Archive for the ‘Covers’ Category

Saturday Single No. 705

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

We had a busy day yesterday, the Texas Gal and I: We did a grocery run in the morning, then spent the afternoon preparing the house for company for the first time since March. Tom, a friend from our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, had offered to come over and help us with a household problem, and we in turn had offered him dinner.

The problem was basically pretty simple. The light bulbs in the ceiling fixture over the landing had finally died. The fixture hangs from the main floor ceiling and can only be reached from the landing a story-and-a-half below. Not long after we moved here, we bought a twelve-foot step ladder, but we soon learned we were uncomfortable – both of us being a bit wobbly – near the top of the ladder.

Tom isn’t. Soon after he arrived, he was checking out the light fixture, tightening screws on the fan blades and installing light bulbs. Not long after that, he and I were quaffing Oktoberfest brews while the Texas Gal put finishing touches on dinner, and then all three of us were dining on chicken breasts with an apple-onion-raisin curry sauce and roasted sweet potatoes.

It was good to have company again. And yes, it’s good to have lights over the landing again, but we would have been pleased with the company even without the household assistance. As I’m sure many folks out there agree, the last six months have been fairly isolating, and a taste of safe normality – we’ve known Tom long enough that we trust him and he trusts us in all matters, not just those related to the corona virus – was good for all three of us.

But I’m tired today. So I’m not doing a whole lot here this morning. I just dipped back into the Billboard Hot 100 we looked at yesterday – released on September 19, 1970, fifty years ago today – and looked for something interesting in its lower reaches.

And I found a cover I’d never heard before, a take on Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66. Fifty years ago today, it was bubbling under at No. 101, and that’s as high as it ever went, although it went to No. 10 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart. I do wonder why Mendes thought 1970 was a good time to cover the tune, which the Buffalo Springfield originally released in 1967. Whatever the reason. it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Keeping Odd & Pop Happy

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

It’s been a couple of years since we checked in with my imaginary alter egos, tuneheads Odd and Pop. I think they’re happy here in the condo. There are fewer records, of course, about 1,000 LPs instead of the 3,000 or so that were crammed into the EITW studios on the East Side, but there are more CDs and reference books these days, as the passing pandemic seasons here resulted in – as I’m certain is true elsewhere – fairly frequent online shopping sprees.

Anyway, they’re here, Odd and Pop, with their internal radios tuned to different stations.

Pop likes the familiar, the pleasant, the unchallenging. He loves records he’s heard a thousand times, and if he wants variety, he’ll gladly listen to a thousand different records he’s heard a thousand times before. He’s the reason why the digital shelves once held eighty-four different versions of “The Girl From Ipanema.” (The external hard drive crash three years ago eliminated many of them, and he’s been scheming to get them back ever since.)

Odd, however, likes different things. Very different. He’s the one whose eyes widened with joy the other day when the mail carrier dropped off, with its accompanying CD, the book Stomp and Swerve, subtitled “American Music Gets Hot, 1843-1924.” He laughed loudly when he learned that the tune “The Smiler,” written by Percy Wenrich and recorded sometime around 1908 by the Zon-O-Phone Concert Band, was craftily subtitled “A Joplin Rag” not because of any connection with ragtime giant Scott Joplin but because Percy Wenrich was born in Joplin, Missouri.

And . . . well, here it is. The date of 1907 on the video may well be correct.

And, of course, Pop says it’s not fair that Odd gets a treat and he does not. So, okay, we’ll check the list of covers of “The Girl From Ipanema” at Second Hand Songs and choose something he’s not heard before. A foreign language, maybe. And that’s fine with him, as long as the melody is familiar.

And here’s Finnish singer Laila Kinnunen with “Ipaneman Tyttö,” recorded on November 10, 1964, and released later that year on the Scandia label. (Odd likes it, too.)

Whence Goes Quinn?

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Among the more interesting things that have happened during this summer of face masks and cultural squabbles (and neither of those things will go away anytime soon) were the decisions by the professional football teams based in Washington, D.C., and Edmonton, Alberta, to drop their nicknames of long standing.

Both teams will eventually select new nicknames, but until then on will compete, respectively, as the Washington Football Team and the Edmonton Football Team (or EE Football Team).

