Posts Tagged ‘Tower of Power’

A ‘What If . . . ?’ From 1975

June 20, 2012

Originally posted May 13, 2009

I won’t spend much time here today: I’m worn out. And I have things to get done and an appointment this afternoon.

But I had one more thought to share in connection with Monday evening’s Springsteen show. As we were driving home, while Monday turned into Tuesday, the Texas Gal and I were reviewing our favorite parts of the show.

I’ve mentioned in this space at least once that I came late to all things Springsteen. I was aware of him in 1975, when Born To Run garnered an incredible amount of publicity and attention, but I didn’t really dig into his work until Tunnel of Love came out in 1987.

And the thought occurred to me as we rode through the Central Minnesota darkness: If I had bought Born To Run when it came out, as I was tempted to do, my life would have been much richer. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it was an interesting idea to chew on as we drove through the dark toward home.

And here’s a generally random selection from 1975, the year I didn’t buy Born To Run.

A Six-Pack From 1975
“Song For The Fire Maiden” by Hot Tuna from Yellow Fever
“Don’t It Feel Like Heaven” by Brewer & Shipley from Welcome to Riddle Bridge
“Big Mac” by the Staple Singers from Let’s Do It Again
“Midnight Flyer” by Three Dog Night from Coming Down Your Way
“(To Say The Least) You’re The Most” by Tower of Power from Urban Renewal
“Primavera” by El Chicano from The Best of Everything

Hot Tuna began in 1969 as an offshoot of Jefferson Airplane, a place for Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassady to explore their acoustic and blues inclinations. But by the time of Yellow Fever, acoustic blues were a small portion of the group’s work. “Song For The Fire Maiden” is a relatively soulless piece of mid-Seventies boogie and not the best place to go looking for the original spirit of Hot Tuna.

By 1975, Brewer & Shipley were polishing the country-rock hybrid they’d been exploring for more than five years, the same inclinations that brought them a hit in 1970 with “One Toke Over The Line,” a No. 10 hit that’s often dismissed – inaccurately – as a novelty record. “Don’t It Feel Like Heaven” is a sweet tune, and the album it comes from, Welcome to Riddle Bridge, is pretty nice, as well.

Let’s Do It Again was a Curtis Mayfield-penned soundtrack that the Staples Singers took on. It brought them their last hit in the title tune (No. 1 for one week) and an album that’s a good audio postcard from the time when funk/R&B was still a vital genre, even though alert listeners could hear the beginnings of its mutation into disco.

“Midnight Flyer” is a pleasant if inconsequential album track from a group that was finding itself irrelevant. From 1969 into 1975, Three Dog Night had been a hit machine, putting twenty-one records into the Top 40, eleven of them in the Top Ten. The last of those, “’Til The World Ends,” had come from Coming Down Your Way, but had gone no higher than No. 32. And while the group’s first nine albums had all made the Top 40, Coming Down Your Way was the second Three Dog Night album in two years to fall short.

Urban Renewal might be the best album that Tower of Power ever put together (although I imagine some folks might put their money on Back to Oakland). And “(To Say The Least) You’re The Most” shows off singer Lenny Williams and one of the tightest and funkiest horn sections to ever record a tune. Just nice stuff.

By 1975, El Chicano was another group that was past its peak, and The Best of Everything (not a hits album despite the title) was a little limp. Still, “Primavera” is a nice tune with a little bit of that Latin tinge that made El Chicano memorable.

The Price Of Procrastination

June 1, 2012

Originally posted April 15, 2009

I’m one of those folks with a tendency to put off unpleasant tasks. That means that, in the years prior to the Texas Gal’s arrival, April 15 would find me scrambling about to file my tax returns.

I’d generally prepare my returns the evening before, having delayed as long as I could. And the day of the 15th would find me spending my breaks and my lunch hour making photocopies of my returns and forms and getting all of those into the appropriate envelopes. And then I’d drop the envelopes off at the nearest post office on my way home from work.

I imagine that with some effort, I could have been a lot more organized and life would have been a lot less stressful during the middle of April. I tried, year after year. But I never seemed to be able to pull it together. I’d get my forms and everything assembled in January and let the papers sit in a pile on my desk at home until I could put the tasks off no longer.

