Archive for the ‘1996’ Category

A Random Six-Pack

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

There are currently 79,000-plus tracks in the RealPlayer, most of them music. (I have about thirty familiar lines from movies in the stacks and some bits of interviews, too.) And today, we’re going to take a six-stop random tour through the stacks. We’ll sort the tracks by length; the shortest is 1.4 seconds of broadcaster Al Shaver exulting over a goal by the long-departed Minnesota North Stars – “He shoots, he scores!” – and the longest is the full album with bonus tracks of Bruce Springsteen’s 2006 release, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, clocking in at an hour and eighteen minutes.

We’re going to put the cursor in the middle of the stack and click six times and see what we get.

We land first on a track by Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers: “Memphis Queen” from the group’s 1989 album Rock & Real. At All Music, William Ruhlman notes, “Grushecky’s songs of tough urban life are made all the more compelling by his rough voice and the aggressive playing of his band.” The track in question, “Memphis Queen,” tells the tale of a Pittsburgh boy headed to New Orleans on the titular riverboat, stopping in St. Louis to search for the “brown-eyed handsome man” and meeting a girl named Little Marie, whose daddy is “down in the penitentiary.” I found the album at a blog somewhere when I was going through a Grushecky phase a few years ago. It’s a good way to start.

We jump from 1989 back to 1972 and a track from Mylon Lefevre. “He’s Not Just A Soldier” comes from Lefevre’s Over The Influence album. Originally recorded in 1961 by Little Richard, who wrote the song with William Pitt, the song reads on Lefevre’s album as an artifact from the Vietnam era, declaring that a young man in military service “is not just a soldier in a brown uniform, he’s one of God’s sons.” And there’s a surprise along the way, as Lefevre is joined on vocals by Little Richard himself. There’s also a great saxophone solo, but I don’t know by whom. (I saw a note on Wikipedia that said the album was a live performance, but I doubt that’s the case.)

Next up is a cover of a piece of movie music: “Lolita Ya-Ya” by the Ventures. The tune originated in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film adaptation of the Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita. Penned by Nelson Riddle, the song is source music from a radio the first time that the movie’s protagonist, Humbert Humbert, sees the title character who will become his obsession. Sue Lyon, the actress who played Lolita, provided the vocals for the film version of the tune. The Ventures’ cover of the tune was released as a single, but got only to No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.

From there, we head to 1968 and Al Wilson’s first album, Searching For The Dolphins, recorded for Johnny Rivers’ Soul City Label. “I Stand Accused” was the fourth single from the album aimed at the Hot 100; the most successful of the four was “The Snake,” which went to No. 27. “I Stand Accused,” a good soul workout, bubbled under at No. 106. As usual with Rivers’ productions, the backing musicians were spectacular: Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborne, Jim Horn and James Burton. (A 2008 reissue of the album provided as bonus tracks eleven singles and B-sides recorded around the same time for the Soul City, Bell and Carousel labels.)

Lou Christie’s fame (and his appeal), as I see it, rests on five singles: “The Gypsy Cried” (1963), “Two Faces Have I” (1963), “Lightning Strikes” (1965), “Rhapsody In The Rain” (1966), and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” (1970). He shows up here today with “Wood Child,” a track from his 1971 album Paint America Love, released under his (almost) real name, Lou Christie Sacco. (He was born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco, according to discogs.com.) I’m not sure what the song is about, except that its lyrics are evocative and include the recurring choruses, “You’ve got to save the wood child” and “Take a ticket and get on this boat.”

(A 2015 appreciation of the album by Bob Stanley for The Guardian said: “Yet another side of Christie emerged in 1971 when he cut his masterpiece, Paint America Love, a Polish/Italian/American take on What’s Going On. Orchestrated state-of-the-nation pieces (‘Look Out the Window,’ the extraordinary ‘Wood Child’) compete with majestic instrumentals (‘Campus Rest’) and childhood reminiscences (‘Chuckie Wagon,’ the Sesame Street-soundtracking ‘Paper Song’) in a gently lysergic whole. Online reviews compare it to Richard Ford and John Steinbeck: fans of Jimmy Webb are urged to seek it out.”)

I’m not sure where I got the album, probably a long-lost blog, but I suppose I should take Stanley’s advice and listen to it more closely.

