Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

Saturday Single No. 674

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

Some songs haunt.

As I read the paper this morning, the RealPlayer wandered through 1975: Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Albert Hammond, Seals & Crofts, Barry Manilow, and then Janis Ian:

The days are okay
I watch the TV in the afternoons
If I get lonely,
The sound of other voices,
Other rooms are near to me
I’m not afraid . . .

And in the winter,
Extra blankets for the cold
Fix the heater, getting old
I am wiser now, you know
And still as big a fool concerning you . . .

And I was pulled back twenty years, into the winter after I was overexposed to toxic chemicals and was left unable to work, unsure of where I could go safely for more than a few minutes, and uncertain of the future. I was isolated in a new apartment in the southern reaches of Minneapolis, and I was lonely.

Ian’s song “In The Winter” has left me feeling desolate from the first time I heard it during the late summer of 1988. It’s from her 1975 album Between The Lines, the album that contains the remarkable “At Seventeen,” which itself is no joyful romp in the meadow. But the angst in “At Seventeen,” is a look back to youth, and when it came out of speakers everywhere during the late summer and early autumn of 1975, it was a tale of memory. And those of us at The Table at St. Cloud State – all attuned for years to Thoreau’s distant drummer – could listen and agree that our younger days had been confusing and sometimes far less than happy.

But “In The Winter” has no insulation of time gone, being written in the present instead of as a look back. I first heard it, I imagine, in September 1988, when Between The Lines was among a batch of records I brought home from a Saturday excursion to either the flea market or some garage sales. It had been a difficult summer, and in Ian’s dirge of solitude after the end of a relationship, I heard echoes of my life at the time.

And this morning, as it came up, I was back for a moment in another desolate time, January 2000, when I wondering how where my life would go (not knowing, of course, that by mid-February, during my first full week online, my life would take another astounding turn, this one fulfilling). I must have heard it during that winter, but whether I sought it out to underline my depression or forgot it was on the album as I cued it up, I do not know. (I’d like to think it was the latter.)

It’s still a bleak song, but beyond that first twinge, its tale is now memory, like the tale of “At Seventeen” was forty-five years ago. And its appearance this morning during random play is a reminder – one we all sometimes need, I think – that bleakness doesn’t always last. And all of that means that Janis Ian’s “In The Winter” is today’s Saturday Single.

Default Mode

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

I’m hardly here this morning. The head cold I managed to pick up at Urgent Care Saturday is settling in nicely, and I wore myself out with several essential chores yesterday. So I’m going to default to seeking out today’s date – January 23 – in the RealPlayer. We’ll see what we get. (A reminder: I likely have recording dates for maybe five percent of the tracks in the program.)

And our search brings us fourteen tracks. The tunes range temporally from “It’s Moving Day,” recorded by Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers on January 23, 1930, to the Temptations’ “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” which was laid down on January 23, 1964.

The other names in the brief list include Lead Belly, Artie Shaw, Howlin’ Wolf, Louis Jordan, Muddy Waters, Nat King Cole, Claude King, Ann Cole, Tony Bennett, and a few that are not as recognizable.

And it comes to mind that we don’t often listen to Nat King Cole around here. Nothing wrong with the music; it just tends to get pushed to the back of the shelf by other stuff. So we’ll pull him forward today. Here’s “Can’t I?” with Cole accompanied by Billy May & His Orchestra. It was recorded on this date in 1953, peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard airplay chart (going nearly as high on the sales and juke box charts), and went to No. 7 on the magazine’s R&B jukebox chart (if I’m reading the data correctly).

It’s a nice piece.

‘Doctor, Doctor . . .’

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

You know how it is with plans.

Saturday’s post plans disappeared when I woke up that morning with a case of gout. The word conjures up visions of a bewigged upper-class Englishman seated near a fire with his ailing foot elevated. The reality, I learned when I tried to walk on my left foot that morning, is exceedingly painful.

We spent about four hours at the Urgent Care clinic that day, learning about the ailment and sitting in a waiting room half-filled with parents and children who were no doubt sharing their viral miseries with everyone. I was advised to use steroids and ibuprofen to ease my pain and to consult about further treatment with my regular doctor, Dr. Julie, whom I will see Friday.

I’ve learned a lot already – won’t list the details here – and will learn more later this week, but since late Saturday afternoon, there has been no pain.