The Texas Gal, thankfully, has a different approach, and that, of course, has changed things for me. We generally pull our tax information together during the first week of January each year, and I would guess that since 2002, we’ve filed our returns no later than January 7. As a result, I no longer dread the approach of April 15. And as I watch the folks on the news reports line up at the post office late this evening, I will know that there, but for the Texas Gal, would wait I.

A Six-Pack for April 15
“Before It’s Too Late” by Joe South from Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home? [1969]
“Let the Dollar Circulate” by Billy Paul from When Love Is New [1975]
“Pay To The Piper” by the Chairmen of the Board, Invictus 9081 [1970]
“Taxed To The Max” by Tower of Power from Souled Out [1995]
“Poor Man’s Plea” by Buddy Guy & Junior Wells from Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play The Blues [1972]
“Taxman” by Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings from Songs From The Material World: A Tribute To George Harrison [2002]

Some of these have no connection with the travails of the day except for their titles. The Joe South tune, for example, is one of those “Let’s get together” anthems that were prevalent in the late 1960s, and it happens to sound pretty good, even if its lyrics are a bit simple. The Buddy Guy/Junior Wells tune is a great piece of honking blues, and the Tower of Power track is – typically – a hot piece of horn-heavy R&B.

I’m not sure how I came across the Billy Paul tune. I must have found a rip of When Love Is New and then deleted most of it, because this the only track I have from the album. And from what I can tell, the track wasn’t released as a single at the time. One source I consulted showed that the Paul track was released on a single with a track by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, but I think that was a later release. (If anyone knows differently, let me know, please.)

“Pay To The Piper” was, however, released as a single, and went to No. 13 around the time 1970 turned into 1971.

I wondered if I should post the original “Taxman” from Revolver, but I decided that it’s so well known – and so available – that there was no point. The Bill Wyman version is pretty good.

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.

‘If I Was You, I’d Harvest . . .’

July 13, 2011

Originally posted June 89, 2008

I got some good advice from my grandfather at least once.

I was twenty, and I’d recently returned from my time in Denmark. While I’d been gone, I’d grown my first beard and mustache, kind of by default. I’d been packing my backpack for a trip during a December quarter break, and I decided that I could save a little room by not packing my razor – a Schick injector, if I remember correctly – and the other things needed to shave. So I headed off into Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, looking scruffier by the day, at least until the growth progressed enough to be considered a beard and mustache.

As I said, I was twenty, and the resulting foliage wasn’t lush. The mustache was okay, but the beard stayed pretty much confined to my jaw line; my cheeks were barren. But it was a lot easier not having to shave every day, especially during those times when I was wandering, living out of a backpack.

I came home in May, and a few days afterward (just days before I entered the hospital, which I wrote about the other day), I saw my grandparents – my mom’s folks – for the first time in almost nine months. My grandfather was eighty-two and had been a farmer all his life. He came up to me, looked closely at the growth on my face. He tugged at it lightly.

Then he nodded and said, “If I was you, I’d harvest this crop, fertilize and hope for better next year.”

It was another year and a half before I took his advice. I shaved off that first beard in December 1975, when I was interning in the sports department of a Twin Cities television station; I thought that being clean-shaven might increase the chances of getting some airtime and perhaps even getting a job. I kept the mustache, though.

And for the next twelve years or so, the beard came and went. I grew one a few years into my time at the Monticello newspaper and shaved it off one hot July day a couple years later. I let it grow out again during graduate school in Missouri and shaved it off about the time I moved back to Minnesota. And when I was teaching in Minot, I quit shaving during the 1987 Thanksgiving break, and that beard has stayed with me for more than twenty years now. And throughout all that, the mustache has stayed; my upper lip last felt a razor on December 5, 1973.

One of the things that means, of course, is that the Texas Gal – whom I met in 2000 – has never seen me clean-shaven. She occasionally suggests that she’d like to. I think about it, and I might shave for her someday. But as I’m not at all interested in shaving every day ever again, so I’d only grow it back right away. And the mustache would stay, no matter what.

The beard did fill in during my twenties, covering my cheeks quite nicely. But it’s no longer brown. I could call it “salt and pepper,” but only if I were willing to admit that whoever seasoned it used a lot more salt than pepper. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty good beard. I think Grandpa would be proud of the crop.

