Archive for the ‘1994’ Category

‘Sure Look Good To Me . . .’

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

As we put together an alternate version of Joe Cocker’s second album – the 1969 release Joe Cocker! – there are a few tracks where our choices for an alternate version will be limited.

That’s not the case with the third track on the album, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” Covers of the tune have been coming out of studios fairly regularly since Lloyd Price wrote and recorded the song in 1952. Released on the Los Angeles-based Specialty label and credited to Lloyd Price & His Orchestra, the record went to No. 1 on two of the three R&B charts tracked at the time by Billboard. It was No. 1 for one week on the Most Played In Juke Boxes chart and for seven weeks on the Best Sellers In Stores charts.

And after that came the covers. Second Hand Songs doesn’t have all of them, but it lists seventy-six covers, starting with Elvis Presley’s 1956 version, which was on his first, self-titled album, and ending with two versions released in 2011: One by the Hucklebucks on the album Juke Box Blues and the other by the venerable P.J. Proby on his self-released album One Night of Elvis – One Hour With Proby.

Along with Price’s original and Joe Cocker’s cover, there are three other versions on the digital shelves here in the EITW studios: Elvis’ version from 1956, Johnny River’s take on the tune from his 1964 album At The Whisky á Go-Go and Paul McCartney’s cover from his Cнова в CCCP album, originally released exclusively in the Soviet Union in 1988. Of those three, I prefer Presley’s take; McCartney’s version sounds like an Elvis impression, and Rivers’ version seems a little flat.

Moving beyond the slender pickings here, two versions of the tune have made the Billboard Hot 100: Gary Stites’ fairly bland cover went to No. 47 in 1960, and the Buckinghams got to No. 41 with a cover that raced ahead about 40 percent faster than any other version I’ve heard. (In Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn lists the Buckinghams’ version as “Laudy Miss Claudy,” noting that some pressings used the correct spelling.)

A number of the other versions on the list at Second Hand Songs (which did not yet list Stites’ version) sparked some interest. Little Richard’s cover from his 1964 album Little Richard Is Back (And There’s a Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On) barrels along like a classic Penniman side. Larry Williams released a 1959 cover that’s okay but doesn’t add a whole lot to the versions that came before. The same goes for a couple of covers by British groups: The Swingin’ Blue Jeans in 1964 and the Hollies in 1965.

Later covers came from Sandy Nelson (1967), Ronnie Hawkins, the Nashville Teens and Ike Turner (all 1972), Bill Haley & The Comets (1973), Conway Twitty and Fats Domino (both 1974) and on and on through Travis Tritt (1994), Cliff Richard & The Drifters (1997) and Noel Redding With 3:05 A.M. (2003) with more to follow.

I haven’t listened to all of those – and some I only sampled at Amazon – but I liked (unsurprisingly) the Tritt and Domino versions, and a few seconds of Redding’s version was enough. Nothing much else – and I’ve listened to at least a bit of about twenty-five versions of the tune – made an impression. (And I should note that I got a little weary of the many, many times that covers of the song began with the triplet-rich piano introduction created for Price’s 1952 original by Domino.)

It came down to two versions of the song for our remake of Cocker’s album: Either Price’s original or Tritt’s 1994 cover from the Elvis tribute It’s Now Or Never. And I went with Tritt.

Six At Random

Friday, June 5th, 2015

I’m gonna fire up the iPod and let it do the work this morning. Many of the 2,000 or so tunes in the device are familiar, but sometimes the familiar tends to get ignored around here. So off we go:

First up is “Be Easy” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, a 2007 joint that, like most of Jones’ catalog, sounds as if it could have come out of Memphis forty years earlier. The track comes from 100 Days, 100 Nights, Jones’ third release and the first one I ever heard. Six of her albums with the Dap-Kings are on the shelves here along with a couple of one-off recordings. One of those one-offs, a cover of the First Edition’s 1967 hit, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” caught the ear of my pal Schultz when he was here a few weeks ago, and he spent a few moments jotting down the titles of Jones’ CDs for future reference.

Then we jump back in time to 1971, when Ten Years After’s “I’d Love To Change The World” went to No. 40. When this one popped up on the car radio a couple of years ago, I wrote, “I was once again bemused by the ‘Tax the rich, feed the poor, until there are no rich no more’ couplet. I also considered – not for the first time – about how unacceptable the reference to ‘dykes and fairies’ would be today. Social change happens glacially, but it does happen.” Even with those considerations, it’s still a pretty good record.

