Archive for the ‘Covers’ Category

Saturday Single No. 625

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Tired, weary, fatigued . . .

I had more energy, I’d go get my thesaurus and look up some more synonyms.

Here’s Jim and Jean’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Down Your Weary Tune.” It was first released on their 1966 album Changes, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Missed The Saturday Dance . . .’

Friday, January 18th, 2019

With my mind on things medical these days (for obvious reasons), I checked the digital shelves for tunes related to doctors. I found, among others, “Dr. Robert” (the Beatles), “Dr. Feelgood” (Aretha Franklin), “Dr. Dancer” (the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver), “Dr. Death” (Marketts), “Dr. Jive” (J.J. Cale), “Dr. Livingston, I Presume” (the Moody Blues), “Dr. Pretty” (Toots Thielemans), and “Dr. Stone” (the Leaves).

None of those feel right this morning, so let’s step over to the artists column, where we find, of course, Dr. John. And we’ll stop there.

Here’s the good doctor with an entirely suitable tune for me these days. It’s his cover of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” from Duke Elegant, his tribute to Duke Ellington, released in 2000.

Turning The Corner

Friday, December 21st, 2018

This piece first appeared here ten years ago tomorrow, and I think it’s been reposted at least once before. But it’s here today because it’s one of my favorite pieces from nearly twelve years of blogging. It’s been revised slightly.

We’re about to turn the corner.

Late this afternoon – at 4:23 p.m. – the sun will venture as far south in the sky as it goes, and it will begin to make the slow trek north toward spring and summer.

That’s good news for those of us who find the lack of sunlight during this season grim and gloomy. When the shortness of the days becomes truly noticeable in November, I find a melancholy surrounding me. My awareness of its source means that the melancholy need not be debilitating, but there is a touch of sadness that lingers.

Lingering, too, is just a hint of dread, a sensation that I think is a remnant passed down through generations from my Nordic and Germanic forebears. The science of our modern life tells us that the days of longer light will return, bringing us to springtime. In the dark forests of northern Europe a couple of thousand years ago, however, there was no such assurance, and as each day brought less light than the one before it, there must have been dread every year that this year would be the time when the light continued to diminish, leading eventually to permanent darkness leavened only by the faint stars and the pale moon.

We know that will not happen. The sun will reverse its course this afternoon, and after tonight’s full moon sets, tomorrow will bring slightly more daylight than we’ll get today. And the day after that will bring more than will tomorrow. Eventually, we will sit once more in a warm, bright evening with the sun lingering late, and the winter’s gloom will be, if not forgotten, at least set aside.

We’re about to turn the corner toward the light.

The solstice also marks the formal start of winter, of course, and I have many “winter” songs on the digital shelves. Here’s one that I sometimes like and sometimes don’t. It’s Sarah McLachlan’s take on Gordon Lightfoot’s “Song For A Winter’s Night.” It’s on McLachlan’s 2006 album Wintersong.

Love, Murder & Regret

Friday, October 26th, 2018

One of my regular stops for tunes new to me or for new perspectives on tunes familiar is the fine blog Any Major Dude With Half A Heart. From imaginatively themed mixes to the multi-part history of country music, I’ve gotten more tunes from the Halfhearted Dude than I can easily digest, all offered with trenchant commentary.

We don’t agree on everything. There are tunes and genres he likes that leave me wanting, and I know there are tunes and genres dear to me that likely draw from the Dude eye-rolls worthy of a teen. As an example, I wasn’t crazy about everything he offered this week in his “Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 1,” which was nevertheless a fun mix. And one of the tracks in the mix pulled me back to one of my own explorations here: Olivia Newton-John’s 1971 cover of “Banks Of The Ohio,” a song of love, murder and regret.

I included Newton-John’s live performance of the song five years ago when I looked a little bit at the song’s long history. As I wrote then, it was startling “to see earlier this week in the Billboard Hot 100 from October 30, 1971, that Olivia Newton-John had a hit with a gender-flipped version of ‘Banks Of The Ohio.’ The single went only to No. 94 here in the U.S. (No. 34 on the Adult Contemporary chart), but it was No. 1 for five weeks in Australia.”

