Saturday Single No. 440

March 28th, 2015

For all of the music I’ve bought or been given over the past fifty years, it’s astounding to note this morning that only two LPs and one CD have come my way on any March 28. Those three albums are:

Valotte by Julian Lennon, acquired March 28, 1997;
Aretha Live At Fillmore West, acquired March 28, 1998; and
Texas Worried Blues by Henry Thomas, acquired March 28, 2003.

It’s entirely possible that some of the LPs I acquired before 1974, when I began recording the specific date of acquisition instead of just the month, might have come my way on March 28. But those LPs account for – at a quick estimate – only about 1.1 percent of the LPs & CDs that make their home here in the EITW studios. So those LPs – as much as I love some of them (and I do) – are statistically insignificant.

So what else can we find out about March 28 over the years in the reference books and files here? Well, Billboard has issued charts several times on March 28 in the years that normally interest us here:

In 1956, the No. 1 record on the pop chart on March 28 was “The Poor People of Paris” by Les Baxter. In 1964, the No. 1 record was “She Loves You” by the Beatles. In 1970, the No. 1 record was “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfukel. And in 1981, “Rapture” by Blondie topped the charts on March 28.

What about No. 1 albums on March 28 in those various years? In 1956, the top album as March drew to a close was Belafonte by Harry Belafonte. In 1964, it was Meet The Beatles! In 1970, the top album on March 28 was Bridge Over Troubled Water. And in 1981, the No. 1 album on March 28 was Hi Infidelity by REO Speedwagon.

Well, nothing’s really exciting me this morning. The albums and tracks from Aretha and the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel (and even Blondie) are fine stuff. At the right moments, I like the Les Baxter and the Belafonte, and Henry Thomas’ vintage songster tunes have their place, too. (The less I think about REO Speedwagon, however, the better I feel.) But as we look for a track for the morning – and that’s what this is always about here on Saturday, even though I did not say so at the top – none of that grabs me.

So, let’s look at the slender list of tracks that we know were recorded on March 28:

Prince Albert Hunt’s Texas Ramblers recorded “Blues In A Bottle” on this date in 1928 in San Antonio, Texas. In 1939, March 28 was the date that Hal Kemp & His Orchestra, with vocals by the Smoothies, recorded “Three Little Fishies (Itty Bitty Pool).” Robert Petway laid down “Catfish Blues” in a Chicago studio on March 28, 1941. Six years later, Chicago was also the site for John Lee Williamson – the first Sonny Boy – when he recorded “Mellow Chick Swing” and “Polly Put The Kettle On.” Bluesmen Sammy Lewis and Willie Johnson were in the Sun Studios in Memphis on March 28, 1955, when they recorded “So Long Baby, Goodbye” and “Feel So Worried.” And in Nashville in 1979, Johnny Cash worked on his version of “Ghost Riders In The Sky.”

And finally, in Detroit on March 28, 1988, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band recorded a live performance of “Be True” that wound up on the four-track EP Chimes Of Freedom released in 1988 to support Amnesty International.

I’m tempted by the silliness of “Three Little Fishies,” which I used to have on a kiddie 78 when I was about four years old, but, then, I hadn’t listened to the live version of “Be True” for a while. It’s pretty damned good, and since I’m almost always in a Springsteen mood here, that live version of “Be True” from 1988 is today’s Saturday Single.

Of Pate & Rye

March 25th, 2015

Once more, we visit the ghosts of East St. Germain, the main drag here on the East Side of St. Cloud. It’s 1965, and we go once more into the dining room of the Ace Bar & Cafe, where the young whiteray, his parents and his sister are celebrating one occasion or another.

After we order, as we sit with our beverages – probably a Mountain Dew for me, a Coke for my sister, a Hamm’s Beer for Dad and an old-fashioned for Mom – our waitress brings us the relish tray: Carrots, celery, radishes, pickles, liver pate, probably some pickled herring, and an assortment of crackers in cellophane packages.

