Archive for the ‘Saxophone’ Category

‘Way, Way Down Inside . . .’

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

I slept in today, a rare thing. But when the alarm went off at 6:54, I wasn’t feeling well, and four hours later, not much has improved. Sluggish mind in a sluggish body isn’t exactly the ideal the ancient Greeks had in mind. But we get what we get.

I’ve been following the ongoing plagiarism case against Led Zeppelin for allegedly nicking a piece of Spirit’s song “Taurus” for the famous riff in “Stairway To Heaven,” and I saw a piece on the Rolling Stone website that in its introduction pretty much summed up my thinking about the case brought by the estate of Randy California. Gavin Edwards writes:

Reasonable people can disagree on whether (and how heavily) Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” filches from Spirit’s “Taurus” – that’s why there’s a court case in progress. But the reason many people aren’t extending Led Zeppelin the benefit of the doubt on “Stairway” is because they have an extensive history of swiping songs from other people and giving credit only under duress.

And Edwards’ piece goes on to explore – with videos illustrating each example – ten cases of appropriation.

(Another cataloging of Zep’s indiscretions – with nifty illustrations – is found at the great blog Willard’s Wormholes. Look for “Zeppelin Took My Blues Away” in the blog archives.)

So I was thinking about Led Zeppelin, and I got to thinking about “Whole Lotta Love,” which had its genesis in Muddy Water’s “You Need Love.” And I got to pondering covers of “Whole Lotta Love” (and the Led Zeppelin single remains part of the remembered soundtrack of my junior year of high school, which makes it matter).

I have a few covers of the tune, and there are more out there, according to Second Hand Songs. But if my search function worked correctly this morning, I’ve never posted any of those covers here. That oversight ends now, and sometime soon – tomorrow? Tuesday? I will not promise a specific date, only an intention – we’ll dig into more covers of an appropriated tune.

Our starting point is one of the better versions we’ll find of “Whole Lotta Love,” a 1970 track from King Curtis & The Kingpins.

Saturday Single No. 488

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

A while back, I wrote about the numbers of places I’d lived as an adult, and noted that I’ve lived here in the little white house off Lincoln Avenue longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. I also said that the odds were likely that there’d be another place in that list eventually and that the Texas Gal and I were going to start trimming down in order to fit into what would be a smaller space.

Well, for a few weeks, we actually planned to move from here back into the apartment complex across the back yard, the same place we lived for not quite six years when we moved to St. Cloud. And I began to sort LPs in the EITW studios. My goal is to trim the LPs from about 3,000 down to around 1,000.

There are some, of course, that automatically go on the list of those that will stay: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Richie Havens, some single albums from many performers, the blues collection, and so on. For many of the others, I’ll make certain I have the music in digital format. Some of those I might find at the public library, but I think I will spend a fair amount of time with my turntable.

And some of the vinyl on my shelf will not be replaced digitally. It showed up – generally during the hard years on Pleasant Avenue during the 1990s – and was played once, and it will be considered non-essential as I trim the library. (The most recent of those pulled from the shelf were albums by Dan Hill and by the Holy Modal Rounders.)

As it happened, though, we’re not moving. A couple of shifts in the universe have left us here on Lincoln for the foreseeable future. But we’re still going to downsize. And we’ve been trying to figure out exactly what to do with the albums. We’re going to try to sell them, of course. Many of the LPs I’ll pull from the shelves are good work that might actually be in demand now that vinyl seems to be the hip thing among certain demographic groups in our culture. But there is no vinyl retailer in St. Cloud anymore.

That means going to Minneapolis and to Cheapo Records, the business where I got maybe two-thirds of the 1,500 albums I bought during my seven-plus years on Pleasant Avenue. But I know from direct observation that it takes some time for the record folks at Cheapo to sort through a box of albums offered for sale. If we brought in ten liquor boxes of records, how long would we have to cool our heels while waiting for the records to be sorted and graded?

It seemed impractical. But I finally called Cheapo, which has moved its main location (but is still close enough to my old digs that I know the area), and asked about the best way to accomplish the sale. The fellow on the phone said that we could at any time drop off all the boxes of records we could bring, leave our name, address and telephone number, and they’d send out a check when they were done and then dispose of the records they did not want.