Here’s the studio version:

The Halfhearted Dude called the track “the weirdest” of the twenty-four he included in his murder collection. I left a note at his blog suggesting that if he truly wanted weird, he should listen to Glenn Yarbrough’s take on the tune, found on his 1957 album Come Sit By My Side. The video I linked to five years ago was layered with surface noise; in this video, the purposeful and disquieting dissonance conjured up by Yarbrough and his producer, whoever he was, is much more audible, as is Yarbrough’s odd and jarring diction. I called the whole thing “creepy” five years ago, and I have not changed my mind.

And when I shared Yarbrough’s “Banks Of The Ohio” five years ago, frequent visitor, commenter and pal Yah Shure agreed with my assessment: “Creepy is right! Must thoroughly cleanse musical palate now.”

He went on to compare Yarbrough’s take on the old folk song to a record a local band recorded during his youth:

Some fellow students from my high school were in a band called the Poore Boyes, whose “Give” – a 1966 single on the local Summer label – was a reverb-drenched love-’er and stab-’er affair that I’m guessing didn’t generate boatloads of requests at their high school prom gigs, in spite of some airplay on KDWB. It had that minor key/echo/surf Kay Bank Recording Studio sound (think “Liar, Liar” with knives and blood.)

Here’s the Poore Boyes “Give” on the Summer label (along with the B-side “It’s Love”):

There was a second version of “Give” by the Poore Boyes, Yah Shure said:

The group re-cut . . . er, re-recorded “Give” in a much drier version for Capitol’s perennially-hitless Uptown subsidiary, but the lyrics sounded even creepier – more premeditated, even – when uncloaked from the murky, damp darkness of the earlier echo-fest.

Here’s that second version:

I’ll let Yah Shure have the final word on “Give,” from his comments five years ago: “Maybe Olivia should’ve covered it.”

‘Do I Still Figure . . .’

Friday, September 14th, 2018

So, following up on last Saturday’s post, we’ve been checking out various versions of the tune we know now as “Do I Still Figure In Your Life.” We start with the original by the Honeybus, titled at the time “(Do I Figure) In Your Life.” Written by Pete Dello of the Honeybus, the tune was released on Deram in 1967:

I notice a couple of things right off the top: The strings – both in the introduction and behind the vocals – remind me strongly of the Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee” and of some of the things that George Martin was doing with the Beatles. And the diction carries a hint of Bob Dylan. Still, the record sounds very much of its time and is a pleasant listen. And according to the author of a website about the band “(Do I Figure) In Your Life” deserved better than it got in 1967 Britain and “should have been a huge hit but inexplicably missed the charts despite heavy airplay and good reviews.”

(Given that the preceding assessment comes from a fan page, some skepticism is likely in order. But it is a pretty good record and would not have sounded out of place on a U.S. station in, say, October 1967.)

The first to cover the tune, as we learned last Saturday, was British pop singer Dave Berry, whose version, as I noted last week, “was released in 1968 on Decca in the U.K. and on a London promo in the U.S., according to Discogs.” Taking the slightly baroque approach of the Honeybus a little further, Berry started his take on “Do I Still Figure In Your Life” with a harpsichord solo and returned to the instrument in between verses. It’s a sweet version of the tune but – beyond the harpsichord – unremarkable.

Then, as noted last Saturday, came Joe Cocker, whose version was no doubt the first I ever heard of the song. (I was digging into memories in the past few days, and I think I heard Cocker’s version in a dorm room at St. Cloud State sometime during the autumn of 1971, a couple of years after the track came out on Cocker’s 1969 album, With A Little Help From My Friends.)

