Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

One Random Shot

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

I’m kind of swamped today: Housework beckons, as does a careful trip to the grocery store. And I’m still getting things squared away on my new desktop.

(I seem to have lost all of my email contacts, which means at least several long sessions of entering data; thankfully, all of the emails in my inbox came through, so I can at least harvest names and email addresses from there.)

Anyway, I have many things to do, and I need to get to them. But I’ve fallen into a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday mode here, and I hate to leave this space blank. So I’m going to play some Games With Numbers. I’ll take today’s date – 5/22 – and turn that into 27, and then I’ll take the year 2020 and use that to drop back to the year I turned twenty, 1973.

There are 2,630 tracks from 1973 in the RealPlayer. (I spent about four hours yesterday afternoon configuring the player and loading the music into it.) I’m going to sort them by running time, set the cursor in the middle of the stack, and click forward on random twenty-seven times, and we’ll see what we get.

And we come across perhaps the most rocking track from Ringo Starr’s self-titled album from that distant year: “Devil Woman.” Ringo wrote the song with Vini Poncia, and the album notes show Ringo and Jim Keltner on drums, Klaus Voorman on bass, Jimmy Calvert on guitar, Tom Hensley on piano, Milt Holland on percussion, and Tom Scott and Chuck Finley on horns.

No. 46 Forty-Six Years Ago

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

We’re going to fire up the Symmetry machine this morning and jump back to the third week of May in 1974. Why then? Because it was during that week – on May 21, to be precise – that I returned to Minnesota after my college year in Denmark. I don’t think I’ve ever looked to see what was atop the Billboard Hot 100 at the time (And if I have, it was evidently so long ago that another look won’t hurt.)

Here’s the Top Fifteen as of May 18, 1974, three days before our St. Cloud State contingent got onto a Finnair jet in Copenhagen to come home.

“The Streak” by Ray Stevens
“Dancing Machine” by the Jackson 5
“The Entertainer” by Marvin Hamlisch
“The Loco-Motion” by Grand Funk
“The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night
“Bennie & The Jets” by Elton John
“Band On The Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“Midnight At The Oasis” by Maria Muldaur
“(I’ve Been) Searching So Long” by Chicago
“You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics
“TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)” by MFSB feat. The Three Degrees
“I Won’t Last A Day Without You” by the Carpenters
“Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield
“Help Me” by Joni Mitchell
“Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” by the Main Ingredient

Let’s take these five at a time. The top five has three sure station-turners (assuming one would ever hear them on an oldies station while in the car these days): the singles by Stevens, Grand Funk and Three Dog Night. None of Stevens’ work has aged well in this corner of the universe; “The Loco-Motion” shows Grand Funk at its sludgiest and most boring; and “The Show Must Go On” just feels silly, not nearly up to the level of Three Dog Night’s work from the years 1969 to 1971.

That leaves two of those five: “Dancing Machine” and “The Entertainer.” They aren’t gems, but hearing them once in a while is fine.

The next five are a different matter altogether. Any of those can pop into my ear anytime they want, even the Chicago, despite some of the things I’ve said about the band’s mid-Seventies work. My favorite among those would be “Midnight At The Oasis,” which was the fuse for my fascination with Muldaur’s oeuvre: Between vinyl and CD, I have six of her albums; those albums and more make up the more than 200 tracks from Muldaur on the digital shelves.

The bottom five of the list above is not quite as stellar: I don’t mind the Carpenters’ single, but it’s not something I seek out; and I cannot recall the last time I heard the “Tubular Bells” single. I do recall listening to Oldfield’s Tubular Bells album on occasional Sunday mornings in Missouri as I read newspapers from Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago and New York. The album is probably still here – and both sides of the single are likely on the digital shelves – but I don’t really go looking for any of it.

On the other hand, “TSOP,” “Help Me,” and “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” are welcome here any time at all.

So let’s use our usual measuring stick on those fifteen. How many of them are among the 3,900-some tracks on my iPod and thus are among my day-to-day listening? Well none of the top five are there, and four of the second five are, all except the Stylistics’ single. Two of the bottom five – the Mitchell and Main Ingredient tracks – are there, and “TSOP” should be.

So all in all, that’s not a bad Top Fifteen.

