Archive for the ‘Saturday Single’ Category

Saturday Single No. 618

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

I did some work early this morning on taming the music of the George Gershwin classic “It Ain’t Necessarily So” for our small group of musicians at our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. (Mr. Gershwin’s original arrangement – and various later interpretations – were more complicated than we could master in a few rehearsals.)

As I did so, I moved back and for the between the two keyboards – the one that plays music and the one at the computer. I was trying things, assessing, writing, and listening to versions of the tune at YouTube. And I think after some effort, I’ve come up with an arrangement that will serve our needs without offending the spirit of Mr. Gershwin.

Some of the versions of the tune I listened to were startlingly good. I suppose today’s post might be the first in a series looking at various takes on the tune. There are plenty out there. If we go that route, then the series begins with a piece from a catalogue that a lot of people – including me – mention occasionally but listen to rarely: Aretha Franklin’s time at Columbia, before she went to Atlantic and became the Queen of Soul.

Here’s her take on “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy & Bess. It’s from her very first album for Columbia, Aretha, released in 1960. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 617

Saturday, November 24th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Single No. 616

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

The other week, I was going to discuss a few tracks pulled at random from 1969, so I started clicking. And along came “Something’s Coming On,” one of two bonus tracks appended in 1999 when A&M released a remastered version of Joe Cocker’s debut album, With A Little Help From My Friends. The other extra track was “The New Age Of Lily,”

The two were 1968 B-sides, with “The New Age Of Lily” backing “Marjorine,” which did not chart, and “Something’s Coming On” being the B-side of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” which went to No. 68 in Billboard in the middle of December.

And that immediately messed up my plans. Why, if we’re digging into randoms from 1969, do we land on a B-side that came out in 1968? Well, that’s because I tag albums with their years of release, and Cocker’s debut album was released in 1969. In the era of bonus tracks, one needs to look at the fine print in the booklet. Had I done so, I would have tagged the two bonus tracks as B-sides from 1968.

Yeah, I know. It sounds compulsive, and it is, a little. I like accuracy. And it’s easily corrected. But that morning, I was going to run around in 1969, and the track came out in 1968, and I didn’t want to start the random procession all over. So I did something else and set the idea of “Something’s Coming On” aside. Until today.

“Something’s Coming On” is a decent if not stellar piece of work and would have been at home on the album in place of “Marjorine” or maybe “Change In Louise,” neither of which I care for. It was written by Cocker along with Chris Stainton, who handles bass and piano. Clem Cattini is on drums, and Albert Lee and Jimmy Page handle the guitar work. I’m not at all sure, but I’d guess it’s Page who offers the solo at the end of the track.

And the Texas Gal is frying bacon and potatoes as I write this, so the only other thing I’m going to say is that “Something’s Coming On” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 615

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

It’s quiet and cool this morning in our little corner of the world.

The quiet, it turns out, is a near-constant thing. The four-plex that contains our condo – one of nine such buildings in the development – is tucked back on what is in effect an alley, so we have very little traffic noise, in fact very little noise at all. During the warm season just past, the occasional sound of the lawn service taking care of things made its way inside, especially when the fellow with the leaf blower worked on the patio just on the other side of the window where I write and putter.

And on occasion in the evening, Larry down the way shoots off some fireworks. That can be startling, but it’s not really a problem. Nor is the occasional noise we hear from the kids across the alley when they play on their trampoline.

As far as I recall, other than deliveries and friends, our doorbell has rung only three times: two sets of school-age kids came by raising money, one seeking donors for a walk-a-thon and the other selling chocolate bars. We invested in both.

And we had one politician stop by, seeking re-election. I shook his hand and told him politely that there was little he could say that would earn my vote. We chatted for about ten minutes about why that was, and he went on his way. (About a month later, he ceased campaigning because of some unseemliness in his past; it was way too late for his party to nominate a different candidate, so it will be interesting to watch the returns next Tuesday.)

Anyway, it’s quiet in this little corner of the north side, something that we hoped would be the case when we moved here eight months ago. We’d become accustomed to the quiet at the house, when living on more than an acre kept us isolated for the most part from the rest of the city around us. So we’ve been pleased.

And as I make my way through tracks with the word “quiet” in their titles, I’m caught – as I am other times – by Carole King’s effort from her 1973 album Fantasy: “A Quiet Place To Live.” The brief song has some political and social overtones that don’t fit our specific living place but might fit into today’s world. And it’s worth recalling that things don’t always have to mesh perfectly to work well:

All I want is a quiet place to live
Where I can enjoy the fruits of my labor
Read the paper
And not have to cry out loud

In my mind I can see it crystal clear
Sharing my dreams with the people around me
Now they surround me
And I’m just a part of the crowd

What will become of us
What about the children
What will they do to us next time around
What will the answer be
What will it mean to me
When are they gonna see we’re underground
Here underground

And all I want is a quiet place to live
Where I can be free in a world of my making
Instead of taking
What they decided to give
I wouldn’t want what they have, no
If I could only find
A quiet place to live

So we’ll make Carole King’s “A Quiet Place To Live” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 613

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

This will be a quick one this morning, as I’m soon heading to St. Francis, north of the Twin Cities, where I’ll connect with Rob. Then we’ll head to the suburb of Plymouth to our friend Jon’s home for a day of Strat-O-Matic baseball.