Picking around in the listing at Second Hand Songs, we’ll dig into the shambling version released by an artist who styled himself Creepy John Thomas. An Aussie, he also called himself Johnny Driver and played with the Edgar Broughton Band, according to Discogs. His take on Pete Dello’s song reverted to the original title, “(Do I Figure) In Your Life” and was included on his 1969 album, Creepy John Thomas:

Then came – as noted last Saturday – Kate Taylor, followed by the occasional revisiting of the song over the years, more frequently in the 1970s and sporadically since then. I ran across a few versions at YouTube that weren’t listed at Second Hand Songs, including a bland version from Paul Carrack (Ace, Squeeze, Mike & The Mechanics) and a sterile version from Norwegian singer Karoline Krüger.

And maybe it’s because it was the first version I ever heard, but I come to the conclusion – having listened to about twenty takes on the song in the last week – that no one does it like Joe Cocker:

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.

Saturday Single No. 603

Saturday, August 4th, 2018

I was in a Nancy Wilson mood the other day – the pop jazz singer who was most popular in the early to mid-1960s, not the Nancy Wilson from Heart – so I was sorting through mp3s from a compilation, tagging them with the original album title and date.

When I do that kind of work (and of course, it’s not really work, it’s play), I use a variety of sources: my Billboard chart books (for non-album singles) and discogs.com and Second Hand Songs for album tracks. And I was having trouble tracking Wilson’s cover of the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”

That’s one of those titles that can be hard to track down, because of the last two words of the title: Sometimes cover versions have one or the other spelled completely instead of dropping the “g”. The original Philles release had – I believe – apostrophes at the ends of both of the last words, but I’ve also seen 45 sleeves for the Righteous Brothers with the second apostrophe dropped. So there are lots of choices to dig through.

Anyway, I finally found out at Second Hand Songs that Wilson’s version – released in 1965 on her album Today – My Way – listed the title with missing g’s and apostrophes on both of the last two words in the title. And then I saw a note at the top of the website’s main page for the song. It said that “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” was “according to BMI, the performing rights organization that represents songwriters, the most played song of the 20th century.”

That startled me. So I took a look at the Righteous Brothers’ entry in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, where I saw that bit of information confirmed with the addendum that, according to BMI, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Phil Spector, was “the first eight-million performance song.”

I pondered that and then noticed that Second Hand Songs lists 188 versions of the song. The Righteous Brothers’ version was released in November 1964, and the first listed cover, released in early January 1965, came from Cilla Black. (It went to No. 2 in England.) Another cover followed in the U.K., by Joan Baxter, and then Nancy Wilson was the first to cover the song in the U.S.

The covers continued, of course, soon coming from, among many others, the Lettermen, Fontella Bass, the Boogie Kings, Johnny Rivers, Long John Baldry, the Pozo Seco Singers, Freda Payne, and George Hamilton. And that just gets us through 1966. The most recent cover listed at SHS came from Junko Onishi, a Japanese artist described by the website as a post-bop jazz pianist; she covered the tune in 1999.

I went back to Top Pop Singles to see which versions hit the Billboard Hot 100 or bubbled under. The Righteous Brothers original went to No. 1, of course, staying there for two weeks. Dionne Warwick’s cover went to No. 16 in 1969. A duet of the song by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway went to No. 71 in 1971. Another duet, this one by Long John Baldry (again) and Kathy MacDonald reached No. 89 in 1979. And the best performing cover was yet another duet, this one by Hall & Oates, which went to No. 12 in 1980.

(I should mention that R&B singer Vivian Reed bubbled under at No. 115 in 1968 with her medley of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling/(You’re My) Soul And Inspiration.”)

Several of those covers – and a couple not mentioned – are on the digital shelves here at the EITW studios. One of my favorites is the 1979 duet by Long John Baldry and Kathy MacDonald. It’s from the album Baldry’s Out! and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

More ‘More and More’

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

We dallied here Saturday with the original version of “More and More” by Little Milton and the 1968 cover of the tune by Blood, Sweat & Tears. I thought that today, I’d wander to Second Hand Songs and see what other covers are listed there.