And now to our other business. What was at No. 46 forty-six years ago? Well, these things sometimes happen, as we land on a record that I didn’t like then and I still don’t like: John Denver’s “Sunshine On My Shoulders.” The record was on its way back down the chart after peaking at No. 1 at the end of March. At least I wasn’t around when the record was in heavy rotation on the radio. Here it is:

Saturday Single No. 688

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

I woke this morning to the sad news that Little Richard has died. The cause was cancer, said his son, Danny Jones Penniman, in the Rolling Stone report.

That report covers Richard Penniman’s career and influence better than I can, so I’ll leave that alone. I’ll note that in a long ago (and long abandoned) book and website project with a friend, we tabbed Little Richard as one of the five biggest trees from which the rock ’n’ roll forest descended.

(The other four, for what it matters, were Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Fats Domino. I think we likely nailed it, with the possible exception of Bo Diddley, unless one wants to go further back into late 1940s and early 1950s jump blues and R&B.)

Anyway, I’ve never said much about Little Richard here, and I’m not sure why. I’ve written some about his 1970s comeback albums on Reprise and his stuff has popped up occasionally in random draws. But as much as I respect his influence, for some reason, he’s never seemed central to my musical universe.

And the LP and CD shelves over the years have reflected that: A few hits packages and a two-CD re-release of those Reprise albums from the 1970s. That’s a pretty sparse – if stellar – collection of one of the founding fathers of the music I love. All I can say is that when pop-rock music grabbed me in 1969 and I began to explore its different roads, none of those early explorations brought me to Little Richard.

The closest I came was through Delaney & Bonnie and their 1970 album To Bonnie From Delaney, which came to me in late 1972. I recall reading through the notes as the record played and noticing that Little Richard supplied the piano on the second track on the second side, a cover (I now know) of his own 1956 record “Miss Ann.” At that point, being nineteen and still catching up, I knew his name but had heard little, if any, of his work.

So I sat there on our green couch in the rec room and listened as Little Richard proceeded to rip it up. That memory means that “Miss Ann” by Delaney & Bonnie – with Little Richard on piano – is today’s Saturday Single.

True Spring

Friday, May 8th, 2020

It’s more than pleasant to see the trees and grass and all the greening things beyond our windows. The flowering crab off of our deck is nearly fully leaved and in a week or so will be in bloom. The maple near the front door shows signs of budding.

And the linden in between them waits, as it always does; its leafing will come when the other two are in full green. A late arrival in spring allows the linden to be the last of the three trees to yield its leaves in the autumn.

So, spring as a fact – as opposed to an alignment of the earth – is here. As is pollen. Both the Texas Gal and I have been stuffed, itchy-eyed, and sniffing for the past few days. For me, each passing year seems to bring more allergies. Forty years ago, in my mid-twenties, I was aware of none, but slowly, they’ve accumulated. For a few years in my late thirties, the middle and end of June was the most notable time. Then August came into play as I hit my forties.

Now – and for the past few years – early May has me heading for decongestants, antihistamines and tissues more than ever. So I’m going to sit back and take it easy. There’s little that need be done today. Maybe a bit of work around the house, but then, maybe not.

Here’s a springtime tune: “First Spring Rain” by the little-known New York City group, the Canterbury Music Festival. The 1968 track came my way through the massive Lost Jukebox I found online some years ago.

Fifty Years

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Four dead in Ohio, May 4, 1970:

Allison Krause
Jeffery Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

“Ohio” by the Assembled Multitude

Saturday Single No. 687

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

I’m trying to organize my thoughts about Long John Baldry’s 1991 CD It Still Ain’t Easy, which arrived here yesterday . . .

(The past six or so weeks of relative isolation have spurred jokes online and on television about folks going on online shopping sprees. There’s some truth to that here, as both the Texas Gal and I have been combing our favorite sites for goodies. Hers have been generally for quilting or cooking. Mine? Well, you can guess. Recent CD arrivals have been: Bob Dylan & The Band: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 – The Basement Tapes Complete, The Essential Bob Dylan, Intersection by Nanci Griffith, the three mid-1990s anthologies by the Beatles [supplementing the vinyl versions I got at the time], and the Baldry album mentioned above. I did buy one book, The Man Who Saved Britain, British author Simon Winder’s irreverent look at post-WWII Britain and the James Bond phenomenon.)