Here’s a Baker’s Dozen from 1975. We’ll start with the record that was No. 1 the week I first took my grandfather’s advice.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1975, Vol. 3
“Let’s Do It Again” by the Staple Singers, Curtom single 0109

“I Dreamed Last Night” by Justin Hayward & John Lodge from Blue Jays

“Arkansas Line” by Elvin Bishop, Capricorn single 0237

“As Surely As I Stand Here” by Tower of Power from In The Slot

“Naked in the Rain” by David Crosby & Graham Nash from Wind On The Water

“All About Love” by Earth, Wind & Fire from That’s The Way Of The World

“Pick Up The Pieces” by Doris Duke from Woman

“Livin’ For The Weekend” by the O’Jays from Family Reunion

“End of the Line” by Roxy Music from Siren

“Love Is Alive” by Gary Wright, Warner Brothers single 8143

“Lonelier Are Fools” by the Three Degrees from With Love

“It Makes No Difference” by The Band from Northern Lights – Southern Cross

“Fight the Power” by the Isley Brothers, T-Neck single 2256

A few notes:

“Let’s Do It Again” was the title song from a soundtrack written by Curtis Mayfield. After the success of Superfly in 1971, Mayfield composed a series of soundtracks that were generally pretty good, most of them much better than the films they backed. Let’s Do It Again, which I’ve never seen, starred Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, John Amos, Ossie Davis and Jimmie Walker. Oh, and that odd noise at the start of the song? It’s supposed to be that way. I pulled out the vinyl this morning and checked.

Blue Jays was one of several projects by members of the Moody Blues that surfaced in the mid-1970s. The group took a break after 1972’s Seventh Sojourn that lasted until 1978 and the release of Octave. Other albums came from Ray Thomas, the Graeme Edge Band and Mike Pinder. (There may be some I’m forgetting.) Of the various projects, I think Blue Jays turned out the best.

Doris Duke, a deep soul singer who’d been recording since the mid-1960s, released Woman on the Scepter label in the U.S. after it had been released on Contempo in Britain. While not up the quality of her 1969 album, I’m A Loser (recorded at Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia, and released on the soon-to-fail Canyon label), Woman, according to Jason Ankeny of All-Music Guide, is a “much-acclaimed set.” His fellow AMG reviewer, Andrew Hamilton says, however, “If you play this LP once, there’s no need to play it again; you didn’t miss anything the first time, and it doesn’t get any better the second time around.” Who’s right? I lean toward Ankeny’s assessment; it’s a pretty good record.

If I’m in the right mood, I generally enjoy hearing Roxy Music’s work, at least one track at a time. If I listen to entire albums – with the exception of 1982’s Avalon – the group’s music sounds cold and fussy. Siren seems less that way than the rest of the group’s 1970s output, I guess. But it still feels as if I’m listening to the group through a closed window, a barrier that the musicians aren’t the least bit interested in getting past.

“It Makes No Difference” was one of the last great songs The Band recorded during its original incarnation – “Acadian Driftwood,” also on Northern Lights – Southern Cross, is one as well – and one of the last great songs that Robbie Robertson wrote (nothing in his solo career has come close to the songs he wrote for The Band). One of The Band’s strengths was the ability to match a song with the appropriate voice, and here, Rick Danko’s yearning tenor – echoed by Garth Hudson’s soprano saxophone solo – fits perfectly. This track can melt your heart.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1973, Vol. 3

June 11, 2011

Originally posted February 13, 2008

The first time I saw Billy Preston, he performed in an open-air concert at Selke Field on St. Cloud’s East Side. Selke’s stone walls date from the 1930s and enclose an entire city block. Until not too many years ago, about a third of the space was used for a football field and a surrounding running track. The rest of the area was open space for whatever uses the university might have.

And on a Saturday afternoon in May 1973, its use was as a home for the day for the legendary keyboard player and singer. I recall that my parents had no problem with my going to the concert – I was nineteen. I’m sure, however, that they had some concerns about my companion for the day. Let’s call her Sunny. She was twenty-six, divorced with two kids, in fragile recovery from an addition to at least one illegal substance, and was paying her way through college and feeding her children by dancing in a strip joint.

