Archive for the ‘1991’ Category

‘Summer’

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

There are about 500 tracks in the RealPlayer that have “summer” in their titles, and come next week, I’m going to sort through them for my favorites. This week, however, the Texas Gal and I are preparing for our Biennial End Of Summer Picnic, which takes place this coming Sunday. And I have plenty to do.

So this post will have to suffice for this week, and I’ll be back next week with an account of this year’s festivities and with – as promised above – some tunes about summer. In the meantime, here’s Chris Rea with an appropriately titled – and typically moody – track: “Looking For The Summer.” It’s from his 1991 album Auberge.

Joplin By Coincidence

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Scott Joplin’s been taking up a small corner of my mind lately. The ragtime composer whose career spanned the late 1800s and early 1900s has popped up a couple of times lately in my wanderings and musings.

A member of one of my Facebook music groups offers tournaments by survey, winnowing the top one hundred records of a particular year down to one champion. He’s on 1974 right now, and the match the other day was between John Denver’s “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” seeded at No. 25, and the No. 40 seed, Marvin Hamlisch’s take on Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” which was used in the movie The Sting.

(I’m not sure where the fellow is getting his seedings. In Joel Whitburn’s A Century of Pop Music, the Denver record ranks No. 21 for 1974, and “The Entertainer” isn’t in the Top 40 at all. The Cashbox lists, maybe? But never mind . . .)

On the day of the Denver-Hamlisch match, another group member left a comment to the effect that it was an easy choice between (and I paraphrase here) a sweet piece of singer-songwriter work and something real old fashioned.

I left a note to the effect that yes, it was an easy choice between – and I paraphrase again – one of the most sickly-sweet things Denver ever wrote and a classic piece written by a genius in the early 20th Century. Someone else made a similar comment, and the first note-poster said that he got it; the lesson was not to dis Marvin Hamlisch.

No, I answered, the lesson is to not dis Scott Joplin.

(For those who care, Denver’s record won the match by an 80-42 score and will meet “TSOP [The Sound of Philadelphia]” by MFSB in an upcoming match in the Round of 32.)

And Sunday, after our weekly service at the St. Cloud Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, I had a conversation with another member whose muses are also music and writing but whose specific sources are classical, both in words and music. The breadth of his knowledge far outpaces mine, although I know enough in both areas to keep up for at least a little while (and then I just nod – wisely, I hope – and store names and ideas in my head for later exploration).

I shared with him the quick colloquy regarding Denver, Hamlisch and Joplin. He chuckled appreciatively, and then he mentioned that he has a collection of sheet music of Joplin’s rags, much of it very old, and he mentioned as well the fruitless search for the original orchestral score for Joplin’s opera, Treemonisha. He mentioned two stagings of the musical, one in Atlanta, the other in Houston, I think.

I nodded many more times and wondered aloud if the cast of either of the performances of the opera he mentioned had recorded an album and whether that album were now available on CD. He was doubtful but hopeful. And we parted with me aware once more that as much as I might know, there is still so much to learn.

Following up, I did some digging over the past few days and got my hands on a collection of Joplin’s rags. And I learned that there are several cast recordings of Treemonisha available, one of them from a Houston staging. I will explore those soon.

And this morning, I glanced at the Billboard Hot 100 from May 18, 1974, a list from forty-two years ago today, and peaking at No. 3 was Hamlisch’s “The Entertainer.” (It would get to No. 1 on the magazine’s Adult Contemporary chart.)

So much coincidental Joplin needs to be heeded. So I dug into the week’s harvest, and offer here, from the 1991 album The Complete Rags of Scott Joplin, William Albright’s solo piano version of Scott Joplin’s 1902 composition “The Entertainer.”

‘Sanctuary’

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

(This is a different type of post. Rummaging through my files the other day, I found a piece of fiction I wrote while living in Columbia, Missouri, in 1991. I’ve never done anything with it, so I’ve revised it just a bit to offer it here. It’s called “Sanctuary.” I hope you like it.)

The road circled a hill, turning abruptly, and Aaron barely prevented the car from heading down a rough slope into a wooded valley. He wasn’t driving fast, but he has no idea where he was, and it was difficult to see through the mist of tears.

Halfway into the turn, the car emerged from a tunnel of leafy oak and ash into a clearing below the hill.