That’s going to work. Now, we need to find a place to store about thirty liquor boxes full of records. (I learned long ago that liquor boxes are the most practical to use for transporting LPs.) The Texas Gal questioned the total of thirty boxes, but the math works out: I can get about 65 LPs into a liquor box, and I need to trim from the collection about 2,000 records, and the math gives me a result of not quite thirty-one boxes.

I’m not sure we’ll be able to get thirty boxes of records into the Versa at one time, but we’ll open that gate when we get to it. In the meantime, we need a place to store boxes of records that leaves me room to work. (The 800 or so records I’ve already culled – and many of those required some hard resolve – are cluttered on the floor and set aside in the stacks.) We have some room in the loft, but lugging records upstairs just to lug them down again seemed impractical.

So the Texas Gal made a decision: She’s going to move her quilting operations upstairs again. That will require some work, but it will give her some more space to work, space that’s available now that we’ve given the treadmill and the pink beanbag chair to a friend. That will allow her some room to sort out the many yards of fabric she has in her current sewing room, and it will grant me space to stack boxes of records that will eventually make their ways to Minneapolis.

I imagine we’ll start that shifting operation in the next week or so and sometime this summer, about 2,000 LPs will head out of here and re-enter circulation. But I’m finding that deciding whether some records go or stay is hard.

How hard?

Well, I did some digging this morning and found out that fifty-two years ago today, Dion recorded a cover of “Don’t Start Me Talkin’,” a blues tune written and first recorded in 1955 by Sonny Boy Williamson II. The cover was unreleased at the time and eventually came out on a 1991 box set of Dion’s work. It’s not a bad track, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. So I idly went to the page about Dion at Wikipedia. And I noticed that in 1989, he released a single from his Yo Frankie album that got to No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 16 on the magazine’s Adult Contemporary chart.

I listened to the single at YouTube and heard something that I just hadn’t noticed in November 1999, when I bought the album and played it in my new apartment further south in Minneapolis. The move put me about six miles away from Cheapo’s, but I still did business there as well as at the Cheapo’s in St. Paul, which might have been marginally closer to my new digs: My copy of Yo Frankie still has the Cheapo’s price sticker on it.

My copy of Yo Frankie was also in the stack of records to be sold. But having listened this morning to Dion’s charting single from 1989 and having learned that the saxophone solo on the track is from Jim Horn (mentioned here in fandom many, many times over the years), I moved Yo Frankie back to the “keep” shelf.

And all of that is how Dion’s “And The Night Stood Still” became today’s Saturday Single.

Loss Leader Treasures

Friday, March 4th, 2016

A while back, I was tipped off by one or more of my blogging friends of the treasures waiting for me at Willard’s Wormholes, a music (and more) blog that seemed to have a vast trove of stuff to divert me as well as take up space on my external hard drive.

Chief among those attractions was what appears to be a complete set from 1969 into 1980 of the Warner Bros. and Reprise loss leaders, promotional albums – usually two records – that gathered tracks from the labels’ recently released or upcoming albums. Sometimes the stuff didn’t actually show up on the promoted album, as in the case of Fats Domino’s cover of the Beatles’ “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey,” discussed here, but generally, the tracks on the loss leaders showed up elsewhere.

I happily spent an afternoon gathering and opening zip files and then sorting the albums into their own folder on my digital shelves. There were a lot of repeats: I already had maybe thirty-five percent of the tracks from the loss leaders elsewhere in the large collection of mp3s, but I didn’t delete anything; I felt as if I should keep the packages whole and separate.

I’ve bought a few of the loss leaders over the years as I’ve come across them in used record shops or at flea markets and so on. I kind of wish I’d been paying attention when they were first offered (generally in Rolling Stone, I think). But I have the music now, and on occasion, I sort the loss leaders out in the RealPlayer and let it roll on random.

