Posts Tagged ‘Pointer Sisters’


August 30, 2016

At about 7 a.m. Sunday, I thought we were in deep trouble: The sky was gray, rain was falling, and the Texas Gal and I were expecting as many as sixty people for our biennial End of Summer Picnic in five hours. As cozy as our house is, we would not get sixty folks into the kitchen, dining room, living room and back hallway.

That was especially true because much of the space in the dining room and living room was already taken up by tables on which we would place the food brought by our guests.

So I did what I could do inside to prepare for the picnic and then sat at my computer, refreshing the weather radar every few minutes.

The Texas Gal soon joined me downstairs and began culinary preparations: getting the shredded beef brisket and the barbecued chicken into the oven and the calico beans into the crockpot. The cats were sequestered upstairs. Tablecloths went on the tables, followed by utensils, pickles and condiments.

And then we waited and checked the weather, she on her phone, I at my computer. Around ten o’clock, a weather program I consult occasionally said that the rain would end in about thirty minutes. And it did. When I went out about forty minutes later to place lawn chairs, the rain was over, although the trees were still shedding water from their leaves.

Soon after that, I made a run for ice, got the various beverages in coolers under a Norway pine and we waited. And our biennial picnic was a great success. The sun came out, the grass dried, and although the day became fairly warm, the heat was never oppressive.

We had about sixty people join us: My mom, my sister and a few of my cousins; members of our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship; the Texas Gal’s co-workers, both former and current; and friends from all eras of our lives, including a cluster of about eight folks from the days of The Table at St. Cloud State, three of whom I had not seen for close to forty years.

Finally, there was Yah Shure, constant reader and frequent commenter here. His regular contribution to our picnics has moved over the years into legend. I greeted him and sent him on into the house with his famed white plastic bucket (and a clutch of custom-burned CDs he was delivering), and as I moved back to the rapidly growing throng, four or five of our regular guests asked me, “Is that the Fudgy Bonbon man?”

“Yep,” I told them, guessing that by the end of the day, Yah Shure’s chocolatey treats would be gone and his white bucket, which he always makes certain to take back to St. Paul with him, would be empty. (I didn’t check as he left, but as the bucket made the rounds where the last eight or nine of us were chatting in the late afternoon, there were very few bonbons left.)

Beyond the Fudgy Bonbons, the bounty offered on our tables by our guests was astounding in its variety and quantity: the salads included potato, pasta, cole slaw, and a wonderful concoction of watermelon and feta cheese under a savory dressing (I’m going to get the recipe for that one very soon); there were chips, crackers, dips and salsas; kabobs with veggies, fruit and sausage; and desserts galore, including apple pie, apple cobbler, bars and cakes, and an ice box cake from our new friend Lucille, one made from her grandmother’s recipe. (It combines chocolate and vanilla puddings, graham crackers and bananas, and I’m making quick work of the leftovers.)

If anything was in short supply Sunday, it was time enough for the Texas Gal and me to spend with all of our guests as we hosted. There were some with whom we hardly spoke, but I’m sure they understood. Other than that, it was a day of plenty: Plenty to eat on the tables, plenty to drink in the coolers; plenty of good company; and plenty to talk about.

And to mark that day of plenty, here are the Pointer Sisters combining the jazz standard “That’s A Plenty” with the silliness of a tune called “Surfeit, U.S.A.” from their 1974 album That’s A Plenty.

Up Late

May 6, 2016

I stayed up late last night, at first plunging and then dragging myself to the end of the novel Time and Time Again by Ben Elton. As regular readers might gather from the title and knowing my tastes, it’s a time travel yarn, and it’s got some good points. It also has some twists that I’m going to have to sort out, as well as a few major flaws. I think we’ll be returning to Elton’s book in this space next week, after I’ve untangled those twists and cataloged the flaws.

But staying up long past my generally late bedtime has, of course, some associated costs. I end up sleeping later than normal, and that gives me a late start on the day with my most productive time – the early morning – already gone.