And we do get some Memphis R&B: “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” by the Staple Singers from 1973. The slightly funky and sometimes propulsive record went to No. 9, one of three Top Ten hits for the singers, and it spent three weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart. I didn’t really get the Staple Singers back then – too much other stuff crowding my ears, I guess – but they’re well-represented these days on both the vinyl and digital files, and “If You’re Ready” is one of my favorite tracks of theirs.

From there, we head into the mid-1990s and find a cover of Billie Holliday’s version of “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance (With You)” as performed by the late Etta James. The track comes from James’ 1994 album Mystery Lady – Songs of Billie Holiday. I can’t find any fault with the song selection, with the classic pop arrangements on the album, or with James’ performances, but there’s something about the entire project that leaves me a little cold. It’s a little odd: It’s like the parts are all fine but just don’t fit together. “I Don’t Stand . . .” is probably the best track on the album, and it’s nice and all, but ultimately kind of empty. That one may not stay on the iPod too much longer.

Somewhere along the line, I came across a huge pile of work by the late Lee Hazlewood, ranging from the early 1960s all the way to 2006, a year before his death. One of the more idiosyncratic folks in the pop music world, Hazlewood kind of fascinates me. And this morning, we get Hazlewood and Ann-Margret gender-flipping and covering Waylon Jennings’ No. 2 country hit from 1968 with “Only Mama That’ll Walk The Line” from the 1969 album The Cowboy & The Lady. Despite my affection for Hazlewood’s work, the limp performance by Ann-Margret means that this is another track that’s likely not going to remain long in the iPod. Linda Ronstadt’s superior version from the same year is already in the device, and that one should be the only one I need.

And we close with one of my favorite melancholy tracks, “Scudder’s Lane,” by the New Jersey band From Good Homes. Found on the group’s 1993 album, Hick-Pop Comin’ At Ya!, the song tells a tale familiar and yet unique. I’ve posted the lyrics here before, but they’re worth another look:

Scudder’s Lane

me and lisa used to run thru the night
thru the fields off scudder’s lane
we’d lay down and look up at the sky
and feel the breeze, thru the trees
and I’d often wonder
how long would it take
to ride or fly to the dipper in the sky

as I drove back into hainesville
I was thinking of the days
when my dreams went on forever
as I ran thru the fields off scudder’s lane

I stayed with my love lisa
thru the darkness of her days
she walked into the face of horror
and I followed in her wake
and I often wonder
how much does it take
’til you’ve given all the love
That’s in your heart
and there’s nothing in its place

as I drove back into hainesville
I was thinking of the days
when my dreams went on forever
as I ran thru the fields off scudder’s lane

i’m afraid of the momentum
that can take you to the edge of a cliff
where you look out and see nothing
and you ask
it that all there is

still I drove back out of hainesville
and I asked myself again will there ever come a day
when you drive back home to stay
could you ever settle down and be a happy man
in one of the houses that they’re building thru the fields
off scudder’s lane

‘Wash Away My Troubles . . .’

Friday, July 18th, 2014

As your faithful narrator seems not to be enlightened enough on his own road to Shambala to avoid the head cold that afflicts him every summer year after year, our full examination of covers of the Daniel Moore song – first recorded by B.W. Stevenson and then Three Dog Night in 1973, as noted here – will have to be conducted piecemeal.

There really aren’t all that many covers of the tune, but even the minor hurdle of exploring them all seems insurmountable this morning, so I’m going to offer two and then curl up in a metaphoric cocoon. (Perhaps I’ll emerge as a more enlightened being, or maybe not.)

Anyway, the song “Shambala” seems to have been pretty much ignored for nearly twenty years after the two versions charted in 1973. There are many records with that title listed at Discogs.com and offered as videos at YouTube, but few of them are of the same song.

The next cover I can find of the tune showed up in 1992, when Rockapella, an a capella group from New York City, released “Shambala” on its album Smilin’. The group is better known, says Wikipedia, for its role as a vocal house band and resident comedy troupe on the hit PBS geography game show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

And then it was on to South Africa. In 1994, a South African artist, Victor Khojane – recording as Dr. Victor – had a hit with the song after it was released on a maxi-single. I’ve seen the song credited in various places to Dr. Victor & The Rasta Rebels, but I’m not sure if it’s a group effort or a solo effort from Khojane. Either way, it’s danceable.