Restaurants don’t do relish trays anymore. They’re too labor intensive and too wasteful, I imagine. But fifty years ago, every “go out for a nice dinner” restaurant in the St. Cloud area offered them: The Ace, the Persian Club, the 400 Club, the Hub, the Log Lodge, and maybe more I can’t think of right now. The trays’ offerings changed a bit from place to place but a relish tray was a constant of a nice dinner out in those days.

My favorite portion of the relish tray, as I’ve noted here once before, was the liver pate. (I love pickled herring almost as much, but it wasn’t a rare treat, as we routinely had a jar of it in the fridge at home.) Almost as soon as our waitress placed the tray on our table, I’d have my eye on the pate, and I’d rummage through the selection of crackers until I found a packet of Ry-Krisp. The flat rye crackers seemed made for liver pate, and just thinking about that long-ago treat makes my mouth water as I write.

The pate and of the pickled herring on the tray were no doubt a reflection of the Northern European origins of many of the East Side’s residents back then. Most families on the East Side had been in the U.S. for a couple of generations – there were a few immigrants and first-generation Americans – but even second- and third-generation folks fifty years ago tended to hold onto the ethnic tastes and traditions of their ancestors.

There were still vivid connections to those immigrant ancestors: My mom spent a lot of time as a child with her maternal grandfather, who emigrated from Prussia as a child (and in fact, William Raveling lived long enough that I sat on his lap as an infant). My dad’s family had come to the U.S. from Sweden a little earlier but still held onto many of its Scandinavian traditions, lutefisk, pickled herring and flatbread among them.* The families of most of the kids I knew on the East Side were like that. Not all of them descended from Northern Europeans; the names I recall of some of my schoolmates reflect origins in England, Scotland, and the Slavic nations of Eastern Europe. But we all cared about our ancestors’ origins, and the folkways and tastes of those ancestors were important as well.

So why this today? Because last week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Ry-Krisp has come to an end. After nearly a century, the company is closing. As Kevyn Burger wrote:

For as long as there have been modern grocery stores, there have been boxes of Ry-Krisp on their shelves. Every one of the commercially produced crackers inside was mixed, baked and packed at the world’s one and only Ry-Krisp plant in southeast Minneapolis.

But the Minnesota-born brand is no more. Production at the boxy white factory wound down in March. Soon the final packages of Ry-Krisp will disappear forever from the cracker aisles, and with them, a bit of local history will crumble.

In one short century, Ry-Krisp rose from humble origins to become a product distributed around the globe. The crunchy rye-flavored snack became an emblem for overlapping culinary trends, shifting from peasant fare to health food to diet aid until changing tastes led to the cracker’s quiet demise . . .

Reading that piece brought me back – as so many things seem to do – to the Ace Bar & Cafe. And it brought me back to the occasional stock of Ry-Krisp I used to keep on my shelves at home. I’d buy it as a snack – a platform for cheese – now and then, and about fifteen years ago, after my doctor advised me to adopt a whole grain diet and further encouraged me to avoid yeast and fermented products for a year, Ry-Krisp was one of my bread substitutes. I recall sitting at my kitchen table in my small apartment on Minneapolis’ Bossen Terrace, eating kippered snacks on Ry-Krisp for a quick lunch.

Once the prohibition on yeast and fermented products was lifted, I found myself a brand of whole wheat bread. At about the same time, whole grain Triscuits and Wheat Thins became my snack crackers of choice, and Ry-Krisp left my shopping list. Until this week, that is. Once I read the piece in the Star-Tribune, I knew I had to buy one last box of Ry-Krisp. And here it is.

My Last Box of Ry-Krisp

I wasn’t the only one with the idea, though: By the time the Texas Gal and I got to our neighborhood Ca$h Wi$e on Sunday afternoon, all of the regular Ry-Krisp was gone from the shelves, as was all of the seasoned Ry-Krisp. I was left with the consolation prize of a box of light rye crackers. (The company also made multi-grain and sesame versions of the cracker, but there was no shelf space for those new-fangled varieties at the local store.) It may be light, but it’s Ry-Krisp, and the ingredients are the same as they always were: Whole rye and salt. (The idea of a multi-grain Ry-Krisp, a version I don’t ever recall seeing in stores, bothers me, if only vaguely; Ry-Krisp was supposed to be rye, and when you start throwing other grains into the mix, you’ve got something else.)