I’m pacing my listening of the Basement Tapes and the Beatles anthologies; those are more archival purchases than anything I’ll put into my regular rotation. The Essential Dylan will similarly get spare listening; it brings together most of his major recordings, almost all of which I’ve had for some time in at least one physical form, sometimes two. The one exception to that is “Things Have Changed” from the 2000 film Wonder Boys. So that was likely a frivolous purchase.

The purchases of the Baldry and Griffith CDs had more usual aims. I now once again have – in one form or another – all of Griffith’s studio albums (as well as one or two live performances), which satisfies an itch. And I’ve heard some of the Baldry album in various places and wanted to hear the rest.

And, pondering writing about It Still Ain’t Easy before I’ve totally absorbed it, I went to AllMusic this morning to see what the folks there had to say about the effort. Here’s Chip Renner’s assessment: “Baldry’s deep, rough-edged vocals have not changed over the years. The band is tight, with Mike Kalanj’s Hammond B-3 and Bill Rogers’ sax standing out. There are no flaws on this one, just great music.”

Well, all that is nice to know. But it terms of giving me a direction or pointing out specific tracks on which to focus, it leaves me wanting more. And I guess that’s okay. So we’ll just listen to the track that tipped me to the album a few years ago: “Midnight In New Orleans.” And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘When I Was Small . . .’

Friday, May 1st, 2020

Well, it’s the First Of May, which makes it a Bee Gees day here.

The maudlin track showed up first in early 1969 on the group’s Odessa album, which entered the Billboard 200 on February 22 of that year, on its way to No. 20. It’s a somewhat baffling collection of lovely tracks covering almost every genre conceivable in 1969 (excluding hard rock). As I wrote almost thirteen years ago:

Perhaps the most sensible comment I’ve ever heard or read about Odessa came from the Rolling Stone Album Guide, which called it “the Sgt. Pepper’s copy all ’60s headliners felt driven to attempt,” noting that it “wasn’t bad; faulting it for pretentiousness makes absolutely no sense.”

I didn’t hear the album until a few years after it had been released, and I certainly don’t recall hearing “First Of May” on the radio after it was released as a single in early 1969. I wasn’t yet in full Top 40 mode, but the sounds were around me a fair amount of the time, and I think I’d remember the record. I’m not sure it charted on the Twin Cities’ KDWB or WDGY, based on the (incomplete) information offered at Oldiesloon.

The record did get into the Top 40 in Billboard, reaching No. 37, not major hit territory.

But right from the start, the song attracted cover versions. Second Hand Songs lists fifty covers. The earliest is from a group called Top Of The Pops in March 1969. I suspect a connection to the British television show; a glance at the album’s jacket kind of tells me that the recordings on the album are performed by studio musicians.

The first cover of “First Of May” by a known musician came from José Feliciano on his Feliciano/10 to 23 album released in June 1969. Covers followed into 1974 from names I know like Cilla Black, Matt Monro, Mel Carter, and Roger Whittaker, and from names I’m not familiar with like Jill Kirkland and Cornelia.

Instrumental covers by groups including the Mystic Moods Orchestra also came along in those five years after the Bee Gees’ release, as did covers in Danish, Italian, Portuguese and Swedish.

And even after that flurry, covers would come along every once in a while, with a spate of ten or so of them in the Oughts by performers whose names I do not recognize. (Except, that is, for Robin Gibb, who collaborated on a cover of “First Of May” with G4 in 2005.)

I’ve not heard a lot of those covers (the only covers of the song on the digital shelves are those from Feliciano and the Mystic Moods Orchestra), so I’m going to select one pretty much at random to mark the day.

Here’s Tony Hadley’s atmospheric and, frankly, odd cover from 1997. (Knowing that Hadley was the lead singer for Spandau Ballet makes the cover’s quirks a little more understandable.)

‘Somewhere East Of Midnight . . .’

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

In 1988, April 29 was a Friday, and I’m guessing that I stopped off to do some shopping on the way home from Minot State University that day and came away with a copy of Gordon Lightfoot’s 1986 album East Of Midnight.

The album was Lightfoot’s most recent release of all new material. (Sometime in 1988, he would release Gord’s Gold, Volume II, which included re-recordings of some of his recent work, as well as some repackaging of earlier recordings and one new track.) And it was, according to the LP database, the fifth album by the Canadian folk singer to come home with me.