I’d met Sunny at The Table at school, and I have to give my folks credit: Mom and Dad never really said anything as I spent a few months seeing Sunny at school and then spending a fair amount of time at her apartment during evenings and weekends. My memory tells me that Sunny might even have come over to our home for dinner at least once, an encounter that would have shown my parents that she was actually pretty self-effacing, quiet with a sweet smile and a nice laugh and not at all the rough woman that they might have feared meeting, given only a description.

But I could tell all through the spring that my folks had their concerns, and looking back, that was reasonable. Between Sunny and me lay vast gaps in age and experience, gaps that scared me a little bit, to be honest, as I spent time with her and got closer to her during the spring and early summer.

We never were lovers. I would have happily accepted that role had it been offered, but I didn’t push for it. During the time that we spent hanging around her home or various drinking establishments, there were a few other men who came and went. Several times when I left Sunny’s home in the evening, there were men there who clearly would not be leaving until morning. Did that bother me? Yes, but given my utter inexperience in that aspect of life, it also brought me a sense of quiet relief. I never pushed for more.

I was happy spending time with her and her friends – they were a wide-ranging and fascinating group of people – and also spending time with her kids. I’ll call them Luke and Bethy, and they were eight and six, respectively. We went on picnics, played mini-golf once, I think, and the four of us – augmented more than once by one or more of Sunny’s lady friends and very rarely by one of the men she knew – would go shopping, ending the outing with a stop at a burger joint.

She was good to her kids, tried to be a good mom, from what I knew about the mom biz when I was nineteen, and she seemed – looking back – to be doing well at walking the slender bridge of recovery. I only recall one time when I truly questioned her judgment: In May, the four of us drove to St. Paul with tickets to see the Doobie Brothers. Along the way, we picked up a man she knew, a stop I’d not been told about, but that was okay. At the show, however, Sunny and her guy went dancing in the open space in front of the stage, leaving her two children sitting in the front row, scared and overwhelmed by the crowd and the spectacle and the sounds booming from the ten-foot-tall speaker not all that far away. For most of the concert, I sat between the kids, an arm around each one, very angry.

The academic year ended, and I stayed on campus for the summer, working half-time as a janitor and half-time for Learning Resources. I saw Sunny a few times early in the summer, as I got ready for my time in Denmark. Later, in August of 1973, she was one of those who arranged a surprise going-away party for me at the Grand Mantel, our favorite place for drinks. She sent me off with a kiss.

The night I got home from Denmark, in late May, 1974, I went down to the Grand Mantel to meet Sam, who’d left a note on my car to that effect a day or two earlier. He couldn’t make it that evening, it turned out, but I called him and we arranged to meet the next day on campus. While we were talking, I asked him quickly about some of our mutual friends. All seemed fine until I asked, “And Sunny – how’s she doing?”

There was a silence. “That,” said Sam, “is a sad situation.” He paused before telling me more. She’d gone back to drugs and dropped out of school. He thought the county had taken the kids away from her. And he wasn’t sure, but he didn’t think she was in St. Cloud anymore.

One of the next few days, I drove past the apartment where Sunny and her kids had lived when I left town. It was empty. I never saw her again.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1973, Vol. 3

We’ll start with a song that Sunny and I danced to during that May 1973 concert, and then go on to a song that often makes me think of her. And we’ll go random from there.

“Will It Go Round In Circles” by Billy Preston, A&M single 1411

“Too Late For Prayin’” by Gordon Lightfoot from Sundown

“I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man)” by Hall & Oates from Abandoned Luncheonette

“Mind Games” by John Lennon, Apple single 1868

“Page 43” by Graham Nash & David Crosby from Graham Nash/David Crosby

“The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd from Dark Side of the Moon

“Tumbling Dice” by the Rolling Stones, Brussels, Belgium, October 17

“Final Theme” by Bob Dylan from Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

“Clever Girl” by Tower of Power from Tower of Power

“You Got To Reap Just What You Sow” by Joy of Cooking from Same Old Song And Dance (unreleased)

“Let It Ride” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Mercury single 73457

“If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” by the Staple Singers from Be What You Are

“Together” by El Chicano from El Chicano

A few notes:

The Hall & Oates tune is one of the great tracks from an album that I think gets ignored when talk turns to great records. The album was released in 1973, and “She’s Gone” went out as a single for the first time in 1974, but neither the album nor the single went anywhere until 1976, when they both reached the charts. But both the album and the single soon became afterthoughts to the duo’s more current work at the time. “She’s Gone” survives in the Oldies rotation, but Abandoned Luncheonette deserves a better fate than it got.

