancing Bear” was released, the Mamas & the Papas’ time in the Top 40 was about done. The single peaked at No. 51 during the first half of January 1968, and the group’s last Top 40 hit – “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” actually credited to “Mama Cass with the Mamas & the Papas” – would go to No. 12 during the summer of 1968.

“Let the Heartaches Begin,”which went to No. 1 in the U.K., was one of several ballads that brought Long John Baldry some chart success in Britain in the mid-1960s. Those ballads were anomalies in a career based first in folk and blues and later in bluesy rock, as was noted here recently with “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King of Rock & Roll.” The single’s British success didn’t translate on this side of the Atlantic; “Heartaches” spent two weeks in Hot 100, peaking at No. 88.

‘It Ain’t A Matter Of Pork ’N’ Beans . . .’

November 16, 2011

Originally posted January 9, 2009

I debated all morning, while I was running some errands, what I should post when I finally got home. And as I rummaged through the mp3s early this afternoon, I thought of a track that I’ve been meaning to post here for some time, one of my favorite album tracks of the early 1970s.

Just to tease things along a little, I’ll list the backing musicians first:

Guitar: Ron Wood and Sam Mitchell.
Piano: Ian Armitt.
Tenor sax: Alan Skidmore.
Bass: Rikki Brown.
Drums: Mickie Waller.

Chorus: Lesley Duncan, Madelene [should no doubt be “Madeline”] Bell, Doris Troy, Kay Garner, Liza Strike, Tony Burrows, Tony Hazzard and Roger Cook.

Producer: Rod Stewart.

There are some pretty interesting names there. The obvious ones are Wood and Stewart. Among the vocalists, the name of Doris Troy (“Just One Look,” No. 10, 1963) jumps out, as does that of Lesley Duncan, who did a lot of session work in England and released some singles in the 1960s and several well-regarded albums during the 1970s. Another name that pops out at me is that of Tony Burrows. Why? Here’s part of what All-Music Guide has to say about Burrows:

“By rights, Tony Burrows should be a one-man oldies package tour – though he never charted a record under his own name, he holds the unusual honor (you can look it up in the Guinness Book of World Records) of having four records in the British Top Ten at once, all under different names. The British session vocalist sang Edison Lighthouse’s ‘Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),’ White Plains’ ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’,’ the Pipkins’ ridiculous ‘Gimme Dat Ding,’ and the Brotherhood of Man’s ‘United We Stand,’ all of which were big hits in both the U.S. and U.K. in 1970.”

But Burrows – as fascinating as his story is – remains a backing singer here. Whose record was this?

Well, I wondered that, too, the first time I heard the track I’m sharing today. That likely happened in early 1972 in the tiny room we used as a lounge at KVSC, St. Cloud State’s student-run station. And I know I heard the track – which was released in 1971 – on several other stations. It was fairly popular on a good number of FM stations in the months after its release. It was, to be sure, an odd track, even by the standards of a relatively free-form station: It starts with a soliloquy backed by a piano tracing a slightly bluesy, slightly jazzy figure, and it takes a little more than three minutes before the speaker gets to the end of his tale and the music kicks in.

But thirty-seven years after I first heard it, I still get an adrenaline rush as Long John Baldry finishes his tale and Ian Armitt’s piano leads the band into three-and-a-half minutes of kick-ass British blues-rock.

“Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll”

Long John Baldry (From It Ain’t Easy, 1971)

(Baldry’s tale and the song are presented as one track on the original LP version of It Ain’t Easy. On the CD, for some reason, the track is listed as two tracks: “Conditional Discharge” and “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll.” Even though the mp3 was ripped from the CD, I’ve held to the original track title.)

The Anniversary Of Flight

November 9, 2011

Originally posted December 17, 2008

One of my favorite books when I was a kid was titled Men of Science or something like that. (It’s one of the few books from my childhood that has not stayed with me over the years, for some reason, so I’m not at all sure of the title.) I got it as a birthday present when I was eight, and it didn’t take me long at all to work my way through the biographies in the slender volume.

I recall reading the stories of Louis Pasteur, Alexander Fleming, Guglielmo Marconi, Enrico Fermi and the Wright Brothers. I think that the book also had chapters on Henry Ford and on Pierre and Marie Curie, but I’m not certain. (There were some scientists missing, if I recall the book correctly. I’d think that chapters on Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo and a few others should have been there but weren’t, if my memory is accurate.)