On the top of the hill stood a church.

Sanctuary.

The word whispered itself from the back row of his brain, sending a ripple through him of something not entirely comforting. Sanctuary? Aaron braked and looked up at the church. It was old and long unused, white paint graying and flaking from too many Iowa seasons. The small bell tower was leaning to the northeast. Was that right? He glanced up and checked the position of the sun behind the clouds, then looked at his watch, calculating directions from shadows. Yes, northeast.

Sanctuary, whispered the voice.

He hesitated, then drove until he found a place to park about a hundred yards away, down another decline and out of sight of the church. He locked the car before walking back along the road and then up the hill.

The doors, as weathered and aching as the rest of the building, were ajar, frozen in place by time. Aaron squeezed through. Dim light came through the paneless windows but illuminated little: A few pews and some litter, the stump of a lectern and a bench.

Weary and disappointed – and aware of the folly of disappointment – he sat at the end of a pew, as far as possible from the empty place where the altar had once stood. Vision blurred again, and his head dropped. If this was sanctuary, it was odd indeed. But sanctuary was what he needed, a retreat from the last four days. Yesterday, Wednesday, had been the worst, waking alone in the house and being left alone by well-meaning friends and relatives. The day before was the funeral. Before that, Monday, he’d welcomed with embraces and tears those same friends and relatives who had now faded out of sight. And Sunday. The day it started . . . or ended. The morning he’d waked to find Linda lying still beside him. The doctor thought it might have been a stroke, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that she was gone.

Four horrible days. And today, the fifth, was the worst. He had found sorrow enough being in the house with the comfort of others. It was unbearable alone. So he’d fled the house and Keokuk, losing himself in the roads through the hills. And he was still alone. He put his face in his hands and wept, then turned to the right, resting against the end of the pew. In time, the tears stopped, and Aaron slept.

He woke slowly, confused, to a muted chorus of voices. “And also with you,” they said. Without moving, he opened his eyes and saw clear glass in the window. He stared at it for a moment, then raised his head and sat up.

The church was full. Pews that hadn’t been there when he came in were filled with men, women and children. Their clothes were wrong, old-fashioned. He glanced to his left. A man in a high-collared brown suit looked at a gold watch through round wire spectacles, then stroked his trimmed mustache and put the watch back in his vest pocket. Aaron turned to the front. A plain altar stood below a wooden cross high on the wall. A man in a black frock coat – the minister, Aaron thought – sat down on the bench by the lectern. As Aaron watched, the minister looked toward the first pew and nodded briefly. “Rachel,” he said.

A young woman rose from the pew and went to the center aisle, followed by a boy carrying what looked like a dulcimer, who sat in a chair to the side. Aaron stared at the young woman as she took her place. She was wearing a plain blue dress that reached to her ankles, gathered somehow at the waist and flaring out from there to the floor. She had light brown hair pulled together loosely at the nape of her neck. It framed her face and flowed down her back.

Her face was extraordinary. Not pretty, Aaron thought as he she looked at the gathered congregation, but truly beautiful, with a serenity that was so vivid that the only word he could think of was “ethereal.” She smiled, and Aaron saw something familiar in the smile, but the simple wonder of seeing it kept him from even trying to identify what it was he recognized. Then she spoke.

“Reverend Westphal has asked me to close the service with a hymn,” she said simply. “We have heard this week of the great battle at Gettysburg, and I know we all fear for our young men who have gone to war to preserve the Union. I hope this song will bring comfort as we wait.”

The boy played a series of simple chords, and Rachel began to sing:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found.
Was blind, but now I see.

As she started the second verse, the congregation joined her tentatively, first one voice and then another.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace that fear relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

When the third verse started, all in the church but Aaron were singing, and the simple melody and gentle words became a moving and increasingly louder statement of faith and hope that penetrated his despair. He joined them.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come.
’Tis grace has brought us safe thus far,
And grace will lead us home.

As the final verse started, the rest of the congregation fell silent, leaving Aaron’s and Rachel’s voices to carry the song. He almost stopped as well, but as the first syllable left his lips, Rachel looked directly at him, smiling around the words as she sang, encouraging him to continue.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright, shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

The dulcimer repeated the chords of the song after the fourth verse, and Aaron closed his eyes briefly. When he opened them, Rachel was smiling gently at him, and Aaron felt something flow between them that he could not name, something that made the two of them somehow inseparable yet still separate. The dulcimer completed the chords, and Rachel sang alone:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found.
Was blind, but now I see.