So I’ve got my last box of Ry-Krisp, and I think I’ll head out sometime in the next few days to the Byerly’s grocery across town – it’s a little more high rent than Ca$h Wi$e – and see if there’s any liver pate from Scandinavia or even Germany on the shelves. (If I have to settle for French, I will.) Then I’ll have myself one more snack of pate on Ry-Krisp, and for a fleeting moment, it will be 1965 in the Ace Cafe once more. I think I’ll skip the Mountain Dew this time.

And here’s a record that we might easily have heard in the background at the Ace on a Saturday evening in 1965: “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” by Sounds Orchestral was No. 1 for three weeks on the Billboard Easy Listening chart and went to No. 10 on the magazine’s Hot 100.

*That attachment to tradition was likely enhanced by the homogeneity of the area around Dad’s hometown of Cambridge – most folks there in the early 20th century could trace their roots to Sweden – and by multi-generational living: Among the members of Dad’s household during his childhood was his Great-Uncle Charlie, whose parents or grandparents came from Sweden. (Great-Uncle Charlie’s rocking chair, refinished and reupholstered a few years back, sits in my dining room.)

‘Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt’

March 24th, 2015

As it sometimes is, easy listening music is on my mind, and today, it’s specifically easy listening music from 1965, the kind of stuff we would have heard coming faintly from the overhead speakers in nice restaurants.

There’s a reason for those thoughts, but the tale of the end of a Minnesota institution that sparked them will have to wait until tomorrow. Even so, I didn’t want to leave this little corner of the ’Net blank today. So, here is a 1965 piece by Horst Jankowski that was No. 1 for two weeks on the Billboard Easy Listening chart: “A Walk In The Black Forest” or as it’s called in Jankowski’s hometown of Berlin, “Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt.”

Saturday Single No. 439

March 21st, 2015

Without really meaning to, we’ve turned this week into a “days of the week” kind of thing, featuring a Monday song on Monday and a Wednesday song two days later. So it’s only right, I guess, that our Saturday Single this morning should be a Saturday song.

They’re easy enough to find, tunes about Saturday, as I know we’ve found out a couple of times before. When prompted, the RealPlayer finds eighty-three tunes in the current collection that have some connection to this day of the week. We have to eliminate most of Mick Sterling’s 2005 album Between Saturday Night and Sunday Morning as well as tracks from the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever and from Norman Connors’ 1975 album Saturday Night Special. And we also have to pass by a sweet 1967 single by a group called Saturday’s Children.

But there are plenty of tunes left to choose from. I’m tempted for a moment by a 1967 single titles “Saturday Morning Repentance” by a group called the Waterproof Candle, especially after the website that catalogs the huge Lost Jukebox collection tells me that Jimmy Webb both wrote the song and produced the record. But all that is more interesting than the record itself, so we move on.

Lee Hazlewood also put together a record about Saturday morning regrets titled “Hello Saturday Morning.” It was on his 1977 album Movin’ On, but it’s actually pretty ordinary and not nearly as weird as classic Hazlewood, so we will, in fact, be moving on.

We’ll pass as well on the pallid “Hootenany Saturday Night” by the Brothers Four from their 1965 album The Honey Wind Blows. The Brothers sing, “If you think we’ll be rowdy, you’re right,” but for some reason, I don’t buy it.

And then there’s Reparata of Reparata & The Delrons, who sang “Saturday Night Didn’t Happen” after her guy broke up with her. It’s decent, slightly spooky girl group pop, enlivened by one strange verse:

The ceiling is leaking, the chair I sit in is creaking
And so is the parrot, I feed him a carrot
And then he’ll be quiet again.

I do wonder sometimes how I wound up with an entire CD’s worth of music by Reparata & The Delrons, but these things just happen. And the parrot weirds me out, so on we go.