Beyond broadening a young boy’s knowledge (and the book was, I recall, aimed specifically at boys in a way that it might not be today), I think that one of the goals of the book’s authors was to guide its readers toward science and scientific thinking as a career. Well, to me at age eight, a life in science wasn’t all that attractive. But the book did make me think: I remember reading the entry on Marconi, which presented the inventor’s internal thoughts as he prepared to test his mechanism for sending and receiving radio waves. “How do they know what he thought?” I wondered. “Who told them that?” In other words, what was their source? I was being a editor.

The book came to mind as I looked at today’s date. It was 105 years ago today that Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first recorded powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. (There are other claims to the Wrights’ achievement, says Wikipedia, but authorities favor the Wrights.) So it’s a good day for songs about flying.

A Six Pack of Flying

“Flying Sorcery” by Al Stewart from Year of the Cat, 1976

“Flying” by Long John Baldry from It Ain’t Easy, 1971

“Learning To Fly” by Pink Floyd from A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987

“Come Fly With Me” by Wild Butter from Wild Butter, 1970

“Flying High” by Country Joe & the Fish from Electric Music For The Mind And Body, 1967

“Fly Baby Fly” by the Main Ingredient from Bitter Sweet, 1972

A few notes:

When it came out in 1976, Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat was one of those LP’s that for a year or so was never far from my turntable. Like most U.S listeners, I was unfamiliar with the native of Glasgow, Scotland, until then, but the songs on Year of the Cat – melodic, filled with historic and cultural allusions and produced remarkably well by Alan Parsons – made me a fan. While I like the title song immensely, “Flying Sorcery” is, for those very reasons – the combination of melody, intelligent lyric and pristine production – my favorite Stewart track.

It Ain’t Easy was the album that helped Long John Baldry become lots more hip than he ever had been, at least in England, where he was well known as a folk-blues singer who had drifted over the years to the middle of the road. In the U.S., I would guess, he wasn’t known much at all. But 1971’s It Ain’t Easy – with Rod Stewart producing the first side of the LP and Elton John producing the second – brought Baldry back to attention in the U.K. and into the U.S. spotlight for the first time. The opening track, “Conditional Discharge/Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock & Roll,” was a staple of FM radio in the early Seventies. “Flying” was a track from the second side of the album, and Elton John’s work on both piano and organ are good, but to me, the long track works because of the byplay between Baldry and the background singers, led by Lesley Duncan, a studio stalwart in Britain in those years.

“Learning to Fly” is a track from Pink Floyd’s 1987 album, A Momentary Lapse of Reason. A single edit was released and spent eight weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 that October and November, peaking at No. 70.

Anything I know about Wild Butter, I learned from Leonard at the blog Redtelephone66. When he posted Wild Butter’s self-titled 1970 album last February, Leonard wrote:

“Wild Butter was started in 1970 by drummer/lead singer Rick Garen and keyboard player Jerry Buckner. Garen had previously been in the Collection and recorded a demo called ‘Little Man.’ Former Rogues member Jerry was impressed and got Eric Stevens, WIXY program director and manager of Damnation of Adam Blessing, interested as well. Stevens took it to New York and after a week or two Buckner got a call saying the band had a LP recording deal with United Artists, only there was no band, yet, although UA didn’t know that. ‘Put a band together’ was the request [,] and Rick and Jerry talked to their Akron peers and found Jon Senne’ (guitar) and Steve Price (bass) willing to get on board. Wild Butter played a month or so before recording the LP at Cleveland Recording. ‘Little Man’ was not done, but a whole LP was, including excellent songwriting contributions from everyone. Considering the short time the band had to work up the songs, the high level of writing, musicianship, and vocals are amazing, and the LP is certainly a lost treasure of 1970 contemporary unpretentious melodic rock.”

One of the Rolling Stone album guides said something to the effect that in 1967, any self-respecting hippie had to own a copy of Electric Music For The Mind And Body. Given the number of vinyl copies of the album I’ve seen over the years in used music stores and pawnshops and at garage sales, that might be correct. “Flying High,” the album’s opening track, represents pretty accurately the ethos of the album and the group and most likely most young folks in California in 1967.