And we’ll continue our road to Shambala next week.

‘Blue’

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

In some ways, “Blue” should be the easiest segment of the trip we’re calling Floyd’s Prism, a tour through the seven colors of the spectrum (with the addition of “Black” and “White”). A search by the RealPlayer brings up 9,764 mp3s that have the word “blue” somewhere in their song or album titles, in their performers’ names or in the genre tags than have been appended to them.

So we have, as often happens with these projects, plenty of material to choose from. Perhaps too much, because we have blues, lots of blues, both in song and album titles and in genre tags. And as much as I love the blues, they’re not what I’m looking for (unless, that is, I find a tune called something like “Ice Blue Blues” among those nine-thousand-some mp3s).

So, what do we winnow? Well, among the more interesting blues titles that we won’t be using are “Protoplasm Blues,” a 1973 offering by Don Agrati (better known as actor Don O’Grady as one of the titular sons in the 1960s television comedy My Three Sons); “Chimes Blues,” a 1923 track by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band featuring Louis Armstrong on cornet; “Yer Blues” by the Beatles, “Summertime Blues” by both the Who and Blue Cheer; “If the Blues Was Whiskey,” a 1935 effort by Bumble Bee Slim; seventeen versions of “Statesboro Blues,” ranging from Blind Willie McTell’s 1928 original to Dion’s 2006 cover; and twenty versions of “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom,” from Robert Johnson’s 1936 original to Carolyn Wonderland’s 2011 cover (titled, as are most of the covers, as simply “Dust My Broom”).

Many artists that got pulled in by the search must be discarded, including Blue Magic, Blue Merle, Blue Asia, Blue Boys, Blue Cheer (again), Blue Haze, Blue Mink, Blue Money Band, Blue Notes, Blue Öyster Cult, Blue Ridge Highballers, Blue Rodeo, Blue Rose, Blue Sky Boys, Blue Stingray, Blues Delight, Blues Image, Blues Magoos, Blues Project, Blues Traveler, Bob B Soxx and The Blue Jeans, David Blue, and the Moody Blues.

And, then, most or all tracks of many albums go by the wayside, inclding Backwater Blues, a 1961 release from Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee; the 1964 release from Koerner, Ray & Glover, [Lots More] Blues, Rags and Hollers; Leo Kottke’s 1969 album, 12-String Blues; Julie London’s 1957 torch song collection, About the Blues; the 2003 album from Chris Thomas King & Blind Mississippi Morris, Along The Blues Highway; Jimmy McGriff’s 1967 offering, A Bag Full of Blues; Ringo Starr’s 1970 album, Beaucoups of Blues; the 1986 soundtrack by Gabriel Yared to the film Betty Blue; Joni Mitchell’s 1970 masterpiece, Blue; LeAnn Rimes’ similarly titled 1996 album; saxophonist Ike Quebec’s 1961 album, Blue & Sentimental; Chris Rea’s massive 2005 box set, Blue Guitars (mentioned here the other day); Eric Andersen’s 1972 album, Blue River; a 1999 tribute to Led Zeppelin titled Whole Lotta Blues; and on and on, including more than 200 tracks released between 1933 and 1942 on the Bluebird label.

But that leaves us, still, with plenty of “Blue” material.

The first choice was easy. I wanted a version of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue.” I’ve got five versions by the man himself: three from the studio in 1974 and two live versions, but I decided against any of those. I also passed on the Indigo Girls’ cover from their 1995 live album, 1200 Curfews, in favor of a version from 1976 by the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. The Devils were, says Wikipedia, a blues-funk band; All Music Guide just calls their stuff pop rock. In any case, the Devils released six albums between 1971 and 1978; their last, All Kidding Aside, bubbled under the Billboard album chart for one week at No. 208. Their cover of “Tangled Up In Blue” comes from their 1976 album, Safe In Their Homes, and it’s pretty good.

