Posts Tagged ‘Townes Van Zandt’

A Baker’s Dozen from 1978, Vol. 3

August 10, 2011

Originally posted September 17, 2008

Wandering around the movie channels at the high end of the cable offerings last night, I watched the last forty minutes or so of National Lampoon’s Animal House as I munched on a late-night snack.

I’ve seen it before, of course, generally in bits and pieces like last night. In fact, I think the only time I saw the movie all in one serving was when it came out in 1978, most likely on a date in St. Cloud before my lady of the time had moved to Monticello. If my memory serves, she wasn’t amused; I was.

To a degree, I still am. Yes, it’s sophomoric and very often in bad taste. Portions of it are still very funny, though, or at least diverting enough to hold my attention while I nibble on a bowl of tortilla chips late at night. And seeing it is a random thing: I don’t check the cable channel to see when it’s going to be aired. But if I run into it while climbing the ladder of stations, I’ll watch it for a few minutes.

A couple of things cross my mind pretty much every time I see a snippet of Animal House these days:

First, the relatively large number of cast members who went became prominent in other films or other endeavors: Tom Hulce (who woumd up playing Mozart in Amadeus), Stephen Furst, Tim Matheson, Karen Allen, Kevin Bacon, Robert Cray (as an uncredited member of Otis Day’s band) and musician Stephen Bishop (as the earnest folksinger whose guitar is broken against the wall). There are others as well, I’m sure, but those are the folks who come to mind this morning.

Then there’s John Belushi. His brilliant, over-the-top performance as John “Bluto” Blutarsky is always tinted by the awareness of his self-destruction less than four years later. And then I mentally shrug as I change the channel or the credits roll.

Here’s some of the music that was around during the year the Tri-Delts amused at least some of us:

A Baker’s Dozen from 1978, Vol. 3
“Thornaby Woods/The Hare In The Corn” by Magenta from Canterbury Moon

“I Can’t Do One More Two Step” by LeRoux from Louisiana’s LeRoux

“Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight” by Emmylou Harris from Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town

“Human Highway” by Neil Young from Comes A Time

“You Don’t Need to Move A Mountain” by Tracy Nelson from Homemade Songs

“Waiting For The Day” by Gerry Rafferty from City To City

“Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione, A&M single 2001

“Is Your Love In Vain” by Bob Dylan from Street Legal

“Cheyenne” by Kingfish from Trident

“Loretta” by Townes Van Zandt from Flyin’ Shoes

“Ouch!” by the Rutles from The Rutles

“Hold The Line” by Toto, Columbia single 10830

“Little Glass of Wine” by Jesse Winchester from A Touch On The Rainy Side

A few notes:

Canterbury Moon was a British folk-rock group very much in the vein of Steeleye Span but much more obscure. With vocal harmonies centered on three female voices, the group’s sound is unique.

LeRoux combined R&B, funk, jazz, rock, and Cajun music into a tasty stew that sold a few records back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Still active, the group had a couple of pretty well-known songs: “New Orleans Ladies,” from Louisiana’s LeRoux, and “Nobody Said It Was Easy (Lookin’ For The Lights),” a single that went to No. 18 in 1982.

I’ve offered three Baker’s Dozens from 1978, and each time, a track from Neil Young’s Comes A Time has popped up. That’s just fine with me: It’s one of my favorite albums.

A while back, the album version of “Feels So Good” popped up during a random selection. Now, here’s Chuck Mangione’s single, which went to No. 4 in early 1978.

Dylan’s “Is Your Love In Vain” kind of plods along, almost as if it’s way too much work to get too involved. A lot of the Street Legal album was like that, loaded down with horns and background singers and never really taking off. And that’s too bad, as some of the songs on the album – “ Is Your Love In Vain” among them – were as good as anything Dylan had written in years. Cryptic, yes, and I think especially of “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power),” but good.

Kingfish was a San Francisco band that originally featured Grateful Dead member Bob Weir. By the time the band recorded Trident, Weir had left, and the band’s sound had become more mainstream, although there are still echoes of the rootsy, countryish folk rock sound that the group’s earlier albums presented.

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A Baker’s Dozen Of ‘Song’

June 20, 2011

Originally published March 31, 2008

I did some record keeping yesterday as I was watching the NCAA basketball tournament.

(My bracket is still looking not too bad: I got three of the Final Four correct – North Carolina, UCLA and Kansas. I missed on only Memphis. From here on, I have Kansas and UCLA winning on Saturday and Kansas taking the title a week from today. The less said about the NCAA Division I hockey tournament, however, the better. Both St. Cloud State and the University of Minnesota were bounced in the first round. Things aren’t much better in Madison, Wisconsin, where my friend JB blogs; the UW Badgers lost a 3-2 overtime decision Sunday to the hated North Dakota Sioux.)