I applaud the changes. I’ve been advocating quietly in my personal sphere for such changes since the Minnesota Twins faced the baseball team from Atlanta in the 1991 World Series, and the American Indian Movement – based in Minneapolis – made known its opposition to the Atlanta baseball team’s nickname (and corollary opposition to the nicknames of several other athletic entities, the Washington football team among them).

When the subject arose this summer and the Washington team announced it would change its name, I figured it wouldn’t be long until the team that plays in Edmonton would do the same in response to complaints that the team’s long-standing nickname trivialized the native Inuit culture. So the second move did not surprise me.

And those decisions, and other events in the past few months, now make me wonder – on what may be a truly trivial track – what does a music fan do now with “The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo),” written by Bob Dylan and first recorded with The Band (in 1967 during the Basement Tapes era) and recorded since by many.

(I’ve had similar discussions with myself over the years regarding the title of, and the war whoops in, the Cowsills’ 1968 hit “Indian Lake” and the performer’s name and title of the 1969 hit “Keem-O-Sabe” by Electric Indian. I’ve also pondered the place in my listening and in the larger cultural milieu of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” There are likely other tunes that spark such thoughts, but they do not come to mind immediately.)

The genesis of “The Mighty Quinn,” at least according to some sources, was Dylan’s having seen Anthony Quinn’s performance as an Eskimo in the 1960 movie The Savage Innocents. Dylan, says Wikipedia, “has also been quoted as saying that the song was nothing more than a ‘simple nursery rhyme’.”

The song, according to the website Second Hand Songs, has been recorded at least eighty-one times since Dylan and The Band created it in 1967. That first recorded version wasn’t released until six years ago, when it was part of The Basement Tapes Complete – The Bootleg Series Vol. 11. The version by Dylan that most folks likely know comes from his 1969 performance at the Isle of Wight festival, released in 1970 on Self Portrait and two years later on his second greatest hits collection.

The first cover versions came from Manfred Mann in January 1968, from a group of British studio musicians for an album titled Hits ’68 in May of that year, and in August of that year from a performer calling himself Uncle Bill for an album titled Uncle Bill Socks It To Ya. (From what I can tell, “Uncle Bill” was a man named Burt Wilson, and the album was a collection of songs recorded as if performed by the long-dead W.C. Fields.)

The covers have continued – they were sparse in the 1980s – with the most recent one listed at SHS coming last year on an album titled Strictly Dylan Vol. 3 by a group called the Clarksdale Brothers. (The album is also of interest as it’s home to one of only three covers listed at SHS of Dylan’s 1971 song “George Jackson.”)

There are eleven different versions of the song (and a few duplicates) on the digital shelves here, three of them by Dylan and The Band. Other performers whose covers are in my collection are Brewer & Shipley, the Brothers & Sisters Of Los Angeles (for an album titled Dylan’s Gospel), Kris Kristofferson, the Grateful Dead, Ian & Sylvia, Julie London, Hugo Montenegro, and Klaus Voorman & Friends, featuring the Manfreds. (The Manfreds, according to Wikipedia, are former members of the group Manfred Mann but did not include Mann himself. Voorman was a member of the band during the late 1960s.)

So, do I include a version of the song with this post? I will, but I might not ever again. I have to think about it. But in the meantime, here’s the version from the 1969 album Dylan’s Gospel by the Brothers & Sisters Of Los Angeles (a credit shortened to just the Brothers & Sisters in re-release).

‘Theme From A Dream”

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

A few years ago, when I wrote about an old house I visit in a recurrent dream, I ended the post with a version of Boudleaux Bryant’s haunting “Theme From A Dream” by the Larry Page Orchestra. It’s a tune that I first came across – surprise! – on my first Al Hirt album, Honey In The Horn, released in 1963:

Guitar legend Chet Atkins was the first to record Bryant’s song, releasing it on his 1959 album, Chet Atkins In Hollywood. And the website Second Hand Songs lists only two other artists – beyond Atkins and Hirt – who’ve recorded the tune: Pianist Floyd Cramer has two versions listed, as does Dutch singer Willeke Alberti, who recorded the song as “Jij (Jij Alleen)” on two different occasions. (The Dutch words were written by Dutch producer Pieter Goemans.)

There are other versions of the tune out there, as some wandering through YouTube shows. We might come back to them later. For now, here’s the first of Alberti’s two versions, recorded in 1966 and released as a single.