One of my favorite quirky albums is The McGarrigle Hour, a wide-ranging 1998 collection of tunes recorded by sisters Kate and Anna McGarrigle, along with other members of their equally wide-ranging collection of musical family and friends, including Loudon Wainwright, Rufus Wainwright, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and more. Among the songs included is the 1919 tune “Alice Blue Gown” by Joseph McCarthy and Harry Tierney. Alice Blue, says Wikipedia, was a pale tint of azure that was the favorite color of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. Her gown of that color, says Wikipedia, sparked a fashion sensation in the U.S. that inspired, among other things, the writing of the song “Alice Blue Gown” for a 1919 Broadway musical titled Irene. The song’s vocals on The McGarrigle Hour come from Anna McGarrigle’s daughter, Lily Lanken, with background vocals by Anna McGarrigle and Rufus Wainwright.

The great song “Blue Moon” could not be ignored today. But which version of the Richard Rogers & Lorenz Hart tune? As I dug, I learned that the song we know today was actually the fourth version of the tune that Rodgers & Hart, contacted at the time to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, put together; Rodger’s melody was the same throughout, but Hart ended up crafting four different lyrics for the tune. The first two were not used. The third was included in the 1934 movie Manhattan Melodrama, but after the film’s release, says Wikipedia, “Jack Robbins – the head of the studio’s publishing company – decided that the tune was suited to commercial release but needed more romantic lyrics and a punchier title. Hart was initially reluctant to write yet another lyric but he was persuaded.” The result was the song we know today: “Blue moon, you saw me standing alone . . .”  There are eight versions of the song on the digital shelves, beginning with Mel Tormé’s 1949 take and including the Marcels’ No. 1 doo-wop version from 1961. But I went with Julie London, who put her restrained version of “Blue Moon” on her 1958 album, Julie Is Her Name, Vol. 2.

It might have been in a garage sale or maybe in the budget rack at a Half Price Books, but one Saturday during the brief time the Texas Gal and I lived in the Twin Cities suburb of Plymouth, I came across Walking Into Clarksdale, the 1998 album by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Sadly, once I got home and dropped the disc into the player, I wasn’t impressed. As Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide writes, “It’s certainly possible to hear where the duo was intending to go, since the circular melodies, Mideastern drones, sawing strings, drum loops, and sledgehammer riffs all add up to an effective update and progression of the classic Zeppelin sound. The problem is, the new sound doesn’t go anywhere.” I tossed the disc onto the shelf and made a note to come back to it another day. I think that day will be soon, as I ran across “Blue Train” this morning, and it sounds a lot better than I remember anything from Walking Into Clarksdale sounding eleven years ago.

Nanci Griffith’s 2006 album, Ruby’s Torch, was a collection of songs offered as –unsurprisingly, given the album’s title – torch songs. Only one of the songs in the collection, though, could really be said to fall into that subgenre of music on its own. (That would be “In The Wee, Small Hours of the Morning,” the title track to a 1955 concept album by Frank Sinatra.) But using orchestration, appropriate and creative arrangements and her own unique voice, Griffith maneuvered the other ten songs on the album into the genre quite well. “Bluer Than Blue” is the track we’re interested in this morning, a re-working of the tune that was a No. 12 hit for Michael Johnson in 1978.

Every time I hear a commercial use as background music a snippet of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” I murmur to myself that I need to get a CD a Gershwin’s works. As the temporal range of my musical interests continues to expand – my most recent CD purchases have been collections of 1930s and 1940s western swing and of new recordings of songs popular during the mid- and late 1800s – I find more and more gaps in my collection. I do have some Gershwin on the vinyl shelves and a little bit on the digital shelves. One of the treasures in the latter location is a 1994 release of “Rhapsody in Blue” by harmonica player Larry Adler and arranger/producer George Martin. The track showed up on the album Glory of Gershwin, and based on the reviews I’ve read, the other tracks on the album are a bit disappointing. But Adler’s work here is well worth a listen.

Saturday Single No. 331

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

It’s time for a random six-song jaunt through the mp3 shelves. (It’s a good thing the shelves are reinforced; the number of mp3s in the library went past the 67,000 mark sometime in the past two weeks.)

First up this morning is “Black, White & Blue” from guitarist Sonny Landreth’s 1996 album, Blues Attack. The track, featuring sweet solos on saxophone and blues harp (I wish I knew who from whom; the credits at All-Music Guide are sparse), rolls on for a pleasant 4:40. Landreth, a native of Mississippi, has been playing since the 1970s, working at one time or another with Clifton Chenier, John Hiatt, John Mayall, Allen Toussaint, Junior Wells, Gatemouth Brown, Johnny Winter, Martina McBride and many more. (His list of credits at AMG contains 595 entries.)  AMG tells me I need to find his earlier albums from the 1990s, Outward Bound and South of I-10. If those two are better than the two Landreth albums I have – Blues Attack and Levee Town from 2000 – then AMG is very much right.

