Posts Tagged ‘Richie Havens’

Thunderclap, Richie, Fenton & Boz

June 12, 2014

Originally posted June 4, 2009

It’s Video Thursday!

The first thing I found in today’s wandering is a video put together with Thunderclap Newman, evidently in 1969, for the single edit of “Something In The Air.” It’s actually fairly witty and worth a look.

Here’s a clip I’d not seen before: Richie Havens performing “I Can’t Make It Any More” at the original Woodstock festival in 1969:

Here’s a clip from 1977 of Fenton Robinson performing his classic “Somebody Loan Me A Dime.” It cuts off in mid-song, but it’s still worth looking at for a glimpse of his guitar work.

Video deleted.

And here’s Boz Scaggs with a relatively recent performance of “Lido Shuffle.” Until a more precise date comes along, all I’m going to say is that it’s ca. 2005, at a guess.

What’s up for tomorrow? I’m not sure. Maybe a Grab Bag, or maybe another excursion into the Valley of the Unplayed. We’ll see what I feel like doing when I get there.

A Mixed But Worthwhile Bag

May 25, 2014

Originally posted June 1, 2009

I suppose the first time I became aware of Richie Havens was at St Cloud’s Paramount Theatre sometime in 1970. On what seems in memory a spring evening, my parents gave me permission to sit through Woodstock, the documentary film chronicling the vast music festival that had taken place the summer before in upstate New York.

(The parental permission was required, if I recall correctly, by the theater’s management, as the movie had several scenes showing naked hippies either at play or washing up in lakes and ponds. I’m not sure if my folks knew about those scenes. Being sixteen at the time, I of course didn’t mind glimpses of naked gals – hippies or not – but I honestly went to the film for the music.)

And Havens’ exhausting show-opener was stunning. I knew about most of the other musicians whose performances were shown in the film: Sly & The Family Stone; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Sha Na Na (does anybody else think it odd that in 1969, Sha Na Na was viewed on the same level as the other acts at Woodstock?); Arlo Guthrie; Santana; the Who; and more. But I’d been unaware of Richie Havens.

I came out of the theater that evening fascinated by a lot of the music I saw but most of all by Havens. (I find it fascinating that thirty-seven years later, I saw Havens perform live in the same theater where I’d heard his music for the first time.) I didn’t rush out and buy a lot of it, but I was a lot more aware of those performers when I heard them on the radio, and their names went on a long and informal list of artists whose music I wanted to explore when I had time and resources. It took a long time before I got around to some of them. And Richie Havens was one of those whose work waited a long time for me to find it.

It happened, finally, in the late 1990s, during the years when my record collection grew at an alarming rate. During one of my regular visits to Cheapo’s in late May of 1998, I came across Haven’s 1977 album, Mirage. Listening to it reminded me that I’d once planned – however vaguely – to explore Havens’ catalog. I went back the next day and got another Havens’ LP: 1987’s Simple Things. And as the year moved on, I kept looking for Haven’s stuff in the new arrivals bins and sorting through what was already there in the bin with his name on it. By then end of 1998, I had ten of his LPs, and I’d add four more in the years to come.

Among them was 1974’s Mixed Bag II, in title and style a sequel to his first release, 1967’s Mixed Bag. Even in a time when I was bringing home an average of one new LP a day, both of those stood out. I found Mixed Bag during the summer of 1998 and Mixed Bag II that December, and both of them stayed near the stereo for a month or two, as I played them frequently.

Mixed Bag is still in print on CD, so I will forego posting it, but I’ve had a request for a repost of Mixed Bag II. Here’s what I wrote about it a little more than a year and a half ago:

Highlights of the album are Havens’ take on “Ooh Child,” which had been a Top Ten hit for the Five Stairsteps in 1970; his somewhat meandering version of “Wandering Angus,” a poem by William Butler Yeats set to a folk melody; a sprightly version of McCartney’s “Band On The Run,” and the album’s moving finale, “The Indian Prayer,” written by Roland Vargas Mousaa and Tom Pacheco.

But the album’s center, literally and figuratively, is Haven’s performance of the Bob Dylan epic “Sad Eyed Lady (Of The Lowlands).” Reflecting perfectly the organic feel of the entire album, the track pulls the album together. It may be called a mixed bag, but it holds together pretty well. It’s the kind of album Richie Havens specializes in to this day: Mostly acoustic, melodic, thoughtful and warm.

