Archive for the ‘2000’ Category

‘Ten’

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Sorting for the word “ten” in the titles of the 68,000 mp3s is a difficult process, perhaps the most difficult so far in our March Of The Integers. The RealPlayer lists 1,632 mp3s with that letter combination somewhere in the indexed information. And few of those titles in that listing can be used.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos as recorded by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment? Gone, just like the Allman Brothers Band’s album Enlightened Rogues. Any music tagged as easy listening is also dismissed, which wipes out entire catalogs from artists like Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, the Baja Marimba Band, Ray Conniff & The Singers, Ferrante & Teicher, Percy Faith and of course (in a double stroke), my entire collection of Hugo Montenegro’s music.

Anything with the name of the state of Tennessee in its title has to be set aside, from the Dykes Magic City Trio’s 1927 version of “Tennessee Girls” to the Secret Sisters’ 2010 track “Tennessee Me.” We also lose anything tagged as having been recorded in the state, from Clarence “Tom” Ashley’s 1929 recording of “Coo Coo Bird” to Johnny Cash’s 1974 take on “Ragged Old Flag.” And we eliminate as well several albums: The Tennessee Tapes by the Jonas Fjeld Band, Easin’ Back to Tennessee by Colin Linden and Tennessee Pusher by the Old Crow Medicine Show.

Marc Cohn’s 2010 album of covers, Listening Booth: 1970 is gone, as are the single tracks “Lisa, Listen To Me” by Blood, Sweat & Tears, “Listen to the Wind” by Jack Casady, “Listen to Me” by Buddy Holly, “Listen Here” by Richard “Groove” Holmes and “Listen To The Flowers Growing” by Artie Wayne, among many others.

We’ll also have to avoid everything with the word “tender” in it, including the Bee Gees “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love),” Blue Öyster Cult’s “Tenderloin,” all of Jackson Browne’s album The Pretender, Trisha Yearwood’s “Bartender’s Blues,” and six versions of the classic song “Tenderly,” including Sam “The Man” Taylor’s sweet 1960 saxophone cover.

Lastly, we must pass over the marvelously titled 1945 R&B number “Voo-It! Voo-It!” by Marion (The Blues Woman) Abernathy. As well as having a great title, it’s a decent record that showed up in the list only because an appended comment noted that it was co-written – there’s the “ten” – by Buddy Banks and William “Frosty” Pyles. I am now determined to feature it in this space someday soon.

So what are we left with? Well, there are likely several tracks with the word “ten” hidden in the middle of their titles, but we’ll go the easy route from here and land on six tracks that start with the word. And we have about twenty to choose from, so we should come up with something interesting.

We have covers of a Gordon Lightfoot tune by Tony Rice and Nanci Griffith. We’ll go with Griffith’s version of “Ten Degrees and Getting Colder” from her 1993 album of covers, Other Voices, Other Rooms. The album is well worth finding; the highlights also include Griffith’s takes on John Prine’s “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” and Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather.” Griffith reprised the idea in 1998 with Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful), an album that starts with a Fairport Convention bang: covers of Richard Thompson’s “Wall of Death” and Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes.”

The Miller Sisters – Elsie Jo Miller and Mildred Miller Wages – were actually sisters-in-law from Tupelo, Mississippi. After performing with Elsie’s husband Roy Miller (being billed then as the Miller Trio), the women auditioned for Sun Records in Memphis. According to Wikipedia, “Producer Sam Phillips believed that the Millers’ vocal harmonies, complemented by the steel guitar solos of Stan Kesler and the percussive electric guitar of Quinton Claunch, would translate into significant record sales,” and the duo released a few country singles without much success. Those singles included “Ten Cats Down” from August of 1956, a rockabilly romp that features some nice harmonies. I found the track on the 2002 British compilation The Legendary Story of Sun Records.