The year of 1973 falls smack-dab in the middle of John Lennon’s so-called “Lost Weekend.” His albums might have been fuzzily thought out at the time – Mind Games especially has always seemed erratic – but he could still find great singles inside himself. And the title track to that erratic album was one of them.

Among the various combination of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young, the duo of Crosby and Nash produced some of the best music. Graham Nash/David Crosby was the best of the albums the duo recorded, and “Page 43,” Crosby’s brief and sweet exploration of the purpose of life, is the best track on the album: “ . . . and you should have a sip of it, else you’ll find . . . it’s passed you by.”

It’s difficult to pull individual track from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon without pulling the music entirely out of context. “Money,” which opened Side Two of the original vinyl, worked. “Time” from Side One, and “Us and Them,” from Side Two, worked a little less well. But “The Great Gig In The Sky,” which closed Side One, somehow manages here to stand on its own. If I have my Pink Floyd lore correct, Clare Torry provides the swooping vocals.

I don’t often offer soundboard recordings/bootlegs here. The Muddy Waters recording with the Rolling Stones the other day was an exception. So, too, is the Rolling Stones’ version of “Tumbling Dice” today. Supposedly recorded for a live album, the Brussels show gives a good look at the Stones when they were truly “The Greatest Rock & Roll Band In The World,” and to me, it’s a reminder of how they sounded when I saw them in Denmark thirteen days before they played this show in Brussels.

Of the final four groups in today’s list, the only one you seem have a chance of hearing on Oldies radio is Bachman-Turner Overdrive and its seven Top 40 hits, and that’s too bad. Joy of Cooking, as readers know, is one of my favorite forgotten groups of those years when the Sixties blended into the Seventies, but the group never hit the Top 40. The Staples Singers had eight Top 40 hits between 1971 and 1975, including two No. 1 songs (“I’ll Take You There” in 1972 and “Let’s Do It Again” in 1975), but I don’t recall the last time I heard them on any of the Oldies stations I listen to. The same holds true for El Chicano, which wasn’t nearly as successful reaching the charts as BTO or the Staples but still did have two Top 40 hits, including the sweet “Tell Her She’s Lovely” (No. 40 for one week!) in 1973.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1974

April 18, 2011

Originally posted May 7, 2007

Well, we’re back from a long road trip, some 3,200 miles from Minnesota to Texas and back (with a side trip into the Ozarks along the way home).

The Texas Gal and I both love to travel, but it can get exhausting. For health reasons, I have to supply my own towels and bedding when I travel, so we have to carry more luggage than most folks would. And we’re both in our fifties and are slowing down just a little, so it takes a little longer to settle down for the nights and to pack up in the mornings than it used to. We got home exhausted on Saturday and spent most of Sunday doing laundry and putting things away.

But it was a good trip, and the Texas Gal is a good traveling partner. Our senses of humor are pretty congruent, so we find the same things funny. On the way to Texas, we took an ill-advised alternate route that likely added a hundred miles to our trek to Garland, the suburb outside Dallas where the Texas Gal’s family lives. That lengthened the second day of the trip, which was an annoyance, but it also brought us through Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

As we headed south on the town’s main drag, I glanced to the side and saw the marvelously named breakfast place: “Wonder Waffles.” We were laughing about that as I jotted it into our travel journal, and we passed the “Bel-Air Motel,” which looked like it hadn’t been upgraded since, oh, 1972. We wondered who would go to meet whom at the Bel-Air?

And then a car zipped by on our right with the vanity plate KIMMISU. We puzzled over it for a moment. Kimm is u? We shook our heads. Then the Texas Gal said “Kimmi Su! It’s her name!”