There are, of course, many Saturday night records: It’s a night that’s all right for fighting (Elton John, 1973), or spending at the duck pond (Cougars, 1963), or hanging out in Oak Grove, Louisiana (Tony Joe White, 1973), or having a fish fry (Louis Jordan, 1949). Or else, as Frank Sinatra told us at least twice (1944 and 1959), it’s the loneliest night of the week.

But if we’re going to think about Saturday night, as far as I’m concerned, we’re heading right into Gordon Lightfoot territory after the party winds down:

I feel a little blue ’cause I can’t sew
There’s still a lot of things that I should know
Anyone can guess
I don’t know how to press
My Saturday clothes
And everyone’s goin’ home

I feel a little sad to watch them leave
But I’ll be cool because I don’t believe
The happy times are gone
I can still put on
My Saturday clothes
Every warm body knows

I’ve got to tell you that was a swell time
Now I’ll take the butts away
And put the glasses on the tray
I’ll see you all next Saturday

I feel a little off because they’re gone
And if my gal were here, I’d still be on
But in a week or two
There’s lots of things to do
In my Saturday clothes
And everyone’s gone home

I’ve got to tell you that was a swell time
So now I’ll take the butts away
And put the glasses on the tray
I’ll see you all next Saturday

There are some odd corners in there, to be sure, but “Saturday Clothes” has been a favorite of mine from the first time I heard Lightfoot’s 1970 album If You Could Read My Mind, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘I Am Wednesday’s Child . . .’

March 18th, 2015

Being not nearly as iconic as Monday, Wednesday gets short shrift – and I wonder, not for the first time, what in the hell shrift is – when it comes to being the subject of songs. Out of 82,000-some tracks in the RealPlayer, only five have “Wednesday” in their titles:

“A Wednesday In Your Garden” by the Guess Who, 1969.
“Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” by Simon & Garfunkel, 1964.
“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday” by Wild Silk, 1968.
“Wednesday’s Child (Main Theme)” by John Barry, 1966.
“Wednesday’s Child (Vocal)” by John Barry/Matt Monro, 1966.

Those last two entries come from the soundtrack to The Quiller Memorandum, a 1966 spy flick set in Berlin that had a pretty good cast (George Segal, Alec Guinness and Max von Sydow among others). I’ve never seen the film, but the soundtrack came to my attention, of course, because it was written by John Barry.

It’s a moody and atmospheric soundtrack, which one might expect, and even without a zither (as far as I can tell), it reminds me vaguely of Anton Karas’ work for the 1949 thriller The Third Man. I think that comes from the presence of a lot of plucked strings, which distinguishes the Quiller soundtrack from the three scores Barry had written for James Bond films by 1966 (From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball). One odd bit that must have been scored as source music in the film – from a radio or in a club, I suppose – is a saxophone arrangement of Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” and there’s a suitably Teutonic track titled “Autobahn March,” but the bulk of the score is quiet, sometimes melancholy, sometimes foreboding and occasionally sweet.

I’m not sure how well Mack David’s lyrics for “Wednesday’s Child” reflect the film, but like much of the score itself, they’re suitably sad:

Wednesday’s child is a child of woe.
Wednesday’s child cries alone, I know.
When you smiled, just for me you smiled.
For a while I forgot I was Wednesday’s child.

Friday’s child wins at love, they say.
In your arms, Friday was my day.
Now you’re gone. Well, I should have known.
I am Wednesday’s child, born to be alone.

Now you’re gone. Well, I should have known.
I am Wednesday’s child, born to be alone.

Wednesday’s child, born to be alone.

Monro, who did vocals for several Barry themes – “From Russia With Love” and “Born Free” among them – does a decent job with the tune, which makes it a fine selection for a Wednesday:

Just Another Mystic Monday

March 16th, 2015

With the Texas Gal off to work and the first of several loads of laundry in the washing machine – Monday was laundry day when I was a kid, and so it remains – I thought we’d put another Monday song up for grabs. And we’ll dig into some easy listening as we do.