Mixed Bag II by Richie Havens [1974]:

“Ooh Child”
“Wandering Angus”
“Sad Eyed Lady (Of The Lowlands)”
“Someone Suite”
“Band On The Run”
“The Loner”
“The Makings Of You”
“The Indian Prayer”

Coming Attraction:
A member at a board I frequent asked if anyone had Kate Taylor’s Sister Kate album, which I posted here more than two years ago. When I replied, someone else noted that it would be nice to have her later, self-titled album. To my surprise, I found it in the stacks, and I’ll be ripping it to share sometime this week. At the same time, I’ll repost Sister Kate. (And if anyone has a line on Taylor’s third album recorded in 1979 at – I believe – Muscle Shoals, it would be appreciated.)

A Richie Preview

May 25, 2014

Originally posted May 29, 2009

I said I was going to post a Richie Havens album, and I will, but it won’t be today. So here’s a small preview of what I hope to share Monday:

“Headkeeper” by Richie Havens from Mixed Bag II (1974)

I’ll be back tomorrow – I assume – with a Saturday Single.

Memorial Day, 2009

June 28, 2013

Originally posted May 25, 2009

It’s another Memorial Day, another day to reflect. We’ve been told that some of our soldiers will this year begin to come home. Let’s hope that’s true. We’ve also been told that more of our soldiers are required to fight elsewhere. Let’s hope that’s for a brief time. These are the same songs as last year and the year before; if that’s a disappointment, I’m sorry. These are the songs that remind me of those whom we are supposed to remember today.

“Requiem for the Masses” by the Association, Warner Bros. single 7074 [1967]

“I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” by Phil Ochs from Rehearsals For Retirement [1969]

“War” by Edwin Starr, Gordy single 7101 [1970]

“Where Have All The Flowers Gone” by Peter, Paul & Mary from Peter, Paul & Mary [1962]

“One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)” by Coven, Warner Bros. single 7509 [1971]

“Universal Soldier” by Buffy Sainte-Marie from It’s My Way! [1964]

“Masters of War” by Bob Dylan from Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan [1962]

“Give Peace A Chance” by the Plastic Ono Band (John Lennon), Apple single 1809 [1969]

“2+2=?” by the Bob Seger System from Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man [1968]

“Handsome Johnny” by Richie Havens from Mixed Bag [1967]

“Bring The Boys Home” by Freda Payne, Invictus single 909 [1971]

“All The Young Women” by the Cuff Links from Tracy [1970]

“Bring ’Em Home” by Bruce Springsteen from We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (American Land Edition) [live, most likely in Detroit, 2006]

As I’ve noted the past two years, times have changed enough since Freda Payne, the Cuff Links and Peter, Paul & Mary recorded their songs that we now need to also bring the girls home, and we need to grieve as well with all the young men who have lost loved ones.

‘O-o-h Child’ With Green Peppers

March 25, 2012

Originally posted March 24, 2009

It was 1986, and the Five Stairsteps almost cost me some major auto repairs.

Well, that’s not true. It was my desire for a free pizza that almost cost me a huge auto repair bill. But the Five Stairsteps were involved.

It was a spring morning and I was driving through south St. Cloud, heading to my public relations job at St. Cloud State University. As I drove, I listened to one of the St. Cloud radio stations, and as I got near the campus, the station conducted its morning “Name That Oldie’ contest. The first caller to name correctly the song and performer won a free pizza from one of St. Cloud’s many pizza places.

As I drove, I scanned the nearby territory for a phone booth, just in case. I saw one in a service station parking lot just before the next intersection, and the traffic slowed, leaving me at the driveway to the lot just as the music started. I needed no more than the short drum riff and two notes to recognize the record as “O-o-h Child,” the 1970 hit by the Five Stairsteps. (It went to No. 8.) I pulled into the parking lot, got out of my beat-up 1979 Chevette with my quarters in my hand, and called the radio station.

I was right, of course, and qualified for a free pizza. I provided my mailing particulars, and as the deejay and I completed our business, I glanced at my car. It was beginning to roll backwards, toward the driveway and the morning traffic.

I dropped the phone and raced around the front of the car. I managed to catch up with it, and I reached in and yanked on the parking brake. By that time, the rear bumper was no more than two feet from the street. As I acknowledge, the fault was mine, not that of the Five Stairsteps. Nevertheless, when I hear the song these days, the first thing that flashes through my mind is my frantic race to save my Chevette.