The twelve-team tournament is hosted by our pal Dan, but he and his wife moved not long ago to downtown Minneapolis, and Jon offered to host the event to provide easier access for those coming in from out of town.

Anyway, I’m headed out this morning, hoping that the 1961 Cincinnati Reds can have a good day.

For this morning’s music, I looked quickly at today’s date and saw 10/20, and I wondered if I had any tracks on the digital shelves that run 10:20. And I found Jimmy McGriff’s take on “Don’t Get Around Much Any More” It’s from his 1988 album Blue To The ’Bone, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 612

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

The Texas Gal took this week off work, and while we had made no plans for a major trip, we had hoped to spend a couple of days in the car doing some leaf-peeping, perhaps heading from here to Taylor’s Falls at the Wisconsin border or maybe heading northeast toward Duluth.

Alas, it rained Monday through Thursday – nothing torrential, just slow, steady soakings with one minor storm (although Thursday’s storm in Duluth brought ocean-sized waves crashing in along the Lake Superior shoreline; the photos have been amazing). And Friday, yesterday, was cold. So we stayed in. Probably just as well. We did some binge-watching of the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale and of the first few episodes of both New Amsterdam and A Million Little Things, ate out a little, ordered in a little, dealt with problems with an overhead fan/light in our entryway (a tale I may tell in full on another day), and got new phones.

On Wednesday, while we were waiting for the phone techs at a big box store to solve a problem with our new phones, I wandered over to the clearance CD bin and dug around for a while. I came out with five discs to fill gaps in the collection, compilations of work by Billie Holiday, the Drifters, Wilson Pickett, ABBA, and Buddy Guy.

And here’s a track that came along with one of those five, one whose title, at least, tells how the week felt for us. It’s Buddy Guy – with some help from Bonnie Raitt – with “It Feels Like Rain,” the title track from his 1993 album. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single 611

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

Alas, more sleep trouble. I finally nodded off about two this morning, and by the time I awoke, the hour was bending toward noon.

And not long from now, Rob and his sister will be in town for dinner and then a performance at the Paramount theater downtown. We’ll be seeing “What’s Going On: The Music of the Vietnam Era” as performed by our very good local cover/tribute band, the Fabulous Armadillos. We saw them do an Eagles show a few years ago that was truly very good.

So, on short time, then, here’s a video the Armadillos put together a couple of years ago, a pastiche of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls” entitled “Stearns County Girls.”

And since the western portion of St. Cloud is in Stearns County, I now live in the county. So the Fabulous Armadillos’ “Stearns County Girls” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 610

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

It’s funny how the mind works.

Last evening, just before heading upstairs to take a shower, I watched a few minutes of one sporting event or another. As the camera lingered on the crowd just before I turned the television off, framed in the picture was a pretty young woman with striking red hair.

“Gee,” I thought as I made my way upstairs, “that looked a lot like Anne.” I’ve mentioned her before. Anne was the young woman who was an intern at the Twin Cities television station at the same time I was, the winter of 1975-76. She was in the promotions department and I was in sports.

As I prepared for my shower, I pondered – not for the first time – how completely I’d missed Anne’s signals back then that she wanted to be more than just friends chatting over an occasional cup of coffee in the break room. I should have taken her out for a beer after work and seen where things went from there, I thought.

But no, my train of thought went, that might have been hard to arrange, given that I worked reporter hours several evenings a week and given the not inconsequential distance between the station and her home. And that led me to think of those Saturdays late in my internship when I was responsible for producing the full five-minute sports package for our evening news show, selecting stories, choosing highlights, and all of the other tasks that went into the package.

And I recalled one Saturday when our video highlights included some footage of the hockey game that day in Philadelphia between the National Hockey League’s Flyers and the Soviet Red Army hockey team. The Flyers were then in their Broad Street Bullies phase, and perhaps the most newsworthy moment was when one of the Flyers laid out one of the Red Army players with a massive check, knocking the Russian groggy if not out cold.

[We move now in these brackets from memory to information from Wikipedia: The great Valeri Kharlamov was the recipient of the check from Ed Van Impe, and the Russian team withdrew from the game in protest. Eventually, the teams resumed the game, but the Russians were obviously cautious the rest of the game and lost 4-1.]

I wrote a bit of copy about the game, using as my lede something like “It wasn’t quite the Eastern Front, but the Russian Army – at least its hockey team – had a rough day today in Philadelphia.” I’m not sure how that reads now, but for a kid of twenty-two who was learning his craft, I think it wasn’t bad. And with that as one of the leading stories, I handed the sports package off that evening to the night’s on-air talent and went home.

But as I showered last evening, I recalled that the following Monday, my boss/adviser ended a meeting with me by telling me the Saturday sports package had been fine, except for one thing: In the story about the hockey game, I had neglected to include the final score. I was startled, and I’ve used that bit of conversation as a guide for every sports story I’ve written since then: Make sure the score is in the story.