We’ll stay with rockabilly for another record: “Ten Little Women” by Terry Noland. A Texas native, Noland – according to the website BlackCat Rockabilly – “attended the same school as Buddy Holly, and like Holly, most of his Brunswick records were produced by Norman Petty in Clovis, New Mexico.” Brunswick released “Ten Little Women” in 1957 and followed it with “Patty Baby.” The latter sold well in New York, says BlackCat Rockabilly, which led to Noland’s appearing “at the bottom of the bill on Alan Freed’s 1957 Holiday of Stars show at the Brooklyn Paramount.” The flip side of “Ten Little Women” was a tune called “Hypnotized,” which the Drifters covered and took to No. 79 in 1957. I found “Ten Little Women” in the massive That’ll Flat Git It collection of rockabilly released about twenty years ago.

One of the highlights of 2000 – around here, anyway – was the release of Riding With The King, the album that brought Eric Clapton and B.B. King into the studio together. The album’s highlights include takes on King classics like “Help the Poor” and “Three O’Clock Blues” and a shuffling duet on Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway,” a take that’s shorter and less intense but just as pleasurable as the legendary version Clapton recorded in 1970 with Derek & The Dominos. Today, however, it’s “Ten Long Years” that draws our attention. The version King recorded for the RPM label in 1955 went to No. 9 on the R&B chart; the version from Riding is longer but, again, no less pleasurable.

Led Zeppelin was never high on my list of favorite bands; I imagine the band’s excesses – in all ways – put me off. These days, the group’s music is more accessible (and no doubt my tastes have broadened), and there’s no doubt the band’s legendary misbehaviors are far less shocking when viewed from the perspective of today’s libertine culture. So I’ve heard more Zeppelin in the past fifteen years than I likely did in the years way back, but there are still surprises: The aching “Ten Years Gone” from 1975’s Physical Graffiti is one of them. The track was tucked into the second disc of the two-LP album, but I came across it after finding two concise anthologies – Early Days and Latter Days – at a garage sale a couple of years ago. And it’s a pleasant interlude as we wander toward our last stop of the morning.

I don’t know a lot about the Canadian group Steel River. The group was from the Toronto area and got a deal in 1970 from Canada’s Tuesday Records, according to Wikipedia. “Ten Pound Note” was the group’s first single; the record ended up reaching the Canadian Top Ten and was No. 79 in Canada for the year of 1970. I found the single a few years ago when I came across a rip of the group’s only album, Weighin’ Heavy. It’s a decent single, and, given that songs with “eleven” in their titles are rare – I have only four of them among the 68,000 on the mp3 shelves – it’s not a bad place to end the March Of The Integers.

‘Eight’

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The integers march again . . .

Sorting the 67,000-some mp3s on the digital shelves for the word “eight” brings up 194 titles, most of which we cannot use. Anything about a freight train goes by the wayside, as does Nanci Griffith’s “White Freight Liner.” The entire output of a 1970s band named Jackson Heights is crossed off our list, as is Michel Legrand’s soundtrack to the 1970 film Wuthering Heights.

And we also have to discard twenty-nine versions of the Robbie Robertson song, “The Weight.”

Still, we’re left with enough tunes to be able to pick and choose a little bit, starting with one of eight versions – how appropriate! – of the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” The one I settled on is a 1969 cover of the tune from the Canadian band Lighthouse. Still two years away from having a hit with “One Fine Morning” – it went to No. 24 in 1971 – the band covered the Roger McGuinn song on its first, self-titled album, and an edit was released as a single. As far as I can tell, Lighthouse’s take on “Eight Miles High” never showed up on any chart anywhere although I’m not sure about Canada. Nor am I certain the video to which I’ve linked is the single. I think it is. In any case, it’s a decent enough cover but nothing amazing.

The Walkabouts’ “Train Leaves at Eight” is the title track of an album released in 2000 by the sometimes dark but always intriguing Seattle band. The album serves as a tour of European music, and “Train Leaves at Eight” takes the listener to Greece: The song was written by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis and came from Ta Laika, or The Popular Songs, a project Theodorakis and Greek poet Manos Eleftheriou completed in 1967 but which went unreleased after a military coup in Greece that year. The work was released in 1975 after the military government fell.

