Archive for the ‘2002’ Category

Saturday Single No. 462

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

When I was in elementary school during the last years of the 1950s and the first years of the 1960s, we celebrated birthdays in school. The birthday kid got to bring treats for the class, and the class would sing “Happy Birthday” to him or her. It wasn’t a huge celebration, but it was a nice acknowledgement of the occasion.

(The treats were almost always homemade, cookies or cupcakes crafted by the birthday kid’s mom. There weren’t nearly as many regulations back then, and no one worried about kids being allergic to peanuts, eggs or whatever. In some ways, it was a better time. In many ways, of course, it wasn’t.)

Kids whose birthdays fell into the three or so months of summer vacation didn’t get to celebrate, of course. The thought comes to me today that perhaps the teachers, during the last days of school in spring, should have organized a birthday celebration for those kids who’d mark their birthdays during summer vacation. I’m not sure why that didn’t happen.

There were some kids whose birthdays were, as one might say, on what we’ll call the vernal cusp: kids whose birthdays fell in late May and might or might not fall during the school year. Some years they got to celebrate in school, some years they didn’t. And then there were some kids whose birthdays were on the autumnal cusp: kids whose birthdays were in early September, sometimes falling after Labor Day, when school began, and sometimes falling before – or on – Labor Day.

The thing about kids with birthdays on the autumnal cusp is that it seems as if it took a week or so for the teachers and the moms to get everything organized, so kids whose birthdays fell in early September, as far as I can remember, never got to celebrate with their classmates. I was one of those kids, with a birthday falling on September 5.

Yep, today is my birthday, and that’s something I don’t recall sharing at school during those six years of elementary school. A quick check of a calendar site tells me that my birthday fell after Labor Day and on a weekday – and thus on a school day – in 1961, 1962 and 1963, during my first weeks in third, fourth and fifth grades. (The other three years of elementary school my birthday either fell before Labor Day or on a Saturday.) I remember a lot of things from those three years, but I don’t recall bringing treats for my birthday.

I know what treats I would have brought to school: My mom used to make some bars – among the ingredients, I think, were peanut butter and brown sugar – that were then topped with chocolate and chopped walnuts. I can see them in our metal pan with the sliding lid as I write, and I remember that when she made them, they didn’t last long. And it would have been nice to be able to share them with my classmates.

I think the pan with the sliding lid is on a shelf in the fruit cellar here, but of course, it’s been years since it had bars in it. Maybe it’s time to change that. Maybe Mom and I should go through her cookbooks – she still has several of them at her assisted living center even though she doesn’t really cook anymore – and see if we can find the recipe for those bars. They’re easy enough to make, I think.

Well, if that happens, it won’t be today. And there are no classmates to share the bars with anyway, only the Texas Gal and the four cats. It’s maybe just as well. The chocolate wouldn’t be good for the catboys, and the Texas Gal and I sure don’t need to down a pan of bars on our own.

So there will be no bars to share. There might be cake later on; I do not know what the Texas Gal has planned for the day, but I am certain it will be at least as good as having twenty-five third-graders serenade me with “Happy Birthday.”

And we’ll close this with an appropriate tune: Here’s the Swingle Singers’ take on the Beatles’ “Birthday.” It’s from the 2002 album Ticket To Ride: A Beatles Tribute, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘You Say It’s Your Birthday . . .’

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Well, in direct contradiction to the headline on this post, my long-time friend Rick did not tell me that today is his birthday. He didn’t need to. For most of the past fifty-six-plus years, I’ve known that February 6 is his birthday. He turns sixty today. (And Babe Ruth would have been 119; during our younger years, Rick made sure we all knew that he shared a birthday with the Greatest Of All Time, and Babe Ruth was certainly that.)

I sent an email off a few moments ago, wishing the Kiddie Corner Kid – as he’s styled himself when he comments here – a happy birthday, and I gave him a brief preview of what it’s like to be sixty: “Strained right elbow and wrist ligaments and a touchy right hamstring and quad. Of course, your mileage may vary. But it’s not all bad: You’ll qualify for more senior discounts.”

He, of course, is left-handed, so if there are complaints from any of his ligaments and muscles as they enter their seventh decade of use, those complaints are likely to come from the left. (There’s a political joke hanging there, just as there is an open spot for a reference to “sinister” as the Latin word for “left,” but we’ll leave both of those alone this morning.) One of my enduring memories from childhood comes from those times when Rick would be at our house for a meal; I would have to change from my regular spot at the kitchen table, shifting one spot to the right with Rick on my left so we would not bang elbows as we ate.

