‘Quick Stop, Good Day . . .’

April 27th, 2016

So as we resume our somewhat dormant project of finding covers for the ten tracks on Joe Cocker’s 1969 album Joe Cocker!, we find ourselves considering the final track on what was Side One of the album, “Hitchcock Railway,” which also happens to be my favorite track on the record (and almost certainly my favorite Joe Cocker track of all time, a status cemented, no doubt, by the rollicking version I recall from seeing Cocker perform in 1972).

The song came from the duo of Don Dunn and Tony McCashen, who released a couple of albums as the Sixties became the Seventies and had a minor hit with “Alright In The City,” which went to No. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1970. They’d put out a single of “Hitchcock Railway” in 1969, but it did not chart.

They weren’t the first to record the song, though. In 1968, José Feliciano had released a single version of the tune that had gone to No. 77. That’s the only time a recording of the tune has charted.

And there aren’t a lot of versions of the song out there. Second Hand Songs lists six. Along with three already mentioned, the website mentions versions by an Irish group called Anno Domini, Latin bandleader Mongo Santamaria and bluegrass singer Claire Lynch. There are at least a few more: I have a 1972 studio version by a band from Ohio called Clockwork and a live cut from Cleveland’s Agora arena, also from 1972 with the same arrangement, credited, however, to a band called Change. (I’m assuming that the band took a new name.)

And at Amazon, there are a few versions I have not heard by groups I’m unfamiliar with: The Hegg Brothers, Sweet Wine, and Chris & Mike.

I like all the versions I have, to various degree, but to be honest, only the Joe Cocker version grabs hold of me by the ear and shakes me around the room. So to find a cover that works with our slowly moving project, we’re heading to bluegrass territory. Lynch has been performing and recording since the 1970s, first as a member of the Front Porch String Band, and then on her own. She formed the Claire Lynch Band in 2005. Her take on “Hitchcock Railway” was on her 1997 album Silver and Gold.

Saturday Single No. 493

April 23rd, 2016

Wandering about the wilderness this morning in search of inspiration, I made my way to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, often a good place to find a nugget that points the way to a vein to be mined.

And I found something. It’s not the mother lode, but it’s something, and it leads the way to a group with a couple of Top 40 hits that has nevertheless managed to remain unmentioned during the nine-plus years I’ve been throwing stuff at the walls in this space.

I decided to scan the lengthy list of weekly surveys issued by the Twin Cities’ WDGY over the years. As I’ve noted before, KDWB was the Cities’ station where I got my fix. The only time I ever heard WDGY was when I wandered by the station’s booth during my youthful trips to the Minnesota State Fair, as we couldn’t hear the station in St. Cloud. The differences between the two stations’ playlists, as I’ve learned from other excursions to ARSA, are generally negligible, but it’s fun to have a doughnut from a different bakery once in a while.

So I scanned the list of WDGY’s survey dates and No. 1 records for early 1964, and saw what would be called an anomaly:

1964-02-01 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-08 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-15 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-15 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-02-22 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-22 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-02-29 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-29 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-03-07 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-03-07 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-03-14 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-03-14 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-03-21 Beatles / She Loves You
1964-03-28 Beatles / Twist And Shout
1964-04-04 Beatles / Twist And Shout
1964-04-11 Serendipity Singers / Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)
1964-04-18 Beatles / Can’t Buy Me Love
1964-04-25 Beatles / Can’t Buy Me Love
1964-05-02 Beatles / Can’t Buy Me Love
1964-05-09 Beatles / P.S. I Love You
1964-05-09 Beatles / Love Me Do
1964-05-16 Beatles / Love Me Do
1964-05-16 Beatles / P.S. I Love You
1964-05-23 Beatles / Love Me Do
1964-05-23 Beatles / P.S. I Love You

The fact that the Beatles dominated the top spot in WDGY’s survey at the time is not remarkable; that was happening all over the country. The fact that a record came along and broke the chain is not remarkable, either. That was bound to happen.