Aaron stared at her as she moved back to her place in the first pew. Reverend Westphal stood. “Go with God,” he said, and the congregation began to move from the pews, Aaron with them. The man next to him turned and extended his hand.

“It was good to have you worship with us, Aaron,” he said. “We hope to see you here again.”

Aaron shook the man’s hand numbly, hardly noticing that the man knew his name. His eyes were on Rachel, who was now in a small knot of people in the aisle. Those in Aaron’s pew, including the man who had spoken to him, slowly made their ways into the aisle, and when Aaron got there, he found himself standing next to Rachel.

She looked at him gravely. She wore like a cloak the aura of serenity that Aaron had noticed just moments before. “God rest you,” she said quietly. “We will sing again.” Then she turned and slipped through a gap in the crowd of people near the door. Aaron watched as she left the church.

He woke in the car, cramped and dazed. A pale pink line on the horizon below the hills promised daybreak. He moved his head to relieve his aching neck, then looked at his watch. It was 5:20. How long had he been sleeping? He stretched, and then he remembered the church and the congregation. He remembered Rachel.

Aaron threw the door open and ran up the road and then to the top of the small hill. The church was as he had first seen it. Its windows had no glass. The doors were weathered and slightly ajar. He went inside, and even in the vague light of early morning, he could see it was nearly empty. He walked to where Rachel had stood as she sang. The floor was warped, long unwalked.

It must have been a dream, Aaron thought. I must have fallen asleep in the church, then walked back to the car half-sleeping. He walked out of the church and watched the sun light the low clouds. It was a dream, he was certain. He walked down the hill and was halfway to the car when he stopped.

Maybe it was all a dream. Not just the church on this country road, but Linda as well. Maybe he’d dreamed or imagined it all. It was possible, he thought. And the more he thought, the more possible, the more likely, the more certain it became. Linda was home, waiting for him, wondering where he’d been all this time, worrying about him.

He ran to the car, started it and drove down the winding road, knowing that he’d find a road that would lead him to another and eventually to one he’d recognize. And he would go home to Linda.

An hour later, he parked the car in his driveway and hurried into the house. “Linda?” He walked through the kitchen into the hallway. “Linda?” She must be in the living room. “Linda?”

He stopped in the doorway of the empty living room. Cards of condolence and sympathy lay on the table near the front door, in front of a framed portrait of Linda. An arrangement of wilting flowers stood next to the portrait.

Aaron exhaled heavily as he stepped to the couch and sat, staring at the tableau on the table. Again he wept.

Late that afternoon, he drove once more into the hills, parked the car, then took his wallet out of his pocket and left it on the seat next to the keys. He turned and walked up the curving road. As he came to the small hill, he could hear Rachel’s voice coming from the church:

I once was lost, but now am found . . .

The voice in his head whispered: Sanctuary.

Aaron walked quickly up the hill and went to join the congregation.

A Bad January

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

I am deeply bummed.

January, not even two-thirds over, has been a hard month for music fans. David Bowie, gone January 10. Dale Griffin, founding member and drummer for Mott The Hoople, gone January 17. And Glenn Frey of the Eagles, gone January 18.

Now, none of the three – Bowie, Mott The Hoople or the Eagles – were central to my musical life. But I know the music. All three of those acts are well represented on the vinyl shelves and in the digital files as well. All three of them – Bowie and the Eagles a little more prominently – were part of the background music of my college years.

And as the deaths of all three came into the news over the last week, and the tributes rolled past (especially on Facebook – the modern equivalent, as I’ve noted before, of other eras’ public square), it felt like three body blows, each of them more potent than I ever would have expected. And I wondered why.

I am not certain. I have some ideas, centering on the fact that when the folks who provided the music of our formative years leave us, part of the background of our lives is taken away, too. And we begin to feel like an actor on a stage would likely feel if the scenery, the props and the furniture began to disappear one item at a time: confused, unmoored and maybe a little bit alone.

All I know is that I listened last week to more David Bowie than I have in a long time. I’ll likely listen to some Mott the Hoople and its successor band, Mott, this week. And I’m certain that I’ll drop an Eagles CD into the player either in the car or on my nightstand late at night as well.