From there, we land on “High Priest of Memphis” a 1971 track by a British group called Bell & Arc. The quartet released one self-titled album, one that’s not especially heavy by today’s standards but that likely seemed like it rocked out a bit when it came out. I wasn’t all that impressed by the album when I came across it a few years back. I mean, having a track from the album pop up every once in a while is fine, but I’m not particularly interested in listening again to the album as a whole. The plodding “High Priest of Memphis” does nothing this morning to alter that judgment.

And we stay in 1971, but with a major difference. After Stephen Stills hit No. 14 in 1971 with “Love the One You’re With,” the Isley Brothers covered the song on their Givin’ It Back album and released the track as a single on their own T-Neck label. It went to No. 18 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 3 on the R&B chart. Although it’s not as creatively reimagined as some of the Isleys’ other covers of the time – see their work on Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” in 1974 – the Isleys’ take on Stills’ song is sly and funky and a nice stop on this morning’s journey.

One of the most annoying singles during my prime Top 40 listening years – say, 1969 through 1975 – was Albert Hammond’s No. 5 hit in 1972, “It Never Rains In Southern California.” Why? Well, after telling us that he got on a west-bound 747, Hammond sings, “Didn’t think before decided what to do.” That second line may be the most awkward bit of writing I’ve ever come across that didn’t come from my own keyboard, and it’s quashed for more than forty years any appreciation of Hammond’s single, which otherwise was a pretty good record. That annoyance also kept me for years from listening to anything else by Hammond except for the joyous “Free Electric Band” from 1973, so when a friend of mine passed along Hammond’s 1975 album, 99 Miles from L.A., I was skeptical. I shouldn’t have been; it’s a little lightweight, but it’s a pretty decent singer/songwriter effort (especially on the title track, which I first knew from Art Garfunkel’s Breakaway album). This morning, the RealPlayer lands on the mellow “Rivers Are For Boats” from the 99 Miles album, and as far as I can tell, there’s nothing nearly as awkward as that awful second line from “It Never Rains . . .” So that’s good, as we head toward our fifth stop.

I’ve written frequently that when I was beginning to build a CD library in 1999 and 2000, among my favorite sources of new (to me, anyway) music were the discount CD carts at the various Twin Cities locations of Half Price Books. I’ve never gone back and figured out how many CDs I grabbed from those carts for one or two bucks, but I think the total would be impressive. The one that pops up this morning is One Of These Days, a 1996 album by the James Solberg Band. The band was the long-time backing band for bluesman Luther Allison before releasing its first albums in the mid-1990s. One Of These Days was the second of those albums, and the track we land on this morning – “Can It Be” – is a decent blues workout for Solberg and his pals.

As I was writing about the track that would have been our sixth stop – and today’s feature – the power went out, and when it came back on, the paragraph I’d started was gone. As I was not pleased with the record anyway, I’m going to take the brief outage – it lasted no more than two seconds – as a sign and go one more selection forward.

And we do pretty well, staying with the blues. During my time (1993-2001) in the blues & R&B band I’ve mentioned occasionally, one of our favorite workouts was the Freddy King/Sonny Thompson tune “I’m Tore Down,” which likely came to our attention after Eric Clapton included it on From the Cradle, his 1994 all-blues album. Clapton’s version is a nice place to end our trek this morning, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘In The Coolness Of Your Shadow . . .’

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Driving down Lincoln Avenue toward some fast food last evening, I was listening – as I generally do in the car – to WXYG, the low-power album rock station that popped up on the AM band here in the St. Cloud area about a year ago. And as I pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot, I heard a familiar and mournful violin introduction come from the speakers, followed by the breathy voice of Jesse Colin Young:

Darkness, darkness, be my pillow, take my head and let me sleep
In the coolness of your shadow, in the silence of your deep.