And our six-pack this morning ends with “Long Line” from Peter Wolf, one-time member of the J. Geils Band. The title track from his 1996 album, the tune shifts from straight-ahead tasteful rock to a spoken interlude and back. It sounds a lot more like 1972 than 1996, with some nifty piano fills, which makes it a nice way to end our trek.

‘Why’

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

We pick up on our project of Journalism 101 with “why,” the penultimate of the six basic questions any reporter keeps in his or her figurative pocket. Those six are, of course, who, what, where, when, why and how.

And when we sort the 72,800-some tracks currently in the RealPlayer, well, the first thing we note is that we have been relatively diligent here in working on rebuilding the stacks. After last autumn’s external drive crash, we had a bit fewer than 60,000 mp3s on the digital stacks. We’ve made progress, but there is still much work to do: We still have about four years’ worth of CD purchases to restore to the stacks, and after that, there will be much work to get tags correct.

But I digress.

When we sort those 72,800-some tracks for the word “why,” we are presented with 289 tracks. Interestingly, most of them are useful to us. We do lose some, like the entire 1993 album by the Cranberries, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? (And we pause a moment to remember the recently departed Dolores Riordan.) We also lose full albums by blueswoman Rory Block (Lovin’ Whyskey, 2009) and by the Button Down Brass Featuring The Funky Trumpet Of Ray Davies (Why Can’t We All Get Together, 1972­), as well as most of the tracks from an album by Little Big Town (The Reason Why, 2010).

But that leaves more than 250 tracks, a trove of riches that we can’t entirely grasp. So we’re going to let the RealPlayer do the work. We’ll sort the tracks by running time, set the cursor in the middle, and go random. The only things we’ll skip are those that are not currently available on YouTube.

And we start with “Why, Oh Why” from Little Big Town, one of the two tracks we can use from the group’s 2010 album. Released as a digital single, it showcases very well the tight harmonies and power pop/country backing that’s made the foursome so successful. The album debuted in 2010 at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and eventually topped the magazine’s country chart. I’m of two minds about Little Big Town; I have four of their albums in the stacks – their earlier work, generally – and I don’t mind when it shows up randomly. But a steady diet of it tends to bore me. It seems to be music custom-made for the playlist era.

Then we get a track from Maria Muldaur, a singer whose work has always attracted me but whom I’ve never really called a favorite, if that makes any sense. I’ve enjoyed her intermittently and gathered a fair number of her LPs and CDs, from her self-titled 1973 debut through 2011’s Steady Love, which is where “Why Are People Like That” shows up. It’s a bluesy tune written by Bobby Charles and first recorded by Muddy Waters for his 1975 Woodstock album. Muldaur’s version showcases her strengths as an interpreter even as one hears a little raggedness around the edges of her vocals (the effects of aging, I would guess).

And we fall into a dose of 1958 rockabilly: “Why Did You Leave Me” by Lou Josie & The Spinners. Josie, according to Discogs, was an Ohio-born performer who – as well as heading up those particular Spinners – was a member of B. Bumble & The Stingers (whose name I first heard in Reunion’s 1974 hit “Life Is A Rock [But The Radio Rolled Me]”). The website Black Cat Rockabilly has an extensive piece about Josie, noting his many songwriting credits for other, better-known, performers. Among those, he received partial credit for the Bar-Kays’ “Soul Finger” and, on his own, wrote “Midnight Confessions,” which the Grass Roots took to No. 5. “Why Did You Leave Me” came my way through the massive rockabilly/country collection That’ll Flat Git It.

Having messed up my randomness through re-sorting the useful files, I’ll choose the last of our four stops today: “Don’t Know Why” by the Rutles, selected to mark – a little late, but never mind – the fortieth anniversary of the spring 1978 televising of All You Need Is Cash, which introduced the U.S. to the Prefab Four. It was all a lark, of course, an affectionate tweaking of the Beatles, with incredibly accurate sound-alike songs and performances. “Don’t Know Why,” with its delightful late-period Lennonisms (and an overt lyrical reference to “Norwegian Wood”), came from the 1996 release Archaeology.