But I have picked up another case of plugged head and sniffles, no doubt courtesy of one or more of Saturday morning’s ailing urchins. And this morning, I head out to my clinic so the lab can draw blood ahead of my appointment Friday. It’s a doctor week.

And here’s the garage “Doctor Doctor” by Gary Walker & The Rain. It’s from 1968’s Album No. 1. I’ll be back later this week.

‘How Can I Go On Living . . .’

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Since we dabbled around the other day in the Billboard 200 album chart from mid-January 1972, I thought we’d stay in that same time period and check out the magazine’s easy listening chart, the chart now called Adult Contemporary. Here are the top fifteen records from that chart as of January 15, 1972:

“American Pie” by Don McLean
“Cherish” by David Cassidy
“It’s One Of Those Nights (Yes Love)” by the Partridge Family
“Anticipation” by Carly Simon
“I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” by the Hillside Singers
“Without You” by Nilsson
“The Harder I Try (The Bluer I Get)” by the Free Movement
“Sunshine” by Jonathan Edwards
“An Old Fashioned Love Song” by Three Dog Night
“All I Ever Need Is You” by Sonny & Cher
“Joy” by Apollo 100
“500 Miles” by Heaven Bound with Tony Scott
“My Boy” by Richard Harris
“Friends With You” by John Denver
“Brand New Key” by Melanie

Well, at least three of those ring no bells for me by title, which is a little odd, considering that 1972 falls smack in the middle of what I call my sweet spot. I don’t recall the singles by the Partridge Family, the Free Movement, or John Denver. The Heaven Bound single is ringing faint bells; I have a hunch it’s shown up in this space before. And a quick bit of research shows that I spent a couple of posts in 2012 digging into the single and other versions of the Hedy West song “500 Miles.”

As to the other three, after a quick trip to YouTube, I find I do not recall the Partridge Family or Free Movement records at all, though they’re pretty good singles. And after a reminder, I do recall the John Denver record without pleasure.

And of the other eleven, how many of them matter today? I don’t really dislike any of them; I suppose I have the least affection for the Sonny & Cher record, but it doesn’t make me ill. So let’s take a look at the iPod and see how many of those eleven records are among the 3,900-some that make up my day-to-day listening.

Well, in the device we find the singles by McLean, Simon, Nilsson, Edwards, Three Dog Night and Apollo 100. And none of those really surprise me. After all, as I noted above, 1972 falls right in the middle of my sweet spot. Since I got my own corner of the ’Net in 2010, I’ve written about 1972 and its music 150 times (including today). The only years that have shown up here more frequently are 1972’s immediate predecessors: 1969 (178 times), 1970 (196 times) and 1971 (167 times). (The total number of posts, for what it’s worth, is 1,508, including today.)

All of that tells me something that is likely self-evident: I am a product of those years when my tastes were formed. So, I think, are we all. Our listening (and viewing and reading) habits may expand and modify, but they all build on the foundations of our youths.

As an example, I know a fair amount about the blues, its history and its variants, but I got there by going backwards from (among others) Eric Clapton and the early Rolling Stones. It’s probably not a stretch to say that my interest in the blues was seeded in large part by hearing the Stones’ “Love In Vain” and “You Gotta Move” and Cream’s “Rollin’ & Tumblin’” in 1971 and 1972 (though those seeds took years to sprout).

Well, I ramble. To get back to the fifteen records above, of those that are in my iPod, only two speak to me on a deeper level: the Nilsson and Carly Simon records, the first because a friend of mine used to sing it as I played piano and the second because of a day that came fifteen years later. So I thought I’d look at the remaining twenty-five records in that long-ago easy listening chart and see if any of those spoke to me.

And I find at No. 24 Beverly Bremers’ “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember,” a record I’ve mentioned only a few times over the years, which is a little odd, as it’s a lovely exercise in sorrow, sentiment and nostalgia (all among my major weaknesses) with a killer hook. The record peaked on the easy listening chart at No. 5 and went to No. 15 on the Hot 100.

No. 48, Forty-Eight Years Ago

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, and today, we’re wandering back to January of 1972, a time when I was kind of figuring out college life. I was learning how to study, how to enjoy coffee, and how to put together a late-night, five-minute, top-of-the-hour newsbreak for St. Cloud State’s KVSC-FM that wouldn’t sound stupid being bracketed by Mason Proffit and Long John Baldry.