Anyway, as I said, I did some record keeping, and I learned that since I started this blog in January 2007, I have shared 115 albums, and I learned that twenty-one of those records came from 1970, the most from any one year

I didn’t do any work on the number of songs shared through Baker’s Dozens and so on, but that should be easy to estimate: Sixty-six Baker’s Dozens times thirteen equals 858; I’ve done nine Junkyards, but on only seven of those, I think, was every song shared, so call that 110; I’ve shared sixty-three Saturday Singles* and forty or so songs under the Tuesday Cover label. There were a few other songs shared with no label or plan, so let’s add ten to the total. We get 1,081 songs. (I know there were some repeated songs and at least one double Baker’s Dozen in there, but this is an estimate.) That’s a pretty impressive total.

Continuing my number-crunching this morning, I decided to look at the entire collection of mp3s and see which years command most of my attention. I hadn’t done this since, oh, October, but the general shape of the data didn’t change. If I were to put the numbers in a bar graph, the big bars would be from 1967 through 1973. (Is this a surprise? No.)

Here are the numbers of mp3s from those seven years and from the years immediately preceding and following them:

1966: 609
1967: 1029
1968: 1450
1969: 1680
1970: 1936
1971: 1789
1972: 1531
1973: 1092
1974: 724

A final set of numbers may be of interest. Here’s how the mp3s sort out by decade. (I have a total of nineteen mp3s from the years 1900-1919, so we’ll ignore those.)

1920s: 382
1930s: 412
1940s: 275
1950s: 920
1960s: 6552
1970s: 9384
1980s: 2056
1990s: 2763
2000s: 2645

As I was doing this, I was also casting about for a topic for today’s Baker’s Dozen, and I thought I ought to do something with a musical term. I asked the RealPlayer to sort for the word “music,” and it listed every one of the 25,338 mp3s. So I decided to gather a group of songs with the word “song” in the title.

A Baker’s Dozen of “Song”
“Moonchild River Song” by Eric Andersen from Stages: The Lost Album, recorded in 1973, released in 1991

“Never Ending Song of Love” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends from Motel Shot, 1971

“Song of the Sun” by Robin Scott from Woman From The Warm Grass, 1969

“Your Song” by Elton John, Uni single 55265, 1970

“Snake Song” by Townes Van Zandt from Flyin’ Shoes, 1978

“Superman’s Song” by the Crash Test Dummies from Ghosts That Haunt Me, 1991

“Just A Song” by Dave Mason from Alone Together, 1970

“Harvest Song” by Magic Carpet from Magic Carpet, 1971

“Everybody Knows (The River Song)” by O.V. Wright from If It’s Only For Tonight, 1965

“My Song” by the Moody Blues from Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, 1971

“Sing A Song Of Love To Me” by Chris Rea from Auberge, 1991

“Sleep Song” by Graham Nash from Songs for Beginners, 1971

“Don’t Play That Song” by Aretha Franklin from Aretha Live at Fillmore West, 1971

A few notes:

In 1972, Eric Andersen released Blue River, an extraordinary album that put him in position to be among the best of the singer/songwriters of the day, certainly in critical acclaim and possibly – depending on how his next record did – in sales and popularity. That next record, Stages, was nearly complete when the master tapes were lost, along with whatever momentum Andersen’s career had. He regrouped as well as he could, and in 1991, the tapes were found somewhere in Columbia’s storage rooms. Andersen recorded a few new songs and did a little bit of work on the old tapes before releasing Stages: The Lost Album. It’s a great album.

During my European travels, I spent about ten days wandering through northern Scandinavia with an Australian fellow named John. We spent one night in Kemi, a small town in Finland. The next morning, we learned we’d forgotten about a time zone change and had missed the first train back to Sweden. We had a couple hours to kill, so we sat in a café near the railroad station, drinking coffee and listening to the jukebox. At one point, a record came on that sounded familiar, but it took me a moment to place it. I have never heard anything else in my life quite as strange as “Never Ending Song of Love” sung in Finnish.

Robin Scott’s album, Woman From The Warm Grass, was assessed perfectly by All-Music Guide: “Scott’s vocals and songs were earnest and verbose, with the reflective fragile moodiness (and yearning, sometimes florid romanticism) found in many British folk/folk-rock singer/songwriters of the era.” AMG adds, “‘Song of the Sun’ has the poetic wordy gray melancholy very particular to this period of British folk.” Scott’s music isn’t bad, just a little bit of a downer.

I remember hearing on the Minneapolis station Cities 97 that at the time it came out, in 1991, and for maybe a year or so afterward. “Superman’s Song” by the Crash Test Dummies was the station’s most requested song. I’m not sure I get it. On the other hand, it’s a catchy song with a great hook, and I’ve found myself humming it as I finish this post.