Saturday Single No. 557

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

Today, I thought I’d go back to a moment on our trip to South Dakota. Not long after leaving Rapid City on our way home, we took a thirty-mile detour through Badlands National Park, getting out at several places for photos and to simply marvel at the land:

Badlands

What in the world, we wondered, did the explorers and settlers of the Nineteenth Century think when they came to these places, stretching for miles under the harsh Dakota sun? Further south, in the park’s Stronghold Unit, lies the place where the Lakota – seeking the survival of their way of life – held their Ghost Dance. As we drove the loop through the park, our comments to each other became murmurs and then became silence, both of us overwhelmed by the savage beauty of the place.

In that silence, as we drove on out of the Badlands, I thought – not at all for the first time during our Dakota trip – of the man I’d once known as Paul Summers, now Paul LaRoche, whose Lakota ancestors had been among those displaced from their homes and lives during the 1800s. I told his story – learning after the death of his Anglo parents that he had been adopted as an infant and then reconnecting with his Lakota heritage – long ago in the Eden Prairie News and then seven years ago in a post here.

Since that post, recording as Brulé, he’s continued to be one of the most well-known and successful Native American artists, releasing numerous CDs and touring frequently. I had some of his work before we headed west, and I added to that collection while we were in the Black Hills. None of Brulé’s work that I have at hand seems to speak specifically to the Badlands, but this morning, “Buffalo Moon” from the 1996 album We The People caught my ear. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘We’ve No One To Hold . . .’

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

One of the more sentimental songs in the folk/pop canon is “Turn Around,” written in the 1950s by Malvina Reynolds, Alan Greene, and Harry Belafonte and first recorded by Belafonte for his 1959 album Love Is A Gentle Thing. The song might be most memorable to folks of my generation for its use in a 1960s television commercial for Kodak.

We’ll get to all that, I think, as well as a discussion of which male vocalist sang the tune for the Kodak commercial, in the coming days. Today, I just wanted to note why the song slid back into my life. Not quite two weeks ago, I concluded a brief meditation on autumn with the late Charlie Louvin’s 1996 version of Sandy Denny’s lovely song “Who Knows Where The Time Goes.”

The song was from Louvin’s album The Longest Train, and after I wrote the post, I did some digging, listening to a few more tracks from the album at YouTube and checking out how the album was received by listeners and critics. And I decided to invest a small amount of cash in a used copy of the CD, which arrived yesterday. After listening to the album, I can say it’s one of the best investments of six bucks I’ve ever made.

Louvin was in his seventies when he recorded The Longest Train, and his voice shows it. But the aging that’s evident in his voice adds a poignant touch to many of the album’s tracks. That was true of “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” when I shared it twelve days ago, and it’s equally true in Louvin’s take on “Turn Around.”

There are numerous variations to the lyrics of “Turn Around.” Here’s how Louvin sings it on The Longest Train:

Where have you gone, my little boy, little boy?
Where have you gone, my sonny, my own?
Turn around, you’re two.
Turn around, and you’re four.
Turn around, you’re a young man going out the door.

Where have you gone, my little girl, little girl?
Pigtails and petticoats, where have they gone?
Turn around, you’re young.
Turn around, you’re grown.
Turn around, you’re a young wife with babes of your own.

Where have they gone, our little ones, those little ones?
Where have they gone, our children, our own?
Turn around, they’re young.
Turn around, they’re old.
Turn around, and they’ve gone and we’ve no one to hold.

Turn around, they’re young.
Turn around, they’re old.
Turn around, they’ve gone and we’ve no one to hold.

(For those interested, Louvin recorded the song once before, for the 1966 album The Many Moods of Charlie Louvin. That version is here.)

‘She Takes My Blues Away . . .’

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Ever since B.W. Stevenson popped up earlier this week, I’ve been digging back into his music. Finding Stevenson’s “Save A Little Time For Love” and “Say What I Feel” through the help of our pal Yah Shure spurred me into ordering two CDs, each of which contains two of Stevenson’s 1970s albums. (The CD offering My Maria from 1973 and Calabasas from 1974 was already on my shelves, though I had a difficult time this morning determining which particular shelf.)

And as I began to dig into Stevenson’s music, I also found myself digging into the work of Daniel Moore, the co-writer of “My Maria” – the late Stevenson’s most successful single – and the writer on his own of “Shambala,” probably Stevenson’s second-best-known work. We’ll get to Moore next week as we listen to some covers of “Shambala” and perhaps a little bit of Moore’s rootsy self-titled album from 1971.