‘Hoverin’ By My Suitcase . . .’

Friday, August 21st, 2020

Brook Benton’s cover of Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night In Georgia” popped up on iTunes the other day, but the volume of the song was low compared to the tracks that had come before. I did some checking, and the mp3 of the tune (the source of the iTunes file) also had a lower volume than most of the other mp3s on the digital shelves.

Blame the source, which I think was a borrowed CD.

So I found another source for another mp3 and replaced all the files. Now, when the track pops up on random, the opening guitar figure can grab my attention the way it did back in the early months of 1970, when I heard the record on KDWB, where it peaked at No. 17; WLS, where it peaked at No. 4; and WJON, which, as far as I know, did not offer surveys. (Am I right, Yah Shure?)

Nationally, the record peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also went to No. 2 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart and spent a week at No. 1 on the R&B chart.

I’ve got a few other versions of the song, but Benton’s take on it remains my favorite, partly because it’s the first version I heard but mostly because its hushed sound and that opening guitar riff remind me of evenings in my room with my old RCA radio during my first Top 40 winter.

There are quite a few covers of the song out there; Second Hand Songs lists eighty-five versions, including White’s and Benton’s, and there are likely others not listed. I see versions listed there by Tennessee Ernie Ford, B.J. Thomas, Johnny Rivers, Chuck Jackson, Boz Scaggs, and Ray Charles, a duet by Sam Moore and Conway Twitty (from a 1994 album titled Rhythm Country and Blues), and instrumental takes by Al Hirt, Cornell Dupree, Boots Randolph, and more.

But we’ll close today with the original version of the song by Tony Joe White. It’s from his 1969 album . . . Continued.

‘When The Rains Came . . .’

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

Of all the gifts that Levon Helm left this world in his seventy-one years, one of the greatest has to be his daughter Amy. Born in Woodstock, N.Y., to the drummer of The Band and singer Libby Titus in 1970, Amy Helm has fashioned a musical career that follows nicely – without any real missteps that I can hear – the work of her father in The Band and as a solo artist.

(It’s a little less clear, but I think I can also hear – understandably – echoes of Titus’ work in Amy Helm’s voice.)

The younger Helm’s work in the group Ollabelle – three albums between 2004 and 2011 – falls, according to Wikipedia, into the alt-country genre. I’m not at all sure how that genre differs from Americana, the genre that I think was developed by The Band and a few other groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s

Listening to Ollabelle and then to Amy Helm’s two solo albums – Didn’t It Rain (2015) and This Too Shall Light (2018) – one hears the strains, sometimes faintly and sometimes more clearly, of the music her father and his mates made between 1968 and 1976 in the first edition of The Band and then in the 1990s in what we might call The Band 2.0. Americana or alt-country, the label doesn’t really matter.

(Amy Helm also does a fair amount of session work and performs and produces concerts at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock.)

I’ve had This Too Shall Light on the shelves only since February, so I’m still digesting it, letting it sift into me as its tracks shuffle by on iTunes or the iPod. One of them popped up today on the computer as I opened the day, and I thought I’d toss it out into the world with a few notes.

Here’s Amy Helm’s take on Rod Stewart’s “Mandolin Wind,” from 2018’s This Too Shall Light.

A Quick Look at No. 100 (July 1970)

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Having been sidetracked by household duties this morning, I was going to let things slide here, but I nevertheless took a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from the first week of July 1970, fifty years ago.

And, as I do, I took a quick look at No. 100, and I was startled to see “Eve Of Destruction” by the Turtles. Really? In 1970?

I mean, the world wasn’t puppies and roses in 1970 by any measure, but Barry McGuire’s No. 1 hit with the song came in 1965, and five years in pop music and radio terms is an eternity. And things got even more strange when I looked at versions of the song at Second Hand Songs because the Turtles were among the first to record the song in 1965.

The website lists songs by release and lists McGuire’s version as the first released in August 1965. Then comes P.F. Sloan in September, and in October, the Turtles’ version came out on their It Ain’t Me, Babe album (as did a version by a Danish group called Sir Henry & His Butlers).