David Castle’s 1977 single “Ten to Eight” was the first single released on the Parachute label and went to No. 68 (No. 45 on the AC chart). That was the first of two times Castle broke into the Billboard Hot 100: “The Loneliest Man on the Moon” went to No. 89 in early 1978. Both singles were pulled from Castle’s 1977 album Castle in the Sky. Castle’s website says a third single, “All I Ever Wanna Be Is Yours,” made the Easy Listening chart, but I can find nothing about the record in Joel Whitburn’s Top Adult Songs. “Ten to Eight” was originally recorded by Helen Reddy and released on her 1975 album No Way to Treat a Lady, leaving Castle in the well-populated but nevertheless interesting position of covering his own song.

Steve Goodman’s “Eight Ball Blues,” is not a blues at all, at least in its musical construction. Pulled from his self-titled 1971 album, it’s nevertheless the plaint of a man who wishes he and life were different and does so with regret: “I wish I had the common sense to be satisfied with me.” And the chorus tells us a bit more:

Is this the part where I came in?
I’ve heard this song before.
Had a couple too many
But I think I can find the door.
And I do not know your name, my friend
But I’ve seen that face before.
Well, I saw it in the jail house
And I saw in the war,
And I saw it my mirror,
Well, just a couple of times before.

This was 1971, and the war was in a place called Vietnam, but it could just as well be 2013 and places called Iraq and Afghanistan.

O.V. Wright came out of the gospel music circuit before going secular in the mid-1960s, eventually ending up in the 1970s with Willie Mitchell at Hi Records in Memphis. That’s maybe where Wright did his best work, but his mid-1960s singles for Backbeat are superb. “Eight Men, Four Women” from 1967 is likely the most atmospheric. It went to No. 4 on the R&B chart – one of eight singles Wright placed in the R&B Top 40 between 1965 and 1974 – and to No. 80 on the pop chart.

On its third album, 1990’s A Different Kind of Weather, the English trio Dream Academy included a tune called “Twelve Eight Angel.” A year later, the group released its final single before disbanding. That single was “Angel of Mercy,” and from what I can tell, the single was simply “Twelve Eight Angel” renamed. The single failed to chart, and the band called it quits. Dream Academy is best-known, of course, for the shimmering “Life in a Northern Town,” which went to No. 7 in 1986. (Those sharp of ear might notice the voice of the single’s producer, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, in the background during the instrumental break.)

‘In A Thousand Ages . . .’

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Poking around in the Billboard charts from March 23 over the years, I came across a listing in 1968 for a record by a group called the Orphans. The record, “Can’t Find The Time,” was sitting at No. 118 in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart, up from No. 122 the week before. Interesting, I thought. The song title rang faint bells, but I didn’t think it was by the Orphans.

At YouTube, I learned why I didn’t recall the Orphans. It’s because they weren’t the Orphans. The group’s name was Orpheus, and whoever transcribed my copies of the weekly Billboard charts in my files got it wrong for the entire seven weeks the record was Bubbling Under, peaking at No. 111.

The record was re-released a year later and went to No. 80. As I listened, I thought that it would have been a better story if the band had actually started out as the Orphans and then, as 1967 and 1968 came along, decided to go with something a little more hip and trippy (as Minnesota’s Underbeats did in the late 1960s when they became Gypsy). But no, the group was Orpheus from the start.

The band released a few albums during the late 1960s, and a revamped version of the band released one LP in 1971. The only other success on the singles chart came in 1969, when “Brown Arms in Houston” went to No. 91.

There have been a few covers of “Can’t Find The Time” over the years. Among them were a version by Rose Colored Glass that went to No. 54 in 1971 (which was the version I recalled, though its arrangement wasn’t all that different from the original), and a cover by Hootie & The Blowfish that was used in 2000 in the Jim Carey movie Me, Myself & Irene. Here’s the Hootie version, which doesn’t stray a lot from the original, either.

‘You Can Hear The Whistle Blow . . .’

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

A week ago, as I explored tunes buried in the deeper portions of the Billboard chart in mid-January 1972, I shared the version of “500 Miles” by a group billed as Heaven Bound with Tony Scotti. In doing so, I called the tune a “folk song,” vaguely remembering it sung around campfires somewhere, perhaps at the Shores of St. Andrew, where I attended Bible camp during the summer of 1968.