And here’s the track that came to mind yesterday afternoon when I got the news about Glenn Frey. I shared it here not that long ago, but that’s okay. It’s the song he contributed in 1991 to the soundtrack to Thelma & Louise, and its message applies to anyone – lovers, family, friends and yes, favored performers – that we lose: “Part Of Me, Part Of You.”

The Day

Friday, October 16th, 2015

In the east, a thin sliver of light – maybe bright, maybe muted through clouds – slides its way above the horizon. As it does, the music begins.

The tune is “Dawn” from a 1973 self-titled album by a group calling itself Glory. It was Glory’s first album, but that’s only a technicality: Since 1968, when two Cleveland groups more or less merged to form what All Music Guide calls an “acid rock combo,” the musicians in Glory had been calling themselves The Damnation Of Adam Blessing and had released three albums on the United Artists label. A dispute with the label brought about the name change.

The first album, a 1969 self-titled work, spent two weeks in the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 181. In 1970, a single titled “Back To The River” – from the album The Second Damnation – bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks, peaking at No. 102.

Glory, a good if unspectacular album, was the last word from the group; it and the first two Adam Blessing albums, as well as an anthology, are available on CD.

The music continues as the hands of the clocks turn just a little. It’s not quite raining as we listen to “In A Misty Morning” by the late Gene Clark from his 1973 album, Roadmaster.

At the time, the album was actually released only in the Netherlands, according to Wikipedia, which notes that Clark’s label, A&M, was displeased with the slow pace of his work and created the album by combining eight of Clark’s new tracks with three tracks from other sessions (two tracks from sessions with the Byrds in 1970-71 and one track from sessions with the Flying Burrito Brothers). Whatever the source, Roadmaster is a decent listen.

Clark’s catalog is not easily listed, given his solo work and his work with Doug Dillard, with the Byrds and finally with McGuinn, Clark & Hillman. I’ve seen his 1974 album No Other mentioned as the best of his career, and it’s the only solo album to reach the Billboard 200, peaking at 144 in 1974.

Most of his work, including Roadmaster, seems to be available on CD; I didn’t take the time to do an album by album check.

By late morning, the mist is gone, and as the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, it’s time for a break. Our refreshment is “Red Wine At Noon” by Joy Of Cooking, found on the group’s 1971 self-titled debut.

The Berkeley-based group has been mentioned and featured here frequently enough that I’m not sure there’s a lot left to say. I’ll just note that I wish that the group’s unreleased fourth album, 1973’s Same Old Song And Dance, would somehow find a release. And I’ll add that not long ago, I got hold of a two-CD collection titled “back to your heart” that offers seventeen unreleased studio tracks – some of them polished, some less so – as well as a 1972 concert in Berkeley. If you like what I call “living room music,” it’s sweet stuff.

All three of Joy Of Cooking’s original albums spent some time in the Billboard 200: Joy Of Cooking (1971) went to No. 100, Closer To The Ground (1971) peaked at No. 136, and Castles (1972) got to No. 174. The group’s only charting single in Billboard was “Brownsville,” which went to No. 66 in 1971. All the original albums are available on CD, as is “back to your heart” and a collection titled American Originals, which includes a few tracks from the unreleased Same Old Song And Dance.

The day moves on, and some times of day and some times of year merge nicely for time spent outdoors. That’s evidently what the Stone Poneys thought in 1967 when they released “Autumn Afternoon” on Evergreen Vol. 2.

The Stone Poneys were, of course, Linda Ronstadt, Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards, with Ronstadt handling almost all of the lead vocals on Evergreen Vol. 2, the group’s second album. If the stories at Wikipedia are accurate (and I think they are, given the notes), the group’s label, Capitol, saw Ronstadt as the marketable talent and Kimmel and Edwards as expendable. And the guys were pushed firmly to the side.

Evergreen Vol. 2 went to No. 100 in Billboard upon its release in 1967. The first album, re-released with the title The Stone Poneys Featuring Linda Ronstadt, went to No. 172 in 1975.

The Stone Poneys’ first two albums are available on a two-fer CD; also available on CD is Linda Ronstadt, Stone Poneys and Friends, Vol. III, a 1968 release that was, from what I read, more Ronstadt and very little Poneys.

