Posts Tagged ‘Toni Childs’

Two Years Of Echoes

December 16, 2011

Originally posted February 2, 2009

I’ve been wondering for some time how to mark the second anniversary of this humble blog. While I’d shared a few albums and singles beforehand, it was on February 1, 2007, that I invested a small bit of cash and installed a counter. With that done, I began to actively encourage folks to stop by here.

So I’ve designated February 1, which was yesterday, as this blog’s birthday, and – as I said – I’ve been wondering what to do to mark it. The first thing to do, I thought, is a historical inventory, seeing from what decades my mp3 collection comes. This is what I found.

1800s: 27
1900s: 9
1910s: 10
1920s: 381
1930s: 412
1940s: 316
1950s: 1,054
1960s: 7,842
1970s: 12,353
1980s: 2,983
1990s: 4,032
2000s: 4,293

The stuff from pre-1920 isn’t as impressive as it might look. Almost all of those mp3s are classical pieces and college fight songs tagged by their dates of composition, not by recording dates. The oldest recording that I have – at least the oldest to which I can append a date that I believe is accurate – is a performance of “Poor Mourner” recorded by the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet in Philadelphia on November 29, 1902.

The focus on the 1960s and 1970s doesn’t surprise me, nor should it startle anyone who comes by here regularly. I am a little surprised that I have that much music from 2000 and after.

So what should I post today?

What I’ve decided to do is to first ignore the music from pre-1950. I find some of it interesting, but I think it’s less so to the folks who stop by here. After that, I’ll sort through the files by decade and then by running time, and at that point find a single track of roughly average length from each decade from 1950 on. I’ll select the singles based on rarity and on my perceptions of their appeal and aesthetic value.

And since you all by now know that my aesthetic structure has a few slightly warped walls, this might be fun! So here’s what we’ll listen to today:

A Six-Pack Through The Decades
“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” by the Platters, Mercury 71383 [1958]

“Girl From The East” by the Leaves, Mira 222 [1966]

“Come Back into My Life Again” by Cold Blood from Lydia [1974]

“Don’t Walk Away” by Toni Childs from Union [1988]

“Ghost Train” by Counting Crows from August And Everything After [1993]

“Mastermind” by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals from This Is Somewhere [2007]

“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” spent three weeks at the top of the pop chart in early 1959, giving the Platters their fourth No.1 hit. Over all, the Los Angeles group had twenty-three records reach the Top 40 between 1955 and 1967.

“Girl From The East” was the B-Side to the Leaves’ “Hey Joe,” which reached No. 31 in the summer of 1966. More interesting in these precincts is the fact that “Girl From The East” was written by my pal Bobby Jameson for the 1965 album, Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest that Bobby recorded under the name of Chris Lucey.

By 1974, Cold Blood was trying to capitalize on its lead singer, Lydia Pense, using her name as the title of one album and then, in 1976, titling its next album Lydia Pense & Cold Blood. The strategy didn’t get the group that many more listeners, but the music was still good, as “Come Back into My Life Again” makes clear.

Toni Childs’ Union was one of my favorite albums of the late 1980s, an idiosyncratic piece of work that I found fascinating. “Don’t Walk Away,” a funky, powerful track, is the album’s opener and was released as a single. Even more than twenty years later, the album has a grip on me.

Adam Duritz’ distinctive voice was by any measurement one of the iconic sounds of the Nineties. I haven’t always liked Counting Crows’ work, but it’s almost always been interesting.

On the other hand, through three CDs, I absolutely love everything that Grace Potter and her band, the Nocturnals, have recorded. The band – with Potter on keyboards – is tight, and Potter sings like. . . well, I don’t have a superlative strong enough at hand right now. Get the CDs and listen.