The harvest is slender: The website lists two other covers of the tune, written by Don Juan Mancha and Vee Pea Smith. I had assumed when I saw those names that both were pseudonyms, but I may be only half right. Vee Pea Smith was actually Virginia P. Bland, whose list of credits at discogs is extensive, with her songs listed as being recorded by Monk Higgins (her husband), Etta James, Tyrone Davis, Junior Wells, Bobbie Womack, Clydie King, and among others, of course, Little Milton and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

As to Don Juan Mancha, that seems to be his real name, and it may be a name I should have run into long ago. His list of credits as a songwriter and producer shows work with the Falcons, Wilson Pickett, Edwin Starr, Bettye Lavette, Ike Turner, Barrett Strong, Tyrone Davis, and many more, including, like Bland’s list, Little Milton and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

And there are two more listings for the duo’s “More and More,” both recorded not long after Little Milton’s original was recorded and released. Jazz/R&B guitarist Phil Upchurch recorded an instrumental version of the tune for his 1969 album Upchurch, which was released on Chess Record’s Cadet label:

And four years later, in 1973, the song showed up in a version by the Sir Echoes on an album titled Super Hits, released on the Music Trends label. The album was no doubt one of those hastily recorded and packaged sound-alike pieces by a group of studio musicians, as most of the other tracks on the album were recent popular singles or album tracks by very famous acts: “You’re So Vain,” “Crocodile Rock,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “The World Is A Ghetto,” and more.

That suspicion is confirmed by a Google image search for the terms “super hits” and “Music Trends,” which brings up covers of other albums of songs – country and pop alike – covered by bands with names like the Country Busters, the Gallant Men, the Full House, the Now Sounds, the Sweet Nickels, the Royal Notes (who covered in its entirety Mike Oldfield’s album Tubular Bells), the Night Raiders, the Kings High and many, many more.

I’m sure that somewhere there’s a copy remaining of the right volume of Super Hits, but for now, we’ll just have to imagine what the Sir Echoes might have sounded like as they covered “More and More.”

Saturday Singles Nos. 596 & 597

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Sometime in the late summer of 1969, my sister came home from a shift of waitressing in the Woolworth’s restaurant at the Crossroads mall on the west end of St. Cloud, and she brought me a gift: Blood, Sweat & Tears’ 1968 self-titled album on cassette.

I’d recently spent the money I’d earned working at the state trapshoot – a three-time experience I’ve written about numerous times here – for a Panasonic cassette tape recorder, but I had yet to get myself anything to listen to. Rick and I had spent some time and giggles recording things around our two households and the neighborhood, but that was it. And then my sister spotted Blood, Sweat & Tears on sale at the mall, possibly at J.C. Penney but more likely at Musicland.

I knew the group, sort of. I think I’d heard “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” the previous spring, when it went to No. 2, and I know I’d heard “Spinning Wheel” during the early summer, when it also went to No. 2, but that was about it. So with a fair amount of curiosity, and grateful to have something to listen to in my tape recorder that didn’t feature my own voice, I popped the cassette in and hit “Play.”

I liked what I heard (and still do; seven of the album’s ten tracks are on the iPod). And I listened to the album enough in those long-ago days that its sequence and solos and turns are still ingrained in my head. When “Smiling Phases,” the album’s real opener (I tend to discount the Erik Satie pieces as filigree) fades out on the iPod, I expect to hear “Sometimes In Winter.” And when that one fades out, I expect to hear this:

And so on through “Blues – Part II” (followed by a reprise of Erik Satie and the sound of footsteps and a slamming door – more filigree). I’ve liked the album enough over the years that it’s one of two that I’ve owned as cassette, LP and CD. (The Beatles’ Abbey Road is the other.)

