Archive for the ‘Single’ Category

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

‘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.”

One Random Shot

Friday, April 17th, 2020

As I wrote ten years ago:

It was twenty years ago today that I watched a Bekins van pull away from my door with almost everything I owned inside of it. Fifteen minutes later, I gave my apartment key to my landlady, put three cats in carriers into my car and then followed the van’s path toward the highways that would take me from Anoka, Minnesota, to Conway Springs, Kansas.

I wasn’t in Kansas long, just about three months, and at the time, my moving there and then away in such short order felt like random events that life was throwing at me. Looking back, those moves – and a few that followed – look more like mid-course corrections that brought me back to the path where I belonged.

Thirty years after that move, I am without doubt where I belong, but life seems evermore random right now. That’s unsettling, and until I figure out how I feel about that, I’m going to move to another topic.

The Texas Gal and I are putting together a list of household tasks that we have neglected: defrosting the freezer, pulling out the carpet cleaner and letting it do its work, and so on. Some of the tasks on our list are less arduous, and we’ll start with a couple of those today.

But I’m going to go back to the randomness I noted in that earlier paragraph. I’m going to open up iTunes and hit “play,” and we’ll all listen to whatever it gives us.

And we get one of Nanci Griffith’s gentle meditations on life, time, and friendship, “There’s A Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret).” It’s from her 1987 album, Lone Star State Of Mind.

There’s a light beyond these woods, Mary Margaret.
Do you think that we will go there
And see what makes it shine, Mary Margaret?
It’s almost morning, and we’ve talked all night.
You know we’ve made big plans for ten-year-olds,
You and I.

Have you met my new boyfriend, Margaret?
His name is John, and he rides my bus to school.
And he holds my hand.
He’s fourteen, he’s my older man.
But we’ll still be the best of friends,
The three of us, Margaret, John, and I.

Let’s go to New York City, Margaret!
We’ll hide out in the subways
And drink the poets’ wine. Oh,
But I had John, so you went and I stayed behind.
But you were home in time for the senior prom,
When we lost John.

The fantasies we planned, well, I’m living them now.
All the dreams we sang when we knew how.
Well, they haven’t changed.
There’ll never been two friends like you and me,
Mary Margaret.

It’s nice to see your family growing, Margaret.
Your daughter and your husband here,
They really treat you right.
But we’ve talked all night
And what about those lights that glowed beyond
Our woods when we were ten?
You were the rambler then.

The fantasies we planned, oh, Maggie,
I’m living them now.
All the dreams we sang, oh, we damn sure knew how
But ours haven’t changed.
There’ll never be two friends just like you and me,
Maggie, can’t you see?

There’s a light beyond your woods, Mary Margaret

See you tomorrow.

Staying At Home

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

As events came down this late winter and early spring, and the prospect of having to stay home almost all of the time became more and more real, I thought “Big deal. I’ve been staying home pretty much all of the time since the summer of 1999.”

And that’s true. Since I left the workforce late that summer, most of my days have been spent at the computer in three different apartments, one house and now, one condo. And I came to like that, which was a change for me. Still, if I needed to or wanted to, I could go out without having to weigh heavy questions of health and wellness (there was some of that, as I learned how to deal with the malady that had rerouted my life) or equally heavy questions of public obligation.

But the heaviness of those questions – along with the burden of the mostly doleful news from around the nation and around the world – make this stay-at-home time much different. And it’s affecting me: I’m not sleeping well, waking up each morning at about six a.m. no matter how late I might have gotten to bed the night before. My chronic depression seems to have adjusted its default setting – the level attained if I take my medication regularly – to a slightly more unhappy level than had been the case two months ago. I’m a little fidgety. And I’m definitely more short-tempered than usual.

I’m finding things to fill my hours: Sorting and tagging the stock of mp3s I’ve stuck in folders and set aside over the past twenty years; doing the groundwork for and beginning a new season – the twenty-fifth – for my eighteen-team tabletop baseball league; pondering new music for the keyboard (something I need to move from simply pondering to actually playing); binge-watching television with the Texas Gal (we loved both Interrogation and One Dollar, offered by CBS All Access); and more things that don’t come to mind at the moment.

I’m not complaining. I’m just observing that sheltering in place – staying home and having to plan carefully to limit excursions to the essential – is harder than I expected. But if this is what I have to do to play my part in the societal attempt to limit the impact of the corona virus and COVID-19, so be it. My parents’ generation had to deal with far worse, what with the Depression and World War II. I can handle today’s burdens for the duration.

And here’s a tune that came to mind this morning: It’s “(Staying Home and Singing) Homemade Songs” by Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth. It’s from the 1972 album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth.