You want hippie mysticism, sitar and all? Try Magic Carpet’s “Harvest Song.” The song, brief as it is, wears on one, and in general, the album is listenable only in small portions, mostly as a period piece. I’ve seen two dates for the record, 1971 and 1972, but AMG says the former, so I’ll go with that.

Chris Rea’s Auberge is a gloomy album, and “Sing A Song Of Love To Me” doesn’t change that. But no one does gloomy quite as well as Chris Rea.

*Given that a Saturday Single post would occasionally be deleted by the bloghost, the numbering of the Saturday Singles posts was at times out of sequence. At the time this post was originally written, I had shared – based on the archives thus far posted – sixty-four Saturday Singles. Note added June 20, 2011.

Another Walk Through The Junkyard

June 4, 2011

Originally posted January 18, 2008

I’m not feeling particularly well this morning (it will pass), and I am behind on household chores, so I’m not really going to write anything. But I thought I’d take a fifteen-song walk through the junkyard (pre-2000) and see what we find. I’ll sort the songs by running time, and then start with the best song I see at about the midpoint of the collection, and we’ll go random from there.

“I’m Ready” by Muddy Waters from Fathers & Sons, 1969

“I’ll Follow The Sun” by the Beatles from Beatles For Sale, 1964

“Not My Way Home” by Nanci Griffith from The Dust Bowl Symphony, 1999

“I’m Her Daddy” by Bill Withers from Just As I Am, 1971

“Feels Like” by Al Stewart from Famous Last Words, 1993

“Little Girl” by Billy Preston from Encouraging Words, 1970

“Quiet About It” by Jesse Winchester from Jesse Winchester, 1970

“The Woo Woo Train” by the Valentines, Rama single 196, 1956

“The Spa” by John Barry from the soundtrack to Thunderball, 1965

“Funky Broadway” by Wilson Pickett, Atlantic single 2430, 1967

“Angel of the Morning” by Merrilee Rush & the Turnabouts, Bell single 705, 1968

“High, Low and In Between” by Townes Van Zandt from High, Low and In Between, 1972

“If (I Could Be With You)” by Lavelle White, Duke single 198, 1958

“I’ll Be Satisfied” by Don Covay from Mercy!, 1965

“The River” by Dan Fogelberg from Home Free, 1972

A few notes:

Fathers & Sons was a Chess Records project that brought together Muddy Waters and piano player Otis Spann with three members of the Butterfield Blues Band: leader Paul Butterfield, guitarist Mike Bloomfield and drummer Sam Lay. Also sitting was Duck Dunn of Booker T and the MGs, while drummer Buddy Miles played on one of the live tracks that made up the final album. Such mergings of talent and generations don’t always work out, of course, which makes Fathers & Sons that much more of a treasure. It’s one of the great albums of Waters’ long career, and a milestone for the other musicians, as well.

“I’ll Follow the Sun” is listed here as being from Beatles For Sale, and that is where it’s found these days in the CD racks. But I’ll always hear it as part of Beatles ’65, one of those albums that Capitol created during the group’s early years by trimming a few songs off a British release and adding some singles that weren’t on albums in the U.K.

The Dust Bowl Symphony was Nanci Griffith’s attempt to recast some of her more memorable songs as a suite, with backing from the London Symphony Orchestra. It doesn’t always work, and most of the songs on the album are likely better heard in their original settings. (“Not My Way Home” was originally released on 1997’s Blues Roses From the Moons.) One track that works, and is worth seeking out, is “Love at the Five and Dime,” which Griffith recast as a duet with Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish.

The Valentines were one of those groups that sprang up on street corners all through New York City during the mid-1950s. According to Marv Goldberg’s R&B Notebooks, “The Woo Woo Train” was composed and arranged by the group in the recording studio’s men’s room the morning of the recording session. I think it’s a great track; I especially love the raucous sax solo.

Come June 1, it will be forty years since “Angel of the Morning” entered the Top 40. It’s still a gorgeous song – written by Chip Taylor – and a great record, and it’s certainly one of the most enduring of all one-hit wonders.

The bluesy R&B grit of “If (I Could Be With You)” is, to my mind, of a kind with most of the recordings coming from Texas-based Duke records in the late 1950s. (The label was also the home of legend Bobby “Blue” Bland.) Lavelle got her first success with the self-penned “If,” which she recorded while she was in her late 20s, if the date of 1958 is accurate (and it seems to be). White is still recording, and since 1994, has released three albums, two of them on the Antone’s label. The most recent of those is 2003’s Into the Mystic.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1978

April 20, 2011

Originally posted May 16, 2007

After I settled on the Moody Blues’ ballad “Driftwood” to kick off this week’s Baker’s Dozen, I was thinking in about four different directions.

