Archive for the ‘Covers’ Category

Saturday Single No. 637

Saturday, April 13th, 2019

Last evening we attended a local production of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the first production written years ago by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. It was lively, fun, well-done, and a good time. And it got us home relatively early as these things go, about 10. That gave us time enough to stay up late.

So after settling in, we watched a couple episodes of Season Six of Game of Thrones in advance of the premiere of Season Eight tomorrow evening. We watched a couple more this morning before beginning our Saturday chores. We might finish Season Six before tomorrow evening, but we won’t have time for Season Seven. That’s okay, as it’s still relatively fresh in our memories, I think.

Anyway, along with frittering away our time on fantasy, we’ve been keeping the household running. I’m doing more these days than I have since early January, although there are some tasks I cannot yet resume. I keep trying to remind myself as I sit at the computer or sit on the couch that healing of any kind – physical or emotional – takes time. I’d kind of forgotten that.

So, three paragraphs, all mentioning time. That’s a cue. The RealPlayer has more than 2,800-tracks that come up in a search for “time.” As usual, some go by the wayside, like all of Ronnie Aldrich’s All-Time Piano Hits and Big Maybelle’s Saga of the Good Life & Hard Times as well as everything but the title track from Anne Briggs’ The Time Has Come and many more.

Still, as one might expect, there’s a lot to work with. And I run across an easy listening version of “It’s Going To Take Some Time” by the Button-Down Brass (featuring the “funky trumpet” of Ray Davies). The song, written by Carole King and Toni Stern and first released in 1971 on King’s album Music, showed up here eight years ago when I waded through King’s work in the wake of my Ultimate Jukebox. Other than that, it’s been ignored.

Along with those two versions, the RealPlayer also offers the Carpenters’ cover of the tune, which went to No. 12 in 1972, the only version of the song ever to reach the Billboard Hot 100. (The Carpenters’ record also went to No. 2 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.)

Now, I once referred to the Carpenters as sitting on the softest end of the pop-rock couch or something similar, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like their work, or at least some of it. And Karen Carpenter’s voice was a thing of beauty. So for all of the above reasons, here’s “It’s Going To Take Some Time,” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 636

Saturday, April 6th, 2019

So I wandered around the digital shelves this morning as I waited for my over-the-counter meds to kick in, and I idly searched the 77,000 tracks in the RealPlayer for the word “ache.” (Yeah, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself.) And I got back 230-some results.

As usual with those searches, a lot of stuff had to be trimmed out, including a 1966 album titled I Can’t Grow Peaches On A Cherry Tree by someone called Just Us. Based on the notes attached to the mps3, I scavenged it from a blog called raremp3 about the time I started blogging and never paid much attention to it.

So as I listened to the tune “Listen To The Drummer,” I began to dig. It turns out that Just Us was a duo made up of studio musician Al Gorgoni and Chip Taylor, who is perhaps best known as the writer of “Wild Thing” and “Angel Of The Morning.” (He’s also known, less interestingly to me, for being the brother of actor John Voight and thus the uncle of Angelina Jolie.)

The album’s an assortment of mid-1960s close-harmony folk with a few familiar covers (and generally spare instrumentation). It’s a little bit bland at times but decent. It threw off one minor hit on the Colpix label, as the title track went to No. 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 3 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart in the spring of 1966. Discogs tells me that Kapp Records, which released the album, sent out three more singles in the next year or so, two of them pulled from the Cherry Tree album and another with A and B sides pulled from a 1967 EP titled What Are We Gonna Do. None charted.

Just Us was the second group to record “I Can’t Grow Peaches on a Cherry Tree,” which was written by Camille Monte and Estelle Levitt. Second Hand Songs says that The Browns (with the addendum, “Featuring Jim Edward Brown”) were the first in June 1965. Their version bubbled under at No. 120. Just Us recorded the tune in December of 1965, followed by Nancy Sinatra in August 1966, a group called the Defenders in December 1966, and Teddy Bear & The Playboys sometime in 1967. Second Hand Songs also lists one instrumental version by Art Blakey in September 1966 and a version in Portuguese by Jerry Adriani in October 1965.

And that’s likely more than we need to know about “I Can’t Grow Peaches on a Cherry Tree.” I’ll likely check out Nancy Sinatra’s version, but probably not any of the others. For today, we’ll go with the hit. So here’s “I Can’t Grow Peaches on a Cherry Tree” by Just Us, today’s Saturday Single.

‘Kisses And A Tootsie Roll . . .’

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

The Beach Boys’ “Disney Girls (1957)” was the topic Saturday, and after talking about versions by the Beach Boys, Art Garfunkel and Cass Elliot, I noted that there were fifteen versions listed at Second Hand Songs. I actually meant to throw the word “additional” in there, as SHS lists eighteen takes of the Bruce Johnston tune. That’s been corrected now, and it’s a good time, I guess, to look at some of the covers of that purposefully nostalgic tune.

The first to take a stab at the tune after the Beach Boys (1971) and Cass Elliot (1972) were the Captain & Tennille, still a few years away from the huge success of “Love Will Keep Us Together.” They released “Disney Girls (1957)” as a B-Side to “The Way I Want To Touch You” three times, first on Butterscotch Castle 001, then on Joyce 101, then on A&M 1624. The latter two were released in 1974, based on what I see at discogs.com; I think the Butterscotch Castle release was in 1974, as well.

“The Way I Want To Touch You” was finally a hit on its fourth release, but by then its B-side was “Boddy Bounce,” and “Disney Girls” ended up as an album track on the duo’s first album Love Will Keep Us Together in 1975. Even for an exercise in nostalgia, it’s a little syrupy.

After that, Garfunkel covered the song, and covers came in the next few years from: Papa Doo Run Run, an L.A.-based band that specialized in covers of tunes by the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean; English singer Michael Crawford; the song’s writer himself, Bruce Johnston; MOR singer Jack Jones; and a number of artists whose names I do not recognize through the rest of the century and beyond, with Doris Day’s 2011 release and Mari Wilson’s cover a year later ending the train.

Day’s take is okay, a little breathy, and was recorded some years before the death of Day’s son (and producer) Terry Melcher in 2004. I don’t care for Wilson’s voice, at least not for “Disney Girls.” There’s a husky undertone that doesn’t seem to fit the song.

Johnston’s 1977 solo take is a stripped-down piano-backed version that doesn’t seem to go anywhere, and Jones’ version brings nothing special either.

So for something to listen to this morning, we’ll go back to the first version I heard: Garfunkel’s cover of the song on his 1975 album Breakaway, the version that started this minor exploration when it came out of the player here in the kitchen last week.

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.