Fast-forward to this morning: I was heading downtown for a stop at the bank and then a haircut. Little Milton’s Greatest Hits – a 1997 Chess/MCA release – was in the CD player. And along came this, originally released in 1967 as Checker single 1189:

I’ve listened to it several times since then: on the way home from the barbershop and then a couple times as I’ve written this post. I have to admit that – even though I frequently dig into covers and their origins, I’ve never spent any time wondering where Blood, Sweat & Tears found the song. And that’s okay. There are a lot of tunes and covers to write about. This morning, it’s enough to say that Little Milton’s original “More and More” and Blood, Sweat & Tears’ 1968 cover of the tune are today’s Saturday Singles.

‘Don’t Be Concerned . . .’

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

A little while back, I looked at one of the Billboard Easy Listening charts from 1968 – fifty years ago – and was surprised to learn that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

I’ve been getting lessons like that for nearly sixty-five years, so my pride wasn’t wounded all that much. And, given a little more thought about how I came to hear easy listening tunes when I was in my early teens, I thought I’d take a look at another one of the magazine’s easy listening charts from the mid-1960s.

In that earlier post, I ascribed my exposure to – and my continuing love of – easy listening to the fact that we frequently listened to the Twin Cities radio giant WCCO at home. And we did. But there’s another source I didn’t think about as I wrote: my sister’s transistor radio.

I think I’ve told the tale, but if I did, it was some time back, so here goes: In either 1963 or 1964 – probably the latter – my folks gave my sister a transistor radio as a gift (Christmas, I think, though it could have been for her birthday). She evidently didn’t use it all that much, for not long afterward, my dad commandeered it for his nightstand, and every evening (save perhaps Saturdays), he would play the radio for about twenty minutes before we all closed up shop for the night.

And his station of choice was St. Cloud’s KFAM, an outfit located over on the south side that played easy listening music at that time of the evening. I clearly remember, for example, hearing Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” – No. 1 on the easy listening chart for one week during October 1966 – coming from Dad’s transistor radio more than once. So I thought – even though it’s April – I’d take a look at that mid-October chart from 1966 and see what’s familiar and what’s not. Here are the top fifteen from that long ago Billboard Easy Listening chart:

“Summer Wind” by Frank Sinatra
“Born Free” by Roger Williams
“Summer Samba (So Nice)” by Walter Wanderley
“In The Arms Of Love” by Andy Williams
“Dommage, Dommage (Too Bad, Too Bad)” by Jerry Vale
“The Wheel Of Hurt” by Margaret Whiting
“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” by Bert Kaempfert & His Orchestra
“Flamingo” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
“Mas Que Nada” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66
“A Time For Love” by Tony Bennett
“Free Again” by Barbra Streisand
“I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” by the Glenn Miller Orchestra
“Lookin’ For Love” by Ray Conniff
“Elusive Butterfly” by Jane Morgan
“Once I Had A Heart” by Robert Goulet

I think I do better with this set of fifteen than I did with the earlier grouping about six weeks ago. The top three are on the digital shelves here, as are “Mas Que Nada” and the record by Tony Bennett. I know “Dommage, Dommage,” likely from Vale’s version; I know “Elusive Butterfly” from Bob Lind’s original; and I know “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” from multiple versions (chiefly the Tommy Dorsey recording from 1935). And for what it may matter, I did refer to Whiting’s record in a post last September.

The rest would be mysteries, even “Flamingo” and “Lookin’ For Love,” despite my enjoyment of the work of both Herb Alpert and Ray Conniff.

Having dipped a toe into most of the unfamiliar tunes in the list above, I find myself liking Morgan’s sprightly take on “Elusive Butterfly.” It turned out to be her most successful record on the magazine’s easy listening chart, reaching No. 9.

Morgan’s chart history is interesting: Massachusetts-born (in 1920) and Florida-raised, she had ten records in or near the Billboard Hot 100 between 1956 and 1967, and seven records in the magazine’s easy listening chart between 1965 and 1968, but – if I’m reading things correctly – only two records showed up in both charts. Her best-performing record was “Fascination,” credited to Jane Morgan & The Troubadors, which went to No. 7 in 1957 in one of the several charts Billboard compiled at the time.

Here’s her take on Bob Lind’s “Elusive Butterfly.”

Chart position corrected after first posting.