The Mystic Moods Orchestra, as I wrote a little more than four years ago, quoting All-Music Guide, was “[o]ne of the choice audio aphrodisiacs of the ’60s and ’70s,” mixing “orchestral pop, environmental sounds, and pioneering recording techniques into a unique musical phenomenon.”

The group was created by Brad Miller and released it first album, One Stormy Night, in 1965. The album went to No. 63 on the Billboard Top LP’s chart and was followed by many more. I’m not sure what the final count is, but Discogs shows a total of forty-three albums. I don’t know that I heard any of the orchestra’s output in the 1960s or 1970s, though I have a vague memory of one of my sister’s boyfriends having an eight-track tape or two by the group during the late 1960s or early 1970s.

Over the past decade, I’ve scavenged a couple of the MMO’s albums, and I like what I hear (and given my affection for easy listening, that’s not a surprise at all). As with a lot of the stuff that pops out of the RealPlayer as it chugs along on random, I don’t know that I’d like to hear a full album’s worth at one time, but one track at a time, the MMO fits into my day or my evening just fine.

So this morning, as I was looking for a Monday tune, I clicked “Monday, Monday” by the Mystic Moods Orchestra. For a few seconds, I was confused and began to think something had gone wrong. It hadn’t. The track is from the MMO’s 1970 album Stormy Weekend, which spent fifteen weeks in the Billboard Top LP’s chart and peaked at No. 165.

Saturday Single No. 438

March 14th, 2015

A couple of strands of things I like a lot came together in the past few days, as sometimes happens. Those strands are: the pop rock of the years 1969-75, cover versions of pop songs, and instrumental music of the 1960s and 1970s.

Those strands occasionally coalesce into something that doesn’t work well at all. I recall the dreadful 1974 cover by Ray Conniff of Ringo Starr’s “Photograph,” which, if I recall correctly, sparked the idea for the long-ignored Train Wreck Jukebox. Clueless covers of the Beatles’ “Michelle” and “Yellow Submarine” by Hank Levine and his crew come to mind as well.

But sometimes things work out well. As I’ve moved gingerly these past few days, I’ve often done so with the Beatles’ “Come Together” running through my head: “One and one and one is three . . . got to be good-looking ’cause he’s so hard to see!” That’s no doubt a product of recalling in Wednesday’s post the first time I heard the record late at night. So with John Lennon’s classic still running through my brain this morning, and with said brain idling along in search of an idea for a post here, I thought I’d look at covers of the tune.

Six covers of the song from 1970 reside in the EITW files (as do two others from later years, but we made those two sit in the corner this morning). We long ago listened to the deliciously crazed version released as an album track by Diana Ross, and we’re not much interested in the single version by Ike & Tina Turner from the same year, even though it went to No. 57. Herbie Mann’s ten-minute workout on the album Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty seemed excessive, and the version cut by the Chairmen of the Board was kind of limp.

The other 1970 covers of the song perked up our ears though. A slinky take on the song from Count Basie & His Orchestra showed up on the album Basie On The Beatles. And then, sax player Ernie Watts joined organist Richard “Groove” Holmes for some studio work that year, and “Come Together” was the title track of the resulting album. Since I love me some saxophone and I love me some organ, well, what else can I do but make the track today’s Saturday Single?

Black & Blue

March 13th, 2015

Every once in a while, the various ailments that escort me through life combine to make life, well, difficult. One of the least-liked phenomena around here is the body aches. I’ll be having a perfectly fine morning – like I was Wednesday, when I wrote about tape recorders and the Beatles – and my muscles will start to tighten, especially in my back.

Walking becomes difficult. Sitting becomes difficult, though a little less so than walking. And a mind-numbing fatigue sets in. So I begin to cancel plans. On Wednesday, that meant dropping an errand for my mom and a meeting for church. Yesterday that mean altering significantly an errand for my mom; I attended a church meeting in the evening, though I likely should not have. I had no plans for today, and that’s just fine.

This will pass, as it always does. But I may be scarce in these precincts for a while. Or at least terse.

Here’s Judy Roderick’s “Black & Blue” from her 1965 album Woman Blue.