Hunkering Down

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Well, we’re pretty much self-isolating, as we should. I was out yesterday for a brief time, picked up two prescriptions at the pharmacy drive-through, then got a pick-up order at the grocery store. The order wasn’t quite right, so I had to go into the store to straighten it out and then go into another store to get the soap powder for the dishwasher that the first store was out of.

Both stores had relatively little traffic, and the shelves were beginning to look bare in some spots: Canned soup, instant potatoes and potato box mixes, cereals, and, of course, paper products. In the store where I did my actual shopping, eggs were plentiful but customers were limited to two dozen. As well as getting the soap powder, I filled some minor gaps in our supplies and headed home.

And today, I’ll head out to the podiatrist for my regular six-week visit, being very careful about surfaces and aware of the people around me. The receptionist said they’ve expanded the seating area of the lobby to provide more distance between people. I’m still a bit nervous about it, but I thought I should go while I can. And then home again for the rest of the day.

There is nothing in the digital stacks with “COVID” in the title, of course. There are, on the other hand, several tracks with “nineteen” in their titles: “The Two Nineteen” by Long John Baldry & The Hoochie Coochie Men, “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Day, “John Nineteen Forty-One” (the closing track to the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar), “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” by Paul McCartney & Wings, “Nineteen Something” by Mark Willis, and five versions of the blues tune “She’s Nineteen Years Old.” Not much joy there.

So I thought I’d look at the Billboard charts from the years I call my sweet spot, 1969-75, and, playing some Games With Numbers, see what was at No. 19 during the third week of March in those years. With any luck, we’ll find something decent to listen to this morning. Here we go.

1969: “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” by James Brown
1970: “Call Me/Son Of A Preacher Man” by Aretha Franklin
1971: “(Theme From) ‘Love Story’” by Henry Mancini, His Orchestra and Chorus
1972: “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” by Beverly Bremers
1973: “Do You Want To Dance” by Bette Midler
1974: “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” by Aretha Franklin
1975: “I Am Love (Parts 1 & 2)” by the Jackson 5

Well, that’s an interesting mix. I respect James Brown more than I listen to him, and Aretha’s double-sided single doesn’t grab me this morning. I know we’ve offered the Mancini, Bremers and Midler singles before (maybe some time ago, but still). And I’m going to ignore the Jackson 5 record because a quick search tells me that not only have I never posted “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” I’ve never – in more than thirteen years of blogging – even mentioned the record.

There’s a reason for that neglect. Given that it was on the radio in early 1974, the record falls into the list of those that I did not hear at the time, being in Denmark and beyond the reach of Top 40. I learned about it through my digging into Aretha during the late 1980s and via whatever play it got on oldies stations, and I like it a lot.

In mid-March 1974, the record was on its way down the chart, having peaked in the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 3 at the end of February. It spent a week at No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B chart and went to No. 33 on the Easy Listening chart.

And finally, it shows up here.

Stocking Up & Staying Home

Friday, March 13th, 2020

As more and more institutions have closed and events have been canceled over the past couple days because of the coronavirus, we’ve taken some precautions here. We spent a couple hours at one of the bigger box stores yesterday getting some things that we honestly should have had before – an electric lantern to light at least one room in the case of power failure, along with several flashlights and a good supply of batteries – and stocking up on canned goods, pasta and dried beans (as well as some meat for the freezer and a few other things).

As has been reported in many other places, toilet paper was gone from the shelves, but our need for that – and for other paper products – was filled a little earlier in the week. And the store was crowded but at base sane. There were, however, some grocery items that were obviously in short supply. There were no corn tortillas (unless I was looking in the wrong place), and the supply of some types of dried beans was limited, just to note two.

There were a few things at the big store that we could not find, so on our way home, we stopped at our neighborhood market and picked those up. And then headed home.

So far (as of last evening), there are nine cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, one here in Stearns County. I’m betting, though, that there are far more people infected with the virus, so we’re going to be prudent and pretty much self-quarantine from now on. There are a few things that need to be done, like dropping by the nearby hardware store for a new supply of furnace filters. And I need to refill a few prescriptions.

In addition, I am committed to playing piano at our fellowship Sunday. We’re a small congregation, averaging thirty-five or so people each week, but the greater majority of us are past sixty, and I’m not sure how wise it is for us to keep gathering each week. The fellowship leadership is, I know, weighing factors, but the Texas Gal and I are thinking that after this Sunday, we may withdraw ourselves from activities for the last six weeks of the fellowship year.

Beyond that, we have tickets for a musical performance the first week of April, in a small theater. We don’t know what we’ll do. Perhaps by then, most gatherings will be discouraged, if not actually barred by officials. We’ll see.