But the Serendipity Singers? Described by Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles as a “pop-folk-novelty group” that hailed from Boulder, Colorado, the Singers, in 1964 and 1965, had two records reach the Billboard Top 40 and three more bubble under the Hot 100. Their music was slickly produced commercial folk, similar to – if less good than – the stuff that the New Christy Minstrels and the Seekers were putting out during pretty much the same time frame.

It’s not bad music, but that’s not the point. It’s just that the band’s appearance in the above list – as the breakers of the streak, as it were – is so unlikely. Given what I know and remember about the early months of 1964, if I’d been asked which record would butt into the Beatles’ long stretch, I’d have offered Louis Armstrong’s “Hello, Dolly!” And if I’d been looking at KDWB’s surveys, I’d have been correct: Armstrong ended a twelve-week Beatles’ streak there in the first week of May 1964.

The other thing that struck me – and that took a bit of digging – was that WDGY was one of the few stations that saw “Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)” reach the top spot in their surveys. From what I could tell this morning – and this ain’t a dissertation, so my research might have missed something – the Serendipity Singers’ record topped surveys that season at just three other stations: WAKY in Louisville, KQV in Pittsburgh and the mighty WLS in Chicago.

As to the national charts, “Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)” went to No. 6 in the Hot 100. (The Singers’ only other Hot 100 hit was “Beans In My Ears,” which went to No. 30 later that same spring.)

So here are WDGY’s Beatle-beaters, the Serendipity Singers, whose “Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)” is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Dearly Beloved . . .’

April 22nd, 2016

And now Prince.

It’s been a hell of a year already for musicians: We’ve lost, among numerous others, Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, Sir George Martin, Keith Emerson, Steve Young and Andy (Thunderclap) Newman.*

And, as I said, now Prince, who was found dead yesterday morning (April 21) at his Paisley Park complex in the Minneapolis suburb of Channassen. He was 57.

This one hit me hard, harder than Frey, harder than Bowie, harder than Sir George. And that startled me at first. But as I read the news yesterday morning and afternoon – sketchy and uncomfirmed at first, then sadly certain – and as I listened to a 1993 collection of Prince’s hits while waiting for the Texas Gal at the doctor’s office, I came to a few conclusions.

First, he’s one of ours here in Minnesota. Born in Minneapolis, put together his bands and his craft and skill here, helped create what came to be known as the Minneapolis Sound, put the city – including First Avenue – onto the world’s pop culture map with Purple Rain, and he stayed here through his fame. He would record elsewhere and was famous everywhere. But his home was here.

Second, his age. He was younger than I am. So many people who were interviewed yesterday said that Prince’s music was the soundtrack to their youths. By the time Prince began releasing records and moved toward fame, I was a young adult; I was in my early thirties by the time Purple Rain came along and he was the world’s star. I knew some of his music fairly well, and some of it just a little. But it was never central to my life the way it was to those younger than I. And there’s something a little chilling there, a small feeling of another turn in my life, being older – by only a bit, this time – than the artist who has passed on and much older than the folks whom that artist reached most clearly.

And then there’s the minor connection I had with Prince. I mentioned it at Facebook when I heard the news:

My Prince moment: I played in a band during the 1990s with Prince’s cousin, Chazz. One day, I was walking in Uptown Minneapolis when a long limo came up the street and Chazz leaned out the window and hollered, “Yo! Whiteray!” At the next practice, Chazz told me that he’d been in the limo with Prince and that Prince had asked “Who’s Whiteray?” Chazz explained that during a break at one of our gigs, an audience member had come up to me and said, “When you play keys, man, you move like a white Ray Charles.” From then on, Chazz told his cousin, I was Whiteray. Chazz said Prince thought for a moment, then nodded. “Cool name,” Prince said.

My brief friendship with Chazz – it faded after we quit playing together, as connections often do – brought me another Prince-related memory I cherish, as well. Chazz and I, for a couple of years, played in another band that practiced at a deeply exurban home northwest of Minneapolis, and when Chazz drove, I got to listen to tapes he and his cousin and their friend André Cymone made in the years they were working together. That was some of the best funk and R&B I’ve ever heard, driving through night-time woods, once with Comet Hale-Bopp high overhead as I listened to a superlative version of the Delfonics’ “La-La (Means I Love You)” coming from the speakers.