Wanting to fill the white space here and get to the rest of the day, I went looking for a track with the word “up late” in the title. The RealPlayer returned eight tracks. Most startling among them were three tracks from the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. I had to look closely, and then I realized that the player had found the “late” in Pilate and the “up” in “Superstar” as it searched. So those three aren’t what we’re looking for this morning.

Among the other five, I found no titles that corresponded with staying up on an evening past one’s normal bedtime, which I found a bit odd. A topic not covered among the 88,000 mp3s that clog the player? Maybe I’ll put on my songwriting hat one of these days and fill that seeming gap.

But that’s for another day as well. And I did find “up late” in the title of a decent track, though the topic isn’t what I was hoping for. Still, we take what we find on mornings like this, so here’s “Turned Up Too Late,” a Graham Parker tune, as offered by the Pointer Sisters on their 1979 album Priority.

Chart Digging: Late October 1975

October 27, 2011

It’s been a gorgeous autumn around here: Warm days for the most part, followed by clear cool nights; our comings and goings have taken place – until just the past two weeks or so – under a vibrant canopy of brown, red and gold leaves. The colors this fall were the best we’ve seen in these parts in at least ten years. There’s a scientific explanation for that, something about rainfall and temperature ranges in spring, and that’s good to know, I guess. But that kind of rational assessment strikes me as something to think about during the long winter to come, not while even a remnant of the fall colors still glows.

And there are yet remnants: I saw a few stubborn maple trees still blazing redly as I was out on an errand the other day. On our lot, we have mostly bare trees; and since the lawn guy came with his mower and chopped the thick blanket of leaves into tiny pieces, I don’t even have the autumnal satisfaction of kicking my way through fallen leaves during my daily trek to the mailbox. Having the leaves chopped, however, means that we won’t have to rake soggy and moldy leaves from the lawn next spring, as we did this year. There are trade-offs in life.

One of those trade-offs, as I wrote a year ago, is that – like the other seasons – autumn is temporary: “It will end this year almost certainly as it has other years, in a four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind.”

That’s true, except . . . I think we each choose our seasons of memory, and mine is autumn. Not every sweet memory of my life took place in those months, but it sometimes seems to me that all my memories – whether they’re of events that took place in the white chill of January, the greening of May, the hazy blue of August or the copper light of October – are autumnal. Maybe that’s just me, but I don’t think so.

I do know that I spend far less time these days in my interior autumn than I did in the past. The life around me now is far more interesting, challenging and rewarding than it used to be. And I would not change that. But much of that interior autumn came from autumns in the exterior world, and those defining seasons will be with me until the moment – and one would hope the moment will come only after many more autumns have passed –  when my soul enters that long tunnel and moves toward that bright light.

One of those defining autumns that I carry inside is, without doubt, the autumn of 1975. I’ve written about that season several times (here and here are two of those posts, for those interested), and I think I’ve told that season’s tale sufficiently. But I noticed this morning that I’ve evidently never done one of my chart digging posts about that autumn’s music. I found that fact surprising, and even more, I found it welcome, as it means I’m doing something new here.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten for the last week of October 1975:

“Bad Blood” by Neil Sedaka
“Calypso/I’m Sorry” by John Denver
“Miracles” by Jefferson Starship
“Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles
“They Just Can’t Stop It (The Games People Play)” by the Spinners
“Feelings” by Morris Albert
“Who Loves You” by the Four Seasons
“Island Girl” by Elton John
“Ballroom Blitz” by Sweet
“It Only Takes A Minute” by Tavares

Well, there’s only one entirely awful record there: “Feelings.” I wasn’t crazy about the Sweet record but I didn’t hate it, and even the John Denver is only half-bad to me: I disliked “I’m Sorry” but I could put up with “Calypso.” I don’t know that I ever heard “It Only Takes A Minute,” so I listened to it this morning, but it rang no bells. “They Just Can’t Stop It” is a great record that I often forget about, and most of the rest is good listening. And then there’s “Miracles,” one of my eternal favorites.