But for today, we’re just going to deal with “My Maria.” Here’s Stevenson’s version, which went to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 1 for one week on the adult contemporary chart:

From what I can tell, poking around at Second Hand Songs, at discogs.com and at Amazon, there are two U.S.-released covers out there of “My Maria.” (At discogs.com, there are some releases listed from other artists in Germany and the U.K. that may or may not be the same song.) One of those U.S.-released covers listed at Second Hand Songs is credited only to “Voice Male” and was included on a 1997 CD of covers titled Up, Up & Away.

(Other tracks on the Up, Up & Away CD include Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration,” Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” Johnny Mandel’s “The Shadow Of Your Smile” and the classic by Ernie, “Rubber Duckie.” Sadly, or perhaps not, the link from Second Hand Songs to the CD’s page at Amazon no longer works, and a few quick checks at other CD emporia brought no joy.)

The other U.S.-released cover of “My Maria” is, of course, the 1996 cover by Brooks & Dunn. Having come late to an appreciation of country music (and not being an expert by any definition of the word), I wonder if Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are not the most successful country duo of all time. If not, they’re definitely in the running, with – according to Wikipedia – twenty No. 1 hit on the Billboard country chart and another nineteen in the magazine’s Top Ten. “My Maria” wasn’t the duo’s biggest hit. Based on weeks at No. 1, that would have been 2001’s “Ain’t Nothing ’Bout You,” which topped the chart for six weeks. But “My Maria” was No. 1 for three weeks in 1996, and, says Wikipedia, was that year’s top country song. So here’s Brooks & Dunn’s cover of “My Maria.”

‘Like A Face In The Crowd . . .’

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Maps fascinate me. From the time I could unfold the bulky road maps of the early 1960s – free in those years at nearly every gas station – I’d trace routes from city to city, look for rivers and lakes and wonder what it would look like and feel like to, say, drive south along U.S. Highway 71 from the Canadian border at International Falls all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. (I’ve never done that, and the drive would be much less interesting now than it would have been in the 1960s because it appears that much of that highway’s route now follows the Interstate highways.)

Along with my fascination with maps came a love for place names. Whether they come from Native American traditions or from the names of places left behind by settlers or even from the less-than-fertile imaginations of suburban developers – a trail that leads figuratively here in Minnesota from Wabasha to New Prague to Woodbury – I’m captivated by the names of places every time I look at a map.

And that captivation finds its way into my life in a lot of ways. Most pertinent to this space is that I find myself listening to and collecting records and digital music files that use place names in their titles. I walked briefly through titles that include “Memphis” a couple of years ago. That may be the most popular of place names in my collection, but it’s not necessarily the most fun. Shortly after I began collecting mp3s in 2000, I came across the track listing of country singer Yearwood’s 1995 album Thinkin’ About You.

When I looked at that track listing, one song title stood out: “On A Bus To St. Cloud.” I’d never seen my hometown mentioned in a song, and I wondered if the city in question were instead St. Cloud, Florida. I got hold of a copy of the song and learned, happily, that it was my St. Cloud that was referenced. So I did a little bit of research. I found an interview with writer Gretchen Peters in which she said the inspiration for the song came when she was looking idly at a map and noticed St. Cloud, Minnesota. The name of the city intrigued her and provided the inspiration for what turned out to be a pretty decent song.

Yearwood was the first to record it, according to Second Hand Songs, with Peters recording her version a year later for her album The Secret of Life. Other covers listed at Second Hand Songs have come from John Joseph Nolis and the duo of Neyman & Willé. At Amazon, one finds versions by Leah Shafer, George Donaldson and other names that are unfamiliar (at least to me). One familiar name there is Jimmy LaFave, an Austin-based singer-songwriter whose work I enjoy; he put his version of “On A Bus To St. Cloud” on his 2001 album Texoma. And there are other covers out there, I’m sure.

But as I look for what sounds and feels definitive, I go back – as I often do – to the original. I’m astounded that it’s taken me this long – more than six years of blogging – to write about the song, but here’s Yearwood’s version of a tune that name-checks my hometown.