(I don’t know if that version of the tune – or any of the stuff Chazz played for me as we drove – has ever been officially released; I don’t think so, based on what I see at Discogs.com. I imagine that a lot of it, and much more as well, will eventually be released over the next several years.)

All of that combined yesterday and left me a little aimless, a little lost, grieving in my own way, I guess. As I noted above, I listened to The Hits 1 as I waited for the Texas Gal while she saw the doctor, and even though I never dug as deeply into Prince’s music as I did the work of many others, much of that 1993 CD was familiar, if not ingrained in my bones. And most of it was brilliant, underlining for me as I listened how much we’ve once again lost.

I was going to close this with a video of Prince’s apocalyptic 1992 hit “7,” but I can find no video for the track (which isn’t surprising). So the best I can offer as a conclusion are the words Price spoke in the introduction to “Let’s Go Crazy” from 1984’s Purple Rain:

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world

A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night.

Prince

*And those names are just of those who are well-represented in my musical collection and memories. In this year’s toll, there are a fair number of other names that brought a “really?” to my mind. For a more thorough accounting, visit Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, where the Dude keeps track of each month’s musical losses.

‘Orthophonic Joy’

April 20th, 2016

The border between Tennessee and Virginia runs along State Street in the city of Bristol, and it was in the Tennessee portion of that divided city that the recording sessions often called the Big Bang of country music took place during the summer of 1927.

Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company set up a portable studio and over the course of two weeks recorded seventy-six songs (some with multiple takes) by nineteen acts, including the first recordings by the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. I’ve long had my eye on a five-CD box set of the complete Bristol Sessions, but with prices for a new copy currently at about ninety dollars these days, looking is all I’ll be doing for a while.

The wish for the box set ties in with my general tendency to dig back further and further into the history of American music, an effort that I hope brings me greater understanding of the roots of the rock, blues and R&B that I love. I’ve mentioned that tendency in connection with one or more blues and R&B box sets that have made their ways here over the past couple years, and even though I’m nowhere near to exhausting my exploration of blues and R&B, I’ve nevertheless added country music to my list of necessary explorations.

That exploration of country is in a nascent state. Over the years, I’ve found at one place or another six of the tracks Peer recorded in Bristol that summer (as well as many other early recordings of country music). As many vintage recordings are, they’re often hard listening, combining tales that are all too often sad and/or brutal with an unfamiliar musical aesthetic and the technological limitations of early remote recording.

I’d assume that, if I ever acquire that five-CD box set, the notes will provide a guide to its 123 tracks. So would notes in other sets of the Bristol material more limited in their scope, I assume, but where to start? And then I came across Orthophonic Joy. Subtitled “The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited,” the two-CD set was released last year by Bristol’s Birthplace of Country Music Museum (an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution), the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and the tourism offices of the states of Tennessee and Virginia.

The set’s title, Orthophonic Joy, comes from a promotion by the Victor Talking Machine Company for its new orthophonic Victrola, the first electronic record player, in which consumers are advised, “Don’t deny yourself the sheer joy of orthophonic music.”

The two CDs offer new recordings by current artists of eighteen of the songs recorded during the original 1927 sessions. There are also nineteen spoken interludes giving some of the history of the 1927 sessions, focusing on the artists who original recorded those eighteen songs.

As an example, here’s what historian Dr. Cindy Lovell had to say – as read by Eddie Stubbs – about the traditional tune “Pretty Polly” and the two recordings of it at hand, the 1927 version by B.F. Shelton (playing in the background) and the new version by Carl Jackson:

And here’s Jackson’s version:

The remakes, as fine as they are (and I’ve been enjoying them), are not the originals, of course, and the big box set – or perhaps several of the smaller collections – remain on my list. But in the meantime, well, I will not deny myself Orthophonic Joy.