We never got a look at her. She stayed a car length or two ahead of us for a mile or so, and then turned off into a Wal-Mart parking lot. But we created Kimmi Su’s story as we followed.

We could see her in our minds: short, lithe and blonde, heading across town after a long syrupy shift at Wonder Waffles. Maybe there’s a husband, maybe there’s a boyfriend, but neither of them is the fellow she’s planning to meet at the Bel-Air Motel. His name is Billy Joe or Jimmy Bob or something that sounds just right for Okmulgee, Oklahoma. He has plans to leave town, and she needs to persuade him to take her with. And as she turns off the highway, Kimmi Su sighs and shakes her head, wishing for about the hundredth time that Okmulgee had a Victoria’s Secret instead of a Wal-Mart to make easier her task of persuading Billy Joe/Jimmy Bob to take her with him when he goes.

I swear there’s a country song in there.

There’s no country song in today’s Baker’s Dozen, but the first song could easily be one that Kimmi Su and Billy Joe/Jimmy Bob sing to each other during their good times. It’s also the one that Kimmi Su would no doubt hum quietly on rare occasions after Billy Joe/Jimmy Bob is gone, with a distant look and just the hint of a tear and a smile at the same time.

“A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Every Day)” by Nilsson & Cher, Warner-Spector single 0402

“Midnight At The Oasis” by Maria Muldaur from Maria Muldaur

“Light Shine” by Jesse Colin Young from Light Shine

“Boogie On, Reggae Woman” by Stevie Wonder from Fulfillingness’ First Finale

“(It’s All Da-Da-Down To) Goodnight Vienna” by Ringo Starr from Goodnight Vienna

“I’ve Been Searching” by O. V. Wright, Back Beat single 631

“Don’t Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream)” by Tower of Power from Back to Oakland

“East St. Louis Toodle-oo” by Steely Dan from Pretzel Logic

“Please Be With Me” by Eric Clapton from 461 Ocean Boulevard

“Bad Loser” by Fleetwood Mac from Heroes Are Hard To Find

“Song For All Seasons” by Just Others from Amalgam

“What Comes Around (Goes Around)” by Dr. John from Desitively Bonnaroo

“Rock & Roll Heaven” by the Righteous Brothers, Haven single 7002

A few notes about today’s Baker’s Dozen:

The first song was a happy surprise to me when I came across it a month or so ago. Despite his perpetual weirdness, Spector’s genius produced classic record after classic record. But I was unaware of this collaboration between Nilsson and Cher, never having seen it on a compilation. The Back to Mono box set has Ike and Tina Turner performing the same song. But Nilsson and Cher do the song justice, too.

“Light Shine” from Jesse Colin Young is a delicious piece of California sugar. Young, the founder of the Youngbloods, seemed to view life in the mid- to late-1970s from a groovy hilltop just outside San Francisco (or maybe from a hot tub in Marin County), and his albums became a little repetitious. But taken piece by piece, his salutes to post-hippie bliss are quite enjoyable, and this may be the best of them.

The source of O.V. Wright’s “I’ve Been Searching” is clear from the first note: the studios of Hi Records in Memphis. With the same sweaty groove and popping horns as the best work of Al Green, the listener hears Willie Mitchell’s fingerprints all over this song. And if Wright never became as famous as his label-mate, well, that won’t keep us from hearing the pain in Wright’s tale and feeling the groove as he and the choir mourn his isolation.

“Please Be With Me,” off Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard is a sweet tune, nicely done with a backing vocal by Yvonne Elliman. It’s more notable, I think, for its source: A group called Cowboy recorded the song – its composer, Scott Boyer, was a member of Cowboy – in August 1971 at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios with Duane Allman playing dobro.

Just Others’ album, Amalgam, was a delightful piece of British folk that had a very limited release in 1974. From what I’ve read, it’s possible that only one copy of the original 250 has ever turned up, but one was enough to be a source for a limited CD release.  It’s a fascinating story and a lovely piece of work.

As always, bit rates will vary. Enjoy!

(I’ve inverted my normal week’s postings by putting the Baker’s Dozen at the start of the week. Being just back from vacation, I didn’t have an album ripped for today and have too many post-vacation tasks on my agenda today. I hope to have a newly ripped album for Wednesday.)