That was true last weekend, when the song popped up on the RealPlayer. But as well as thinking about potential automotive disaster, I also wondered – as I generally do these days – about cover versions. Who else has recorded “O-o-h Child”?

I have three versions beyond the original by the Five Stairsteps: Richie Havens included it in 1974 on his Mixed Bag II album; Valerie Carter recorded it for her 1977 album Just A Stone’s Throw Away; and the Edwin Hawkins Singers included the song on I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, released in 1972. (I’m searching for a better vinyl copy of that last album.)

All-Music Guide lists 200 CDs that include a recording of “O-o-h Child” (often spelled simply “Ooh Child”), but almost half of those listings are of the Five Stairsteps’ original version. Beyond the ’Steps and the three artists listed above, though, we find some interesting names:

Brand Nubian, Destiny’s Child, Hall & Oates, Ramsey Lewis, Keith Marks, Donnie McClurkin, Milton Nascimento, Laura Nyro, the 103rd Street Gospel Choir, Beth Orton, the Posies, Dee Dee Sharp, Nina Simone, the Spinners, Dusty Springfield and Lenny Williams. Lots of those sound interesting, and I think I’ll have a few more CD titles to put on my wish list. Especially interesting is the prospect of the Laura Nyro version, which is a bonus track laid onto an expanded CD version of her Gonna Take A Miracle album.

Of the three cover versions I have, I’ve already posted the Havens and Carter versions, but it’s been a while, so I’ll post those again. And as long as we’re talking about cover versions, I have at times seen the Five Stairsteps’ single listed with its B-Side, which must have gotten some airplay. So I’ll post the Five Stairsteps’ version of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” as well.

“O-o-h Child” by the Five Stairsteps, Buddah 165 [1970]

“Ooh Child” by Valerie Carter from Just A Stone’s Throw Away [1977]

“Ooh Child” by Richie Havens from Mixed Bag II [1974]

“Dear Prudence” by the Five Stairsteps, Buddah 165 [1970]

Already On My Turntable

March 16, 2012

Originally posted March 6, 2009

During my youth and early adulthood, it wasn’t often that I’d hear something playing on the radio and be able to say, “I have that record!”

Once I started listening to Top 40 radio in the late summer and early fall of 1969 – before that, I heard Top 40 all over the place but I never really listened – that happened occasionally. It was most frequent, of course, with the Beatles, especially once I made it my first mission in life to collect everything the Beatles had recorded for Capitol and Apple. I’d hear “Come Together” – or, as happened late one night when I woke up after leaving the radio on, the riff-glorious “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” – and know, “That’s from Abbey Road. I have that!”

Beyond the Beatles, though, it wasn’t often that I’d hear a song on Top 40 radio that I had on record. If I did – and this held true for a lot of the Beatles’ catalog as well – it was generally records that the radio stations were playing as oldies. I was usually a few years behind in buying music. (I still am, and I know I’ll never catch up, given the musical riches that exist.)

And during my college years, especially after I came back from my year in Denmark, I didn’t listen to a lot of Top 40. At school, in the student union, we’d sometimes plug quarters into the jukebox and hear current singles, but that – and brief bits of driving – were my only exposure to current hits. At home, I listened to radio stations that played deeper tracks, either St. Cloud State’s KVSC or another St. Cloud station, long gone now, its call letters gone for years from my memory. And when I bought music, I was catching up on the catalogs of the Allman Brothers Band, Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues, Joe Cocker and more, so when I listened to records at home, I’d never hear a song that was getting current radio play.

As time passed and radio stations changed or disappeared, I tuned my radio once more to more popular fare. But my buying habits remained fairly consistent. So I still rarely heard a song on the radio that I had on a record. That’s why I recall a morning in early March 1977 so very clearly. I was about to head to campus for the day (working on that minor in print journalism I mentioned in a recent post). I had the radio on, and as I headed to the desk to turn it off, there came, “Here come those tears again, just when I gettin’ over you . . .”

It was from The Pretender, the first Jackson Browne album I ever bought. And I stopped short, marveling – as I did every time I listened to the album – at how good the song was and marveling, too, at its being released as a single. I listened for a minute or two, then turned off the radio and headed downstairs, pleased with the knowledge that I could hear the song anytime I wanted to.