Saturday Single No. 492

April 16th, 2016

The Top Ten at the Twin Cities’ KDWB fifty years ago today was studded with records that were familiar to the kids around me at the time and have since become familiar to anyone who cares at all about mid-century Top 40 (or anyone, for that matter, who listened to the radio during Mrs. Villalta’s art classes at St. Cloud’s South Junior High School):

“(You’re My) Soul & Inspiration” by the Righteous Brothers
‘Bang Bang” by Cher
“California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & The Papas
“Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
“19th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones
“Nowhere Man” by the Beatles
“The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Ssgt. Barry Sadler
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by B.J. Thomas & The Triumphs
“Time Won’t Let Me” by the Outsiders
“These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra

And looking further down the station’s “Fabulous 40 Confidential” from fifty years ago today, there are only three records that stick out as unfamiliar, two of which were debuting on the survey that week. Sitting at No. 33 in its first week in the survey was a country ditty called “Tippy Toeing” by three siblings from Arkansas who recorded as the Harden Trio. It would peak on KDWB at No. 23 in four weeks; nationally, it went to No. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100, their only record to reach the pop chart. (The record went to No. 2 on the country chart, and the trio had two other records hit the country Top 40 in the next year.)

Parked at No. 40, and also in its first appearance on KDWB’s survey that long-ago week, was a drum-heavy cover of Bo Diddley’s “Mona” by a Twin Cities group called T.C. Atlantic. According to Discogs.com, the group put out at least seven singles and a live album from 1965 through about 1969. The record, which I think I would have dug in art class, peaked on KDWB at No. 30 in early May. It never got to the Billboard chart.

The third record unfamiliar to me in that April 16, 1966, survey is the Underbeats’ version of “The Book of Love” that was a little bit doo-wop and a little bit subdued garage rock. It was sitting at No. 12 in its fifth week on the survey, and it would go no higher. Like the T.C. Atlantic single, “Book of Love” would get no national notice.

But the Underbeats, well, they would get their shot at national attention four years later after revamping their style considerably and becoming the band Gypsy. I told the tale long ago, and over the past several weeks, as I’ve ferried the Texas Gal to and from work, among the music coming from the CD player in the car has been most of the early 1970s work from Gypsy, both the group’s self-titled album from 1970 and its 1971 follow-up, In The Garden.

And one of the tracks I’ve enjoyed most could easily have fit into our Long Form series here. I was reminded of it one evening this winter when I was driving home after a meeting at church. “Man,” I thought as I crossed the Mississippi River and headed down Kilian Boulevard, “that sounds like Gypsy.” I memorized a few of the lyrics in case I needed them, and almost as soon as I got into the house, I checked the playlist on WXYG. It was indeed Gypsy.

Tying all those threads together this morning – the Underbeats’ appearance in the KDWB “Fabulous 40 Confidential” from fifty years ago today, the presence of Gypsy in the car CD player in recent weeks, and a long track heard in that same vehicle on a cold evening sometime in the past few months – makes for an untidy piece of work, I suppose.

But I don’t care. The music hits my sweet spot, temporally and emotionally, and that’s why “As Far As You Can See (As Much As You Can Feel),” the longest track from Gypsy’s 1971 album In The Garden, is today’s Saturday Single.

‘All My Days . . .’

April 15th, 2016

As we continue to make our ways here through the Valley of Virus – the Texas Gal seemingly ascending from its depths toward the uplands of recovery and me evidently making my way into its unpleasantness – there’s not much energy here.

So I was going to play the easy card that I’ve dropped on the table several times recently: In today’s case, asking the RealPlayer to find tracks recorded on April 15 over the years. I had a hunch that among them would be the recordings of Mississippi John Hurt’s concert on April 15, 1965, at Oberlin College in Ohio. And I was right. The tracks from that concert came up in the list.

But the RealPlayer also told me those tracks are no longer in the folder where I stashed them. And that’s true. Evidently, as I was updating my collection of Hurt’s music the other day, I inadvertently deleted the Oberlin concert tracks. I will have to replace them, and I’m not sure where I originally found them, likely somewhere out on the ’Net some years ago. The local library might have the CD, or I may track it down on Amazon and add it to the physical stacks here.

In any case, it’s always a good day to hear Mississippi John Hurt, so I’ll shift to a track included on his Last Sessions album, recorded in February 1966 at the Manhattan Towers Hotel in New York City. It’s suitable accompaniment for a trip through any valley: “Trouble, I’ve Had It All My Days.

Date corrected after first posting.