Heading south in the Billboard Hot 100 from there, we pull up at No. 60, where we find “To Each His Own” by Faith, Hope & Charity. Described by Joel Whitburn as an R&B-dance vocal trio from Tampa, Florida, FH&C had two records in the Hot 100 in 1970 and then didn’t come back for more than five years, when “To Each His Own” became their best-performing record, peaking at No. 50 (and spending a week on top of the R&B chart). It sounds – unsurprisingly, I guess – like a lot of other R&B from 1974-75. (My ears hear a lot of the Three Degrees in the track.) I doubt that I ever heard it, but I like it a lot. Several versions are available at YouTube: The album track, an extended single, and the version I linked to, which I think is the single edit. Not quite a year later, FH&C showed up on the charts one more time, with a single that bubbled under for one week.

I’ve never listened much to Poco, the country rock group that included – among others – former Buffalo Springfield members Richie Furay and Jim Messina, but I’ve always liked what I’ve heard. That holds true for “Keep On Tryin’,” which was sitting at No. 61 during the last week of October in 1975. As it happened, “Keep On Tryin’” was the fourth Poco single to reach the chart, and it peaked at No. 50, the highest a Poco record had been at the time. The group would see “Crazy Love” go to No. 17 in 1979 although by then, Rusty Young – if I read Joel Whitburn’s notes correctly in Top Pop Singles – was the group’s sole remaining original member. Poco would wind up with a total of seventeen records in or near the Hot 100, with two more of them reaching the Top 20: “Heart Of The Night” went to No. 20 in 1979 and “Call It Love” went to No. 18 in 1989.

Another group I’ve not sought out much but whose music I’ve enjoyed when I run across it is the Pointer Sisters, who had thirty-one records in or near the Hot 100 from 1973 through 1987. (The sisters also placed twenty-one records in the R&B Top 40; one record – “Fairytale” – went to No. 37 on the country chart in 1974 and earned the sisters a Grammy for Country Vocal Group Performance.) Thirty-six years ago this week, it was the funky and infectious “How Long (Betcha’ Got A Chick On The Side)” that was sitting at No. 76, having peaked at No. 20 three weeks earlier. The record also spent two weeks atop the R&B chart, and it’s one of those that – should I ever hear it in the kitchen – would tempt me to indulge in my own version of dance. I need to get more Pointer Sisters’ stuff in my library.

I know Kenny Nolan only from “I Like Dreamin’,” the mellow anthem that went to No. 3 in March 1977, so I was intrigued when I saw in Top Pop Singles that Nolan fronted two studio groups: the Eleventh Hour and Firefly. The Eleventh Hour had two singles reach the chart, one in the spring of 1974 and the other during the late summer of 1975. That second single – “Hollywood Hot” – was sitting at No. 59 during the last week of October that year, and it’s a fun piece of studio funk that peaked at No. 55, but “Hey There Little Firefly” by Firefly caught my ear as well this morning. It was sitting at No. 96 during the last week of October 1975, heading to No. 67. I think it’s the flute that pulls me in.

I have no real idea where Parliament ended and Funkadelic began. Whitburn lists the two groups as existing concurrently in one long listing, so I’m not alone in that confusion. And I wonder whether George Clinton – organizer, leader and producer of the two groups – really knows where the line lies between the two. Either way, it was Funkadelic that was on the chart during late October 1975 when the very cool “Better By The Pound” was bubbling under at No. 103. The record would only get to No. 99, not that much lower than most of the singles from Clinton’s two groups had been placing. The best to that point had been Funkadelic’s “I’ll Bet You” in 1969 and Parliament’s “Up For The Down Stroke” in 1974, both of which went to No. 63. In 1967, Clinton’s doo-wop group, the Parliaments, had reached No. 20 with “(I Wanna) Testify,” and by October 1975, Clinton wasn’t that far from reaching the Top 40 again: Parliament’s “Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk)” went to No. 15 during the summer of 1976, and Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under A Groove, Pt. 1” went to No. 28 during the autumn of 1978.