A Six-Pack of Tears
“Here Come Those Tears Again” by Jackson Brown, Asylum 45397 [1976]
“No Tears (In The End)” by Grover Washington, Jr., from All The King’s Horses [1972]
“96 Tears” by Big Maybelle Smith, Rojac 112 [1967]
“Drown In My Own Tears” by Richie Havens from Richie Havens’ Record [1968]
“River of Tears” by Eric Clapton from Pilgrim [1998]
“Trail of Tears” by the Talbot Brothers from The Talbot Brothers [1974]

“Here Comes Those Tears Again” was Jackson Browne’s second Top 40 single, following “Doctor My Eyes,” which went to No. 8 in 1972. “Tears” spent six weeks in the Top 40 starting in mid-February 1977 and peaked at No. 23. Browne had ten more Top 40 hits from then on, but I don’t know that any of them were better than “Here Come Those Tears Again.” Maybe “Running On Empty,” which came out about a year later. But “Tears,” which was pulled off the album The Pretender, is a great single, helped along by Bonnie Raitt’s work on background vocals and the sweet guitar solo by (surprisingly) John Hall of the band Orleans (who is now, maybe even more surprisingly, a U.S. Congressman from the state of New York).

Some time ago, I shared Roberta Flack’s 1973 version of “No Tears (In The End).” Since then, two other versions have come my way, each released in 1972. I’m not sure which of the two – by Grover Washington, Jr., and by the Friends of Distinction – came first, but they’re both nicely done. Of the two, I prefer Washington’s just a little, but that may come from my fondness for the sound of the saxophone (something I don’t think I’ve addressed specifically here, though it might have been implicit over these last two years). The album the track comes from, All The King’s Horses, does not seem to be available on CD, which is a shame.

Big Maybelle covers ? and the Mysterians? Yeah, blues belter Big Maybelle took on “96 Tears” and earned her final appearance on the R&B charts, though I’m not sure how high the record went.* It was pulled from the album Got a Brand New Bag, a record I would dearly love to hear some day, based on the track listing:

“96 Tears”
“Mellow Yellow”
“That’s Life”
“There Must Be A Word”
“Ellenor Rigby” (sic)
“Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing”
“I Can’t Control Myself”
“Black Is Black”
“Coming On Strong”
“The Eggplant That Ate Chicago”
“Turn The World Around The Other Way”

Contemplating Big Maybelle’s takes on some of those titles is like contemplating a – well, I can’t think right now of anything suitably bizarre. “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago,” undoubtedly the most odd track selection on an oddly programmed album, is a product of the mind of Norman Greenbaum (who reached No. 3 in 1970 with the great “Spirit In The Sky”).

I probably found the Richie Havens track on a blog somewhere; I don’t recall. It’s included on a compilation on the Rhino label called Resume: The Best of Richie Havens. If I’m correct in my conclusions about its origins, the track was originally recorded in 1965 or so and was placed in 1969 on an album called Richie Haven’s Record, which a producer created by adding electric instrumentation to some of Havens’ early acoustic demos without Havens’ input. That LP came out on the Douglas label, a division of Laurie Records. In his autobiography, Havens seems ambivalent about the Douglas album, but he has praise for the Rhino compilation. His performance of Ray Charles’ classic “Drown In My Own Tears” is a good one.

Reviews were decidedly mixed in 1998 when Eric Clapton released Pilgrim. “My Father’s Eyes,” though never officially released as a single, went to No. 16 as an album track. But I think a lot of critics and Clapton fans thought the album was a little lightweight. That was my reaction; there were lots of “nice” tracks on the record but nothing that had much substance. I still look askance at most of the CD, just more than ten years later. But I’ve come to like “River of Tears.”

The Talbot Brothers were the moving force behind the band Mason Proffit, the highly regarded country-rock band that released a clutch of albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s. (The best of those, but not by much, was likely Wanted!) “Trail of Tears,” a beautiful track, comes from the brothers’ first album after the break-up of Mason Proffitt. That album was either called The Talbot Brothers or Reborn. I’ve seen pictures of record jackets with both titles. Either way, the musicianship is sparkling and the content reflects the brothers’ shift to overtly Christian themes. In the years ahead, the Talbots would be a prime force in what has come to be called Contemporary Christian Music.