Back In ’49

April 13th, 2016

When I searched the RealPlayer this morning for tracks recorded on April 13, it tossed back three titles, one of which I know well and two that were recorded on the same day four years and a few months before I was born.

The one I know well is the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.” According to notes I found somewhere – possibly even accompanying the Mono Masters set that came with The Beatles in Mono box set – the group began work on “Paperback Writer” at Abbey Road fifty years ago today. As it happens, “Paperback Writer” is one of my favorite Beatles tracks, maybe because of the lyrics but more likely because of the bass line. But there’s little point in featuring a record so well known, so I turned my eyes and ears back to April 13, 1949.

That’s when two very different singles were recorded for Columbia: “Room Full of Roses,” by a country singer named George Morgan and “Elevation” by a jazz group, Elliot Lawrence & His Orchestra. We’ll stay on the country side today.

Morgan was a Tennessee-born and Ohio-raised singer who joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, the year he turned twenty-four. By the time he recorded “Room Full of Roses” sixty-seven years ago today, he’d released two major hits: “Candy Kisses” spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Best Seller chart, and “Please Don’t Let Me Love You” went to No. 4 on the magazine’s Best Seller and Juke Box charts.

“Room Full of Roses” was destined to go to No. 4 on the Best Seller chart, but before it reached the chart in August, Morgan had two more records make their marks: “Rainbow In My Heart” went to No. 8 on the Best Seller chart, and “All I Need Is Some More Lovin’” went to No. 11 there as well.

Morgan would go on to have nineteen more records reach the various country charts Billboard offered, with his last hit, “Red Rose From The Blue Side Of Town,” going to No. 21 in 1974. Morgan, who was the father of country single Lorrie Morgan, died in 1975 at the age of fifty-one. Here’s “Room Full of Roses,” recorded sixty-seven years ago today.

Saturday Single No. 491

April 9th, 2016

While sorting out tracks for our Follow The Directions project, I became intrigued by the number of times the word “southbound” showed up. There are twenty-four tracks in the RealPlayer with the word in their titles. (There are also two tracks by a late 1960s group that called itself Southbound Freeway and thirteen tracks from a 1975 Hoyt Axton album titled Southbound, but we’ll set those aside.)

Now, “southbound” and any other directionally tracks wouldn’t have qualified for the Follow The Directions project the way I originally envisioned it. I was thinking about titles with specific directions in them, like “Girl From The North Country,” which showed up when we did “North” the other week. But it’s my game and I can change the rule, so as we look for titles with the four directions, we’ll also look separately for titles with the suffixes “-bound” and “-ern” attached to the directions. It turned the project from four full installments to at least twelve and maybe more, sometimes maybe with fewer than the full complement of four titles per post, but we’ll work around that.

Having decided that, I went off to see how often musical journeys have taken folks in directions other than south. Given the influence of the South on American history and culture, I expected folks to be bound in other directions far fewer times. But I thought I’d look anyway.

“Northbound” nets us three tracks: the quiet “Northbound Bus” by the Flying Burrito Brothers from their 1976 album Airborne, and two versions of a gentle song titled “Northbound 35,” one by folk performer Richard Shindell (who’s showed up here before) on his 2007 album South of Delia and the other by True North, an Oregon-based bluegrass group that included the song on its 2014 album Elsebound.

“Eastbound” brings us one track, another quiet song: “Eastbound Train” by the early 1970s folk-rock group Wooden Horse. It’s on the groups’s self-titled 1972 debut.

When we search for “westbound,” we have to discard five of the eight tracks that show up, as they’re single releases on the Westbound label: Four by the Detroit Emeralds and one by Teegarden & Van Winkle. That leaves us with three tracks: A slow and sorrowful piece of Americana titled “Westbound Tomorrow” that the group the Robber Barons put on its 2004 album Dragging The River and two sprightly versions of “Westbound #9,” one of them the 1970 hit by the Flaming Ember and the other a track from jazz organist Charles Earland off of his 1970 album Living Black!

So southbound tops all the others direction-bound possibilities by an aggregate score of 24-7. And if we’re going to dabble in things southbound this morning, I think we’ll start with a song by country singer Pat Green that shows up four times: “Southbound 35.”