We’re going to change the game a little bit today, calling it Album Symmetry and instead of looking at the top singles, we’ll look at the album chart. The top ten albums in the Billboard 200 forty-eight years ago today were:

Music by Carole King
American Pie by Don McLean
Chicago at Carnegie Hall
The Concert for Bangla Desh
Led Zeppelin IV
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens
Tapestry by Carole King
All In The Family soundtrack
There’s A Riot Goin’ On by Sly & The Family Stone
Black Moses by Isaac Hayes

Eight of those eventually ended up on the vinyl stacks here. At the time this chart was released, two, maybe three, of those albums were in the cardboard box in the basement rec room: The Concert For Bangla Desh and Tapestry were for sure, but I’m not certain about the Cat Stevens album.

Tapestry and Teaser . . . were my sister’s LPs, and she’d take them with her when she got married and left Kilian Boulevard during the coming summer. I’d eventually get my own copies of those two records and copies of five more of the ten albums listed there. The only two that didn’t ever show up were the All In The Family soundtrack and the Isaac Hayes album. (The Isaac Hayes album is on the digital shelves, but oddly, the Sly & The Family Stone album is not; all of the others except the All In The Family soundtrack are there.)

So of those, how many matter today? Well, most of Tapestry is in the iPod, as well as selected tracks from Music, American Pie, The Concert For Bangla Desh, and the albums by Led Zeppelin and Cat Stevens. It’s the stuff that – if you’ve been reading this blog even semi-regularly – you’d expect to be there. So no surprises there.

But what about our ostensible purpose for being here today? What album sits at No. 48 on that chart released forty-eight years ago today?

Well, it’s an album that never had a chance of getting onto my shelves: Cheech & Chong. I heard the 1971 debut album by Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong often at friends’ places, and I laughed along with everyone else. But comedy albums have never been a big deal to me. In fact, the only comedy album I ever sought out for myself was Bill Cosby’s Wonderfulness, which my folks bought for me, most likely in 1967. (A few other comedy records have come and gone in box buys at flea markets and garage sales.)

Enough people elsewhere loved Cheech & Chong for it to get to No. 26 during a sixty-four week run on the chart. And here’s the opening bit from the album, a bit that lives on in a lot of people’s heads when they meet someone named Dave.

Saturday Single No. 673

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

I’ve got a bunch of music stored on my phone, stuff that I put there a year ago so the phone could be my mp3 player while I was in the hospital, and every once in a while, as I take a rest, I lay the phone near the pillow and let the music lull me to sleep.

Except not all of the tunes on the phone are lulling. The other day I was roused when Long John Baldry began graveling his way through “Let’s Burn Down The Cornfield,” the Randy Newman tune Baldry covered on his 1971 album It Ain’t Easy.

I wrote briefly about the song in 2008, quoting the assessment of Newman’s original recording of the song found at All-Music Guide:

A sinewy ballad built around a fine bottleneck guitar riff, “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” is a love song, basically, but the slightly demented lyric content is what gives it the edge.

Slightly demented? Well, yeah. Take a read:

Let’s burn down the cornfield,
Let’s burn down the cornfield,
And we can listen to it burn.

You hide behind the oak tree,
You hide behind the oak tree,
Stay out of danger ’till I return.

Oh, it’s so good on a cold night
To have a fire burnin’ warm and bright.

You hide behind the oak tree,
You hide behind the oak tree,
Stay out of danger ’till I return.

Let’s burn down the cornfield,
Let’s burn down the cornfield,
And I’ll make love to you while it’s burning.

At the time, more than eleven years ago, I had access to two covers of the song, those by Baldry and by Alex Taylor, and I noted that I planned to soon rip to mp3s Etta James’ version of the tune from her 1974 album Come A Little Closer.

Well, I must have done that, because James’ version of the song is now in the RealPlayer stacks, as are additional versions by Lou Rawls, Sam Samudio and the Walkabouts. There are others out there, but we’re not going to look any further afield this morning. Instead, we’re just going to make Etta James’ take on “Let’s Burn Down The Cornfield” today’s Saturday Single.