Instrumental Digging: 1950-1999

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

We continue today seeking the answer to a question sparked by our digging into instrumental music the other week: Which instrumentals ranked highest in the year-end listings in each of the decades of the 1900s? I looked at the years 1900-1949 late last week. Today, we’ll return to Joel Whitburn’s A Century of Pop Music and look at the more familiar music that came along during the years from 1950 to 1999.

1950s: The highest-ranking instrumental in any single year of the 1950s was the mambo “Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White” by Perez Prado, which was the No. 1 record for 1955. The highest ranking instrumental for the decade as a whole was The Third Man Theme” by Anton Karas, 1950’s No. 3 record, which was No. 6 for the decade. Perez Prado’s record fell in at No. 10 on the decade list.

1960s: The highest-ranking instrumental in any single year of the 1960s was “The Theme From A Summer Place by Percy Faith & His Orchestra, which was the No. 1 single for all of 1960. When the Sixties ended almost ten years later, Faith’s record was the top-ranked instrumental for the decade, ranking second among all records during the 1960s to only the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” (Paul Mauriat’s “Love Is Blue,” which I featured last week, was the No. 3 record in 1968 and the No. 12 record for the overall decade.)

1970s: According Whitburn, the highest-ranking instrumental in any single year of the 1970s is “Fly, Robin, Fly” by Silver Convention, the No. 2 record for all of 1975 (behind the Captain & Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together”). I might disagree with Whitburn’s classifying the record as an instrumental, as the record has words: “Fly, Robin, Fly/Up, up to the sky.” But given that the vocals are more of a chant than anything else (and that similar chant-like vocals show up in other records classified as instrumentals), I’d concede. As to the highest-ranking instrumental of the decade, I have to guess, as not one instrumental made the Top 40 records of the 1970s. My guess would be “Fly, Robin, Fly,” based on its three weeks at No. 1, a span of time no other instrumental matched during the decade. (Three instrumentals spent two weeks at No. 1 during the 1970s: “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” by MFSB with the Three Degrees in 1974, “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” by Meco in 1977, and “Rise” by Herb Alpert in 1979.)

1980s: The decade was a grim one for instrumental hits. Only three instrumentals were listed among the four hundred records that comprise the ten annual Top 40 listings for the 1980s. Of those three, the highest ranking was “Chariots of Fire – Titles” by Vangelis, which was the No. 15 record for 1982. (The other two ranked instrumental were from 1985: “Miami Vice Theme: by Jan Hammer and “Axel F” by Harold Faltenmyer, which came in at Nos. 24 and 37, respectively, in that year’s final listing.) And, as was the case with the 1970s, no instrumental made the list of the decade’s Top 40 records. One has to think, given the year-by-year rankings mentioned above, that “Chariots of Fire – Titles” was the decade’s highest-ranked instrumental.

1990s: If the 1980s were a dismal time for instrumentals in the charts, I have no words at all to describe the 1990s. Only one instrumental single made any of the ten year-end Top 40 listings: “Theme from Mission: Impossible” by Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen of U2 ranked No. 39 for the year of 1996 and would, most likely, be the decade’s top instrumental. And that brings this exploration to a whimpering halt.

Note: The linked video for “Fly, Robin, Fly,” is of the album track; the single ran about two minutes shorter, but I don’t own the single, and the only good video of the single has some NSFW artwork. As to the other linked videos, I’m reasonably sure that the linked videos from the 1950s and 1960s feature the original singles, and I have no certainty at all about the music in the linked videos from the 1980 and 1990s.

‘One’

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

As I did something inconsequential the other day, the RealPlayer kept me entertained with a random selection. And then, in the space of five songs, it played two with the same title: “One,” first by U2 and then by Three Dog Night.

That got me to wondering how many tunes I have with the word “one” in the title, so I went looking this morning. I have no answer. The sorting function on the RealPlayer finds every instance of the letters “one” occurring. So I’ve had to bypass multiple versions of “Black Cat Bone” and “Another Man Done Gone” as well as every song with the word “lonely” in its title and the entire catalogs of the Rolling Stones, the Freddy Jones Band and C.W. Stoneking.

But even if I have no specific count, there were plenty of titles to choose from. Here’s a selection:

As has been mentioned before in this space, Neil Young’s 1978 album, Comes A Time, is my favorite album by that changeable and often enigmatic performer. On that album, “Already One” tells the tale of a love that’s difficult yet essential, a story that I’d think most of us have experienced along the way, even if the configuration was a little different than the one in Young’s song.