*Big Maybelle’s cover of “96 Tears” went to No. 23 on the R&B Chart. Note added March 16, 2012.

Aching Muscles & Richie Havens

October 7, 2011

Originally posted November 17, 2008

It was about ten days ago that I noticed the gutters. I was up in the loft, discussing something with the Texas Gal as she worked on a quilt, and I happened to look out the window nearest the stairs.

I noticed that the gutter around our small back porch was filled with brown oak leaves. Looking ahead to March – I’m rarely blessed with this kind of foresight, so I was pleased – I saw snow melt running down the roof and being caught up in a clogged gutter and then maybe seeping up between the shingles and into the walls of the loft. Given the large number of oak trees – and a few evergreens – around the house, I had no doubt that the other four length of gutter were clogged as well.

I pointed it out to the Texas Gal, and she and our landlord exchanged a few emails about the gutters and our lack of a ladder. If he could provide one, she said, we could clean the gutters. The next day, while I was occupied with something else, our landlord stopped by and left a ladder in the driveway. So Saturday afternoon, with the temperature about 30 Fahrenheit (-1 C), we bundled up and I headed up the ladder. The Texas Gal stayed below and held the ladder and tossed paper towels and other necessities up to me.

I’m not sure how long it had been since the gutters were cleaned, but it had been a while. The loose leaves lay atop an inch of black gunk. It wasn’t difficult to remove, but it wasn’t pleasant, either. There was, for some reason, a little less gunk in the gutter on the north side of the house, but it had frozen. I thought that might make it more difficult to remove, but actually it made it easier. I chipped away at it with a screwdriver, and it came up in small slabs.

Overall, it took about an hour, maybe, to clean the four gutters on the house and the two on the porch. By the time we were done, we were both a little chilled and my arms ached. But it was the good kind of ache that comes from having done something that needed to be done.

Richie Havens – The Great Blind Degree
When digging into the early catalog of Richie Havens, it seems as if the album I’m sharing today, The Great Blind Degree, gets lost. It was Havens’ second release on the Stormy Forest label and came out in 1971, following 1970’s Stonehenge.

(Havens had released three records on Verve beginning in 1967, and there was a one-off release in 1968 on the Douglas label called Electric Havens, which I think was some of Havens’ early folk recordings overdubbed with electric instruments; Verve released a fourth album of Havens’ work – outtakes? I don’t know – in 1971, after Havens was recording for Stormy Forest.)

Also in 1971, Havens released Alarm Clock, the album that contained his only Top 40 hit, a driving version of George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun” that went to No. 16 in the spring. I’m not sure at all what time of year The Great Blind Degree was released; All-Music Guide has it listed before Alarm Clock in its Havens discography, but that’s not persuasive. I’m inclined to think that Alarm Clock (which reached No. 29 on the album chart in May) came first and then The Great Blind Degree was released and for some reason got no attention.

And that’s too bad. While I don’t think the album is as good as Stonehenge or Alarm Clock, it’s not that far behind. It’s more of a concept album than either of those, and that might have lessened its profile. Or maybe it wasn’t promoted well enough. I don’t know. I do know that I was aware of Stonehenge when it came out (the title and the cover photo caught my attention even though I wasn’t in the market for Havens’ music at the moment), and I knew about Alarm Clock because of the single, which persuaded me to take a closer listen to Havens. But The Great Blind Degree escaped my attention, and that seems to have been the case with a lot of listeners back then. (There’s no indication of a CD release, so that remains the case.)

As I noted, it’s more of a concept album than Haven’s earlier albums, focusing during Side One on surviving the tempestuous times and during Side Two on raising the next generation. Of the two sides, the first seems more successful from the vantage point of 2008, if only because the centerpiece of Side Two, Graham Nash’s “Teach Your Children,” is something we’ve heard so many times that we really no longer hear it.

But that’s not Havens’ failing, that’s ours. And the song nestles nicely in its place, following Havens’ reworking of Cat Stevens’ “Father & Son,” which Havens recasts as “Fathers & Sons.” In that setting, Nash’s song can be heard almost as something new again, making the middle of Side Two eloquent.