And that’s what I decided to do this morning for this brief post: Roll on random and offer up the tenth track that comes by. And we land on “Move With Me” by Tim Buckley, which was offered as part of the 1972 loss leader The Days of Wine and Vinyl and was originally taken from Buckley’s 1972 album Greetings From L.A. The album was Buckley’s seventh, and Wikipedia has an interesting note about it:

“Like most of his other albums, Greetings from L.A. did not sell well, but got substantial airplay in the Twin Cities on the Minneapolis FM station KQRS and sold very well at the independent record shops in Minneapolis-St. Paul until it was deleted by Warner Brothers.”

That’s something I didn’t know, but then, I was always a few steps behind in my listening (I likely still am), and I didn’t catch up to Buckley’s work until 1992, when I was living in south Minneapolis and the years of vinyl madness were beginning. (Oddly enough, the first Buckley album I found, most likely at Cheapo’s just up Grand Avenue, was Greetings From L.A.)

Ned Raggett of All Music calls the album “a fairly greasy, funky, honky tonk set of songs,” and “Move With Me” seems to fall neatly into that description, with some nice saxophone work by Eugene Siegel. Would I have listened to it in 1972? Well, maybe, but probably not very often.

Anyway, here’s “Move With Me.”

Saturday Single No. 475

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

Well, morning came and morning went . . .

I spent the early hours today at the annual Santa Lucia celebration at Salem Lutheran Church, just as I did when I was a youngster and later when I was in Luther League, twice reading the story of St. Knut to those gathered for the celebration.

And just like last year, I wore a red carnation and was recognized during the early morning service as one of those named Salem’s St. Knut over the years. As I noted a year ago, however, when I was in Luther League, I was only listed in the programs for 1969 and 1970 as the fellow reading the story of St. Knut; it wasn’t until years later that the story-reader was actually given the title of that year’s St. Knut and the readers from previous years were named St. Knuts long after the fact. But being named a saint after the fact is, I submit, better than not being named a saint at all. And being the only two-time St. Knut (because there were no senior boys available the year I was a high school junior) is kind of nifty.

I wasn’t the only family member recognized this morning. My sister also wore a red carnation, having been Santa Lucia in 1966. And during the breakfast following the service, plenty of folks came over to talk to my mother, who doesn’t get to church often anymore. Add in plenty of coffee, some Swedish cookies and pastries and some very good potato sausage, and it was a very nice – if early –way to start the day.

Then came the more mundane Saturday chore of an hour at the grocery story with the Texas Gal. And all of that means that I was either going to leave this space empty today or offer a tune on a sort of ad hoc basis, finding something interesting that can pretty much stand in its own.

Well, yesterday at Facebook, an acquaintance of mine shared a cover of Double’s “The Captain Of Her Heart” by a jazz singer named Randy Crawford. I’d not heard much of her stuff, although I had a couple of tracks that had come to me by way of some Warner Brothers samplers. Intrigued by the Double cover, I did some digging and came up with some other stuff by Crawford, including another cover that I found interesting.

Here, with assists from saxophonist David Sanborn and Eric Clapton, is Crawford’s take on Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” from her 1989 album Rich and Poor. The sax parts are a little overbearing in a very Eighties way, but I’m still going to call it today’s Saturday Single.

‘Will My Love Grow . . .’

Friday, December 11th, 2015

When I decided last week to put together an alternate version of Joe Cocker’s second album – the 1969 self-titled outing with an added exclamation point – there were a couple tracks that had me a bit concerned: Would I find enough covers to make a decent selection? (In the case of one track, which we’ll get to by and by, I wondered if there were even any other versions of the song out there.)

One track about which I had no worries was the second one on Side Two: According to several sources I’ve seen in the past week, George Harrison’s “Something” has been covered more than 150 times, making it the second-most covered Beatles song after “Yesterday.” The song first showed up on Abbey Road in September 1969 and went to No. 1 in November that year as a two-sided single with “Come Together.” (And I suppose I maybe should have tackled the tracks on the Cocker album in order, but I didn’t.)

As it happened, Cocker was one of those who had the first chance at recording the song, according to Walter Everett in his 1999 book The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver Through the Anthology. Everett says that Harrison offered the song to Joe Cocker in March 1969, before the Beatles recorded the song (and while the group was working on the album that became Abbey Road).