A Brief Note
I just wanted to say that I’ve had more fun keeping this blog going for these past two years than I could ever have anticipated. I’ve had a chance to share music I love, and – much more importantly – I’ve had a chance to find similarly inclined friends from around the world. Thanks to all of you for reading and for your comments as well as the occasional correction or clarification. I hope you all come along as we head into Year No. Three.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1988

June 1, 2011

Originally posted December 26, 2007

I was out on the prairie in Minot, North Dakota, for not quite two years, from August 1987 to the end of June 1989. That makes 1988 the only full year I spent there, living in the front end of a duplex on a quiet street not all that far from the state university where I taught.

That summer was the warmest year since the Dustbowl and droughts of the 1930s, with temperatures routinely topping the hundred-degree mark. With the university not in session, I moved my computer from my home – which had no air conditioning – to my university office and wrote there. My weekday routine during most of that summer was a good one: Mornings, I’d edit and revise the previous day’s production, and late afternoons and evenings, I’d go back to the office and write new material, working on a novel with a writing partner in Minnesota and another one that was solely my creation. (The first has never been finished, though work resumed on it during this past year; the second was finished in 1989 but has never been published.)

For some reason, the state of North Dakota allowed its university faculty members to take their salaries over the nine months that school was in session or spread out over only eleven months. That second option meant that at the end of the summer, there would be one month with no income, and for those whose budgeting skills were challenged – and here I raise my hand without hesitation – that meant finding another source of income during that last month of summer. Accordingly, I found myself in the office of a temporary staffing firm, being interviewed by a young woman.

She glanced over my application and smiled brightly. “Now,” she said, “tell me about yourself. What specialized training have you had?”

I thought for a moment. I’d been a public relations writer, a reporter, an editor, and I’d taught all those things at one time or another. I’d also taught the history of journalism. As I finished my mental cataloguing, I chuckled. The young woman looked askance at me, the wattage of her smile dimming a little.

“I’m a journalist,” I said. “Beyond that, I have no specialized training.”

She persevered, still smiling. “What do you do well?”

I smiled back. “I read and write very well.”

Her smile dimmed appreciably, and – as it turned out – she had no place for me to work. Now, reporting is more than just reading and writing, of course. Research and analysis, interviewing techniques, the ability to listen carefully and other skills are essential. But reading and writing are the core skills of a good journalist. And I was being honest.

I wound up spending fifteen days late that summer doing telephone sales, calling individuals in Minot who’d expressed an interest one way or another in joining a health club, trying to sell them memberships. I was pretty good at it, but I was relieved when I walked out of that office for the final time, my pocket holding a check large enough to tide me over until I got the first check of the new academic year from the university.

I continued to make the rounds of the flea markets and the garage sales that summer, scavenging LPs wherever I went. I also made plenty of new purchases in stores around Minot and during a quick trip back to St. Cloud in August. It was during that year that music publications like Rolling Stone and others began to publish pieces about the death of the LP in the face of the popularity of the newly marketed CD. I began to find new LPs a little more difficult to find.

As always, the music I did find helped ease my way through the year, providing solace during a year of massive personal and professional challenges, about which nothing more need be said than that they existed.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1988
“Love Me Like a Soldier” by Darden Smith from Darden Smith

“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen from Chimes of Freedom

“Silvio” by Bob Dylan from Down In The Groove

“Trouble in the Fields” by Nanci Griffith from One Fair Summer Evening

“Zimbabwe” by Toni Childs from Union

“I’ll Tell Me Ma” Van Morrison & the Chieftains from Irish Heartbeat

“Never Die Young” by James Taylor, Columbia single 07616

“Eternal Flame” by the Bangles, Columbia single 68533

“To Love Is To Bury” by the Cowboy Junkies from The Trinity Session

“Loving Arms” by Livingston Taylor (with Leah Kunkel), Critique single 2486

“Last Night” by the Traveling Wilburys from The Traveling Wilburys

“Let It Roll” by Little Feat from Let It Roll

“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, Elektra single 96412

A few notes about some of the recordings and artists:

I’ve shared much of Darden Smith’s early work here. “Love Me Like A Soldier” is from his major label debut, which also includes reworkings of three songs from his first album, Native Soil. This track, I think, is one of the better ones from Darden Smith, which found the Austin-born performer getting some help from such luminaries as Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett.