We were once nearly a daily presence in each other’s lives. These days, we see each other two or three times a year, but those two or three occasions are built on the foundation of nearly sixty years of friendship. As I told Rick in my email: “I’ve known you longer than anyone other than my family. (As least I think so; I’m not entirely sure if it was you or Rob in the lead coming across Kilian Boulevard on your tricycles on that spring day in 1957. If you were in the lead, and I think you were, then you have a two-second edge on him.) And our friendship is one of the cherished portions of my life.”

So for the Kiddie Corner Kid (and for the Babe as well), here’s “Birthday” by the Swingle Singers from their 2002 album, Ticket To Ride: A Beatles Tribute.

‘Skippin’ Reels Of Rhyme . . .’

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Still not certain how many covers there might be of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” I keep looking at the lists at Second Hand Songs and Amazon for some insight. No revelation comes, but I do note, perhaps unsurprisingly, that most of the covers listed at the first of those sites came in a very few years after Dylan recorded and released the song himself.

Dylan’s version came out in 1965 on Bringing It All Back Home, with the album reaching the Billboard 200 chart on May 1; the Byrds’ famous cover of the song hit the magazine’s Hot 100 singles chart on May 15, on its way to No. 1. Between then and 1969, SHS lists thirty-four covers of the tune, with the vast majority of those coming in the first couple of years.

Among those thirty-four covers was William Shatner’s legendarily bizarre version from his 1968 album A Transformed Man. (You can find it easily at YouTube if you feel the need.) One that I like a lot came from the British group the Marmalade in 1968; another that’s not nearly so high on my list was the cover by Don Sebesky from The Distant Galaxy, his 1969 album of what I can only describe as futuristic easy listening.

One of my favorite versions of the song came from 1969 as well, courtesy of the one-off group of musicians who called themselves the Brothers & Sisters of Los Angeles for an album called Dylan’s Gospel. As I’ve noted in this space at least once before, the webpage that listed the musicians involved seems to have disappeared in the past five or six years, but I do recall that among the singers on the project were Merry Clayton and Clydie King.

The frequency of covers of “Mr. Tambourine Man” slowed as the 1960s ended, but every now and then, the song drew the attention of a group or performer, and some of the resulting covers sound pretty good from this vantage point. The R&B group Con Funk Shun took the song uptown on a single in 1974, a performance that wound up on the 2010 anthology How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan, and the Fourth Street Sisters recorded the song for the 2002 effort, Blowin’ in the Wind: A Reggae Tribute to Bob Dylan.

A couple of other versions stand out from recent years, though perhaps for different reasons. Jazz singer Abbey Lincoln did a very nice version on her 1997 album Who Used To Dance. And, on an entirely different level, a collection of youngsters from New Zealand called the Starbugs recorded a cheerful and antiseptic version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” for their 2011 album Kids Sing Bob Dylan, and I’m not altogether certain how I feel about their bland take. (Two things to note: The Starbugs – or more realistically, their adult producers – have also fashioned a similar album of Beatles’ songs; and among the members of the Starbugs is Jessie Hillel, who was the runner-up in the 2012 edition of the reality TV show New Zealand’s Got Talent.)

The most interesting version of Dylan’s iconic tune that I’ve found among the later covers – and my explorations have been by no means exhaustive – comes from a group with Minnesota origins. Cloud Cult released its idiosyncratic cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” on a 2010 EP, Running With The Wolves. I don’t know that I’d ever heard much by Cloud Cult before; as with so many performers and groups that I come across when I explore covers of familiar tunes, that lack has to be remedied.

From Bippity Bach To Beatles

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Somehow, despite writing on occasion over the last five-plus years about my sister’s record collection in the 1960s and early 1970s, I have never mentioned the Swingle Singers.

The group, formed in Paris in 1962 by a singer named Ward Swingle, performed “Classical and Baroque works with a jazz rhythm section, employing a distinctive scat style in the vocal parts,” according to All Music Guide. If that’s a hard concept to wrap one’s mind around on a Tuesday, here’s an example of what that sounded like, with the group taking on Bach’s Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C Major from (I think) the group’s first album, Jazz Sebastian Bach, released in 1963:

I guess that sometime in the mid-1960s, my sister heard the group somewhere – school, a friend’s house – and selected as one of her regular choices from our record club the group’s 1964 album The Swingle Singers Go Baroque. I have no idea how often she listened to it, but I know I rarely dropped the album on the stereo. The music seemed, well, too bippity for my tastes, for lack of a real and better word. Perhaps the best measure of how little I cared for the record is that, of all the records that my sister took with her when she left St. Cloud in 1972, The Swingle Singers Go Baroque is one I’ve never tried to find. I don’t know if I’ve ever run across it, but if I have, I’ve left it in the bin.

Come the 1970s, the tale gets a bit tangled, with Ward Swingle moving to England and forming a second group, Swingle II, designed, AMG says, “to perform a broader base of repertory.” That second group eventually took on the original name (if I am reading things correctly) and has continued to record, broadening its repertoire to include popular music and incorporating words into its performances along with the scat-style vocals.