Long Form No. 3

March 11th, 2015

The summer of 1969, as I’ve noted here numerous times, was when I began to listen with great interest to Top 40 radio, as well as to a little bit of other music that fit within the genres of pop, rock and R&B. It was also the second of three summers when I spent four days working at the state trap shoot, sitting in a cramped dirty concrete structure placing clay targets on the machine that threw them out into the air to be shot.

And the confluence of those two things made 1969 the year when I got my first cassette recorder and discovered one of my favorite long pieces of music.

For a couple of years before then, I’d been fascinated by cassette recorders. One of my dad’s friends at St. Cloud State had one, and he was, I think, interested in the educational possibilities of the machines. They would certainly make easier any educational task that required a tape recorder, given their advantages in size and convenience over the large and often unwieldy reel-to-reel machines then in use.

The first time I saw Dr. Perry’s machine, I was more interested in it as a gadget than for its musical applications. It would just be fun to tape stuff. Around the same time, Rob across the street had gotten a small reel-to-reel recorder and for a few weeks, he wandered around the neighborhood, taping everything from the sounds of birds in his front yard to the roar of a Great Northern Railroad train as it went through the crossing on Seventh Street just a block away.

One afternoon, he and Rick and I rode along as their dad drove his beloved Studebaker for some maintenance in the city of Anoka, fifty miles southeast on Highway 10. Rob brought the tape recorder along, and the three of us recorded an aural journal of our trip, commenting on anything from the size of the small burg of Becker (365 then, 4,538 in the most recent census) and the crops in the fields in the countryside to the architecture of the churches and the presumptive errands of the people we saw along the way. Being adolescent boys, we found almost everything we said humorous, and the resulting taped journal occasionally lapsed from commentary into fits of giggling.

One couldn’t drive to Anoka every day, of course, but I thought at mid-summer 1969 that there would be some value in a cassette recorder. So my dad and I took the fifty dollars I got for my four days of trap shoot work downtown to Dan Marsh Drugs, where dad knew the folks who sold cameras and such; in those days, the “such” included cassette recorders. I selected a Panasonic model that fit my budget, and with some blank tapes in hand, set out to record the world. The thought of listening to music on the machine had not yet entered my consciousness.

When I’d decided to get a recorder, I’d hoped to have the machine in hand by the time Apollo 11 landed on the moon so I could record what turned out to be Neil Armstrong’s “one small step,” but that didn’t work out. I was five days late, and the first news event I was able to record off of television – and I did it just to see how it sounded – was Senator Ted Kennedy’s live statement relating what had happened at Chappaquiddick Island after he drove off a bridge and a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne drowned in his submerged car.

And after a few days of recording stuff and listening to it play back – and I hated the sound of my own voice – I wanted something more fun to listen to. For whatever reason – maybe budget, maybe not being interested quite yet in popular music, maybe simple dimness – I hadn’t thought about music. Then my sister stepped into the breach and one day brought home from the mall – where she worked as a waitress at Woolworth’s – a cassette of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ self-titled second album.

I recognized the hits: “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” had gone to No. 2 in the spring of 1969, and “Spinning Wheel” had done the same early that summer. I digested the rest of the album, and then football practice started and I began to be drawn into the music I heard on the radio in the training room. So I knew “And When I Die” as it began its own climb to No. 2 that autumn, and I began to wonder what tape I should get next to supplement BST and the music I was hearing on the radio.

Late one October evening, after I’d gone to sleep with the sounds of Chicago’s WLS at low volume on my bedside RCA radio, something woke me. As I lay there, I turned the radio up slightly. There came a ghostly “shoop” followed by a bass and drum riff repeated several times, and then I heard John Lennon’s unmistakable voice: “Here come old flat top. He come groovin’ up slowly . . .”

I was spooked, I was fascinated and I was determined to have that song – whatever it was – for my own.

It was, of course, “Come Together” from the Beatles’ Abbey Road, which had been released at the beginning of the month. Once I learned that, I also learned that the album – LP, cassettes and eight-track tapes – was on sale at J.C. Penney at the mall for $3.50. I handed some of my cash to my sister, and she brought home my first copy of Abbey Road.* And when I first played it, I came across the long set of songs now called the Abbey Road medley.