Still, I think Havens does his best work on the album on the opening track, “What About Me,” which was the title tune of a 1970 album by Quicksilver Messenger Service:

You poisoned my sweet water.
You cut down my green trees.
The food you fed my children
Was the cause of their disease.
My world is slowly fallin’ down
And the air’s not good to breathe.
And those of us who care enough,
We have to do something . . .

Oh-oh, what you gonna do about me?
Oh-oh, what you gonna do about me?

I like the Quicksilver version – it was the second Quicksilver recording I ever heard, after “Fresh Air” – but I might like Haven’s version a bit better than the original. And if the rest of The Great Blind Degree doesn’t quite come up to the level of the opening track, well, it’s still a pretty good album.

Of course, as regular readers know, I’ve not heard a lot of stuff by Havens I don’t like, so one can let that be a guide.

Havens produced the record and plays rhythm and twelve-string guitar. Electric and lead acoustic guitar are provided by Paul Williams (the singer-songwriter? I doubt it, but I’m not sure). Emile Latimer is credited for conga drums and percussion, Eric Oxendine played bass, and Bob Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil provided the sounds from the Moog Synthesizer.

What About Me
Fire & Rain/Tommy
In These Flames
Think About The Children
Fathers & Sons
Teach Your Children
What Have We Done

Richie Havens – The Great Blind Degree [1971]

The Night The Trivial Streak Ended

August 24, 2011

Originally posted October 20, 2008

I’ve got an extremely good memory, as I may or may not have related here before.

I know I’ve written about my love of detail – as in the nine-inch pan – before.

Combine the two, and I was absolutely enthralled with the game Trivial Pursuit when it came out twenty-six years ago. I received as a Christmas present the board game with its original set of questions, and over the years, I’ve collected other question sets and a couple of other game boards in different boxes.

For a time in the late 1980s, when I was single, living first in St. Cloud for a brief time and then in Minot, North Dakota, and spending my quarter-breaks in St. Cloud, my friends and I played a lot of Trivial Pursuit. I’m good at the game, good enough that my friends instituted new rules for me. As you know doubt know, the point of the game is to move around the game board by answering trivia questions and get your playing piece to certain spots on the game board. At those spots, you answer questions that earn you little plastic wedges.

When you have six different colored wedges – for the six categories of questions – you maneuver your playing piece to the center of the board, at which point your opponents decide on a category for one final question. If you’ve shown a disinclination for science and nature questions, for example, your opposition will likely select that category for your final question.

My friends upped the ante on me: Instead of answering one question at the points where I could collect a wedge, I had to answer two questions. And at the end of the game, instead of answering one question from the six on the card my opponents drew, I had to answer all six. I shrugged and spent chunks of late 1987 playing more Trivial Pursuit . . . and winning. We started keeping track after a while, and my winning streak – before and after the whiteray rules went into effect – was nearing one hundred games.

My lady friend of the time and I spent New Year’s Eve in 1987 at my apartment in Minot. Aside from the likely appearance of a ghost – a story I may tell another time – it was a quiet evening. About ten o’clock, we got out the Trivial Pursuit board. My lady friend was pretty good at history, geography, some entertainment and the basics of science and nature; being in the process of seeking a master’s degree in English, she was very good at arts and literature.

Her downfalls generally were sports and leisure and rock music. When she got a question that seemed to call for the name of a rock musician for the answer, she regularly said, “Bob Dylan.” She explained: “Eventually, I have to get a question where ‘Bob Dylan’ is the answer.” As to sports and leisure, she generally left her one required question in that category for the end of the game. And during my winning streak, she never had to try to that category.

On New Year’s Eve in 1987, things went differently. With the northwest wind rattling the living room windows and Gordon Lightfoot playing on the stereo, she got a music question and answered “Bob Dylan.” I don’t recall what the question was, but that was, in fact, the answer. A few turns later, as I was about halfway through collecting my wedges (by answering two questions per wedge), she landed on a sports and leisure wedge spot. The question defined a sport played on ice with large stones, and she identified it as curling.

We were laughing as she moved her piece toward the center of the board and as I tried to collect the rest of my wedges. I wasn’t worried, as she’d have to answer another sports and leisure question when she got to the center of the board. I don’t recall how many wedges I was short as she reached the center of the board; I might have had them all, might have been maneuvering to the center of the board myself, when she reached the center and asked for a final question.

I chose a sports and leisure question. It asked for the name of a sport that combines running with the use of written directions and a compass.

She thought for a moment and said, “Orienteering?”