The game between the Flyers and the Red Army was one of several exhibitions that winter between NHL teams and top-level teams from the U.S.S.R., and I pondered that for a moment, and then thought about the 1972 series of games between Team Canada and the Soviets, eight games between what were essentially all-star teams. I don’t remember the entire sequence of eight games, but I remember that the Soviets dominated the four games in Canada, and the Canadians did the same in the U.S.S.R., and when the eighth game came around, the series was tied three games apiece with one tie.

But I did remember the outcome of the eighth game, which Canada won after Paul Henderson of the Toronto Maple Leafs scored the winning goal with something like thirty-four seconds left in the game.

[Hard data intrusion: According to Wikipedia, Henderson scored the winning goal for Canada in the sixth, seventh and eighth games of what was called the Summit Series. I had forgotten that. But the winning goal in game eight was in fact scored with thirty-four seconds left.]

And I started thinking about time zones and another international hockey game, the 1980 Olympic match between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., the famous “Miracle On Ice” game. I recalled it starting at an odd mid-afternoon time here in the U.S. because to start it any later would mean the game would have taken place long after midnight in Soviet Union.

“So,” I wondered as I finished toweling myself off after my shower, “if it’s four o’clock here” – thinking about the mid-afternoon start of the Miracle On Ice game – “then is it midnight in Moscow?”

Well, during Daylight Savings Time, it is. In the winter, when the game was played, that would not hold true. But anybody who’s waded to this point through the swamp with me knows what’s coming next.

Here are Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen with “Midnight in Moscow.” It went to No. 2 in 1962, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 609

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

I am, as I wrote the other week, an autumnal man.

I have always been so, even when I was much younger than I am now. Perhaps that is why, as I live in what is clearly the autumn of my time here, I have finally found peace of mind, comfort of soul, and a degree of happiness that just two decades ago I would have assessed as extraordinarily unlikely, if not actually impossible.

Perhaps the seasonal leavening brought to my life by the springtime outlook of the Texas Gal has brought the balance I’ve seemingly always needed. In any case, her presence in my life these past eighteen-plus years is a major part of the reason my life so satisfies me now. (And I know, with an awareness that warms me, that my presence in her life grants her similar satisfaction.)

I shan’t – to use a word my mom’s mother employed often – go beyond those thoughts today; I’ve dabbled in autumnal musings both in the piece I wrote the other week and in a fair number of pieces here over the years. But, moving from soul searching to reporting, I wanted to note that here in the midsection of the U.S., this year’s autumnal equinox takes place at 8:54 p.m. this evening. The southward bound sun will cross the equator at that moment, and for the next three or so months, each day’s hours of daylight will diminish and the hours of darkness will increase.

Around our place, many of the changes that accompany the season are underway: A very few of the leaves on the flowering crab have turned yellow and fallen. Some of the leaves on the adjacent linden are doing the same. Next to the linden, however, the maple tree has given no indication if its leaves will mirror the yellow of the other two or complement them with red or orange. We will know soon which it will be.

The grass beneath them is still green, awaiting the first overnight frost, which cannot be many nights away.

I observe these changes both through the window of my study and via my forays outside for errands or tasks. And, despite the chronic ails brought about by my leg and back problems and despite the – one hopes – more temporary ails of a late summer sinus infection, I observe those changes happily.

And this evening, autumn will arrive.

This calls for an autumnal tune. Here’s one of my favorites: “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” by The Band. It’s from the group’s self-titled 1969 album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 608

Saturday, September 8th, 2018

I had another less than perfect night of sleep; I was up by four o’clock, reading news online with iTunes keeping me company. And along the way, I heard Kate Taylor’s “Do I Still Figure In Your Life.” It’s from her 1971 album Sister Kate, an album I shared here long ago.

It’s a song I’ve long enjoyed. I imagine the first version I ever heard of it was Joe Cocker’s, which was on his 1969 debut album, With A Little Help From My Friends. And I wondered where the song came from and how many versions of it there are.

Well, it was written by Brit Pete Dello and first recorded by his group, the Honeybus. It was released in the U.K. as “(Do I Figure) In Your Life?” on the Deram label in October 1967, according to Second Hand Songs. Covers followed, of course, first from Dave Berry, another Brit. His version was released in 1968 on Decca in the U.K. and on a London promo in the U.S., according to Discogs.

Joe Cocker came next, recording the song under the title we generally see: “Do I Still Figure In Your Life?” Then came another Brit, Samantha Jones, in 1970, and finally, the song crossed the ocean in 1971 for Kate Taylor’s version. Second Hand Songs lists seven more covers in the years since. (The website is probably not comprehensive, but as I’ve noted before, it’s a good place to start.)

Among those seven covers was another take on the song by its writer, an effort credited to Pete Dello & Friends on the 1971 album Into Your Ears. Also of note is a 1974 version of the tune by Ian Matthews on Some Days You Eat the Bear and Some Days the Bear Eats You.

We’ll likely dig a bit further sometime soon and listen to some of those versions, including the original by the Honeybus, but I think this morning we’ll stick to the cover that started this morning’s diversions. So here’s Kate Taylor’s “Do I Still Figure In Your Life,” today’s Saturday Single.