“Fly Baby Fly” is a nice bit of light pop-soul from the Main Ingredient’s Bitter Sweet album, the same album that included “Everybody Plays The Fool,” which went to No. 3 in 1972.

Edited slightly on archival posting.

Walkabouts, Jackson & David, Long John

August 24, 2011

Originally posted October 9, 2008

I went looking for stuff by the Walkabouts at YouTube this morning and chanced upon a video for the song “The Light Will Stay On,” the opening track from the group’s Devil’s Road album, released in 1996. The song and the video are somber and gorgeous. Regarding the CD, All-Music Guide said: “Half of the tracks comprising Devil’s Road feature the string arrangements of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, giving greater depth to a sound that’s already impossibly rich. Recorded in Berlin, the album is dark and soulful, the work of a band at the peak of its powers.” ‘’

Here’s the video for “The Light Will Stay On.”

I was also looking for a video of Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris performing something from their Western Wall: Tucson Sessions, but I kept running into their performance of Jackson Browne’s “For A Dancer,” which was recently posted by my friend Paco Malo over at Gold Coast Bluenote. So I shifted gears and went looking for a video my pal Schultz told me about last evening: Jackson Browne with David Lindley performing the same song. The performance took place in December 1976 in connection with the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test.

Then I went in search of Long John Baldry, as he showed up in yesterday’s random Baker’s Dozen. I came across this little gem, a video for a song called “Silent Treatment,” which was released as a single in the U.K. in 1986. The song showed up on CD as the title track to a Baldry compilation in 1999.

Still Catching Up On The ’90s

August 19, 2011

Originally posted October 8, 2008

I got to the CD party way, way late.

As the 1990s dawned, folks all around me were buying CDs of new music as well as replacing their long-suffering LPs (and then selling those LPs at places like Cheapo’s in south Minneapolis). Meanwhile, like a man watching a lake dry up, fearing the drought to come, I was watching the amount of new music available to me diminish seemingly day by day.

I’d seen the first signs of drought when I lived in Minot, North Dakota. Several stores that sold new records when I moved to town in the late summer of 1987 sold only CDs and cassettes by mid-1989, when I loaded another truck and moved back to Minnesota. Other music stores I’d frequented had far less vinyl for sale when I left town than they’d had two years earlier, all except the pawnshop, where the amount of vinyl increased greatly (though I spent little time there, for some reason).

By the time I lived in the Twin Cities, beginning in the autumn of 1991, new vinyl was rare. There might have been more, but I can recall right now only five newly released albums I found on vinyl during the 1990s: Bruce Springsteen’s Lucky Town, Human Touch and The Ghost of Tom Joad; the box set of Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings; and Counting Crows’ Recovering the Satellites. Not being in a position to buy a CD player, I turned to cassettes to keep up on new music.

Radio helped, too. Not Top 40; I’d lost interest in hits sometime during the 1980s, but I listened frequently to Cities 97, a station that I think has a deeper playlist than most available in the Twin Cities. There, I heard some familiar stuff and a lot of new stuff by artists I was interested in learning about. Through radio and cassettes, I kept up with my old favorites and some new friends from the 1980s – Indigo Girls, Suzanne Vega and a few others – and got pointed toward some new performers: Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Toad the Wet Sprocket, the Waterboys, October Project and the BoDeans come easily to mind.

But cassettes are awkward things, a declaration that will be news to nobody. It’s difficult to cue up a specific song or to skip one. So I didn’t invest in tapes the way I had already invested in vinyl. The result was that I learned a little less about new music during the 1990s than I had in previous decades. Since I got my first CD player in 1998 and then ventured on-line in early 2000, I’ve learned a fair amount about the decade that I spent mostly in Minneapolis. A little more than ten percent of the mp3s in my collection come from the 1990s, so here’s what the decade sounds like when I do a random program:

A Baker’s Dozen from the 1990s

“Sweet Spot” by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris from Western Wall: Tucson Sessions, 1999

“Children in Bloom” by Counting Crows from Recovering the Satellites, 1996

“Ghost of Johnny Ray” by Boo Hewerdine from Ignorance, 1992

“Thunder” by Jimmy Witherspoon from Back To The Streets: The Music of Don Covay, 1993