But I also recalled it from one of the first pop-rock albums I ever owned: Look At Us by Sonny & Cher. It was a Christmas gift from my sister in 1965, one of her occasional attempts to encourage me to listen to the same music that my peers did. I liked the album well enough, and “500 Miles” – if not the heart of the album – was a pretty good track:

As I listened to Sonny & Cher this week for the first time in years, I still liked it, but it came to mind that Sonny Bono’s Spectorian folk-rock likely pulls “500 Miles” away from its roots as a folk song, whether those roots are in the literal folk tradition as a song that evolved over time or in purposeful composition during the folk boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s. And I wondered where the tune had come from.

It came, as it turned out, from the pen of Hedy West, a folk singer and performer from Georgia who recorded a few albums of traditional folk music in the early 1960s and 1970s. She wrote only a few songs, and “500 Miles” was by far her most famous composition. The song, according to Wikipedia, “was put together from fragments of a melody she had heard her uncle sing to her back in Georgia.” In her own performance of the tune from her 1963 self-titled album, she offers more verses than are usually sung.*

West’s version of her song wasn’t the first released, however. The Journeymen – a folk trio made up of John Phillips (future founder of the Mamas & the Papas), Scott McKenzie (of future “San Francisco” fame) and Dick Weissman – recorded “500 Miles” for their 1961 self-titled album.

From there, covers of the song multiplied. The Kingston Trio included the song in a live recording done in late 1961, and folk icons Peter, Paul & Mary included the song as an album track on their 1962 debut album. Other covers in the early and mid-1960s came from the Brothers Four, Johnny Rivers, Peter & Gordon, Jackie DeShannon and more. And in 1963, Bobby Bare released a reworking of the song with an expanded title – “500 Miles Away From Home” – and additional lyrics that went to No. 10 on the pop chart and No. 5 on the country chart.

I have no idea how many performers have covered the tune, then or since. The listing at AMG shows 237 CDs with the tune “500 Miles” on them, and nearly a hundred more with the title “500 Miles Away From Home.” Many of those are duplicates, of course, so there may not be as many cover versions as I once thought, maybe thirty at a guess.

One of the most recent came from a group called the Innocence Mission, which included “500 Miles” on its 2000 release Christ Is My Hope. In its review of the album, AMG notes the “childlike humility and translucence of Karen Peris’ voice” as contributing “to a kind of wide-eyed wisdom that seems to gaze into the everyday and illuminate its elusive spiritual core.” I didn’t necessarily get that, but I thought casual listeners could be forgiven if they thought that the performance came from 1970s folkie Melanie. It’s a nice version with a decent if simple arrangement.

I should also note that Rosanne Cash did an excellent cover of Bare’s version of “500 Miles” on her 2009 release The List, an album whose contents were drawn from a literal list of essential American songs compiled for Cash in the early 1970s by her famous father, Johnny.

But the most interesting cover of the song I found as I dug around the past few days – one that’s far removed in approach from Hedy West’s spare rendition – came from an unexpected source. In 1989, the Hooters, a pop-rock band from Philadelphia best remembered, AMG says, for the No. 21 hit “And We Danced” (or perhaps for being Cyndi Lauper’s backing band on She’s So Unusual),  adapted “500 Miles” – adding lyrics evidently inspired by that year’s events in and near Beijing’s Tienanmen Square – on its album Zig Zag.

The haunting, atmospheric arrangement works very well, and the Hooters’ version, which went to No. 97, has the added attraction of including background vocals from Peter, Paul & Mary along the way.

*Some compilations of West’s work are available on CD and through downloads at Amazon, as is a CD version of Getting Folk Out Of The Country, the 1974 album she recorded with folk musician Bill Clifton. There’s some vinyl out there, too, both at Amazon and through GEMM.

Saturday Single No. 251

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

As we made our way through the grocery store the other day, we came to the coffee aisle. I’ve written several times about my love of coffee, most recently – I think – when I wrote about the McGarvey coffees leaving and then returning to the shelves of our nearby grocery store.