After the sun goes down (and we could easily – and might someday – devote an entire slice of this kind of whimsy to “sundown” alone), and the shadows come from the streetlights and perhaps a full moon, it’s time to get a little slinky. Pat Benatar did it well on “Evening” from her 1991 exploration of jump blues and torch songs, True Love.

Benatar, of course, was a 1980s icon with eleven Top 40 hits from 1979 to 1984; six of her albums made the Top Fifteen during that time as well. True Love did not. It peaked at No. 37. Given my tastes, it’s not surprising that I like it better than the rest of Benatar’s catalog. Like all of her catalog, it’s easily available.

Just past 11:59 p.m., the clock turns over, a new day starts, and we hear “Midnight Wind” by John Stewart from his 1979 album Bombs Away Dream Babies. The album was fortified by Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks – both contributed backing vocals, and Buckingham added guitar and co-produced – and was the greatest success of Stewart’s long career, peaking at No. 10 on the Billboard 200.

None of Stewart’s six earlier charting albums had gone higher than No. 126; his 1980 follow-up, Dream Babies Go Hollywood, went to No. 85, and Stewart’s moment was gone.

But the moment was a great one, with a sound evocative of its time: “Midnight Wind” went to No. 28 in the Hot 100; its predecessor, “Gold,” had reached No. 5. A third single from Bombs Away Dream Babies, “Lost Her In The Sun,” went to No. 34.

The album is seemingly out of print; copies are available on CD but at higher prices than I’m willing to pay. The same seems to hold true for most of Stewart’s catalog.

Saturday Single No. 466

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

I’m not sure what happened with the iPod the other week. Maybe I disconnected it from the computer and iTunes before it was ready to leave. Maybe I did something else. Maybe it was just being cantankerous. But when I turned it on one day and set it to random shuffle, it began rolling through the songs, showing the info for one after another for about three seconds each and never stopping to play them.

Nothing I tried would change its behavior. So I reformatted the little thing and was left with an empty iPod. And because I’d been foolish when I’d first selected tracks from my external hard drive to load into iTunes (and thus become the iPod’s library), I had to reselect my iTunes library. That mean going through each of the main music folders on my external hard drive, scanning the subfolders for the names of artists whose music I might want to include in my new iPod library, and then dipping into those subfolders to copy mp3s to iTunes.

It’s a long process, essentially combing through about 85,000 tracks to see which 3,500 or so I want on the iPod. I’m into the “S” folder (having just selected a couple of tracks by the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band). Along with completing the “S” folder and folders for the rest of the alphabet from there, I’ll also have to dig into the massive “Various Artists” folder, which is where I’ll find the mp3s from the bulk of the many compilations in my collection. Those will require closer combing than has been needed so far.

Anyway, I currently have in the iPod a total of 2,521 tracks. They range numerically from three versions of John Barry’s “007” theme (one each from the films Goldfinger and Thunderball and a cover by French easy listening master Franck Pourcel) to Albert Hammond’s “99 Miles From L.A.” and alphabetically from Doc Severinsen’s “Abbey Road Medley” to the Miracles’ “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me.”

In terms of running time, the music tracks start at the fifty-six seconds of “North Platte,” a piano meditation from One To The Heart, One To The Head, a moody 2009 Western album by Gretchen Peters & Tom Russell, and end at the 18:17 running time of Side Two (in its original vinyl configuration) of Shawn Phillips’ 1970 album, Second Contribution.

(If one starts at the very shortest pieces, however, the first up is “He shoots, he scores!” by Al Shaver, who called games for the Minnesota North Stars of the National Hockey League from the team’s birth in 1967 to its final game before the team moved to Dallas in 1993. Shaver’s exclamation is the shortest of twenty-four brief interjections, most of them taken from movies. The longest is the fourteen-second rant by Ned Beatty’s Arthur Jensen to Peter Finch’s Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network: “And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature! And you will atone!”)

As one might expect, there are many tracks from Al Hirt, The Band, the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Richie Havens, Darden Smith, Danko/Fjeld/Andersen, and others who are favorites in this neighborhood. There are also the one-offs, like Candi Staton’s “Young Hearts Run Free” (although I’ll likely add more Candi as I back-fill after my first run-through) and the Stories’ “Brother Louie.” New stuff? Some. Old stuff? Lots of it.