I nodded. The streak was over.

She laughed. “You mean I actually beat you?” I laughed, too, pleased by her delight.

We put the game away and marked the New Year by watching an old movie. She left Minot the next morning, returning to St. Cloud. But before she did, she made me sign a sheet of paper that she could show our friends, a statement attesting to the fact that she’d defeated me at Trivial Pursuit.

The tale came to mind this morning for a couple of reasons. First, over the weekend, I saw a commercial for a new edition of Trivial Pursuit. Second, I was pondering what to post today, and just as my long-ago lady friend turned to Bob Dylan when in doubt, so do I turn to Richie Havens.

Havens’ Now, a 1991 release, was one of the first of his albums I got on CD, evidently finding it during a Saturday morning of visiting garage sales in the western suburbs of Minneapolis in August of 2002. Finding it reminded me that I had very little of Havens’ music in mp3 form (I had plenty of Havens’ work on vinyl, and I had a good turntable, but I was still some years from being able to convert vinyl to mp3s). So I began to haunt libraries and to check for Havens’ work at used music stores. I found a few things and began to build a library of Havens’ work that now numbers a hundred and seventy-four mp3s.

Now is a good album, if not quite to the level of some of the work Havens was doing twenty years earlier. Johanan Vigoda produced the CD, with several musicians creating the background tracks and getting co-production credits. For example, Tim Moore – the same one who wrote “Second Avenue”? I don’t know – is listed as composer of three songs and is credited for the music tracks and given a co-production credit on those recordings. Other music track and co-production credits went to Fuzbee Morse, David Grow and Nick Jameson.

Also credited are Gordon Barnes for guitar on two tracks, Stephen Parsons for drums on two tracks and Lee Howard for bass on one track.

Highlights? Well, the opener, a subtle reading of Jimi Hendrix’ “Angel,” stands out. I also like Haven’s work on Grow’s “After All These Years” and on “Let The Walls Fall Down,” written by Morse. And Havens also does a nice job with “Time After Time,” the Cyndi Lauper tune.

If there’s a flaw with the CD, it’s the reliance on drum machines. It makes the album sound too mechanical and not nearly as organic as one expects Havens’ work to be. Still, the voice – a classic – pretty much overcomes even that flaw. It’s not a great album, but it’s a good one.

Here are Havens’ liner notes for the album:

A moment sheared on both sides.
By the past and the future . . .
A second within which happens . . .
A billion things,
Yet is unperceivable in conscious memory . . .
A flash idea; a revelation; a miraculous change . . .
Never to return to that place again . . .

An increment of life seeking expression
As form-meaning-advancement . . .
Reversing Now (Won)
We can leave this world in The Rightful Hands
Those who know they’ll live on a planet
And have eyes that see no borders
In the eyes of others
Those who are living Now . . . The Children

You Are The One
That’s The Way I See You
After All These Years
Love Sometimes Says Goodbye
Message From The Doctor
Time After Time
You’re My Tomorrow
Let The Walls Fall Down
It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

Richie Havens – Now [1991]

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.

Eyes On The TV In The E.R.

August 10, 2011

Originally posted September 15, 2008

I think it’s odd that when you’re lying on a bed in the emergency room, you can watch television.

On the other hand, I’m grateful that there was something – in this case, the fourth quarter of a close football game between Purdue University and the University of Oregon – to keep my attention off what the nurse was doing to my right index finger late Saturday afternoon. The Texas Gal told me to keep watching the game. She said later that the nurse had lifted the flap of skin sliced into my finger just below the nail and was scrubbing energetically with a swab.

“If you’d seen that,” the Texas Gal told me over dinner Saturday – I ate without using my bandaged finger – “it would have hurt no matter how numb your finger was.”

Thanks to an anesthetic, however, my finger was numb. And as Oregon came back from a 20-6 deficit, I kept my eyes on the screen and was thus able to ignore what the nurse was doing to my numb digit. The same held true a little later, when the physician’s assistant was putting in three stitches.

My finger is fine. I’ll have to be careful not to bump the top of it, near the nail, for a while, and I have to put antibiotic cream on it for about a week, and cover it with a bandage if I’m going to be doing something that might get it dirty. But those are annoyances compared to how bad it could have been.