The Mystic Moods Orchestra, says All-Music Guide, was “[o]ne of the choice audio aphrodisiacs of the ’60s and ’70s,” mixing “orchestral pop, environmental sounds, and pioneering recording techniques into a unique musical phenomenon.” The orchestra, created and led by Brad Miller, released albums like 1967’s Mexican Trip, 1970’s Stormy Weekend and 1972’s Love the One You’re With (covering, presumably, Stephen Stills’ hit single). Several singles – credited to simply the Mystic Moods – showed up in the lower levels of the Billboard chart, first on Warner Brothers and then on Sound Bird. During the last week of October 1975, “Honey Trippin’” was bubbling under at No. 108; it would rise to No. 98 before disappearing. Later in 1975, the Mystic Moods’ last appearance on the chart was “Get It While The Gettin’ Is Good.” That last single, which only got as high as No. 109, was credited to Leo & Libra with the Mystic Moods, which sounds just perfect for 1975.

Tower of Power, Tina & The Pointers

August 19, 2011

Originally posted October 2, 2008

Well, today’s excursion to YouTube started off very nicely: Here’s a clip of Tower of Power doing a tight version of “This Time It’s Real” from what looks like a club date. Another, briefer clip of the same performance is dated 1985, and that seems about right from the look of things.

But a deeper look unearthed a performance of the same song – “This Time It’s Real” – from a 1973 performance on Soul Train with vocalist Lenny Williams (new to the group on the 1973 album Tower of Power). So we’ll go with that.

Video deleted.

And since that was so good, here’s another performance from that same Soul Train gig of another great song from the Tower of Power album, “So Very Hard To Go.”

Here’s an undated live performance of “Nutbush City Limits” by Tina Turner with a full band. The clothes and the synth solo seem to put this in the 1970s. (Anyone out there have any information?)

Video deleted.

And then, here’s a clip from 1974 of “Yes We Can Can” by the Pointer Sisters, a superb performance featuring the late drummer Gaylord Birch.

I guess a couple folks were concerned this week and asked the Texas Gal if I was okay after I posted only briefly on Monday and not at all Tuesday. I was a bit under the weather, but I’m fine now. Thanks for asking.

Interconnected, For Better Or Worse

August 19, 2011

Originally posted October 1, 2008

Sometimes, if I really stop and think about it, the interconnectedness of the world astounds me. With cell phones, PDAs, email, instant messaging and all the other ways we communicate with each other, one never needs to be out of touch. Well, there are places in the world with limited access to cell networks and so on, but they are increasingly rare.

And that increasing connectedness will change us – has already begun to do so – in ways that we cannot possible anticipate. (I recall a long-ago magazine piece about the slipperiness of predictions; it pointed out that pundits in New York City predicted in the 1880s, given the city’s reliance on horses, that the streets of the city would be several feet deep in manure by the middle of the twentieth century. You never know.)

Looking back, however, I can guess that today’s connectedness would have changed one major part of my life, and not for the better. During the college year I spent in Fredericia, Denmark, I was separated for the first time in my life from my family and friends. Had I been able to use email, cell phones, texting and all the other tools of today’s communications, my time away would have been immeasurably different, and – I think – a lot less valuable to me.

I was in touch with friends and family throughout the year, of course, writing and receiving frequent letters and cards. But that contact was very limited. It took a week for a letter to make its way from Denmark to Minnesota and another week for a reply to arrive, which gives one a lot of time to think – or worry, if so inclined – between statements. And trans-Atlantic telephone calls were expensive. I called Minnesota from Denmark twice: On Christmas Day and then in April, when I returned to Fredericia after being on the road for a month.