The Wilburn Brothers – Doyle and Teddy – were from Hardy, Arkansas, and performed at the Grand Old Opry and for a similar radio program, Louisiana Hayride, during the 1940s into 1951, before either of them was twenty. Between 1954 and 1970, they placed twenty-eight records into the Country Top 40. One of those came in late 1964, when “I’m Gonna Tie One On Tonight” went to No. 19.

Marva Whitney is a singer from Kansas City, Kansas, who toured between 1967 and 1970 as a featured performer in the James Brown Review. She recorded a fair number of singles during that time and on into the 1970s, with most of them released on the King label. Three of her singles reached the R&B Top 40; the best-performing was “It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who To Sock It To),” which went to No. 19 in 1969. “He’s the One” was not one of those charting three, but it’s a great piece of 1969 R&B nevertheless.

The Sundays released three CDs between 1990 and 1997 in a style that All Music Guide says owes a lot to “the jangly guitar pop of the Smiths and the trance-like dream pop of bands like the Cocteau Twins.” For whatever reason – probably memories of hearing “Here’s Where the Story Ends” on Cities 97 during the early 1990s – I have all three Sundays CDs. Jangly and romantic, “You’re Not The Only One I Know” comes from the first one, 1990’s Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.

The James Solberg Band spent a lot of time during the 1990s touring as the backing band for bluesman Luther Allison. Still, Solberg and his mates found time to record a couple of pretty good albums (for some reason, AMG calls the group the “Jim Solberg Band,” while the CDs themselves credit the James Solberg Band), and Solberg himself put together a few good solo albums starting in the late 1990s. In our search this morning, we come across “One of These Days” from the 1996 album of the same name.

Almost every time Al Stewart pops up on the radio or on the mp3 player, I find myself admiring his songcraft and performance. With his smart and literate lyrics and his generally accessible and atmospheric music, Stewart almost always casts a spell. I’ve no doubt heard “One Stage Before” from Year of the Cat hundreds of times since the album came out in 1976, but I’m not sure I’ve really listened to it. I did this morning, and all can do is admire it:

It seems to me as though I’ve been upon this stage before
And juggled away the night for the same old crowd.
These harlequins you see with me, they too have held the floor
As here once again they strut and they fret their hour.
I see those half-familiar faces in the second row
Ghost-like with the footlights in their eyes,
But where or when we met like this last time, I just don’t know.
It’s like a chord that rings and never dies
For infinity.

And now these figures in the wings with all their restless tunes
Are waiting for someone to call their names.
They walk the backstage corridors and prowl the dressing-rooms
And vanish to specks of light in the picture-frames.
But did they move upon the stage a thousand years ago
In some play in Paris or Madrid?
And was I there among them then, in some travelling show?
And is it all still locked inside my head
For infinity?

And some of you are harmonies to all the notes I play;
Although we may not meet, still you know me well,
While others talk in secret keys and transpose all I say
And nothing I do or try can get through the spell.
So one more time we’ll dim the lights and ring the curtain up
And play again like all the times before,
But far behind the music, you can almost hear the sounds
Of laughter like the waves upon the shores
Of infinity.

Saturday Single No. 236

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve indulged myself here with random six-song tours of the Seventies and the Eighties, and a rainy Saturday morning seems like a good time to keep the sequence going. So this morning, in search of our weekly treat, we’ll wander through the Nineties.

(I should note that I was baffled why the video I put together for the final tune in our Eighties exploration got so few hits. And I learned this morning that the video had disappeared because the HTML was incorrectly tinkered with, and that’s my fault. I’ve repaired the post, and if anyone wants to take in the Tom Jans performance of “Mother’s Eyes” that closed Jan’s final album, Champion, it’s here.)

There are about 6,800 tunes in the RealPlayer from the 1990s. The mix is far different than those from earlier decades, I would guess. There’s probably much less Top 40, much more adult contemporary, some alternative stuff (especially alt. country, leading to Americana, I would think), some blues, and a fair amount of regular country. So let’s see what pops out of the random slot:

First up are the Spin Doctors and their cover of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” from the soundtrack to the 1993 movie Philadelphia. The Spin Doctors’ second album, a 1991 effort titled Pocket Full of Kryptonite, went to No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and a single from Pocket – “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” – was everywhere in the autumn of 1992 and the early weeks of 1993, reaching No. 17 in the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock chart. So the Spin Doctors were at their peak when they took on the John Fogerty tune for Philadelphia. Their cover’s not bad, but there’s nothing in it that’s new, either.