I was pondering 1978, which is the year from which this week’s songs come. I thought about the first time I heard the Moody Blues. I thought about belonging to various music clubs over the years, as I believe that’s how I got Octave, the album from which “Driftwood” comes. And I was wondering how many songs in the major rock canon feature French horn.

I’m pretty sure I heard the Moody Blues for the first time at Rick and Rob’s along about 1970, after Rob borrowed a copy of Question of Balance from a friend. I’ve belonged to music clubs about six times over the years and currently subscribe to Yourmusic.com, which is the best – for value provided – service of that type I’ve ever belonged to, if you can do without the absolute latest up-to-the-minute hits. (That’s an utterly unsolicited testimonial, of course.) And I thought instantly of two other songs that, like “Driftwood,” feature a French horn prominently: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles’ “For No One.” (Anybody have any others?)

But what struck me was pondering 1978. I’ve got a pretty good memory, and many of the things I remember, I recall vividly. And there’s not much about 1978 that stands out. All right, I got married, a union that was later dissolved, and I haven’t forgotten that. But beyond that – and those who have lived through the slow death of a union that was expected to be permanent will understand the ambiguity with which I recall that event – it was a quiet year, at least in my memory.

The interesting thing about that is that it was my first full calendar year in the so-called adult world. I left St. Cloud in December of 1977 for my first newspapering job, in the small town of Monticello about thirty miles away. After some growing pains, I settled into the routine of a weekly newspaper, a routine I stayed with for almost six years. I enjoyed my work there, and did well with it, and I liked living in a small town (about 3,000 people at the time), for the most part.

But it was a quiet time in my life, not as unsettled as the college years that preceded it, nor, come to think of it, as vibrant as the years in graduate school that followed it. And as I gathered this Baker’s Dozen, I pondered the ancient Chinese curse (or so I have been told it is): May you live in interesting times.

Consider that, along with trying to think of songs with French horn in them.

“Driftwood” by the Moody Blues from Octave

“Doubleback Alley” by the Rutles from The Rutles

“Easy From Now On” by Emmylou Harris from Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town

“Before My Heart Finds Out” by Gene Cotton, Ariola single 7675

“Field Of Opportunity” by Neil Young from Comes A Time

“Twins Theme” by Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg from Twin Sons Of Different Mothers

“Let’s All Chant” by Michael Zager Band, Private Stock single 45184

“Miss You” by the Rolling Stones from Some Girls

“Who Are You” by the Who from Who Are You

“’Till You Come Back” by Craig Fuller & Eric Kaz from Craig Fuller & Eric Kaz

“Song On The Radio” by Al Stewart from Time Passages

“Who Do You Love” by Townes Van Zandt from Flyin’ Shoes

“Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’” by Kenny Loggins, Columbia single 10794

A few notes on the songs:

“Doubleback Alley” by the Rutles is, of course, part of one of the great musical spoofs of the rock era. The record The Rutles is the soundtrack to a mock documentary satirizing the rise and fall of the Beatles, of course, done by a troupe that included members of the Monty Python group. The film was at time hilarious, but the music was dead-on, matching the sounds of the Beatles through the years. (The same was true of Archaeology, released at the time Apple released the three mammoth Beatles anthologies.)

“Field Of Opportunity” is from Comes A Time, Neil Young’s return to the countrified roots that he first presented on Harvest in 1972 and would return to from time to time. The record was a major success for Young, but I’ve always gotten the feeling that he was a little bored with it once he released it. I recall reading a comment from him to the effect that he could have stayed in the middle of the road for his career but that the view from the ditch was more interesting.

“Let’s All Chant” by the Michael Zager Band is one of those things that come up in anybody’s player from time to time, I imagine. You know, a song that brings the reaction “Where the hell did I find that and why did I keep it?” Zager’s only Top 40 hit, was featured in the Faye Dunaway film The Eyes of Laura Mars and reached No. 36. I’m still debating whether it stays, although it did turn out to be kind of catchy.

I think, without checking, that this is the first appearance of the Rolling Stones in a Baker’s Dozen, which is interesting, as almost all of their work from, say 1966 through the Seventies is in my RealPlayer. And I think this list has the first appearance by the Who, as well.

The late Townes Van Zandt, despite being little known by the general public, was one of the greatest country and folk writers and performers of his generation, from the start of his career in the mid-1960s up to his death in 1997. Flyin’ Shoes, which included his take on Bo Diddley’s classic, “Who Do You Love,” has just been remastered and re-released.

The female vocal on “Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’” is by Stevie Nicks.