But Abbey Road came out in September 1969, and Joe Cocker! came out that November. Still, Cocker’s version of the tune was among the first covers – if not actually the first – to be released. Second Hand Songs notes that Peggy Lee’s version also came out in November 1969 (and cites a recording date in April of that year), as did a version by Tony Bennett. The most recent cover listed at Second Hand Songs is one by Billy Sherwood, released in April this year on the tribute compilation Keep Calm and Salute The Beatles.

Here at the EITW studios, there are thirty versions of the tune on the shelves; those include multiple versions by the Beatles (from Abbey Road and Love), by Harrison himself (from the 1990s Anthology, from The Concert For Bangla Desh and from the 1992 set Live In Japan), and by Paul McCartney (from several live sets, including the 2002 Concert For George).

Among those I passed over for this portion of the Cover Cocker project were easy listening versions by Ray Conniff, the Lettermen, the Mystic Moods Orchestra and Ferrante & Teicher, a faux Twenties take by the Templeton Twins with Teddy Turner’s Bunsen Burners, a stellar instrumental by Booker T & The MG’s (from McLemore Avenue, the group’s Abbey Road tribute), and an eleven-minute version by Isaac Hayes.

I was tempted by Booker T & The MG’s, but then I wandered a bit further down the list and clicked on the cover of Harrison’s tune by Jr. Walker & The All Stars. It’s from the 1971 album Rainbow Funk, and it went right to the top of the list:

Saturday Single No. 459

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

While there are no doubt more covers of Tim Drummond’s “I Want To Lay Down Beside You” out there (under that title or the later-applied “Sip The Wine”), I’m going to end our three-post exploration of the song’s evidently tangled history with just one more version of the tune this morning. (The earlier posts are here and here.)

Until this week, I’d never heard of Julie Covington, a English singer and actress who recorded the first version of the song “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” from the 1976 musical Evita (written by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice and first released on LP as was the duo’s Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970). She’s taken part in numerous recordings of musicals, and she’s released six solo albums, four of them coming between 1967 and 1978. (All of that courtesy of Wikipedia.)

It was on her fourth album, a self-titled effort released in 1978, that she released her version of Drummond’s “Sip The Wine.” According to both Wikipedia and All Music, the song is now credited to Drummond. I haven’t found an image of the 1978 LP or its jacket to see if that was the case when the record was released. But it’s of little importance now, I guess.

The 1978 album wasn’t released in the U.S. until 2000, when it came out on CD with two bonus tracks. I’m hoping the version of “Sip The Wine” I found at Amazon is the same one that was released in 1978. In any event, I like it (though maybe not as much as the Rick Danko or Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth versions), and given my love for the sound of a saxophone, I did some looking and found out pretty easily that the saxophone work on the track came from Plas Johnson.

With all that said, here’s “Sip The Wine” by Julie Covington, today’s Saturday Single.

Taking A Few Days

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Summer’s dealt us an incredibly busy week, so Odd, Pop and I are going to take a few days away from the studios. See you Saturday.

In the meantime, here’s Connie Francis’ “Vacation” from 1962. It went to No. 9 in the late summer, and it’s got a sax solo from Boots Randolph right about the 1:20 mark.

A Bit Of James Last

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

One of the better uses I’ve found for the files of the weekly Billboard Hot 100 is to introduce me to new artists, performers whose work I never had a chance to hear, either because I wasn’t paying attention to pop music at the time or because their work languished in the lower levels of the chart during the years I was paying attention.

And this morning, I’m making a minor acquaintance with one such performer after his name caught my eye in the Hot 100 released on January 29, 1972, forty-three years ago today: James Last.

In that long-ago chart, Last’s “Music From Across The Way” was sitting at No. 85 in its third week on the chart; it would hang around one more week, rising to No. 84, and then drop out of sight. It would get to No. 18 on the Easy Listening chart, which tells me I might have heard the record on WCCO, but the odds of that are slender; the kitchen radio was still tuned to ’CCO, but I wasn’t often listening there anymore.