“Shake That Thang” by Long John Baldry from It Still Ain’t Easy, 1991

“Bordertown” by the Walkabouts from Setting The Woods On Fire, 1994

“Blue Yodel No. 9” by Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and John Kahn from Songs of Jimmie Rodgers, 1997

“Do You Like The Way” by Santana featuring Lauryn Hill and Cee-Lo from Supernatural, 1999

“Need A Little Help” by Billy Ray Cyrus from Trail of Tears, 1996

“Follow” by Paula Russell from West of Here, 1999

“Skies the Limit” by Fleetwood Mac from Behind the Mask, 1990

“Ghel Moma” by the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir from Mystère Des Voix Bulgares, Vol. 4, 1998

“Lives In The Balance” by Richie Havens from Cuts to the Chase, 1994

A few notes:

The Linda Ronstadt-Emmylou Harris collaboration, Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions, is a gem. The two had worked together before, of course, most notably during the Trio sessions with Dolly Parton that produced two albums. The result of this collaboration is the sound of two voices and two souls performing in harmony.

Back To The Streets: The Music of Don Covay is one of the multitude of tribute anthologies that began to pop up in the 1990s. Covay’s catalog of soul and R&B songs is immense and truly great, though I believe he’d be immortal if “Chain of Fools” had been the only thing he ever wrote. And the CD is a delight, featuring some intriguing choices for the vocals, such as Todd Rundgren, Gary U.S. Bonds, Bobby Womack, Iggy Pop and others. Witherspoon’s fine performance on “Thunder” was likely one of his last recordings. The Covay tribute was released in 1993 and Witherspoon crossed over in 1997 at the age of 77.

I don’t know much about the Walkabouts. I came across “Bordertown” on another blog – I forget which one – and liked it a lot. Having it pop up at random today is a nice stroke of luck, as I’m going to add Setting the Woods on Fire to my short list of CDs to find soon. All-Music Guide says the album is a “sweeping, stately record” that “owes a great deal to the Stones’ Exile on Main Street.” Sounds like a good deal to me.

Mention Billy Ray Cyrus and most folks flash back to 1992 and “Achy Breaky Heart,’ which dominated the country charts and made it to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. I looked for his Trail of Tears album simply because it includes a cover of J.J. Cale’s “Crazy Mama,” which turned out to be a pretty good version. Trail of Tears turned out to be a pretty good and surprisingly rootsy country album, which surprised me.

“Skies the Limits” (which makes no sense as a title to me) is the opening track from the album Fleetwood Mac recorded after replacing Lindsey Buckingham with Billy Burnette and Rick Vito. Behind the Mask is a pretty uninspired effort with a couple of good tracks on it. Unhappily, neither “Save Me” nor “Freedom” popped up.

Jackson Browne’s 1986 song “Lives in the Balance” was still relevant in 1994 when Richie Havens made it his own on Cuts to the Chase, and it’s still relevant today.

‘You Hide Behind The Oak Tree . . .’

August 3, 2011

Originally posted August 26, 2008

Every once in a while, a song comes along whose lyrics make me go, “Wha?”

That frequently happens with the songs of Randy Newman. He’s got a new CD out – Harps and Angels – that I have not heard, but the reviews I’ve read tell me that the CD marks the return of the acerbic and cantankerous songwriter responsible for such gems as “Sail Away,” “Short People” and many more. Being versatile, of course, Newman is also responsible for many sweet ditties, as testified to by his seemingly annual nominations for Academy Awards for song-writing and by his occasionally stunning work for film scores (the best of which, to me, was his work for the 1984 film, The Natural).

But it’s the odd and occasionally unfathomable Newman songs I have in mind today, specifically “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” from Newman’s debut album, 1970’s 12 Songs.

All-Music Guide says: “A sinewy ballad built around a fine bottleneck guitar riff, ‘Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield’ is a love song, basically, but the slightly demented lyric content is what gives it the edge.”

Slightly demented? You be the judge:

“Let’s burn down the cornfield,
“Let’s burn down the cornfield,
“And we can listen to it burn.

“You hide behind the oak tree,
“You hide behind the oak tree,
“Stay out of danger ’till I return.