And that’s where I caught up with the current version of the Swingle Singers. Somewhere out in the wilds, I stumbled upon Ticket To Ride: A Beatles Tribute. That 2002 collection of rather inventive covers of sixteen Lennon-McCartney songs has piqued my interest, and I will likely dig deeper into the group’s catalog. Here’s the Swingle Singers’ take on “Revolution.” (The visuals provide more background into the group’s history.)

‘One Last Chance To Make It Real . . .’

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Down on East St. Germain – the main street here on the East Side – there’s a pawnshop. It’s right around the corner from Tom’s Barbershop, and I pop in from time to time. Granite City Pawn Shop, it’s called. It’s kind of dusty, and it’s well-stocked with tools and outdoor sports equipment.

And in the middle of the shop, sometimes guarded by a gantlet of other merchandise – a telescope tripod the other day – is an alcove filled with CDs, all priced at $1 apiece. Over the past couple years, I’ve made a few interesting finds there – probably the best was Blue & Sentimental by 1950s sax player Ike Quebec – and filled some gaps, most of them in my country collection.

I stopped by there the other day and found three CDs from the 1990s by country singer John Berry, about whom I’d read a few nice things. They’re all pretty good, and it turns out that one of them – Saddle the Wind – was an album Berry recorded and released in 1990, before he was signed to Liberty Records. Liberty released it in 1994, and that’s the version I found. And when the CD got to the fifth track, here’s what I heard:

He sings it well, but to my ears, the track hews far too closely to Bruce Springsteen’s version to make it more than interesting. But for the last ten days or so, I’ve had “Thunder Road” running through my head as Berry’s cover inspired me to make my way through various versions of one of Springsteen’s greatest songs.

Along the way, I’ve been wondering if the harmonica and piano that lead off “Thunder Road” on Born to Run might not be the very first things that lots of folks ever heard from Bruce Springsteen. My reasoning: It was with Born to Run, of course, that Springsteen made the leap from regional favorite to national artist, and I figure a lot of folks picked up the album on the basis of the national noise without having heard anything from Springsteen before, even the single “Born to Run.” The album reached the Billboard chart on September 13, 1975, showing up at No. 84, a week before “Born to Run” jumped into the Hot 100 at No. 68. And “Thunder Road” leads off the album. So that introduction could have been the introduction to Springsteen for a lot of people.

Well, it’s an interesting thought (to me, anyway), but it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that “Thunder Road” is one of the sturdiest songs Springsteen’s ever put together. Wikipedia notes that in 2004, the song was ranked No. 86 in Rolling Stone magazine’s assessment of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” And, as Wikipedia notes, the song has shown up highly ranked on several similar lists.

Like all sturdy songs, it’s been covered fairly frequently. Among those who’ve tackled the song are Badly Drawn Boy, Frank Turner, Tori Amos, Mary Lou Lord and Bonnie “Prince” Bill with Tortoise. I’ve heard some of those, and I’ve come across a few more. Melissa Etheridge sang the song in concert at least once after Springsteen performed the song with her at an earlier show. (Her solo performance of the song is listed as being in 2009, but I don’t know when the duet took place.) I also found a few studio covers that I thought were interesting: Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners recorded the song for his 1999 album My Beauty, but – according to a comment at YouTube – the track was held back because Springsteen thought Rowland took too many liberties with the lyrics. I thought the Cowboy Junkies did a nice version; it was released on the bonus CD that came with their 2004 album One Soul Now.

And I came across this version by a string quartet calling itself the Section; it came from the 2002 CD Hometown: The String Quartet Tribute to Springsteen:

 There are other covers out there, but my energy waned. Of the covers I found, I think I like the Cowboy Junkies’ version best; Margo Timmins can do little wrong from where I listen. But the best version of the song I found on YouTube isn’t really a cover at all.

In 2005, Springsteen toured as a solo artist after the release of Devils & Dust, and for that tour, he shelved a lot of the songs he normally performed live. But he did “Thunder Road” once, backing himself on the piano. And it’s neat to know that the performance took place in Minneapolis, at the University of Minnesota’s Northrop Auditorium on October 12, 2005. (No, I wasn’t there, but I sure wish I had been.)

Corrected and edited slightly after posting.

Some Highlights From 2001-2005

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Well, Odd and Pop didn’t show up this morning here at Echoes In The Wind. I think they’re outside playing in the rain that will soon freeze and turn St. Cloud into one large skating rink. And as I have errands to run today and don’t want to slide into the side of the drug store while running them, I’ve split what was a one-day idea into a two-day project, which it seems I will have to complete without any help from the two little tuneheads.