The suite of songs – starting with the simple piano introduction to “You Never Give Me Your Money” and ending with the now-famous couplet “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” – entranced me, as it did millions of other listeners. It’s generally accepted now that the medley was the work of Paul McCartney (although three of the pieces in the medley – “Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” – were Lennon creations), and it might be the high point of the Beatles’ existence.

The tracks in the medley are:

“You Never Give Me Your Money”
“Sun King”
“Mean Mr. Mustard”
“Polythene Pam”
“She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”
“Golden Slumbers”
“Carry That Weight”
“The End”

While there’s plenty of brilliance to parse in the sixteen-minute medley – in writing, in playing, in singing, in production – there is one touch that, to me, elevates the medley from excellence to genius: The emergence of the “You Never Give Me Your Money” theme – first with trumpets, then adding strings and then adding vocals – in the middle of “Carry That Weight.”

Here, then, in our occasional exploration of longer pieces that move me, is Long Form No. 3, the Abbey Road medley:

*I’ve since had three other copies: That first tape was stolen and replaced, I bought the vinyl of the album in 1971, and I bought the CD in 2001.

Revised since first posting to include “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.”

Saturday Singles Nos. 436 & 437

March 7th, 2015

Like many things in life, new music finds us when we are ready for it. About eight years ago, one of the blogs I frequented – a blog so long gone that I do not recall its name – dealt with the music we call Americana or roots music. Some of the stuff it offered, I liked, and some found me less enthusiastic.

And the one performer that I found there that I have followed more than any other is Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The lost blog offered several albums by the Chocolate Drops, a string band that records the music of a lost era. Its predecessor group, the Sankofa Strings, focused on “a gamut of African American music: country and classic blues, early jazz and ‘hot music,’ string band numbers, African and Caribbean songs, and spoken word pieces,” as Wikipedia puts it, and the Chocolate Drops have plowed the same fields.

Current members of the group along with Giddens are Hubby Jenkins, Rowan Corbett and Malcolm Parson; earlier members who have moved on are Justin Robinson, Adam Matta and Dom Flemons. The names mean little to me and, I assume, to readers, and I’m likely doing a disservice to those six musicians. But the music, steeped in a culture mostly lost to time, was what mattered, that and Giddens’ voice and her work on banjo and fiddle.

I started with a 2006 album titled Colored Aristocracy by the Sankofa Strings, some of which was released later on a 2008 CCD album titled Heritage. Other releases that have seen at least some time on the various music players here are Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind (2007), Genuine Negro Jig (2010) and Leaving Eden (2012). The band’s work has also been included in several soundtracks and tribute albums, including the first Hunger Games film and the 2007 film The Great Debaters. And the sound of the Carolina Chocolate Drops – and yes, the name caused me some discomfort at first, as it has for other listeners whose comments I’ve read online – continues to pull me in, to reach some place inside me and make me feel as if I’ve been waiting a long time to hear music I never knew existed before.

Giddens has since gained a more prominent profile. As I noted in a post in December, she was one of the musicians invited by producer T-Bone Burnett to put music to a rediscovered sheaf of Bob Dylan’s lyrics from the Basement Tapes era. The resulting album, Lost On The River, was released late last year and found its way to my ears as a Christmas present. (The other musicians invited to write to Dylan’s lyrics were Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Jim James and Taylor Goldsmith.) It’s a remarkable album, and I’ve seen several reviews that have noted that the eye-opener is Giddens, who was likely the least known – at least in the mainstream – among the musicians brought together.

And last month, Giddens released her first solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, also produced by Burnett. I’ve heard a few things from it, including a startling live performance of the Jacques Wolf tune “Waterboy” on the Late Show with David Letterman. And I’m looking forward to digging into the album as soon as our mail carrier drops it off.

Here are two pieces by Giddens. The first is “Spanish Mary,” one of her contributions to Lost On The River, and the second is “Waterboy” from Tomorrow Is My Turn. And they’re today’s Saturday Singles.