“Oh, it’s so good on a cold night
“To have a fire burnin’ warm and bright.

“You hide behind the oak tree,
“You hide behind the oak tree,
“Stay out of danger ’till I return.

“Let’s burn down the cornfield,
“Let’s burn down the cornfield,
“And I’ll make love to you while it’s burning.”

Definitely a “Wha?” to me.

I missed Newman’s 12 Songs when it came out and didn’t catch up for a long time. So I first heard “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” in the early 1990s while listening to Come A Little Closer, a 1974 album by Etta James. I took in the disquieting lyric and scanned the record jacket, then nodded. Randy Newman, I thought. I should have known.

The list of artists who’ve covered “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” is not long. AMG says that sixteen different artists have recorded it, including Morgan Duke, Lee Hazlewood, Nolan, Rain Perry, Lou Rawls, San Samudio (of Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs), Madi Sato, the Seatsniffers and the Walkabouts.

Along with Newman’s original, I have access today to two other versions: One by Alex Taylor from his 1972 album Dinnertime, and one by Long John Baldry from It Ain’t Easy, released in 1971. (I have not yet ripped the Etta James version, an oversight that will be rectified soon after we’ve moved and I have access to my LPs again.)

On Newman’s 12 Songs, the credits list three guitarists: Ry Cooder, Ron Elliott and Clarence White, so it’s almost certainly Cooder who provides the snaky guitar lines. Others credited at AMG are Al McKibbon and Lyle Ritz on bass and Jim Gordon and Gene Parson on drums. Lenny Waronker was the producer.

To my ears, Baldry’s cover of the song is more interesting than Taylor’s. The track was on the side of It Ain’t Easy that Elton John produced. (Rod Stewart produced the other side.) Of those who might have played on the track, the credits list Caleb Quayle, Sam Mitchell and Ron Wood on guitar, Roger Pope on drums and Ian Armitt and Elton John on keyboards (though one would assume that it’s John himself providing the superb piano work on “Cornfield”).

Randy Newman – “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” (1970)

Long John Baldry – “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” (1971)

Another One Found In The Stacks

April 18, 2011

Originally posted April 6, 2007

It was all because of Bertie Higgins.

The RealPlayer was rolling on random the other night while I played some tabletop baseball (another one of my passions, which I refer to at times on my other blog, the horribly neglected Whiteray’s Musings). Along came Bertie Higgins and his 1982 hit, “Key Largo.” But the introduction sounded off. So I played it again.

And it was off. I’m not at all sure where I got the mp3 of the song, but it was missing the first three notes. So I finished the game I was playing and headed for the stacks, planning to pull Higgins’ LP out and fire up the ION USB turntable. The records in the H section went from “Hiatt, John” to “High Cotton.” No “Higgins, Bertie.”

I stood there rubbing my beard for a moment, certain that I owned a copy of Higgins’ album, Just Another Day in Paradise. I could see the cover in my mind. So I went to a couple of crates where I keep LPs I’ve logged but have not yet played. Some Steve Forbert and Lamont Cranston. A collection of Russian folk songs. Amy Grant. Frank Sinatra. Chilliwack. Some musicals and classical. A Ronco disco collection. Lots of other stuff.

But no Bertie Higgins.

Utterly confused, I went to the computer and pulled up the LP Log. No listing for “Higgins, Bertie.” Despite my certainty, I don’t own the album. So I took a deep breath and looked at the three-foot long shelf that contains my various anthologies, including a lot of Ronco and K-Tel products. I don’t have them indexed by song. If I had “Key Largo” on one of them, I would have to find it by pulling each record out and scanning first for dates of 1982 or later and then for the individual title.

Were the first three notes of the introduction really that important to me?

Well, yes. So I began pulling records off the shelf. About twenty minutes later, I found a record called If We Knew Then . . . produced in 1986 to, oddly enough, promote a drug to reduce high blood pressure. It first side – the “Then” side – had five songs from the 1950s: Vic Damone’s “On The Street Where You Live” and Doris Day’s “Secret Love” among them. Side Two, the “Now” side, had, among its five songs, “Key Largo.”

Ten minutes later, I had an mp3 with those three notes whose absence had annoyed me an hour earlier. And I began to dig through the other collections to see what other single cuts I could find that I might want to add to the mp3 collection. And I pulled out a record titled Rock Generation, Vol. 5, subtitled “The First Rhythm & Blues Festival in England (Birmingham Town Hall, 28th February 1964).”