The song was Young’s “Darkness, Darkness,” an eloquent and haunting surrender to despair recorded by the Youngbloods for their 1969 album, Elephant Mountain. Some listeners have heard a metaphor in the song for the anguish in Vietnam going on at the time the album came out, but I’m not so sure. Either way – or any other way – it’s a chilling song that gets a little trippy in the middle:

I’ve run across numerous covers of the tune in the last decade or so, including versions by Richie Havens, Richard Shindell, the pair of Elliot Murphy & Iain Matthews, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Mott the Hoople, Robert Plant and the Cowboy Junkies. So with the song running through my head this morning, I dropped by Second Hand Songs to see who else might have covered the tune. The website listed ten versions of the song, including the original; I’ve heard eight of them, missing only those by Cassell Webb from 1990 and Golden Earring from 1995.

I also took a look at the mp3s available at Amazon, and that brought up quite a few other names, some of which I knew – like Michael Stanley (with the Ghost Poets) – and many that were unfamiliar. I listened to some samples but left my pocketbook untouched this morning (although there were a few versions that might merit exploration down the road).

So with all those names, what’s actually out there? Well, the Wilson sisters’ version, which showed up on Ann Wilson’s 2007 album, Hope and Glory, is just okay, and the same is true for Robert Plant’s cover, from 2002’s Dreamland. Mott the Hoople’s 1971 version from Brain Capers is good (if a little too Mott-y, if that makes any sense). Ian Matthews’ solo take on the song – found on his 1976 album Go For Broke (released before he changed the spelling of his first name to “Iain”) – felt too matter-of-fact at the start; it became more compelling as it went along but eventually did not match the version he recorded with Elliot Murphy for La Terre Commune in 2000. I do like Lisa Torban’s version (featured here eighteen months ago), which was used in the soundtrack of the 2003 film about the Titanic, Ghosts of the Abyss.

Keeping all that in mind, four versions of “Darkness, Darkness” stand out. Almost five years ago, I wrote that Matthews and Smith’s take on the tune was at the top of my list. Well, lists like that can change, and I now think that three other covers of Young’s song are a little better:  The Cowboy Junkies’ version of the song, released on a bonus EP with their 2004 album One Soul Now, seemed a bit leaden at first, but the slower tempo eventually pulled me in. And my growing appreciation for Richie Havens’ interpretation of the song will, I’m sure, be unsurprising to most readers. His version came out in 1994 on his Cuts to the Chase album.

But the cover that I prefer these days comes from folk artist Richard Shindell, who I think found the center of Young’s song when he recorded it for his 1997 album, Reunion Hill.

From Rivers To Havens

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

In last week’s post about Jackson Browne, I noted that I had come across a few intriguing cover versions of some of his tunes, so in the interest of not letting my research molder on the shelf, here are those covers.

The music of Johnny Rivers has been a frequent topic at this blog, with singles, albums and videos having been posted more than twenty times, based on a quick estimate this morning. That’s not surprising, as I’ve long admired Rivers’ abilities. One of the covers I found this week turned out to be – as far as I can tell – the first released recording of Browne’s “Lady of the Well.” Rivers included his version on his 1972 album Home Grown. A year later, Browne included the song on For Everyman.

Maybe the most startling find during this brief bit of digging came from 1972, when the Jackson 5 covered “Doctor My Eyes,” which was on Browne’s self-titled debut (often retitled by fans as Saturate Before Using) that same year. The Jackson 5 version went to No. 9 hit in England. Here in the U.S., it was relegated to the status of an album track on Lookin’ Through the Windows, which – based on the review at All-Music Guide – sounds like a mish-mash of an album. Even if that’s true about the album, the Jacksons’ performance on “Doctor My Eyes” makes one wonder how it would have fared on the charts on this side of the pond.

A cover of “Doctor My Eyes” isn’t surprising – though hearing it done by the Jackson 5 was a little startling – as it’s one of the sturdier songs on Browne’s first album. It’s a little surprising, however, to find a cover of Browne’s’ “Song for Adam.” It’s a fine song, no doubt, but it’s far more personal in its stance and far more subdued than “Doctor My Eyes” (or the other track seen as a major statement on Jackson Browne, “Rock Me On The Water”). But Kiki Dee chose to cover “Song for Adam” on her 1973 album, Loving & Free. No doubt the production by Elton John and Clive Franks helped, but Dee did a pretty good job with the song.