So the question hangs in the air: Why release an album track from 1965 as a single in 1970, especially of such a topical (and idiosyncratic) song? Whatever the reason was, it didn’t work, as the record spent two weeks at No. 100 and then sank from sight. (It was the Turtles’ last record to hit the Hot 100. In November 1970, “Me About You” bubbled under for three weeks, peaking at No. 105).

Here’s the Turtles’ “Eve Of Destruction.”

And I’m going to offer here the heavily accented cover from 1965 by Sir Henry & His Butlers. I’m especially amused by the enunciation of the letter “v” with a “w” sound (“wiolence” and “woting” instead of “violence” and “voting”). It reminds me of life with my host family in Denmark; during the autumn of 1973, my host mother Oda would see me reading the International Herald-Tribune on Tuesdays and – knowing of my interest in Minnesota’s professional football team – would ask me, “How did the Wikings do this week?”

‘For Your Love’

Friday, June 26th, 2020

I imagine that the first time I heard the Yardbirds’ “For Your Love” was on a friend’s radio sometime after summer vacation began in late May or early June 1965. The KDWB surveys at Oldiesloon tell me that the record debuted at No. 40 in the station’s “Fabulous Forty” on May 22 that year, just a week after it reached the Billboard Hot 100.

It moved quickly at KDWB, reaching No. 34 and No. 14 during the next weeks and then peaking at No. 8 in the June 12 survey. It then hung around for another six weeks before falling out of the KDWB survey at the end of July.

Sometimes when I hear the record these days, I have a quick vision of the halls of South Junior High, and it’s possible I heard the record there or at least nearby, as that was the summer between sixth and seventh grades, and I went to a couple of so-called enrichment classes – beginning Spanish and cooking, I think – at South during June and July.

Anyway, I was aware of the record, and I liked it, though like almost all pop rock at the time, I would not have known whose record it was. (A quick look at the June 12 KDWB survey – when “For Your Love” peaked – shows only two or three records for which I might have been able to name the performer: the Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride,” Glenn Yarbrough’s “Baby The Rain Must Fall,” and maybe the Seekers’ “A World Of Our Own.”

The first version of the tune I ever owned came a bit later when my sister gave me – for my birthday or Christmas; it’s a bit foggy – a copy of Herman’s Hermits’ On Tour album. The Hermits’ cover of “For Your Love” was recorded only a few months after the Yardbird’s version and is quite a bit less intense than that original.

(It’s worth noting here that the song was written by Graham Gouldman, who, among other things, was a member of 10cc.)

Other covers followed, of course, from Gary Lewis & The Playboys in August 1965 to – according to Second Hand Songs – a group called Cracks last year. A search with the RealPlayer finds six tracks titled “For Your Love” on the digital shelves here. Two of them – by Gwen McRae (1975) and by the Romantic Saxophone Quintet (2005) are not Gouldman’s song.

Otherwise, we find the versions by the Yardbirds and Herman’s Hermits, a lackluster cover of the tune by Fleetwood Mac from the 1973 album Mystery To Me, and a cover by the London Symphony Orchestra. That last is one of numerous tracks of pop rock songs the orchestra recorded beginning – from what I can tell – in 1983. There were in total five CDs worth of such work, I think, and I somehow came across a compilation pulled from those five CDs.

Here’s the London Symphony Orchestra’s take on “For Your Love.” It’s from the 1983 album Classic Rock: Rock Symphonies (repackaged later as part of a five-CD set).

‘When I Was Small . . .’

Friday, May 1st, 2020

Well, it’s the First Of May, which makes it a Bee Gees day here.

The maudlin track showed up first in early 1969 on the group’s Odessa album, which entered the Billboard 200 on February 22 of that year, on its way to No. 20. It’s a somewhat baffling collection of lovely tracks covering almost every genre conceivable in 1969 (excluding hard rock). As I wrote almost thirteen years ago:

Perhaps the most sensible comment I’ve ever heard or read about Odessa came from the Rolling Stone Album Guide, which called it “the Sgt. Pepper’s copy all ’60s headliners felt driven to attempt,” noting that it “wasn’t bad; faulting it for pretentiousness makes absolutely no sense.”

I didn’t hear the album until a few years after it had been released, and I certainly don’t recall hearing “First Of May” on the radio after it was released as a single in early 1969. I wasn’t yet in full Top 40 mode, but the sounds were around me a fair amount of the time, and I think I’d remember the record. I’m not sure it charted on the Twin Cities’ KDWB or WDGY, based on the (incomplete) information offered at Oldiesloon.