I was likely in a difficult mood that day, struggling after the ending of a relationship during the first days of the month. New music might cheer me, I suppose I thought. And there was another thing, as I look back.

One of the stages of grief, it’s said, is bargaining: If I do this, things will change and the grief will go away, or something like that. And, I’ve read, we don’t often recognize the bargaining behavior at the time. One of the touchstones of the relationship just ended had been music, and Lightfoot’s music had been high on our list. Was there a subconscious motive in my buying East Of Midnight?

Maybe. I’d added some Lightfoot to my stacks during the previous year, while things had been going well. I might have seen East Of Midnight as a talisman of some sort. Or maybe not. As well as I recall the events of that spring, I can’t untangle my motivations on that long-ago Friday.

So I don’t remember the specific purchase. At first thought this morning, I was guessing I stopped at a garage sale on the way home, but after pulling the record from the stacks, I lean toward a retail purchase: the jacket is crisp and the record is shiny and unmarked. I assume I put the record on the turntable sometime after dinner that evening, but it’s pretty evident that the record has not been out of the jacket very often in the past thirty-two years. And when it has come out of the jacket, it did so most often at the times I was making mixtapes for friends. I often included the album’s moody title track on those mixtapes.

I recognize the other titles listed on the jacket, but none of them are favorites of mine, especially not “Anything For Love,” which was pulled from the album as a single. It’s the one track on the album produced by David Foster, whose work I’ve never much cared for. (Lightfoot produced the rest of the album.) And as a single, “Anything For Love” had some success, reaching No. 15 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart; the album itself went to No. 165 on the Billboard 200. Given the radio stations I tended to listen to in 1986, I imagine I heard the single without really noticing it.

In the context of the album, though, the single was noticeable, as Foster’s overblown approach was vastly different from the tack Lightfoot took, a pop-folk vein familiar to listeners since his first major successes in 1970. And I imagine I noticed that difference during that first playing of the album on that long-ago evening.

In the years since, I’ve continued to gather Lightfoot’s work, with seventeen LPs and five CDs on the stacks here. East Of Midnight isn’t my favorite; I think that title would go to 1974’s Sundown, with Shadows from 1982 coming in second. East Of Midnight comes somewhere after those two, but the dark title track still ranks pretty highly with me. Lyrically, it’s a bit of a hodge-podge, so I’m not sure what Lightfoot was actually trying to say, but I like it nevertheless.

And the fact that I found the track during a difficult spring and still like it in a springtime thirty-two years later – a springtime also difficult but for far different reasons – pleases me. Here’s “East Of Midight.”

Saturday Single No. 686

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

Here’s what the top ten “Middle-Road” singles looked like in Billboard on April 24, 1965, fifty-five years ago yesterday:

“The Race Is On” by Jack Jones
“Cast Your Fate To The Wind” by Sounds Orchestral
“King Of The Road” by Roger Miller
“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Vic Dana
“Baby The Rain Must Fall” by Glenn Yarbrough
“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Wayne Newton
“And Roses And Roses” by Andy Williams
“Crazy Downtown” by Allan Sherman
“I Can’t Stop Thinking Of You” by Bobby Martin
“Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey

That’s a half-way familiar clutch of records. I recall hearing Nos. 2 through 5 on the radio regularly at home, either on WCCO from Minneapolis or St. Cloud’s own KFAM. And I liked all four of them. I also remember hearing Bassey’s “Goldfinger,” but I never cared much for it (despite my burgeoning James Bond fixation), and later in the year, when I got the soundtrack, I wholly embraced John Barry’s pulsating instrumental version of the tune.

Bassey’s version peaked at No. 2 on the Middle-Road chart (and at No. 8 on the Hot 100), while Barry’s own release of the instrumental got to No. 15 on the MR chart and to No. 72 on the Hot 100.

As to the top record in that mid-Sixties chart, I’ve heard Jack Jones’ “The Race Is On,” but it pales in comparison with George Jones’ 1964 No. 3 country original. Of course, George Jones’ record was never going to get middle of the road airplay, so if someone were going to get non-country chart success with the song, it might as well have been the inoffensive and bland Jack Jones. (Looking at Jack Jones’ listing of twenty-six chart hits in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I can’t recall hearing a single one except for “The Race Is On,” which I’ve listened to a couple of times at YouTube while researching posts here.)