Back Business, One Year Later

Friday, January 10th, 2020

It was a year ago today that I had my back surgery, with Dr. McIver doing some clean-up and installing various pieces of hardware to stabilize things in my lumbar spine and to rid me of the horrendous pain I’d been feeling in my hamstrings for about two years.

Well, it all worked. The pain was gone as soon as I woke from surgery, and the pain from the surgery is greatly diminished, Still, there is some pain in my lower back. Two reasons for that:

First of all, I’m sixty-six. As Dr. McIver said during one of my post-op visits, “We can’t make you twenty again.”

And then, I don’t always get to the exercise room at the Senior Center as often as I should. And when I don’t, things stiffen up back there.

That’s what’s been happening during the past ten days, as the Texas Gal and I have been dealing with some kind of cold/body-ache bug. One day I feel fine and she’s down, the next day, she’s better and I’m not. I can tell early this morning that this is one of my “not” days, so I’m going to have to take it easy. I’ll read, practice some piano in preparation for church this coming Sunday, and putter with some mp3s I need to catalog.

As I started this, I told the RealPlayer to sort the 79,000-some mp3s on the organized shelves for files that have the word “back” in them, whether showing up in the title, the performer, the album title or maybe some appended notes. That brought us 1,442 files. And I’m going to sort those for running time and then click on random as many times as needed to land on something from my 1967-75 sweet spot with “back” in its title

And we find a track from Allen Toussaint’s 1975 album Southern Nights, “Back In Baby’s Arms.” I don’t see a single release listed at my normal reference spots, but the album bubbled under the Billboard 200 at No. 204.

And it’s a sweet bit of mellow New Orleans R&B with a couple of nice sax solos.

‘Underneath The Harlem Moon . . .’

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

I was parked at my computer, idly clicking from one track to another in iTunes, as I sometimes do, just seeing what there was among the 3,900-some tracks, when up popped one I’d not really noticed before: Rhiannon Giddens’ take on the 1930s tune “Underneath the Harlem Moon” from her 2015 EP Factory Girl.

Creole babies walk along with rhythm in their thighs
Rhythm in their hips and in their lips and in their eyes
Where do high-browns find the kind of love that satisfies?
Underneath the Harlem moon

We don’t pick no cotton; picking cotton is taboo
We don’t live in cabins like the old folks used to do
Our cabin is a penthouse up on St. Nicholas Avenue
Underneath that Harlem moon

We just live for dancing
We’re never blue or forlorn
Ain’t no sin to laugh and grin
That’s why we schwarzes were born

We shout, “Hallelujah!” every time we’re feeling low
And every sheik is dressed up like a Georgia gigolo
White folks call it madness but I call it hi-de-ho
Underneath that Harlem moon

Once we wore bandanas, now we wear Parisian hats
Once we were barefoot, now we’re sporting shoes and spats
Once we were Republicans but now we’re Democrats
Underneath the Harlem moon

We don’t pick no cotton; picking cotton is taboo
All we pick is numbers and that includes you white folks too
’Cause if we hit, we pay our rent on any avenue
Underneath the Harlem moon

We just thrive on dancing
Why be blue and forlorn?
We just laugh and grin. Ha! Let the landlord in
That’s why house rent parties were born

We also drink our gin, smoke our reefer, when we’re feeling low
Then we’re ready to step out and take charge of any so-and-so
Don’t stop for law, no traffic, when we’re raring to go
Underneath the Harlem moon
Underneath the Harlem moon

I wondered for a bit about Giddens’ purpose in recording the song, written in the 1930s by Harry Revel and Mack Gordon and first recorded in 1932 by Howard Joyner. And I’m still wondering.

The most prominent version of the song may be the truncated version Randy Newman included on his 1972 album 12 Songs. It’s been released a few other times as well – mostly in the 1930s and a couple of times in the 1980s before Giddens came along with her version, according to Second Hand Songs. Not listed there is a performance by Ethel Waters in a 1933 film titled Rufus Jones For President (starring a young Sammy Davis Jr. as the presidential candidate).

Was Giddens – who is one of my favorite musical discoveries in the years since I began blogging in 2007 – reclaiming heritage, as she is wont to do? Maybe so. It seems to me that Giddens, with her clear interest in bringing the musical past into the present – from her work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops to her current solo work – is one of the few performers who could get away with performing “Under The Harlem Moon.”

Questions? Comments?

Saturday Single No. 672

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Having started and discarded in extreme dissatisfaction two posts this morning (my sinus infection and needy cats have been no help at all), I’m just going to punt and do right from the top the same thing we did here two days ago as we noted that 1970 is now fifty years distant:

I’m going to sort the releases in the RealPlayer from 1970 by running time, drop the cursor in the middle, and click on random ten times.

And we fall upon “Rosy Shy,” a track from Jesse Winchester’s self-titled debut album, a work produced by Robbie Robertson of The Band. And it’s today’s Saturday Single. (I hope to have more to say come next week.)

The Moody Blues’ Seventies: Part 2

Friday, December 27th, 2019

Casting my memory’s net back to the summer and fall of 1971, I vaguely recall conversation among my pal Rick and his friends and among my friends at St. Cloud State about the Moody Blues’ 1971 album, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. There was talk before the album came out about what seemed to be an odd title. There was talk when the album came out about the striking cover art. What I don’t recall is talk about the content of the album.

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour(The title comes from the mnemonic used by music students in Britain to memorize the lines of the treble clef – E-G-B-D-F – with the word “favour” taking on the British spelling. Here in the U.S., our mnemonic is slightly different: Every Good Boy Does Fine. As to the art work, well, it’s displayed here, and perhaps it’s a little less striking after nearly fifty years.)

As to the content, the music and lyrics, the Moody Blues were, as usual, ambitious. Says Graeme Edge in the liner notes to 1997 CD release of the album, “We decided we would write the history of music” in the opening track, “Procession,” which fades in to what seems to be the chirping of insects and makes its way to obviously computerized sounds (Mellotron or Moog, I don’t know) and then wind before we get the chanted word “Desolation!” followed by raindrops and “Creation!” Then come drums and “Communication!” followed by grunts, chants, sitar, a somewhat Baroque melody on flute and harpsichord, an organ wandering around, a brief orchestral interlude, and then electric guitars leading into what is no doubt the album’s best-known track, “The Story In Your Eyes.”

It’s not as bombastic as the spoken word intros of the group’s late 1960s albums, but it doesn’t age well, either. Some of my fellow freshmen at St. Cloud State during the autumn of 1971 thought, however, that it was profound. The same three introductory words – desolation, creation, and communications – show up with numerous other “tion” and sound-alike words (“degradation,” “humiliation,” and “salvation” among them) – in the lumbering chorus to “One More Time To Live” on what was the first track of the album’s second side in its LP configuration. They work there, but only a little better.

The Moodies were always – up to 1972, at least – trying to make a statement and craft their music and lyrics to center on a chosen theme. That’s hard to do, which is why writers are often told to forget about theme and message and just tell the story: The theme will shine through the story and the message will be in the tale itself. So, like the group’s previous albums, EGBDF is in several places heavy-handed and obvious.

It has its very good moments, too, however. The one single released from the album, “The Story In Your Eyes” is one of my favorite Moody Blues tracks. Its lyrics are a little preachy, yes, but they’re carried along by one of the group’s most propulsive rock tracks. Released in the U.S. a month after the album was released. “The Story In Your Eyes” went to No 23 in the Billboard Hot 100. (The album went to No. 2 in Billboard.)

I’m not going to go into great detail about the rest of the tracks on the album, except to note that a few do stand out: “After You Came” and “You Can Never Go Home” are well-done, and the closer, “My Song,” is an ambitious statement song collage, much like the closers on the group’s previous albums. How well it works depends on whether you’re . . . well, let me put it this way: I’d like to be as impressed with it today as I was when I was 18, but I’m not. What was moving – if recognizably bombastic – in 1971 is just overkill and the source of pleasant memories in 2019.

And that’s the key there, the memories: Even though I didn’t have my own copy of the album until the late summer of 1977, evidently enough of my friends did, or I heard enough of it on KVSC, the St. Cloud State student radio station, for the album to pull me back into 1971, not as potently as a couple other albums and a few singles and album tracks, but enough so that EGBDF feels like my freshman year of college.

Assessing it as fairly as I can in 2019, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is better than the group’s late 1960s albums, and about as good as 1970’s A Question Of Balance. I’ll give it a B.

Here’s the second-best track on the album, “You Can Never Go Home.” Again, there were often no discernable gaps between the tracks, so the beginning of the song is indistinct.