There was one more surprise for me as I dug into covers of Jackson Browne’s tunes, and it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all, for I’ve heard the track in question numerous times and just forgot about it. I wrote in last week’s post that Browne’s two agit-prop albums of the late 1980s – Lives In The Balance from 1986 and World In Motion from 1989 – didn’t interest me much. Part of that was the content, and part of that was Browne’s performance; his rather slight voice didn’t seem up to the challenge of calling for revolution. But take the title tune from Lives In The Balance and hand it to Richie Havens, and you have a different thing entirely. Havens’ stirring cover of “Lives In The Balance” comes from his 1994 album Cuts to the Chase.

Dinner’s On Me!

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

How about a five-course meal?

“Cheese & Crackers” by Rosco Gordon is our appetizer. This disjointed, stop-and-start track from 1956 came to me on the two-CD set The Legendary Story of Sun Records, and I admit it’s confused me. At points it sounds like classic rock ’n’ roll, at other moments I hear rockabilly (and neither of those would be startling for Sun Records in 1956) and then I hear something else. A hint of what that is might come from a comment on Gordon by Bryan Thomas at All-Music Guide:

Rosco Gordon was best known for being one of the progenitors of a slightly shambolic, loping style of piano shuffle called “Rosco’s Rhythm.” The basic elements of this sound were further developed after Jamaican musicians got a hold of 45s Gordon recorded in the early ’50s – which were not available to Jamaicans until 1959 – and created ska, which took its name for the sound of this particular shuffle as it sounded being played on an electric guitar (ska-ska-ska).

“Soup For One” by Chic is the soup course. It’s a fairly straightforward serving from the R&B/disco group that producers and musicians Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers loosed on the world in the late 1970s. While not nearly as propulsive as “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” or “Le Freak” from their early days, “Soup For One” glides nicely across the floor. The 1982 release – the title song from the movie Soup For One – went to No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 14 on the R&B chart), the last charting single for the group.

“Poke Salad Annie” by Little Milton is the salad course for those who prefer greens. It’s a fine cover of the Tony Joe White swamp song from Little Milton’s 1994 album, I’m A Gambler. There’d been a time when Little Milton was a pretty regular presence on the charts, with thirteen records in or near the Hot 100 between 1965 and 1972 and twenty-one records on the R&B chart between 1962 and 1976. Even when the hits dried up, though, Little Milton kept on working, releasing twenty-three more albums from 1981 until 2005, when he passed on at the age of 70. And no, I don’t know why Little Milton (or whoever made the decision) spelled the song “Poke Salad Annie” instead of the original title of “Polk Salad Annie.” Makes no difference; Little Milton kills it.

“Memphis Women & Chicken” by T. Graham Brown is our main course. I mentioned Brown’s version of the Dan Penn song a couple of years ago, when I wrote about all the songs I have that mention Memphis in their titles. Greasy, juicy and a little bit sly, this track from Brown’s 1998 album Wine Into Water is a tasty main dish for this musical dinner. I’ve only heard a little bit of Brown’s work – one full CD and a few other tracks – but his name is high on my list of artists to listen to further.

“Chocolate Cake” by Crowded House is one of our two dessert choices. Even though it’s snarky and surreal, this track from 1991’s Woodface nevertheless has that Crowded House sound to it, a glossy finish that the Finn brothers lay on most everything I’ve ever heard from them. The pop culture references date the song considerably, placing it in a post-Soviet and pre-9/11 niche, which makes its ironic shadings seem like more of a pose than anything thoughtful. Or maybe the record was itself an ironic comment on post-Soviet irony. And then again, it might have been just a record.

“Ice Cream” by Sarah McLachlan is our alternate dessert. What better way to close out dinner than with a light, jazzy and sweet love song? “Your love is better than ice cream . . . It’s a long way down to the place where we started from,” McLachlan sings. “Your love is better than chocolate.” That’s pretty damned good, and with this sweet tune from 1993’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, our meal is over. I’ll take care of the bill.

‘It’s A Thin, Thin Line . . .’

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

While looking for tunes with “rest” in their titles this morning, I came across several entries for the song “Tougher Than The Rest” by Bruce Springsteen. Now, that’s not the kind of rest I had in mind, but it’ll do for today.

The song comes from Springsteen’s 1987 album, Tunnel of Love, and it’s sparked a few covers. I dug into some of those this morning – not as many as I usually sample when I’m exploring covers – and found some interesting versions. Emmylou Harris included the tune on her 1990 album, Brand New Dance, and I saw some commentary this morning that ranked her version higher than others, so I went and bought the mp3, which I evidently can’t share in a video.