And here’s a tune that’s neither as old as most of the stuff on the iPod nor as new as the most recent stuff. It was one of the one-offs that was an easy choice because I’ve liked it since I heard it used in the 1991 film Thelma & Louise. It’s Glenn Frey’s “Part Of Me, Part Of You,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Singles Nos. 413 & 414

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

I’m supposed to sing tomorrow in church, but there is a tickle at the back of my throat that worries me.

I noticed it yesterday when I was practicing. My voice in the higher portion of my (somewhat limited) range was not as strong as it generally is, and I was straining to hit the D just above Middle C. That’s not good, as the verse of one of the two songs I’m scheduled to sing begins on that note, as does the chorus of the second.

So I’m a little worried.

As I wrote a while back, singing in public is something that’s come back to me only in the past year, since I’ve been comfortable once again sharing my voice – and sometimes songs I’ve written – in public. It’s not something I’ve done a lot over the years.

I sang in junior high and high school choirs, of course, and in a choir at St. Cloud State for one quarter (as a one-credit activity). After that one quarter, I decided I’d invest my activity credit in work at the campus radio station. From that point on for many years, the only singing I did was along with the radio or while practicing on my guitar. During college days, I often worked on my music while I was perched on the little bank on our lawn just yards from Kilian Boulevard, singing softly and occasionally dropping my head to reach the harmonica rack and offer the world what can only be described as Bob Dylan Lite.

Dylan wasn’t my only influence. In the late months of 1990, as the U.S. was preparing for what turned out to be a brief war with Iraq, I wrote an anti-war tune titled “One Wall Is Enough” and in a burst of bravery sang it at a piano one evening in a coffeehouse in Columbia, Missouri. When I was finished and sat sipping coffee (thinking that it hadn’t gone too badly and that the applause from the sparse crowd had been genuine), one of the proprietors of the place joined me at my table.

“Nice job,” he said. “You want to know what I heard?” I nodded. “Well, there was some Dylan, of course, and the song construction was straight from Buddy Holly and Lennon-McCartney.” I nodded again, because he was right. “And I heard some Lightfoot and some Van Morrison. And I heard something in the lyrics I’ve never heard before, and I figure that’s got to be you.”

As vague as it was, that might have been one of the better compliments I’ve received in my life.

That coffee-house lark was an exception; otherwise, from the time I left St. Cloud State until the mid-1990s, any performing was limited to gatherings of friends and a one-off performance for a student group at Minot State. It was during the 1990s that I came across Jake and the band he was collecting, and during the years I played with Jake’s guys, I sang lead on a few things: The Band’s “The Weight,” Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and the Darden Smith/Boo Hewerdine composition, “First Chill Of Winter.”

From the time I was turned away from Jake’s group in early 2001 until last December when another church member and I performed “First Chill Of Winter,” I sang for no one (except the Texas Gal from rare time to rare time). Since that first church performance, I’ve sung there a few times on my own and several times with that other member (and with the choir frequently). Happily, my efforts have been well-received and the compliments I’ve gotten seem genuine.

And I’m supposed to sing tomorrow, but the tickle in the back of my throat this morning makes me think that’s unlikely. I’m a little bummed out about that. I’d selected two songs that fit mid-October nearly perfectly and also, it turns out, fit well into a Saturday post here.

The first has been mentioned here over the years (and shared long ago during the years of downloading): The cover of Eric Andersen’s “Blue River” by Andersen, Jonas Fjeld and Rick Danko (with Danko handling the lead vocal) from the trio’s 1991 Danko/Fjeld/Andersen album.

And then there’s Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” as recorded by Kate Rusby, a British folksinger whose stellar work I’ve recently discovered. Rusby’s cover of Denny’s beautiful tune came out on a CD single in 2008.

And there, in the hope that I’ll be able to perform them tomorrow, are your Saturday Singles.

‘Fill Me With Song . . .’

Friday, July 4th, 2014

A little more than four years ago, I wrote, “Donovan’s sometimes wispy ballads occupied one extreme of the sonic landscape of the time, and taken one-by-one, they provided an airy counterpoint to the heavier sounds of the time. Any more than one at a time, and Donovan’s songs were a little too light for me, and they still are.”