As readers can no doubt tell, I’m concerned, perhaps even shaken by how fast things are happening. And the Texas Gal and I are both older than sixty, which we have to take into account. So, with very few exceptions, we’re going to stay home. The Texas Gal added to her stock of yarn yesterday so she can continue to crochet as we watch television, and I stopped by the public library and added seven books to my reading pile. And I’ll no doubt find plenty of time to sit at the other keyboard and dig into my pile of music books old and new.

And here’s a fitting tune: “(Staying Home and Singing) Homemade Songs” by Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth. It’s from the 1972 album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth.

How Many Clarences?

Friday, March 6th, 2020

I was checking the date of an entry in Clarence Clemons’ discography this morning, so I entered “Clarence” in the search box of the RealPlayer and clicked. And as the program searched, I wondered exactly how many tracks I have by people named Clarence.

It turns out to be seventy.

Almost half of those tracks – twenty-nine – are from Clemons, including three albums: Rescue with the Red Bank Rockers (1983), Hero (1985), and A Night With Mr. C (1989). One track from Rescue – “Savin’ Up” – is duplicated on the 1997 album One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen, and there are single tracks from the soundtrack to the 1985 movie Porky’s Revenge! (“Peter Gunn Theme”) and from the live album that came out of the 1989 tour of Ringo Starr’s first All-Starr Band (“Quarter To Three”).

But there are other Clarences as well, like R&B singer Clarence Carter. He shows up seventeen times, represented by the 1969 album The Dynamic Clarence Carter and some singles on the Fame and Atlantic labels. Those singles include his two biggest hits, “Slip Away” (1968), which went to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 2 on the magazine’s R&B chart, and “Patches” (1970), which went to No. 4 on the Hot 100 and to No. 2 on the R&B chart. There’s also a 1969 single, “Snatching It Back,” which peaked at No. 31 on the pop chart and went to No. 4 on the R&B chart, and a duplicate of “Road Of Love” from the Dynamic album because the track also shows up on the first Duane Allman anthology (1972).

Clarence Williams, a jazz pianist, shows up with his Blue Five on four tracks from the 1920s. He and his group backed Sippie Wallace on “Baby, I Can’t Use You No More” (1924), Eve Taylor on “Papa De-Da-Da” (1925), and Ethel Waters on “Get Up Off Your Knees” (1928). And there’s a 1925 recording of Williams and His Blue Five (including Louis Armstrong on cornet) performing “Cake Walking Babies (From Home).”

Fiddler Clarence “Tom” Ashley shows up five times in the late 1920s and early 1930s, performing “Coo Coo Bird,” “Dark Holler Blues,” “House Carpenter,” “My Sweet Farm Girl,” and “Corrina, Corrina.”

There are four tracks from Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, one from 1955 (“Rock My Blues Away”) and three from tribute albums from the late 1990s and early 2000s. On those tracks, the venerable blues and R&B singer takes on Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ’n’ Roll,” the Rolling Stones’ “Ventilator Blues,” and Robert Johnson’s “When You Got A Good Friend.”

I’ve also got a couple of tracks from Clarence “Frogman” Henry: the well-known “Ain’t Got No Home” (1956) and “The Lady With The Hat Box” (1957).

Then there are Clarences I don’t know well who have managed to sneak into the digital stacks: Clarence Garlow, Clarence Reid, Clarence Samuels, Clarence Palmer (with the Jive Bombers), and the duo of Clarence & Calvin.

And somewhere, I ran across the track “Right On” by Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers. It’s from the group’s 1970 album, Doin’ What We Wanna. I found it on the 2006 four-disc set What It Is! Funky Soul & Rare Grooves, and it’s a good workout for a Friday:

Lists, Again

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

I’m working on a couple of music lists these days. One is on Facebook, where a friend tagged me in one of those things that come around every once in a while.

The idea is to post, without comment, covers of albums that have influenced you – twenty of ’em in twenty days. I’m not planning ahead on this one, just winging it, and I’m five days in. I’ve done ten in ten days before, so I can likely predict what the next five will be, but after that, it could be interesting.

Here are the first five, and I doubt whether they’ll surprise anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time:

Honey In The Horn by Al Hirt
Goldfinger soundtrack by John Barry
Abbey Road by the Beatles
Den Store Flugt by Sebastian
The Band

(A recap: Sebastian is a Danish singer/songwriter who, I think it’s safe to say, has become over the years a Danish national treasure. Den Store Flugt is his second album, released in 1972, and it’s the one that my Danish host brother encouraged me to buy and bring back to the States as my time in Denmark was drawing to a close in the spring of 1974.)

At the same time, I’m working on a list of about twenty-five tracks for the guest DJ program at WXYG-FM, the album rock station based in Sauk Rapids, just northeast of St. Cloud. I sent an early version of the list to the station’s “do everything” guy, Al Neff, and we’re negotiating.