Well, I liked what I heard from Emmylou more than I did most of the covers I found. I was surprised by the tepid version from Everything But The Girl on that group’s Acoustic from 1992, as I generally like the album. And I didn’t hear much in the seemingly standard country styling from Chris LeDoux on his 1994 album Haywire. On the other hand, I did enjoy the version released on a two-song disc in 2009 by the Scottish group Camera Obscura.

As it turned out, the best version of the Springsteen tune I came across today is from a source that surprised me. Travis Tritt pulled the song into his hybrid of southern rock and Nashville twang on No More Looking Over My Shoulder in 1998, and the results were pretty good:

I’ll be back Thursday, either writing about Chef Boy-Ar-Dee or about covers of one of the greatest songs ever recorded by The Band.

About Five Years Ago . . .

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

When did this blog start? There really is no easy answer.

After the Texas Gal gave me a USB turntable for Christmas 2006, I began to rip lots of vinyl into mp3s. Having wandered through hundreds of other folks’ music blogs (and having been encouraged by the Texas Gal out of my skepticism that others would be interested in anything I happened to post), I set myself up at Blogger.

For a while I just shared albums, using commentary from All-Music Guide to fill the white space, and then I slowly began to write about the music myself. Sometime around the end of January 2007 – it could have been early February – I put a counter on the site to see if anyone was coming by. A few folks were.

Then, on a Saturday morning, the Texas Gal and I came home after a night in the emergency room; she was fine but she’d had a difficult night. Exhausted but not wanting to leave the blog blank, I cobbled together a mention of the night before and then wrote a brief memoir about a single that takes me – every time I hear it – back to the autumn of 1973: “Rør Ved Mig” by the Danish duo of Lecia & Lucienne:

Purely by accident, I’d blundered into two of the constants of Echoes In The Wind: Memoir attached to music and a single on Saturday. The following week found me writing, among other things, about Leo Rau, the guy across the alley from my childhood home who ran a string of jukeboxes and gave me old records; about my grandfather purchasing a 45 of fairy tales for my sister that turned out to be fables told for the hip set of the early 1950s; and about rummaging for records with my pal Rick and hearing, for the first time, the Twin Cities band Gypsy.

And on the following Saturday, I wrote briefly about Cris Williamson, a member of the women’s music movement. Calling the post “Saturday Single No. 1” (and I really should have called it No. 2), I shared the lovely “Like An Island Rising” with whoever happened to come by:

What that means is that right about this week, this blog will mark five years of telling tales, playing games with numbers, making lists with sometimes flimsy evidence or insufficient thought, and sharing enough singles on Saturdays that next weekend’s post will be Saturday Single No. 275.

More than I ever could have anticipated, writing this blog has enriched my life. Not because I’ve gotten to tell my tales and write about music, though I admit to loving both of those things. Rather, my life is richer because of the people I’ve met along the way, folks who stopped by to see what I was up to and continued to do so, often leaving notes when they thought I got something right or wrong (both types of notes are welcome, of course). Many of those folks are represented by the blogs linked on the right-hand side of this page. Deserving special mention are jb of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ and his Mrs. and frequent commenter Yah Shure, who – as last week’s post made clear – have become dear friends to me and to the Texas Gal in the real world. I hope in the future to convert more cyberfriends to real-world friends.

I’ve also had the joy of getting to know through email and letters a few of the musicians whose stories I’ve told here. Chief among those would be Bobby Jameson and Patti Dahlstrom.

And I’ve had to start over twice, having been dropped by both Blogger and WordPress. (Posts published during those times are being reposted – without links to music – at Echoes In The Wind Archives; that project has reached February 2009 and has about a year’s worth of writing left to post.)

It’s been quite a trip, and the journey’s not over yet. I plan to keep on writing about the music that moves and mystifies me for a while yet. I do want to make sure that I don’t become like some garrulous uncle who tells the same stories over and over, but I think there are tales yet to be told, and I’ll do my best to tell them.

I rummaged around this morning, but I couldn’t find a tune titled “Five Good Years,” so I settled for close: From his 1994 album From the Cradle, here’s Eric Clapton’s version of the blues standard, “Five Long Years.”