And as we turned into the coffee aisle in that same store last weekend, I grabbed my usual coffee selection – Flame Room Blend – from the shelves and put it into our cart. “You want to try something else? Something a little special?” the Texas Gal asked.

“Nah,” I said. “I like this one plenty.”  There are a good number of other McGarvey blends I like, and I’ve had some in the past. But I’d had an idea as we entered the aisle, and I headed toward the display where sat the Maxwell House International coffees, known until last year as General Foods International coffees.

“I thought maybe so,” said the Texas Gal, as I lifted a can of Café Vienna from the shelf. And as I put the can into the cart, I recalled the first time I ever tried Café Vienna.

It was long before I met the Texas Gal. I was in graduate school in Missouri, and the Other Half had decided that she would keep her museum job in Wright County and stay in Monticello while I was in Columbia, which was fine; our plan was for me to return to Monticello armed with a master’s degree and get a teaching job at St. Cloud State. Well, you know how plans go . . .

One day during the autumn of 1983 when I got home from my classes at the University of Missouri, I found a package waiting for me. The Other Half had sent me treats: candy, home-made cookies and a can of General Foods International instant coffee. During the past few years I’d occasionally indulged myself with a can of Cafe Francais, a blend that mimicked the café au lait I’d enjoyed a few years earlier during my travels.

This was, readers of my vintage might recall, long before Starbucks or the many other chains of coffee shops dotted the urban landscapes; in those rugged days of the late 1970s and early 1980s, if one wanted café au lait, it was almost always a do-it-yourself project. Oh, there no doubt were places in Minneapolis and other major cities where one could find so exotic a beverage, but in Monticello, I’d been on my own. So I’d dipped on occasion into the Cafe Francais tin. Yes, it was instant; as a change of pace, it was better than nothing.

But as I peered into the box of goodies from the Other Half, I saw that the can of instant coffee had a tawny brown lid instead of a blue one (they all come with red lids now, I believe). She had sent me Café Vienna instead of my favored Cafe Francais. She said later that, not being a coffee drinker, she’d not been certain which of the two I’d liked, and so she’d guessed. As I pulled the tin out of the box, I shrugged. It was a coffee blend; I’d probably like it.

Well, yes, I did. As has been my wont with flavored coffees over the years, I found the suggested strength to be a little pallid, so I doubled up on the amount of powder I used per cup. And, as always, I drank my coffee from a large mug rather than a standard-sized cup. Combine that with the fact that I liked Café Vienna, with its cinnamon tinge, much more than I’d ever liked the previously preferred Cafe Francais, and it wasn’t too many days before I tipped the last grains of the sugar-laced Café Vienna from that first small tin and sipped the last mugful. And I wanted more.

For the remainder of my graduate school days – from October 1983 into February 1985 – there was always a can of Café Vienna on my countertop next to the coffee-maker. It wasn’t cheap, so I clipped coupons and watched the newspaper ads for sales. My regular grocery store was not far off my normal route between home and the University of Missouri, but if I could save a little bit of money on my next fix of Café Vienna, I’d go a mile out of my way and visit a different grocery store. It never got to the point of selling household goods or books to fund my habit, nor did the two catboys I had with me ever go hungry because of my desire for Café Vienna, but I truly loved my early morning and late night mugs of the spiced drink.

My Café Vienna habit went away in February 1985, when I moved back to Minnesota and merged households once more with the Other Half. The budget was one consideration, I imagine. But there was something else, too: It seems that the drink belonged to Columbia, to graduate school days. So I let it go.

I thought about all of that last weekend as I took the tin of Café Vienna from the shelf and put it in the grocery cart. I can’t remember the last time I bought it. It’s been a few years. And when the current tin is empty, I’ll I likely go some time before buying it again. But I wrote this post with a double-strength extra-large mug of the stuff near my right hand, and I just drained the last drops. For instant coffee, it tasted pretty fine, like good memories often do.

Here’s an aptly titled piece: “Vienna” from the rock opera Beethoven’s Last Night, released in 2000 by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It’s a little over the top but tasty as well, kind of like a double-strength mug of Café Vienna. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.