My thought was to look at some of my favorite music from the last ten years, the first ten years of the 21st Century, but as I waded through thousands of titles, it got more and more difficult to decide on favorites, so I thought I’d just mention a couple of titles from each year. And I dithered and dithered and then realized I was going to have to do this over two posts, which means a rare Friday post tomorrow, the last day of the decade.

Well, all right. So, what do I like to hear from these years? Well, lots of stuff, as it turns out. But if I had to pull one album and one track from each of the ten years, here’s how the first half of the list would look today:

From 2001, I’d end up with Bob Dylan’s album Love and Theft, a ramble through various styles of American music: folk, blues, rock and some other genres that might not have labels unless one uses a lot of hyphens. Among my favorite tracks are “Mississippi” and the great “High Water (For Charley Patton).”

I got into Texas singer Pat Green when he hit with “Wave on Wave” in 2003. (I’ve listened to and learned more about country music and Texas music in the past decade than ever before; the Texas Gal obviously gets grateful credit for that.) Anyway, liking “Wave on Wave” as much as I did, I got the CD and then began to dig into Green’s earlier stuff. And I discovered “Southbound 35” from his 2001 effort, Three Days. Another version is on the same year’s Dancehall Dreamer. I’m unable to find a video of either of the studio versions, so we’ll have to go back to the last century and a version of the song on Green’s 1999 release Live At Billy Bob’s Texas.

It took me a couple of years to catch up to it, but this morning, my favorite album from 2002 is Jorma Kaukonen’s Blue Country Heart. The former guitarist for the Jefferson Airplane (and cofounder of Hot Tuna) put together what All-Music Guide called “his most summertime-afternoon, front-porch-pickin’ album.” My favorite track? Probably Kaukonen’s take on Jimmie Rodgers’ classic “Waiting For A Train.”

One of the other musical highlights of 2002 was the massive memorial Concert for George in London on November 29. Recorded for release in 2003, the concert featured a gathering of friends who’d played and recorded over the years with the quiet Beatle, including his old bandmates Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney along with Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and more. The least well-known performer on this side of the Atlantic, I’d guess, was Joe Brown, who closed the concert with a heart-tugging cover of a very old tune, “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” I couldn’t find a video of the live version from the concert, but here’s a studio version on which I’ve been unable to put a date.

Another album I caught up with a couple years late was by another alumnus from Jefferson Airplane and the other co-founder of Hot Tuna: bassist Jack Casady. His 2003 effort, Dream Factor, was an intriguing tour through blues, folk and Southern rock, featuring a strong list of guest vocalists and Casady’s always supple work on bass. My favorite tracks are likely “Paradise” and the closer, “Sweden.”

Country music pulled me in more during 2003. The Texas Gal and I spent a fair amount of time on quiet evenings watching country videos on cable and keeping track of CDs we wanted to hear. One of those videos was a Brooks & Dunn piece, and it led me to a CD that still shows up in the CD player around here. Here’s the official video for Brooks & Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road.”

The 2004 CD Original Soul was credited simply to Grace Potter, but the album was actually the first ever heard of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, a band out of Vermont that has since released three more well-received CDs, all of which have places on my shelf. If I had to choose one track from Original Soul, I’d probably go with the slow groove of “Go Down Low,” but that’s a default choice; the album is too good to pull just one track as a favorite.

Continuing in a rootsy vein (no surprise there, I imagine), one of the other highlights of 2004, at least looking back, was the release of 40 Days, the first full-length CD by the Wailin’ Jennys, a trio of women formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Texas Gal and I have seen the Jennys twice, and both times, one of the highlights was “Arlington” from 40 Days.

Choosing an album from 2005 was easy, and the choice might be seen as an odd one. Through my blog-created connection with Patti Dahlstrom, I was also linked to long-time musician Don Dunn, who – among his many accomplishments – was the cowriter of one of my favorite tunes ever, “Hitchcock Railway.” And through that connection, I got hold of Don’s Voices From Another Room, an album recorded unexpectedly in Odessa, Ukraine. It’s a CD I often pop into the player late in the evening. My favorite track? Probably “Two Tanyas.”

What else from 2005 has kept my attention? Well, I still listen to all four CDs by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, and my featured track from 2005 comes from the album Naturally, which finds Jones and her amazingly tight band offering an inventive – and somewhat doleful – revision of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

Finally, for today, one of the most memorable records of the the first five years of the decade is one that I cannot place accurately. Gary Jules’ cover of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World” first showed up, I think, on the soundtrack to the 2001 film Donnie Darko. Jules later released it on his own Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets in 2004. So I don’t know where it fits temporally. But it doesn’t matter, really, as the recording is one of the best things I recall hearing from those first five years of this century.

I’ll be back tomorrow – perhaps with Odd and Pop – to look at music from the years 2006-2010.

(Title error corrected since first posting.)