And I think the distance created by being out of touch was good for me. If I’d had access to today’s numerous means of communication, I think I might have held tightly to my friends at home and not been as adventurous as I was. I don’t know. Perhaps not. But I think that one of the central facts of my time away was that it was time away in all ways, and I’d guess that holds true for all of us who were in Denmark that year. We’re a fairly tight group, even thirty-five years later, with all the changes that life brings. Reunions are regular and well attended. I’m not at all sure that we’d feel as connected as we have to each other over the years if we’d carried our friends from home in our pockets.

On a less important scale, one of the fascinating things about being away was losing track of popular culture. Events, catch phrases, fads and especially music had come and gone while we were gone. Friends sent many of us tapes that we shared in our lounge, so we heard some of what was popular, both Top 40 and albums. But there have been numerous times over the years – and I think this likely happened to all of us – when I’d hear a song for the first time and learn it had been popular during the time I was away.

Here’s a selection from the Billboard Top 40 during the week of September 29, 1973. A few of these had hit the Top 40 before I left, but the vast majority of them were records I had to catch up on later (in some cases, years later).

A Baker’s Dozen from 1973, Vol. 4
“Redneck Friend” by Jackson Browne, Asylum 11023 (No. 99 as of Sept. 29, 1973))

“Make Me Twice The Man” by New York City, Chelsea 0025 (No. 96)

“This Time It’s Real” by Tower of Power, Warner Bros. 7733 (No. 74)

“Jesse” by Roberta Flack, Atlantic 2982 (No. 68)

“I Can’t Stand The Rain” by Ann Peebles, Hi 2248 (No. 64)

“Such A Night” by Dr. John, Atco 6937 (No. 56)

“Nutbush City Limits” by Ike & Tina Turner, United Artists 298 (No. 50)

“In The Midnight Hour” by Cross Country, Atco 6934 (No. 31)

“Why Me” by Kris Kristofferson, Monument 8571 (No. 23)

“Yes We Can Can” by the Pointer Sisters, Blue Thumb 229 (No. 16)

“Brother Louie” by Stories, Kama Sutra 577 (No. 11)

“My Maria” by B.W. Stevenson, RCA Victor 0030 (No. 9)

“We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk, Capitol 3660 (No. 1)

A few notes:

Jackson Browne was perhaps the quintessential singer/songwriter of the 1970s, so “Redneck Friend,” one of the few real rockers Browne ever recorded, was a pleasant surprise. It didn’t get much radio play – never made the Top 40 – but it’s a great mood-changer when heard in the context of Browne’s 1973 album, For Everyman.

I don’t ever recall hearing New York City’s “Make Me Twice The Man” before this morning, when I rummaged through the stacks and found the album. Despite the group’s name, it’s a nice piece of Philly soul, and you can hear the imprint of Thom Bell (the O’Jays, the Stylistics, the Spinners) in every groove. New York City had reached No. 17 in the spring of 1973 with “I’m Doin’ Fine Now.”

I still love “I Can’t Stand The Rain,” especially the first few seconds. Ann Peebles has spent her career trying to record something else this good. She’s done well, but she’s never reached the same heights as she did here.

Another single I don’t recall hearing was Cross Country’s version of “In The Midnight Hour,” which is different enough to deserve a hearing (if ultimately nowhere as good as Wilson Pickett’s version). Leonard at Redtelephone66, the blog where I found Cross Country’s album, said when he posted the record that Cross Country was a group formed by three of the four members of the Tokens in 1971. The single reached No. 30 during a four-week stay in the Top 40.

Stories’ single “Brother Louie” was quite the sensation in 1973, with its tale of an interracial romance. The fact that it was pretty good listening, too, sometimes got lost in the brouhaha.

If I had to pick the best of these, I’d likely go with “Yes We Can Can,” the Pointer Sisters’ single written by Allen Toussaint or maybe B.W. Stevenson’s “My Maria,” which was possibly the rootsiest record of 1973.