Nor was I likely to have heard the bombastic cover of the tune that Andy Williams took to No. 30 on the Easy Listening chart about the same time. Five years earlier, when trumpet tunes, soundtracks and easy listening made up a lot of my musical menu, either version of the tune might have grabbed my ear and my allegiance, but not in early 1972, when pop and rock ruled my universe.

James Last had a long and incredibly successful career in Europe and Great Britain, as the biographies at All Music and Wikipedia make clear, but he was much less prominent on this side of the Atlantic. A few years after “Music From Across The Way” peaked at No. 84, a seemingly aimless “Love For Sale” disco-danced and bubbled under at No. 106 during the summer of 1975. Last’s most successful U.S. release came in 1980 when he recorded “The Seduction (Love Theme)” from the movie American Gigolo. The record, featuring the saxophone of David Sanborn, went to No. 28 in the Hot 100 and to No. 22 in the Adult Contemporary chart.

Am I going to dig deeper into Last’s work? Despite my love of easy listening music, probably not, with one exception: I saw a listing at YouTube for a 1973 album titled James Last In Russia, a collection of mostly Russian tunes (with the addition of “Midnight In Moscow,” No. 2 for Kenny Ball in 1962, and the ever-present “Lara’s Theme”). Given my love for easy listening music and my long-time fascination with things Russian, I might have to hunt that one down.

Saturday Singles Nos. 428 & 429

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Casting about for some music for a Saturday morning, I was looking at the Billboard Hot 100 from this date in 1976, thirty-nine years ago. I was living in the Twin Cities at the time, interning for the sports department of an independent television station and wrestling with at least two heavy questions: I was wondering if I’d be able to make a living in television sports, and I was wondering as well if I should pursue the stunning redhead who was interning in the station’s promotions department.

(The answer to the first of those was negative, and I ended up in newspapering, a direction that was far better for me. The answer to the second was likely positive. I should have pursued the gorgeous redhead, as in hindsight, she had made it very clear that she would welcome my attentions. But being both artless and clueless when it came to women, I missed her signals. I continued my flirtations, but I did no more, a lack of action that I used to regret, if only at low volume.)

As is often the case when looking at a Hot 100 from my high school or college years, the records in the upper portions of the chart are familiar (sometimes overly familiar, even after nearly forty years), and as my gaze moves down the chart, records are less and less so, to the point where there may be three or four or five records in a row that I either do not remember or have never heard.

And I maybe should have recognized the name of Houston Person. A jazz saxophonist, Person’s credits, as noted at both All-Music Guide and Wikipedia, are extensive. I’ve probably heard his horn in many of the tracks I have by various jazz organists, from Johnny “Hammond” Smith onward. (I note as I write that Person is credited by Wikipedia with accompanying organist Charles Earland on his 1969 album Black Talk!, a copy of which came to me from a friend recently; I will have to make sure to give it a close listen.)

But I did not recognize Person’s name as I saw it at No. 93 in the Hot 100 from January 17, 1976. It was the title of Person’s record that caught my eye: “Disco Sax/For The Love Of You.” As most readers know, I love the sound of a saxophone, and I do like early disco – from 1974 to 1976 – a fair amount. So I found and listened to Person’s record.

The two-sided single didn’t stay long on the Hot 100 or move too much. That listing thirty-nine years ago this week was its first in a four-week stay, and the record moved up only two more spots, to No. 91, before disappearing. (It went to No. 30 on the R&B chart.) But both “Disco Sax” and “For The Love Of You” sounded good enough this morning to be today’s Saturday Singles:

Here’s “Disco Sax,” the A-side:

And here’s “For The Love Of You,” the B-side:

Saturday Single No. 337

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

This is a brief stop today. As I’ve tried to keep up with business of life that’s kept me occupied the past few weeks, I’ve been digging into the song “The Shadow of Your Smile.” The tune, written by Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster, first showed up as part of the soundtrack to the 1965 film The Sandpiper, which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

It’s a song that’s been covered many times, of course, and I’m going to write about some of those covers in the next week or so. But I thought that, as I’m only here for a short time today, we’d start our exploration of the song with saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s take. The track was on his 1965 album Feelin’ Good. (Among the musicians on the album were my favorite drummer, Hal Blaine, and bassist Jimmy Bond.)