As to Nos. 6 through 9, I’m not familiar with them, which kind of surprises me, given my affection for mid-Sixties middle of the road stuff. Sherman’s record is, of course, a parody of Petula Clark’s massive hit “Downtown,” and Newton’s record is, like Dana’s, a cover of John Laurenz’ 1948 release. (According to Second Hand Songs, Dana and Newton released their versions in January 1965; theirs were evidently the first covers of the song in sixteen years.)

(Also parenthetically, Dana’s version of “Red Roses For A Blue Lady” was one of the records I got from Leo Rau, the jukebox jobber who lived across the alley from us back in those years. I have a hunch the record’s still here.)

Martin’s weeper sounds almost like it could have been a country hit (it wasn’t), but perhaps that’s because the title phrase is so similar to the opening of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” as recorded by (among others) Kitty Wells and Don Gibson in 1958 and Ray Charles in 1962.

Then there’s the Andy Williams record, which starts with a nifty bossa nova intro only to collapse into a languid and saccharine ending.

So, I like four of those ten. How many of them are in the iPod, indicating they’re still part of my day-to-day listening? Only two: “King Of The Road” and “Baby The Rain Must Fall.” I’m a little surprised by the absence of “Cast Your Fate To The Wind,” given that I’ve got almost thirty tracks by Sounds Orchestral on the digital shelves. And that’s the direction we’re going this morning.

Here’s “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” by the English pop orchestra Sounds Orchestral. Sometime after mid-April 1965, the record spent three weeks on top of the Middle-Road chart, and it peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Night Theme’

Friday, April 24th, 2020

As has been noted here numerous times, one of the formative albums in my musical life is the 1963 release by trumpeter Al Hirt, Honey In The Horn.

It encouraged me in my horn playing, giving me a model, something that all young artists and performers need. And it introduced me to a wide variety of songs, although it took a few years to realize that. On the album Hirt covered songs written by legends such as Hank Snow (“I’m Movin’ On), Allen Toussaint (“Java”), Boudleaux Bryant (“Theme From A Dream”) Ira Gershwin and Vernon Duke (“I Can’t Get Started”) and others.

Shortly after I got the record for my eleventh birthday, I knew the tracks well enough to “play” them in my head, nailing the background chorus work and Hirt’s solos. It took me years, though, to begin to read the credits, and it wasn’t until the Internet years that I began to look for the original – or at least additional – versions of the songs.

Some were easy, like the three mentioned above. “Java” came from Toussaint’s pen, “I Can’t Get Started” is one of the entries in what we now call the Great American Songbook, and “I’m Movin’ On” is one of the biggest hits in country history. Others took some digging, like “Al Di Là” by Carlo Donida and Mogol, which turned out to have been Italy’s 1961 entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.

And there were some I never looked into: “Tansy,” “Man With A Horn,” and a few more.

Not long after I began this blog, I wondered about the moody “Night Theme.” Broad Googling got me nowhere, and a trip to YouTube failed. A few years later I went to one of my favorite tools, the website Second Hand Songs and found nothing, there, so I forgot about “Night Theme,” except whenever Hirt’s rendition popped up on the RealPlayer or iTunes or when I played his CD in the car:

A mention earlier this month at my pal jb’s blog, The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, of a different tune with the same title got me looking again. Armed with a wider range of tools, and a copy of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I got some results.

“Night Theme” was the product of songwriters Wayne Cogswell and Ray Peterson a pair of Rhode Island natives. Cogswell’s fingerprints are all over 1950s pop and early rock ’n’ roll, especially for his work in Memphis with Sam Phillips. Peterson was a guitarist and composer based mainly in his home state, if I read things correctly. Right around 1960, according to a 2014 piece in the Johnston Sunrise newspaper in Warwick, Cogswell came back home and started Wye Records with a business partner, but still wanting to perform and record, he looked for a musical partner and found Peterson:

“I met Ray Peterson and we decided to do a dual piano act, one piano, two players, like the old Ferrante and Teicher thing.” One of the products of the piano thing was “Night Theme,” an atmospheric, blues-infected instrumental that was a favorite for slow dancing at record hops and teen hangouts for many years.

The duo released the record – Wye 1001 – as The Mark II, and in 1960, it got to No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100.

So that’s one minor mystery solved. I have a few to go.