Clearly, Donovan is not a favorite here. I’ve got a few of his albums on LP, but it’s instructive that I’ve never bought a CD of the Scottish performer’s work. So why in the world am I stretching a look at one Donovan tune over more than a week? Schedule, mostly. Due to garden duties, a baseball game, the Texas Gal’s travel schedule and some minor stuff, I’ve had less time this week than I would like to spend here in the EITW studios. But here we are on an Independence Day morning, all gathered around the campfire, so to speak, to listen to a few versions of “Wear Your Love Like Heaven.”

First, here’s Donovan’s original. A single release went to No. 23 in the Billboard Hot 100 during a seven-week run that bridged the end of 1967 and the beginning of 1968. The track showed up on two albums that were part of a confusing album release strategy in December 1967. The album Wear Your Love Like Heaven went to No. 60, the album For Little Ones went to No. 185, and A Gift From A Flower To A Garden, a box set combining those two albums, went to No. 19.

I don’t know that I remember the single from its 1967-68 chart days, but it’s not all that different from a lot of Donovan’s work: light and airy with some odd diction provoked by the melody (“Prussian blue” in the first verse is a good example), and a general world view of peaceful bliss. It’s not a song that I would have thought would inspire many covers. Well, except in the realm of easy listening. The song was recorded by the Johnny Arthey Orchestra for the 1969 album The Golden Songs Of Donovan, and David Rose (who hit No. 1 with “The Stripper” in 1962), recorded “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” for his 1970 album Happy Heart.

Another instrumental version I found was from saxophonist Steve Douglas, one of Phil Spector’s go-to players during the years of the Wall of Sound. Douglas recorded the song for his 1969 album Reflections In A Golden Horn. It’s a light and jazzy take on the tune, and if you want to call it easy listening, I won’t cringe. And, along with the Cal Tjader version posted here last Saturday, I know there are other instrumental versions out there. One that interests me but that I have not yet heard is the 1992 version by pianist Richard Dworsky.

All of this started last week with Peggy Lipton’s cover of the tune. Other singers took on the song, too. We shared Richie Havens’ 1969 version here earlier this week, and another cover that caught my ear was the quirky 1970 take on the tune by Eartha Kitt, who included the song on her album Sentimental Eartha.

A more recent version of the song that I have not yet spent the coin to hear is from the group My Morning Jacket, which recorded “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” for the 2002 album Gift From a Garden to a Flower: A Tribute to Donovan. Beyond that, the most recent version that I enjoy is the cover that Sarah McLachlan recorded for her 1991 album Solace. As for versions I don’t enjoy (but others might), an Italian group called Edible Woman, about which I know nothing, has a lumbering, thrumming, heavy version of the tune posted this year on YouTube, which presumably is available somewhere for those who want to hear it again.

Saturday Single No. 334

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

It’s going to be a very nice Saturday here under the oaks, with dinner guests coming this evening, and the Texas Gal and I with what seems like plenty of time to prepare.

Our guests will be jb – proprietor of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ – and his Mrs., heading this direction for the evening after some daytime business has drawn them from Madison, Wisconsin, to a point near the Minnesota border. We’ll have some dinner and get caught up on news – it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other in person – and no doubt spent some time talking about jb’s new gig handling the weekday afternoon drive time shift for Madison’s Magic 98.

And we’ll talk – and drink – beer. I’ve chosen a selection of brews from a couple of breweries in the small town of Cold Spring, about fifteen miles southwest of here and a few bottles of a robust pale ale from the Summit Brewery in St. Paul. Jb says he’s got a good selection in hand as they head this way, so we should be set for the beer portion of our evening. When the four of us first got together in the summer of 2009 – connected, of course, by our finding each other in Blogworld – we tabbed the meeting the Minnesota-Wisconsin Blogging and Beer Summit I. And for a while, we kept up with that title, changing the Roman numeral appropriately.

I’m not sure what this evening’s Roman numeral would be. We – at least I – have lost track, and tonight is just a chance to get together with friends we haven’t seen for a little while. And that’s a very good thing.

Along with this evening’s fun (and the preparations), I’m going to head out in a few minutes to visit my mom. She’s spent the week at a nearby facility that provides physical therapy and other rehabilitation for those who’ve had strokes. She’s probably got a couple more weeks there while the therapists help her regain strength in her left arm and left leg, which seem to be the only things affected by the stroke she had ten days ago. The therapists think that after that, she’ll be able to move back to her apartment in the assisted living center. It seems that she was lucky, as were we all.