I stared at it and at the list of performers: Spencer Davies, spelled just like that. Long John Baldry. Rod Stewart. Stevie Winwood. Eric Clapton. Sonny Boy Williamson.

When did I get this? I turned it over. “February 25, 1999,” said the date. The location was clear from the price tag on the front: Cheapo’s, on Lake Street in South Minneapolis.

Back at the computer, I opened a new file for recording, cleaned the record and put it on the ION. As it played, I looked over the cover, noting that it was released (evidently in 1965) on the French BYG label with liner notes by one Giorgio Gomelsky. I listened closely. Not bad. Except for the fact that Steve Winwood’s mike failed during the first cut by the Spencer Davies R&B Quartet (as the group was billed), the recording was pretty good.

And clearly, even if the recording were mediocre, its historical import is large enough to excuse some audio flaws. What a lineup! And how was it I didn’t know I had this? Had I been distracted that day, looking forward to listening to some other LP I’d found that day in pristine condition? (Looking at the LP Log, if other acquisitions distracted me that day, it was likely the two Al Green LPs. Other buys that day were LPs by Roy Buchanan, Donovan, Buddy Guy, T-Bone Burnett, Graham Central Station and Otis Rush. A pretty good haul for one day!)

The first side ended. I paused the recording, cleaned Side Two and started it and the recorder again, and I tried to figure out how I could have slid this treasure in with the Roncos. I try to separate the anthologies to some degree on that shelf, with the more valuable ones – in terms of rarity of content – clustered together at one end. As Sonny Boy blew his harp in front of the Yardbirds, all I could figure out was that on that Thursday evening in 1999, I just hadn’t been paying attention.

Then I realized I likely didn’t play any of those records on that day. Back then, when I lived in Minneapolis, Thursday evening was band practice, a weekly get-together with friends for the sake of the music and camaraderie. I’d no doubt grabbed the records during a quick stop on my way home from work and then headed off to practice.

But as Sonny Boy closed his set with a solo turn on “Bye-Bye Bird” and all the performers began a long version of “Got My Mojo Working,” I realized that I still had no idea why I’d seemingly not realized the value of the record when I got it. Well, sometimes, I guess, I’m just asleep at the switch. And I evidently played the record and shoved in between the Roncos without thinking.

Posting the record here should rectify that poor decision of eight years ago. Most of the performers on the record are well known, though some of the group memberships changed between the time of this recording in February 1964 and the time the groups became more well known to music fans in general and certainly to those on the American side of the big pond.

Spencer Davies R&B Quartet was made of, at the time, Davies himself, of course, on guitar; Stevie Winwood on guitar, vocals and organ; Muff Winwood on bass; and Peter York on drums.

Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men were: Baldry on vocals; Rod Stewart on vocals; Jeff Bradford on lead guitar; Cliff Barton on bass; Ian Armit on piano; and Billy Law on drums.

The Yardbirds were: Eric Clapton on lead guitar; Paul Samwell-Smith on bass; Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar; and Jim McCarty on drums.

The members of the Liverpool Roadrunners were not listed on the back of the record. Their current website is here.

The track listing is:

“Dimples” by the Spencer Davies R&B Quartet
“You Gonna Make It If You Try” by the Liverpool Roadrunners
“Mary Ann” by the Liverpool Roadrunners
“Bright Lights Big City” by Rod Stewart
“The Two Nineteen” by Long John Baldry
“Night Time Is The Right Time” by the Spencer Davies R&B Quartet
“Slows Walk” by Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds
“Highway 69” by Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds
“My Little Cabin” by Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds
“Bye-Bye Bird” by Sonny Boy Williamson
“Got My Mojo Working” [listed simply as “Mojo”] by everyone.

All-Music Guide indicates that the album was released on CD in 2000 on the Spalax label. GEMM has a couple of listings for the CD through U.S.-based shops that specialize in imports, with prices ranging right around $25. Several copies of the LP are listed there as well, with prices as low as about $5 and as high as $90, with most of the copies being priced between $10 and $30.

Rock Generation, Vol. 5 [1965]

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.