The record did get into the Top 40 in Billboard, reaching No. 37, not major hit territory.

But right from the start, the song attracted cover versions. Second Hand Songs lists fifty covers. The earliest is from a group called Top Of The Pops in March 1969. I suspect a connection to the British television show; a glance at the album’s jacket kind of tells me that the recordings on the album are performed by studio musicians.

The first cover of “First Of May” by a known musician came from José Feliciano on his Feliciano/10 to 23 album released in June 1969. Covers followed into 1974 from names I know like Cilla Black, Matt Monro, Mel Carter, and Roger Whittaker, and from names I’m not familiar with like Jill Kirkland and Cornelia.

Instrumental covers by groups including the Mystic Moods Orchestra also came along in those five years after the Bee Gees’ release, as did covers in Danish, Italian, Portuguese and Swedish.

And even after that flurry, covers would come along every once in a while, with a spate of ten or so of them in the Oughts by performers whose names I do not recognize. (Except, that is, for Robin Gibb, who collaborated on a cover of “First Of May” with G4 in 2005.)

I’ve not heard a lot of those covers (the only covers of the song on the digital shelves are those from Feliciano and the Mystic Moods Orchestra), so I’m going to select one pretty much at random to mark the day.

Here’s Tony Hadley’s atmospheric and, frankly, odd cover from 1997. (Knowing that Hadley was the lead singer for Spandau Ballet makes the cover’s quirks a little more understandable.)

‘Night Theme’

Friday, April 24th, 2020

As has been noted here numerous times, one of the formative albums in my musical life is the 1963 release by trumpeter Al Hirt, Honey In The Horn.

It encouraged me in my horn playing, giving me a model, something that all young artists and performers need. And it introduced me to a wide variety of songs, although it took a few years to realize that. On the album Hirt covered songs written by legends such as Hank Snow (“I’m Movin’ On), Allen Toussaint (“Java”), Boudleaux Bryant (“Theme From A Dream”) Ira Gershwin and Vernon Duke (“I Can’t Get Started”) and others.

Shortly after I got the record for my eleventh birthday, I knew the tracks well enough to “play” them in my head, nailing the background chorus work and Hirt’s solos. It took me years, though, to begin to read the credits, and it wasn’t until the Internet years that I began to look for the original – or at least additional – versions of the songs.

Some were easy, like the three mentioned above. “Java” came from Toussaint’s pen, “I Can’t Get Started” is one of the entries in what we now call the Great American Songbook, and “I’m Movin’ On” is one of the biggest hits in country history. Others took some digging, like “Al Di Là” by Carlo Donida and Mogol, which turned out to have been Italy’s 1961 entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.

And there were some I never looked into: “Tansy,” “Man With A Horn,” and a few more.

Not long after I began this blog, I wondered about the moody “Night Theme.” Broad Googling got me nowhere, and a trip to YouTube failed. A few years later I went to one of my favorite tools, the website Second Hand Songs and found nothing, there, so I forgot about “Night Theme,” except whenever Hirt’s rendition popped up on the RealPlayer or iTunes or when I played his CD in the car:

A mention earlier this month at my pal jb’s blog, The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, of a different tune with the same title got me looking again. Armed with a wider range of tools, and a copy of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I got some results.

“Night Theme” was the product of songwriters Wayne Cogswell and Ray Peterson a pair of Rhode Island natives. Cogswell’s fingerprints are all over 1950s pop and early rock ’n’ roll, especially for his work in Memphis with Sam Phillips. Peterson was a guitarist and composer based mainly in his home state, if I read things correctly. Right around 1960, according to a 2014 piece in the Johnston Sunrise newspaper in Warwick, Cogswell came back home and started Wye Records with a business partner, but still wanting to perform and record, he looked for a musical partner and found Peterson:

“I met Ray Peterson and we decided to do a dual piano act, one piano, two players, like the old Ferrante and Teicher thing.” One of the products of the piano thing was “Night Theme,” an atmospheric, blues-infected instrumental that was a favorite for slow dancing at record hops and teen hangouts for many years.

The duo released the record – Wye 1001 – as The Mark II, and in 1960, it got to No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100.

So that’s one minor mystery solved. I have a few to go.