Stop No. 2 this morning is a track from the last album by the late Richard Newell, a blues harpist better known as King Biscuit Boy. Long considered, says All-Music Guide, “the premier practitioner of blues harmonica in Canada,” Newell toured with and jammed with many folks during his fifty-eight years, including Muddy Waters, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and John Lee Hooker. His recorded output is slender: Five albums between 1970 and 1995 (he crossed over in 2003), but all are good listening. The tune we’ve come across this morning is a nifty little workout called “Down On The Farm” from his 1995 album Urban Blues Re: Newell.

We move on, finding ourselves in Walkabout territory. I’ve seen the group tagged as alternative country rock, and that seems to pretty much sum it up. The tune we’ve fallen on is “Polly” from Satisfied Mind, a 1993 collection of acoustic covers. Written by the late Gene Clark, a founding member of the Byrds, “Polly” first showed up on Through the Morning, Through the Night, the 1969 album Clark recorded with Doug Dillard. As much as I like Dillard & Clark, I prefer the Walkabouts’ almost eerie version of the song.

And from there, we tumble into the world as seen by Alabama 3 (known as A3 in the U.S.), the group that came to wide attention when “Woke Up This Morning” was used as the opening theme for the HBO series The Sopranos. “Bourgeoisie Blues” comes from the same album, 1997’s Exile on Coldharbour Lane, and sports the same mix of sound collage, driving rhythms and vocals that to my ears sound ironic, all stirred into a tune that AMG calls an “electro-Marx-house combination.” Sample lyric: “Temptation’s got a hold on you/She’s eating away at your dreams.” Odd but gripping.

Our fifth tune this morning is “Moon Over Catalina,” a surf instrumental from the Blue Stingrays’ lone album, a 1997 effort titled Surf-N-Burn. It turns out that the Stingrays were actually members of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers taking a busman’s holiday. The album, which is a lot of fun, includes what seem to be fourteen original tunes and a surf-washed take on John Barry’s main theme from Goldfinger. All of it, including “Moon Over Catalina,” is a lot of fun.

And we come at last to a tune from one of the last albums from the late Long John Baldry. A blues singer during the early days of the British blues scene, Baldry shifted to pop for a brief period in the the 1960s and then slide into blues rock, with the 1971 album It Ain’t Easy being one of the peaks of his career. The tune we’ve landed on this morning comes from the 1996 album Right To Sing The Blues, a project that showed off Baldry’s gravelly delivery to good effect. So “Midnight Hour Blues” is today’s Saturday Single

Two Looks Back, One Look Forward

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

My list of things to accomplish today is longer than I would like, and following an early morning trip to the dentist – no major problems but the usual admonition to floss more frequently – I am short of time.

So I thought I would supply two looks back and one look forward today.

I wrote Tuesday about the beginnings of the metamorphosis of Paul Summers – whom I knew in Eden Prairie – into Paul LaRoche of the Lower Brulé Lakota Tribe and the music he now creates as Brulé with the band American Indian Rock Opera. I’ve been listening a fair amount in the past few days to their music, and I thought I’d toss another selection out there.

Here’s “Buffalo Moon” from Brulé’s first CD, the 1996 release We the People.

Since that release, as I mentioned this week, Paul LaRoche’s two children, Nicole and Shane, have joined in his musical efforts, and Nicole has released several CDs of her own. Here’s “Beyond the Trail of Tears” from her 2001 CD, Passion Spirit.

And, as I plan tomorrow to take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1970 – my favorite musical year – here’s “Back to the River” by the oddly named The Damnation of Adam Blessing, which was at No. 107 in its first week in the Bubbling Under section of the Hot 100. (I may have posted this tune when I was at one of my other two locations on the Intertubes, but if so, it’s been a while and it’s a good tune.) From what I can tell, the record hung around the Bubbling Under section for four weeks in November and December 1970 and then disappeared for a bit before coming back for three more weeks of Bubbling Under in January 1971.

And I’ll be back tomorrow.