And that seems like a good place to pause this morning. So here, from her 1991 album True Love – an exploration of blues and early pre-rock R&B – is Pat Benatar’s “I Feel Lucky.” And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Looking At Lists Again

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

The bookshelves here in my study – I’m thinking of renaming the room “Odd & Pop’s Workshop” and getting a sign for the door, just to confound or amuse our guests – are laden with reference works, as I’ve likely noted here before. And from time to time, I pull one off the shelf and page through it, much as I did with encyclopedias when I was young.

Last evening, for example, I pulled off the shelves the All Music Guide to the Blues, a volume that I’ve owned since 1999 but that I’ve hardly looked at since maybe 2001, when I moved from south Minneapolis to join the Texas Gal in the suburb of Plymouth. What that means, I realized last night, is that I now recognize far more names in that volume than I did twelve years ago. And, having realized that, I’ll be checking the book’s recommendations for additions to my blues library.

This morning, however, I’m going to dig into the lists in the back portions of three of the Billboard volumes produced by Joel Whitburn. We’ll start with Top Pop Singles. (And I’m still a little chastened by not digging deeply enough into the fine print in Top Pop Singles while writing Tuesday’s post, as documented by the kind note from my friend Yah Shure.)

Among the lists in the back of Top Pop Singles is “The Top 500 Artists.” The opening ten of that list is not at all surprising:

Elvis Presley
The Beatles
Elton John
Madonna
Mariah Carey
Stevie Wonder
Janet Jackson
Michael Jackson
James Brown
The Rolling Stones

But who, I wondered, came in at No. 500? It turns out to be Chuck Jackson, the South Carolina-born R&B singer whose biggest hit came when “Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird)” went to No. 23 in 1962. It was one of twenty-nine records Jackson placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1961 and 1967. But as Jackson was the last artist cited in the Top 500, I thought I’d look for the lowest-charting record in his entry. It turns out to be “Who’s Gonna Pick Up The Pieces,” a B-side (to “I Keep Forgettin’”) that bubbled under for two non-consecutive weeks during August 1962, peaking at No. 119.

From Top Pop Singles, we head to the Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits. There, Whitburn lists the Top 100 artists from 1942 to 2004. And again, there are no real surprises on the top of the list:

James Brown
Aretha Franklin
Louis Jordan
Stevie Wonder
The Temptations
Ray Charles
Marvin Gaye
Fats Domino
Gladys Knight (& The Pips)
The Isley Brothers

On the other end of that Top 100, we find Atlantic Starr, described by Whitburn as an “urban contemporary group” from White Plains, New York. Between 1978 and 1992, Atlantic Starr had twenty singles reach the R&B Top 40, with two of them making it to No. 1: “Always” spent two weeks atop the chart in 1987 (and one week on top of the pop chart), making it the group’s biggest hit, and “My First Love” topped the chart for a week in 1989. The least of the group’s hits in the R&B Top 40 was its last, “Unconditional Love,” which spent two weeks in the chart in 1992 and peaked at No. 38.

Our third stop is the Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits and its listing of the Top 100 artists from 1944 to 2005. As was the case with the first two lists, the Top Ten is unsurprising. (It’s possible, maybe even likely, that George Strait has overtaken Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash for third place in the seven-plus years since the book was compiled.)

Eddy Arnold
George Jones
Johnny Cash
Conway Twitty
George Strait
Merle Haggard
Webb Pierce
Dolly Parton
Buck Owens
Waylon Jennings

On the other end of that country list, we find the mother and daughter team of Naomi and Wynonna Judd, who as the Judds put twenty-four records into the country Top 40 between 1984 and 2000. The duo quit recording regularly in 1991 because of Naomi Judd’s chronic hepatitis, and their final hit – 2000’s “Stuck In Love” – was one of four tunes the duo recorded and released on a bonus CD with Wynonna’s New Day Dawning album. In the 1980s, the Judds had fourteen No. 1 hits on the country chart; 1984’s “Mama, He’s Crazy” was the first of them. Their poorest-performing single in the country Top 40 was 1991’s “John Deere Tractor,” which peaked at No. 29.