Green first recorded the song for his 1995 self-released debut album, Dancehall Dreamer, and included it on live albums in 1998 and 2000. (If I’m ever lucky enough to be anywhere in Texas when Green is scheduled to perform, I’d love to see him.) He re-recorded the song in a much tougher, guitar-heavy version for his 2001 album Three Days, but I prefer the earlier recording.

And all of that is why Pat Green’s “Southbound 35” is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Closer To Fine’

April 8th, 2016

The Texas Gal is still not feeling well, and I’m a little distracted. I seem to have avoided the worst of our shared respiratory ailment, but I’m not counting poultry yet. And I have extra laundry to do and errands to run today.

I also have to work on transposing the Indigo Girls’ tune “Closer To Fine” into a key more suitable for one of the musicians at our Unitarian Universalist fellowship. It’s not all that hard, but it takes some concentration, and that seems to be in short supply here this morning.

As I thought about “Closer To Fine,” I also thought about how I found the Indigo Girls, who are one of my favorite groups that arose in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I have copies of pretty much everything they’ve ever released – I have yet to get hold of last year’s One Lost Day – a couple on vinyl and most on CD.

I told the tale here in early 2008 of how I came to find the Indigo Girls and their music:

One afternoon in August 1989, I was lingering over a cup of coffee in a restaurant in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, looking at the LPs I’d just scored at a nearby used record store. As I glanced over Roxy Music’s Avalon, I heard the college girls in the booth behind me talking about a new group they’d heard at someone’s home the night before, a duo with the odd name of the Indigo Girls. I jotted the name down, paid for my coffee and went back to the record store, where I found Indigo Girls on vinyl. Ever since, I’ve bought most of what the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have recorded, and I’d like to thank those long-ago college girls for the tip.

And since the tune is on my mind today, both as a music project and as a hope for the health of the Texas Gal, here’s the Indigo Girls’ video for their 1989 track, “Closer To Fine.”

‘Strange’

April 6th, 2016

For two days now, the Texas Gal has been out of commission with a head cold, and my internal monitors tell me I’m soon to join her. I have a meeting early this afternoon for which I need to be cogent, but I can tell that the rest of the day – before and after the meeting – I’ll be lucky if I’ve got the sense to pour a bowl of cereal.

So I’m turning things over to my little tuneheads Odd and Pop, and they’ve flipped a coin and decided that Odd gets to choose today’s featured tune. Pop laid one condition on the selection: “As long as you’re going to choose something strange, make sure that ‘strange’ is in the title.” Odd nodded as he happily wandered off to play in the digital shelves.

And he came back with a single from San Francisco, recorded in 1966 and released in 1967: “Stranger In A Strange Land” by the duo of Blackburn & Snow. I did just a little digging. Richie Unterberger of All Music writes:

One of the most interesting folk-rock acts of the 1960s to totally miss out on meaningful national exposure, the male-female duo of Jeff Blackburn and Sherry Snow had a lot going for them. Their male-female harmonies were nearly on par with those of the early Jefferson Airplane, and they boasted a wealth of fine original material by Blackburn that deftly combined folk, rock, country, and light psychedelic influences into a melodic blend that was both commercial and creatively idiosyncratic. What they didn’t have was a regular release schedule. Indeed, there were only two poorly distributed singles on Verve, including the classic “Stranger in a Strange Land,” before they split up in the late ’60s.

Unterberger notes that the duo did record an album’s worth of unreleased material, and that material, along with the tracks from the two singles, was released on CD in 1999 with the title Something Good For Your Head. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled across that CD release, and then I came across a slightly different version of “Stranger In A Strange Land” in the box set Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970. It was the box set version of the tune that Odd came across this morning.

A little more digging told me that, notwithstanding Unterberger’s praise for Blackburn’s writing, “Stranger In A Strange Land” was not Blackburn’s work. The writer was Samuel F. Omar, which was evidently a pseudonym for David Crosby. And that makes things even more strange, which is just fine this morning.

Strange or not, even Pop was pleased. “This coulda made the charts,” he said as he listened. Here’s what he heard: