Archive for the ‘1978’ Category

The Moody Blues: 1978

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

For almost a year now, the CD of the Moody Blues 1978 album Octave has been sitting on top of a pile of the group’s later albums on a bookcase near my desk. And during those eleven months – ever since I shared here my assessment of Seventh Sojourn, the group’s 1972 album – I’ve thought to myself, “I need to write that post.”

And yet, I didn’t and didn’t, instead pulling something else out of my mind and reference books to share here nearly three times a week. And I wondered: Was I lazy, not wanting to organize myself enough to actually think and write clearly about the album? I certainly know the album, having had it on my shelves since early 1979. As one of my characters in a bit of fiction asked another, “What’s the tale, Dale?”

And upon another listening this week, I came up with my answer. With one major exception, I really don’t like the album. Nine of its ten tracks leave me pretty much empty. Those nine tracks sound okay musically: the ballads are sweet, and the up-tempo tracks lope along as they should. Lyrically, those nine tracks tell familiar stories in familiar ways: love stories, self-discovery, a little bit of cosmic wonder.

And that all sounds like something you’d be pleased to have playing in the background in early 1979 as you catch up with friends: Who’s getting married, who has a new job, who’s having a first baby, whose parents aren’t doing so well. That’s what we talked about during those years, our first years of being out on our own. We were young professionals offering our competence to the world for the first time.

And on the stereo, there were the Moody Blues offering their competence to the world, and – with one huge exception – that’s all that Octave offerred: competence without any seeming inspiration. The five long-time members of the group – Graeme Edge, John Lodge, Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder and Justin Hayward – had returned from time away from the band, five years or so, and offered an almost entirely forgettable set of tracks that were pleasant in the background but lacking substance when given more careful attention.

Coming to that realization over the past week depressed me. Octave was the third of the group’s massive catalog that I’d ever owned; I’d gotten the 1968 album In Search of the Lost Chord in 1972 and found the hippie mysticism a little silly but listenable. I got 1972’s Seventh Sojourn for Christmas that year, and loved the album, less mystical but still pertinent and enjoyable musically. And I also knew the 1970 album A Question Of Balance well, having heard it across the street at Rick’s many times.

So realizing this week that I don’t like the album bummed me out. A little more thought brought me to understand that – with one major exception – I didn’t much like the album in 1979, either. And that brought me to think about – and here things get markedly personal – my life back then. I had a job I loved as a reporter for the Monticello Times. I was newly married. I was losing touch with my college friends and not replacing them. And looking back forty-some years, the only memories of that life that aren’t tinged with sorrow are the memories of my job.

So sorrow-laden memories of the times float along as I listen. Trying to sort things out, a few of the tracks did seem better than the others as I listened this week: Despite its ponderous and clichéd introduction, “Steppin’ In A Slide Zone” is a decent piece, “Had To Fall In Love” is a pretty track, and “The Day We Meet Again” is all right. But there’s no way I can accurately assess and review the album without delving into the mostly unhappy life I was living when the album came into that life. Call it a grade of Incomplete and leave it that way on the transcript forever.

There is, of course, the one exception I’ve mentioned several times: “Driftwood,” the fifth track on the album and the last track on Side One in the LP configuration, towers above anything else on the album. It’s a melancholy track, to be sure, but its sadness, its sorrow, is couched in perhaps the most beautiful music the Moody Blues ever made, capped by the metaphor of the title and chorus: “Don’t leave me driftwood on the shore.”

No person was about to leave me as driftwood back then, but – looking back as fairly as I can – perhaps I sensed that life outside the newsroom was leaving me behind in some ways, and thus, “Driftwood” spoke to me. Or maybe that’s bullshit, and it was the sweeping melody, the bittersweet lyrics, the French horn, and the saxophone that pulled me in. I don’t know, and despite my frequent need to assess and analyze the stops and turns in my life, I’m just going to say that “Driftwood” can stand alone as perhaps the best thing the Moody Blues ever did and one of the tracks I have most loved over the years.

Saturday Single No. 716

Saturday, December 19th, 2020

At times over the years, I’ve used one post or another here as kind of a note on a bulletin board, something to remind me to start a new project or to pick up on a series of posts interrupted and since set aside. This is one of those posts.

It’s been ten months since I added to the series of posts intended to examine the catalog of the Moody Blues. I dug into the group’s 1972 album, Seventh Sojourn, in February, just before the world went askew, and have never gotten back to that project, never examined the next stop in the group’s journey, 1978’s Octave.

But I reckon that delay is all right. After all, it took the group six years to get from Sojourn to Octave. If I can do so in a little more than ten months, well, that’s not too bad. So sometime in the next week, that long-delayed project should resume.

As a teaser, I’m offering here the track that might be the second-best the album has to offer. I’m not exactly where “One Step Into The Light” fits among the tracks from Octave. Musically, it’s very much like late 1960s Moodies stuff (which may or may not be a good thing), and lyrically, it lapses into the kind of mysticism that left a lot of people either laughing or leaving the room during those late 1960s days:

One step into the light
One step away from night
It’s the hardest step you’re gonna take
The ship to take you there is waitin’ at the head
Of the stairs that lead up through your opened mind

Above the dark despair
Shines a light that we can share
Close your eyes and look up in between your brows
Then slowly breathing in
Feel the life force streaming in
Hold it there, then send it back to him

All the old things are returning
Cosmic circles ever turning
All the truth we’ve been yearning for
Life is our savior, savior, savior
Save your soul

The river of living breath
Is flowing through the sun
He was there before the Earth began
The world will drag on you
Use his love to pull you through
Find the mission of your life and start to be

All the old things are returning
Cosmic circles ever turning
All the truth we’ve been yearning for
Life is our savior, savior, savior
Save your soul

There’s one thing I can do
Play my Mellotron for you
Try to blow away your city blues
Your dreams are not unfound
Get your feet back on the ground
The truth will set us free, we cannot lose
We cannot lose
We just have to choose

But still, there is – to my Moody-friendly ears – a kind of stately grandeur about “One Step Into The Light.” And that, along with its utility as kind of a Post-It note to remind me of my task next week, makes it today’s Saturday Single.

‘This Is What I Give . . .’

Friday, October 2nd, 2020

The atmospheric “Since You Asked” is the second track on Judy Collins’ hushed 1967 album Wildflowers. The album itself was part of the soundtrack of my mid- to late teen years, from the time my sister bought the album – probably in 1968, after Dad finished work on the basement rec room – to the time she took it with her on her newlywed way to a career in education in the summer of 1972.

I couldn’t have told you the title of the track until it came to mind the other day, but as soon as I called it up on the RealPlayer, it was instantly familiar, pulling me back to adolescent reveries on the green couch:

What I’ll give you since you’ve asked
Is all my time together;
Take the rugged sunny days,
The warm and rocky weather,
Take the roads that I have walked along,
Looking for tomorrow’s time,
Peace of mind.

As my life spills into yours,
Changing with the hours
Filling up the world with time,
Turning time to flowers,
I can show you all the songs
That I never sang to one man before.

We have seen a million stones lying by the water,
You have climbed the hills with me
To the mountain shelter.
Taken off the days, one by one,
Setting them to breathe in the sun.

Take the lilies and the lace
From the days of childhood,
All the willow winding paths
Leading up and outward.
This is what I give
This is what I ask you for;
Nothing more.

After my sister headed out to adult life, I went about sixteen years without hearing the song except by accident. I found it in 1988 on Collins’ anthology, Colors Of The Day, and then found Wildflowers five years later. Even during a time of increased record-buying, the two Collins albums got fairly regular play as I drifted between North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Missouri and back to Minnesota

In a seemingly unrelated event, I also picked up in 1988 an album by Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg titled Twin Sons of Different Mothers, a 1978 piece of work that I’ve listened to occasionally but not with any great attention.

So, until it was mentioned in a Facebook music group the other day, I’d not realized that the track on the latter album titled “Since You’ve Asked” was actually Collins’ song. After reading the note at Facebook, I wandered off and found the Fogelberg/Weisberg track in the digital stacks and of course knew it immediately. The production – framed by piano, with some slight alterations in the lyrics – makes the tune fit nicely into Fogelberg’s catalog of sometimes spare and haunting songs:

There are a few other covers of the song out there, some instrumental (and most using the title “Since You’ve Asked” instead of Collins’ original “Since You Asked”). If we dabble with those at all, we’ll do so on another day.

Saturday Single No. 691

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

When weeks are as news-filled (and as discouraging) as the last week has been, I try to take a break from the news every now and then, try to get away from the crawl and scroll. And I run head-on into the (long acknowledged) fact that I am a news junkie.

While listening to music or reading a book or magazine, I peek around the corner (as it were) and something in one of the crawls or scrolls or webpages catches my eye. Ninety minutes later, I’m drowning in facts, suppositions and analyses, and I am once again overwhelmed. So I wander around some place like YouTube, looking for diversion. And I found something this week, something not only diverting but pertinent to the supposed purpose of this blog.

Here’s a recent video put up on the channel “Jamel_AKA_Jamal.” Jamel/Jamal is a young African American man who’s found an audience of 400,000-some on the video site by listening to decades-old music he’s not heard before and recording and offering his reactions to that music. Here he is, in a video posted yesterday, listening for the first time to Al Stewart’s 1976 track, “Year Of The Cat.”

(I particularly love the expression on his face at 6:10 when he hears Phil Kenzie’s saxophone solo start.)

There are other similar channels at YouTube, and I’ve dipped into some of them, but I keep coming back to Jamel/Jamal, probably because he so clearly loves learning about music recorded long before he was born (and not coincidentally, music from my formative years). And it’s fun to listen to old favorites through young ears, as it were.

I imagine I’ll spend a few hours with Jamel/Jamal over the weekend, interspersed with housework, table-top baseball, and keeping a wary eye on the news. I think I’ll also suggest to Jamel/Jamal that he take a listen to another Al Stewart track, this one from 1978. “Time Passages” is one of my favorites, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

No. 41, Forty-One Years Ago

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

We’re playing Symmetry again today, looking back forty-one years to the autumn of 1978 and seeing what record was at No. 41 at October’s mid-point.

A quick glance at the top five in the Billboard Hot 100 released on October 14, 1978 – forty-one years ago yesterday – shows five records that are familiar but not loved:

“Kiss You All Over” by Exile
“Hot Child In The City” by Nick Gilder
“Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste Of Honey
“Don’t Look Back” by Boston
“Reminiscing” by the Little River Band

I know all of those – though I’m oddly a little fuzzy on the Boston record – but none of them matter much to me. That, I think, is a function of age and busyness. I was twenty-five and working long hours at a job I loved during my first autumn at the Monticello Times. I listened to the radio during some evenings at home and in the car as I drove to and from interviews. But it was background, not foreground. No one at work was saying anything like, “Hey, did you hear the new record by Boston?”

So, none of those five rate very high on any list I might make. All of them are on the digital shelves here, which means I don’t detest any of them. None of them were included in the 228-record Ultimate Jukebox I offered here long ago (and only five records from 1978 were included). Two of them – “Reminiscing” and, oddly, “Boogie Oogie Oogie” – are in the iPod.

So though I didn’t notice it at the time, by the autumn of 1978, music had become far less central to my life than it had been (and far less central than it would, happily, become again).

So let’s get to what was supposed to be our main business today: Checking out the record at No. 41 on that Hot 100 from mid-October 1978. And we fall into instrumental disco weirdness: Parked at No. 41 is “Themes From The Wizard Of Oz” by Meco.

The record was the third by Pennsylvania-born Domenico Monardo to hit the Hot 100: “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” had spent two weeks at No. 1 during October 1977, and “Theme From Close Encounters” had peaked at No. 25 in early 1978.

After “Themes From The Wizard Of Oz” peaked at No. 35, Meco would see “Empire Strikes Back (Medley)” go to No. 18 in 1980, and – amid a series of similar but less successful releases (including a couple records tabbed as novelties by Joel Whitburn) – “Pop Goes The Movies (Part One)” would go to No. 35 in 1982.

But hey, it’s fun, it’s got a good beat, it’s easy to dance to . . . and it was 1978.

Off-Kilter

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Not enough sleep. Woken up four times, twice by unidentified noises in the night and twice by cats.

No desire to look at much news today. I know what happened on September 11, 2001. I have no need to replay it.

I am grumpy, a generally infrequent condition here. And I am sad, which is a relatively rare but not unknown state for me.

And beyond all that, it seems that I have nothing to say, so it’s time to turn the music on and listen to the tenth track that comes up in iTunes.

Well, it turns out that Crystal Gayle is having trouble sleeping, too, but for an entirely different reason. Here’s “Talking In Your Sleep” from 1978. It went to No. 18 in the Billboard Hot 100, to No. 3 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart, and to No. 1 – for two weeks – on the country chart.

Saturday Single No. 617

Saturday, November 24th, 2018

When we look for tracks recorded over the years on November 24, the RealPlayer brings us a few results, ranging through the years from 1924 to 1978.

The recordings from 1924 come from the Charleston Seven, a group recording for Thomas Edison’s National Phonograph Company, long defunct and historically significant. The record was likely one of the advanced Diamond Discs, made of Bakelite rather than shellac. According to Joel Whitburn’s Pop Memories, that manufacturing advance gave Edison’s records greater durability, longer running times, and better sound quality than those of rival companies. Those advantages were pretty much canceled by the fact that Edison discs could only be played on phonographs manufactured by Thomas Edison’s company (making Edison’s records the early 20th Century equivalent, I’d guess, of Betamax video).

Anyway, the Charleston Seven were in New York ninety-four years ago today, laying down “Nashville Nightingale” and “Toodles.” Neither of them made the charts of the time, a result – I would guess – of the record’s limited playability. The fact that both of them are still available – and I have no memory of how they ended up on the digital shelves here – is, I think, pretty remarkable.

Chronologically, the next tracks we can look at come from a busy day in New York City for Bessie Smith in 1933. There were likely more tracks recorded that long-ago November 24, but the four that show up in our files from that session are “Do Your Duty,” b/w “I’m Down In The Dumps” and “Gimme A Pigfoot” b/w “Take Me For A Buggy Ride.” The tracks were released on both the Okeh and Columbia labels in 1934, and a note a Discogs.com says that the four sides were the last Smith recorded before her death in an auto accident in 1937. None of the four sides charted, according to Pop Memories.

The next November 24 track on the digital shelves did chart, and in a big way: The Andrews’ Sisters’ “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen (Means That You’re Grand)” was No. 1 for five weeks in early 1938. Released on Decca, it was the first charting hit for the sisters from Minneapolis. They’d have about twenty more hits on the more condensed charts of their times, but none were ever bigger.

Then, on this day in 1941, just thirteen days before the United States was pulled into World War II by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Glenn Miller & His Orchestra recorded their version of one of the most romantic songs of the war, “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover.” Probably better known through Vera Lynn’s 1942 recording, the song offers a vision of life after the war, using England’s iconic white cliffs and the prospect of bluebirds (a bird which lyricist Nat Burton mistakenly thought was indigenous to Britain).

Miller’s version of the tune went, I think, to No. 2 in 1942. At least, that’s the impression I get from the website playback.fm. (My reference library has a historical gap in it; Pop Memories gets me to 1940, and Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles picks things up in 1955. For the fifteen years in between, I’m on my own.)

From 1941, we jump ahead six years for a 1947 session in New York, as Sister Rosetta Tharpe laid down one of her signature tunes, “Up Above My Head I Hear Music in the Air.” The record was released on Decca late in 1948 and went to No. 6 on the Billboard Best Seller chart and to No. 9 on the magazine’s Jukebox chart. (Oddly enough, considering that the tune is relatively obscure, I have five covers of it in the digital stacks, including one by Sister Rosetta herself on a television show in 1964 or 1965.)

Our last stop this morning is in Glasgow, Scotland, where on this day in 1978, Eric Clapton offered a concert at the Glasgow Apollo. Two of the tunes performed there wound up on the live disc of the two-disc compilation Blues, released in 1999. One could quibble that “Wonderful Tonight” isn’t strictly a blues, but it’s mournful enough, I guess. (I’m reminded of a long-ago colleague in the music department at Minot State University who expressed skepticism when I offered Derek & The Dominos’ “Layla” for a desert island tape and categorized it as a type of blues. I got by with that one, so I’ll give Slowhand a break, too.)

The other tune from the November 24 Glasgow show that wound up on Blues certainly fit: A cover of Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman.” As the video below shows, the performance also ended up on the compilation Crossroads 2: Live In The Seventies.

And despite the attraction of the Glenn Miller and Rosetta Tharpe recordings (and even the lesser attraction of Bessie Smith’s “Gimme A Pigfoot”), I’m going to stay in the modern era and make Eric Clapton’s November 24, 1978, performance of “Kind Hearted Woman” today’s Saturday Single.

‘West’

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Today, finally, we go west, sorting through the digital shelves for four tracks that use the word “west” in their titles.

Sorting in the RealPlayer for the word, we get 613 tracks, but as I suspected, we have some winnowing to do. Numerous tracks have been labeled “West Coast” in the genre slot, and they fall by the wayside, Jackson Browne’s For Everyman, the City’s Now That Everything’s Been Said, and Walter Eagan’s Not Shy among them. Anything titled or tagged as having been recorded at the Fillmore West will be ignored, as will numerous blues joints that came out of West Helena, Arkansas (many of them by Howlin’ Wolf).

Most of Alfred Newman’s soundtrack to the 1962 movie How The West Was Won is lost, as are Ray Charles’ two volumes from 1962 of Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music. The same holds for anything by Cashman & West (with and without Pistilli), and for a group called West, which gets double-docked for its 1968 self-titled album.

We also throw out the fight song from Western Illinois University, and numerous singles, starting with those on the Westbound and EastWest labels. Among the lost singles are “Linda’s Gone” by the West Coast Branch, “Fairchild” by Willie West, “Rave On” by Sonny West, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” by Tex Williams & His Western Caravan, “Tennessee Toddy” by Billy Gray & His Western Okies, “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)” by Kim Weston, “500 Miles” by Hedy West, “Take What You Want” by West Point, and “The Ballad Of Paladin” by Johnny Western.

Still, we have enough to work with.

Trying to tap into the spirit of the music they’d made a decade earlier, the Allman Brothers Band offered “From The Madness Of The West” on its 1980 album Reach For The Sky. In its six-plus minutes, the jam gave the listener the expected: parallel guitar lines playing arching melodies, a percussion solo, modal progressions and a technically precise guitar solo. What it could not offer, of course, were those people and things the Allman Brothers Band lost along the way: the departed Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, the bypassed Jaimoe, and the ability to do things no other band could. “From The Madness Of The West” is decent listening but no more than that. If you let it roll by in the background without thinking about it, it’s pleasant music, but when you stop to think about the arc of the Allman Brothers Band, the track – and in fact all of Reach For The Sky – feels like the part in a novel where you pause and wonder if in fact there can be any revival.

In 1987, when the Grateful Dead released the album In The Dark and pulled from the album the single “Touch Of Grey,” I wonder if Jerry Garcia and the rest of the band were baffled by the result. The album went to No. 6 on the Billboard 200, and the single went to No. 9 on the Hot 100. The group had reached the Top 20 of the album chart a few times before – Blues For Allah had done the best, going to No. 12 in 1975 – but never before had a Dead single hit the Top 40, much less the Top Ten. The group’s highest charting single before “Touch Of Grey” had been 1971’s “Truckin’,” which topped off at No. 64. As it happened, the Dead’s burst of popularity coincided with the rebirth of my interest in buying tunes, and In The Dark became the first Grateful Dead album on my shelves. And one of my favorite tracks from the album – “West L.A. Fadeaway” – qualifies for today’s exercise, bringing along a blues verse that more often than not makes me chuckle: “I met an old mistake walkin’ down the street today/I didn’t wanna be mean about it, but I didn’t have one good word to say.”

With a spare accompaniment – guitars and few strings – Nanci Griffith sings:

Wash away the tears
All the angry times we shared
All the feelings and the sorrows come and gone
We have let them slip away
Because I’m standing here today
And I’m smiling at your old West Texas sun

I remember times
When you’d weathered out my mind
But you always had a peaceful word to say
And you could always bring a smile
With the mischief in your eyes
Still, I’m glad the miles keep me separate from your games

You know you’re still as wild
As those old west Texas plains
Standing by the highway do you still call my name?
Lord, I can’t believe it’s been such a long, long time
Since I’ve seen that Texas boy smile

Well, I’ll be heading out of town
I may stop by next time around
Hell, it’s raining, but at least that’s something real
I came shackled down with fears
About our dreams and wasted years
And now I know exactly how to feel

Wash away the tears
All the angry times we shared
All the feelings and the sorrows come and gone
We have let them slip away
Because I’m standing here today
And I’m smiling at your old West Texas sun

The track is “West Texas Sun” from Griffith’s first album, the 1978 release There’s A Light Beyond These Woods. As one might expect for a first album, it’s a little tentative; the confident story-teller that I discovered in the early 1990s has yet to show up. (I think of “Love at the Five & Dime” from The Last of the True Believers in 1986 and “Trouble In The Fields” from Lone Star State Of Mind a year later, just to highlight two great songs that came along very soon.) But even early Griffith is worth a stop this morning.

And we close this morning with a recent version of a song that’s been around for nearly ninety years: “West End Blues.” Written by Clarence Williams and King Oliver and first recorded in 1928 by King Oliver & His Dixie Syncopators, “West End Blues” was one of the tunes that New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint selected for his 2009 album The Bright Mississippi. In his review of the album at AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that “although straight-out jazz is uncommon in Toussaint’s work, this neither feels unfamiliar or like a stretch,” adding, “Upon the first listen, The Bright Mississippi merely seems like a joyous good time, but subsequent spins focus attention on just how rich and multi-layered this wonderful music is.” As I listened to the most recent cover of “West End Blues,” I noted that the digital shelves also hold a copy of one of the earliest covers of the song: A 1928 release by Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five.

‘These Precious Days . . .’

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

(Life is getting back to what passes for normal around here, and while that process goes on, I decided to take a look in the EITW archives. As I did, I came across a piece written eight years ago today, during our first autumn in our little house just off Lincoln Avenue. I’ve made a few revisions and selected a different version of the song.)

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September.

No, I’m not channeling intimations of mortality this morning as I ponder Willie Nelson’s melancholy version of “September Song.” But it is late September, and it is autumn, my favorite of seasons.

I often wonder if there’s some sliver of my being that lingers from the long-ago days of my Swedish and German ancestors, some bit of soul memory that recalls the Septembers and Octobers of Northern Europe. For I connect with that distant past as the leaves turn their browns, golds and reds and then release themselves from their trees. It pleases me on some level to hear talk of first frost, and I noted the passing of last week’s equinox, when the nighttime begins to fill more of our hours than does the daylight, with the quiet satisfaction of a man who feels his best time is come again.

This is my season. Were I a vintner, my wines would be autumnal and bittersweet.

In all those things mentioned above – the chilling of the weather, the fading of the leaves, the fading of the light – there lies the metaphor of our of own chilling and fading. And simple time sometimes reminds us, too. My father had his first heart attack forty-two years ago this week, just before he turned fifty-five. I’m eight years older than that now, and thankfully, show no indications of any heart ailments. I think about that as I look out my study window and watch the oaks trees just this week beginning to surrender their first leaves, one by one.

My father survived that trial and lived through another twenty-eight autumns before leaving on a late springtime day in 2003. I don’t foresee an early exit for me, either, no matter the twinge of melancholy found in both autumn’s winds and Nelson’s version of the song, written long ago by Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill. And it’s worth noting that, as drear as “September Song” might seem, it centers on a promise.