This version of “Born To Run” is the slowed-down acoustic version that Springsteen performed frequently in the 1980s. In a short story around that time, I described the transition over the years between the two versions like this:

He used to end his concerts with ‘Born to Run,’ guitars and drums and saxophone wailing while the road went by and he and the girl on the cycle roared toward whatever tomorrow would bring them because they knew it had to be better or at least no worse than what they had tonight and the roaring of the cycle that the narrator rode got mixed up with the roar of the crowd at the Boss’s feet and the music pounded and thundered with a noisy momentum that carried the E Street Band and its Boss and the audience in the arena toward some wonderful finish, and baby, we were all born to run.

But when he toured a few years later, at the end of the shows, when the audience might have been ready to rock but when Bruce and the guys with him were ready to go home, he’d play it slow. Solo, with only a quiet acoustic guitar. It was almost thoughtful and sad, and the crowd was quiet. And it was right to do it like that: We had what we had, even if it wasn’t what we all dreamed of. And none of us were running anymore.

Bob Dylan’s Down in the Groove is kind of a ramshackle album, pieced together – or so it seems – from bits and pieces that Dylan found himself with after a series of low-key sessions. It’s an amiable album, but it makes no grand statement – nor any statement at all, actually. Still, it’s a fun album, a mix of originals and covers, and “Silvio” is pretty representative.

Toni Childs and Tracy Chapman were two members of a diverse group of young women who came to prominence in the late 1980s, a group that the observing media carelessly lumped together in the category of New Folkies. Among the others so lumped were Suzanne Vega and the Indigo Girls. Sometimes the category fit well – as it did with Chapman and the Indigo Girls – and sometimes it didn’t, as with Childs. She was a singer-songwriter, but her work was more ornate and opaque, with production techniques being laid over her swirling songs in a way that didn’t happen with the others. Union was Child’s first release, and to my ears, the parable of “Zimbabwe” is its centerpiece. Two more albums followed: House of Hope in 1991 and The Women’s Boat in 1994. All are well worth finding. The same holds true for the larger output of Tracy Chapman, of course, which to my ears is more rooted in folk than is Childs’ work. From her first self-titled release – “Fast Car” was the first single – through her most recent release, 2005’s Where You Live, Chapman has been firm in calling for change, both internally in her listeners’ hearts and externally in the world in which she and her listeners live. The narrator of “Fast Car” is hopeful but realistic, a posture that seems more reasonable than most. And it was a great radio single, too!

“Let It Roll” is the title track from the first Little Feat album recorded when the group reconvened following the death of founder Lowell George. Some fans were offended by the band’s regrouping, but the fact was that George’s involvement in the band’s efforts had diminished more and more during the years he struggled with the difficulties that finally took his life. Let It Roll is a pretty good album by a group that decided to go on doing what it did best: make music.

Early Posts Without Much Comment

April 20, 2011

In the first month that Echoes In The Wind was online, I shared albums and a few singles from several performers without much commentary of my own, relying heavily on quotes from other sources. Here is a list of those performers and albums:

Mystics – “Pain” [1969]
Posted January 3, 2007

Bobby Whitlock – Bobby Whitlock [1972]
Posted January 3, 2007

Toni Childs – Union [1988]
Probably posted January 5, 2007

Levon Helm – American Son [1980]
Posted January 5, 2007

Levon Helm – Levon Helm [1978]
Posted January 11, 2007

Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars – Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars [1977]
Posted January 13, 2007

Levon Helm – Levon Helm [1982]
Posted January 16, 2007

Dion – “Daddy Rollin’ (In Your Arms)” [1968]
Posted January 16, 2007

Cate Brothers – Cate Bros [1975]
Posted January 19, 2007