I knew Al a little bit many years ago when I was teaching at St. Cloud State as an adjunct faculty member. My office was adjacent to the offices of KVSC-FM, the university’s student-run station, where Al was either music director or program director. On occasion, as I worked on lectures or grading in my office, I got called into discussions in the radio station office. Al and I reconnected a couple of years ago when I noticed he was affiliated with WXYG, and since then, we’ve spent some pleasant hours talking over beer and deep-fried pickles.

Al’s first response to my list noted that he’d allow me three artists who aren’t normally played on the station, probably a reaction to my listing tracks from the first two albums in the list above. And he said he had to pass on tracks by Bobbie Gentry and Marlena Shaw. (He actually added a third pass on a group he called too obscure, but I sent him a note saying that was a hard cut, even as I yielded on Bobbie and Marlena. He said I could keep the third track.)

I won’t reveal what’s on the list for the WXYG program. Again, long-time readers could likely guess at least ten of the twenty-one tracks that currently remain on the working list. I’m going to make an adjustment or two and then ship the second version of the list back to Al.

And here’s the Marlena Shaw track I’ve pulled from contention for the WXYG program. It’s been here before as part of my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox, but that was about ten years ago, which is eons in blogtime. It’s “California Soul” from Shaw’s 1969 album, The Spice Of Life.

The Moody Blues: 1972

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

As Christmas approached in 1972, I had no idea that the Moody Blues had recently released an album. I knew that in the spring, as I was finishing my first year of college, the group had released a single, “Isn’t Life Strange,” which I’d heard a fair amount and liked a bit.

During that autumn, spurred by my having heard the group’s A Question Of Balance across the street at Rick’s – and also likely spurred by having liked “Isn’t Life Strange” coming out of the radio in the spring – I acquired the four-year-old In Search Of The Lost Chord through a record club and was, as I’ve noted here before, pretty well disappointed and baffled.

So I didn’t quite know what I had in my hands when, a couple of days before Christmas, Rick gave me the group’s new album, Seventh Sojourn, as a Christmas present. Now, nearly fifty years later, I know it’s my favorite album by the group, the one I’ve no doubt listened to more than any other. For a couple of years not quite a decade ago, it was one of three or four albums that I played softly at my bedside as I went to sleep.

Now, is it my favorite because I’ve had it longer than almost any other album by the group? Entirely possible, perhaps even likely. And if it’s my favorite, does that mean it’s the group’s best album? I don’t know, but it may be the best, for a couple of reasons.

First, the sound was richer. The five members of the group began putting the album together in the studio (a converted garage) at Mike Pinder’s home, Beckthorns, in early 1972, and as they did, they began using a new instrument called the Chamberlain, which replaced the Mellotron. “It worked on the same principle as the Mellotron , but had much better quality sounds – great brass, strings and cello and so on” said Justin Hayward, as quoted in the notes to the 2008 CD release of Seventh Sojourn.

Second, the group had left behind much of the mysticism that had permeated its earlier albums. There were no spoken word interludes on the album, and the album had no introductory segment; it just took off into the first track, “Lost In A Lost World,” and headed on from there. The music is as accomplished as ever, and the lyrics are more down to earth, if sometimes a hair preachy as in the ecological plaints of “Lost In A Lost World” and “You & Me.”

Otherwise, there are love songs – “New Horizons,” “For My Lady” are fairly traditional love songs, and even “Isn’t Life Strange” and “The Land Of Make Believe” work on the topic of love in one way or another. There’s the open letter to academic and hallucinogenic drug advocate Timothy Leary, who spent 1972 in exile in – according to Wikipedia – Switzerland, Austria, Lebanon and Afghanistan. And there’s the closer, with the band proclaiming “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band).”

Some of the tracks are a little self-conscious and perhaps overbearing, I’ll acknowledge, giving the group a sense of self-importance that could be off-putting. But when I was nineteen, that slid right past me, and besides, it’s a flaw that runs through almost all of the Moody Blues’ catalog, something you know you’re gonna get when you cue up the record.

I don’t recall a lot of folks around me talking about the album, as had been the case with the release of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour a year previously. But that was probably because I was generally hanging around with fewer and different people than I had been a year earlier, and I spent a lot more time than I had the year before down in the rec room listening to my albums, with Seventh Sojourn near the top of the playlist.

So how good is it and how well was it received? As for the latter, the album was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for five weeks, starting in the second week of December 1972 and continuing on into January 1973. The previous spring, “Isn’t Life Strange” had reached No. 29 during a ten-week run on the magazine’s Hot 100, and in February 1973, “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)” began its own ten-week run on the Hot 100 that peaked at No. 12.

As to how good the album is, it’s more difficult to separate my affection for the album from its quality than it has been or will be for any of the other albums by the Moody Blues. I have to give it an A-.

Here’s the album’s opening track, “Lost In A Lost World.”