Now, promises can be cruel things, and – knowing that – I once told my loved one that I could not promise forever. But, I said, I would promise tomorrow. Come tomorrow, I would promise another tomorrow. And then another and another, until all the tomorrows were done. That’s a promise I will keep.

And here’s what Nelson – and all who’ve offered us “September Song” over the years – promises as the ending nears:

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few.
September. November.
And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.
These precious days I’ll spend with you.

So, for my Texas Gal, and for all those anywhere who hold to love while the leaves fall and the days dwindle, here’s Willie Nelson’s version of “September Song.” It’s from his 1978 album Stardust.

‘Thunder’

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Well, it’s seven in the morning and the weather forecast calls for a sunny day with no chance of precipitation. But it’s darker than December outside, the thunder is rumbling, and the weather radar shows a green blob with yellow highlights heading this way from the northwest.

But that’s not ruining my day. Instead, it moves me to offer a random selection from the RealPlayer, where the tracks on the digital shelves now total more than 89,000. (I have about the same amount of music from various sources – friends, libraries, dark corners of the ’Net – sitting unsorted in folders on my external hard drive. If I were so inclined, I could work on sorting and tagging that for days.)

Anyway, here are three about thunder:

First up is “Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder)” from the Brian Setzer Orchestra. One of the first CDs I owned – obtained through a record club in 1999 – was the group’s 1998 effort The Dirty Boogie, which featured a cover of Louis Prima’s “Jump Jive an’ Wail” that went to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. (The album itself went to No. 9 on the Billboard 200.) After a while, I tired of the group’s work and traded the CD for something else; Setzer’s approach to the jump blues he so obviously loves didn’t – for some reason – settle into my system well. “Drive Like Lightning” is from the group’s 2000 album Vavoom!, and it’s got a sound more rooted in a mythical late 1950s aesthetic (with some 1960s surf guitar tossed in), and like 1940s jump blues, that’s another interesting place to be. But even though I have a fair amount of music by the former Stray Cat front man and his group on the digital shelves – including another copy of The Dirty Boogie – Setzer’s work remains only of passing interest to me. Whenever I listen to more than one track at a time, I get the sense that Setzer and his mates are more interested in mugging at the audience than focusing on the groove.

From there, we bounce back to the late 1970s and some sessions that Bobbie Gentry did, evidently, for Warner Brothers. “Thunder In The Afternoon” and a few other tracks wound up on an early 1990s best-of release in the United Kingdom and were the subject of some discussion on a music board I stumbled upon about a year ago while putting together a post about Gentry’s version of Patti Dahlstrom’s “He Did Me Wrong But He Did It Right.” Likely recorded in 1977, “Thunder In The Afternoon” fits in nicely with the rest of Gentry’s oeuvre, though perhaps with a little less tang than her Delta-tinged early stuff. The question of what happened to Bobbie Gentry is one that music fans and writers return to from time to time. One of the latest writers to take on the topic was Neely Tucker of the Washington Post. Tucker’s piece, from June of this year, includes this teasing passage near the top: “Gentry spoke to a reporter, for this story, apparently for the first time in three decades. We caution you not to get too excited about that. It’s one sentence. Could be two. Then she hung up.”

The track that made me focus on “thunder” in this morning’s exercise instead of “rain” is, happily, our third random track today: “You’ll Love The Thunder” by Jackson Browne. Found on Browne’s 1978 live album Running On Empty, the track has long been one of my favorite Browne tracks, certainly my favorite from the live album. I think I just got tired of hearing “Running On Empty” and “The Load-Out/Stay” when they were overplayed on radio back in 1978. (The title track went to No. 11, and “Stay” – with “The Load-Out” on the B-side – went to No. 20.) The track still seems fresh almost forty years after I first heard it, and – as happens every time one of Jackson Browne’s early pieces pops up – I think briefly that maybe I should dig more deeply into the music he’s done in recent years. But even minor excavations into Browne’s later work always seem to leave me luke-warm. Why? I dunno, and I no longer try to figure out why. I have better ways to spend my time, like cuing up “The Late Show” or “Here Come Those Tears Again” or even “That Girl Could Sing.” Or “You’ll Love The Thunder.”