We were hanging the last picture in the living room. Actually, it’s a print of a pioneer map of Minnesota, a print that hung in the basement rec room at Mom and Dad’s for more than thirty years. About six months ago, the Texas Gal and I got a new frame for it, and at about two o’clock Saturday, we decided to hang it on the wall near the front door.

I tied wire onto the frame, hammered a nail with a hook into the wall, and lifted the frame onto the hook. We stood back, agreeing that the print looked good there. We turned away to see what else we needed to do in the living room. There was a “snap,” and we looked toward the couch to see the frame slide down the wall to the floor, where the frame separated. The glass was unbroken and the print intact.

We carefully moved everything to an open spot, and we saw that the wire I’d tied onto the back of the frame had split. The Texas Gal reassembled the frame, and then we tried to slide the glass back in, and at that point, the glass broke into four large pieces. She moved the glass to the side, and we put the print into the frame between two mats and moved the frame to a closet for safekeeping. Then, as the Texas Gal was getting the vacuum cleaner out of another closet, I turned to the glass. Just as she told me to be careful, one of the large pieces of glass shifted and sliced neatly into my right index finger just below the nail.

As soon as I felt it, I headed for the kitchen and bled into paper towels as the Texas Gal got ready to take me to the ER. We got there about three o’clock and were finished by about six. As the nurse directed, the bandage stayed on for twenty-four hours, making things awkward Saturday evening and most of Sunday. But if awkward is the worst I get out of this, I’ll have been very lucky.

Richie Havens – Connections (1980)
It’s been a while since I posted anything by Richie Havens, so I thought I’d dig into the library and see what was there.

I found a rip of Connections, a 1980 album that was Haven’s first release on Elektra/Asylum after a couple of mid-Seventies releases on A&M. Like most singer/songwriters who came to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Havens’ audience diminished, as listeners followed other trends. That, and other changes, made for tough times, Havens writes in his biography, They Can’t Hide Us Anymore:

“Through most of the 1980s into the mid-1990s, I recorded several albums for a handful of companies and repeatedly found myself up against changes in management, weak distribution, and other problems of the business.

Connections was to be the first of a two-album deal with Elektra-Asylum. But as Yogi Berra is famous for saying, it was ‘déjà vu all over again.’ Just as MGM had done [earlier], Elektra fired most of its employees when the first record was due to come out, including the president. The new people distributed a few token copies to a handful of cities and buried it on the shelf. They didn’t care what was on the record. They didn’t want anything developed by the people they had replaced to do well.

“When something like that happens, there is no recourse—unless you own the label or the masters, which I no longer did. I owned the publishing rights to the songs I wrote, but not the recordings that lay on those shelves, gathering dust.”

I came across Haven’s Connections during my late 1990s explorations into vinyl, buying the first copy I saw of it in February 1999 and liking it so much that I dug around for a second copy, one in better shape, the next month.

Highlights? I love Havens’ version of “Every Night,” the Paul McCartney song that showed up on McCartney in 1970, and his take on Tom Waits’ “Ol’ 55” is good, too. More surprising are three other covers: Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” seems as if it would be over-familiar, but Havens brings a subtlety to it that makes one hear it with new ears, as it were. The same is true of his take on Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight,” which Havens recorded three years before Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton turned it into a sedative that went to No. 6.

The most eye-opening track on Connections, though, might be Havens’ excursion into Stevie Nicks’ territory, covering her “Dreams” (from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours) and making it his own. That shouldn’t be surprising, of course, as he’s done the same thing over and over throughout his career.

Musicians on Connections were:

Jeffrey Baxter, Rick Derringer, Elliot Randell and David Spinoza on guitars; David LeBolt, Richard Tee and Jack Waldman on keyboards; Doug Katsaris on synthesizer; David Woodford on tenor sax; Gloria Agostini on harp; Bob Babbitt and Chuck Rainey on bass; Steve Gadd, Andy Newmark and Allan Schwartzberg on drums; Montego Joe on congas; Michael Olatunji & Co. on percussion; and Lou Christie, Clydie King, Ann Lang, Linda November and Gail Wynters on background vocals.

Mama We’re Gonna Dance
Every Night
You Send Me
We’ve Got Tonight
Ol’ 55
Going Back To My Roots
She Touched My Heart
Fire Down Below
Here’s A Song

This rip is one that I found early during my blog explorations, so I don’t know whom to thank.

Richie Havens – Connections [1980]